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 - II 

 

 

 

We hope that every Indian will carefully consider these remarks of the Inspector of Education in Basutoland. If what the Inspector says be true of the Basutos, how much more must it be so of Indian youths who receive, in the ordinary schools of the Colony, no instruction at all in their mother-tongue. Moreover, fine as the Sesuto language is, we venture to think that it cannot boast the literary merit of the great Indian languages spoken in the Colony. It must be a matter of deep shame to any Indian youth to know that he cannot speak and read his own mother-tongue like an ordinary cultured Indian. 1 Every Indian youth should take a lesson from Mr. Royeppen example. Though a barrister and a man of learning, he holds no manual work to be beneath him. He moves through crowded markets, carrying bundles on his head. He hews wood, washes clothes and works at [railway] stations like a common labourer. He proves in this way that he has received real education. 2

There is an Indian youth named Mr. N. Dala. He was arrested in Barberton and ordered to be deported. The main reason for this order was that he was believed to be eighteen years of age. His friends sought Mr. Ritch’s advice and told him that Mr. Dala was not in fact over sixteen years of age. His case was then referred to the Supreme Court for getting the order of deportation cancelled. A medical practitioner deposed in Court that Mr. Dala’s age should be around sixteen. On the strength of his evidence the Court has cancelled the deportation order. The plea was that the law did not confer any authority [on the Court] for deporting young Indian below sixteen. Mr. Dala has not however, secured the right of residence in the Transvaal as a result of this case. He will have to submit an application for this purpose, and he will get a registration certificate only if he is legally entitled to it. Only Mr. Dala benefits from the judgement in this case; otherwise there is nothing noteworthy about it. 3 

The mad youth who perpetrated the crime no doubt thought that by striking murders of distinguished men, rulers could be terrorized and an independent Indian could be thereby secured. We should decline to share any such independence even if it were attainable, which we doubt. We do not believe that good can be brought about by evil. 4 Let us then examine why people eat spices. They do so, it will be readily admitted, in order to be able to eat more and digest more. Chillies, coriander seed, cumin, etc., produce heat in the stomach and in consequence we seem to feel hungrier. If, however, we imagine from this that the food we have thus consumed is all digested and transformed into pure blood, we shall be sadly mistaken. Many people indulge in over-spicy food. Their stomachs become very weak in the long run and some even get attacks of sprue. A certain man used to eat large amounts of chillies, a habit which he could not overcome, and he died in his youth after a long illness which kept him on bed for six months. It is imperative that we eliminate spices from out diet altogether. 5 

My own experience during the past eight years is that, after the period of youth is past, there is absolutely no need for anyone to eat more than twice a day. Once a person’s body is fully grown and further development has stopped, he has no need to eat either much or often. 6 What is there not surrounded by its enemy? Birth is swallowed up by death, beautiful youth by old age, contentment by desire for wealth, the happiness of calmness by the blandishments of a clever woman, high qualities by the jealousy of the jealous, the forest beauty by snakes and adversity by instability. 7 The funeral procession was enormous. Thousands followed the hearse. Hindus from all provinces of India vied with the Mahomedans in paying their respects to the memory of this good youth. Colonial-born Indians mustered in strong force to pay their respects to the memory of one who, like themselves, was born in South Africa. Special trams emptied themselves at Congella, during practically the whole of the Tuesday on which the funeral took place. All Indian shops in Durban were closed for two hours and so was the Indian Market, by consent of the Corporation.  The lies that go on in ordinary company were so disgusting to this youth that, many a time, he felt disinclined to stay on in Durban. Whenever he heard and believed that a man was good, he was all admiration for him. So guileless was he. His heart was meek like a cow’s. I never observed the slightest taint of sin in him. His innocence and his frankness were all his own. A budding rose has withered. But its fragrance remains. We can still enjoy deep draughts of it. He has left that fragrance with everyone who came in contact with him. 8 

This youth was prepared to die for India and Indians. How Indians may prosper, how the sons of India may shine out was his constant concern. I believe he was a zealous Muslim, but he had not the slightest hatred of other religions. To him all Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsees, were the same. That they should be good was all that he wanted. Indians, for the simple reason that they were Indians, were like brothers to him. Who can think it an exaggeration to say that we have been widowed by the passing away of one so richly endowed? 9 Otherwise many a youth from Kathiawar, used to drinking milk have left this world. I had told Dr. Mehta of my opinion that all of them were lustful and that is why they had gone. He had agreed with me. Dharamsi is no more. What is the reason for his going? He would have drunk plenty of milk and partaken of food from a number of offerings. But in a room like a store-room, he most probably regularly played with the body of a small innocent girl. Leading such an immoral life, eating rotis made of mill-flour and enjoying the rich ‘malarial’ food of Bombay, he ‘ruined’ his health and left this world. Such is the favour shown by God to India that either demon will survive in India, or religious persons. Persons pretending to be religious men, either consciously or unconsciously, will not survive. Our eyes will open only when such things happen on a large scale. Such thoughts come to my mind quite often. All this is not for running down milk but to help one to get rid of his attachment for milk. 10

