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92 Gi95re 52-35582 

92 Oi95re, 52-35582 


Quest for Gandhi. 


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Reginald Reynolds 

To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name 




First published 1952, in the United States 

Printed in Great Britain 
















Gandhi was known by a number of names and I have used some of 
them in their various forms. It should not be difficult to remember 
that Gandhi, Gandhiji, Bapu, Bapuji, the Mahatma or Mahatmaji all 
refer to the same person. (Russian variations, including patronymics, 
as used, e.g., by Tolstoy, can be much more confusing.) 

In compensation for this I have avoided using the new names of 
former provinces (now States) which did not, in fact, come into use 
constitutionally until the day I left India, last year. To many who 
knew a little of India in past years it will be more helpful to find 
references to the United or Central Provinces than to be confronted 
by Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh. But the future traveller will be 
wise to make himself familiar with these and many other names not 
to be found on the old maps. 


The author s thanks are due to Ethel Mannin for her help 
in reading the proofs of this book. 




And, snug as Jonah in the Whale, 
You may loll back and dream a tale. 


WE ARE at Port Said. It is raining and I am in the hospital of the 
Stratheden, bound for Tilbury. It is still early February, and immediate 
prospects are altogether somewhat cheerless for anyone "with a chill 
on the kidneys, or whatever fancy name they give it nowadays. 

But at least I am not regretting my inability to visit the emporium 
of Simon Arzt, or to run the gauntlet of those cosmopolitan touts 
who line the bazaars. Novelty, I suppose, was the only attraction of 
the place when I arrived here, in 1929, on my first voyage to the East, 

I was twenty-four then, and the whole thing was a grand adven 
ture. I sailed in late September, when warmth still clung to the 
western seas. The arrival at Port Said was the first peak of excitement. 
This was the East, and my own initiation. Before dawn I heard the 
great cables clang, the shouts from ship to shore; and from a bath 
room porthole I saw a flaming football pushed suddenly over the rim 
of the earth. Someone had told me the East begins where men wear 
their shirts outside their trousers . There was now no doubt that I 
had already arrived. 

At Port Said, on that first trip, we stayed some hours for coal. I 
had not until then realised quite how abrupt could be the change in 
say - the value of a human being. From the grey hours onwards 
there was a ceaseless moaning noise, and when I came first on deck I 
realised that the sound was made by Arabs who were bringing the 
coal on board. In endless procession they panted up the gangways, at 
the foot of which overseers of some sort stood with lengths of rope. 
The rope s end was used to flick nonchalantly at the sweating bodies 
as they passed - not hard, so far as I could judge, but as part of a 
ritual, no doubt preserved since the time of the Pharaohs. After I had 
explored my first Eastern town I was astonished to find many of these 
labourers asleep on the deck of the ship, lying among the grime and 
breathing the coal dust: I can still recall vividly the mixed odour of 
coal and sweat. 

I was shocked and depressed, but not discouraged in my belief that 
contact with the East would yet prove exhilarating. In this, indeed, I 
was not disappointed, except for the two days which I spent in 
Bombay. Apart from the fortunate few who live on one of the hills 
outside the city, the people of Bombay breathe the atmosphere of a 
Turkish bath after the monsoons - and that was my first impression 
of India on my arrival. But I had no need to remain long in this 
enervating place I was on my way to Sabarmati, the ashram of 
Mahatma Gandhi, for a otay of indefinite duration. 

Europeans are rare, even today, in the ashrams of India; in 1929 
they were even rarer. I shall not attempt to define an ashram. One 
differs a good deal from another, and before I have finished this book 
I shall have described a few individually; but I could no more define 
them generically than I could define a tree. I had not said much to 
my travelling acquaintances on the ship about my plans in India, for 
these plans were too absurdly vague to be quite credible. The result 
had been a certain air of mystery about my intentions, increasing 
general curiosity. 

Even on my recent visit an affable Punjabi accosted me on a rail 
way station and the result was the following curious dialogue: 
Good day, sir, you are here on business? 

You are not selling anything? 9 (with surprise). 

Bewilderment was followed by a look of enlightenment and the 
catechism continued: 

You are in one of the Services?* 

No/ I had to keep it up, just to see how far he would go and on 
what lines. 

* "No . . . No . . . No!" Then you are travelling for pleasure? 

I hope I was not unfriendly. His persistence fascinated me as much 
as the three grooves into which his curiosity overflowed. With a little 
more reflection he might have considered me next as a possible 
missionary, but he did not. Not on business, he said, in a tone that 
was half amused and half expostulatory, not in the Services and not 
here on pleasure! In 1950 I could at least have given my questioner 
a simple, positive answer, had he cared to put his question in four 
simple words. It was with a slight regret that I watched him shuffle 
off, instead, to tell the whole incredible story to one of his friends. 

But on the ship -which brought me to India in 1929 those of my 
companions -who had asked quite directly why I was going had 
received evasive answers. How could I put into a form that hard- 
boiled businessmen, Civil servants, Army people and the like would 
appreciate, the unsorted mixture of romance, politics, escapism, 
curiosity and other ingredients which was propelling me to India? 

My reticence had been the occasion of many misgivings. Like the 
Punjabi gentleman, the Europeans on that ship knew that a person 
might travel to India to sell something or as a member of the Services. 
They would have allowed the third possibility of travelling for 
pleasure and admitted a fourth, as some of my fellow travellers were 
wives of missionaries rejoining their husbands in what they called 
The Field . (I have known a number of missionaries and often tried 
to find out about this Field, but without success. I have always 
visualised it as a good-sized meadow where missionaries are per 
petually busy with sickles.) But I cannot have looked sufficiently 
affluent for one who travels for pleasure, and the missionary 
memsahibs must have reported that I had failed to give the counter 
sign. Then, in some embarrassment, one man who had been more 
friendly with me than most of the passengers (and nearly all were 
good-natured, kindly people in their relations with me) had drawn 
me aside for a Few Words of Advice from an Older Man. 

What it had all amounted to was this. I was young. I travelled 
alone. Other people had definite jobs to go to, which was right and 
regular. I had not. It was nobody s business to quiz me and my friend 
was not going to. But some of them had been talking about me and 
they were concerned that I should not get Wrong Ideas into my 
head. I was (God help me) the type of bright young man who would 
probably want to write a book. Anybody could see I was a writer by 
observing the amount of writing I did and using his powers of 
deduction. There had been far too many cold-weather tourists 
popping into India for a few months and then writing books that 
did *a lot of harm over there*. And so on. 

Somebody s happy hunting ground was evidently menaced. The 
same man - one of the few of that voyage whom I later met in 
India - put the matter more bluntly when he said to me in Calcutta 
that the country was *the flesh-pots of Egypt to us*. I listened to his 
advice on both occasions, and to a degree which astonishes me I find 
that I took it. The book my friend dreaded was not written, unless it 
could be said that I am writing it now. I returned to England in the 

summer of 1930, studied Indian economic and social history in my 
spare time for seven years, and produced my first book "when I "was 
thirty-two. It is true that my book was about India, but it was 
certainly not an account of the few months that I had spent there. 
My journals of that journey have remained unpublished they are 
among the material which I am now using for the first time. 

The Sabarmati ashram, for which I left Bombay so precipitately in 
1929, is near Ahmedabad - a night s journey to the north of Bombay 
and sufficiently inland to be free from that humidity "which, had so 
distressed me on arrival. I travelled second class on that journey, also 
on some of my last journeys in 1930, when I was ill. Otherwise my 
travels on my first visit to India were all by third class, or Inter/ 
when there were no third-class carriages on the train. ( Inter. was a 
fourth class, between second and third. The old Inter.* coaches are 
still in use, I find, but most of them are labelled Class IT, with an 
appropriate increase in the cost of using them.) 

One result of travelling second class was that I unrolled my newly- 
purchased bedding, 1 put on pyjamas, and went very soundly to 
sleep. I woke to find the train actually standing at Ahmedabad 
station, and being quite unused to the ways of Indian trains I 
jumped on to the platform in my pyjamas, having rolled most of my 
clothes hurriedly into my bedding. The train, of course, had I but 
known, probably remained another half hour at the station, while 
people argued about reservations with the inspector and with each 
other, going from end to end of the platform accompanied by 
coolies burdened with impossible weights of cumbersome and quite 
unbelievable luggage. (I refer, for example, to those heavy bronze 
vessels and other peculiar necessities of life which sometimes make 
even a sadhu on the road look like a rag-and-bone man doing a side 
line in ironmongery.) 

I said Gandhi Ashram 9 to a tonga-wallah (that is to say, a wallah 
who drives a tonga), and to my relief he repeated it clearly. It was 
early, by my standard, when the skinny horse halted at Sabarmati 
about 8 or 9 a.m. but the ashram had begun its day at 4. The 
sprawling mill town of Ahmedabad had not, at that time, spread far 
in the Sabarmati direction. The ashram was about three miles from 
the town, with a river between, which -was still quite broad and 

1 la India one learns the mining of the expression: *Take up thy bed and -walk." 
Only -wealthy hosts provide bedding it is normally assumed that the visitor will have 
brought it "with him. 

swift, recently replenished by the monsoons. Altogether, it looked 

This place, to which I had come for a stay of unknown duration, 
appeared as a collection of pleasantly proportioned buildings, mostly 
of one storey, and surrounded by verandahs. I was met by a few- 
people in white khaddar, the hand-spun and hand-woven cloth which 
distinguished the active Gandhi-wallahs and Congress workers. They 
were expecting me, but explained that Gandhi was away from the 
ashram and would not be back for about three weeks. (He was, so 
far as I remember, on a speaking tour in another part of the country.) 
I was taken to a room overlooking the water; and a few minutes after 
my arrival I enjoyed, for the first time in my life, the ecstasy of 
swimming in a swift Indian river. My body was carried without 
effort by waters that cooled but never chilled. I have never experi 
enced the same sensuous joy ^vhen swimming in Europe, except 
once in the Rhine, at Basle, during the record heat-wave of 1947. It 
is curious that my first impression of the austere life of Sabarmati 
should be perpetually associated "with such voluptuous sensations. 

It is necessary to turn to my original journal letters of that time, 
"written for the information of a few friends in England, in order to 
recall accurately the details of my life at Sabarmati, while waiting 
for Gandhi to return. I was not the only European living there. 
Some four years previously Mirabehn* had come to the ashram, but 
Mira, bless her heart, can wait this is my story and not hers; and at 
the moment it is the story of the circumstances in which I came to 
know Mahatma Gandhi. For "without some efibrt to describe my 
association with him and with Sabarmati twenty years ago I can 
explain very little about my second visit to India, in 1949, or even 
why I returned at all. 

Many forgotten incidents and impressions come back to my 
memory as I read my journals. I evidently noted the better physique 
of the country people after having seen only Bombay and Ahmeda- 
bad, as I drove along the road on my first journey to Sabarmati. 
They appeared sturdy and self-reliant as they passed, many of them 
carrying great weights on their heads, singing and talking on their 
way across the dry, sandy plain, I noticed the monkeys playing in 
the road on my arrival at the ashram, *a strange place, half farm, half 
monastery*. I had not yet made the acquaintance of the technical 
school where ginning, carding, spinning and weaving were taught. 
I appear to have ignored also, in my first impressions, the school 

where the children were being taught on lines probably not very 
different from those which have since become well known in India 
for it must surely have been here that Gandhi s conception of Basic 
Education was evolved. But I pkyed with the youngsters in the 
river and found them in many ways the easiest company in this 
strange place with its unfamiliar cultural tradition. 

Then there was the C.I.D. man who was on my track -within an 
hour of my arrival, wanting to know all about me. And there was 
my first reaction to Indian music when I attended the ashram prayers, 
held in the early morning and in the evening on a patch of sand 
above the river. It took me a long time to develop any appreciation 
of Indian music and even today I find some of it hard going. It was 
soon clear, in fact, that life at Sabarmati was going to need more 
patience than I had supposed. Patience was not my strong point; but 
I had gone to India "with a determination to make amends, so far as 
one person could do so, for all the degradation that Indians had 
suffered from the British. When I thought of that I found that I 
could generally put up with most things chanting that sounded 
monotonous and threatened to be interminable, neighbours who 
seemed incapable of reading to themselves without reading aloud, 
people who came and stared at one in silence or worse still en 
gaged one -without warning in major questions about God or 
Western Civilisation. 

Until Gandhi arrived at the ashram there were no outstanding 
personalities at Sabarmati, except MahadevDesai, Gandhi s secretary, 
a man endowed -with what is sometimes called charm*. But there 
were some rather bogus people whose presence made it harder to 
appreciate the place and its real purpose. One, I remember, was a 
man who had fasted for fifty-five days and lost his memory for 
about three months afterwards. I noted that his memory, so far as 
the fast was concerned, had evidently returned to him, as he con 
tinually referred to it. Himself, his fast and the state of his health (on 
which he volunteered information every time one met him) were 
his sole subjects of conversation. He appeared to be one of the most 
robust members of the community, but walked with a reeling 
waddle, which disappeared - so I discovered - at a distance of a mile 
or so from the ashram. To do justice to the ashram community, I 
should add that many appeared quite unimpressed. I was even in 
formed by one sceptic that during the delirium which followed his 
fast this man continually asked for food and added, But don t let 

Mahatmaji know/ An examination of my own unconscious mind 
would have revealed a chronic craving for coffee and nicotine. But 
then, I was not a holy man, and my plain living had little to do with 
high thinking. 

Another curious specimen was the man who lived on unfixed 
food*. Gandhi had experimented unsuccessfully not long since with 
a diet consisting exclusively of uncooked food of vegetable origin; 
many had imitated him, they had made themselves ill and abandoned 
the experiment which was reasonable enough, as the object was 
intended to be an improvement in health. This man, however, had 
thrived on the diet, but nothing was further from his mind than 
bodily health or so he maintained. His object was the realisation 
of God through the suppression of desire. One day I heard this very 
holy man engaged in a loud an d angry argument (a thing uncommon 
at Sabarmati) in -which he was maintaining that, as he ate no cooked 
food, he should not be expected to put in the hour s work for the 
kitchen -which had been allocated to him among his responsibilities. 

I learnt to spin -never very well-tried my hand at ginning, 
carding and weaving (recalling ironically the winding sheet of 
Edward s race ), worked in the fields every morning, and began to 
learn Sanskrit and Hindi. I talked a great deal, finding my com 
panions very eager to discuss every imaginable subject, but always 
as I felt - a little heavily. When anything really amused me I had to 
put it into a letter or into my journals; for not until Gandhi arrived 
did I find anyone with whom I could really share the lighter side of 
life. (His sense of humour was to be one of my most welcome dis 
coveries. 1 ) The ashramites talked of him incessantly, quoting his 
words on every subject under discussion. And nearly always they 
spoke of him as Bapu or Bapuji*. Bapu* has been rendered as 
Father , but I think Dad* expresses it more nearly. It is a familiar 
and affectionate title. The ji* at the end is the usual sufEx implying 
respect, like our Mr . And mean-while Mr Daddy wrote me letters 
in his own hand, on the coarse hand-made paper which he always 
used "when it was available. 

1 It could be devastating. Verrier El-win, whom the reader -will meet in due course, 
once came to see Bapu when he was staying with a high-caste Indian lady. For caste 
reasons she did not wish to give Elwin hospitality, but would not admit the real 
reason, which Gandhi immediately recognised. She said she had no spare room. 
Gandhiji said die verandah would do. But -what about his bath, asked the lady. *He 
doesn t bath, said Bapu, beginning to enjoy himself. "And the toilet . . . ? The reply 
was shattering: *Oh, Verrier sublimates everything.* 

The first of these letters was concerned mainly -with my health and 
gave advice as to food. Gandhi also wanted me to *get the meaning 
of the verses and hymns sung at prayer time*, and to write to him 
regularly each week until his return to Sabarmati, giving him freely 
my impressions of life there. His advice as to the verses and hymns I 
evidently followed to the best of my ability, for I have an old 
exercise book in "which large chunks of the Bhagavad Gita and other 
poems are written with their English translations as expounded by 
the man who was teaching me Sanskrit. Most of this instruction I 
have long forgotten, but a line here and there remains in my mind. 

