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
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
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 color about a patient's
face so as to induce the belief that all is well. Civilization is such a disease
and we have to he very wary.
Reader: Very well, then. I shall bear you on the
Editor: It must he 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 fulfill 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 real devotees visited such places. Nowadays
rogues visit them in order to practice their roguery.
Reader: You have given 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 evil.
Reader: Be that as it may, all the disadvantages of
railways are more than the 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 traveled
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-cater 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- Mohammedan period,
but now we have Mohammedans, Parsis and Christians. How can they be one nation?
Hindus and Mohammedans are old enemies. Our very proverbs prove it. Mohammedans 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 Mohammedans kill
her. The Hindus believe in the doctrine of non-killing, the Mohammedans do not.
We thus meet with differences at every step. How can India he one nation?