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A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
"And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice,
Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."
My correspondent apparently disapproves of my activities—or
should I write inactivities! I know from a previous letter that she
considers I ought to settle down in some large city like Bombay
whilst I remain in India and become respectable, that is, meet
the middle and upper classes, entertain and be entertained, take
hold of some active ambition, hold some sort of a post and stick to
it, and, finally, do everything that all conventional people ought to
She thinks it would be more sensible, ergo, to become a gyrating
human being moving to the so-called melody of jazz in an over-
grown town. She evidently thinks it is better to look out of one's
window on a vista of chimneys, if in Europe, or a vista of flat roofs,
if in India, than on the snow-topped peaks and glittering pinnacles
which preside over my present abode. She believes that I have
isolated myself from reality.
If reality consists of the seething cauldron that is a great city,
and of the greeds and fears and hates which boil within it, I could do
worse than chain my feet to this untainted Himalayan earth, to pass
my days in peaceful contentment, and refuse to drag them back to
the world. But fortunately I am not afraid and I shall return to its
centreless life. I have executed a strategic retreat from the world,
and not abandoned it.
It is not that in her mundane eyes a diviner life has no existence
—far from it—but that she likes to keep social welibeing sainted
and set apart.
My correspondent might, of course, denounce my stillnesses
as sheer laziness but I think she understands them better than that.
I beg her to remember that the virtue which Europeans and Ameri-
cans make of hard work arises out of the necessities of their climate,
just as the virtue which the Oriental makes out of indolence arises
out of the warmth of his climate. Look at any energetic representative
of the West who has spent twenty years in India. The change is
startling. The one-time apostle of hard work has become a practi-
tioner on the path of indolence. The atmosphere has absorbed him,
the climate has conquered him, strong muscles and all.
But we Westerners have made a reverenced fetish out of excess
of energy; we have turned industriousness into a little god. Whenever
I visit the West I have to fit myself with a long diary, the longer its
pages the better, for there one question crops up every hour:
"What must I do next?" or "Who must I see next?" It is impossible
to draw up the chair to the fireside and just sit idle for an hour.
After all, some of us are like the Biblical fishermen, who toiled