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SELECTED LETTERS > GANDHI -SAROJINI NAIDU CORRESPONDENCELetter from Sarojini Naidu to Gandhiji, before May 15, 1924

 

Letter from Sarojini Naidu to Gandhiji, before May 15, 1924

(Extract)

The Indian Ocean is chanting immemorial hymns to the morning sun and the mountains bear witness to the covenant that great dreamers have made from their sunlit peaks with God to make the land of South Africa a goodly heritage of noble ideals and high traditions for unborn generations. But today the facts are otherwise. In the shadow of these very mountains and within sound of this very sea, the men who have in their keeping the destiny of South Africa are betraying their trust and making their House of Assembly, that should be a temple of justice and freedom, a market-place to barter away the birthright of posterity for a brief period of power built on prejudice and authority based on oppression. Still my heart is not dismayed and my faith in the balance of ultimate issues remains unshaken. And I have not been afraid to proclaim that faith or that vision. It has made the protagonists of an impossible white South Africa angry and alarmed. But to the Coloured people of South Africa it has brought an awakening and a new hope.
You have been kept in touch, I know, with the course of my mission here in laconic Press cables. I have according to my capacity and opportunity done my best and in spite of a prejudiced Press and ignorant legislators, I have been able to win not hundreds but thousands of friends for the Indian cause from all sections and ranks of South African communities. The African races and even the difficult "Coloured" people have been moved to enthusiasm and indignation, and a sense of kinship and community of suffering and destiny. How the white races have resented my expression "a University of oppression" as applied to South Africa! Yet it is a "University of oppression" to discipline and perfect the spirit of the non-European people.
My interview with the Strong Man of the Empire was very interesting. He was full of his famous charm and magnetism and withal apparently simple and sweet; but what depth of subtlety and diplomacy are hidden behind that suavity and simplicity! My impression of him is that he was designed by nature to be among the world's greatest, but he has dwarfed himself to be a small man in robe of authority in South Africa; it is the tragedy of a man who does not or cannot rise to the full height of his pre-destined spiritual stature. Before I leave South Africa on the 27th of this month, we are holding an emergency conference to consolidate the political work and outline a scheme of action - may be of sacrifice. I shall spend a fortnight in East Africa en route for India to finish my work there before I return home.

From: Young India, May 15, 1924; Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 47-48