Drunk delight of battle with my peers
Nemesis - if that is not too strong a word - came in the form of Dhunjibhoy Bomanji. Or to be more precise, in Arthur's foolishness in believing Dhunjibhoy's promises and blandishments of wealth and independence. In stead of which he came to believe, by 1937, that he received
Pretty scurvey reward...for my long association of over 21 years of service. The moral "Put not they faith in Princes" is well illustrated here.
Not that Dhunjibhoy was a prince, but Arthur came to rue the day he ever sought his fortune anywhere other than in deep waters. The only deep water ahead of him was financial.
Attached to the top of a letter from Hill,
Son and Thomas, Stevedores & Contractors, 61 Meadow Street, Bombay
is an advert clipped from a paper; WANTED AN ASSISTANT
MANAGER (European) for out-door work of a stevedores' firm in Bombay.
Apply stating age and experience to Box no. c1335 care of Manager, ‘Englishman’
The hand-written letter itself, dated 25th May 1916 and addressed to
Captain A. D. Linklater c/o Port Commissioners Office, Calcutta, reads;
We are in receipt of your application of the 18th inst for the post of assistant manager of our firm. We have gone through all the papers sent by you and we think you will be a suitable man for the appointment; however we are afraid you are expecting a salary higher than we can afford to give. We shall therefore thank you to let us know the minimum salary at which you will accept the place vacant. The first warning shots had been fired across Arthur's bow.
I don't have Arthur's side of the bargaining, and while not privy to negotiations surrounding Arthur's original employment, a letter from Arthur to Dhunjibhoy dated 30th April 1919 preceding renewal of his contract gives some indication of what had gone before. The spelling and scatter-gun approach to commas in the original have been retained.
In three months my three years service with you will be completed, and this affords me an opportunity of addressing you upon a subject, which is a source of continuous anxiety to me, although it may not have occurred. to you.
Before I proceed, however, I wish to thank you most heartily, and sincerely for all your many kindnesses, to me during the two, and three quarter years I have been with you. The kindly personal interest you have shown in me is the happiest experience I have had since I left home at the age of fifteen to earn my living abroad, and has made me look upon you, as something more than my employer.
My lasting regret is, that I did not have the good fortune of entering your service earlier in life, instead of towards the latter part of it, as I have found there is a great difference in serving a Company, or Board of Commissioners, and in serving you. I will transgress, to emphasise this point, as it has counted a good deal with me.
Both the British India, and the Calcutta Port Commissioners treated me throughout my service with them with kindness, and consideration, and both were good enough to say they appreciated my work for them. The British India kindly allowed me twelve months leave during my first year's work with the Calcutta Commissioners, in case I might not like it, and might wish to rejoin their service, and this was at a time, when officers were plentiful, and they had no necessity in acting liberally with their men. I left them with a feeling of reluctance at the end of the twelve months, when it appeared, that I had every chance in a few years of reaching the position of Deputy Conservator of the Port of Calcutta.
In two years I had qualified for the post having passed their examinations, as well as having become a Pilot on the Hooghly, but unfortunately just after this the Deputy Conservator unexpectedly died, and I did not have sufficient length of service in to be appointed. A Senior Naval Captain got the post, and I was raised to the head of my department, and given sole charge of the port approaches, the light-vessel service, the buoyage, and the salvage work of the river, besides having a considerable amount to do with the river Survey service.
As I had gone over the heads of many more senior men than myself, and as the post carried a pension of £400 a year, I was considered very fortunate to have got it, but it was the head position of all, that I wanted, and promotion to that, having been blocked for some years I decided to leave them, as soon as, I found something which offered more rapid advancement.
Hill, Son, and Knox invited me to come to Bombay to see them, but after an interview with Knox, who did not appeal to me at all I declined his proposals, and was returning to Calcutta, when Captain Penny advised me to call upon you. I seized this opportunity with great pleasure, as I had heard so much about you, that I felt it would not matter much what terms you were agreeable to, to start with, for, if I served, you well, - and I was quite sure I would serve you well, - you would advance me far beyond the Deputy Conservator's position in Calcutta.
After our interview, and on my return to Calcutta I informed the Commissioners of my intention of joining you. The Vice-Chairman did not know you, but he had my interests so much at heart, that he first interviewed Mr. Carmichael of the British India, and also a Commissioner, as to whether I was doing a wise thing in joining.
