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13. WHAT IT IS TO BE A 'COOLIE' :

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AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi


PART-2.



It would be out of place here to describe fully the condition of Indians in the Transvaal and the
Orange Free State. I would suggest that those who wish to have a full idea of it may turn to
my History of Satyagraha in South Africa. It is, however, necessary to give here a brief outline.
In the Orange Free State the Indians were deprived of all their rights by a special law enacted
in 1888 or even earlier. If they chose to stay there, they could do so only to serve as waiters in
hotels or to pursue some other such menial calling. The traders were driven away, with a nominal
compensation. They made representations and petitions, but in vain.


A very stringent enactment was passed in the Transvaal in 1885. It was slightly amended in
1886, and it was provided under the amended law that all Indians should pay a poll tax of £3 as
fee for entry into the Transvaal. They might not own land except in locations set apart f…

12. SEEKING TOUCH WITH INDIANS :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi


PART-2.


Before writing further about Christian contacts, I must record other experiences of the same
period.


Sheth Tyeb Haji Khan Muhammad had in Pretoria the same position as was enjoyed by Dada
Abdulla in Natal. There was no public movement that could be conducted without him. I made his
acquaintance the very first week, and told him of my intention to get in touch with every Indian in
Pretoria. I expressed a desire to study the conditions of Indians there, and asked for his help in
my work, which he gladly agreed to give.


My first step was to call a meeting of all the Indians in Pretoria and to present to them a picture
of their condition in the Transvaal. The meeting was held at the house of Sheth Haji Muhammad
Haji Joosab, to whom I had a letter of introduction. It was principally attended by Meman
merchants, though there was a sprinkling of Hindus as well. The Hindu population in Pretoria
was, as a matter of fact, v…

11. CHRISTIAN CONTACTS :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi


PART :2.




The next day at one o'clock I went to Mr. Baker's prayer-meeting. There I was introduced to
Miss Harris, Miss Gabb, Mr. Coates, and others. Everyone kneeled down to pray, and I followed
suit. The prayers were supplications to God for various things, according to each person's desire.
Thus the usual forms were for the day to be passed peacefully, or for God to open the doors of
the heart.



A prayer was now added for my welfare: 'Lord, show the path to the new brother who has
come amongst us. Give him, Lord, the peace that Thou has given us. May the Lord Jesus who
has saved us save him too. We ask all this in the name of Jesus.' There was no singing of hymns
or other music at these meetings. After the supplication for something special every day, we
dispersed, each going to his lunch, that being the hour for it. The prayer did not take more than
five minutes.



The Misses Harris and Gabb were both …

10. FIRST DAY IN PRETORIA :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi



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 travellers 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…

9. MORE HARDSHIPS :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi



The train reached Charlestown in the morning. There was no railway, in those days, between
Charlestown and Johannesburg, but only a stage-coach, which halted at Standerton for the
night en route. I possessed a ticket for the coach, which was not cancelled by the break of the
journey at Maritzburg for a day; besides, Abdulla Sheth had sent a wire to the coach agent at
Charlestown.


But the agent only needed a pretext for putting me off, and so, when he discovered me to be a
stranger, he said, 'Your ticket is cancelled.' I gave him the proper reply. The reason at the back of
his mind was not want of accommodation, but quite another. Passengers had to be
accommodated inside the coach, but as I was regarded as a 'coolie' and looked a stranger, it
would be proper, thought the 'leader', as the white man in charge of the coach was called, not to
seat me with the white passengers. There were seats on eith…

8. ON THE WAY TO PRETORIA :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi


PART : 2.



I soon came in contact with the Christian Indians living in Durban. The Court Interpreter, Mr.
Paul, was a Roman Catholic. I made his acquaintance, as also that of the late Mr. Subhan
Godfrey, then a teacher under the Protestant Mission, and father of Mr. James Godfrey, who as a
member of the South African Deputation visited India in 1924. I likewise met the late Parsi
Rustomji and the late Adamji Miyakhan about the same time. All these friends, who up to then
had never met one another except on business, came ultimately into close contact, as we shall
see later.


Whilst I was thus widening the circle of my acquaintance, the firm received a letter from their
lawyer saying that preparations should be made for the case, and that Abdulla Sheth should go to
Pretoria himself or send a representative.


Abdulla Sheth gave me this letter to read, and asked me if I would go to Pretoria. 'I can only
say after I have und…

7. SOME EXPERIENCES :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi



The port of Natal is Durban, also known as Port Natal. Abdulla Sheth was there to receive me.
As the ship arrived at the quay and I watched the people coming on board to meet their friends, I
observed that the Indians were not held in much respect. I could not fail to notice a sort of
snobbishness about the manner in which those who knew Abdulla Sheth behaved towards him,
and it stung me. Abdulla Sheth had got used to it. Those who looked at me did so with a certain
amount of curiosity. My dress marked me out from other Indians. I had a frock-coat and a turban,
an imitation of the Bengal pugree.



I was taken to the firm's quarters and shown into the room set apart for me, next to Abdulla
Sheth's. He did not understand me. I could not understand him. He read the papers his brother
had sent through me, and felt more puzzled. He thought his brother had sent him a white
elephant. My style of dress and living struck h…

6. ARRIVAL IN NATAL :

Image
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi


Part -2.


When starting for South Africa, I did not feel the wrench of separation which I had experienced
when leaving for England. My mother was now no more. I had gained some knowledge of the
world and of travel abroad, and going from Rajkot to Bombay was no unusual affair.


This time I only felt the pang of parting with my wife. Another baby had been born to us since
my return from England. Our love could not yet be called free from lust, but it was getting
gradually purer. Since my return from Europe, we had lived very little together; and as I had now
become her teacher, however indifferent, and helped her to make certain reforms, we both felt the
necessity of being more together, if only to continue reforms. But the attraction of South Africa
rendered the separation bearable. 'We are bound to meet again in a year,' I said to her, by way of
consolation, and left Rajkot for Bombay.


Here I was to get my passage …