GandhiTopia

Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Youth and Mahatma Gandhi - I 

 

 

Such a course, I hope, would facilitate to some extent the way to England in addition to helping the people to understand the England returned Indians, but I am afraid it will bring on me showers of reproaches and remonstrance’s from many persons. It may even cost me friendships. Some would call me rash, others would be content with saying that I lack tact, while yet others would fling youth into my face, but I have resolved upon bearing the storm for the sake of truth. He has indeed set an example to the other Indian parents in the Colony as to what a father should do to educate his children, as you have shown what an Indian youth in this Colony can do in the educational line if he has the opportunity. An even more striking instance of his liberality in educating his children is to be found in the fact of his having sent your eldest brother to Glasgow to pursue his medical studies. We are glad to know that your ambition does not end with the Civil Services examination, but that you still wish to continue your studies much further. We pray that God may grant you health and long life to enable you to fulfil your desires, and hope that your perseverance and industry will be copied by other young Indians in the Colony, and that your success will serve as an encouragement to them. 1

He is unable to send his youngest daughter to the Government Primacy School and, in spite of his efforts, was prevented from getting his third son, a promising youth, admitted to the Durban High School. It may be stated that this family has been living in the European style. All the children have been brought up from their infancy to speak English, and naturally they speak it very well. Why this child should be shut out when all is other children have been allowed to enter the Government School passes comprehension. This instance shows, more vividly than anything else could, how difficult the position of the Indians inferior to Mr. Godfrey must be. 2 The Government has lately opened two Higher Grade Indian schools, one in Durban and the other in Maritzburg, but the education given there is elementary, and there are no facilities for further studies after the youth has finished his school course. In the Capital of the Colony, the Town Council has passed a resolution prohibiting alienation or leasing of town lands to the Indian subjects of His Imperial Majesty the King-Emperor. 3

We must learn from the example of those who have earlier fallen a prey to this habit, and beware. But then we are too slow and careless to profit by such examples. That is why we do not find among educated Indians persons of ripe old age. This defect is by no means peculiar to any individual or family, rather the entire Indian nation suffers from it. A countrywide effort is most essential in order to save Indian youth from being blighted prematurely. 4 Tolstoy was born of a noble family in Russia. His parents had enormous wealth, which he inherited. He is himself a Russian nobleman, and has, in his youth, rendered very good service to his country by fighting gallantly in the Crimean War. 5 

In spite of my repeated attempts to persuade him I find that the idea that “maternal uncle is crazy” is deep-rooted in his mind due to the arrogant impetuosity of youth. His mind is set more on making money. We have to be very careful and see that his leanings become pure. You may watch him and guide him. I believe he will put in hard work. He will not take anything from the press at present; at the same time, he will not work the whole day. I have told him that he is still a student and has to behave accordingly. He will, therefore, work for some time in the press, some time on the land and the rest he will devote to studies. It is necessary for him to have a good knowledge of Gujarati, English and Tamil. I have asked him to start with composing Tamil matter in the press. I shall write a letter about this to Pillay also. You may come, if possible, during Christmas, after Gokuldas arrives there and has become conversant with the work. 6

In its communal life, however, the Indian population has shown distinct signs of progress. There is an anxiety to work in greater harmony; an anxiety to give the Indian youth a better education. In the person of Mr. Bernard Gabriel, we have the first Colonial-born Indian to have received a liberal education, and to have returned a barrister from England. The community has a right to expect him to give a good account of himself. 7 Various associations of Indian youth are nowadays being formed in South Africa. They indicate an improvement in our condition. While a Young Men’s Mahomedan Society has come into being in Durban, Sanatana Dharma Sabhas have been founded in Johannesburg and other towns. This is a matter for satisfaction. But we feel it necessary to sound a note of warning to both kinds of bodies. It is a confirmed law of nature that an association of persons can grow and endure only if their minds are free from prejudice and all of them seek their good in the good of the association. Every country depends a great deal on its young men and women. Old men with their set habits of thought cannot readjust their opinions as necessary. They cling to old ideas. Every community, however, has undoubtedly needed of such men, for they help to contain the restless enthusiasm of youth within limits. While they have their uses, they have their disadvantages also, since they often hesitate to do things which need must be done. This may be thought becoming in them; but it is helpful to have good young men coming forward, for it is they alone who can venture to experiment. It is therefore as necessary for us to encourage these associations as to caution them against over-enthusiasm. The members of these youth organizations will be able to achieve many great things, if they work with sincerity and with the sole intention of doing the right thing by their country. For instance, there is much insanitation among us. Mr. Peeran Mahomed has already commented on this subject at a Congress meeting. Our young men can do much to remedy this laxity by making house-to-house visits and politely persuading people.

