Reader : You have deprived me of the consolation I used to have regarding peace in India.
Editor : I have merely given you my opinion on the religious aspect, but
when I give you my views as to the poverty of India, you will perhaps
begin to dislike me because what you and I have hitherto considered
beneficial for India no longer appears to me to be so.
Reader : What may that be?
Editor : Railways, lawyers and doctors have impoverished the country so
much so that, if we do not wake up in time, we shall be ruined.
Reader : I do now, indeed,
fear that we are not likely to agree at all. You are attacking the very
institutions which we have hitherto considered to be good.
Editor : It is necessary to exercise patience. The true inwardness of
the evils of civilization you will understand with difficulty Doctors
assure us that a consumptive clings to life even when he is about to
die. Consumption does not produce apparent hurt—it even produces a
seductive colour about a patient's face so as to induce the belief that
all is well. Civilization is such a disease and we have to be very wary.
Reader : Very well, then. I shall hear you on the railways.
Editor : It must be manifest to you that, but for the railways, the
English could not have such a hold on India as they have. The railways,
too, have spread the bubonic plague. Without them, the masses could not
move from place to place. They are the carriers of plague germs.
Formerly we had natural segregation. Railways have also increased the
frequency of famines because, owing to facility of means of locomotion,
people sell out their grain and it is sent to the dearest markets.
People become careless and so the pressure of famine increases. Railways
accentuate the evil nature of man: Bad men fulfil their evil designs
with greater rapidity. The holy places of India have become unholy.
Formerly, people went to these places with very great difficulty.
Generally, therefore, only the real devotees visited such places.
Nowadays rogues visit them in order to practise their roguery.
Reader : You have given a one-sided account. Good men can visit these
places as well as bad men. Why do they not take the fullest advantage of
the railways ?
Editor : Good travels at a snail's pace — it can, therefore, have little
to do with the railways. Those who want to do good are not selfish, they
are not in a hurry, they know that to impregnate people with good
requires a long time. But evil has wings. To build a house takes time.
Its destruction takes none. So the railways can become a distributing
agency for the evil one only. It may be a debatable matter whether
railways spread famines, but it is beyond dispute that they propagate
Reader : Be that as it may, all the disadvantages of railways are more
than counterbalanced by the fact that it is due to them that we see in
India the new spirit of nationalism.
Editor : I hold this to be a mistake. The English have taught us that we were not one nation before
and that it will require centuries before we become one nation. This is
without foundation. We were one nation before they came to India. One
thought inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we
were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom.
Subsequently they divided us.
Reader : This requires an explanation.
Editor : I do not wish to suggest that because we were one nation we had
no differences, but it is submitted that our leading men travelled
throughout India either on foot or in bullock-carts. They learned one
another's languages and there was no aloofness between them. What do you
think could have been the intention of those farseeing ancestors of ours
who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the
East and Hardwar in the North as places of pilgrimage? You will admit
they were no fools. They knew that worship of God could have been
performed just as well at home. They taught us that those whose hearts
were aglow with righteousness had the Ganges in their own homes. But
they saw that India was one undivided land so made by nature. They,
therefore, argued that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they
established holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people
with an idea of nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the
world. And we Indians are one as no two Englishmen are. Only you and I
and others who consider ourselves civilized and superior persons imagine
that we are many nations. It was after the advent of railways that we
began to believe in distinctions, and you are at liberty now to say that
it is through the railways that we are beginning to abolish those
distinctions. An opium-eater may argue the advantage of opium-eating
from the fact that he began to understand the evil of the opium habit
after having eaten it. I would ask you to consider well what I had said
on the railways.
Reader : I will gladly do so, but one question occurs to me even now.
You have described to me the India of the pre-Mahomedan period, but now
we have Mahomedans, Parsis and Christians. How can they be one nation?
Hindus and Mahomedans are old enemies. Our very proverbs prove it.
Mahomedans turn to the West for worship, whilst Hindus turn to the East.
The former look down on the Hindus as idolaters. The Hindus worship the
cow, the Mahomedans kill her. The Hindus believe in the doctrine of
non-killing, the Mahomedans do not. We thus meet with differences at
every step. How can India be one nation?