XVI. LORD CURZON'S
The Congress was over, but as I had to meet the
Chamber of Commerce and various people in connection with
work in South Africa, I stayed in Calcutta for a month.
Rather than stay this time in a hotel, I arranged to get
the required introduction for a room in the India Club.
Among its members were some prominent Indians, and I
looked forward to getting into touch with them and
interesting them in the work in South Africa. Gokhale
frequently went to this Club to play billiards, and when
he knew that I was to stay in Calcutta for some time, he
invited me to stay with him, I thankfully accepted the
invitation, but did not think it proper to go there by
myself. He waited for a day or two and then took me
personally. He discovered my reserve and said: 'Gandhi,
you have to stay in the country, and this sort of reserve
will not do. You must get into touch with as many people
as possible. I want you to do Congress work.'
I shall record here an incident in the India Club,
before I proceed to talk of my stay with Gokhale.
Lord Curzon held his darbar about this time. Some
Rajas and Maharajas who had been invited to the darbar
were members of the Club. In the Club I always found them
wearing fine Bengalee dhotis and shirts and
scarves. On the darbar day they put on trousers befitting
khansamas and shining boots. I was pained and
inquired of one of them the reason for the change.
'We alone know our unfortunate condition. We alone
know the insults we have to put up with, in order that we
may possess our wealth and titles,' he replied.
'But what about these khansama turbans and
these shining boots?' I asked.
'Do you see any difference between khansamas
and us?' he replied, and added, 'they are our khansamas,
we are Lord Cruzon's khansamas. If I were to
absent myself from the levee, I should have to
suffer the consequences. If I were to attend it in my
usual dress, it would be an offence. And do you think I
am going to get any opportunity there of talking to Lord
Curzon? Not a bit of it!'
I was moved to pity for this plainspoken friend.
This reminds me of another darbar.
At the time when Lord Hardinge laid the foundation
stone of the Hindu University, there was a darbar. There
were Rajas and Maharajas of course, but Pandit Malaviyaji
specially invited me also to attend it, and I did so.
I was distressed to see the Maharajas bedecked like
women - silk pyjamas and silk achkans,
pearl necklaces round their necks, bracelets on their
wrists, pearl and diamond tassels on their turbans and
besides all this swords with golden hilts hanging from
I discovered that these were insignia not of their
royalty, but of their slavery. I had thought that they
must be wearing these badges of impotence of their own
free will, but I was told that it was obligatory for
these Rajas to wear all their costly jewels at such
functions. I also gathered that some of them had a
positive dislike for wearing these jewels, and that they
never wore them except on occasions like the darbar.
I do not know how far my information was correct. But
whether they wear them on other occasions or not, it is
distressing enough to have to attend viceregal darbars in
jewels that only some women wear.
How heavy is the toll of sins and wrongs that wealth,
power and prestige exact from man!