On his arrival in India, Gandhi went on a tour of the country. The annual meeting of the Indian National Congress was being held in Calcutta under the president ship of Dinshaw Wacha. Gandhi attended the session. It was his first contact with the Congress which he was to lead so gloriously in the future.
The Indian National Congress was the only
organization which gave the people of India a chance to express their
political views. It was an influential body as many important Indians were
members, but its decisions had little affect on the Government.
At the Calcutta session in 1901 Gandhi had an
opportunity to meet Congress Leaders like Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Lokmanya B.
G. Tilak, G. k. Gokhale, and others.
He was not impressed with the way the Congress
was functioning. He noticed a lack of unity among the delegates. Moreover,
while they spoke English and affected the style of westerners in their dress
and talk, they did not seem to bother about essential things like good
sanitary facilities in the camp. Gandhi wanted to teach them a lesson. On
his own he quietly started cleaning the bathroom and latrine. No one
volunteered to join him.
'Why do you undertake an untouchable's job?'
'Because the caste people have made this an
untouchable place,' replied Gandhi.
From Calcutta Gandhi traveled round India by
train. As he moved from place to place, he was shocked to see the life of
the common people the famished ignorant and neglected masses. His heart was
filled with sadness and anger.
Gandhi settled down in Bombay and started
practice as a lawyer. He did well, much better than he had expected. In
December 1902, however, a cable reached him from South Africa requesting him
to return as promised. Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, was
arriving from London on a visit to Natal and the Transvaal, and the natal
Indian Congress wanted Gandhi to present their case to him.