Once, for example, on my recent visit, I met a learned pandit from 
Benares - he was introduced to me on a mountain as a great Sanskrit 
scholar, and when I was on my way down I overtook him. Wishing 
to be friendly, but hampered by the . difficulties of language, I 
suddenly recalled a little of what I learned at Sabarmati and chanted 
aline of the Gita: 

Visaya vinivartante, niraharasya dehinah . . . 

They were chosen at random, and must have sounded strange from 
an Englishman who knew only a few words of Hindustani. (The 
rough meaning is that material objects cease to concern a man who 
does not take food.) But the old pandit was delighted and instantly 
capped my lines with the next two (which explain that, after the 
realisation of God, the desire of such a man for sexual gratification is 
annihilated). It was a strange conversation between two strangers on 
a mountain. 

The great festival of Devali came while I was still awaiting 
Gandhi s arrival at the ashram. Even at Sabarmati, where there was a 
puritanical devotion to work and mistrust of leisure, two days 
holiday celebrated this occasion the Hindu New Year, honoured 
by illuminations and loud explosions such as England reserves for 
the commemoration, of Guy Fawkes, at about the same time. 

I was taken into Ahmedabad to see the celebrations there, and 
visited some world-famous mosques. After I had admired the 
minarets and innumerable columns of carefully chiselled stone (all 
cut in most intricate patterns and deliberately constructed to give as 
much echo as possible) I explored the magnificent ruins of the old 
walled city it contrasted strangely with the factory chimneys and 
the dirty cinema we passed in the modern town. My journals then 
refer to my first experience of notoriety - and of untouchability: 

White khadi* is rather conspicuous on anyone, but when an 
Englishman wears a dhoti of this material he must be prepared to 
be stared at by everyone in the street. However, my friends at the 
ashram implored me to do so, because it would be such an excellent 
advertisement for the khadi movement. So I entered Ahmedabad 
in full Oriental dress, hand-spun and hand-woven, to put to 
shame those unpatriotic citizens who clothed themselves in mill- 
cloth and even in Western style. 

Of course, everywhere we went we collected a crowd. It was 
worst outside a Hindu temple "where the religious celebrations were 1 ^ 
going on. There I had the experience of being refused admission: 
no reason was given, but I gather that Europeans are technically 
Untouchables because of their deficiency in personal hygiene, 

jj was too reticent in those days to specify in what this deficiency 
consisted. For the benefit of those who do not know, I should explain 
that a caste Hindu, if he keeps all the rules, bathes every day in run 
ning water, cleans his teeth after every meal, uses water for a purpose 
which is served in a European toilet by paper, always washes his 
hands after such occasions, and removes his shoes or sandals (with 
the dirt of the road) before entering a living room or a kitchen - 
especially a kitchen. His objection to European conceptions of 
hygiene are (i) that Christian teaching is silent on these essential 
matters, which a good Hindu considers a monstrous omission, be 
cause hygiene (or his conception of hygiene) is an inseparable part of 
his religion; (2) that he cannot believe that people who do not make 
hygiene a matter of religious instruction can possibly take it seriously 
or be trusted to behave fastidiously enough; (3) that Europeans have 
the disgusting habit of sitting in their own dirty bath water instead of 
pouring water over themselves; (4) that few Europeans clean their 
teeth after eating; (5) that they use paper . . . (*Can paper deanse? I 
was once asked in a horrified voice) ; (6) that hand-washing is left to 
individual taste, and cannot be relied upon; and (7) that we defile 
our houses "with the filth on our shoesy 

There are probably many other points I mention only those that 
occur to my mind, recalling many conversations on this interesting 
topic. So much has been said and written by Europeans much of it 
with good reason - in criticism of the personal habits of Indians, that 
it is just as well to remember the case as a good Hindu sees it. He even 
eats with his hand (his right hand the left being used for a truly 
sinister purpose, and strictly taboo at the table) because, as he very 

reasonably remarks, you can be sure of your hand being clean, but 
who cleaned the spoon? However, it is time I returned to my own 
experience of being treated as an Untouchable. My friends were 
indignant about this refusal of temple entry. They talked solemnly 
of reporting the matter to Gandhiji as a case meriting immediate 
attention a case almost on his own doorstep at that. Whether they 
said anything or not, it is evident that I mentioned the matter myself 
as an amusing incident in one of my letters - it seemed to me rather 
appropriate that Hindus should get their own back for British 
superiority, and I did not mind personally that I happened to be the 
supposed victim on this occasion. 

Gandhi s reply was typical. He mistook my ironical amusement 
for charity, gave me full marks for that, but added that the hideous 
truth is that this bar is a variety of the curse of untouchability*. He 
must have been concerned by the multiplicity of my interests, for in 
this letter he warned me against being greedy about doing many 
things at once 9 . He wanted me to do some things at least well . This 
referred to things taught at the ashram. 

One day at Sabarmati very much resembled any other, and I fell 
in with the monastic simplicity - even the monotony - of the life 
more easily than I should have expected to do. We rose at 4 a.m., 
roused by a quite intolerable and insistent bell, and hurried to the 
prayer ground with hurricane lamps. I remember that a poem of 
Tagore s, chanted on the second day of Devali, was the first thing I 
heard there which appealed to my Western ear. Every day they sang 
the hymn already quoted - in which Krishna describes the ideal 
man, *the man with the balanced mind , who appeared to me very 
bland and imperturbable, and not at all to my liking. But there was 
something that fascinated me about those gatherings of white-robed 
figures under the stars, especially the brief silence -which was part of 
the ritual. 

From 5 to 6 o clock one bathed and dressed, and I either washed 
my clothes in the approved Indian manner by bashing them good 
and hard -with a lump of wood, or I would do some other personal 
chores such as cleaning my room. The room was a square stone cell, 
with two shelves and two built-in cupboards. There was also a rough 
bedstead (an unexpected luxury), and on my arrival the only chair 
in the ashram had been put at my disposal. But I soon managed to be 
rid of it. I gave up shaving at Sabarmati - there seemed to be no time 
for it and began to grow a very ineffective beard. 


At 6 o clock die common chores began, and in my early days I 
joined the squad which cut up vegetables for the kitchen. This was 
considered a privilege, as Gandhi himself chose this work when he 
was at the ashram, and one could talk to him at the job. Breakfast 
consisted of milk or rob (a kind of wheaten porridge) with a piece of 
dry toast. Then at 7 o clock another bell sounded, announcing the 
beginning of the day s serious work. For me this meant the land. I 
would work outdoors for about three and a half hours, breaking the 
hard earth with an instrument that is swung downwards, like a pick, 
but with an adze at the end of it - something like a mattock without 
the chisel edge. 

At 10.50 we had our midday meal rice, chapatis (unleavened 
bread), boiled vegetables, dahl (pulse) and ghee (oil made from 
butter). Sometimes there would be milk, curds or fruit. No spices 
were used. We worked on from noon till 4.30 and in my case this 
meant the technical school, with sometimes a break for lessons in 
Sanskrit and Hindustani, or a lecture on the khadi movement. This 
last would be partly an exposition of the theory behind the effort to 
build up the cotton industry again, as a decentralised village craft, 
and partly a course of instruction in practical methods. 

At 4.30 I would go swimming, accompanied by most of the 
children. There was a good diving pool until the waters subsided. 
The evening meal, similar to that at midday, was at 5.40. For meals 
we sat on the stone floor of a long building, facing each other in two 
long rows, the servers walking up and down with large bowls of 
food and jugs of water. "We used only bronze tails (trays) and vessels 
of bronze, each person cleaning his own utensils by the simple and 
effective Indian method of rubbing them with earth and rinsing 
with water. One evening there was an unusual number of people at 
the place -where this cleaning was done, and some of us took our 
things down to the river. Great fish, called malchri, about two feet 
long, came and snapped up morsels of food almost out of our hands. 
They seemed to be quite tame . 1 

The time from 6.20 until 7 p.m. I tried to keep apart for studying 
Hindi; but the demands of my journal and correspondence gradually 
made this impossible, and cut into every minute of available time. 
At 7 o clock there were prayers again, and any general announce- 

1 Perhaps because there was no fishing. Ahimsa (non-violence) was so strictly observed 
that when we caught venomous snakes, as we did on several occasions, they were 
gently deposited in a neighbouring nullah. 


ments relating to the life and work of the ashram. Soon after 8 one 
-went to bed - with prayers again at 4 a.m. it seemed only reasonable. 

As I shall have more to say later about decentralised industry I "will 
not discuss at this point one of the main functions of the ashram, 
which was the training of young men and women for -work in the 
villages, principally in connection with the revival ofkhadi or khaddar 
(hand-spun and hand-woven cloth). The life at Sabarmati, it will be 
observed, was highly disciplined - if you could not stand up to it you 
would not be of much use in the village work, either for the con 
structive programme or for leading a civil disobedience campaign. 

In a country where time matters, if possible, even less than it does 
in Ireland ( There s time enough*) or in Spain ( Mariana 9 ) it was 
astonishing how rigidly Gandhi managed to rule Sabarmati by the 
clock. In this he openly admired Western practice, and never minded 
being called a slave to his watch the big, ugly timepiece that he -was 
always consulting. I was warned by many, before I ever met him, 
that appointments with the Old Man must be kept to the minute 
he would take no excuse for unpunctuality, kept nobody waiting 
himself and would not be kept waiting. The late-comer would find 
he had missed his chance. In this matter and many others I already 
felt I knew Gandhi before I ever met him but most of all I felt that 
the place and its routine reflected his mind. To know Sabarmati in 
those days was in a great measure - to know its founder and 
spiritual head. 

Another extract from my journals describes the people of the 
ashram under four heads, with some indication of the functions ful 
filled by this place: 

The community may be roughly divided into four classes. 
First there are the members of the ashram, including its permanent 
staff, all under certain vows which include celibacy and poverty. 
They constitute something like a monastic order, comparable to 
that of St Francis in many respects, and their membership con 
tinues for life, whether they continue to reside here or not. 

Next, there are the students. They are mostly young men 
(though there are also older men, and women) and mostly 
educated, but they come from every part of India and from every 
class, including both Brahmins and Untouchables . During the 
time that they spend here (about eighteen months) they learn the 
whole science of spinning and weaving, including cleaning, gin 
ning, carding and sizing. They study everything connected with 

these arts, from the construction of the tools and machines used 
in different parts of the country to the economics of the Khaddar 
Movement. Then they go out to their own districts to work in 
the distributing and selling centres, or perhaps to create such 
centres. By means of these centres, cotton is supplied to the 
spinners and yarn to the weavers, and the products sold again 
without a middleman s profits; and advice is given to the villagers 
for the improvement of their apparatus. 

The third class is that of the children who come here to 
Gandhiji s model school, where education of a national and 
religious character is provided. It is one of the Mahatma s serious 
charges against the Government that their system of education is 
an attempt to anglicise the nation, and this same charge is brought 
against many of the mission schools. The English language and 
literature have ousted Hindi and Sanskrit in these schools, and the 
teaching of History is said to be a piece of systematic political 
propaganda. A number of young fellows here have given me 
their personal experience of this system, and I was specially 
amazed at what was told me of the mission schools. For instance, 
the wearing ofkhadi is either discouraged or prohibited in most of 
the Government colleges, which is quite understandable when one 
considers that the khadi movement is avowedly directed against 
British trade; but the mission schools, -which are not directly 
involved in this struggle, take up the same attitude in many 
cases. However, they are often dependent on Government grants. 

After which digression I return to the fourth class of ashramites 
the guests (such as myself) who come for a short or indefinite 
period at the invitation of Gandhiji. "We live in a bungalow build 
ing close by the river, but work and take our meals with -the 
members and students. Some are doing special research or political 
work, but everyone here accepts the discipline of the ashram, and 
puts in at least a portion of his time with the charkha (spinning- 

It was towards the end of November that Gandhi returned to 
Sabarmati. In. the dim light one evening I saw him, and heard his 
voice for the first time at prayers the following morning. Soon we 
must meet, but he was a very busy man and I was quite prepared to 
wait my turn. It came unexpectedly, as I was working that day in the 
weaving shed trying to make a carpet and realising how much 
more difficult it is than one would expect it to be. 

Then somebody behind me laughed and I turned round. Well, 
stranger/ he said. 



His fools in vesture strange 

God sent to range 
The World, and said: Declare 
Untimely wisdom; bear 
Harsh witness and prepare 

The paths of change* 

w. G. HOLE 

ALMOST THE first thing that Gandhi said to me, after I returned 
bis greeting, was by "way of a question - a clinical question which 
doctors and nurses ask by way of routine, but not the sort of question 
generally asked by a host in this country when greeting a guest. 

India is a country, however, -where a great deal of prudery in 
behaviour - as we should regard it is found side by side with* very 
outspoken conversation. If you are really concerned with your 
guest s health, what is more reasonable than to enquire from him as 
to the state of his bowels? Gandhi has often been called a Puritan, and 
so he was in many respects. But his puritanism had more in common 
with that of Stubbes and the straight-firom-the-shoulder stuff of our 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than it had with the coy, evasive, 
mincing British puritanism of the last hundred years. Many things 
were taboo at Sabarmati, but there was no taboo on discussing them, 
or on tte discussion of any subject whatsoever. 

So we began with a very detailed discussion of my state of health, 
which was followed by some excellent advice from the old man he 
had not experimented on his own body for a lifetime without learn 
ing a great deal about health, and particularly about food. As a 
memory to treasure - and, after all, one s first meeting with a man 
like Gandhi is a great event - this discourse was hardly what I would 
have chosen in those days. But today I am glad that it was so true to 
type. For I never knew a man who set out more deliberately not to 
impress people. He could never c put on an act*; but when something 
spectacular seemed to be expected he would produce what looked to 
me like a calculated anticlimax. (The great Quaker saint, John 
Woolman, had this in common with Gandhi; and indeed he shared 

many other characteristics -with the Mahatma.) Months later, wjbten 
Gandhi was arrested in 1930, the whole business was beautifully 
staged by the Government they cut off all telegraphic communica 
tion for a whole night and surrounded Gandhi s camp with armed 
police. Then the officials who were to make the arrest entered the 
camp and woke their man from his sleep. One of those who were 
present told me that Bapu was given a few minutes for anything he 
might want to do or say an admirable opportunity for a dramatic 
farewell to his companions, which nobody but a really great man 
could have resisted. I understand that all he said was: Thank you 
very much; I think I ll clean my teeth/ 

From the first I liked this dear old man, with his bald pate (except 
for the sacred tuft* it was close-shaven wherever the hair still pre 
sumed to grow). He wore spectacles over his pointed nose, and his 
birdlike mouth was as full of laughter and kindness as it was empty of 
teeth -for he considered it vanity to wear his false teeth except 
when eating. I call him old, though he was then only sixty, because 
he looked so old, even in those days. And yet he had more vitality 
than anyone I ever knew. But it took me a long time to understand 
a little about the quality in Gandhi which gave him such enormous 
power in India. I saw him at first as a kindly, practical, sensible, un 
emotional person, of devastating sincerity; but I knew there must be 
more than that about him and hoped that time would disclose the 

Two of his notes to me, written at Sabarmati, are of some interest 
because they demonstrate further that practical and personal atten 
tion to detail which was so astonishing in a man with really weighty 
matters on his mind. Once a week Bapu "would have a Silence Day*, 
when he -would not speak to anybody. The reason was simple 
enough there was absolutely no privacy in his life, and a day of 
complete silence offered the only chance to deal with articles and 
correspondence. Each of the notes to which I refer was written on a 
Silence Day. 

