Imagine If There Were a Million Mahatma Gandhis in 1900?

Adebayo Adeniran
4 min readJan 12, 2024

Its consequences would have been felt globally.

Image via Wikimedia commons

Mahatma Gandhi is a profoundly exceptional individual.

Regardless of his racial and sexual politics, which were problematic at best and unconscionable at worst, there was something different about this guy.

And nothing about the man’s start to life suggested that he would have this sort of impact on the world.

In India, just as it was everywhere else in British controlled territories, the class system ensured that a very limited number of people had access to education and healthcare.

The private capitalists who had a huge say in how the crown jewel was governed weren’t concerned with the education of hundreds of millions of Indians but were focused on perpetually extracting their profits.

Gandhi, whose education was as limited as it got, certainly had the smarts to improve himself, and this informed the decision he made to go to the United Kingdom to study law.

And while he was out there, he made the most of the opportunities to develop himself intellectually — something which would stand him in very good stead in the intervening years.

Upon returning to India, our protagonist found it very difficult to practice law and jumped at the opportunity of working for a business man in South Africa.

Whatever naivete he may have had about the British empire was blown to smithereens, when he was confronted by the might of racialism in its most humiliating and insidious form, when he was kicked off the compartment of a train which was meant for white folk.

Unlike the settled Indian community which had no interest in challenging the status quo, Gandhi took it upon himself to set up a political party and promptly took the fight to the racialists.

And that put him on collision course with the colonizers.

Jan Smuts, who would later serve in the British cabinet during the first world war, was engaged in battle of wits with the supremely intelligent lawyer of colour and the concessions made during their jousts did give Gandhi a taste of how best to handle and break the back of white supremacy.

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Adebayo Adeniran

A lifelong bibliophile, who seeks to unleash his energy on as many subjects as possible