Part Two: YOUNG MANHOOD - VIII. The First World War
The First World War
THE EARLY MONTHS of 1914 found me on another visit to Burma. I then took a step of some importance in respect to my Ismaili followers. I advised them to undertake a considerable measure of social and cultural assimilation. Burma, although annexed to the British Empire and at this time under the control of the India Office, was a country in which national, patriotic sentiment was strong, and nationalism a spontaneous, natural and continuous growth. I was convinced that the only prudent and proper policy for my followers was to identify themselves as closely as possible with the life of Burma socially and politically, to give up their Indo-Saracen names, habits and customs and to adopt, permanently and naturally, those of the people alongside whom they lived, and whose destiny they shared.
From Burma I made a brief trip to Europe in that last spring and early summer of the old epoch; and thence I went to East Africa. Somewhat to my surprise and greatly to the distress and indignation of my followers there, the authorities in German East Africa requested me not to visit their territory. While I was on my way to Africa, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in the little Bosnian border town of Sarajevo; and the casus belli had been provided. By the time I reached Zanzibar the situation had become critical; in the last days of July and the first days of August there was an exchange of ever graver and more grave telegrams. Russia and Germany were at war; the Germans invaded Belgium; and on August fourth Britain declared war on Germany. I had no hesitations, no irresolution. Ambitions, aspirations, hopes and interests narrowed down to one or two intensely personal, solitary decisions. I had one overruling emotion -- to go to England as fast as I could and offer my services in whatever capacity they could best be used. I was in good health; I was still young and strong; my place was with the British. I returned immediately and without comment the insignia of the Prussian Order of the Crown (First Class), which the Kaiser had conferred on me. I telegraphed instructions to my followers in and on the borders of all British territories that they were to render all possible help and support to the British authorities in their area. I offered my personal services to the British Resident in Zanzibar, and I took the first steps in organizing, from among members of the Indian community, a transport corps to assist in maintaining communications from the coast to the interior. Then I made haste to get to England. There were rumors -- well-founded as it proved -- of a German sea-raider at large in the Indian Ocean, and the authorities in Zanzibar asked me not to go to Mombasa as I had intended and thence to England by the first available ship, but to proceed by way of South Africa. From the Union I got passage to England, and I was in London by mid-September. I had had no practical military experience, so it seemed to me that my immediate contribution to the war effort was likely to be humble. I volunteered for service in the ranks in any unit in the British or Indian Army. I called on Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, whom I had known well in India and with whom I had served on the Viceroy's Legislative Council more than a decade earlier; I urged that I should be enlisted as a private in the Indian contingent then on its way to the Western Front.
Kitchener, however, whose knowledge and experience of the East were massive and profound, had other views as to the sort of service I could render. He was fully cognizant of both the perils and the possibilities latent in the involvement of Eastern, predominantly Islamic, peoples in a conflict of these dimensions. Germany's intrigues and influence in Constantinople had greatly increased in recent years; the great dream of a German hegemony extending from Berlin to Baghdad was one of the many fantasies on which German imperialist thinkers and teachers had dwelt eagerly and lovingly. The Turkish Government seemed deeply disrupted and drained of the capacity to take independent and effective decisions of its own. For Britain it was essential to retain control over the then vital artery of Empire: the seaway through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which led not only to India but to Australia and New Zealand and to the Colonial territories of Southeast Asia. In all this complex of political and strategic needs and obligations, it seemed to the British Government that I held a position of considerable importance. Soldiering in the ranks was not, Kitchener gave me firmly to understand, for me.
Most significant of all, it had not passed unnoticed by the British Government that I had won and held the respect and trust of many important Turks. Lord Kitchener requested me to use all my influence with the Turks to persuade them not to join the Central Powers, and to preserve their neutrality. I discovered that Kitchener was by no means alone in his idea of the sort of employment to which I could best be put. His opinion was shared and supported by the Secretary of State for India, by the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, and by the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith. Indeed even the King, when I had the honor of lunching with him, referred to it.
Therefore while overtly I busied myself with rallying young Indians in England -- of whom there were considerable numbers -to volunteer for the Indian Field Ambulance Corps, and in raising a comforts fund for them, discreetly and urgently I got in touch with the Turkish Ambassador, Tawfiq Pasha. At my request he sent an invitation to the Young Turks, who had assumed power in Turkey's revolution of 1908, to send a ministerial delegation to London to enter into direct negotiations with His Majesty's Government. Britain was prepared, on her own behalf and on behalf of Russia and her other allies, to give Turkey full guarantees and assurances for the future.
