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‘Mahatma Gandhi- Pushed Out of Train’ is an excerpt taken from the play ‘Gandhi’ written by Richard Briley. It details upon the incident where Gandhi was humiliated by the British in South Africa, how he was subjected to gross indiscrimination on the basis of his race.
About the Author:
Richard John Briley (1925-2019) was an eminent American writer. He was the recipient of several awards, including the Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay at the 1982 Oscars for ‘Gandhi’. Famous works of his include ‘The Last Dance’, ‘How Sleep the Brave’, and ‘Cry Freedom’.
The theme of this extract is racial injustice. Solely based on the colour of his skin, Gandhi is denied a seat in the first class, despite being in possession of the ticket. He is degraded and insulted for the same.
The Young Indian:
The scene begins with a physical description of Gandhi, how he was travelling in the first class in a train in South Africa with a book in hand. As he looked out of the window, he is unaware that he is noticed by a European. The porter who was with Gandhi is nervous upon seeing him in the first class. Before he could ask him about it however, he looks away, frightened upon noticing the arrival of the said European, accompanied by the Conductor of the train.
The Conductor is blatantly rude to him, addressing him as a ‘coolie’, much to Gandhi’s shock. He questions Gandhi’s presence in the first class compartment of the train, refusing to entertain the notion that Gandhi could have bought one himself. Both the European and the Conductor refuse to believe that Gandhi was an attorney and that he himself had indeed bought the ticket because there were no ‘coloured’ attorneys in South Africa. They order him to sit at the back of the train, where he was, as dictated by them, supposed to.
Even as the porter tries to diffuse the situation, Gandhi refuses to cower, insisting upon the credibility of his occupation. His anger shows with a touch of irony in his words. The bigots, however, pay him no heed and proceed to call him even more demeaning names, throwing his luggage out into the platform when he refused to shift places. Even as Gandhi clung to the rails, he was roughly pushed out. Utterly degraded, as Gandhi picked up his belongings, as a final show of disrespect, the Conductor throws the Leo Tolstoy’s book Gandhi was reading on his feet.
This incident in Gandhi’s life is a crucial one which led him to protest to gain independence. It also sheds light on how people were dehumanized by the Whites, who considered themselves superior merely because of their skin colour.