Indya went through a unique transformation as it came into contact with attractive figures, powerful personalities, saints, sinners, the Maulanas, the Fathers, and of course amongst all of them, the political class. One of the most profound transformation agent met his own moments of change – the profound ones – at Maritzburg, Natal, South Africa. His ship brought him to Natal, South Africa in May, 1893.
With the education, that too of law, M. K. Gandhi, as the Mahatma was known in those early years, deemed it to be a right to be treated as equal in South Africa. Though he was aware of the discrimination that the Britsh offered to the colonial subjects, he, somehow, still expected to be treated better.
Let me mention here a point that would usually be missed out. Many Indians in India considered themselves to be superior to the British. This was quite contrary to what the British might have thought of themselves! These Indians really believed the British to be shameless in their dressing sense. The Indians felt that the British or Europeans for that matter had no scruples regarding food, they smoked cigars all the time, and in many similar senses, the British were considered to be much lower in values and civilized behaviour.
Coming back to our story, the transformer in the body of Gandhi was travelling by train from Durban to Pretoria and met a situation en route at Maritzburg. It so happened, he acquired a first class ticket for the journey and all was fine till the train reached Maritzburg. At Maritzburg another passenger boarded the train, a white man, and on seeing Gandhi, a coloured man, he called in the train officials, who in turn asked Gandhi to move to the van compartment. Gandhi resisted and asserted his right to travel first class since he possessed a ticket to that effect. The officials did not bother about the ticket and when Gandhi did not voluntarily move out of the first class compartment, he was forced out of the train at Maritzburg. To be precise a police constable took him by the hand and pushed him out of the train with his luggage placed on the platform.
On that fateful night Gandhi thought deep about duty and honour, insult and hardship. He made up his mind…he would fight back, in a practical way, against the colour prejudice. He decided that he would not run away.
A simple man from India had met his profound life changing moments and he had decided to give a suitable response to the situation at hand. He did not leave it to the people of South Africa or the Indians there. He did have fear in his heart, but he did not bother about the enormity of the situation. He rather bothered about being right and that is all that he cared for.