Dr. Geeta Radhakrishna Menon
Mahatma Gandhi 22 - Gandhiji As An Indian ‘vakil' - Poem by Dr. Geeta Radhakrishna Menon
The ‘wave of reform' seeded
In Gandhiji's mind while in England,
Got strengthened gradually!
He was a resolute young lawyer now;
Determined to be just and
Fight for the right and deserving.
But nothing turned out as planned.
Notwithstanding his study in England,
He still continued to feel helpless
And fearful of the situation in India.
As a barrister with a degree in law from England
He was neither acquainted with Indian law
Nor equipped to be an Indian ‘Vakil'!
Though he had read the laws,
He had no experience of practising the law.
Most importantly, he had not the slightest idea
Of the Indian legal systems or its applications.
The Hindu law and
The Mohammedan Law were
Both intense subjects - vast and varied!
Gandhiji had serious misgivings as to
Whether he would be able to earn a living
By being a lawyer in Rajkot!
He had not even learnt to draft a plaint.
Apart from this he had to face the storm
Of his caste people and relatives,
Over his voyage and study in England.
But Gandhiji in spite of the dislike
Shown by a section of his caste,
Scrupulously avoided hurting their feelings!
Advised by his friends,
Gandhiji left Rajkot aspiring
To gain experience and
A better career at the High Court in Bombay!
In Bombay, Gandhi went to the court
Every day, hoping sincerely for work
But not a single case came by him.
He found the court procedures dull
And often, dozed off
As days passed by, there was no income
But ever increasing expenditure!
At last, a case came of a Mamibai.
It was a ‘small cause' with
A fee of Rupees thirty only!
As Gandhiji stood up to cross examine the plaintiff's witness,
He found that his courage failed him.
His head was reeling, likewise the whole courtroom;
He could not voice a single word,
Leave alone ask any questions.
He handed over his case to Shri Patel,
A more experienced lawyer,
Hastened out of the court room,
After duly returning the fees paid to him.
He never waited to know
Whether his client won or lost the case.
Gandhiji felt ashamed of himself.
He decided that he would not take any more cases
Until he had the courage to conduct them!
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Though I had earned a degree, i was not at all keen to practise law.
Passing an examination is different from practically standing in the court and arguing a case.
To please my father, who insisted i begin to practice as a lawyer, i went to the Sessions Court, as an assistant to an experienced criminal lawyer. I wore the black gown in great style and marched into the court.
One whole day, i spent at the court with the senior lawyer fighting a rape case. I felt horrible and had a nauseous sensation at the end of the trial. I returned home, quite convinced that this was not the way i would like to live my life. I informed my parents likewise.
That was the first and last day as a lawyer in the Sessions court, Bombay, for me.
As I wrote this court episode of Gandhiji, i went back into the memory lane of my one day career as a lawyer. I can look back and laugh at my foolish self now.
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