Social and Cultural Events

Gandhi meets Chaplin

Mahatma Gandhi arrived in London in 1931 to attend the Round Table Conference where he spoke eloquently about Indian independence. While he attended the conference Gandhi choose to make his home in Kingsley Hall for 12 weeks. This hostel was run by Socialist pacifist Muriel Lester and was located in Bow in East London. While Gandhi was in London, a meeting between himself and Charlie Chaplin occurred in Canning Town. This meeting took place in Dr Katial’s house who was an acquaintance of Gandhi’s.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the house to catch a glimpse of the meeting between Chaplin and Gandhi. Chaplin met Gandhi by going through the front door of the house in Beckton Road, Canning Town after making his way through the crowd. Dr Chuna Lal Katial is the other figure of note in this story. He moved to England in 1927 after graduating with a medical degree from Lahore University. He worked for five years with the Indian Medical Service in Iraq but then resigned this position to continue his training in public health. He studied in Liverpool and gained a diploma in tropical medicine and moved to London where he established a practice in Canning Town attending mainly to working class patients. He was a member of the Indian Social Club and the Indian Medical Association and was involved with the Hindu Association of Europe and became heavily involved with the India League.

During the second Round Table conference in Autumn 1931, he put himself at the disposal of Gandhi effectively becoming his chauffeur. At the meeting Gandhi and Chaplin chatted happily for a period of time. When the meeting finished both Gandhi and Chaplin went to prayers. They sat side by side in Oriental fashion while Miss Slade chanted the Hindu prayers.

This famous meeting has now been turned into a play called ‘when Gandhi met Chaplin’ written by James Kenworth. This play has premiered at Eastlea Community School and is a unique collaboration involving a professional writer, director, designer and actors working alongside drama students from Newham’s Eastlea Community School.

Image: courtesy of Newham Archives

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