SHORT STORIES FOR EVERYONE
the sea of narrow-mindedness
Crossing the Sea of Narrow-Mindedness
Around 5 p.m. on 4th September, 1888, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi boarded the P&O, liner S.S. Clyde, to begin his tryst with London. But the journey that he had to undertake from his home to his ship was quite a long and arduous one, which involved many obstacles.
When Gandhi went to Bombay to set sail for England, little did he realise what was in store for him. Most Modh Banias lived in Bombay and they were determined to let Gandhi know, in no uncertain terms, how much they disapproved of his decision. "I could not go out without being pointed and stared at by someone or the other," he was later to tell The Vegetarian. "At one time, while I was walking near the Town Hall, I was surrounded and hooted by them, and my poor brother had to look at the scene in silence." Gandhi's caste-fellows even managed to delay his departure by a fortnight.
They prevailed upon the captain of the P & O steamship which Gandhi was to board, to say that "it would be unwise for him to leave during that time August because of the rough weather in the sea."
Then came the final test. All Modh Banias were summoned for a general body meeting to determine young Mohandas' fate. The fine for absence was five annas. The meeting was presided over by the head Patel, who said: "We are positively informed that you will have to eat flesh and drink wine in England; moreover, you have to cross the waters; all this you must know is against our caste rule."
A gutsy Mohandas replied: "I am sorry that I cannot alter my decision. What I heard about England is quite different from what you say; one need not take meat and wine there. As for crossing the waters, if our brethren can go as far as Aden, why could not I go to England? I am deeply convinced that malice is at the root of all these objections"
The incensed head Patel shot back: "This boy has lost his sense, and we command everyone not to have anything to do with him. He who will support him in any way or go to see him off will be treated as an outcaste, and if the boy ever returns, let him know that he shall never be taken into the caste."
History is a witness to the fact that Gandhi did return to India from England and the kind of change that he and his country underwent is known to one and all.
Extracts From Gandhiji's First Satyagraha by Souresh Bhattacharya