What can the heart speak when it is attuned to other hearts? I was told by many even in South Africa that, when I returned to India, others might or might not help me, but that there was a Patidar Youth Association which would be only too ready to help me in my work. It was my wish all along to come here and visit this institution at the first available opportunity after returning to India and that makes me all the more delighted. How far this Association helps me will be seen when the time comes, but it certainly has men of character. 11 I was a mere youth, with no experience. The bond which developed between us on the occasion of our very first meeting in Poona never came to exist between any other leader and me. Sure enough, all that I had heard about Mahatma Gokhale was confirmed by my own experience; but especially the effect which the soft expression on his lotus-like face had on me has still not vanished from my mind. I instantly recognized him as dharma incarnate. I had an audience with Shri Ranade, too, at that time, but I could get no glimpse into his heart. I could only see him as Gokhale’s mentor. Whether it was that he was much senior to me in age and experience or that there were some other reasons, whatever the reason, I could not understand Shri Ranade as well as I could Gokhale. 12

They assured me that every Indian youth, because he reached his knowledge through the English language, lost at least six precious years of life. Multiply that by the number of students turned out by our schools and colleges and find out for you how many thousand years has been lost to the nation. The charge against us is that we have no initiative. How can we have any if we are to devote the precious years of our life to the mastery of a foreign tongue? We fail in this attempt also. Was it possible for any speaker yesterday and today to impress his audience as was possible for Mr. Higginbotham? It was not the fault of the previous speakers that they could not engage the audience. They had more than substance enough for us in their addresses. But their addresses could not go home to us. I have heard it said that after all it is English-educated India which is leading and which is doing all the things for the nation. It would be monstrous if it were otherwise. The only education we receive is English education. Surely we must show something for it. But suppose that we had been receiving during the past fifty year’s education through our vernaculars, what should we have had today? 13

It seems to me that in our country in which 85 per cent of the population is agricultural and perhaps 10 per cent occupied in supplying the wants of the peasantry, it must be part of the training of every youth that he has a fair practical knowledge of agriculture and hand-weaving. He will lose nothing if he knows a proper use of tools can saw a piece of board straight and build a wall that will not come down through a faulty handling of the plumber’s line. A boy who is thus equipped will never feel helpless in battling with the world and never be in want of employment. A knowledge of the laws of hygiene and sanitation as well as the art of rearing children should also form a necessary part of [the training of] the Gurukul lads. The sanitary arrangements at the fair left much to be desired. The plague of flies told its own tale. These irrepressible sanitary inspectors incessantly warned us that in point of sanitation all was not well with us. They plainly suggested that the remains of our food and excreta needed to be properly buried. It seemed to me to be such a pity that a golden opportunity was being missed of giving to the annual visitor’s practical lessons on sanitation. But the work must begin with the boys. Then the management would have at the annual gathering three hundred practical sanitary teachers. Last but not least, let the parents and the Committee not spoils their lads by making them ape European dress or modern luxuries. These will hinder them in their afterlife and are antagonistic to brahmacharya. They have enough to fight against in the evil inclinations common to us all. Let us not make their fight more difficult by adding to their temptations. 14

We will have to make great efforts to improve this atmosphere and save our youth. Some of these writings should be shown to the young people and then the viciousness pointed out. For, we cannot keep such vicious books hidden from them for long. So I feel that whatever book we give to our children should bear our correction and comments. I feel the need for our teachers to deliberate over such books. They, too, have to learn quite a lot and think quite a lot. Even books like the Bhagawat should be read out to the children and they may not be allowed to keep it with them.  The Indian Review, October 1917 My humble effort consists of, firstly, in making researches as to the possibilities of simple reforms in the orthodox handlooms, secondly, in weaning the educated youth from the craving for Government or other service and the feeling that education renders him unfit for independent occupation and inducing him to take to weaving as a calling as honourable as that of a barrister or a doctor, and, thirdly, by helping those who have abandoned their occupation to revert to it. I will not weary the audience with any statement on the first two parts of the experiment. 15   

A thirty-year-old youth behaves like a lamb before his eighty-year-old father. This is an instance of love-force. Love is atman: it is the very property of atman. If we have faith enough, we can wield that force over the whole world. Religion having lost its hold on us, we are without an anchor to keep us firm amidst the storm of modern civilization, and are, therefore, being tossed to and fro. I shall return to this idea at a later stage.  One sometimes hears it said, “Let us get the government of India in our own hands; everything will be all right afterwards.” There could be no greater superstition than this. No nation has gained its independence in this manner. The splendour of the spring is reflected in every tree, the whole earth is then filled with the freshness of youth. Similarly, when the spring of swaraj is on us, a stranger suddenly arriving in our midst will observe the freshness of youth in every walk of life and find servants of the people engaged, each according to his own abilities, in all manner of public activities.  16