We had high hopes of bringing off what would have been, fromevery point of view, a diplomatic victory of first-rate importance. I was quite aware that my own emotions were deeply involved. As a Muslim I was most anxious that Turkey should be spared the trials and the horrors of renewed war, not against a ramshackle alliance of small Balkan states, but against the mighty combination of some of the greatest industrial and military nations in the world. The Turks had but lately emerged from their earlier ordeal; they were in desperate need of a breathing space; it seemed impossible that they could enter a new struggle and not face almost illimitable catastrophe. It had to be admitted that the Turks were justifiably suspicious of "guarantees," however specific, offered by the Western Powers; they had had too recent and too rueful an experience of similar guarantees which seemed to them promises made only to be broken. Yet even allowing for the most cynically realistic appreciation of the situation, as it existed in the last months of 1914, neutrality (which was all the Western Powers asked of Turkey) would have given the Young Turks the time they needed in which to carry out their program of social, economic and military reform.
Tawfiq Pasha was a key figure in our approaches. He had been for many years the Sultan Abdul Hamid's Foreign Minister. The Young Turk Revolution had displaced him from that office; nevertheless the new regime maintained their trust in a most experienced and capable statesman. In London and other Western capitals he was held in the highest esteem. Venerable, sage and shrewd, he was a good friend of mine; he and I trusted each other implicitly. What was even more important, he was in full agreement with my attitude in this business.
He took occasion immediately, however, to warn me that our negotiations would have had a much greater chance of success if the Allies had asked Turkey to come in on their side rather than proposed mere neutrality, for which at the end of the conflict nobody would thank her. He went on to say that he was convinced also that Russia would never agree to Turkey's joining the Allies, as such a step would put an end to all Russia's hopes of expansion at Turkey's expense, either in the northeast, around Erzerum, or southward from the Black Sea. In confidence I communicated these observations to Lord Kitchener. Within a few hours he told me that the Allies had no desire to bring Turkey into the war on their side. In view of this preliminary exchange, we entered negotiations under a considerable handicap. Nevertheless I was an optimist for several days, and my optimism seemed far from groundless.
Suddenly it became known that two German warships, the Goeben and the Breslau, had evaded Allied naval vigilance and were lying at anchor off Constantinople. Their presence drastically altered the whole situation. The Turks accorded them hospitality and protection. They were a visible sign of German naval vigor and capacity. Combined with the remarkable moral ascendancy which had been established in Constantinople by the German Military Mission, under its extremely able and resolute commander, General Liman von Sanders, the ships presented the gravest possible menace to our hopes -- lately so high -- of maintaining Turkish neutrality. By the close of 1914 the Central Powers were confident of a quick victory on their own terms; an elderly Prussian general named von Hindenburg had inflicted a crushing defeat on the immensely gallant but incompetently led Russian armies in the marshes of Tannenberg in East Prussia; in the west the German armies, held almost within the sight of Paris, had stabilized themselves along that six hundred-mile front which, with pitiably little variation and at appalling cost of life on both sides, was to be maintained until August, 1918; a solitary cruiser, the Emden, at large in the Indian Ocean, had inflicted spectacular shipping losses on the Allies, and turned up impudently in Madras Roads. Tragically misled by all these signs and portents dangled before their eyes by the exultant Germans, the Turkish Government took the irrevocable step of declaring war on Russia. This automatically involved the Ottoman Empire in war with Great Britain and France.
To a strategist like Churchill this decision offered an opportunity (which was never fully seized) of ending the slaughterous deadlock on the Western Front and of striking at Germany and Austria from the southeast. To me at that moment it was a shattering blow. Its sharpness and severity were mortifying in the extreme; and when the Turkish Government, striving to put a respectable and popular façade on what was in fact unprovoked, inexcusable aggression, proclaimed this a jehad, a holy war against Christendom, my distress and disappointment crystallized into bitter resentment against the irreligious folly of Turkey's rulers. My resentment was given a razor edge by my knowledge of how near we had been to success in our negotiations. The fruit was just about to be plucked from the tree when not merely the tree but the whole garden was blown to pieces.
