On my relief from war-duty I felt that my work was no longer in South Africa but in India. Friends at home were also pressing me to return, and I felt that I should be of more service in India. So I requested my co-workers to relieve me. After very great difficulty myrequest was conditionally accepted, the condition being that I should be ready to go back to South Africa if, within a year, the community should need me. Farewell meetings were arranged at every place, and costly gifts were presented to me. The gifts of course included things in gold and silver, but there were articles of diamond as well.
The evening I was
presented with the bulk of these things I had a
sleepless night. I walked up and down my room deeply
agitated, but could find no solution. It was difficult
for me to forgo gifts worth hundreds, it was more
difficult to keep them.
And even if I could keep
them, what about my children? What about my wife? They
were being trained to a life of service and to an
understanding that service was its own reward.
I had no costly ornaments
in the house. We had been fast simplifying our life. How
then could we afford to have gold watches? How could we
afford to wear gold chains and diamond rings? Even then
I was telling people to conquer the infatuation for
jewellery. What was I now to do with the jewellery that
had come upon me? I decided that I could not keep these
things. I drafted a letter, creating a trust of them in
favour of the community and appointing Parsi Rustomji
and others trustees. In the morning I held a
consultation with my wife and children and finally got
rid of the heavy burden. I knew that I should have some
difficulty in persuading my wife, and I was sure that I
should have none so far as the children were concerned.
So I decided to constitute them my pleaders.
The children readily
agreed to my proposal. ”We do not need these costly
presents, we must return them to the community, and
should we ever need them, we could easily purchase
them,” they said.
I was delighted. “Then you
will plead with mother, won't you ?” I asked them.
“Certainly,” said they.
“That is our business. She does not need to wear the
ornaments. She would want to keep them for us, and if we
don't want them, why should she not agree to part with
them ?” But it was easier said than done. “You may not
need them,” said my wife. “Your children may not need
them. Cajoled they will dance to your tune. I can
understand your not permitting me to wear them. But what
about my daughters-in-law? They will be sure to need
them. And who knows what will happen tomorrow? I would
be the last person to part with gifts so lovingly
And thus the torrent of
argument went on, strengthened in the end by tears. But
I was determined to return the ornaments. I somehow
succeeded in the end in extorting a consent from her.
The gifts received in 1896 and 1901 were all returned. A
trust-deed was prepared, and they were deposited with a
bank, to be used for the service of the community,
according to my wishes or to those of the trustees.
I have never since
regretted the step, and as the years have gone by, my
wife has also seen its wisdom. It has saved us from many
I am definitely of opinion
that a public worker should accept no costly gifts.