The first was concerned with the welfare and comfort of two 
American guests who were coining to Sabarmati for a day or two. 
The note expressed anxiety that they should have the necessary 
creature comforts supplied to them so long as it is in our power to 
do so*. I was asked to act as *corhost with an Indian member of the 
community *and see that they do not feel strangers in a strange land*. 
Only those who know the pressure of Work under which such notes 


were written will ever appreciate their full value. There was at that 
time a first-class political crisis, with political leaders continually 
arriving at the ashram for consultations. Gandhi was, of course, 
giving this matter his closest attention. He was also editing Young 
India and writing most of the articles in it, dealing with his vast 
correspondence, personally superintending the work of the All- 
India Spinners* Association and concerned -with the administration 
of the ashram. At one time, I remember., he was also acting as the 
spokesman of the Ahmedabad millworkers in a dispute with the 
employers. He was frequently asked to arbitrate himself in many 
personal and political disputes, and I know not -what else besides. 
Add to this the fact that he never missed his morning walk (when 
few could keep pace with him) or his daily hour at the spinning- 
wheel or the morning and evening prayers it was certainly an 
achievement that he was never too busy to be the perfect host, and 
that he had time for the troubles of every child at the ashram. 

The other Silence Day letter is even more remarkable, for the 
same reason. The old man had passed me as he came from his bath, 
and noticed that my nose was bleeding. The few lines he wrote and 
sent to me five minutes later were by way of advice as to "what I 
should do about it. 

I have said that he never had any privacy. Few people can ever 
have had a really private interview with Gandhi. I noticed with sur 
prise that when he first gave me half an hour to discuss my plans 
with him, four other people were in the room at the time of my 
arrival and many others immediately crowded round the open doors. 
But it was when I set out for Wardha with the Gandhi menage that 
I really saw the full extent to -which he was positively persecuted by 
the adoration and curiosity of the people. 

The old ashram at "Wardha, in the Central Provinces, was pur 
destination not Sevagram, which lies outside the town of Wardha 
and was built many years later, but a place similar in its regime to 
Sabarmati, differing from it (in my view) chiefly in the absence of a 
river and the fact that life there seemed to me rather more bleak. 
(Among other things, I recall that they used a really horrible vege 
table oil in place of ghee.} We travelled to Wardha third ckss - $a 
va sans dire - and Gandhiji, from the moment we left Ahmedabad 
station, struggled with correspondence in spite of the usual over 
crowding (fortunately not so bad in those days as it has become since) . 
Indeed, he even began writing before the train left Ahmedabad 


station, in spite of the crowd which had assembled on tKe platform. 
In Ahmedabad he was seen frequently, and evidently felt no duty to 
speak on this occasion. The jolting of the abominable rolling stock 
did not disturb him any more than did the admirers at Ahmedabad. 
It was when we stopped at later stations that the difficulties began. 

Everywhere that we halted, vast crowds were waiting 011 the plat 
forms. People struggled to get near Gandhi and present their hanks 
of hand-spun cotton an innovation which had replaced, in his 
case, the usual garlands of flowers with which visitors in India are 
often honoured. Money would be brought for the All-India 
Spinners Association, and at most pkces the Mahatma spoke to the 
crowds -very soberly, concerned that their volatile enthusiasm 
should be canalised in practical forms of expression. (How they even 
knew he was on the train was a mystery - the journey had not been 
previously announced in the press, and yet the crowds included 
peasants who had walked up to twenty miles to the nearest station 
people who, in any case, were unlikely to read newspapers and 
certainly did not own radio sets.) 

The line of attack on such occasions was generally very much the 
same, as explained to me by other members of the party. He would 
discuss the curse of untouchability, the need for Hindu-Moslem 
unity and brotherhood, the khaddar movement and rehabilitation of 
village industries, the equal place of women, along -with men, in the 
national renaissance, and the campaign against drink and drugs (such 
as opium). Sometimes he would hold up his hand when talking of 
this five-point programme, and ask an audience of peasants to do the 
same, so that they might remember each point, finger by finger. 
And then he would say that the wrist stood for non-violence - the 
source and life of all the points he had enumerated. The five points 
were, of course, merely the first steps in the Constructive Programme. 

In the Ttduka of Bardoli the crowds were doubled. Here a recent 
no-tax campaign had forced the Government, after a prolonged 
struggle, to appoint a commission of investigation. (The campaign 
had been led by Vallabhbhai Patel, until his death the strong man* of 
the present Indian Government.) As the report of the Commission 
had vindicated almost all the claims of the peasants, the prestige of 
the All-India National Congress stood exceptionally high in this 
part of the country; but one also noticed the superior discipline of 
people who had faced imprisonment, confiscation of property and 
police brutality without giving way. The crowds here were well 

organised, seated (instead of struggling to get near our carriage) hi 
closely packed rows. 

Writing and speaking went on alternately. But the little man did 
know how to rest. He was better able to do so than most people, 
when he wanted to, for he shared "with Napoleon the gift of being 
able to snatch a few minutes sleep in almost any position or circum 
stances, at a moment s notice. Once, when Gandhi was attending the 
Round Table Conference in London, in 193 1, a friend of mine (who 
was anxious about the hours the old man was keeping) asked 
anxiously if he had managed to get any rest that day. Yes/ said 

Bapu, when X began his speech I knew what the rest of it 

would be, so I had half an hour s delicious sleep. Then I woke up just 
before he had finished and answered him/ On the train to Wardha 
he took some sleep in short doses some during the day, which 
was wise enough considering what followed during the night (the 
whole journey was about a twenty-four hour stretch). He slept 
characteristically - with his spectacles still firmly planted over those 
curious ears (they stuck out at right-angles, like those of elves in the 
illustrations to a fairy story). It made me think of paladins who slept 
in their armour. 

His day when travelling was obstinately modelled on his normal 
routine. For example, he did his hour s spinning - making a pleasant 
pause for conversation - on his collapsible wheel. In the evening 
prayers were chanted, which blended with the rumbling of the 
train. But when night came and we were all doing our best to sleep 
in considerable discomfort, it was not long before the shout we had 
heard at every station since Ahmedabad jolted the dozing party into 
full consciousness. Mahatma Gandhijikij azV It was the old battle- 
cry of the crowds Victory to Mahatma Gandhi*. 

Most of the night we passed between uneasy sleep (Gandhi alone 
seeming to sleep peacefully) and such sudden awakenings. I remarked 
at one point: *They don t show you much mercy/ and the old man 
replied with a chuckle: Yes, the quality of their mercy is a little 
strained/ It was a -wonder that there were no accidents. As we left 
each station the people would hang on to the train, riding till the last 
moment on the footboards. Railway officials shouted at them and 
hit them, but all in vain. 

It comes back to this again that Gandhiji had no private life, as we 
Westerners understand the expression. It was not that he sought 
publicity. But few Indians whom I have known would make the 


distinction as sharply as -we do in the West between their private and 
public lives. In England the Prime Minister, the Archbishop and the 
Public Executioner leave their various roles behind them when they 
enter their homes. Except for an occasional inspired article in which 
a public man is photographed kissing his child (to demonstrate that 
he really is human) he lives in complete purdah so far as the press and 
the public are concerned. He can relax. He can even be himself -with 
out danger of discovery. But the Hindu s house is not his castle; and 
only the most westernised Indians try to live the double life which 
we Westerners find so necessary to our peace of mind. In Gandhi s 
case two other facts have to be taken into consideration: tiat the 
people never let him alone, and that he himself hated all conceal 
ment. His autobiography was even more ruthless than that of 
Rousseau in its self-exposure. If the private life of a public man 
cannot bear scrutiny there must be something wrong with it - so, I 
think, he would have argued. 

Today, as I look back at the things I recall most vividly about 
Gandhi, I find myself impatient of those pygmy minds which have 
so often employed themselves in finding flaws and inconsistencies in 
his life. The greatness of the man and the circumstances in which he 
lived subjected him to a scrutiny from -which most of us are merci 
fully preserved, not merely because so little of our lives is really 
known, but because even less is worth anybody s attention. With 
Bapu I soon realised that nothing he did was unobserved, and very 
little that was observed was unrecorded. Can we wonder if we find 
imperfection when every momentary weakness or forgetfulness is 
faithfully placed upon record? Yet before the searchlight of history 
and the microscope of biography this man stood unafraid, asking no 
mercy, exposing every "weakness in himself to pitiless publicity. Not 
only so for, in addition to the truth, he had to face a truly 
phenomenal barrage of misquotation, misrepresentation and plain, 
downright lying, which he made little attempt to contradict, because 
it was sufficiently extensive to have kept a large secretarial staff in 
full employment. That is a simple, factual statement. There can 
scarcely have been another man living who could have stood up to 
all this and survived the ridicule of mankind, Gandhi had more of 
that than any man in our time. And then the laughter died suddenly, 
with three shots from a revolver at Delhi, and we "were all 
ashamed. ... 

Even in 1929, when the rest of us could not imagine such a thing 


to be possible, Gandhiji knew the real danger towards which he was 
heading. An attempt was made by terrorists to blow up the Viceroy s 
train, and the matter was naturally much discussed at the time. In my 
journals it is recorded that Bapu laughed and said, *I shall be the next 
one.* Then he added: Congress use me as their tool, and I am a 
willing tool; but the day will come -when I shall say "No** and our 
ways will part. I have told them this and they all know it.* It was 
strange to read of this forgotten conversation on my way to India in 
1949, knowing the tragic truth of both those prophecies. 

At Wardha I met a man who greatly impressed me. He has a pale, 
sensitive face/ I wrote. He is certainly the most "distinguished" 
looking man I have met in India. . . . Somehow I feel convinced that 
he will make history. It was not a bad guess, for this was Jawaharlal 
Nehru. At Sabarmati I had already seen Mr Jinnah, one of the 
Moslem leaders/ who had arrived (wearing very smart European 
clothes) to see Gandhiji. But it was not until I went with Gandhi to 
Lahore, at Christmas, that I met almost the whole group of political 
leaders which today governs India. For it was there that they held 
the historic gathering of Congress, when the Independence Resolu 
tion was carried, under the presidency of Jawaharlal. 

Before we left for Lahore I had my first experience of Indian 
village life, staying with a Mahratha Deshmuk (chieftain) in a village 
about twenty miles from Wardha a distance mostly covered by 
bullock cart, so far as I remember. I certainly remember the bullock 
cart and the road - the one being without any springs and the other 
full of gigantic potholes. And I remember it most clearly on the 
return journey, because I had gorged myself with buffalo dahee 
curds made from buffalo milk, which is very much richer than that 
of the cow, and was very injudicious fare for a person who had long 
lived on plain ashram food. It is easy enough to feel seasick on a 
bullock cart without such provocation. In that village in the Central 
Provinces I saw for the first time some of the actual problems with 
which Gandhi and his followers were struggling the lack of sanita 
tion, the waste of cow dung as fuel, the use of silver ornaments by 
ragged and half-starved women. As always, I marvelled at the kind 
ness and hospitality extended to me at a moment when political 
feeling against British rule was reaching a climax. The village band 
came to my host s house to entertain me with strange sounds they 
were all Untouchables 5 but not inaudibles. 

We travelled to Lahore via Delhi, the journey being much like the 

previous one, so far as the routine was concerned. I have no wish to 
recall the tedious details of the political negotiations which had then 
been in progress for some time between the Viceroy (Lord Irwin) 
and Congress; but they were of interest at the time and Bapu s inter 
view -with Irwin on December 23 rd was of some importance as a last 
effort to obtain agreement before the Congress met on Christmas 
Day. It seems odd now to realise that on that day a Labour Govern 
ment, 1 through the Viceroy, turned down the last chance of keeping 
India as a Dominion . Personally, I don t want any Dominions* (or 
colonies) ; but the amusing thing is that the Labour Party was and 
still remains very keen about the Empire or Commonwealth or 
whatever they call it. Congress had been saying quite plainly that 
unless India was given Dominion status within the year it would go 
all out for Independence. That was the compromise made between 
the cautious politicians of the old school and the younger men, who 
couldn t for the life of them see -why India should be anybody s 
*D ominion . 

And the odd thing is - as one sees when one looks at the old 
cuttings - that almost everybody in Britain, including all but a hand 
ful of Labour M.P s, regarded this demand for Dominion status as an 
impudent piece of bluff. Winston Churchill, then enjoying the 
irresponsible position of & franc-tireur in the Opposition, even ob 
jected to the Viceroy so much as negotiating with Gandhi. Who 
would have thought then that a few years later Churchill himself 
would said Cripps to India to offer the half-naked fakir three- 
quarters of what he had been asking in 1929* "with the promise of the 
rest after the war? 

And who, in the England of 1929, would have imagined that such 
an offer would actually have been refused as a post-dated cheque or 
that Churchill s successors would have had to carry his policy to its 
logical conclusion when Churchill himself was once more at liberty 
to talk nonsense? 

In 1929 the Labour Government stood firmly on the necessity for 
British rule, mitigated in form (but not in fact) by legislatures which 
reflected little beyond the safe propertied interests. And even these 
legislative bodies were so hedged round by powers of veto and over 
riding powers in the hands of the Viceroy and Provincial Governors 

1 My own diallusionment, at flf time, with regard to the Labour Party, was a slow 
process. Right up to this time I had been making excuses for it; and looking back I 
marvel (like Clive) at my own moderation. 


that they were worse than, useless. This was the general pattern of the 
Indian Constitution in 1929, and it remained the general pattern after 
all the palaver of the Round Table Conference and the granting of a 
new constitution to India - on the old model. It was not until Hitler 
adopted the same model for his puppet government of Czecho 
slovakia (-which corresponded point for point with the lastconstitution 
-which Britain gave to India) that such a system was recognised with 
loud indignation in the British press as a sham and a farce. But even 
then Hitler was given credit which he did not deserve - they talked 
about the set-up as though he had invented it. 

This digression is necessary in order to give even the briefest 
account of the events at Delhi and Lahore. Irwin persuaded himself 
up to the kst minute that a little more tinkering with the ridiculous 
constitution would pass for Pom in inn Status , and was genuinely 
surprised when the Congress leaders stood firm. With Gandhi, to 
that interview with the Viceroy on December 23rd, 1929, there 
went Motilal Nehru still well remembered in India, but probably 
best introduced to the English reader as Jawaharlal s father. There 
were also three others: V. J. Patel, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru (the 
Liberal* leader) and Mr Jinnah. V. J. Patel, then President of the 
Legislative Assembly, was the older brother of Vallabhbhai, the 
latter having only recently come to the fore in Congress circles. 
They were all supposed to be united by an all-parties agreement as to 
the terms on "which they would participate in a round table con 
ference with the British, but Sapru and Jinn ah soon weakened. That 
night we left Delhi for Lahore. It was clear that Congress was going 
to face a major decision. 

Before leaving Delhi I had my first skirmish with the press. An 
Indian representative of R.euters, very smartly dressed (European 
style), having failed to obtain an interview with Gandhiji, tried to 
pump me for information. *I live, he said, on the crumbs that fall 
from the Rich Man s table.* I observed that he appeared rather to 
snatch them from the plate. Failing to snatch any crumbs from me 
he drew me into a discussion of khaddar, remarking complacently: 
*I toil not, neither do I spin. But once more his quotation from the 
Gospels was unfortunate. As I looked at his smartly cut suit I could 
not resist completing die saying, to the delight of my khaddar-clzd 
Indian friends. 

People who have never been in India always seem to think that it 
is hot everywhere all the time. Lahore is, of course, no longer part of 


India, but there are places still in the Indian Union which can give 
one an even harsher experience in raid-winter. We arrived to find 
mud, slush, rain, a biting "wind and frost every night. Worst of all, 
arrangements for the vast Congress camp were not complete 
everything appeared to be in a state of confusion, and one could only 
stamp about in the rain, trying to generate a little heat whilst waiting 
for the soggy hospitality of a tent to be made available. Indian friends 
remarked cheerfully that I must be used to this sort of weather, and 
I thought of well-warmed English homes and Yule logs (for it was 
Christmas Eve). Yes/ I would say, but if anyone went camping in 
this sort of weather, where I come from, he d be considered mad/ 

One of the odd things about Indians, which I confirmed on my 
recent visit, is their capacity for enduring cold. It is natural enough 
that they should endure heat more readily than we do though I 
have sometimes found that I could actually stand more of it than 
some of my Indian friends. But in cold weather many of them will 
add no more than a cotton shawl to their scanty clothing and this 
does not apply only to those -who are too poor to buy more clothes. 
Some of my companions at Lahore slept under a single cotton sheet 
and maintained that they -were warm - they certainly slept peace 
fully enough, as I knew; for, in spite of several woollen blankets, I 
slept very little on account of the cold. To sleep as they did, under 
canvas, with frost outside, is something which takes some explaining. 
I believe Indians bottle up sunshine in their skins and create some 
sort of reserve supply. 

