In South Africa
His brother had already rented an an office for him in Bombay. He put up his name-plate MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI, BARRISTER-AT-LAW, and started practice as a lawyer. But he was not able to get much work in Bombay, and so after six months he shifted to Rajkot, He had better lucks there, and within a short time, he was doing very good work. But he felt unhappy and out of place there. The people of Rajkot were dishonest and untruthful, and he wanted to leave the place.
Racism in South Africa
Fortunately for him, the proprietors of the firm of Messrs. Dada Abdullah & Co. were great friends of his family and were at the time fighting an important law-suit in South Africa. They engaged him for their case and sent him to Durban.
In South Africa, Gandhiji found himself in an entirely new and different world. The white people there treated the coloured races with contempt. Every Indian, whether he was a lawyer or an office worker, was called a coolie.18 And those who actually worked as coolies, were treated even worse than animals. No dark man was allowed even to enter a hotel, much less stay there. He could not walk on a pavement when a white man was walking along that pavement. It was quite common for Europeans to push the Indians off the pavement. Nor could an Indian go before an European with his turban on. He was not allowed to travel in the same coach or railway compartment in which a white man was traveling."
"It must have been terrible for Gandhiji to stay there," said Hari.
Pushed out of the train
"I shall tell you a story about his life there, and from that you will understand the difficulties he had to face when he was in South Africa. One day Gandhiji wanted to travel by coach from Durban to Pretoria. The conductor would not allow him to sit inside the coach with the European passengers. As his business was urgent, he decided to sit outside with the driver. The conductor himself was inside, and the coach started on its journey. But he soon found out where Gandhiji was. He would not allow Gandhiji to sit next to the driver who was a white man. He ordered him to leave his seat and sit at the feet of the driver.
Gandhiji refused to obey this order. The conductor began to shout and swear at Gandhiji and he hit him and tried to push him off the coach. Firmly and courageously Gandhiji held on to the handle and refused to be thrown out. For a while the other passengers looked on and seemed to enjoy the fun, but they soon began to feel that the conductor was going too far and they scolded him. So when the conductor saw that even the white men were siding with Gandhiji, he let him go and allowed him to sit with the driver."
Hari was greatly upset when he heard of this incident, and he began to cry. The mother tried to console him and said, "Why! My child, you are crying! Surely you are not so timid. This was a very small incident in Gandhiji's life. Later in his life he suffered much more for the sake of others. And he never uttered a word of complaint. When people acted unjustly towards him, he never got angry with them. He would feel hurt and sad, but he never cried like you." Hari quickly wiped away his tears with his hand, and the mother continued her story.
Call for unity among Indians
"When Gandhiji saw that the Indians in Africa had to put up with insults and suffer at the hands of the whites, he decided that all the Indians there-Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis-should unite together and appeal to the government. He brought all his countrymen together, and in 1894 the Indian National Congress of South Africa was founded. Every Indian, rich or poor, gave his whole-hearted support to the Congress. In course of time the authorities began to give a sympathetic hearing to the complaints of the Indian community."
"But surely, mother, there were Indians in South Africa before Gandhiji went there ? And, as you said, the white people had always treated them badly. Why, then, didn't someone think of improving their lot?"
"That was because no one felt for the sufferings of others as Gandhiji did. Gandhiji's heart melted with pity for the poor and for those in pain. And whenever he found the strong treating the weak cruelly he would risk his very life to fight such injustice. It was, therefore, natural for him to take up the cause of the suffering Indians in South Africa.
For two years he served the people selflessly, his name became well known with the young and the old alike. They called him Gandhi Bhai19 or Gandhiji, out of their great respect and affection for him. And his legal practice also rose and he became one of the leading Indian lawyers in South Africa.
The Indians in South Africa soon found that they could not do without Gandhiji. They wanted his help to put an end to their hard-ships. So they asked him to settle down in that country, to practise there as a lawyer and at the same time serve the cause of his countrymen. Gandhiji agreed to their request and decided to settle there, but he asked their permission to go home to India and bring his wife and children.
In those days, it used to take nearly twenty-five days to reach India from South Africa, and during the voyage, Gandhiji felt bored and found time hanging heavily on his hands. He was looking round for something to occupy him, when he discovered a rnunshi20among his fellow passengers, and he started taking lessons in the Urdu language.
On reaching India, Gandhiji told his countrymen the real condition of the Indians in South Africa. He spoke to many people and wrote to the newspapers. to the newspapers. He thus succeeded in winning the support of important public men like Sir Phiroze Shah Mehta and Gokhale, and they promised to do their best to help him in his work. Meanwhile he was asked to return to South Africa at once. At once he left with his wife and children. The sea was very rough and Gandhiji was busy, looking after those who were sea-sick. Soon he was back in Durban in the midst of his old friends and associates".
Hari's mother now remembered that he had not eaten and that he might be hungry. She stopped in the middle of her story, and said to her son, "There is some food left over from the morning. I shall warm it up for you. You had better eat something before we go on with the story."
"No, mother," said Hari, "if no one else in the house is eating, I shall not either. Please, mother dear, go on with your story,."
In vain did the mother try to persuade her little son to eat something. Hari was most eager to hear all about Gandhiji's life. And so she continued the story.
20. A scholar or man of letters