Some poor Indians are given to drinking, and their wives have also fallen victims to the habit. Our young men can do much, if they take up the very important work of redeeming them. We should like here to ask our Gujarati readers not to assume that they may not do this kind of work among the Madrasis given to drinking. We may add that the drinking habit is spreading among some Gujarati Hindus also Whether Hindus or Muslims, all of us can help in reclaiming them. Moreover, it is necessary for such youth organizations to be more mindful of the needs of education. There is a dearth of education even among our youth. We do not consider mere literacy to be education. We ought to have some knowledge of world history, the constitutions of various countries and other related subjects. We can learn from history how other nations have progressed. We can emulate them in the matter of their burning patriotism. Youth organizations can do many such things; indeed, it is their duty to do so. We do hope that these associations will fulfil their obligations by taking on such benevolent functions, earn people’s gratitude, and take their due share in meeting the difficulties that are our lot in this country.  Dr. Godfrey is a hot-headed youth, without any experience of practical life in the world. He only finished his studies over two years ago. He has never before, except in connection with the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, come forward to do public work. He himself attended the Mass Meeting and spoke on the principal resolutions, including the resolutions condemning the Ordinance, appointing a commission and advocating going to jail in preference to the submission to the carrying of passes. 8

Napoleon, a youth from the island of Corsica, shook all Europe. Hundreds of thousands of men did his bidding. When the Pope sent Luther the bull of excommunication, he tore it up and became free. The great poet Scott proved himself a man of his word, despite old age, and went on writing, earning enough to pay off his debts. Everyone has heard of Alexander’s Empire. With such examples before them, how can the Transvaal Indians lose heart even in the smallest degree? Letters have continued to pour in, which show that the writers would never go back on the pledge taken in September. However, if the Indian community breaks that pledge and retracts, this is what we think the future holds for us. 9 Hardly two people can sit in it. Sitting there, he shoulders the burden of the sufferings of the vast millions of India. Though he has reached an advanced age, he is capable of harder work than an Indian youth. We wish him a long life, and pray to the Creator to give us, and to all those connected with this journal, a heart as pure as his. We advise our readers to emulate his patriotism, that being the only right way to cherish the name of this Grand Old Man who is a grandfather indeed. The Indians of the Transvaal should bear in mind that they have to be faithful to their resolve as the immortal Dadabhai has been to his for our sake. We believe all associations of Indians will hold meetings on that day and send telegrams of congratulations. It is our intention to give a photograph of the Grand Old Man on every birthday of his. Accordingly, we shall publish next week, that is, at the earliest opportunity after the birthday, a photograph of his which, we recommend, should be got framed and preserved by everyone. 10

Some young men have little work to do follow me about and imitate me in cross-examining half-baked persons. The persons who are thus cross-examined and exposed as frauds become angry with me. Being unable to bring any other charge against me, they say that I look into things far too closely, that I disbelieve in the gods and make the worse appear the better reason. Intent on covering up their own ignorance, they fill your ears with calumnies against me. Such are Miletus and a few others. Miletus says that I corrupt the youth of Athens. I shall now examine Miletus himself.” 11 But the whites can afford to do what they are doing. We cannot. We have fallen very low indeed. We have to uplift ourselves. We therefore need an enterprising spirit. It is a fact of experience that the habit of adultery daily undermines the strength of people among whom it is widespread. The Indian youth, therefore, need to give this problem their earnest attention. 12

When was I of school-going age? That verse has not yet been effaced from my memory. I do say here such a thing is not possible, that British Indians, because they are docile, because they are humble, because they do not want to tread upon anybody else’s corns, are being spat upon, are being ill-treated, and now we have got the Asiatic Ordinance to fight, which is intended to take away the very last vestige of self-respect from us. It is because we feel these things that we have met here to honour our countrymen who have gone to jail, that those who are here may also have that courage, may also have sufficient self-respect in them to go to jail, to suffer the same hardships, and if you do that, as surely as I am standing here today, a day will come when we shall regain our liberty, when we shall regain the full rights attached to British citizenship, when we will be respected even in the Transvaal as men, as human beings, and will not be treated as dogs. 13 There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the Indian position on the question of the admission of educated Indians. We contend that the Immigrants’ Restriction Law, as it stands, does not debar educated Indians from entering the country, but nothing can be further from the Indian thought sic than that hundreds of Indian youth should be able to come into the country.  14

Mr. Polak was married in 1905, and the Indian community in South Africa owes not a little to Mrs. Polak sharing her husband’s self-sacrifice and public spirit. Latterly, she herself has taken up the organizing of Indian women’s meetings, and has thrown herself heart and soul into her work. Two children have been born to them in South Africa. Mr. Polak belongs to an ancient Jewish family and, being a member of a race which has undergone much oppression, considers it a privilege to help in alleviating the sufferings of British Indians in South Africa When he was yet quite a youth, ethics had a fascinating attraction for him. With him religion and ethics are convertible terms. He, therefore, naturally attached himself to the South Place Ethical Society in London, of which he is still an associate, and it was from an ethical standpoint that he felt himself called upon to take up Indian work. 15