The camp was known as the Lajpat Rat Nagar, named after Lala 
Lajpat Rai, the last of the great Moderates* who had been done to 
death by the police -while trying to pacify a mob. The tents were 
pitched on low ground by the bank of the River Ravi, and were 
completely waterlogged until the rain mercifully stopped after the 
first day. Gradually some kind of order emerged from the chaos, in 
spite of a good deal of Thermopylism* (Huxley s word, derived 
from Edward Lear s Old Man of Thermopylae), Things happened 
that should have helped me to see into the future. It is easy, of 
course, to be wise after the event; but -when I recall the behaviour of 
the Congress Volunteers* on the first day I realise the sort of thing 
Gandhi had in mind when he foresaw the parting of the ways 
between Congress and himself. Nobody, I wrote at Lahore, seemed 
to know "where anything or anybody could be found; and the 
"National Volunteers", who are here especially to assist people in 


such matters, spent all their time forming fours and inarching out of 
step. Later these volunteers policed the camp somewhat officiously. 
Our section of the camp still kept ashram hours, with prayers at 
4 a.m.; and one morning I was - in a manner of speaking - arrested* 
by the volunteers on my return from a walk, before dawn. They 
thought that I was an undesirable character trying to enter the 
leaders enclosure. Opinion varied as to -who I was, anyway; some 
said a Communist from Russia and others a C.I.D. spy. 

It was a strange Christmas, but after all as I noted at the time 
Bethelehem is more suggestive of tents than of turkeys. I had my 
Christmas dinner withTa Moslem, Dr Syed Mahmoud, -who was for 
some time Joint Secretary of Congress. I became very friendly with 
this man, and in his tent, -where I spent a good deal of my time in the 
evenings, I frequently met Jawaharlal Nehru "who was an old friend 
of Mahmoud (they had been at Cambridge together). Of Jawahar 
lal/ I wrote, 1 have the highest opinion. . . . But the rank and file of 
Congress are mostly poor stuff. Most of them just come to hear 
themselves talk . . / 

A great deal of this talk was directed against Gandhi and the 
Nehrus, the dominant trio of the moment. The British press so 
assiduously built up the legend of Gandhi the Dictator that even to 
day few people in this country realise how often he had only a 
minority on his side, so far as Congress was concerned. The peasants 
and villagers would, it is true, have followed him anywhere. It is 
also true that Congress, powerful as it was, would not have attempted, 
in his lifetime, to lead any mass movement without being sure of his 
co-operation - for the simple reason that without Gandhi any mass 
movement would certainly have failed. But he never abused this 
privileged position. If he was defeated, and found himself with the 
minority, he would quietly go on with his work, and the majority 
generally found by experience, in the course of time, that he had 
been right. Such a moment had now arrived - for Gandhi had long 
been opposed to any attempt to work the sham constitution, and 
now Congress was clearly prepared to embark on full non- 
co-operation. The dose alliance between the two Nehrus and 
Gandhi (*The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost , to quote an 
opposition sneer which was publicly uttered at Lahore) gave him the 
support of the older politicians, represented by Motilal, and that of 
the younger and more revolutionary elements, of which Jawaharlal 
was then the acknowledged leader. 


The younger Nehru was elected President of Congress that 
Christmas. He, his father and Gandhi were under heavy fire from 
two factions. One was a group of Bengalis, leftists of a sort, led by 
Subhas Chandra Bose - the same Bose -who later founded the Indian 
National Army* which was to have liberated India with the dubious 
assistance of Japan. I now believe that Bose -was quite sincere. It is 
interesting also to see how widely the Bose cult has spread since the 
war. On my recent visit I noticed that his slogan, Jai Hind, was in 
general use, and that his picture was often placed side by side with 
that of the Mahatma. In one place I found a seraphic waxwork 
trinity in which Gandhi presided, with Nehru on one side and 
Netaji* (Bose) on the other. (It reminded me of the three pictures 
said to have been found in die huts of Ukrainian peasants in the 
nineteen-twenties -Lenin, Dr Nansenand the Virgin Mary. ) Whether 
Bose would ever have appreciated this juxtaposition with Gandhi 
and Nehru I very much doubt. I noted him, down in 1929 as the 
most thoroughly unpleasant-looking man I have ever seen, and con 
sidered the behaviour of his group ill-mannered and factious 
motivated by personal jealousy, to all appearances. 

The other opposition group was right-wing , consisting mainly 
of delegates from Marashtra, who favoured further compromises 
with the Government. What, I think, most disgusted me about the 
Bose group was that when their own left* amendments were 
defeated they made a complete change of front and voted with these 
right-wing Mahrathas. But the Gandhi-Nehru combination had its 
way on all major issues, and the windbags who had given me such a 
bad impression of the Congress rank and file* proved to be no more 
than a noisy minority. 

The Lahore Congress was such an important event in Indian 
history that it seems absurd to think of Lahore today being part of a 
country which is not India. Before Congress assembled, The Times of 
India, with evident pleasure, prophesied that it would have a hostile 
reception, and even hinted at riots; for the Hindus were only about 
thirty per cent of the population of the Punjab (and every effort was 
made by the enemies of Congress to label it as a Hindu* organisa 
tion, in spite of its many Moslem presidents and other Moslems 
prominently associated with it, in addition to Sikhs, Christians, 
Parsees and others). 

In Congress circles such prophesies were regarded as nonsensical; 
but even in those days there was a feeling of uneasiness as to the 

B 25 

religious minorities. Communal (i.e. inter-religious) tension was 
agreed to be much greater than it had been in 1921. For this the 
Government "was blamed no doubt on general principles, but also 
for some perfectly good reasons to which I later devoted a whole 
chapter of my White Sahibs in India. In the case of the Punjab, for 
example, the Sikhs, who numbered only twelve per cent of the 
population, had been given thirty per cent of the seats in the 
Legislature, under the disastrous system of Communal Electorates, 
Where Moslems were in the minority they had been similarly 
favoured. A secular party, such as Congress, which aimed at uniting 
the country, was therefore faced by a clamour from such minorities 
demanding outrageous concessions (which would have been the 
negation of democracy) as the price of their support. I have said 
enough about the nature of the constitution to make it clear that the 
Government could afford to bid high, because it made no real 
difference to anybody except those elected by the propertied classes; 
they obtained jobs, perhaps, and pseudo-kudos, the Government 
went on governing and the mass of the people were completely un 
affected. But the few who stood to gain were persons of wealth and 
influence. They could too easily persuade many of their co 
religionists that something real was at stake. 

Yet the historic meeting of Congress at Lahore did not provoke 
the hostility so agreeably foreseen by The Times of India. On the 
contrary, -when I saw the Congress procession pass through the 
town - headed by Nehru on horseback I marvelled at the enthusi 
astic reception it received. Roofs, balconies and streets swarmed 
with cheering spectators. 1 In those days even Jinnah, the founder of 
Pakistan, rejected the idea of partitioning India - it would have been 
unthinkable. And, had better counsels prevailed in England at that 
time, self-government for a united India could have been achieved 
in spite of all the mischief done by Communal Electorates and other 
devices, with little if any of the human misery that followed 
partition though (as Richard Hooker once so "wisely observed) 
Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to 
better/ It took another fifteen years for the seeds of dissension to 
grow into a Hindu-Moslem tension which split the country in two. 
India, which might have been a model to Europe as a federal republic 

1 1 had always been given to understand that Indians were not given to cheering, 
and found that this opinion is still held by some, on the grounds that members of the 
British R.oyal Family have not been greeted in this -way. 


of free peoples, has merely imitated the European rage for dis 

During the last hours of 1929 the Independence Resolution -was 
debated in the Congress pandal, and at midnight the resolution was 
carried. Nehru hoisted the National Flag and the vast crowd sang 
Bande Mataram. It is a beautiful anthem, even (I think) to many 
European ears, but has since been set aside in favour of another 
Bengali song, by Tagore. Noble as the new national anthem un 
doubtedly is, Bande Mataram had a history which added to its value, 
for it had been proscribed as seditious. For singing it men and 
women had been imprisoned, crowds had been beaten up by the 
police, and children thrashed by schoolmasters or by police instructed 
by magistrates. . . . Now it rang out again as the challenge of a -whole 
nation through its most trusted leaders. All that night there was 
cheering mingled with shouts of Inquilab Zindabad! (Long live 
Revolution!). But punctually at 4 a.m. the Mahatma s camp rose 
for its morning prayers. 

I should be giving a very unbalanced account of that memorable 
week if I did not refer again to aspects of that Thermopylism which 
always does its best to wreck any great occasion in Indian life. No 
sense of the dignity proper to such a gathering could deter the side 
shows and the hawkers. Nor did it prevent Congressmen from 
chattering - as they invariably did and still do - when an important 
speech was being made, even though the speaker -were Gandhi him 
self. An Indian temple will often present one with the same contrasts 
- no sense of awe prevents irrelevant vulgarity from intruding. 
Perhaps this is typically Oriental, in which case it may explain the 
presence of those money-changers and pedlars of poultry in the 
Temple at Jerusalem. I am told that Latin people have the same fail 
ing, but I don t know whether in their cathedrals the hokey-pokey 
man and the peanut vendors ply their trade round the High Altar - 1 
should have thought not. 1 In the Lajpat Rai Nagar a trade exhibition 
was not a bad idea in itself - khaddar and other swadeshi (Indian 
manufactured) goods had a place in the Congress programme; and 
with proper handling an appropriate exhibition might have been 
organised. But among my notes of exhibits is a reference to 
BRAINIO, the great Brain Tonic . It had enabled Pandit Somebody 
(of whom a large photograph was displayed) to obtain his B.A. 

I 1 am, however, informed that conducted tours* of sightseers continue to roam 
around Notre-Dame during the celebration of Mass. 


After the Lahore Congress I left Gandhiji and -went touring on my 
own for a couple of months. During that time I saw a good deal of 
Northern India. I also, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, discovered 
how deeply that little man in the loincloth had impressed me. While 
I was with him I liked, respected and admired him but I searched 
in vain for some invisible quality in him that made him the lodestone 
of men s hearts and souls. It was not until I left him that I found he 
had added my own to his collection. 



Wild and untaught are terms which we alone 
Invent, for fashions differing from our own; 
For all their customs are by nature wrought. 
But we, by art, unteach what nature taught. 


I HAVE never spent a single night in an Indian hotel, and I find it a 
matter of some interest, considering that the length of my two visits, 
taken together, "was over a year, and that on each occasion I spent 
much of my time travelling about the country. The hospitality of 
the people, even to complete strangers, is a remarkable thing: you 
have only to know somebody -who knows someone else in the town 
or village to which you are going, and you will be welcomed as 
though you were an old friend of the family. 

After I left Lahore I had a variety of hosts and of experiences. I 
travelled third class, except on some trains which had no third-class 
coaches, when I used the Inter/ carriages. Always I found some 
English-speaking Indians and they invariably drew me into political 
discussions. Sometimes I had, at first, to disarm an automatic 
hostility, but invariably,* I wrote, 6 we get on splendidly after the 
first ten minutes/ 

For the first time I now met anglicised Indians not in the third 
and Inter.* railway carriages, but at places where I stayed. I have 
since met Indians who have lived long enough in the West to 
assimilate its culture completely; but this was not the case -with those 
I met there in the United Provinces. Hybrid creatures, I noted, 
aping English externals, the meaning of which is quite beyond them, 
they seem to me to belong to no nationality or tradition whatever. 
Some are quite lovable, but all are pitiable/ I saw them as a reductio 
ad absurdum of Macaulay s famous dictum, in his evidence before the 
Parliamentary Commission of 1853: 

We must at present do our best to form a class who may be 
interpreters between us and the millions we govern; a class of 
persons Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in 
opinions, in morals and in intellect. 


The quotation was already familiar, and the deplorable result was 
at last before my eyes. The Indian administrative class I found quite 
desperately anxious to be anything but Indian. All that European 
clothes, American jazz, Scotch whisky and cosmopolitan bridge 
could do for a man had been done. *The conquest of the land/ as Sir 
William Hunter had -written with grim self-satisfaction, was followed 
by the conquest of the mind/ Certainly the Indian magistrates and 
administrators -whom I met had succeeded in not being themselves. 
"What they had become, God only knew. 

It had already been made clear to me that outside their own circle 
these people were despised by other Indians, -who regarded them as 
slaves in their relationship with the British and petty tyrants in their 
dealings -with their feUow-countrymen. I had also been given many 
hints on the ship of the fact that the British also held them in con 
tempt; and of this I saw some further evidence. On the whole the 
British of the old regime preferred an Indian to be an Indian and to 
have a little self-respect, even if it made him a nuisance. It is curious 
that not until the second world war did language evolve a name for 
people of this type. History has produced thousands of Quisling 
prototypes, including that objectionable woman Rabab, the whore 
of Jericho, who collaborated 9 (as the saying is) with Joshua s secret 
service. Her object was, quite simply, to be on the winning side 
and as she backed the -winner Holy "Writ has made quite a heroine 
out of her. Like the sordid Rahab, I suppose the pre-Quisling 
collaborators of India were justified by success. What is alarming is 
the extent to which the present Indian administration still relies upon 
them. Most of them -whom I met were poor things who had not, I 
suspected, really thought out their position, because they were in 
capable of doing so. But this did not make their spineless sycophancy 
any less irritating. 

One man a magistrate - was, I believe, at heart a genuine 
nationalist. The contradiction between his private views and his 
public office was apparent to anyone who knew him, but his in 
genious dialectics could somehow square the circle to his own 
satisfaction. One day I asked him what he would do when civil dis 
obedience began. Would he, as a magistrate, imprison people for 
trying to achieve that swaraj in which he himself believed? No, he 
said, he would rather throw up his job. Some time later, when I had 
returned to England, I was told that this man had been imprisoning 
Congress workers who had picketed the liquor shops. This picketing 


had a political significance, as the Government derived a good 
revenue from the trade; but in the case of this particular magistrate 
the imprisonment must have involved some mental gymnastics 
for, apart from his buried nationalism, he was a strict teetotaller. He 
went on "with the Government s work through various periods of 
civil disobedience and repression; and when self-government came 
in 1947 he thought - with good reason - that his services would no 
longer be required. He was described to me as a pitiable figure at that 
time. But he held his job and was even given promotion. The kst I 
read of him was in connection with an official reception to Pandit 

I do not know how such men ought rightly to be used. I do know 
that they are apt to be, if anything, more dangerous than those who 
never had any twinge of conscience about their position under 
British rule. Where there existed a stifled political conscience I saw, 
time after time, that it produced an aggressive and vindictive attitude 
of mind. They hated with an intense ferocity all -who were true to 
the ideals they had themselves betrayed. I wonder today how much 
harm is still being done by such people, now that they are working 
under the orders of the men and women whom they once threw 
into prison. It is probably easy for a man like Nehru to forgive some 
nonentity who once sent him to jail - but how much harder is it for 
the other man to forgive the integrity which he envied, the courage 
and devotion which shamed him. It assumes a change of heart 
which is, unfortunately, rare. 

One entry in my diary records a visit to a Magistrate s Court, 
where justice* -was being dispensed to tattered leavings of humanity, 
all wretched people who were manifestly terrified of the magistrate 
(an Indian friend of mine), of the police, and even of myself. Among 
other cases were the preliminary proceedings against a woman 
charged with infanticide a sordid business. Whether from remorse 
or fear, the woman -was very agitated, and I was glad to have my 
friend s assurance that, even if she were found guilty, she would not 
be hanged. 

