XV. In The Congress
In the Congress at last. The immense pavilion
and the volunteers in stately array, as also the elders seated on
the dais, overwhelmed me. I wondered where I should be in that vast
address was a book by itself. To read it from cover to cover was out
of the question. Only a few passages were therefore read.
After this came
the election of the Subjects Committee. Gokhale took me to the
had of course agreed to admit my resolution, but I was wondering who
would put it before the Subjects Committee, and when. For there were
lengthy speeches to every resolution, all in English to boot, and
every resolution had some well-known leader to back it. Mine was but
a feeble pipe amongst those veteran drums, and as the night was
closing in, my heart beat fast. The resolutions coming at the fag-
end were, so far as I can recollect, rushed through at lighting
speed. Everyone was hurrying to go. It was 11 o'clock. I had not the
courage to speak. I had already met Gokhale, who had looked at my
resolution. So I drew near his chair and whispered to him: 'Please
do something for me.' He said: 'Your resolution is not out of my
mind. You see the way they are rushing through the resolutions. But
I will not allow yours to be passed over.'
'So we have done?'
said Sir Pherozeshah Mehta.
'No, no, there is
still the resolution on South Africa. Mr. Gandhi has been waiting
long,' cried out Gokhale.
'Have you seen the
resolution?' asked Sir Pherozeshah.
'Do you like it?'
'It is quite
'Well then, let us
have it, Gandhi.'
I read it
passed,' cried out everyone.
'You will have
five minutes to speak to it Gandhi,' said Mr. Wacha.
The procedure was
far from pleasing to me. No one had troubled to understand the
resolution, everyone was in a hurry to go and, because Gokhale had
seen the resolution, it was not thought necessary for the rest to
see it or understand it!
The morning found
me worrying about my speech. What was I to say in five minutes? I
had prepared myself fairly well but the words would not come to me.
I had decided not to read my speech but to speak ex
tempore. But the facility for speaking that I had acquired in
South Africa seemed to have left me for the moment.
As soon as it was
time for my resolution, Mr. Wacha called out my name. I stood up. My
head was reeling. I read the resolution somehow. Someone had printed
and distributed amongst the delegates copies of a poem he had
written in praise of foreign emigration. I read the poem and
referred to the grievances of the settlers in South Africa. Just at
this moment Mr. Wacha rang the bell. I was sure I had not yet spoken
for five minutes. I did not know that the bell was rung in order to
warn me to finish in two minutes more. I had heard others speak for
half an hour or three quarters of an hour, and yet no bell was rung
for them. I felt hurt and sat down as soon as the bell was rung. But
my childlike intellect thought then that the poem contained an
answer to Sir Pherozeshah. There was no question about the passing
of the resolution. In those days there was hardly any difference
between visitors and delegates. Everyone raised his hand and all
resolutions passed unanimously. My resolution also fared in this
wise and so lost all its importance for me. And yet the very fact
that it was passed by the Congress was enough to delight my heart,
The knowledge that the imprimatur of the Congress meant
that of the whole country was enough to delight anyone.