In 1869, on this day the pin-stripe suited British Lawyer, Sir Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, a coastal town which was then part of the Bombay Presidency in the Raj.
Birth of Sir Mohandas K. GandhiEducated in Law at University College London, he was admitted to the British bar before returning to India in 1891 to establish a law practice in Mumbai. But tragedy struck when he learned that his mother had died while he was in London. When his business failed, he took the fateful decision to accept a year-long contract from Dada Abdulla & Co., an Indian firm, to a post in the Colony of Natal, South Africa.
The journey into British South African continued his practical education in the operation of the British legal system. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class to a third-class coach while holding a valid first-class ticket. Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. And the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do.
But he stubbornly refusing to be discouraged from seeking advancement in this racist society. During the course of the next decade, Gandhi would firmly embed himself in both the European and Indian communities in this trinary social context. And by 1906, he had served in British khaki uniform as a Sergeant Major, fighting for the extension of the British Empire to the betterment of those two communities. Slowly but surely, he was ascending into the upper echelons of the social elite.
A life-long career was finally recognized in 1947 when he was appointed Viceregal representative by King George VI, serving as the first indigenous Governor General of the Cape Colony. But this appointment also exposed him to sharp criticism for a series of highly controversial attitudes that he had repeatedly expressed all the way back to 1893.
Even if the British had not seen fit to carefully review the professional record of their Viceregal representative, luckily a group of Norwegians had. Because in 1937, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee known as the storting had seriously considered him for an award in recognition of his peaceful efforts to reconcile the communities in British South Africa. Ultimately this recommendation was rejected in a report authored by Professor Worm-Müller which was fiercly critical of his racist attitudes towards the indigenous African community. Somehow the sensitivites contained in this private document were released to the world by a twenty-nine year old member of the African National Congress known as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.