Gokhale’s was a life of extensive activities. Today, I shall relate some incidents in his domestic life for the benefit of the women assembled here. It is an example for them to follow, for Gokhale served his family very well. He never acted in a manner which would cause pain to anyone in the family. He refused to follow the current practice in Hindu society of marrying off a girl, doll-fashion, as soon as she reached the age of eight and so cast her away to sink in the sea. His daughter is still unmarried. He had to go through much in keeping her so. Moreover, he lost his wife while he was yet in the bloom of youth. He could have married again, but he did not. He served his family in many ways; ordinarily everyone does so. One may, however, serve one’s family either out of self-interest or to advance the interests of the nation. Gokhale had renounced all considerations of self-interest. He did his duty by the family, and then the town and then the country, as occasion demanded, with an undaunted spirit, with perseverance and labour. 17

This relationship of ours was formed in the year 1896.1 I had no idea of its nature then; nor had he. About the same time, I had the good fortune to wait on the master’s master Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, Lokamanya Tilak, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Justice Badruddin Tyabji, Dr Bhandarkar, as also the leaders of Madras and Bengal. I was but a raw youth. Every one of them showered his love on me. These were among the occasions which I can never forget while I live. But the peace of mind which my contacts with Gokhale gave me, those with others did not. I do not remember that any special affection was shown to me by Gokhale. 18 I wish to testify to their loyalty to the British Constitution and the British connection, and also testify to their impatience of bureaucratic control. They show an eminent degree of all the virtues and vices of youth. Their language is sometimes strong, sometimes even wild, and not parliamentary. They betray excessive zeal. Men of age and experience, we often may find occasions to stand aghast at some of their actions; but their hearts are strong and pure. They have succeeded to a certain extent in clearing the atmosphere of cant and humbug. Their truth has sometimes hurt, but I must say that although, when the Leagues were first established, I looked upon them with scepticism and even doubted their usefulness, a careful examination of their work has convinced me that the Leagues have supplied a felt want. They have put light into the people. They have filled them with hope and courage; and, had the authorities not misunderstood them, I am certain they could have availed themselves of this inexhaustible reservoir of man-power. They need not be told that the members of the Leagues realize their own responsibility, and come forward with it. It was hardly to be expected of high-souled youths who had all along chaffed under bureaucratic domination. 19 

In what manner should the children learn to use their strength? It is a difficult thing to teach them to defend themselves and yet not be overbearing. Till now, we used to teach them not to fight back if anyone beat them. Can we go on doing so now? What will be the effect of such teaching on a child? Will he, in his youth, be a forgiving or a timid man? My powers of thinking fail me. Use yours. This new aspect of non-violence which has revealed itself to me has enmeshed me in no end of problems. I have not found one master-key for all the riddles, but it must be found. Shall we teach our boys to return two blows for one, or tolerate a blow from anyone weaker than themselves but to fight back, should a stronger one attack them, and take the beating that might follow? 20

It is inconceivable to me that the youth of such a country will accept the perverted rule of “it for tat”. I shall be patient. For my part, I have been pleading with these two persons, too, but in doing all this I can only follow my own way. Sometimes this seems to bring about great delay but that is inevitable. There are things which are done, ought to be done, only behind the scene. I have decided, this time, not to attend the Congress, and for the reasons shown above. Nor do I intend to attend the Conference of the Moderate party. My absence itself will strike the people. Everyone will begin to ask questions; if necessary, I will state my views then. 21 Comment: This means that, if any book or paper believed to be seditious is found in the pocket of an innocent youth ignorant of its contents, he would be taken to be guilty unless he proves that he was carrying it for a lawful purpose. This new offence alters one of the fundamental principles of British justice inasmuch as, instead of the prosecution having to prove the guilt of the accused, it is the latter that will have to establish his innocence. If I am charged with anything, how can I prove that I am not guilty? This can only mean that I shall be in jail. 22

 

 

References: 

 

  1. 1.        Indian Opinion, 28-5-1910
  2. 2.        Indian Opinion, 9-7-1910
  3. 3.        Indian Opinion, 8-7-1911 
  4. 4.        Indian Opinion, 28-12-1912 
  5. 5.        Indian Opinion, 29-3-1913 
  6. 6.        Indian Opinion, 5-4-1913 
  7. 7.        Letter to Hermann Kallenbach, September 10, 1913
  8. 8.        Indian Opinion, 1-10-1913 
  9. 9.        Indian Opinion, 1-10-1913
  10. 10.     Letter to Maganlal Gandhi, About 1914  
  11. 11.     Gujarati, 9-1-1916
  12. 12.     Message of Gokhale’s Life, Before February 4, 1916 
  13. 13.     Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 317 
  14. 14.     Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 329  
  15. 15.     Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi, June 11, 1917 
  16. 16.     Mahatma Gandhini Vicharsrishti 
  17. 17.     Speech at Opening of Gokhale, November 12, 1917
  18. 18.     Gopal Krishna Gokhalenan Vyakhyano, Vol. I 
  19. 19.     The Bombay Chronicle, 17-6-1918 
  20. 20.     Letter to Kishorelal Mashruwala, July 29, 1918 
  21. 21.     Letter to Mansukhlal Mehta, August 17, 1918
  22. 22.     Gujarati, 9-3-1919 

 

 

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