Pietermaritzburg and Gandhi: Seeing a wicket gate to justice and reconciliation in adversity

When the world saw only the watertight compartments, Gandhi could see the presence of a wicket gate amidst repression, which made him build on the path of nonviolent struggle. He said, ‘humans are essentially good, susceptible to error and amenable to truth.’

D John Chelladurai Jul 31, 2023
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

An American missionary, Dr. John Mott, once asked Gandhi what had been the most creative experience of his life.  Gandhi recounted his inner struggle on that winter night when he had sat and shivered in the dark waiting room at Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa as he was thrown out of the first-class compartment by a white policeman saying "coolies" had a place only in the van (luggage) compartment. And he told Dr. Mott, “My active nonviolence began from that day.”

In the tumultuous era of globalisation, where borders blur, economies intertwine, and identities meld together, the city of Pietermaritzburg gives a message as profound as any revered pilgrimage site would. It is a message that inspired three remarkable individuals: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Lr King Jr., and Madiba Nelson Mandela, who, through their extraordinary life, propelled civilisation towards greater humanity.

Pietermaritzburg’s message has two parts: First, every architect of wrong carries within oneself the potential for undoing that wrong and offering hope for a better future. Every wall of oppression has a wicket gate within itself.  And, second, it teaches us that 'the wrong and the wrongdoer are not one.' We cannot discard the entirety for the transgressions of a few.  The second one first.  Madiba, King, and Gandhi concurred with the notion that their fight was against the wrong, not the wrongdoer. They directed their efforts against evil, not the evildoer, recognising that the wrongdoer, evildoer and sinner were our own brothers and sisters.

While differences and discord are inherent in human communities, the emerging trend of global living compels us to treat every challenge as an internal matter. Standing at the cusp of an imminent global village defined by pluralism, Gandhi found prophetic resonance in the message of Christ: 'Love thy enemy.' For, in this new paradigm, the adversary is no longer an 'other'; increasingly they are fellow citizens and stakeholders. This realisation drove Gandhi to construct the method of satyagraha, an inclusive post-modern approach to addressing human challenges.

Message of Pietermaritzburg

The first message Pietermaritzburg imparts therefore is, akin to that of a surgeon distinguishing between the disease and the patient. We may learn to wash society of the wrong while seeking to redeem the antagonist from their errors, fostering a harmonious coexistence between both parties.

The other message from this City of Choice is a precursor to the first one. It revolves around how we interpret history and what we choose to take from it. In the tapestry of the Pietermaritzburg incident, we witness prominently those who cast Gandhi off the train and the one who bullied him the following day. However, for those with discerning eyes, the same canvas reveals the benevolent side of these 'antagonists' that is unfortunately often overlooked. The station master, in the morning after Gandhi's expulsion, offered words of comfort and provided him with another first-class ticket. Fellow passengers on subsequent train and coach rides pleaded with the conductor to spare Gandhi. These compassionate souls, all whites, were part of the very 'antagonists' who tormented him.

In a righteous struggle, these few virtuous individuals from opposing quarters form the trump card. Throughout history, the tried and tested strategy for triumph in warfare has been to identify the adversary's weakness and strike at its core. In a righteous struggle too this strategy works; the presence of the 'heart' in the opponent’s camp serves as a weakness to them and a strength to the cause of satyagraha.

Seeing hope in adversity

If we scan the historic occurrences through this premise, we see that even in the era of watertight segmentation, there were evidently few ‘hearts’ among the antagonists, that promised the hope of justice for the oppressed and redemption for the oppressor. The station master, fellow passengers, and the countless Europeans in South Africa whose souls gravitated towards Gandhi, such as the Doke family, the West family, the Pollacks, the Kallenbachs, Sonja Schlesien, and sympathisers like journalist Cartwright, bureaucrat Chimney, police officer’s wife Sarah Alexander, et al., embodied that hope and redemption. When the world saw only the watertight compartments, Gandhi could see the presence of a wicket gate amidst repression, which made him build on the path of nonviolent struggle. He said, ‘humans are essentially good, susceptible to error and amenable to truth.’