I reacted strongly. I joined with other Muslim leaders in an earnest appeal to the whole Islamic world to disregard the socalled jehad, to do their duty and stand loyally with and beside the Western Allies -- especially Britain and France in whose overseas possessions the Muslim population could be counted in many millions. On my own responsibility I published a manifesto setting out my view of the grievous error committed by Turkey. I pointed out that the Ottoman Government and such forces as it would dispose of were bound to be regarded as pawns in Germany's aggressive, imperialist strategy; that in declaring war on Britain and the Allies the Turks were acting under the orders of their German masters; and that the Sultan and his advisers had been compelled by German officers and other non-Muslims to take this step. I stressed the fact that neither Turkey in particular nor Islam in general need have any apprehension about the purely defensive actions of the Western Powers.
"The British and Russian Empires and the French Republic," I said, "have offered to guarantee Turkey all her territories in complete independence on the sole condition that she remain neutral. Turkey is the trustee of Islam, and the whole world is content to let her hold the holy cities in her keeping. All men must see that Turkey's position was not imperiled in any way and that she has not gone to war for the cause of Islam or in defense of her independence. Thus our only duty as Muslims is to remain loyal, faithful and obedient to our temporal and secular allegiance."
It is not, I think, an unjustifiable claim that these words of mine, coming when they did and whence they did, had a genuine and steadying effect when it was needed. The vast majority of Muslim subjects of the Western Powers faithfully preserved their allegiance; Muslim soldiers fought and died alongside their Christian comrades on battlefields all over the world. The whole ugly idea of a jehad, manufactured and exploited by the Kaiser and his advisers for their own purposes, collapsed and little more was heard of it after the early months of 1915.
However, I do still regard the failure of our attempt to open my negotiations with the Sublime Porte in the last months of 1914 as a tragic turning point in modern history. Had Turkey remained neutral, the history of the Near East and of the whole Islamic world, in the past forty years, might have been profoundly different. What had been Islam's natural center and rallying point for hundreds of years, the Sultanate in Constantinople, was destroyed. Turkey, as we shall see later, emerged from her tribulations under the inspiring leadership of Mustafa Kemal, restored and purified in spirit, but shorn of her Empire. Millions of Arabs, who had lived for centuries under the tolerant suzerainty of the Turks, discovered, not only on the high plateau of central Arabia but in the lands of the fertile crescent, the joys and sorrows, the difficulties and the ardors of nationalism. And the British Empire, in the years from 1918 on, fell heir -- by accident rather than by intention -- to that Near and Middle Eastern hegemony so long exercised by the Ottoman Empire; and to vilayet and pashalik succeeded mandatory government. French involvement in Syria, the Greek adventures and disasters in Asia Minor, the clash of Zionism and Arab aspirations, Ibn Saud's carving of a new kingdom in Arabia, the emergence of the Sharifi family from a local chieftainship in Mecca to the foundation of ruling dynasties in two kingdoms -- all these complex consequences and many more were to flow from the Young Turks' rejection, under German pressure, of the advances made to them at the end of 1914.
Kitchener, whatever doubts may have begun to make themselves felt in early 1915 as to his capacity to organize and conduct Britain's war effort in the West, was certainly alert to every contingency in the East. It was not long before he sent for me with another proposal, for a diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic task, which had Cabinet backing, and indeed the personal approval and interest of King George V. This concerned Egypt, where the political situation was confused and delicate. Kitchener himself had been peremptorily recalled to take up his duties at the War Office, when he was about to board the cross-Channel steamer on his way back to his post as British Representative in Cairo. Egypt was nominally part of the domain of the Ottoman Emperor, the Khedive was nominally his viceroy. This status had been preserved -- in name, though in nothing else -- after the British Occupation in 1882. As every Egyptian statesman and politician for many years past has had occasion to point out times without number, the British Occupation of Egypt was always said -- by the British -- to be purely temporary. Yet somehow in defiance of logic and in defiance of promises and undertakings, it continued; until in the early years of this century, as I have recorded in an earlier chapter, Egypt looked to all intents and purposes like a British colony.