Suddenly the case was interrupted. A British officer entered the 
Court, -walked straight up to the Indian magistrate, and began talk 
ing about a gun licence. The magistrate said he was not empowered 
to issue new licences - the officer would have to see the Deputy 
Commissioner. But the matter did not end there - the officer wanted 
his gun immediately, and this way it would take some days. Could 


not some special arrangement be made on his behalf? The futile 
argument lasted about ten minutes before the officer withdrew, very 
annoyed. Outside the Court, later, I asked the magistrate why he did 
not order this interrupter to remove himself. My friend smiled and 
shrugged. *As a matter of fact,* he replied, I really ought to have got 
up and offered him a chair/ I thought this was a joke; but later I 
heard of two cases which made it clear that it was nothing of the sort. 
What is one to make/ I wrote in my journal, of a regime in which 
an officer s gun licence takes precedence over the majesty of the law 
and can hold up a whole Court in the hearing of a capital charge?* 

In officialdom, as I had already been warned, I found that the 
memsahib of the species was more deadly than the sahib. There was a 
tea party never to be forgotten. The Settlement Commissioner was 
there and a sour-looking man who (so I was informed) was a judge - 
both British - with Mrs Commissioner and Mrs Judge. Out of a 
sudden lull in conversation the voices, the imperious, commanding 
voices, of those two women woke me from my afternoon stupor. 

Did you hear/ said one, that one of their beaters died of sunstroke 
and two were killed by a tiger? But none of the party was hurt 
weren t they lucky? 

Yes/ replied the other voice, but it will make it rather difficult to 
get beaters there next time, won t it?* 

I quote this astonishing conversation from my journals, as I 
recorded it the same evening. In a work of fiction, as it struck me at 
the time, the dialogue would probably have been considered far 
fetched malicious caricature. I sat through the rest of the party 
listening to the Commissioner patronising a zemindar and the zemin 
dar toadying to the Commissioner, while I suppressed (by the Grace 
of God) a violent urge to start throwing teacups in all directions. 

There was a marked change in the attitude of many - perhaps 
most British residents in India during the years that followed. But 
in 1930 this sort of thing was all too common, and few of the Indians 
whom I met (other than those who had travelled in the West) would 
believe that English people as a -whole were not of this pattern. Then 
why/ I would ask, *do you treat me with such kindness? The 
answer was always essentially the same. I was supposed to be an 
exception. It made me think a good deal. After all, I had done 
nothing for anybody, but was - on the contrary - indebte4 to count 
less Indians for all manner of assistance and hospitality. Tfci short, 9 1 
noted, *I have accepted everything and given next to nothing; and 


the greatest virtue I can claim is that I have been civil and decent and 
sympathetic. . . . The Indian complaint against us is not that we fall 
short of the "superman * standard. ... It is that we lack common 
civility and courtesy/ It was true enough but I doubt if I looked at 
Indians with an equally critical observation. Twenty years later I 
realised that Indians - especially in relation to their social inferiors* 
could be quite as offensive as English people. 

The peasants of Gujerat, such as I had seen, had appeared to be 
reasonably healthy and happy. They showed also an independent 
spirit. I had seen little of the Punjab, yet enough to admire the 
physique of the people, which could not have been maintained in 
abject poverty. But in the United Provinces, where I spent most of 
January, 1930, I found myself in a land of sahibs and serfs. It was, in 
fact, one of the few places -where I was myself treated as a sahib 
during the rest of my time I was more fortunate in the company that 
I kept. (It is a curious reflection on my two visits to India that I was 
so seldom addressed as sahib on the first occasion, whereas in 1949-50 
I could hardly escape from this bogus title.) But in the United 
Provinces I was the guest of people in authority, which undoubtedly 
compromised my position. Everywhere I went I noted that wretched, 
starved-looking villagers hastily avoided the path and made way 
for the English sahib, salaaming very low. . . . Poverty drags them 
down and oppression pushes them from the top. I have lost count of 
all the stories that I hear continually of the treatment meted out to 
these poor villagers of the United Provinces. Sometimes it is the 
zemindars who are responsible and sometimes the British or Indian 
officials. But woe to the peasant "who lifts his hand against either! 

But there was at least one happy memory that I took with me 
from the United Provinces, and that was of the two weeks I spent in 
the North Kheri Forests with the man who is now Inspector- 
General of Forests for the "whole of India. M. D. Chaturnedi 
Chats as all his friends called him was at that time Silviculturist* 
for the Province, doing special research work, and I was fortunate 
indeed in making his acquaintance. So was my wife, whom he later 
met in London; for in the early months of 1949 she had an even 
more adventurous time in the forests with Chats than I had enjoyed 
twenty years earlier. For a really lively description of Chats the 
shikari, Chats the Person among people*, the relevant chapters of 
Ethel Mannin s Jungle Journey cannot be rivalled, and I do not intend 
to compete. 


However, there is just one story -which Ethel does not tell about 
Chats that has some relevance here. When she went to India in *49> 
about nine months before my second visit, she had been assured by 
me that my old friend was not interested in hunting and hardly ever 
carried a gun. Her first letter to me after she had met Chats in the 
U.P. forests (of which he was then Chief Conservator) contained 
the surprising comment: Your friend who never carries a gun met 
me with four of them/ He had, in fact, taken to shikar in the same 
way that a man takes to drink, and with the same concentration. The 
man whom I had known when we were both young was as vivid 
and overpowering a personality as the tiger hunter described in 
Jungle Journey; but he had not yet taken to tiger hunting. 

I was surprised at the long walks he would take me down forest 
tracks, sometimes turning aside through the dense undergrowth: for 
even at dusk he seldom carried a gun. Once when I was with him on 
an evening walk, and he had been explaining that the wild boar was 
one of the few beasts which attacked without provocation, 1 he 
suddenly gripped my arm, and we stood very still in the failing light. 
For many long seconds I could see nothing; and then, one by one, 
the wild boar crossed the path not far ahead of us. That s what I 
mean, he said, but you can only keep out of their way. What 
would be the use of a gun? The rest just come on. 

Day after day we would plunge through the jungle on foot or on 
an elephant, seeing deer and sambur, but no sign of the local tiger, 
though he made a kill nearby one evening. I was having my bath in 
the Dak Bungalow at which we were staying, and all I remember 
about it is the staccato cry of the barking deer, which told its own 
tale of terror until it suddenly stopped. From the other side of the 
bathroom door Chats gave me a running commentary on the whole 
drama not that he could see anything. It was general knowledge 
plus imagination. I had no more desire than Chats had (in those 
days) to shoot tigers, and I should have been disgusted at the idea of 
shooting the beautiful deer and sambur. But I had the strongest 
irrational desire to shoot a crocodile. I have never really approved of 
crocodiles, and they are one of the hardest things to shoot, which 
naturally adds interest if you go in for shooting at all. There is only 

1 It is a common saying and belief among the Turks that all the animal kingdom was 
converted by the Prophet to the true faith, except the wild boar and the buffalo, which 
remained unbelievers; it is on this account that both these animals are often called 
Christians. I cull this pleasantly irrelevant note from Buckhardt s Travels in Syria. 
Alas, I found no echo of the legend in India. 


one spot where you can pierce the mugger s armour, and he is sur 
prisingly nervous and quick. One moment he is apparently sleeping 
off a heavy lunch of half-cremated corpses or whatever was on the 
river menu that day; and then at the slightest sound his huge body 
shoots into the water and . . . you ve had it. He even, I believe, 
sleeps with one eye open, for many times it was no sound, but only 
an injudicious movement out of cover, which evidently starded my 

So, at my request, we stalked crocodiles, crossing a river in a leaky 
dug-out; but I never got my croc. As I had never shot before in my 
life, this was not surprising (what was surprising was that a Gandhi- 
wallah should have been playing this game at all) . Later in my travels, 
whilst staying in a village "with Jaya Prakash Narayan (now the 
leader of tie Socialist Party in India) I went out stalking crocodiles 
with my host, but had no better luck. The nearest I ever was to one 
of those monsters, which had such a curious horror-fascination for 
me, -was on an expedition with Chats and some other forest officers. 
We were in one of the old Tin Lizzies admirable things for forest 
work, or on any Indian roads for that matter, with their chassis 
perched so high from the ground and, as we turned a bend and 
swung over a rough bridge, there was the wicked old mugger only a 
, few feet below, sunbathing as usual. We had one glimpse of him 
before the inevitable splash, and he was gone. 

That expedition was an interesting one. We were in a sal forest, 
on fairly flat land and typical of the Gangetic Plain. Chats had been 
telling me of his work, and the difficulty experienced in regenerating 
sal. When the I.F.S. began operations it had few ideas other than 
those based on Western experience. The forest officers superintended 
felling, maintained game laws and prevented fires. In this last activity 
they had been so successful that in the absence of periodic fires a 
thick undergrowth had grown up, spreading a moist carpet of acid 
mould in which the sal seedlings were choked. An occasional fire, it 
appeared, would have given the young trees a little light and air, 
with an alkaline mould. Sal trees, not being resinous, are apparently 
not much harmed by a fire in the undergrowth if it takes place at the 
right time of year. 

Another difficulty had arisen from the protection of deer and the 
destruction of so many tigers, who would normally have kept down 
the number of deer in the forests. Such young shoots as survived the 
perils of the undergrowth were commonly browsed upon by the 


deer - 1 was shown many examples. The Research Department for 
which Chats was working (it had been specially created to deal with 
the whole problem) had been experimenting in the firing of forest 
blocks; but the undergrowth had become so extensive that these 
fires destroyed more than was intended. At the point when I arrived 
in the North Kheri Forests Chats was planning a trip to the borders 
of Nepal, where forests were not protected and -where - so he told 
me they were consequently flourishing. This was the object of the 
expedition in the Tin Lizzie. 

We went with two Englishmen - the Conservator of Research 
and the local D.F.O. (Divisional Forest Officer). Heavy rain had 
waterlogged the rough tracks, and only the daring speed of the 
D.F.O., who was driving, prevented us from being bogged in 
several places; but we swung merrily from side to side of those 
abominable tracks, missing tree trunks by inches. At last we stopped 
on a wide, straight road, with a broad belt of grass on either side. It 
was the frontier - the border of Nepal. 

Almost immediately the three I.F.S. men began talking excitedly, 
and presently Chats explained to me in non-technical terms what it 
-was all about. On our right was India and on our left Nepal. The 
forest on the Nepalese side was largely clear of undergrowth - one 
could see into the jungle for a hundred to two hundred yards. On 
the other side it was possible to see for no further than ten to twenty 
yards. The fires on the Nepal side must have swept right up to the 
border, where the broad clearing had checked them. Trees in Nepal 
were of varying sizes, but on the Indian side they were mostly of the 
same, size - Very few of them under forty years of age*, as one of the 
forest officers remarked. That dated the youngest trees from about 
the tenth year of the era of protection , when it must have become 
effective in rearing the carpet of scrub. The two Englishmen con 
firmed what Chats had told me: in Nepal, they said, the burnt and 
sun-dried mould gave a good alkaline topsoil. Tigers were safe from 
the big-game hunters and kept down the number of deer. They had 
no Forest Department, but their forests came under the Revenue 
officials, who ordered felling occasionally. I do not know -whether 
they replanted, or whether that was left to nature. What was clear 
was that this easy, inefficient way of letting nature do its own job 
had worked, and that the experts were now learning from it. 

Not long after that visit I was interested to read in the Leader of 
Allahabad extracts from a Government Report which said that the 


burning of regeneration areas is having beneficial effects*. How they 
managed to control the fires once the undergrowth had reached such 
dimensions I do not know. The report also mentioned experiments 
with deer-proof enclosures. 

After my adventures in the North Kheri Forests I continued my 
journey eastwards, staying first with a Sikh friend at Lucknow and 
then at Gorakhpur with Chats again, before I set off on my own to 
Chapra. Here I arrived on January 26th, which had been declared 
Independence Day* by the Lahore Congress. It had been celebrated 
as such throughout the country. Exactly twenty years later I was to 
see the inauguration of the Indian Republic on January 26th, 1950, 
the day before I left Bombay on my return home; but in 1930 this 
would hardly have appeared credible. My host at Chapra was my 
friend Dr Syed Mahmoud, -who had been so kind to me at Lahore. 
As General Secretary of the Congress Committee and a Provincial 
leader of Congress, he had been reading the Independence Declara 
tion and hoisting the national flag at a public demonstration. On my 
arrival he told me he had fully expected to be arrested, and had made 
all arrangements for my reception at his house in that event. How 
ever, I found him in full possession of his liberty and of plans for 
enlarging it. 

This was my first experience of a purdah household. The position 
was paradoxical, for my host was strongly opposed to purdah; but 
his wife had been brought up to regard it as essential to her modesty, 
and insisted on keeping to this custom - with the result, of course, 
that I never met her. 

It was from Chapra that I crossed the River Sarya to stay with 
Jaya Prafcash, on that occasion* the companion of my last crocodile 
hunt and perhaps his, too he now hunts capitalists. Jaya Prakash 
came over the river to fetch me, and we embarked on an astonishing 
boat which was almost round, with no keel. The Sarya was full of 
sandbanks and tricky currents, the wind very strong; but the boat 
man, a wily old Moslem, brought us over safely in about an hour. 
My companion pointed out ,a great railway bridge, built on piles 
across the river. When it was first constructed, he said, it caused such 
changes in the course of the river that his whole village had been 
swept away. His home "was in the new village, built further up. The 
stupidity shown so often in the planning of bridges and railway 
embankments was something to which my attention was often 
drawn - the- forest officers had mentioned it as a cause of floods in 


Northern India. Later I was to learn of the damage done by the rail 
way embankment on the line from Calcutta to Madras it forms a 
dam across low-lying country at right angles to the principal water 
ways. (In the opinion of that great expert, Sir William Willcocks, 
this particular embankment was a major factor contributing to flood 
and famine in Bihar and Orissa.) 

Though I still thought mainly in political terms in those days, I 
was beginning to feel an interest in such problems as these leading 
me in later years to an increasing concern for the conservation of the 
soil. I realised that the damage done by these bridge and embank 
ments -was an example of man s insensitiveness to the demands of 
nature. The result was immediate profit for a few and temporary 
convenience for many; but in the long run the result was disaster. 
Was this simply because a Limited Company has no conscience, or 
was it partly on account of ignorance? In a specialised civilisation the 
men who built a railway in India might know little about the needs 
of the Indian soil - still less did company promoters in London, the 
hurra sahibs of Whitehall or the investors at Bath or Bournemouth. 
I began to see that, apart from politics, remote control and specialisa 
tion could lead us into appalling catastrophes, the result of what has 
since been called fragmentation* - seeing things in isolation when 
they are, in fact, closely related to one another. 

The story of the sal forests was another pointer. It showed the in 
adequacy of experience acquired in one part of the world when 
applied to another, unless one was alert and sensitive to the differences 
that might exist elsewhere. And one other piece of knowledge had 
come to me in the forests, in the long talks that I used to have with 
Chats knowledge that had startled me, though it was not until 
1943 that I really followed it up and -worked out some of its impli 
cations in the last chapters of my book, Cleanliness and Godliness. It 
was when we were talking one evening by the fire at the Dak 
bungalow that I asked Chats something about the extensive use of 
cow dung as fuel in many parts of India. In the course of a long talk 
on the subject he told me of vitamin deficiency in grain grown on 
soil that was not manured or -was treated only with chemicals; and I 
realised for the first time the direct connection between this deficiency 
in the soil and deficiency diseases (such as beri-beri). It was then, too, 
that I first considered the wider application of the Law of Return, 
wondering how much mineral wealth was being annually removed 
from the agricultural countries and sent through the sewers of distant 


cities into the sea. And what -was being lost besides the calculable 
quantities of minerals? If -vitamins had been so recently discovered, 
what other organic substances, quantitatively minute and as yet 
unobserved, but perhaps essential to health, might be destroyed by 
our efficient civilisation? 

