XIX. THE PHOENIX
I talked over the whole thing with Mr. West, described
to him the effect Unto This Last had produced on
my mind, and proposed that Indian Opinion should
be removed to a farm, on which everyone should labour,
drawing the same living wage, and attending to the press
work in spare time. Mr. West approved of the proposal,
and ? was laid down as the monthly allowance per head,
irrespective of colour or nationality.
But it was a question whether all the ten or more
workers in the press would agree to go and settle on an
out-of-the-way farm, and be satisfied with bare
maintenance. We therefore proposed that those who could
not fit in with the scheme should continue to draw their
salaries and gradually try to reach the ideal of becoming
members of the settlement.
I talked to the workers in the terms of this proposal.
It did not appeal to Sjt. Madanjit, who considered my
proposal to be foolish and held that it would ruin a
venture on which he had staked his all; that the workers
would bolt, Indian Opinion would come to a stop,
and the press would have to be closed down.
Among the men working in the press was Chhaganlal
Gandhi, one of my cousins. I had put the proposal to him
at the same time as to West. He had a wife and children,
but he had from childhood chosen to be trained and to
work under me. He had full faith in me. So without any
argument he agreed to the scheme and has been with me
ever since. The machinist Govindaswami also fell in with
the proposal. The rest did not join the scheme, but
agreed to go wherever I removed the press.
I do not think I took more than two days to fix up
these matters with the men. Thereafter I at once
advertised for a piece of land situated near a railway
station in the vicinity of Durban. An offer came in
respect of Phoenix. Mr. West and I went to inspect the
estate. Within a week we purchased twenty acres of land.
It had a nice little spring and a few orange and mango
trees. Adjoining it was a piece of 80 acres which had
many more fruit trees and a dilapidated cottage. We
purchased this too, the total cost being a thousand
The late Mr. Rustomji always supported me in such
enterprises. He liked the project. He placed at my
disposal second-hand corrugated iron sheets of a big
godown and other building material, with which we started
work. Some Indian carpenters and masons, who had worked
with me in the Boer War, helped me in erecting a shed for
the press. This structure, which was 75 feet long and 50
feet broad, was ready in less than a month. Mr. West and
others, at great personal risk, stayed with the
carpenters and masons. The place, uninhabited and thickly
overgrown with grass, was infested with snakes and
obviously dangerous to live in. At first all lived under
canvas. We carted most of our things to Phoenix in about
a week. It was fourteen miles from Durban, and two and a
half miles from Phoenix station.
Only one issue of Indian Opinion had to be
printed outside, in the Mercury press.
I now endeavoured to draw to Phoenix those relations
and friends who had come with me from India to try their
fortune, and who were engaged in business of various
kinds. They had come in search of wealth, and it was
therefore difficult to persuade them; but some agreed. Of
these I can single out here only Manganlal Gandhi's name.
The others went back to business. Manganlal Gandhi left
his business for good to cast in his lot with me, and by
ability, sacrifice and devotion stands foremost among my
original co-workers in my ethical experiments. As a
self-taught handicraftsman his place among them is
Thus the Phoenix Settlement was started in 1904, and
there in spite of numerous odds Indian Opinion
continues to be published.
But the initial difficulties, the changes made, the
hopes and the disappointments demand a separate chapter.