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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), April 16, 1892:

BY M. K. GANDHI (part 2.)

Moreover, an instance of affability bewteen passengers and of politeness on the part of the first saloon passengers, the second saloon passengers were often invited to witness the theatricals and dances that they got up from time to time.

They had some very nice ladies and gentlemen in the first saloon. But it would not do to have all play and no quarrell, so some of the passengers thought fit to get drunk (I beg yor pardon Mr. Editor, they got drunk almost every evening but this particular evening they got drunk and disorderly). They, it seems, were discussing with one another over a glass of whiskey, when some of them used improper language. Then followed a fight of words culminating in a fight of blows. The matter was reported to the captain. He reporved these pugilistic gentlemen, and ver since that we had no more rows.

Thus dividing our time in eating and amusement we moved onward.

After two days' voyage the steamer passed by, but did not touch, Gibraltar. This caused much disappointment, mostly among the smokers, who wanted to get tobacco duty free in Gibraltar, as some of us had entertained a hope that the steamer wold cast anchor.

The next place reached was Malta. It being coaling station the steamer stops there for about nine hours. Almost all passengers went ashore.

Malta is a beautiful island without the London smoke. The construction of Houses is different. We had a look around the Governor's palace. The arnoury is well worth a visit. Napoleon's carriage is on view there. You see there some beautiful paintings too. The market ids not bad. The fruit is cheap. The cathedral is magnificent.

We had a nice drive of about six miles to the orange garden. There you see thousands of orange trees and some ponds with gold fish. The drive was very cheap, only 2s. 6d.

Waht a wretched place Malta is for beggars. You cannot go along the roads quietly without being pestered by a crowd of dirty looking beggars. Some would offer to be your guides, others would offer to take you to shops where you could buy cigars or the famous Maltese sweet nugat.

From Malta we reahced Brindisi. It is a good harbour and that is all. You cannot pass a single day in amusement. We had about nine hours at our disposal but we could not utilise even four.

After Brindisi we reached Port Said. There we took final leave of Europe and the Mediterranean. Of course there is nothing to be seen in Port Said, unless you want to see the dregs of society. It is full of rogues and rascals.

From Port Said the steamer moves along very slowly, for we enter the Suez Canal of M. de Lesseps. It is a distance of eighty-seven miles. The steamer took nearly twenty-four hours to travel that distance. We were close to land on both sides. The strip of water is so narrow that two steamers cannot go abreat except at certain places. At night the sight is charming. All the ships are required tolight electric lights in front, and these are very powerful. The scene when two ships pass each other is very pleasant. The electic light you get from the opposite ship is simply dazzling.

We passed the Ganges. We raised three cheers for her, which were heartily returned by the passengers on board the Ganges. The town Suez is at the other end of the Canal. The steamer hardly stops there for half an hour.

Now we entered the Red Sea. It was a three days' voyage but it was most trying. It was unbearably hot. Not only was it impossible to remain inside the steamer, but it was it was too hot even on the deck. Here for the first time we felt that we were going to India to face the hot climate.

We had some breezes when we reached Aden. Here we (the passengers for Bombay) had to trans ship to the Assam. It was like leaving London for a miserable village. The Assam is hardly half as bg as the Oceana.

"Misfortunes never come single ;" with the Assam we had a stormy ocean, because it was the monsoon season. The Indian Ocean is generally calm, so during monsoon it is stormy with a vegeance. We had to pass five days more on the waters before we reached Bombay. The second night brought the real storm. Many were sick. If I ventured outon the deck I was splashed with water. There goes a crash ; something is broken. In the cabin you cannot sleep quietly. The door is banging. Your bags begin to dance. You roll about in your bed. You sometimes feel as if the ship is sinking. At the dinner table you are no more comfortable. The steamer rolls on your side. Your forks and soon are in your lap, even the cruet-stand and the soup-plate, your napkin is dyed yellow, and so on.

One morning I asked the steward if that was what he would call a real storm, and he said -
"No sir, this is nothing," and waving his arms showed me how the steamer would roll in a real storm.

Thus tossed up and down we reached Bombay on July 5th. It was raining very hard, and so it was difficult going ashore. However, we reached the shore safely and bade goodbye to the Assam.

Waht a human cargo there was on the Oceana and the Assam. Some were going to make fortunes in Australia in high hopes ; some having finished their studies in England were going to India in order to earn a decent living ; some were called away by a sense of duty ; some were going to meet their husbands in Australia or India, as the case may be, and some were adventurers who, being disappointed at home, were going to pursue their adventures, God knows where.

Were the hopes of all realised? That is the question. How hopeful, yet how often disappointed is the human mind! We live in hopes.