I had expected someone on behalf of Dada Abdulla’s attorney to meet me at Pretoria station. I knew that no Indian would be there to receive me, since I had particularly promised not to put up at an Indian house. But the attorney had sent no one. I understood later that, as I had arrived on a Sunday, he could not have sent anyone without inconvenience. I was perplexed, and wondered where to go, as I feared that no hotel would accept me. Pretoria station in 1893 was quite different from what it was in 1914. The lights were burning dimly. The travelers were few. I let all the other passengers go and thought that, as soon as the ticket collector was fairly free, I would hand him my ticket and ask him if he could direct me to some small hotel or any other such place where I might go; otherwise I would spend the night at the station. I must confess I shrank from asking him even this, for I was afraid of being insulted. The station became clear of all passengers. I gave my ticket to the ticket collector and began my inquiries. He replied to me courteously, but I saw that he could not be of any considerable help. But an American Negro who was standing nearby broke into the conversation. ‘I see,’ said he, ‘that you are an utter stranger here, without any friends. If you will come with me, I will take you to a small hotel, of which the proprietor is an American who is very well known to me. I think he will accept you.’ I had my doubts about the offer, but I thanked him and accepted his suggestion. He took me to Johnson’s Family Hotel. He drew Mr. Johnson aside to speak to him, and the latter agreed to accommodate me for the night, on condition that I should have my dinner served in my room. ‘I assure you,’ said he, ‘that I have no color prejudice. But I have only European custom, and, if I allowed you to eat in the dining-room, my guests might be offended and even go away.’ ‘Thank you,’ said I, ‘even for accommodating me for the night. I am now more or less acquainted with the conditions here, and I understand your difficulty. I do not mind your serving the dinner in my room. I hope to be able to make some other arrangement tomorrow.’ I was shown into a room, where I now sat waiting for the dinner and musing, as I was quite alone. There were not many guests in the hotel, and I had expected the waiter to come very shortly with the dinner. Instead, Mr. Johnston appeared. He said: I was ashamed of having asked you to have your dinner here. So I spoke to the other guests about you and asked them if they would mind your having your dinner in the dining room. They said they had no objection, and that they did not mind your staying here as long as you like. Please, therefore, come to the dining-room, if you will, and stay here as long as you wish.’ I thanked him again, went to the dining room, and had a hearty dinner. The next morning I called on the attorney, Mr. A. W. Baker. Abdulla Sheth had given me some description of him, so his cordial reception did not surprise me. He received me very warmly and made kind inquiries. I explained all about myself. Thereupon he said: ‘We have no work for you here as a barrister, for we have engaged the best counsel. The case is a prolonged and complicated one, so I shall take your assistance only to the extent of getting the necessary information. And of course, you will make communication with my client easy for me, as I shall now ask for all the information I want from him through you. That is certainly an advantage, I have not yet found rooms for you. I thought I had better do so after having seen you. There is a fearful amount of color prejudice here, and therefore it is not easy to find lodgings for such as you. But I know a poor woman. She is the wife of a baker. I think she will take you and thus add to her income at the same time. Come, let us go to her place.’ So he took me to her house. He spoke with her privately about me, and she agreed to accept me as a boarder at 35 shillings a week. Mr. Baker, besides being an attorney, was a staunch lay preacher, He is still alive and now engaged purely in missionary work, having given up the legal profession. He is quite well-to-do. He still corresponds with me. In his letters, he always dwells on the same theme. He upholds the excellence of Christianity from various points of view and contends that it is impossible to find eternal peace unless one accepts Jesus as the only son of God and the Saviour of mankind. During the very first interview, Mr. Baker ascertained my religious views. I said to him: ‘I am a Hindu by birth. And yet I do not know much of Hinduism, and I know less of other religions. I do not know where I am, what am, and what should be my belief. I intend to make a careful study of my religion and, as far as I can, of other religions as well.’ Mr. Baker was glad to hear all this and said: ‘I am one of the Directors of the South Africa General Mission. I have built a church at my own expense, and deliver sermons in it regularly. I am free from color prejudice. I have some co-workers, and we meet at one o’clock every day for a few minutes and pray for peace and light. I shall be glad if you will join us there. I shall introduce you to my co-workers who will be happy to meet you, and I dare say you will also like their company. I shall give you, besides some religious books to read, though, of course, the book of books is the Holy Bible, which I would especially recommend to you.’ I thanked Mr. Baker and agreed to attend the one o’clock prayers as regularly as possible. ‘So I shall expect you here tomorrow at one o’clock, and we shall go together to pray,’ added Mr. Baker, and we said goodbye. I had little time for reflection just yet. I went to Mr. Johnston, paid the bill, and removed to the new lodgings, where I had my lunch. The landlady was a good woman. She had cooked a vegetarian meal for me. It was not long before I made myself quite at home with the family. I next went to see the friend to whom Dada Abdulla had given me a note. From him, I learned more about the hardships of Indians in South Africa. He insisted that I should stay with him. I thanked him and told him that I had already made arrangements. He urged me not to hesitate to ask for anything I needed. It was now dark. I returned home, had my dinner, went to my room, and lay there absorbed in deep thought. There was not any immediate work for me. I informed Abdulla Sheth of it. What, I thought, can be the meaning of Mr. Baker’s interest in me? What shall I gain from his religious co-workers? How far should I undertake the study of Christianity? How was I to obtain literature about Hinduism? And how was I to understand Christianity in its proper perspective without thoroughly knowing my religion? I could come to only one conclusion: I should make a dispassionate study of all that came to me, and deal with Mr. Baker’s group as God might guide me; I should not think of embracing another religion before I had fully understood my own. Thus musing I fell asleep. ~ FIRST DAY IN PRETORIA –
#AceNewsReport – Nov.16: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had unveiled the life-size bronze statue on Friday at the Australian Indian Community Centre in Rowville, said he was devastated to hear about the vandalism.
#AceDailyNews says according to an ABC News Report: Mahatma Gandhi statue vandalised a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveils the bronze in Victoria
“Australia is the most successful multicultural and immigration nation in the world and attacks on cultural monuments will not be tolerated,” Mr Morrison said.
“It is disgraceful and extremely disappointing to see this level of disrespect.
“Whoever is responsible for this has shown great disrespect to the Australian Indian community and should be ashamed.”
The statue was gifted by the Indian government.
Jason Wood, the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, who was also at the unveiling, said it was a “disgraceful act”.
“Australia celebrates everyone’s culture and traditions,” he said.
“There is no place for anyone trying to bully or intimidate our communities.”
Surya Prakash Soni, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria, said the vandalism was a “low act”.
“The community is very shocked and sad,” he said.
“Mahatma Gandhi is a symbol of peace and non-violence. He is not only an Indian leader but a global leader.
“I don’t [understand] why anyone would do such a low act of vandalism.”
Mr Soni said the Rowville centre was the first Indian community centre in Victoria and had been established after 30 years of effort.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said the Knox Crime Investigation Unit detectives were investigating.
“An unknown number of offenders have used a power tool to damage the bronze statue on Kingsley Close sometime between 5:30pm on Friday, November 12 and 5:30pm on Saturday, November 13,” she said.
Police are calling for any witnesses, anyone with CCTV or dash cam or anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or email at http://www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
The time has now come to bring these chapters to a close. My life from this point onward has been so public that there is hardly anything about it that people do not know. Moreover, since 1921 I have worked in such close association with the Congress leaders that I can hardly describe any episode in my life since then without referring to my relations with them. For though Shraddhanandji, the Deshabandhu, Hakim Saheb and Lalaji are no more with us today, we have the good luck to have a host of other veteran Congress leaders still living and working in our midst. The history of the Congress, since the great changes in it that I have described above, is still in the making. And my principal experiments during the past seven years have all been made through the Congress. A reference to my relations with the leaders would therefore be unavoidable, if I set about describing my experiments further. And this I may not do, at any rate for the present, if only from a sense of propriety. Lastly, my conclusions from my current experiments can hardly as yet be regarded as decisive. It therefore seems to me to be my plain duty to close this narrative here. In fact my pen instinctively refuses to proceed further. It is not without a wrench that I have to take leave of the reader. I set a high value on my experiments. I do not know whether I have been able to do justice to them. I can only say that I have spared no pains to give a faithful narrative. To describe truth, as it has appeared to me, and in the exact manner in which I have arrived at it, has been my ceaseless effort. The exercise has given me ineffable mental peace, because, it has been my fond hope that it might bring faith in Truth and Ahimsa to waverers. My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And, even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault. After all, however sincere my strivings after Ahimsa may have been, they have still been imperfect and inadequate. The little fleeting glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey an idea of the indescribable lustre of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we daily see with our eyes. In fact what I have caught is only the fainest glimmer of that mightly effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa. To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self- purification; without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings. But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world’s praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experience of the dormant passions lying hidden with in me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce muself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility. In bidding farewell to the reader, for the time being at any rate, I ask him to join with me in prayer to the God of Truth that He may grant me the boon of Ahimsa in mind, word and deed. ~ FAREWELL
