28. POONA AND MADRAS
Sir Pherozeshah had made
my way easy. So from Bombay I went to Poona. Here there were two parties.
I wanted the help of people of every shade of opinion. First I met Lokamanya
Tilak. He said:
'You are quite right in seeking
the help of all parties. There can be no difference of opinion on the South
African question. But you must have a non-party man for your president.
Meet Professor Bhandarkar. He has been taking no part of late in any public
movement. But this question might possibly draw him out. See him and let
me know what he says. I want to help you to the fullest extent. Of course
you will meet me whenver you like. I am at your disposal.'
This was my first meeting with
the Lokamanya. It revealed to me the secret of his unique popularity.
Next I met Gokhale. I found
him on the Fergusson College grounds. He gave me an affectionate welcome,
and his manner immediately won my heart. With him too this was my first
meeting, and yet it seemed as though we were renewing an old friendship.
Sir Pherozeshah had seemed to me like the Himalaya, the Lokamanya like
the ocean. But Gokhale was as the Ganges. One could have a refreshing bath
in the holy river. The Himalaya was unscaleable, and one could not easily
launch forth on the sea, but the Ganges invited one to its bosom. It was
a joy to be on it with a boat and an oar. Gokhale closely examined me,
as a schoolmaster would examine a candidate seeking admission to a school.
He told me whom to approach and how to approach them. He asked to have
a look at my speech. He showed me over the college, assured me that he
was always at my disposal, asked me to let him know the result of the interview
with Dr. Bhandarkar, and sent me away exultantly happy. In the sphere of
politics the place that Gokhale occupied in my heart during his lifetime
and occupies even now was and is absolutely unique.
Dr. Bhandarkar received me with
the warmth of a father. It was noon when I called on him. The very fact
that I was busy seeing people at that hour appealed greatly to this indefatigable
savant, and my insistence on a non-party man for the president of the meeting
had his ready approval, which was expressed in the spontaneous exclamation,
'That's it, that's it.'
After he had heard me out he
said: 'Anyone will tell you that I do not take part in politics. But I
cannot refuse you. Your case is so strong and your industry is so admirable
that I cannot decline to take part in your meeting. You did well in consulting
Tilak and Gokhale. Please tell them that I shall be glad to preside over
the meeting to be held under the joint auspices of the two Sabhas. You
need not have the time of the meeting from me. Any time that suits them
will suit me.' With this he bade me good-bye with congratulations and blessings.
Without any ado this erudite
and selfless band of workers in Poona held a meeting in an unostentatious
little place, and sent me away rejoicing and more confident of my mission.
I next proceeded to Madras.
It was wild enthusiasm. The Balasundaram incident made a profound impression
on the meeting. My speech was printed and was, for me, fairly long. But
the audience listened to every word with attention. At the close of the
meeting there was a regular run on the 'Green Pamphlet'. I brought out
a second and revised edition of 10,000 copies. They sold like hot cakes,
but I saw that it was not necessary to print such a large number. In my
enthusiasm I had overcalculated the demand. It was the English-speaking
public to which my speech had been addressed, and in Madras that class
alone could not take the whole ten thousand.
The greatest help here came
to me from the late Sjt. G. Parameshvaran Pillay, the editor of The
Madras Standard. He had made a careful study of the question, and he
often invited me to his office and gave me guidance. Sjt. G. Subrahamaniam
of The Hindu and D.r Subrahmaniam also were very sympathetic. But
Sjt. G. Parameshvaran Pillay placed the columns of The Madras Standard
entirely at my disposal, and I freely availed myself of the offer. The
meeting in Pachaiappa's Hall, so far as I can recollect, was with Dr. Subrahmaniam
in the chair.
The affection showered on me
by most of the friends I met, and their enthusiasm for the cause, were
so great that in spite of my having to communicate with them in English,
I felt myself entirely at home. What barrier is here that love cannot break?