n English in Africa - Indian Ocean lives and letters

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Let us start with a story of a printing press - not a real one, but an imaginary one, a rumoured press. Reports of this press emerged in Durban in January 1897 where attention was focused on two ships - the SS Courland and the SS Naderi - which had docked in the harbour. Of particular interest was the Courland, whose passengers included Mohandas Gandhi, a lawyer, rapidly rising to prominence as a leader of the South African Indian community. Gandhi had been in South Africa since 1893 but had returned to Bombay for a short while to raise public awareness about the deteriorating political conditions in South Africa. White Natal society believed that the ships harboured cholera and that Gandhi was organising an "Asian invasion." After a five-day quarantine, passengers were allowed to disembark. Gandhi was spotted leaving the ship and narrowly escaped lynching ("Interview").

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