On my way to Bombay the train stopped at Allahabad for forty-five minutes. I decided to utilize the interval for a drive through the town. I also had to purchase some medicine at a chemist's shop. The chemist was half asleep, and took an unconscionable time in dispensing the medicine, with the result that when I reached the station, the train had just started. The station master had kindly detained the train one minute for my sake, but not seeing me coming, had carefully ordered my luggage to be taken out of the train.
I took a room at Kellner's, and decided to start work there and
then. I had heard a good deal about The Pioneer
published from Allahabad, and I had understood it to be an opponent
of Indian aspirations. I have an impression that Mr. Chesney Jr. was
the editor at that time. I wanted to secure the help of every party,
so I wrote a note to Mr. Chesney, telling him how I had missed the
train, and asking for an appointment so as to enable me to leave the
next day. He immediately gave me one, at which I was very happy
especially when I found that he gave me a patient hearing. He
promised to notice in his paper anything that I might write, but
added that he could not promise to endorse all the Indian demands,
inasmuch as he was bound to understand and give due weight to the
viewpoint of the Colonials as well.
'It is enough,' I said, 'that you should study the question and
discuss it in your paper. I ask and desire nothing but the barest
justice that is due to us.'
The rest of the day was spent in having a look round admiring the
magnificent confluence of the three rivers, the 'Triveni'
and planning the work before me.
This unexpected interview with the editor of The Pioneer
laid the foundation of the series of incidents which ultimately led
to my being lynched in Natal.
I went straight to Rajkot without halting at Bombay and began to
make preparations for writing a pamphlet on the situation in South
Africa. The writing and publication of the pamphlet took about a
month. It had a green cover and came to be known afterwards as the
Green Pamphlet. In it I drew a purposely subdued picture of the
conditions of Indians in South Africa. The language I used was more
moderate than that of the two pamphlets which I have referred to
before, as I knew that things heard of from a distance appear bigger
than they are.
Ten thousand copies were printed and sent to all the papers and
leaders of every party in India.
The Pioneer was the first to notice it editorially. A summary of the article was
cabled by Reuter to England, and a summary of that summary was
cabled to Natal by Reuter's London office. This cable was not longer
than three lines in print. It was a miniature, but exaggerated,
edition of the picture I had drawn of the treatment accorded to the
Indians in Natal, and it was not in my words. We shall see later on
the effect this had in Natal. In the meanwhile every paper of note
commented at length on the question.
To get these pamphlets ready for posting was no small matter. It
would have been expensive too, if I had employed paid help for
preparing wrappers, etc. But I hit upon a much simpler plan. I
gathered together all the children in my locality and asked them to
volunteer two or three hours' labour of a morning, when they had no
school. This they willingly agreed to do. I promised to bless them
and give them, as a reward, used postage stamps which I had
collected. They got through the work in no time. That was my first
experiment of having little children as volunteers. Two of those
little friends are my co-workers today.
Plague broke out in Bombay about this time, and there was panic all
around. There was fear of an outbreak in Rajkot. As I felt that I
could be of some help in the sanitation department, I offered my
services to the State. They were accepted, and I was put on the
committee which was appointed to look into the question. I laid
especial emphasis on the cleanliness of latrines, and the committee
decided to inspect these in every street. The poor people had no
objection to their latrines being inspected, and what is more, they
carried out the improvements suggested to them. But when we went to
inspect the houses of the upper ten, some of them even refused us
admission, not to talk of listening to our suggestions. It was our
common experience that the latrines of the rich were more unclean.
They were dark and stinking and reeking with filth and worms. The
improvements we suggested were quite simple, e.g., to have buckets
for excrement instead of allowing it to drop on the ground; to see
that urine also was collected in buckets, instead of allowing it to
soak into the ground, and to demolish the partitions between the
outer walls and the latrines, so as to give the latrines more light
and air and enable the scavenger to clean them properly. The
upper classes raised numerous objections to this last improvement,
and in most cases it was not carried out.
The committee had to
inspect untouchables' quarters also. Only one member of the
committee was ready to accompany me there. To the rest it was
something preposterous to visit those quarters, still more so to
inspect their latrines. But for me those quarters were an agreeable
surprise. That was the first visit in my life to such a locality.
The men and women there were surprised to see us. I asked them to
let us inspect their latrines.
'Latrines for us!' they exclaimed in astonishment. 'We go and
perform our functions out in the open. Latrines are for you big
'Well, then, you won't mind if we inspect your houses?' I asked.
'You are perfectly welcome, sir. You may see every nook and corner
of our houses. Ours are no houses, they are holes.'
I went in and was delighted to see that the insides were as clean as
the outsides. The entrances were well swept, the floors were
beautifully smeared with cow-dung, and the few pots and pans were
clean and shining. There was no fear of an outbreak in those
In the upper class quarters we came across a latrine which I cannot
help describing in some detail. Every room had its gutter, which was
used both for water and urine, which meant that the whole house
would stink. But one of the houses had a storeyed bedroom with a
gutter which was being used both as a urinal and a latrine. The
gutter had a pipe discending to the ground floor. It was not
possible to stand the foul smell in this room. How the occupant
could sleep there I leave the readers to imagine.
The committee also visited the Vaishnava Haveli.
The priest in charge of the Haveli
was very friendly with my family. So he agreed to let us inspect
everything and suggest whatever improvements we liked. There was a
part of the Haveli premises that he himself had never seen. It was the place where
refuse and leaves used as dinner-plates used to be thrown over the
wall. It was the haunt of crows and kites. The latrines were of
course dirty. I was not long enough in Rajkot to see how many of our
suggestions the priest carried out.
It pained me to see so much uncleanliness about a place of worship.
One would expect a careful observance of the rules of sanitation and
hygiene in a place which is regarded as holy. The authors of the
Smritis, as I knew even then, have laid the greatest emphasis on
cleanliness both inward and outward.