We witness a similar dynamic in Madiba's struggle, too. The likes of Denis Goldberg, advocate George Bizos, and writer Alan Paton symbolised that gate of hope.   White ministers like Orloff Miller, Clark Olsen, and James Reeb who risked their life by standing on the side of Martin Luther King Jr and his civil rights campaign, exemplify that gate to redemption. The historic event at Pietermaritzburg railway station symbolises both a seemingly impenetrable wall of suppression and a hope for redemption. 

In an increasingly complex yet interconnected world, Pietermaritzburg's message reminds us of the dialectical probability of every adversity and the possibility of overcoming it in a manner of winning without defeating and healing without hurting.  In a world ridden with violence, it opens a wicket gate for justice, reconciliation, and a sustainable future for all.

(The author is Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, MGM University, Aurangabad, India. The article is based on reflections by the author after his visit to Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa on June 07, 2023, exactly 130 years after M K Gandhi was thrown out of the train compartment on a cold winter night. Views are personal. By special arrangement with The Billion Press

Post a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Tue, 08/01/2023 - 11:56
I'm gone to say to my little brother, that he should also
pay a quick visit this webpage on regular basis to get updated from hottest information.
Wed, 08/02/2023 - 02:24
It is in reality a great and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you simply shared this helpful info
with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank
you for sharing.
Wed, 08/02/2023 - 02:56
Hello it's me, I am also visiting this web page on a regular basis, this web page is truly nice and
the visitors are truly sharing nice thoughts.
Wed, 08/02/2023 - 08:35
Helpful information. Lucky me I found your web site by accident, and I'm shocked why
this twist of fate did not took place earlier! I bookmarked it.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 06:53
Awesome! Its truly remarkable article, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this post.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 07:23
Please let me know if you're looking for a author for your site.
You have some really great posts and I think I would be a good asset.
If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
Please shoot me an email if interested. Many thanks!
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 08:57
Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What
web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate
link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 09:46
It's enormous that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as
from our argument made at this place.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 11:01
Magnificent goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous
to and you are just too fantastic. I actually like what you've acquired here, really like what
you are saying and the way in which you say it.
You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart.
I can't wait to read much more from you. This is really
a terrific site.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 13:50
naturally like your web-site however you have to take a look
at the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to tell the reality however I'll definitely come back again.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 15:15
My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different web address and thought I might
check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
Look forward to going over your web page repeatedly.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 19:52
When some one searches for his vital thing, thus he/she needs to be
available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.
Thu, 08/03/2023 - 21:14
Saved as a favorite, I like your website!
Sat, 08/12/2023 - 14:33
I read this paragraph completely on the topic of the
difference of latest and earlier technologies, it's
awesome article.
Sat, 08/12/2023 - 18:45
Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! However, how could
we communicate?
Sat, 08/12/2023 - 22:50
What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
valuable familiarity about unpredicted feelings.
Sun, 08/13/2023 - 08:09
I love it when individuals come together and share ideas.
Great site, continue the good work!
Sun, 08/13/2023 - 14:52
Yes! Finally someone writes about 출장마사지.
Tue, 08/15/2023 - 07:45
I read this post completely about the resemblance of most up-to-date and preceding technologies, it's amazing
Wed, 08/16/2023 - 00:32
When some one searches for his essential thing, so he/she wants to be available that in detail, so that thing
is maintained over here.
Wed, 08/16/2023 - 01:45
I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really
nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future.
Many thanks
Wed, 08/16/2023 - 05:57
Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and
let you know a few of the pictures aren't loading correctly.

I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
I've tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.
Wed, 08/23/2023 - 09:15
Keep this going please, great job!
Wed, 08/23/2023 - 17:12
It's really a great and helpful piece of information. I'm happy that you shared this helpful information with us.
Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
Wed, 08/23/2023 - 20:10
Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to look
your article. Thanks a lot and I am taking a look forward
to touch you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?
Fri, 08/25/2023 - 07:03
I just like the helpful information you provide on your articles.

I'll bookmark your blog and check once more here frequently.

I am reasonably certain I'll learn many new stuff right right here!
Best of luck for the following!
Sun, 09/10/2023 - 09:32
I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was
great. I don't know who you are but certainly
you are going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;) Cheers!
Mon, 09/11/2023 - 15:55
When some one searches for his required thing, thus he/she wishes to be available that
in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.
Mon, 09/11/2023 - 18:12
I'm impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that's equally educative and entertaining, and without a
doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few folks
are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for
something concerning this.
Wed, 01/10/2024 - 23:11
Hi, I do think this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it ;) I will revisit once again since I bookmarked it.
Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other
전국 선입금 없는 출장
Mon, 01/15/2024 - 05:41
I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your
blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to
come back in the future. Cheers
Thu, 01/25/2024 - 00:35
Admiring the dedication you put into your site and detailed information you provide.

It's nice to come across a blog every once in a while
that isn't the same outdated rehashed material.

Wonderful read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS feeds
to my Google account.
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 17:01
I constantly spent my half an hour to read this website's articles or reviews all the time
along with a mug of coffee.
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 18:06
Asking questions are really nice thing if you are not understanding something
totally, however this post offers nice understanding even.
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 18:10
If some one wants expert view on the topic of blogging and site-building afterward i
suggest him/her to pay a quick visit this weblog, Keep up the
nice work.
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 18:13
I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout
on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?

Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it is
rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 20:04
Thanks for one's marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it,
you can be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your
blog and will often come back from now on. I want to encourage
you to ultimately continue your great posts, have a nice holiday weekend!
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 21:33
Thankfulness to my father who stated to me concerning this weblog, this blog is in fact awesome.
전국 마사지 업체
Tue, 02/06/2024 - 22:25
I all the time used to read post in news papers but now
as I am a user of internet so from now I am using net for posts,
thanks to web.
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 01:01
I'm gone to convey my little brother, that he should also
pay a visit this blog on regular basis to obtain updated from most
recent information.
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 03:08
Hey would you mind letting me know which web host
you're using? I've loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers
and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you recommend a good internet hosting provider at a fair price?

Many thanks, I appreciate it!
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 03:09
I just like the valuable information you provide on your articles.
I'll bookmark your blog and test again right here regularly.
I'm moderately certain I will learn a lot of new stuff right here!
Best of luck for the following!
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 04:40
I must thank you for the efforts you've put in penning
this website. I'm hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts
by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities
has inspired me to get my own blog now ;)
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 06:21
I'm truly enjoying the design and layout of your site.
It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?

Exceptional work!
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 07:08
If some one desires expert view regarding blogging then i recommend him/her to pay a quick visit this web site, Keep up the nice work.
출장마사지 추천업소
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 08:20
Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?

A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would
really make my blog stand out. Please let
me know where you got your theme. Thanks a lot
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 08:33
Woah! I'm really enjoying the template/theme of this website.
It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's
hard to get that "perfect balance" between user friendliness
and visual appearance. I must say you have done a very good job with this.
Additionally, the blog loads extremely fast for me on Chrome.

Excellent Blog!
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 11:28
I'm curious to find out what blog platform you're utilizing?
I'm experiencing some minor security problems with
my latest blog and I would like to find something more risk-free.
Do you have any recommendations?
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 19:02
Howdy! Quick question that's totally off topic. Do you know how to make your
site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone.
I'm trying to find a theme or plugin that might be
able to correct this issue. If you have any suggestions,
please share. Thank you!
Wed, 02/07/2024 - 19:50
Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I've truly loved browsing your blog posts.
In any case I'll be subscribing on your feed and
I hope you write again soon!