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 Eurpoe, 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 the
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 through the agent of Dada
Abdulla and Company. But no berth was available on the
boat, and if I did not sail then, I should be stranded in
Bombay. 'We have tried our best,' said the agent, 'to
secure a first class passage, but in vain unless you are
prepared to go on deck. Your meals can be arranged for in
the saloon.' Those were the days of my first class
traveling, and how could a barrister travel as a deck
passenger? So I refused the offer. I suspected the
agent's veracity, for I could not believe that a first
class passage was not available. With the agent's consent
I set about securing it myself. I went on board the boat
and met the chief officer. He said to me quite frankly,
'We do not usually have such a rush. But as the
Governor-General of Mozambique is going by this boat, all
the berths are engaged.'
'Could you not possibly squeeze me in?' I asked. He
surveyed me from top to toe and smiled. There is just one
way,' he said. 'There is an extra berth in my cabin,
which is usually not available for passengers. But I am
prepared to give it to you.' I thanked him and got the
agent to purchase the passage. In April 1893 I set forth
full of zest to try my luck in South Africa.
The first port of call was Lamu which we reached in
about thirteen days. The Captain and I had become great
friends by this time. He was fond of playing chess, but
as he was quite a novice, he wanted one still more of a
beginner for his partner, and so he invited me. I had
heard a lot about the game but had never tried my hand at
it. Players used to say that this was a game in which
there was plenty of scope for the exercise of one's
intelligence. The Captain offered to give me lessons, and
he found me a good pupil as I had unlimited patience.
Every time I was the loser, and that made him all the
more eager to teach me. I liked the game, but never
carried my liking beyond the boat or my knowledge beyond
the moves of the pieces.
At Lamu the ship remained at anchor for some three to
four hours, and I landed to see the port. The Captain had
also gone ashore, but he had warned me that the harbour
was treacherous and that I should return in good time.
It was a very small place. I went to the Post Office
and was delighted to see the Indian clerks there, and had
a talk with them. I also saw the Africans and tried to
acquaint myself with their ways of life which interested
me very much. This took up some time.
There were some deck passengers with whom I had made
acquaintance, and who had landed with a view to cooking
their food on shore and having a quiet meal. I now found
them preparing to return to the steamer, so we all got
into the same boat. The tide was high in the harbour and
our boat had more than its proper load. The current was
so strong that it was impossible to hold the boat to the
ladder of the steamer. It would just touch the ladder and
be drawn away again by the current. The first whistle to
start had already gone. I was worried. The Captain was
witnessing our plight from the bridge. He ordered the
steamer to wait an extra five minutes. There was another
boat near the ship which a friend hired for me for ten
rupees. This boat picked me up from the overloaded one.
The ladder had already been raised. I had therefore to be
drawn up by means of a rope and the steamer started
immediately. The other passengers were left behind. I now
appreciated the Captain's warning.
After Lamu the next port was Mombasa and then
Zanzibar. The halt here was a long one eight or ten days
and we then changed to another boat.
The Captain liked me much but the liking took an
undesirable turn. He invited an English friend and me to
accompany him on an outing, and we all what the outing
meant. And little did the Captain know what an ignoramus
I was in such matters. We were taken to some Negro
women's quarters by a tout. We were each shown into a
room. I simply stood there dumb with shame. Heaven only
knows what the poor woman must have thought of me. He saw
my innocence. At first I felt very much ashamed, but as I
could not think of the thing except with horror, the
sense of shame wore away, and I thanked God that the
sight of the woman had no moved me in the least. I was
disgusted at my weakness and pitied myself for not having
had the courage to refuse to go into the room.
This in my life was the third trial of its kind. Many
a youth, innocent at first, must have been drawn into sin
by a false sense of shame. I could have credit if I had
refused to enter that room. I must entirely thank the
All-merciful for having saved me. The incident increased
my faith in God and taught me, to a certain extent, to
cast off false shame.
As we had to remain in this port for a week. I took
rooms in the town and saw good deal by wandering about
the neighbourhood. Only Malabar can give any idea of the
luxuriant vegetation of Zanzibar. I was amazed at the
gigantic trees and the size of the fruits.
The next call was at Mozambique and thence we reached
Natal towards the close of May.