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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

In the Mahatma's footsteps

Ashish Magotra in Pietermaritzburg | February 21, 2003 23:50 IST


Sachin Tendulkar couldn't make it and the younger lot got into it with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge on their lips.

That, in a nutshell, explains the Indian World Cup squad's historic train journey from Pietermaritzburg to Pentrich on Friday afternoon.

The very same journey that another Indian -- unaccompanied by the media, unaccompanied by autograph hunters and
unaccompanied by security personnel -- had undertaken 110 years ago. Alone.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

On the night of June 7, 1893, the young Indian barrister had been thrown off a train on this very stretch for refusing to move from a whites-only compartment.

'I was afraid for my very life,' wrote Gandhi later. 'I entered the dark waiting room. There was a white man in the room. I was afraid of him. What was my duty? I asked myself. Should I go back to India, or should I go forward with God as my helper, and face whatever was in store for me? I decided to stay and suffer. My active non-violence began from that date.'

This afternoon the Boys in Blue tried to retrace the historic journey.

As the flash bulbs popped and the autograph hunters thronged the station, there were just two questions in most people's minds.

Would Sourav Ganguly and his boys understand the true value of the occasion? Or would it be just another train journey?

It turned out to be a mixture of both.

All of us first assembled outside the City Hall in the center of Pietermaritzburg, also the site for the first Comrades Marathon way back in 1921. A little deserted station called Pentrich, 20 minutes down the line, was the next stop.
There awaiting us were a railway engine and coaches taken straight out of the museum but still in good working condition.

Finally, the team arrived at the station to be greeted by a huge crowd. Tendulkar was conspicuous by his absence. Only later was it learnt that he had injured his little finger and was at the clinic.

A short but sweet ceremony followed.

For a few of the younger players, though, the enormity of the occasion was lost even before they could begin the short trip. They climbed into the train singing a song from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

Most of the people inside the train, other than the media, were autograph hunters. The team were protected from both by security personnel who hustled Ganguly and the boys into the last compartment.

Gandhi may have undertaken the journey all by himself but the security around the team was huge. Accredited personnel were outnumbered by the crowd many of whom mingled freely with the players.

Your reporter asked the man in charge of security, "How is no one stopping all these people? What about security?" His answer went something like this, "We have to take care of the players, not the people."

Once the hustle for the hastily-scribbled signatures for the players had subsided, I had a chance to speak to Rahul Dravid about what he had made of the journey.

"It was a very, very special occasion. This is something we have read about and seen in movies, but to actually be at the site makes it all the more special."
Harbhajan Singh said he really enjoyed the trip. That may not be saying much, but at least he showed a grasp of the occasion, which was reassuring.

In 1997, the local council conferred the Freedom of the City upon Mahatma Gandhi.

On that occasion, then South African president Nelson Mandela said 'Gandhi fell with a railway ticket no one was honoured, he rose with a testament none could ignore; he fell like a passenger but rose a patriot; fell a barrister but rose a revolutionary. In fact, Your Worship Mohandas Gandhi was not flung here, he was launched.'
Admittedly, the World Cup is a different thing. But it must have been the fond hope of everybody that the spirit of the Mahatma would inspire the team to greater heights during their sojourn on the soil Gandhi cut his political teeth.


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Number of User Comments: 10

Sub: re: in mahatmas footsteps

all the indians who talk about the indian team being unpatriotic and letting india down should ask themselves what they have done for india...if anyone ...

Posted by chetan bhatia

Sub: Indian Cricketers are only maoney eater & not struggle for

Indian Cricketers should not have allowed into the train in which father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi travelled.Because Indian cicketers are only money eaters and ...

Posted by Chait

Sub: in the mahatma's footsteps

our cricketers are nothing but a shame to our country and they should at least stay away from mahatma gandhi.our cricketers are money hungry and ...

Posted by viren soni

Sub: RE:Trying to walk in the Mahatma's footsteps

Mahatma Gandhi was born at wrong place, unfortunately for India. He was more European than Indian. But the legacy he brought to India was more ...

Posted by true indian

Sub: pastimes

hope this brings a change in their attitude....we can only hope...well i dun think it matters much to them ....for them it was like a ...

Posted by shrid


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