15. IN THE CONGRESS
In the Congress at last.
The immense pavilion and the volunteers in stately array, as also the elders
seated on the dais, overwhelmed me. I wondered where I should be in that
The presidential address was
a book by itself. To read it from cover to cover was out of the question.
Only a few passages were therefore read.
After this came the election
of the Subjects Committee. Gokhale took me to the Committee meetings.
Sir Pherozeshah had of course
agreed to admit my resolution, but I was wondering who would put it before
the Subjects Committee, and when. For there were lengthy speeches to every
resolution, all in English to boot, and every resolution had some well-known
leader to back it. Mine was but a feeble pipe amongst those veteran drums,
and as the night was closing in, my heart beat fast. The resolutions coming
at the fag-end were, so far as I can recollect, rushed through at lightning
speed. Everyone was hurrying to go. It was eleven o'clock. I had not the
courage to speak. I had already met Gokhale, who had looked at my resolution.
So I drew near his chair and whispered to him: 'Please do something for
me.' He said: 'Your resolution is not out of my mind. You see the way they
are rushing through the resolutions. But I will not allow yours to be passed
'So we have done?' said Sir
'No, no there is still the resolution
on South Africa. Mr. Gandhi has been waiting long,' cried out Gokhale.
'Have you seen the resolution?'
asked Sir Pherozeshah.
'Do you like it?'
'It is quite good.'
'Well then, let us have it,
I read it trembling.
Gokhale supported it.
'Unanimously passed,' cried
'You will have five minutes
to speak on it, Gandhi,' said Mr. Wacha.
The procedure was far from pleasing
to me. No one had troubled to understand the resolution, everyone was in
a hurry to go, and because Gokhale had seen the resolution, it was not
thought necessary for the rest to see it or understand it!
The morning found me worrying
about my speech. What was I to say in five minutes? I had prepared myself
fairly well, but the words would not come. I had decided not to read my
speech, but to speak ex tempore. But the faculty for speaking that
I had acquired in South Africa seemed to have left me for the moment.
As soon as it was time for my
resolution, Mr. Wacha called out my name. I stood up. My head was reeling.
I read the resolution somehow. Someone had printed and distributed amongst
the delegates copies of a poem he had written in praise of foreign emigration.
I read the poem and referred to the grievances of the settlers in South
Africa. Just at this moment Mr. Wacha rang the bell. I was sure I had not
yet spoken for five minutes. I did not know that the bell was rung in order
to warn me to finish in two minutes more. I had heard others speak for
half an hour or three-quarters of an hour, and yet no bell was rung for
them. I felt hurt and sat down as soon as the bell was rung. But my childlike
intellect thought then that the poem contained an answer to Sir Pherozeshah./1/
There was no question about the passing of the resolution. In those days
there was hardly any difference between visitors and delegates. Everyone
raised his hand and all resolutions passed unanimously. My resolution also
fared in this wise, and so lost all its importance for me. And yet the
very fact that it was passed by the Congress was enough to delight my heart.
The knowledge that the imprimatur [=seal of approval] of the Congress
meant that of the whole country was enough to delight anyone.
= = = = = = = = = = =
See *Chapter 13*, Paragraph Third.