In the First World War, as in the Second World War, Egypt was a military base of the highest strategic and logistical importance for Britain and her allies. By the beginning of 1915 the number of British, Indian and Dominion troops stationed in Egypt was large and growing steadily. Alexandria was a great naval harbor and dockyard. The Suez Canal was a vital strategic waterway. On its Sinai banks, however, although Sinai was theoretically part of Egypt, were units of the Turkish Army, whose role at this time was purely static and defensive. But British strategic thinking had not cast Egypt for any quiescent, nonactive role. It was to be the base whence every offensive against Turkey was to be launched. Already thousands of transports were bringing to Alexandria, Port Said, Kantara and Ismailia the men from Britain, from Australia and New Zealand and from India, who were to fight and die, with unforgettable heroism and to no avail, on a barren, rocky little peninsula that guarded the European shore of the Dardanelles Straits leading to Constantinople. As great a degree of certainty and stability as possible in Egypt's internal political situation was, from the military point of view, a prerequisite if this huge operational base was to be preserved in good order.
The confusion began at the top. There was no Egyptian political leader of any caliber, and the Khedive himself, Abbas Hilmi, was in, of all places, Constantinople. Since he had not returned to Egypt when called, it was perhaps inevitable that Allied opinion should believe him to be pro-German and that Allied propaganda should portray him as such in the crudest terms. However, I came to know Abbas Hilmi well in later years during his long exile in Europe, and I am convinced that he was wronged and misjudged. I developed a real affection for him and a real admiration for the clarity and brilliance of his intellect. He told me what I am convinced was the true story of his "defection." Shortly before the Turkish declaration of war, he was attacked by a would-be assassin and wounded in the face and jaw. For the rest of his life he carried the heavy scar which was the effect of this attack.
From 1920 until his sudden death at the end of the Second World War, I saw a great deal of Abbas Hilmi and we became very firm friends. He had a beautiful yacht called Nimat Ullah which was more or less his home on the Riviera during the winter months and the early spring; and he usually spent the late spring and summer in Paris and Switzerland. I often lunched with him aboard the Nimat Ullah, and in Switzerland I saw a great deal of him. Of one thing I am convinced; he was never anti-British, and he had the greatest affection for his English friends. Naturally when he was Khedive he greatly resented the fact that, without any legal right or authority and no moral claim to power and prestige, the British occupation authorities were treating his country as a colony and he himself more or less as a glorified maharajah. This brought him constantly into conflict with Lord Cromer, who was in fact though not in name the absolute ruler of Egypt. However, he always told me that Cromer was a great gentleman, that his word was his bond and that however bitter their personal relations because of their political differences, he for his part never lost his respect for Lord Cromer. With Lord Kitchener the personal differences had led to bitterness, and he never forgave Kitchener for the strife between them. He told me that he thought it most unfortunate that Lord Kitchener was never grateful to him for having helped him to become Sirdar of the Egyptian Army at the beginning. When Kitchener's predecessor retired, there were two or three candidates for the post; and Abbas Hilmi maintained that he himself sent a telegram to Queen Victoria particularly asking for Kitchener's appointment.
He told me that had he not been wounded, he would certainly have escaped from Constantinople. He had no wish nor desire to remain, and as soon as he got better he wanted to go to Egypt; but the British authorities were by no means keen to have him there. It was his opinion that while he was shown that he was not wanted, he was at the same time made the scapegoat. However there was no bitterness toward the English either as a people or as individuals. He accepted the whole episode as a game of cricket in which he had been the loser; and as a good sportsman he said, "The game is over and done with -- now let's have a drink together."
Though he was a good Muslim, a real believer who said his prayers regularly, he also had a great admiration for the Catholic hierarchy and was in touch with them in Paris; and I believe that his donations to their charities and good works were on a large scale. He always told me that the Church of Rome could do far more for their friends when they were in trouble than any freemasonry. He was a brilliant financier; he made a large fortune for himself even after he had lost the greater part of his original capital in Egypt. He had, however, a curious trait. After his death it became apparent that he had often put his money on the wrong horse. Shrewdly suspicious of all respectable bankers, high-class agents de change on the Continent or stockbrokers in England, he was yet capable of being taken in by a lot of fourth-rate intriguers, and he would hand over large sums of money to them for all kinds of wild-goose projects. Apart from this, he had some extremely doubtful characters in his entourage -- hangers-on who won his confidence, goodness knows how. I believe that after his death his heirs found that he was nothing like as rich as he had been and that a considerable portion of his fortune had disappeared. I think I can explain how this must have happened. Before and during the Second World War he often told me that in view of the uncertainty of the future and the possible difficulties of movement or of getting control of his investments in America or Canada or even in South America (though he knew all the tricks of forming holding companies in harmless places such as Cuba or Tangiers and transferring large blocks of stocks and securities to them), he felt that he might be stranded in wartime without getting the benefits of his investments. He dreaded the possibility of years of want and difficulty in which, like Midas, he might be full of gold and yet die of hunger.
