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gandhi_collected works vol 12

gandhi_collected works vol 12

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Published by: Nrusimha ( नृसिंह ) on Jan 23, 2009
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VOL. 12: 15 JULY, 1911 - 8 MARCH, 1913
Those of our Colonial-born friends who have not read the
special contribution1

to this journal on the Native Industries Exhibition in Durban, and [sic] published last week, we trust, will hasten to read it and ponder over it. It is written by one who is himself an idealist and who knows thoroughly what he is writing about. He is, moreover, a friend and fellow-worker in the Indian cause. Our contributor\u2019s remarks are therefore worthy of careful consideration by every Indian whose life-mould has not yet been cast or, if it is already cast, does not give real satisfaction. Our future in South Africa depends largely upon the conduct of those who are born in this country and to whom India is merely a geographical expression.

We associate ourselves with the remarks of our contributor that \u201clolling on stools in lawyers\u2019 offices\u201d is no \u201cuseful ambition\u201d. A moment\u2019s thought ought to convince our friends that a nation cannot be built out of clerks or even merchants.\u201cBack to the land\u201d is General Botha\u2019s advice even to the Europeans who, after all, do follow many useful occupations. The world lives on its farmers and those who are indispensable to farmers, e.g., carpenters, shoemakers, black- smiths, masons, bricklayers, tailors, barbers, etc. It is a sad fact that very few Colonial\u2212born Indians are found willing enough to learn or take up these truly noble (because useful) professions. We all live upon the great industry of the Natives and Indians engaged in useful occupations in this country. In this sense they are more civilized than any of us, not excluding European non-producers, inhabiting this continent. Every speculator may leave the country; every lawyer may shut down his office, every merchant may wind up his business; and yet we should live comfortably on this land endowed by nature with a beneficent climate. But if the great Native races were to stop work for a week, we should probably be starving. It must, then, be a privilege for us to be able to copy their productive industry and their ability as matters of useful handicraft. We assure our friends that, even if all the

1 The witer had praised the Natives\u2019 industry, manual skill and intelligence

which were in the evidence at the exhibition. He felt that Colonial-born Indians had no desire to be useful, that education would merely serve to produce clerks among them and that practical training in agriculture or a useful trade was the best way to equip them for public service as well as for life. Indian Opinion, 8-7-1911.


galling disabilities which we labour under in South Africa were to be removed at a stroke the pen, our condition would in no wise be satisfactory until our Colonial-born friends direct their undoubted ability and energy in the channels pointed out in the contribution we have drawn attention to.

Indian Opinion, 15-7-1911

The news that we have had of a complete settlement is satisfying. A campaign which called forth such sacrifices could have had only one result. [Yet] reflecting over the outcome, one is moved to sorrow at our unfortunate state here. Things are so bad that it would seem an edifice had rotted and lay about in ruins. If you still see a vestige of form[about it], it is then due to its solid foundations. People have been enfeebled in body and mind, and economically. Extreme poverty prevails all around. There is a [Gujarati] saying about the idle barber who keeps himself busy shaving wooden seats; likewise you must have also heard the one about \u201cthe weak husband who is brave with his wife\u201d. Sin is the fruit of the tree of poverty. The economic situa-tion has greatly deteriorated. People ask in despair how they can make a living. Here you will [of course] say that agriculture is the best of all. But that is for men who are patient and of a steady temperament. People are in an abject state because of wranglings over affairs of caste, and unhealthy rivalry in regard to commu-nal dinners and social customs; [people\u2019s] tendency to be satis-fied with the earnings of a few hours\u2019 work, say four, six, eight or ten hours; and to waste the rest; such misguided contentment, the terror of the plague, etc. Education, which is believed to be a means for promoting happiness has become instrumental in bringing about the worst state of misery. The strain of learning leaves one a physical wreck. The methods of learning are such that they wholly wear one out in body, in mind, and financially. Add to this the burden of [keeping up] status in society. By the time a man is mature and knowing and tries to hold his head high, he is weighed down with the responsibilities of family.

We find these reflections in a letter by a certain experienced and
educated Indian of South Africa to another. The correspondent has
VOL. 12: 15 JULY, 1911 - 8 MARCH, 1913

given a faithful and vivid picture of conditions in India. We thought it necessary to cite these views and comment on them for the benefit of readers. A patriot\u2019s first duty is to know the state of his country. Having done so, his next duty is to search for a remedy. This done, his third duty is to give effect to the remedy. The state of the country is as set forth above. One cannot question that description. Once the remedy is know, it is up to the readers to put it into practice. Our function is to help them to discover the remedy.

In the very process of setting forth the country\u2019s sorry plight, the correspondent mentioned some of the reasons. Let us consider them further. Starvation is not a cause of misery. It is itself misery. The contentment men find in service is not a cause of degradation; it is degradation in itself. Wranglings over affairs of caste, hypocrisy, unhealthy rivalries, the terror of the plague\u2014these are not causes of a fallen state; they constitute that state. [In fact] there is a single cause for all these. We have forsaken our duty. We have forgotten God and we worship Satan. A man\u2019s duty is to worship God. Telling one\u2019s beads is no symbol of that worship; neither is going to mosque or temple., nor saying then a m a z1 or theg a y a t r i2. These things are all right as far as they go. It is necessary to do the one or the other according to one\u2019s religion. But by themselves they are no indication of one\u2019s being devoted to god in worship. He alone truly adores god who finds his happiness in the happiness of others, speaks evil of none, does not waste his time in the pursuit of riches, does nothing immoral, who acquits himself with others as with a friend, does not fear the plague or any human being. Such a one will not, for fear of his caste, give communal dinners; if he is young, he will not, for fear of his men of his caste, marry before he is old enough or until he feels the need for it, and, if a father, he will not, for fear of men of his caste, ruin his son\u2019s and daughter\u2019s future. Such a one will not pause, in deciding on any course of action, to think of what any individual or community would think of it. He will only ask himself: \u2018What will God within me say of this deed of mine?\u2019 The upshot of all this is that all of us, whether Hindus, Muslims, Parsis or Christians, have forsaken our true religion. If this view is right, what we need is not remedies against the plague or revolt against the British rule; neither big associations with theirostentatious ways of doing things, nor societies

1 The Islamic prayer
2 The Rigvedic hymn to the Sun God

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