XXVI. TWO PASSIONS
Hardly ever have I known anybody to cherish such
loyalty as I did to the British Constitution. I can see
now that my love of truth was at the root of this
loyalty. It has never been possible for me to simulate
loyalty or, for that matter, any other virtue. The
national Anthem used to be sung at every meeting that I
attended in Natal. I was unaware of the defects in
British rule, but I thought that it was on the whole
acceptable. In those days I believed that British rule
was on the whole beneficial to the ruled.
The colour prejudice that I saw in South Africa was, I
thought, quite contrary to British traditions, and I
believed that it was only temporary and local. I
therefore vied with Englishmen in loyalty to the throne.
With careful perseverance I learnt the tune of the
'national anthem' and joined in the singing whenever it
was sung. Whenever there was an occasion for the
expression of loyalty without fuss or ostentation, I
readily took part in it.
Never in my life did I exploit this loyalty, never did
I seek to gain a selfish end by its means. It was for me
more in the nature of an obligation, and I rendered it
without expecting a reward.
Preparations were going on for the celebration of
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee when I reached India. I
was invited to join the committee appointed for the
purpose in Rajkot. I accepted the offer, but had a
suspicion that the celebrations would be largely a matter
of show. I discovered much humbug about them and was
considerably pained. I began to ask myself whether I
should remain on the committee or not, but ultimately
decided to rest content with doing my part of the
One of the proposals was to plant trees. I saw that
many did it merely for show and for pleasing the
officials. I tried to plead with them that tree-planting
was not compulsory, but merely a suggestion. It should be
done seriously or not at all. I have an impression that
they laughed at my ideas. I remember that I was in
earnest when I planted the tree allotted to me and that I
carefully watered and tended it.
I likewise taught the National Anthem to the children
of my family. I recollect having taught it to students of
the local Training College, but I forget whether it was
on the occasion of the jubilee or of King Edward VII's
coronation as Emperor of India. Later on the text began
to jar on me. As my conception of ahimsa went on
maturing, I became more vigilant about my thought and
speech. The lines in the Anthem: 'Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall; Confound their politics, Frustrate
their knavish tricks.' particularly jarred upon my
sentiment of ahimsa. I shared my feelings with
Dr. Booth who agreed that it ill became a believer in ahimsa
to sing those lines. How could we assume that the
so-called 'enemies' were 'knavish'? And because they were
enemies, were they bound to be in the wrong? From God we
could only ask for justice. Dr. Booth entirely endorsed
my sentiments, and composed a new anthem for his
congregation. But of Dr. Booth more later.
Like loyalty an aptitude for nursing was also deeply
rooted in my nature. I was fond of nursing people,
whether friends or strangers.
Whilst busy in Rajkot with the pamphlet on South
Africa, I had an occasion to pay a flying visit to
Bombay. It was my intention to educate public opinion in
cities on this question by organizing meetings, and
Bombay was the first city I chose. First of all I met
justice Ranade, who listened to me with attention, and
advised me to meet Sir Pherozeshah Mehta. Justice
Badruddin Tyabji, whom I met next, also gave the same
advice. 'Justice Ranade and I can guide you but little,'
he said. 'You know our position. We cannot take an active
part in public affairs, but our sympathies are with you.
The man who can effectively guide you is Sir Pherozeshah
I certainly wanted to see Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, but
the fact that these senior men advised me to act
according to his advice gave me a better idea of the
immense influence that Sir Pherozeshah had on the public.
In due course I met him. I was prepared to be awed by his
presence. I had heard of the popular titles that he had
earned, and knew that I was to see the 'Lion of Bombay',
the 'Uncrowned King of the Presidency.' But the king did
not overpower me. He met me, as a loving father would
meet his grown up son. Our meeting took place at his
chamber. He was surrounded by a circle of friends and
followers. Amongst them were Mr. D. E. Wacha and Mr.
Cama, to whom I was introduced. I had already heard of
Mr. Wacha. He was regarded as the right-hand man of Sir
Pherozeshah, and Sjt. Virchand Gandhi had described him
to me as a great statistician. Mr. Wacha said, 'Gandhi,
we must meet again.'
These introductions could scarcely have taken two
minutes. Sir Pherozeshah carefully listened to me. I told
him that I had seen Justices Ranade and Tyabji. 'Gandhi,'
said he, 'I see that I must help you. I must call a
public meeting here.' With this he turned to Mr. Munshi,
the secretary, and told him to fix up the date of the
meeting. The date was settled, and he bade me good-bye,
asking me to see him again on the way previous to the
meeting. The interview removed my fears, and I went home
During this stay in Bombay I called on my
brother-in-law, who was staying there and lying ill. He
was not a man of means, and my sister(his wife) was not
equal to nursing him. The illness was serious, and I
offered to take him to Rajkot. He agreed, and so I
returned home with my sister and her husband. The illness
was much more prolonged than I had expected. I put my
brother-in-law in my room and remained with him night and
day. I was obliged to keep awake part of the night and
had to get through some of my South African work whilst I
was nursing him. Ultimately, however, the patient died,
but it was a great consolation to me that I had had an
opportunity to nurse him during his last days.
My aptitude for nursing gradually developed into a
passion, so much so that it often led me to neglect my
work, and on occasions I engaged not only my wife but the
whole household in such service.
Such service can have no meaning unless one takes
pleasure in it. When it is done for show or for fear of
public opinion, it stunts the man and crushes his spirit.
Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the
servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and
possessions pale into nothingness before service which is
rendered in a spirit of joy.