In telling me these things he was really advising me to follow his example. I asked him therefore how he got around it. Was it by having a considerable part of his fortune with him in safes and vaults? Naturally I pointed out that bank notes in such amounts in wartime would be a real hindrance, whereas gold in the quantities that he wanted would be too heavy and not practicable except for comparatively small sums. Ah, he said, but the finest type of jewelry -- that which is the very best and free from taint -- like gold maintains its value. If it is perfect -- large or small -- jewelry can always find a purchaser; and it has the advantage that its possessor has a large fortune at his disposal wherever he happens to be. I naturally concluded from this argument that he had vast sums invested in jewelry, particularly since he frequently urged me to do likewise.
He died of heart failure suddenly about three o'clock one morning in an apartment in Geneva; and it was not until much later, about mid-morning, that people came and opened his various boxes and vaults. I naturally informed his son and his heir of what he had told me about having large amounts of jewelry with him, but to my surprise and rather to my distress his son told me that they found nothing except small amounts of cash. There are two possible solutions: first, that if he had had the jewelry he had sold it at the end of the Second World War when he thought there was no immediate possibility of a third war, or, second, that it had vanished during the hours between his death and the official opening of his personal effects.
To return to his miscalculations in 1914-1915, in the fog of war the Allies could not be expected to have any accurate knowledge either of Abbas Hilmi's real views or intentions, or of the way in which those intentions were frustrated. The result in Egypt, however, was something near chaos; the confusion was deepest about Muslim opinion, and for the reasons which I have outlined it was essential to maintain the internal security of Egypt.
My mission therefore was to clarify and stabilize opinion. I was asked to take a colleague with me, and I therefore turned to an old and dear friend, Sir Abbas Ali Baig, who was then the Indian member of the permanent Council which advised the Secretary of State for India in London. We set off for Cairo as soon as we could; and we were received there with almost royal honors. We were there as the official guests of the British Commander in Chief; and we addressed ourselves forthwith to a delicate and difficult task, with many ramifications into many levels of Egyptian society.
First there was the palace to be won over, or rather the principal personages in the Egyptian ruling dynasty. There was the Sultan who had been nominated in Abbas Hilmi's absence; there was his brother, Prince Fuad, who later became King Fuad I, who had both German and Italian affiliations; there were several other influential princes, and most important of all the Sultan's son who was married to the Khedive's sister. There were the Ulema, the Muslim divines who were the heads of Al Azhar University, the great, intensely conservative and traditional theological school which is a center of religious life not only in Egypt but in the whole of Islam. And there were the ordinary people of Egypt -- the literate who sit in their cafes endlessly and eagerly discussing every edition of every newspaper, and the villages and peasants, the fellahin who from time immemorial have been the real source of Egypt's strength.
We conceived of our task as one of explanation and exhortation. We had to convince those to whom we spoke, in private as well as in public, that not only their interest but their duty, as good Muslims, lay in supporting and sustaining the cause of the Allies. I could, of course, speak with authority, from recent and personal knowledge; I pointed out that the Turks had had every possible chance of fair terms from the Allies, that Great Britain and France were willing to exert all their influence on Russia to safeguard Turkey's interests for the future, and most important of all, that neutrality would have given Turkey that breathing space she needed. While Europe was engaged on its grim process of selfdestruction, Turkey would have had time to reorganize the whole loose, vast system of provincial administration, to conciliate the increasing discontent of the Arab nationalists, and to carry out all those social, political and economic reforms which would have strengthened and unified the Empire. All these advantages had been lost in a single gambler's throw; gamblers, after all, are not winners, and history shows that political punters have as little chance of success as punters on the racecourse or at the casino.
Our mission produced the effects for which we had hoped. The internal stability of Egypt throughout the First World War and the assistance that this tranquillity gave to the Allies were factors of notable and continuing importance right up to the time of General Allenby's final victorious advance across Palestine and Syria to Aleppo and the foothills of the Anatolian mountains.