There were a few Indian ladies also. Millie became chummy with one of them Mrs. Dube. She is Hindustani though she was partly brought up in Bombay; she speaks English very nicely. Millie will come into closer contact with her. She does not like the apartments she is in and will probably take a small house partly furnished, either in Crickle wood or near Kew. I have suggested to her that she should have Hoosen with her; it would be mutually satisfactory. Hoosen is going on splendidly; a better youth it will be difficult to find, but he is somewhat dreamy, he has not the go that I should expect a youth of his age to have and does not give himself enough exercise, but, as he is not self-willed, he will easily accept a gentle guidance from Millie, with whom I have discussed what should be done for him. Amy is also staying with Millie. I understand that Amy has grown wonderfully, but she is not a steady girl and she causes some anxiety to Millie. I sent a cablegram on Monday to Daphtary, Morality and the Presidency Association regarding you. I am curious to know whether the cablegrams were acted upon. 16

As will appear from the statement, we are being crushed out of existence in Natta in a threefold manner. Our trade is slowly being reduced by means of an unjust and tyrannical administration of a licensing law that leaves in the hands of the Licensing Officer and the Licensing Board—who are themselves our trade rivals unlimited powers, without any check from the judicial tribunals of the Colony. Indian labourers are worked almost as slaves for the benefit of Natal, but, as soon as they have finished their service under the Natal planters of mine owners, they, their wives and children are taxed exorbitantly, and thus prevented from settling in the Colony and earning an honest livelihood as free men, and our future progress is almost entirely prevented by depriving us of even ordinary facilities for giving a suitable education to our youth. 17 You will have received Nagappen photograph. I wish you could get the papers there to reproduce it. Will you please write to the Indian Review and other papers in Madras, to take it up? I think I told you that I suggested to our people in Johannesburg to found a Nagappen Scholarship. If there is anybody in Bombay or in Madras who would do so, it would be very striking. Let them realize that a youth of 20, of unblemished character, has died for the sake of his country. 18 

I must tell you, with all gentleness that it must be a matter of shame for us that you should speak about that great man in terms of disrespect. Just look at his work. He has dedicated his life to the service of India. We have learned what we know from him. It was the respected Dadabhai who taught us that the English had sucked our life-blood. What does it matter that, today, his trust is still in the English nation? Is Dadabhai less to be honoured because, in the exuberance of youth, we are prepared to go a step further? Are we, on that account, wiser than he? It is a mark of wisdom not to kick away the very step from which we have risen higher. The removal of a step from a staircase brings down the whole of it. When, out of infancy, we grow into youth, we do not despise infancy, but on the contrary, we recall with affection the days of our childhood. If, after many years of study, a teacher were to teach me something, and if I were to build a little more on the foundation laid by that teacher, I would not, on that account, be considered wiser than the teacher. He would always command my respect. Such is the case with the Grand Old Man of India. We must admit that he is the author of nationalism.  19

How many fairy-like creatures there have been, graced with youth, how great the men who left.” And yet every extraordinary occurrence startles us and sets us thinking. There has been one such in Paris. The river at Paris rose in such a heavy flood that huge buildings were washed off. A picture gallery was in imminent danger. Strongly-built roads, on which millions of pounds had been spent, sagged at places. Men were drowned. Some who escaped drowning were buried alive. Rats deprived of their food, attacked children. How did this happen? The people of Paris had built the city to last forever. Nature has given a warning that even the whole of Paris may be destroyed. It certainly would have been, had the floods subsided a day later. 20

 

 

References:

 

  1. Address to G. V. Godfrey, March 18, 1898
  2. The Times of India (Weekly edition), 19-8-1899
  3. Indian Opinion, 4-6-1903 
  4. Indian Opinion, 11-3-1905
  5. Indian Opinion, 2-9-1905
  6. Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi, November 6, 1905 
  7. Indian Opinion, 30-12-1905
  8. Indian Opinion, 28-4-1906 
  9. Indian Opinion, 18-5-1907 
  10. Indian Opinion, 31-8-1907 
  11. Indian Opinion, 18-4-1908 
  12. Indian Opinion, 20-6-1908 
  13. Indian Opinion, 1-8-1908 
  14. Indian Opinion, 22-8-1908 
  15. Indian Opinion, 3-7-1909 
  16. Letter to H. S. L. Polak, July 30, 1909
  17. Indian Opinion, 25-9-1909
  18. Letter to H. S. L. Polak, October 6, 1909 
  19. Hind Swaraj
  20. Indian Opinion, 5-2-1910 

 

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