From its very inception the Khadi movement, Swadeshi movement as it was then called, evoked much criticism from the mill-owners. The late Umar Sobani, a capable mill-owner himself, not only gave me the benefit of his own knowledge and experience, but kept me in touch with the opinion of the other mill-owners as well. The argument advanced by one of these deeply impressed him. He pressed me to meet him. I agreed. Mr. Sobani arranged the interview. The mill-owner opened the conversation. ‘You know that there has been Swadeshi agitation before now ?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ I replied. ‘You are also aware that in the days of the Partition we, the mill- owners, fully exploited the Swadeshi movement. When it was at its height, we raised the prices of cloth, and did even worse things.’ ‘You, I have heard something about it, and it has grieved me.’ ‘I can understand your grief, but I can see no ground for it. We are not conducting our business out of philanthropy. We do it for profit, we have got to satisfy the shareholders. The price of an article is governed by the demand for it. Who can check the law of demand and supply ? The bengalis should have known that their agitation was bound to send up the price of Swadeshi cloth by stimulating the demand for it.’ I interrupted: ‘The Bengalis like me were trustful in their nature. They believed, in the fulness of their faith, that the mill-owners would not be so utterly selfish and unpatriotic as to betray their country in the hour of its need, and even to go the length, as they did, of fraudulently passing off foreign cloth as Swadeshi.’ ‘I knew your believing nature,’ he rejoined; ‘that is why I purt you to the trouble of coming to me, so that I might warn you against falling into the same error as these simple-hearted Bengalis.’ With these words the mill-owner beckoned to his clerk who wa standing by to produce samples of the stuff that was being manufactured in his mill. Pointing to it he said: ‘Look at this stuff. This is the latest variety turned out by our mill. It is meeting with a widespread demand. We manufacture it from the waste. Naturally, therefore, it is cheap. We send it as far North as the valleys of the Himalayas. We have agencies all over the country, even in places where your voice or your agents can never reach. You can thus see that we do not stand in need of more agents. Besides, you ought to know that India’s production of cloth falls far short of its requirements. The question of Swadeshi, therefore, largely resolves itself into one of production. The moment we can increase our production sufficiently, and improve its quality to the necessary extent, the import of foreign cloth will automatically cease. extent, the import of foreign cloth will automatically cease. My advice to you, therefore, is not to carry on your agitation on its present lines, but to turn your attention to the erection of fresh mills. What we need is not propaganda to inflate demand for our goods, but greater production.’ ‘Then, surely, you will bless my effort, if I am laready engaged in that very thing,’ I asked. ‘How can that be ?’ he exclaimed, a bit puzzled, ‘but may be, you are thinking of promoting the establishment of new mills, in which case you certainly deserve to be congratulated.’ ‘ I am not doing exactly that,’ I explained, ‘but I am engaged in the revival of the spinning wheel.’ ‘What is that ?’ he asked, feeling still more at sea. I told him all about the spinning wheel, and the story of my long quest after it, and added, ‘I am entirely of your opinion; it is no use my becoming virtually an agent for the mils. That would do more harm than good to the country. Our mills will not be in want of custom for a long time to come. My work should be, and therefore is, to organize the production of handspun cloth, and to find means for the disposal of the Khadi thus produced. I am, therefore, concentrating my attention on the production of Khadi. I swear by this form of Swadeshi, because through it I can provide work to the semi-starved, semi-employed women of India. My idea is to get these women to spin yarn, and to clothe the people of India with Khadi woven out of it. I do not know how far this movement is going to succeed, at present it is only in the incipient stage. But i have full faith in it. At any rate it can do no harm. On the contrary to the extent that it can add to the cloth production of the country, he it ever so small, it will represent so much solid gain. You will thus perceive that my movement is free from the evils mentioned by you.’ He replied, ‘If you have additional production in view in organizing your movement, I have nothing to say against it. Whether the spinning wheel can make headway in this age of power machinery is another question. But I for one wish you every success. ~ AN INSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE –