Wednesday, November 5, 2014

1912 Gandhiji in Zanzibar by Bipin Suchak

The photograph was taken on 27 November 1912 at a function at Victoria Gardens opposite the official residence British Resident.
The photograph shows Gopal Krishna Gokhale in the centre with Gandhiji and Hermann Kallenbach on his right and members of the Karimjee Jivanjee family on his left. My grandfather Mulji Walji Suchak is in the photograph in the third row in the traditional black cap.
Accoording to Gandhiji's autobiography Gokhale came to South Africa in October 1912 and stayed with him for about six weeks and at Gokhle's behest accompanied him to Zanzibar when he sailed for home.

The Indian communities at East African ports along the way saw Gandhiji in traditional Indian clothes for the first time since some twenty years earlier when he wore a turban in a Durban courtroom the day after he first arrived from India, and which he refused to take off - although in the photograph he is wearing a suit.

Gandhiji in his autobiography acknowledged the impact that Gokhale had on him and stated that "Gokhale prepared me for India".

In his book "Gandhi Before India" Ramchandra Guha referring to Gokhale's return to India (page 439) writes:

"En route, they stopped in Zanzibar. The island had an active Indian community, who,
it turned out, knew all about the satyagraha in South Africa, and its leader, whose struggle deeply resonated with them. 'Remarkable how the men's faces light up when they hear the name "Gandhi," wrote Kallenbach in his diary, 'and how eager they were to shake his hands' (the footnote here points out to Kallenbach's diary entry for 27 November 1912)  

When they parted company in Zanzibar Gakhale told Gandhiji to put South Africa behind him and come home to fulfill his destiny. Gandhiji returned to India in January 1915 after having spent nearly 20 years in South Africa. Shortly after his return he was hailed as a "Mahatma"

The rest as they say is history.
By Bipin Suchak -


  1. Can we have contact numbers of Mr. Bipin Suchak.

    1. I have put Bipin's email at the end of the article.