It was interesting to discover in later years that my own thoughts, 
following a train of philosophical speculation, -were on die very lines 
which were even then being pursued by scientific workers. When I 
came to study the matter more closely, I found that Boyd-Orr and 
others had computed the alarming quantities of minerals removed - 
for example from distant pastures by the export of sheep and 
cattle for the slaughterhouses of Europe. And Sir Robert McCarrison 
(he was Colonel McCarrison of the I.M.S. when I first heard of his 
work from Chats 1 ), proceeding along lines which converged with 
the work of Sir Albert Howard, had shown that much more was 
lost than minerals. What interested me perhaps most was that 
Howard so often spoke of the elements known and unknown in 
soil and plant life, confirming my own suspicion that we were 
approaching our problems from a wrong angle. Having wilfully 
destroyed the goodness of the soil, we assessed that part of it which 
we could isolate and understand, and then tried to replace it 
synthetically. But how did we know that we had not missed some- 
tiling invaluable? You could put the limbs of a dismembered corpse 
together, for that matter, but there would be something missing a 
thing not easily weighed, called Life. Applied to cow dung or to any 
other organic manure, this method of reasoning meant that you 
could not be sure you had really found a substitute because you 
could reproduce the known chemical contents. Even the crudest 
quack would hardly treat anaemia with doses of iron filings - or, in 
other words, even if the right substances were made available, were 
they necessarily capable of being assimilated? 

All such speculation pointed to one course only as reliable that 
-which enabled nature to do its own work with the minimum of 
interference. But how could that be made possible in a world where 
whole nations specialised to the extent of turning themselves into 
gigantic workshops, fed from distant fields and granaries? The Law 

1 It is of some interest that Gandhi s Young India was the only non-technical paper 
which drew attention to McCarrison*s revolutionary discoveries at that time. On my 
recent visit I found *organic husbandry* well established in all the rural centres founded 
by Gandhi and his followers. 


of Return could not be operated on those terms. It presupposed 
- decentralised industries and a balanced regional economy. That was the 
thought that had begun to revolve in my mind after my discussions 
with Chats. Absorbed as I was, for many years after, in rather futile 
political activities, I did not give sufficient attention to the implica 
tions of decentralisation; but the thought was always there in the 
background. The belief, which I hold so strongly today, in the 
urgent necessity for decentralisation began with the realisation in 
India that the observance of the Law of Return is inconsistent with 
an extensive international trade in agricultural products. It is only 
possible in a society which is self-sufficient enough, on a regional 
basis, to grow its own food and absorb its own organic "waste , so 
that it goes back into circulation. 

To a very large extent this problem is bound up with the conflict 
between present profit and the interests of posterity between a 
money economy and a natural economy. I realised that it was 
analogous to that presented by the railway embankments, and it led 
me to the same tentative conclusions. It was a problem had I but 
known - which had been forecast back in the eighteenth century by 
the American Quaker, John Woolman, who had a great deal to say 
about the shortsighted stupidity of those who were even then begin 
ning the destruction of America s virgin soil. By sending abroad 
great quantities of grain and flour, he had said, the fatness of our 
land is diminished. This was in order to obtain gold, which Wool 
man regarded as useless if not pernicious. *I believe, he wrote, die 
real use of gold amongst men bears a small proportion to the labour 
of getting it out of the earth and carrying it about from place to 
place. (He never lived to see it dug out of the South African mines 
in order to be buried again in his own country.) But what is most to 
the point, as expressing the trend of my own thought, is Woolman s 
statement that *if trade extended no further than was consistent with 
pure wisdom, I believe trade might be carried on without gold . In 
considering later the full implications of a natural decentralised 
economy, I shall return again to this theme; for the study of its 
practical possibilities was one of the principal objects of my attention 
on my second visit to India. The most vigorous and original minds in 
India are, in fact, concerned with making that type of society a reality. 
One other thing that arose in my discussions with Chats about the 
suicidal waste of cow dung as fuel was the lack, in many parts of 
India, of any alternative. With regard to this, as he later pointed out 


in The Indian Forester (April, 1930), Chats held that the village? 

is fully aware of the fact that cow dung is more valuable as manure*. 
But in vast areas there were no trees, and where trees grew felling 
was generally prohibited by the Government or a landowner. The 
villager could not afford, as a rule, to buy wood for his fire; and the 
only way out of this impasse was quite obviously the creation of new- 
fuel reserves at the disposal of the peasant and the labourer. Chats 
himself had begun experimenting in this direction with a few village 
plantations; and perhaps the most interesting thing that he told me 
was that in order to obtain full co-operation from the villagers he 
had revived that ancient institution, the panchayat. When I met my 
old friend again recently, almost my first question was on this point 
I wanted to know whether the Inspector-General of Forests, with 
his great authority throughout India, had found it possible to extend 
the work which he began as Silviculturist in the LJ.P. He assured me 
that much was being done; but as I was (most unfortunately) un 
able to accompany him on one of his tours I was never able to see 
for myself. The question of the panchayats remains, and is worth a 
word of explanation - it also takes me, oddly enough, to Calcutta 
and to the end of this chapter. 

The panchayat was the ancient village council. It was responsible 
for the administration of justice, which was carried out according 
to Sir Thomas Munro - justly, correctly and expeditiously in com 
parison with the British system which replaced it; and this Sir 
Thomas found not only most expensive and vexatious, but totally 
inefficient . This was written in 1820 by one of the wisest admini 
strators in the days of John Company. The panchayat was also 
responsible for education, and Munro had written in 1813 of schools 
established in every village for teaching reading, writing and 
arithmetic*. As late as 1830 Sir Charles Metcalfe (afterwards Acting 
Governor-General of India) described the villages as little Republics, 
having nearly everything they want within themselves* and their 
union, he said, had contributed more than any other cause to the 
preservation of the people of India through all revolutions and 
changes -which they have suffered. ... I dread everything that has a 
tendency to break them up*. 

But though Munro, Metcalfe, Elphinstone and other eminent 
British administrators praised these institutions and pleaded for their 
retention, they were doomed by the general policy of the Govern 
ment. Their courts were replaced by the system which Munro had 

condemned, the obscure, complicated, pedantic system of English. 
Law* as another British writer called it, a few years before the 
Mutiny. 1 It is interesting that Sir William Sleeman, who was British 
Resident at Lucknow from 1840 to 1854, mentioned the horror 
-with which the people of Oudh regarded the British legal system 
as die reason for the fact that - in his opinion - ninety-nine per cent 
of the people were opposed to annexation by the British. (This in 
spite of the fact that these people had been oppressed by Indian rulers 
who were guaranteed, as tributaries of the East India Company, 
against insurrection. It had been the old story of indirect rule*, but 
the kings of Oudh had this one virtue - they had not interfered with 
the village system.) was a thing once understood by 
every Indian, whereas the mere fact that a Hindu gave evidence in a 
British Court was presumptive evidence against the respectability 
of his character - according to one authority. 2 

Yet thepanchayat went down and the British system superseded it. 
What is really ironical is, of course, the fact that the present Indian 
administration has preserved the British system. The reason, probably, 
is that our system called into existence an Indian legal profession, and 
the lawyers of India have been her political leaders ever since. (Even 
Gandhi was a lawyer though he did his best to forget it, except 
sometimes in an argument, when one could be conscious of the fact.) 
Yet the system which has survived British rule is that of which 
Thompson and Garratt wrote in their Rise and Fulfilment of British 
Rule in India, when they recorded that during one military cam 
paign whole populations fled in terror, not from the soldiery, but 
from the High Court that was believed to be accompanying them . 

The decline of village industries, accelerated by the deliberate 
policy of the Government, under pressure from Lancashire, finished 
off the panchayats eventually. The village schools went out of 
existence, owing to poverty and the taxation of school lands. The 
panchayat was lamented by more than one British administrator of 
later years, including Sir Henry Cotton, who said that *a costly and 
mechanical centralisation has taken the place of the former system of 
local self-government and local arbitration*. The same institution 
won the highest praise from Max Miiller and from many other dis 
tinguished authorities. But they wrote of the past. Practically 
speaking, the panchayats were dead when I visited India in 1929, 

1 John Dickinson, in Government of India Under a Bureaucracy, 1853. 
* Frederick Shore, cited in the Cambridge Shorter History of India. 

though there -were a few surviving exceptions. It was not my good 
fortune to see any of these surviving panchayats in operation, but in 
Calcutta I had a very interesting account of them from a most un 
expected source. 

I returned from Jaya Prakash s village to Chapra and stayed a few 
days with my Moslem host, who was then fasting every day until 
sunset, as Ramadan had begun, when good Mohammedans observe 
this practice for a whole month. A Hindu engineer, who was a 
frequent visitor at the house, told me that each evening he sent food 
to the mosque when it was time for the Moslems to break their fast - 
it had been the custom in his family for many generations. I was 
sorry to leave Dr Mahmoud, whom I never saw again (he died 
before I returned to India). He was a very kind host and a man who 
could talk interestingly on a great variety of subjects, including his 
friendship with many of my own countrymen. One of these had 
been Wilfred Scawen Blunt, for whom I had long felt (and still 
retain) an unbounded admiration. 

At a junction on my way to Patna I met Jaya Prakash again. He 
told me the police had been to see him, with questions about me 
almost the moment that I left the village. We travelled to Patna 
together, crossing the Ganges on a steamer. On February 8th I 
arrived at Calcutta. 

Here I was the guest for three days of an Indian magnate, Air 
G. D. Birla, whom I had met at Wardha. Only once before had I 
lived in such luxury at the house of a big landowner in the United 
Provinces, -where I was an uninvited guest. (The landowner was 
away, and I stayed one night at his house with a magistrate who was 
inspecting bis armoury.) I was almost in rags and shall never forget 
being taken into a bedroom which made me think of Hollywood 
films, and then down to a courtyard where six Daimlers stood with 
attendant chauffeurs. This car and chauffeur/ said Mr Birla s secre 
tary, with a wave of his hand, Svill be at your disposal while you are 
at Birla Park/ Indeed, I made good use of them. 

To Birla Park there came, one day while I was there, the members 
of the Commission which was then investigating labour conditions 
in India the Whidey Commission, as it was generally called. It 
issued eventually one of the most useful reports ever put out by 
H.M. Stationery Office. The members came to tea, and out of 
curiosity I decided to meet them. Within a few minutes I found my 
self sitting next to the Chairman, Mr J. H. Whitky, the ex-Speaker 


of ttie House of Commons. And our conversation -was one tnat I 
shall always remember. 

There was nothing cagey about Whidey. He had seen and heard 
a great deal in India, and he spoke freely about it all. It was from 
him that I confirmed the story that the Government of Assam had 
practically forced the managers of tea plantations to have liquor 
shops on their estates the managers themselves had told him so. 
(The point was important at the time, in view of Gandhi s campaign 
against drink and drugs, and the suspicion - "which this information 
confirmed - that the Government regarded the whole thing solely 
from the revenue standpoint. They had gone so far in Assam as to 
imprison those followers of Gandhi who had picketed the opium 
dens; and they had ignored a resolution which had been passed in 
the Assam Legislative Council - opposed only by Government- 
nominated members - which had asked for a progressive reduction 
in opium sales.) 

But it was -when I heard that the ex-Speaker had attended some of 
the surviving panchayats that I became most interested. He had been 
deeply impressed by the good order and good sense in their discus 
sions, as interpreted to him; and I had the impression unfortunately 
I cannot recall his actual words - that he compared these delibera 
tions favourably -with those that he had known in the Mother of 
Parliaments (though I do not suggest that this would have been 
setting a very high standard). What really impressed me most was 
his vehement insistence on a view that had long been my own that 
literacy was greatly overrated. Literacy, he said, had been hopelessly 
confused with education. You could be literate without being 
educated, and educated without being literate especially where a 
traditional culture existed, as in rural India. He talked of the time 
when England was efficiently governed by kings who could not 
even sign their own names . He -was the first Englishman I had ever 
talked to who did not seem to think that self-government depended 
upon an ability to read and write a modern superstition and a very 
dangerous one. In later years I remember that my old friend, the 
artist Joseph Southall, once put the matter even more strongly. The 
Russian Revolution/ he said, happened because the Russian people 
couldn t read the Daily Mail. 9 (I am sure he would have agreed that 
the Revolution took the wrong turning from the time when the 
people learnt to read Pravda and the rest of the quotidian gospels.) 

My interest in the panchayat was the beginning of a clearer 

conception of a decentralised society. Such institutions provided the 
means, and I later discovered that similar traditional forms already 
existed, not only in India but in many other parts of the world 
where people were subject to foreign rule and were conveniently 
described by their rulers as unfit for self-government . I studied the 
system more closely and also learnt, with great satisfaction, that 
Gandhi s own conception of a free India was *a federation of village 
republics , I hardly expected the Congress politicians to follow this 
line; and, in fact, the whole structure of the present Republic is 
modelled upon the British system - except that the Congress leaders 
have dealt drastically with the Indian princes. And yet there is hope, 
as I shall show in a later chapter, that village communities may still 
be revived. 

A matter of some interest and satisfaction to me was that when, on 
my return to England, I embodied some of my thoughts on literacy 
and local self-government (with special reference to the history of 
the panchayats) in an article, 1 1 found about two-thirds of this article 
quoted in an enormous footnote to a memorandum on Native 
Administration, by Sir Donald Cameron, at that time Governor of 
Tanganyika. Sir Donald made it dear that he felt the same principles 
had a direct bearing on the problems of Africa. Here, as in India, the 
idea of a local organisation which is always viewed as a repre 
sentative body, and not as a body possessing inherent authority (Sir 
Henry Maine s description of the panchayat) is a very common one. 
And it was no mere coincidence that on my recent visit to India I 
spent much of my time discussing the application to the needs of 
Africa of methods still used in the Indian villages and being further 
developed today by the Constructive Workers (Gandhi s followers) . 
My discussions -with J. H. Whidey are directly linked in my mind 
with the long talks I had twenty years later with Michael Scott, the 
champion of the South-West African tribesmen, when we sat (on 
one occasion) in a mud hut overlooking the Ganges and discussed the 
emancipation of Africans through their own tribal organisations. . . . 

By the time that I reached Calcutta I was already in a hurry to be 
back at Sabarmati. In a letter dated February 2nd Bapu had written 
apologising for a long silence. *My correspondence is lying neg 
lected, he said. 1 simply cannot cope with it/ Evidently I had 
written and I must have made some offer of my help, for what it 
was worth, because Gandhiji went on to say: *I have been thinking 

1 Spectator, August 2nd, 1930, 


of your letter for the last three days. The real thing is likely to begin 
not before March/ 

Come when you like/ he continued. *I -wish you were here on 
February I4th. But I don t want to interrupt your experiences. The 
ashram is your home to come to whenever you like.* The real thing 
to which Gandhi referred was the Civil Disobedience Campaign. It 
was in order to be at Sabarmati at that critical time that I cut short 
my visit to Bengal. It was not, however, lack of time but lack of 
anything suitably respectable to wear -which made me refuse an 
invitation to dinner at the Bishop s Palace. It was an opportunity 
unlikely to be repeated to meet a whole bevy of bishops who had 
foregathered in Calcutta for some purpose; but in my rags I felt 
unable to accept this invitation. 


I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion 
of non-violence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is 
meant for the common people as well. 


NOT LONG after I left Lahore I made another attempt to sum up in 
my mind what I really thought about Gandhiji. Though my opinion 
of him, especially in those early years, is of little objective value, it 
does show where I stood myself. Even in those days I noted that my 
attempted summary was " sheer impertinence ; but what is still of 
possible interest is the impression made by Gandhiji on a young 
Englishman who was by no means uncritical. 

