34. A Coolie (Labourer) Barrister

After becoming a Barrister from Europe he went to South Africa to find a job. He went there with a Muslim businessman as his servant.

Did anyone know that he was going to earn something unique from that unknown country?

Right from the moment he set his foot on the soil of South Africa he had a feeling of suffocation. There he found the Indians being insulted all the time.

Elders and young ones were treated alike.

A lot of Hindu people had gone there as labourers or coolies. That is why the white people called all of them as labourers. A businessman was called a labourer businessman. An advocate was called a labourer advocate and Gandhiji was called a labourer barrister.

Like this the Britishers looked down upon the Hindi people. They felt insulted in keeping contact with the Indians. They would not allow Indians to travel with them on trams, railways or in a coach. They were not allowed to enter the cafeterias. They even hated the labourers walking on the streets. Then how could they be invited to a programme?

The learned and rich Hindi people also had to bear such insult. They thought that it was no use in making an issue of this treatment in a foreign country. They decided that they would keep mum about it so as to earn money and get respect in their own country. All of them thought like this.

But Gandhiji could not tolerate this. He too was insulted there time and again. But, instead of pocketing insults silently like other Indians residing in South Africa, he tried to resist. He was abused, called names and pushed also. He never retorted or behaved like them but all the same, he would not be afraid or even surrender. It was unbearable.

He had come there with a barrister to practice his occupation. So the man took Gandhiji to the court in Durban.

Although Gandhiji wore western outfit, he wore the Indian turban on his head. When he went to the courtroom to sit with the pleaders he had the turban on his head.

The judge was amazed to look at this new barrister. He considered Gandhiji's wearing a turban as an insult to the court.

He stared at him for some time and then asked him to take off the turban.

Gandhiji could not bear the insult. He thought that it was better to be beheaded than to take the turban off his head.

He did not remove the turban and left the court.