XXVIII. POONA AND
Sir Pherozeshah had made my way easy. So from Bombay I
went to Poona. Here there were two parties. I wanted the
help of people of every shade of opinion. First I met
Lokamanya Tilak. He said:
'You are quite right in seeking the help of all
parties. There can be no difference of opinion on the
South African question. But you must have a non-party man
for your president. Meet Professor Bhandarkar. He has
been taking no part of late in any public movement. But
this question might possibly drew him out. See him and
let me know what he says. I want to help you to the
fullest extent. Of course you will meet me whenever you
like. I am at your disposal.'
This was my first meeting with the Lokamanya. It
revealed to me the secret of his unique popularity.
Next I met Gokhale. I found him on the Fergusson
College grounds. He gave me an affectionate welcome, and
his manner immediately won my heart. With him too this
was my first meeting, and yet it seemed as though we were
renewing an old friendship. Sir Pherozeshah had seemed to
me like the Himalaya, the Lokamanya like the ocean. But
Gokhale was as the Ganges. One could have a refreshing
bath in the holy river. The Himalaya was unscaleable, and
one could not easily launch forth on the sea, but the
Ganges invited one to its bosom. It was a joy to be on it
with a boat and an oar. Gokhale closely examined me, as a
schoolmaster would examine a candidate seeking admission
to a school. He told me whom to approach and how to
approach them. He asked to have a look at me speech. He
showed me over the college, assured me that he was always
at my disposal, asked me to let him know the result of
the interview with Dr. Bhandarkar, and sent me away
exultantly happy. In the sphere of politics the place
that Gokhale occupied in my heart during his lifetime and
occupies even now was and is absolutely unique.
Dr. Bhandarkar received me with the warmth of a
father. It was noon when I called on him. The very fact
that I was busy seeing people at that hour appealed
greatly to this indefatigable savant, and my insistence
on a non-party man for the president of the meeting had
his ready approval, which was expressed in the
spontaneous exclamation, 'That's it,' 'That's it.'
After he had heard me out he said: 'Anyone will tell
you that I do not take part in politics. But I cannot
refuse you. Your case is so strong and your industry is
so admirable that I cannot decline to take part in your
meeting. You did well in consulting Tilak and Gokhale.
Please tell them that I shall be glad to preside over the
meeting to be held under the joint auspices of the two
Sabhas. You need not have the time of the meeting from
me, Any time that suits them will suit me.' With this he
bade me good-bye with congratulations and blessings.
Without any ado this erudite and selfless band of
workers in Poona held a meeting in an unostentatious
little place, and sent me away rejoicing and more
confident of my mission.
I next proceeded to Madras. It was wild with
enthusiasm. The Balasundaram incident made a profound
impression on the meeting. My speech was printed and was,
for me, fairly long. But the audience listened to every
word with attention. At the close of the meeting there
was a regular run on the 'Green Pamphlet.' I brought out
a second and revised edition of 10,000 copies. They sold
like hot cakes, but I saw that it was not necessary to
print such a large number. In my enthusiasm I had
overcalculated the demand. It was the English- speaking
public to which my speech had been addressed, and in
Madras that class alone could not take the whole ten
The greatest help here came to me from the late Sjt.
G. Parameshvaran Pillay, the editor of The Madras
Standard. He had made a careful study of the
question, and he often invited me to his office and gave
me guidance. Sjt. G. Subrahmaniam of The Hindu
and Dr. Subrahmaniam also were very sympathetic. But Sjt.
G. Parameshvaran Pillay placed the columns of The
Madras Standard entirely at my disposal, and I
freely availed myself of the offer. The meeting in
Pachaiappa's Hall, so far as I can recollect, was with
Dr. Subrahmaniam in the chair.
The affection showered on me by most of the friends I
met and their enthusiasm for the cause were so great
that, in spite of my having to communicate with them in
English, I felt myself entirely at home. What barrier is
there that love cannot break?