To an easy, temporising person like myself, [I "wrote] his 
scorching passion for truth was almost terrifying - 1 was always 
afraid that I should lapse into one of those silly social lies that we 
Westerners tell so glibly when we are afraid to give offence or 
wish to avoid a long explanation, and that he would see through 
it! The day I spoke at Hmganghat I mentioned in his hearing that 
I was going to try to get out of the understanding, given in an 
unwary moment - 1 was very tired and had nothing to say at the 
meeting. I shall not forget his look of genuine incredulity as he 
said, But you can*t go back on your word! Completely out- 
quakered by a Hindu, I had to give in and go. He gives to each 
one who comes in contact with him the impression of a real 
personal affection, but he can sever every attachment without 
sign of pain. They say that when Magunlal Gandhi died he was 
the coolest man at the ashram and ordained business as usual* and 
harder work to make up for the loss of so good a worker. His 
conversation, speeches and writings are unemotional, logical, pre 
cise and less involved than is usual with Indians. You -will find a 
sort of measured wit and choice metaphor, but never bombast or 

I then discussed his experimental attitude to life. (How appro 
priately was his autobiography called My Experiments with Truth.} I 
was interested in the relationship of experiment to a sense of 
certainty, which was equally characteristic of him. 


This certainty is as marked in Bapu as his willingness to learn 
and discuss; he is one of the few people I have ever met who 
understands that true toleration does not mean vacuity or sitting 
on the fence. His opinions are strong, and with some, notably 
those on sex and other sociological questions, I personally cannot 
agree. I look on him as I would a great Catholic saint, admiring 
wholeheartedly his character and spiritual power, whilst judging 
his views with complete detachment. 

In various articles, about this time, I tried to explain the nature of 
the coming conflict, as Congress viewed it. The Round Table Con 
ference was to meet in the summer; and in England even those "who 
were most sympathetic to Gandhi were - with a few exceptions - 
unable to understand why he was planning a civil disobedience 
campaign. Gandhi s reply, as I explained in an article that appeared 
in one of the first numbers of the Political Quarterly, was that he 
would rather remain in chains of iron than chains of gold*. Lord 
Irwin s statement that the ultimate decision as to India s future was 
the undoubted right of the British Parliament was considered, in 
1930, as a clear indication that the conference would be pure make- 
believe, designed to keep India quiet for another few years while 
pointless discussions continued. Gandhi -to use his own phrase - 
had struck with the thick end of the wedge when he had insisted 
on a clear declaration that the conference was to be really repre 
sentative and that its object should be the formulation of a Dominion 
Status Constitution. When this was refused - together with the 
demand for immediate measures to prove the bona fides of the 
Government - events passed beyond Gandhi s control. That, at 
least, was the way I saw the matter. 

The Calcutta Statesman, however, found that Mr Gandhi has been 
piling Pelion upon Ossa in a series of Himalayan blunders - a pleasant 
fantasy -which nevertheless summarised moderate British opinion 
in India. On the other hand an Indian rival announced that Gandhiji 
had asked Congress to pitch its wagon to the star . My own views 
coincided neither with those of my countrymen nor -with the over- 
confidence of Congress. Goldsmith s description of Burke seemed to 
me to fit Gandhi - too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.* I 
had no doubt that he was morally justified; but I had, on the other 
hand, no hope of his success. With this in view I wrote at Chapra 
words which contrasted strangely with the complete detachment I 
had claimed when writing of Gandhi two or three weeks earlier: 


It is a strange thing, but I have felt Bapu s personality more 
since I have been away from him than I did when with him. I 
always respected him, but now I feel far more strongly about 
him. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that I am as interested in 
the approaching crisis in his life as I am in the approaching crisis 
in Indian history. Fate is forcing his hand. His own desire turns 
increasingly towards intensive work among the peasants khaddar, 
temperance, anti-opium, anti-untouchability, etc. I feel sure he is 
tired of all the wrangling and wangling of the political world, and 
the necessity of working so often with people so much less sincere 
than himself. At Sabarmati and Wardha he did no public speak 
ing, but worked quietly among the people who loved and 
understood him; and I am certain that there he was far happier 
than ever he was in the melee of politics. 

But now I see him, a pathetic and tragic figure, drawn by 
circumstances over which he has no control into a position from 
-which there is no turning back. Other people s stupidity has pro 
duced the crisis, and the country looks to him to see it through. 
No one dreads this struggle more than he does; but he feels it has 
been forced upon the country and knows he is the only man who 
can hope for success, however dim the hope. No one will ever 
know what agony this decision has cost him. 

Something had certainly happened to me, for on the same day I 
wrote: *I no longer wonder at the devotion of the blind masses. 
Rather am I one of them/ 

I shall have more to say later of the places which I visited before 
returning to Sabarmati. I was half afraid of the adventures which lay 
before me it was ordinary physical fear, I think, that an English 
man mixed up "with Indian sedition might be treated with more 
than usual viciousness by the police and military (and I had by then 
accumulated plenty of evidence as to atrocities which made a 
gloomy picture). At each pkce where I halted on my way back I felt 
a great desire to stay, for many of these places were very beautiful in 
the Indian spring and seemed remote from the political storm- 
centre. But it was to the storm-centre that I was doggedly making 
my way - the place that had once seemed so monotonously peaceful. 

I was worried, too, by a sense of personal responsibility with 
regard to British press statements. There seemed to be so few of us 
who were in a position to contradict the sort of nonsense which was 
appearing in the London papers - of which many had now reached 
me - and I was quite without experience as a journalist. India was 


very much in the news, and the wildest assertions were being made 
without query or contradiction. It was said that Gandhi -was finished 
- he counted for nothing in India. Or, again, it was said that he was 
the sole cause of disaffection . It did not square, but the attacks 
rarely did. Congress, too, -was said to represent only an infinitesimal 
minority*, but its Lahore decisions were nevertheless front-page 
story in Britain and the subject of angry leading articles. A. G. 
Gardiner dismissed Gandhi as a dreamer* and informed the readers 
ofjohn Bull that there was nothing more behind the khadi movement 
than Gandhi s dislike of machinery (a dislike* which he repudiated). 
Swaraj was unfair to the Moslem minority, who would be at the 
mercy of the Hindus. On the other hand it was not in the interests 
of the Hindus, who would be trampled upon by jhe more virile 
Moslems. . . . 

The flow of newspapers and cuttings never seemed to stop - an 
endless cataract of misquotation, misrepresentation and crude false 
hood. Few Indians, I realised, could write a letter or an article which 
was likely to be published in the British press. The number of 
Indians who could write presentably in English was very limited; 
and in any case, the British papers clearly did not wish to publish the 
truth. As a Labour Government -was then in office, this conspiracy of 
suppression and distortion covered the Labour Party journals - 
except the Hew Leader, organ of the I.L.P. (which was at that time 
still affiliated to the Labour Party). 

But even if an Indian could have obtained a hearing, prejudice 
would probably have dismissed whatever he said. There was a clear 
understanding in those days that British officials and newspaper 
correspondents stated the facts objectively, however much the 
interests of the officials, the Government or the press lords might be 
involved. On the other hand, an Indian could not be objective unless 
he -was a Government yes-man. Any Indian statement could therefore 
be dismissed as propaganda mere , lying , pernicious , or whatever 
adjective you preferred. Only one Englishman -would be able to speak 
from Gandhi s side. Mirabehn, it is true, was there; but she paid little 
or no attention to the British papers. In that she may have been wise; 
but the young man on his way to Sabarmati had other opinions. It 
might be hopeless to tilt at the Fleet Street windmill, but it seemed 
to me dishonourable not to make the effort. At the age of forty-four 
I am more if you like struthious. I use newspapers for lighting 
fires (their proper destiny) and seldom for any other purpose. 


I arrived at Sabarmati on February zyth, and received a memorable 
welcome after my three months of absence. Outwardly everything 
appeared the same, but the discipline had been tightened up and the 
place somehow^/e/ different - the difference between a rehearsal and 
a first performance. I was given a new room, in the Students* 
Hostel, -which had (I noted) the advantage of a pleasant balcony and 
the disadvantage of two nests of wild bees just outside . The bees 
were attracted in the evenings by my hurricane lamp. . . . 

However, my thoughts were not allowed to dwell long on bees. 
Bapu sent for me and told me that he had a job for me to do, if I 
was willing. It was a curious job, too. He was making a final effort 
to come to terms with the Viceroy and was -writing a letter begging 
the British Government, through Lord Irwin, to reconsider its atti 
tude. As the letter gave a time limit and made it clear that Civil 
Disobedience was about to start unless , it was commonly called 
Gandhi s Ultimatum . It was not much like my idea of an ulti 
matum. It began with Dear Friend , and explained that the writer s 
object -was no less than to convert the British people through non 
violence. ... I do not seek to harm your people. I want to serve 
them even as I want to serve my own.* The letter ended: 

This letter is not in any way intended as a threat, but is a simple 
and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. Therefore I am 
having it specially delivered by a young English friend who 
believes in the Indian cause and is a full believer in non-violence 
and whom Providence seems to have sent to me, as it were, for 
the very purpose. 

The letter was signed Your sincere friend, M. K. Gandhi/ It was 
dated Satyagraha Ashram, Sabarmati, March 2nd, 1930. Three days 
after his arrival there the young English friend set out for New- 

Before I went, Gandhi insisted that I should read the letter care 
fully, as he did not wish me to associate myself with it unless I "was in 
complete agreement "with its contents. My taking of this letter was, 
in fact, intended to be symbolic of the fact that this was not merely 
a struggle between the Indians and the British. By using an English 
courier instead of a postage stamp Bapu had deliberately dramatised 
this fact for all the world to know. But the symbolism would have 
been false had I merely taken the letter without completely associa 
ting myself with what it contained. I studied the letter carefully. 

The fact that Gandhiji had no quarrel -with the British people, as 
such, was further emphasised in the text: 

I do not intend harm to a single Englishman, [he wrote] or to 
any legitimate interest he may have in India. . % . Though I hold 
the British rule in India to be a curse, I do not, therefore, con 
sider Englishmen in general to be worse than any other people. 
... I have the privilege of claiming many Englishmen as dearest 
friends. Indeed, much that I have learnt of the evil of British rule 
is due to the writings of frank and courageous Englishmen. . . . 
[He held that] conversion of a nation that has, consciously or un 
consciously, preyed upon another, far more numerous, far more 
ancient and no less cultured than itself, is worth any amount of 

Typically enough the old man was actually looking at the coming 
struggle as something that would spiritually benefit Great Britain, 
in accordance with his own formula The oppressor is doubly en 
titled to be redeemed*. I could easily have endorsed a document less 
generously worded. I returned with the letter (its contents were still 
strictly confidential though everybody knew a letter was to be 
sent) and Gandhiji asked whether I had any criticisms to make. 

Yes/ I said. 

Surprised disciples gaped. Well?* asked Bapu. 

There s a comma missing - here. 

He looked, nodded, and filled in the comma. I have often felt 
since that the comma, too, was symbolic - it represented the extent 
of my contribution to Indian history. But in the days that followed it 
was very difficult to realise this, for I hit the headlines forty-eight 
hours later. 

Outside the ashram nobody in India seemed to know -who had the 
letter, and two other people were suspected one being Motilal 
Nehru, who left Ahmedabad for New Delhi about the same time as 
myself. Pursued by eager reporters, he kept them all in play, for the 
more he laughed and denied that he had the letter, the more he drew 
their fire until I had delivered it to the Viceroy s Private Secretary. 
The old man told me his story later, with a boyish delight in the 
whole game. In fact his strategy ensured for me a very peaceful 
journey, as the unknown young Englishman was quite unsuspected 
by the news hawks except, oddly enough, in Britain. The London 
papers had the story on March 3rd, direct from Ahmedabad, while 
correspondents in New Delhi were still on the wrong scent. 


To my great relief my mission proved purely formal. For- 
astonisliing as it now seems in retrospect I had actually been briefed 
to answer questions relating to Gandhiji s letter and the terms on 
which he would suspend the launching of Civil Disobedience. The 
press truthful for once later recorded that *Mr Reynolds was 
wearing khaddar shorts and a Gandhi cap 1 when he entered the Vice 
regal Lodge . But a good hour and a half after I delivered the letter 
to Irwin s Private Secretary the journalists were still laying siege to 
Motilal Nehru, and my khaddar shorts and Gandhi cap did not be 
come news until some hours after that. The press was waiting in 
force at the Delhi railway station -when I returned to Ahmedabad, 
after one night in the capital. Only one reporter had succeeded 
in running me to earth in the hostel of a Moslem university 
where my host Gandhi s youngest son, Devadas was then on the 

One Indian paper said it had been stated that I was *an M.A. and a 
research student of the Cambridge University*, a story "which was 
promptly accepted as factual and repeated by every other journal, 
without any attempt at verification. The words when I was at 
Cambridge* were even attributed to me in one of the many fictitious 
interviews "which appeared. In the weeks which followed I suffered 
from the sort of thing that Gandhi bore patiently for a lifetime, and 
that small dose -was enough for me. Indian journalists hashed up my 
words out of sheer inefficiency - mainly due, I think, to an in 
sufficient knowledge of the English language. On the other side, the 
British correspondents could hardly have been absolved from a 
suspicion of malice, for their method was one of distortion and 
invention of which the deliberate object was clearly ridicule. Of this 
perhaps the briefest example occurred on my return from India, that 
summer. I had learnt - so I thought how to deal with the press, 
and I refused to give any interview to a reporter of the London Star, 
explaining shortly that my experience in this matter had been too 
unfortunate. A paragraph appeared that evening, saying that I had 
arrived home but had told the Star representative: *My lips are 

You cannot, as I soon discovered, fight against that sort of thing. 
There is nothing libellous in it, It merely makes you look an ass, 
which it is intended to do. When you are in India and receive your 

1 Not - 1 am glad to record - a sun helmet, as stated by Louis Kscher in his Life of 
Mahatma Gandhi: I am slightly piqued at the suggestion of incongruity. 


English papers over a fortnight old it is still more hopeless to take up 
such points, or even more serious ones. I soon found also that there 
were far too many of these gadflies at work, and too much to do 
without wasting my time in replies or protests which the offending 
journals were not likely to publish. When I wrote for the few organs 
of the left which would accept an article there -was always some 
thing much more important to occupy my time and the space 
allowed me. But I think, on more mature reflection, that this 
Baptism of Ridicule may be one of the most important tests in a 
man s life if he takes up unpopular causes. I also think that I might 
have stood up to it better. But my projection into notoriety was so 
sudden that I was completely unprepared for it. 

The days that followed my return from Delhi were eventful. 
Preparation was being made at Sabarmati for the Salt March*. To 
our great disappointment, Mirabehn and I were told that we were 
not to go "with Gandhi on this expedition. We were to remain at the 
ashram and would be given other work to do. In my case this was to 
include helping with Gandhi s weekly journal, Young India, for so 
long as it was published. (As we expected, it had to be closed down 
eventually, owing to a refusal to give the securities demanded by 
the Government. But it long continued, even after that, as a cyclo- 
styled news-sheet, illegally issued.) It was Gandhi s intention that 
after his own arrest and that of his secretary, Mahadev Desai, I 
should edit this paper. As things turned out, I never did; but while 
Bapu and Mahadev were still at large The Times of India (the prin 
cipal British-owned newspaper) came out with a story that I was 
already editor-in-charge. This was an occasion for the usual jaded 
wit; but for once here was something worth a reply. An Indian news 
agency gladly circulated my statement that this was one of the 
many inaccuracies* on the part of The Times of India with regard to 
myself- to which I added a rider that if ever I did edit Young India I 
hoped I should show more respect for truth than I had observed in 
the Times. 

Sardar Patel was arrested shortly after my return to Sabarmati. It 
was a clever stroke, I wrote. In all practical affairs I suppose 
Vallabhbhai Patel is easily the ablest leader in the country. During 
the recent conferences here regarding plans he was bored and rest 
less -just as he was at Lahore. He has a healthy dislike for committees 
and minutes and resolutions. . . He believes in direct action and has 
a, genius for knowing when to begin and where to stop/ 


Vast crowds, including numerous reporters, press photographers 
and film cameramen now began to invade the ashram every day. In 
a life -where privacy did not exist it was impossible to escape from 
them. At last came the Great Day - March I2th. The crowd on the 
evening of the nth was estimated at ten thousand, most of whom 
stayed all night. By 6 a.m. on the I2th the crowd was larger than 
ever. At 6.30 the *First Column* formed in the road, A few short 
hymns were chanted and Bapu set off with his picked men, some of 
us who were not in the party going ahead to clear a way for them. 
He sent us back after the first mile and went on towards Ahmedabad. 
We heard later that the crowds increased as the party neared the city, 
the bridge being impassable on this account. But they forded the 
river a little further down. A film made of that march to the sea was 
banned by the Government, which made it easier for British-owned 
papers in India to represent it as the trek of a forlorn little band, seen 
off by a pathetic handful of friends, and passing for over three weeks 
through the apathetic countryside. . . . 

