13. IN INDIA AGAIN
So I sailed for home.
Mauritius was one of the ports of call, and as the boat made a long halt
there, I went ashore and acquainted myself fairly well with the local conditions.
For one night I was the guest of Sir Charles Bruce, the Governor of the
After reaching India I spent
some time in going about the country. It was the year 1901, when the Congress
met at Calcutta under the presidentship of Mr. (later Sir) Dinshaw Wacha.
And I of course attended it. It was my first experience of the Congress.
From Bombay I travelled in the
same train as Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, as I had to speak to him about conditions
in South Africa. I knew the kingly style in which he lived. He had engaged
a special saloon [car on the train] for himself, and I had orders to take
my opportunity of speaking to him by travelling in his saloon for one stage.
I, therefore, went to the saloon and reported myself at the appointed station.
With him were Mr. Wacha, and Mr. (now Sir) Chimanlal Setalvad. They were
discussing politics. As soon as Sir Pherozeshah saw me, he said, 'Gandhi,
it seems nothing can be done for you. Of course we will pass the resolution
you want. But what rights have we in our own country? I believe that so
long as we have no power in our own land, you cannot fare better in the
I was taken aback. Mr. Setalvad
seemed to concur in the view; Mr. Wacha cast a pathetic look at me.
I tried to plead with Sir Pherozeshah,
but it was out of the question for one like me to prevail upon the uncrowned
king of Bombay. I contented myself with the fact that I should be allowed
to move my resolution.
'You will of course show me
the resolution,' said Mr. Wacha, to cheer me up. I thanked him, and left
them at the next stop.
So we reached Calcutta. The
President was taken to his camp with great eclat by the Reception
Committee. I asked a volunteer where I was to go. He took me to the Ripon
College, where a number of delegates were being put up. Fortune favoured
me. Lokamanya was put up in the same block as I. I have a recollection
that he came a day later.
And as was natural, Lokamanya
would never be without his darbar. Were I a painter, I could paint him
as I saw him seated on his bed--so vivid is the whole scene in my memory.
Of the numberless people that called on him, I can recollect today only
one, namely, the late Babu Motilal Ghose, editor of the Amrita Bazar
Patrika. Their loud laughter and their talks about the wrong-doings
of the ruling race cannot be forgotten.
But I propose to examine in
some detail the appointments in this camp. The volunteers were clashing
against one another. You asked one of them to do something. He delegated
it to another, and he in his turn to a third, and so on; and as for the
delegates, they were neither here nor there.
I made friends with a few volunteers.
I told them some things about South Africa, and they felt somewhat ashamed.
I tried to bring home to them the secret of service. They seemed to understand,
but service is no mushroom growth. It presupposes the will first, and then
experience. There was no lack of will on the part of those good simple-hearted
young men, but their experience was nil. The Congress would meet three
days every year, and then go to sleep. What training could one have out
of a three days' show once a year? And the delegates were of a piece with
the volunteers. They had no better or longer training. They would do nothing
themselves. 'Volunteer, do this,' 'Volunteer, do that,' were their constant
Even here I was face to face
with untouchability in a fair measure. The Tamilian kitchen was far away
from the rest. To the Tamil delegates even the sight of others, whilst
they were dining, meant pollution. So a special kitchen had to be made
for them in the college compound, walled in by wicker-work. It was full
of smoke which choked you. It was a kitchen, dining-room, washroom, all
in one--a close safe with no outlet. To me this looked like a travesty
I said to myself, there was such untouchability between the delegates of
the Congress, one could well imagine the extent to which it existed amongst
their constituents. I heaved a sigh at the thought.
There was no limit to insanitation.
Pools of water were everywhere. There were only a few latrines, and the
recollection of their stink still oppresses me. I pointed it out to the
volunteers. They said point-blank: 'That is not our work, it is the scavenger's
work.' I asked for a broom. The man stared at me in wonder. I procured
one and cleaned the latrine. But that was for myself. The rush was so great,
and the latrines were so few, that they needed frequent cleaning; but that
was more than I could do. So I had to content myself with simply ministering
to myself. And the others did not seem to mind the stench and the dirt.
But that was not all. Some of
the delegates did not scruple to use the verandahs outside their rooms
for calls of nature at night. In the morning I pointed out the spots to
the volunteers. No one was ready to undertake the cleaning, and I found
no one to share the honour with me of doing it. Conditions have since considerably
improved, but even today thoughtless delegates are not wanting who disfigure
the Congress camp by committing nuisances wherever they choose, and all
the volunteers are not always ready to clean up after them.
I saw that if the Congress session
were to be prolonged, conditions would be quite favourable for the outbreak
of an epidemic.
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Duties of the four fundamental divisions of Hindu society