Mahatma Gandhi’s reflective encounter with Adan, a Somali soldier who deserted from the British Army in the 1920s (in his own words):
“Adan was a young Somali soldier who was sentenced to ten years’ hard labour for desertion from the British Army, which he had joined during the War. He was transferred by the Aden Jail authorities. Adan had served four years when we were admitted. He was practically illiterate. He could read the Koran with difficulty, but could not copy it correctly, if at all. He was able to speak Urdu fairly fluently and was anxious to learn Urdu. With the permission of the Superintendent, I tried to teach him, but the learning of the alphabet proved too great a strain upon him and he left it. With all that he was quick-witted and sharp as a needle. He took the greatest interest in religious matters. He was a devout Mussalman, offered his prayers regularly including the midnight one, and never missed the Ramzan fast. The rosary was his constant companion. When he was free, he used to recite selections from the Koran. He would often engage me in a discussion on complete fasts according to the Hindu custom as also on ahimsa. He was a brave man. He was very courteous, but never cringing. He was of an excitable nature and, therefore, often quarreled with the bardasi or his fellow-warder. We had, therefore Sometimes to arbitrate between them. Being a soldier and amenable to reason, he would accept the award, but he would put his case boldly and cogently. Adan was the longest with us. I treasure Adan’s affection. He was most attentive to me. He would see to it that I got my food at the appointed time.
He was sad if I ever became ill and anticipated all my wants. He would not let me exert myself for anything. He was anxious to be discharged or at least to be transferred to Aden. I tried hard. I drew up petitions for him. The Superintendent too, tried his best. But the decision rested with the Aden authorities. Hope was held out to him that he would be discharged before the end of last year. I do hope he is already discharged. The little service I rendered gave rise to deep personal attachment. It was a sad parting when Adan was transferred to another part of the prison.”
(The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 28)