Mr. Carmichael reassured him with the result, that the Commissioners gave me six months leave, to see how I liked it in Bombay before asking for my resignation, on thanking the Vice-chairman for this unexpected concession he told me I had a strong supporter at the meeting of Commissioners in Mr Carmichael, who alleviated the fears of some of the Members, that Government would criticise their action in creating a precedent, firstly, in giving me leave to join another appointment, and secondly, in the event of my rejoining them in avoiding the difficulty, that would arise on the strict rule of continuous service for pension, by saying, as he knew who I was joining in Bombay it was unlikely that the second question would arise. He was correct, as I resigned after six months service with you.
I have gone into detail here to emphasise this point, that with both the British India, and the Calcutta Commissioners there existed a strong bond of kindly feeling between them, and myself, and I was sorry to leave them both, but in their cases the one being a Company, and the other a Body of Commissioners, and although I was very happy with them, I did not know how much more pleasurable it was to serve one person, instead of many for the personal friendship you have shown me, has been a new, and very pleasing experience indeed, and has made working for you more of a pleasure than merely the fulfilment of a Contract and I honestly hope I may continue to serve you for many years come.
There is a little matter, however, I wish to respectfully bring to your notice, and trust you will give it your consideration. You have told me, that after ten years service with you I would be in an independent position, and that most generous expression is more than I had ever hoped for, and one, that any words I might use would fail to adequately express my genuine gratitude for. The difficulty is, that perhaps in the course of time I might unknowingly, and unwittingly descend in your estimation, or you might for some at present unforeseen cause have reason later on to modify your intention, and although I unquestionably put my trust in you, I am as one moving in the dark.
I trust you will not consider it ingratitude on my part to have mentioned this rather delicate matter, as it is one of vital importance to myself, for although I economize consistently I find I have hardly made any progress at all, and I respectfully ask you to consider the propriety of drawing up a definite scheme, whereby, year by year I can feel, that against the one year's increased age is a corresponding degree of safety for the future.
I beg to attach a proposal of my own, which after ten years service with you, would give me at 5% Compound interest an income of £400 a year. Should this suggestion of mine meet with your approval it would be a great benefit to me, if you could give me War-bonds, if convenient to you, as it would be War-bonds I would buy, if I could get than, to save income Tax, which I have not allowed for in the attached suggestion.
I would ask you also in the event of your death before I had completed my service with you to arrange, that should such an unfortunate catastrophe occur, that the balance of the pension due might be paid me, for your great business is different to other sound businesses, in as much, that, in a first class firm, if the demise of the Head occurs, the business continues, and the employee is safeguarded, whereas with yourself at your death your business collapses, and I would have to make a fresh start, which after the age of forty is a serious proposition.
The majority of people whom I meet here, and who know of your liberal manner, and great business activities imagine, that because I am associated with you, that I must naturally be making money, and that impression I do not correct, but it is totally a mistaken assumption for on my arrival in Bombay to join you, I had 7200 Rupees, and to-day my total Capital is 6800 Rupees. I have also, however, to add to that amount 4000 Rupees worth of house-hold things, and also the 600 Rupees you very kindly gave my son, which is banked in his name.
The 200 Rupees, you have given me each month to bank since the 1st of June last has been banked, but the whole of my monthly salary goes - without exception - in just ordinary living expenses. I am adverse to extravagance, and economize, as far as possible, always endeavouring at the same time to maintain the Standard of living appropriate to my position with you, and in this I am sure you would be well pleased for you would never feel embarrassed at any time, at any one, no matter how important visiting my home.
Now that I have stated the true facts of my position it would be unbecoming for me - unless invited by you to do so - to make proposals with regard to salary. I trust you will review the whole position in a kindly and generous light.
I came to India in 1900, and in July will he forty. Though endeavouring to advance I have lost the advantage of one long continuous service with its accompanying periods of home leave and pension. You have made me very comfortable, and I am happy, and contented, and grateful to you for many kind acts. There is only this one real anxiety about the future.
A Son cannot be a Father, so I make no request,
only a proposal has been suggested, and my true position illustrated.
I apologise for having written so lengthily, and trust the indelicate
subject I have written upon may not diminish your kindly feeling towards
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,