35. Forced to get down
Gandhiji boarded a train to travel from Durban to Pritoria. He had a ticket to the first class compartment.
At home, the people had cautioned him, "Gandhibhai, this is not India. These peple won't let us travel in the first class with them." But Gandhiji did not listen to them. He thought that being a barrister he was entitled to it.
Nothing happened in the beginning. The train reached Morrisberg station at 9 O'clock in the night. A British man alighted the train and came to his compartment.
"My goodness! Why is this coolie traveling in the first class compartment?"
He did not utter a word but went down and brought an officer along with him. The officer too kept staring. Nobody dared say anything. At last the officer said, "Hey man! Come here. You will have to go to the last compartment!"
Gandhiji told him, "I have a ticket to the first class."
"Don't worry! I am asking you to shift to the last compartment."
"Listen, I have been given this seat from Durban and I would travel in this compartment only."
This answer stunned the man. How could a labourer talk like this to a British officer? He ordered, "This is not possible! You will have to get down or you will be thrown out by the guard!"
Gandhiji replied firmly, "Well then! Let the guard do it! I won't get down myself!"
The officer got angry and called the guard. The guard clutched Gandhiji's hand and pushing him down the train threw his baggage too.
Gandhiji neither went to another compartment nor did he touch his baggage. The insult vexed him very much. He stood there and the train departed.
He stayed on the platform all night. The weather was chilling. He had an overcoat in his luggage but he didn't wish to look at it. What if he went to fetch it from the baggage and someone insulted him again? He preferred to shiver all night.
While shivering he had a lot of thoughts. "Why should I continue to travel on this train and get insulted again? Should I go back?"
"No! How could I leave my job unfinished? It's better to return to India than to stay here to earn money!"
"No! I must help my friend in his job. Should I rather file a case against that British officer and the guard?"
"But what would I achieve? Would it help the Indians not being called 'labourers'?
This thought made him forget the insult.