From Egypt I made my way to India, having visited the Indian forces -- already of considerable strength -- who were encamped in the Canal Zone, having encouraged them (many, of course, were Muslims) and having exhorted them to do their duty, to fight loyally for the King-Emperor, the Sovereign to whose service they were bound by oath. In India I realized -- by the volume of enthusiastic praise and thanks that greeted me, from the Viceroy downward -- that we had done a good job. One particularly agreeable personal consequence of this mission to Egypt was the strengthening of my affection for Sir Abbas Ali Baig, who became and thenceforward remained one of my closest, lifelong friends. In a new generation his sons, incidentally, are no less distinguished public servants than he was; one is now Pakistan's Minister in Moscow and the other, formerly permanent head of the Foreign Office in Karachi, is now High Commissioner in Ottawa.
Later in the year I went back to London, and once more was heartened by the sense of success in our mission in Egypt. The Kinghimself, the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet thanked me warmly, and I was genuinely gratified to feel that I had been of real service.
In April 1916, His Majesty accorded me an honor of very special personal significance. He sanctioned the grant to me of a salute of eleven guns and the rank and precedence of a First Class Ruling Prince of the Bombay Presidency. The end of the Indian Empire, and the vast political and social changes consequent on that passing, have deprived this gesture of any contemporary meaning, but in the circumstances and conditions of 1916 it was a high honor and a most generous and thoughtful action on the part of the King. The salute granted to a Ruling Prince, and the number of guns in it, was an important matter of precedence and prestige; there was only one previous instance of such a salute being granted to anyone who was not a territorial Prince, and that was to Sir Salar Jung, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, who in 1857 was chiefly responsible for keeping Central India and the Deccan loyal to British authority. The Times, commenting on this honor in an editorial, observed: "It has fallen to the Aga Khan to serve in vastly wider fields than Sir Salar Jung and to exert much more than local or provincial influence in a crisis of British rule even greater than that of the mutiny."
Inevitably sorrow and loss came, as the result of war, to me and to my family, as to so many other families across the width of the world in those harsh times. My cousin, Aga Farrokh Shah, while engaged at my request on a political mission to the tribes and my own Ismaili followers in Kerman, was assassinated at the instigation of German agents. India's losses on the battlefield in Flanders and in Mesopotamia were grievous. I myself was laid low with a difficult, painful and protracted illness. Early in 1916 I began to be aware of considerable ocular distress and difficulty; my pulse was extremely irregular, and although I was on no diet and was eating well, I began to lose weight rapidly. A physician in Paris diagnosed my malady as Graves' disease, of which the symptoms were protruding eyes and a small goiter. I went to Switzerland to the famous Dr. Kocher at Berne, who was the greatest contemporary authority on all forms of goiter, to see if my case was operable. After I had been under observation in a Swiss sanatorium for several weeks, I was told that it was inoperable. Frankly I seemed to be going downhill fast; for eighteen months and more I stayed in Switzerland, making no progress at all but rather deteriorating steadily.
Suddenly the British Government took urgent and alarmed cognizance of what subsequently became known, in Swiss legal history, as the affair of the Lucerne bomb. The German Secret Service did not believe that I was really ill. They thought, however, that their country's cause would be well served were I put out of the way for good. They arranged to have a bomb thrown at me; and to make the operation certain of success they also arranged, with typical German thoroughness, to have my breakfast coffee poisoned. The bomb did not go off; I did not drink the coffee. For years after the war ended the Swiss painstakingly investigated the whole episode and the inquiry attained a good deal of notoriety at the time. In 1917, however, all that the British Government saw fit to do was to request me to leave Switzerland. So I returned to Paris.
My host of friends there, including those of the American colony to whom I have referred elsewhere, were thoroughly shocked and alarmed; I was (so they told me later) in their view a lost case. For myself, I still kept hope -- though it flickered feebly. It seemed to me that many famous doctors had seen me in Switzerland and in France. All kinds of treatments, batteries of drugs, had been tried on me to no avail. Then a Professor Pierremarie examined me and produced a startlingly novel diagnosis. I had not been suffering from goiter at all. He began a fresh line of treatment, and within a year I was thoroughly on the mend. One effect remained, however, in that my eyes never quite resumed their normal position.
However, this long illness meant that I was of necessity withdrawn from all public activity for more than three years, until the summer of 1919.
It was a long seclusion which I ameliorated slightly in its later stages by writing a book, called India in Transition, which set forth my views on the future of India and of all Southeast Asia, and to which I shall have occasion to refer later.