XX. THE FIRST
It was no easy thing to issue the first number of Indian
Opinion from Phoenix. Had I not taken two
precautions, the first issue would have had to be dropped
or delayed. The idea of having an engine to work the
press had not appealed to me. I had thought that
hand-power would be more in keeping with an atmosphere
where agricultural work was also to be done by hand. But
as the idea had not appeared feasible, we had installed
an oil-engine. I had, however, suggested to West to have
something handy to fall back upon in case the engine
failed. He had therefore arranged a wheel which could be
worked by hand. The size of the paper, that of a daily,
was considered reduced to foolscap size, so that, in case
of emergency, copies might be struck off with the help of
In the initial stages, we all had to keep late hours
before the day of publication. Everyone, young and old,
had to help in folding the sheets. We usually finished
our work between ten o'clock and midnight. But the first
night was unforgettable. We had got out an engineer from
Durban to put up the engine and set it going. He and West
tried their hardest, but in vain. Everyone was anxious.
West, in despair, at last came to me, with tears in his
eyes, and said, 'The engine will not work, I am afraid we
cannot issue the paper in time.'
'If that is the case, we cannot help it. No use
shedding tears. Let us do whatever else is humanly
possible. What about the handwheel?' I said, comforting
'Where have we the men to work?' he replied. 'We are
not enough to cope with the job. It requires relays of
four men each, and our own men are all tired.'
Building work had not yet been finished so the
carpenters were still with us. They were sleeping on the
press floor. I said pointed to them, 'But can't we make
use of these carpenters? And we may have a whole night of
work. I think this device is still open to us.'
'I dare not wake up the carpenters. And our men are
really too tired,' said West.
'Well, that's for me to negotiate,' said I.
'Then it is possible that we may get through the
work,' West replied.
I woke up the carpenters and requested their
co-operation. They needed no pressure. They said, 'If we
cannot be called upon in an emergency, what use are we?
You rest yourselves and we will work the wheel. For us it
is easy work.' Our own men were of course ready.
West was greatly delighted and started singing a hymn
as we set to work. I partnered the carpenters, all the
rest joined turn by turn, and thus we went on until 7
a.m. There was still a good deal to do. I therefore
suggested to West that the engineer might now be asked to
get up and try again to start the engine, so that if we
succeeded we might finish in time.
West woke him up, and he immediately went into the
engine room. And lo and behold! the engine worked almost
as soon as he touched it. The whole press rang with peals
of joy. 'How can this be? How is it that all our labours
last night were of no avail, and this morning it has been
set going as though there were nothing wrong with it?' I
'It is difficult to say,' said West or the engineer, I
forget which. 'Machines also sometimes seem to behave as
though they required rest like us.'
For me the failure of the engine had come as a test
for us all, and its working in the nick of time as the
fruit of our honest and earnest labours.
The copies were despatched in time, and everyone was
This initial insistence ensured the regularity of the
paper, and created an atmosphere of self-reliance in
Phoenix. There came a time we deliberately gave up the
use of the engine and worked with hand-power only. Those
were, to my mind, the days of the highest moral uplift