16. LORD CURZON'S DARBAR
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
Bengali dhotis and shirts and scarves. On the darbar day they put
on trousers befitting khansamas/1/
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
and us?' he replied, and added, 'they are our khansamas, we are
Lord Curzon's khansamas. If I were to be absent from the levee,
I should have to suffer the consequences. If I were to attend it in my
usual dress, it would be an offense. 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
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 their waist-bands.
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!
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