(The clothing session of the Inter-Asian Relations conference on April-2, 1947 was a great finale to the intense activity which marked the proceedings during the past ten days. Over 20,000 visitors and delegates and observers gave a great ovation to Gandhiji when Mrs. Naidu introduced him as ‘one of the greatest Asians of the age’. Gandhiji who followed Dr. Sjahriar, the premier of Indonesia, made the following speech: )
I do not think that I should apologize to you for having to speak in a foreign tongue. I
wonder if this loud speaker carries my voice to the farthest end of this vast
audience. If some of those who are far away are unable to listen to what I may
say, it will be the fault of the loud speaker.
I was going to tell you that I do not wish to apologize. I dare not. You cannot
understand the provincial language, which is my mother tongue. I do not want to
insult you by speaking my own language (Gujarati). Our national speech is
Hindustani. I know that it will be a long time before it can be made into an
international speech. For international commerce, undoubtedly, English occupies
the first place. I used to hear that French was the language of diplomacy. I was
told, when I was young, that if I wanted to go from one end of Europe to the
other, I must try to pick up French. I tried to learn French, in order that I
may be able to make myself understood. There is a rivalry between the French and
the English. Having been taught English, I have naturally to resort to it.
I was wondering, as to what I was to speak to you. I wanted to collect my thoughts,
but let me confess to you that I had no time. Yet I had promised yesterday that
I would try to say a few words. While I was coming with Badshah Khan, I asked
for a little piece of paper and pencil. I got a pen, instead of a pencil. I
tried to scribble a few words. You will be sorry to hear that piece of paper is
not by side, though I remember what I wanted to say.
You, friends, have not seen the real India and you are not meeting in conference in
the midst of real India, Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Lahore all these are
big cities and are, therefore, influenced by the west.
I then thought of a story. It was in French and was translated for me by Anglo-French
philosopher. He was an unselfish man. He befriended me without having known me,
because he always sided with the minorities. I was not then in my own country. I
was not only I a hopeless minority, but in a despised minority, if the Europeans
in South Africa will forgive me for saying so. I was a coolie lawyer. At the
time, we had no coolie doctors, and we had no coolie lawyers. I was the first in
the field. You know, perhaps, what is meant by the word ‘coolie’.
This friend his mother was a French woman and his father was an Englishman said: “I
want to translate for you a French story. There were three scientists who went
out from France in search of truth. They went to different parts of Asia. One of
them found his way to India. He began to search. He went to the so called cities
of those times naturally this was before British occupation, before even the
Mogul period. He saw the so-called high caste people, men, women, till he felt
at a loss. Finally, he went to one humble cottage in a humble village. That
cottage was a bhangi-1 cottage and there he found the truth that he was in search of.”
If you really went to see India at its best, you have to find it in the humble
bhangi1 homes of such villages. There are seven
lakhs of such villages, and thirty eight crores of people inhabit them.
If some of you see the Indian villages, you will not be fascinated by the sight. You will
have to scratch below the dung heap. I do not pretend to say that they were
places of paradise. Today, they are really dung heaps. They were not like that
before. What I say is not from history, but from what I have seen myself. I have
travelled from one end of India to the other, and I have seen the miserable
specimens of humanity with the lusterless eyes. They are India. In these humble
cottages, in the midst of these dung heaps, are to be found humble bhangis, in
whom you find the concentrated essence of wisdom.
Again, I have learnt from books written by English historians. We read books written in
English historians, but we do not write in our own mother tongue, or in the
national language Hindustani. We study our history through English books, rather
than through originals. That is the cultural conquest which India has undergone.
The first of these wise men was Zoroaster. He belonged to the East. He was followed by
Buddha who belonged to the East India. Who followed Buddha? Jesus, who came from
the East. Before Jesus was Moses who belonged to Palestine, though he was born
in Egypt. And after Jesus came Mahomed. I omit my reference to Krishna and Rama
and other lights. I do not call them lesser lights but they are less known to a
literary world. All the same, I do not know a single person in the world to
match these men of Asia. And then what happened? Christianity became disfigured,
when it went to the West. I am sorry to have to say that I would not talk any further.
I have told you the story, in order to make you understand that what you see in the big
cities is not the real India. Certainly, the carnage that is going on before our
very eyes is a shameful thing. As I said yesterday, do not carry the memory of
that carnage beyond the confines of India.
What I want you to understand is the message of Asia. It is not be learnt through the
western spectacles or by imitating the atom bomb. If you want to give a message
to the west, it must be the message of love and the message of the truth. I did
not want merely to appeal to your head. I want to capture your heart.
In this age of democracy, in this age of awakening of the poorest of the poor, you can
redeliver this message with the greatest emphasis. You will complete the
conquest of the West, not through vengeance, because you have been exploited,
but with the real understanding. I am sanguine, if all of you put your hearts
together not merely heads to understand the secret of the message these wise men
of the East have left to us, and if really become worthy of that great message,
the conquest of the West will be completed. This conquest will be loved by the West itself.
The West is today pinning the wisdom. It is despairing of a multiplication of the West,
but of the whole world, as if the prophecy of the Bible is going to be fulfilled
and there is to be a perfect deluge. It is up to you to tell the world of its
teachers and my teachers have taught Asia.