It is not unlikely [I wrote in my journal], that I have really said 
good-bye now to that quaint, heroic figure. I shall always place 
him in a category by himself, if only because my own reaction to 
him was so unique. ... It was after I left him that I began to know 
him. I met him again -without any memorable thrill because (I 
suppose) affection that begins and ripens in absence cannot be 
increased by proximity. I parted from him without regret. . . . 
He is as much my friend now as ever, and always will be. I know 
of no one else for whom I have this sense of detached attachment. 
[As for Gandhiji himself, I noted his high spirits on the morning 
that he left]: The weight of responsibility that made him such a 
pathetic figure to me when the great decision was in the making 
seemed to pass from him. 

The arrest of Sardar Patel, he said, had cleared his path* - which 
did not mean that he was glad to be rid of his lieutenant. 

But life at Sabarmati suddenly became very quiet and very flat. 
There were not many of us left at the ashram and those who had 
gone with Bapu included most of my best friends. Others - less 
welcome to me had already disappeared before the Salt March 
began. These included the Fasting Man and the man who realised 
God on a diet of peanuts. For me the anti-climax was almost un 
bearable. A little bitterly I recorded that I do the donkey work of 
Young India, study, write a bit for the press, perform the office of 


sweeper . . . arid amuse the children*. I was also becoming continually 
more weary of being an object of curiosity and answering the same 
silly questions every day. I would be asked if I preferred Eastern 
or "Western Civilisation, and the questioners would look quite 
hurt at my reply - Western, decidedly/ What had it to do with 
India s struggle for -freedom or my admiration for Gandhi and his 

Only a day after he left Sabarmati Gandhiji wrote me one of his 
brief notes. He must have guessed I should be restless. He spoke of 
the help he wanted me to give on Young India and of the importance 
of the ashram itself, adding: You I hold to be a gift from God for the 
advancement of the work/ Less than three weeks later he was com 
pelled to write in a very different strain. There bad been a particularly 
vicious attack on him to which I had replied in a sudden explosion of 
anger, and he had read my reply in the Bombay Chronicle. 

1 did not like your writing . . / he said in a letter of March sist. 
It is not ahimsa\ . . When you have a good cause, never descend to 
personalities. What I want to emphasise is not merely bad manners. 
It is the underlying violence that worries me/ Bapu went so far as to 
suggest that I should apologise to the man against whom I had tried 
to defend him - but only, of course, if I accepted, on reflection, the 
truth of his criticism. I do not know -whether I did accept his position 
intellectually, I think not. I only knew that Gandhiji s gift from God* 
had proved rather a flop and that he was now asking me to do some 
thing that would cost the hell of a lot in personal pride. So I did as he 
asked. In apologising I rubbed in the point that I did so at Gandhiji s 
request, so that the man -who had attacked him so unfairly should 
realise his magnanimity. This had the desired effect, and I received a 
very friendly reply, in which the writer said that this was what he 
might have expected* from Gandhi. 

Evidently I told the old man "what I had done, for he wrote on 
April 4th that he was delighted , adding - in reply to some com 
ment of mine There is no question of restoration of confidence, 
for it was never lost/ He spoke of the slow and sometimes painful 
process* of assimilating the doctrine ofahimsa, and of mental violence 
that needed to be eradicated. Two days later, having received the 
other man s reply to my apology, -which I had forwarded to him, he 
wrote expressing his pleasure. 

All this time Gandhi was on his way to the sea, passing slowly 

1 Non-violence. 


from village to village. The Salt Marchers were making for Dandi, 
on the Gujerat coast one of the many places where huge salt fields 
were left by crystallisation after the floods subsided. The illegal 
collection of this salt began on April 6th, and that morning there 
was a meeting outside Ahmedabad, close by the river. It must have 
been held very early in the morning, because I noted that *a small 
part of us walked there, leaving at 5.30% also that in spite of the 
early hour there were about 7,000 people present*. 

It was a short meeting at which representatives from the various 
religious communities read brief appropriate extracts from their 
different scriptures. This was the plan all over India on that day, the 
smallest community in each particular area speaking first. At 
Ahmedabad, the Christians being easily the smallest minority, 
Gandhi s Envoy Extraordinary* (or Messenger Boy, as others called 
me) was the first to speak. I read the Magnificat. After the others had 
followed in turn we concluded with Bande Mataram, and thirty 
volunteers marched straight to the town where they began the sale 
of contraband salt. Reading my journals now, I cannot help wonder 
ing where they had procured this salt, as (officially) the campaign 
had only begun that morning on the distant coast. Characteristically 
the occasion was observed as a semi-fast at the ashram our first and 
last meal for die day (after our return from the meeting) consisting of 
milk and dried pulse. They had celebrated Independence Day on 
January 26th very similarly, as I had already heard. My inside non- 
co-operated, and for two days after that horrible meal I "was ill. 
When they had another semi-fast a week later, in memory of the 
Amritsar Massacre, I avoided Jahl 9 and have tried to do so ever since, 
especially uncooked. 

The salt satyagraha was taken up in all parts of India, and arrests 
all over the country soon made the principal news, though Bapu 
remained at liberty. Many of my friends were among the first to be 
arrested - including Jamnalal Bajaj of Wardha, Devadas Gandhi and 
Jawaharlal Nehru. To avoid flooding the jails the Government 
policy was in most cases to arrest only leaders. The law-breaking 
volunteers were not arrested as a rule, at first, but the police seized 
the contraband salt -wherever they could. There were many stories of 
police brutality, and Mahadev Desai asked me to visit Dholera (a 
small coast town) and investigate, I left on April nth, reaching the 
nearest station after six hours* travelling. Before covering the last 
eighty miles by car I visited some under-trial prisoners and attended 

c 57 

a mass meeting, where I "was suddenly told that I was to speak. (I 
was later to become accustomed to these sudden demands my -wife 
suffered similarly on her recent visit.) It was at this place Dhan- 
dliuka - that I realised the extent to which my trivial role at New 
Delhi had heen built up into something like a legend; for I was 
assured, to my great surprise, that the crowd which had come in 
from the surrounding villages had been much increased by the 
rumour that I was to be present. 

That night I slept at Dholera and saw the satyagrahis at work the 
next morning. They marched round the village, singing, and at 
about 7 a.m. started off at the double for the salt fields, about four 
miles away. I went in the rickety old car that had brought me from 

A cool wind [I wrote] "was bio-wing from the sea -such a 
breeze as we never get at Sabarmati - and we bumped gaily over 
the flat, low-lying ground along a track that consisted of little 
but a few cart ruts. On either side of us were dry, uncultivated 
fields. Each year these are deeply flooded by the monsoons, and 
the soil is so saturated with salt that it is quite useless. The rain 
water carries this into the wells, and it is impossible to get really 
fresh water to drink in these parts. 

After four miles of these mud flats, we came to the salt deposits 
to which the Satyagrahis were on their way. Here the water 
stands in deep pools after the floods, until by process of evapora 
tion the salt crystallises in a thick layer. On top it is dirty, but if 
you pick up a lump (it will break ofTin large sheets an inch thick) 
you can see that inside it is clean and white. A large tract of the 
salt fields had been recently turned over with farm implements so 
as to ruin the salt by mixing it with earth. This had been done by 
Government orders, but the process had been interrupted by the 
labourers employed, who struck work as soon as they were told 
the object of this destruction. 

We waited until the volunteers arrived, and then returned to the 
Customs House at Dholera, where we knew the police would be 
waiting for them. The wind became very hot as the sun rose. Out in 
the fierce blaze where the salt fields lay there appeared the only 
mirage I have ever seen - a clear but completely deceptive view of 
windswept water. It "was on the same day, but somewhat later, that 
I saw another phenomenon - a swirling column of dust that rose 
suddenly from the plain. 


But if it was my day for seeing things I certainly did not see what 
I had been told to expect. So far as I know, there was no brutality on 
the part of the police that day - at least, shall we say, nothing more 
brutal than one can see on an English pkying-field. The whole 
thing was rather like a game - the old game of Fox and Geese , with 
the satyagrahis trying to get through the police lines. Then followed 
a struggle when any of the law-breakers were caught, for the 
volunteers clung to their bags of salt strongly unless they were 
arrested. The two British officers in charge of the police did not seem 
to me bad types, and one story that I was told by the satyagrahis 
seemed to confirm this. It seemed that on a previous expedition one 
man had held his bag of salt against the efforts of eight policemen. 
This in itself indicated that the police, in this instance at least, cannot 
have been using the foul methods of -which they were so often 
accused. (Sometimes, as I later confirmed, such charges were true 
enough.) This story ended happily, for the Scottish officer in charge 
had ordered his men to give up the struggle, and had shaken hands 
with the stubborn law-breaker. 

A rumour went ahead of me, on my return journey to Ahmeda- 
bad, to the effect that one of the under-trial prisoners at Dhandhuka 
had been tried and was on his way to Sabarmati Jail about three- 
quarters of a mile from the ashram. Crowds of villagers gathered at 
two stations with garlands for this hero, but not finding him on the 
train they garlanded me instead. At one pkce I was pressed for news 
of what "was happening at Dholera. As there seemed to be no one 
capable of interpreting a speech, I distributed the contraband salt 
which I had with me, giving the crowd to understand that this was 
the news. It was an effective move, and they certainly scrambled for 
the pieces of salt as though they had been gold coins. The next day 
the salt campaign, which had been confined to picked volunteers for 
one week, became a mass movement "wherever salt deposits pro 
vided the opportunity. I wrote an article for Young India, gladly 
giving credit to the police and their officers at Dholera for having 
behaved very decently in the circumstances; but in this mass satya- 
graha which had begun on April isth a man was said to have been 
severely injured by the police at this place. I still felt sure myself that 
this had happened against the instructions of the officers, but my 
article was not published by the Acting Editor. 

When Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested I saw my first hartal - pass 
ing through Ahmedabad, where every mill was closed for the day 


and scarcely a shop was to be found open. These hartals became 
frequent events as the campaign developed. JMahadev Desai, the 
Acting Editor of Young India, was soon arrested with a lorryload of 
contraband salt, and on April 24th Bapu wrote: How will you feel 
about Y.I. now Mahadev is off? He had broken up his camp at 
Dandi and begun a rapid tour of Bombay Presidency. Before he left 
the district of Jalalpur The Times of India produced its first and only 
specimen of genuine wit at his expense; and in spite of its malice I 
found it sufficiently amusing to copy, sending it to my friends in 
England. Swadeshi, I should perhaps explain, means home produced 
(Indian) -as distinct from bilayati (foreign - hence Blighty* for 
England). Following as his model some well-known lines of Horace, 
an anonymous satirist produced the following: 


Anglicos odi t puer, apparatus. 
Displicent vestes nisi sunt swadeshae. 
Civicos sperno titulos et aurum 


Me manufausta rotulam olsoletam 
Rite volventem videat Jalalpur 
Audiant undae mans et salinae 

Stulte loquentem* 

By the end of April the Indian spring was already past - spring 
and autumn in one act, for the ground was strewn -with dead leaves, 
almost pushed from the branches by their successors. The wind 
from the drying river bed at Sabarmati brought no relief as the sun 
climbed higher - only more heat and often sand. *One drips all day/ 
I wrote, like hot sealing wax/ I began to feel my own limitations, 

1 Englished (somewhat freely): 

These gadgets of England disgust me, my boy - 
Like Lancashire clothing they irk and annoy 
Your Government titles, they give me no joy 

And I spit on the barrister s fee. 
Jalalpur shall see me, with fingers of fate, 
As I trundle my spinning-wheel, long out of date, 
In ritual manner, -what time I relate 

My woes to the -waves of the sea. 

(One might add that there was good precedent for this. Demosthenes used to 
address the waves on the seashore as part of his training for speaking to the noisy 


envying the hardiness of Mirabehn who seemed to stand up to 
ashram conditions in all "weathers without any evidence of strain. For 
my own part, I was already beginning to wonder how much longer 
I could remain a useful member of such a community. 

About this time, in response to an appeal by Gandhi, large num 
bers of patels (village headmen) had been resigning. According to 
The Times of India this was due to intimidation by the villagers. The 
villagers were non-co-operating* with the Government, and the 
same authority attributed this to the intimidation of the villagers by 
the pateh. They were apparently bullying each other, in turns. The 
Government Director of Information* also issued regular and 
authentic bulletins on the struggle. In one of them, I remember, he 
referred to a mysterious industry -which he called hand-loom 
spinning*. Such were the compensations of life as the heat and the 
struggle both became more intense. 

Near the beginning of May I visited Gandhi at Karadi and he 
again raised the question of nay editing Young India after his arrest. 
I was doing most of the work on the spot, but under his direction, 
which he had resumed since Mahadev s arrest. This had not pre 
vented a second crop of rumours that I was already editing the 
paper - a story which appeared this time in the English press. 

Visitors continued to come to the ashram. There was the Good 
Lady who came to us in the Name of the Lord a Quakeress, I 
regret to say, on a globetrot. Having been received with every 
courtesy and kindness, she treated the community at prayers to an 
unsolicited lecture on the benefits of British rule. We much preferred 
some visits by Army officers who came from a military cantonment 
across the river. They included the Chaplain, a jolly, not very intelli 
gent man, who seemed to think it a great sin for a Christian to be 
living in such heathenish asceticism. But he was at least courteous, 
and invited me to return his visit which I did. I found the officers 
delightfully naive in their questions about Gandhi and Congress. 
We never read the other point of view,* they said, and again: *We 
only read The Times of India, you know.* We did not get very far, 
but I was glad I went into the Lions Den. In my journals I find these 
concluding comments: 

Arguing about politics with the average Englishman out here 
always reminds me of some arguments I once had about geo 
graphy with a man who believed that the world was flat. The 
discussion is completely addled 


As I was going> the padr6 said: You know, I m a bit of a 
Bolshie myself/ For a moment I was completely nonplussed. But, 
recovering myself quickly, I replied: Well, if it comes to that, 
I m fundamentally a Conservative/ So we parted excellent 

Early on May 8th came the rumour of Gandhi s arrest, together 
with the first account of a massacre by the military authorities at 
Peshawar. We first guessed at the arrest of Bapu when the Govern 
ment cut off all telephone and telegraphic communication from 
Surat. This they did during the whole of the night of May yth, 
picketing all roads with armed police and detaining* the entire 
railway staff at Navsari (the nearest station to Gandhi s camp at 

As soon as the news of Gandhyi s arrest was confirmed I drove 
into Ahmedabad with a dear old Moslem member of the ashram 
(always referred to as the Iman Sahib ) and two other Congress 
leaders. I quote once more from my journals: 

In Ahmedabad there was a complete hartal shops closed and 
mills idle, but no sign of rowdyism. Presently, however, we 
drove into a street where there was a crowd in a bit of a ferment. 
We stopped the car and enquired as to what had happened. The 
people told us that two armoured cars had just gone by with 
machine guns. We drove on after the armoured cars, and found 
that they had apparently turned in at the Police Station. After that 
we went to the Young India office, where a note soon arrived 
requesting the presence of the Imam Sahib and one of the Con 
gress leaders at the Magistrate s house. They proceeded there 
immediately and found the Magistrate much agitated. Under the 
circumstances, he told them, he had no recourse but to patrol the 
town with armoured cars ! The Congress chiefs told him that this 
was the surest way to provoke trouble, and said that if he would 
agree to keep his armoured cars, armed police and soldiers, etc 
out of the -way and shut all the liquor shops, they would be 
responsible for the peace of the city. This he at last agreed to do. 
The armoured cars and the rest of the law and order* machinery 
were parked out of the way. All liquor shops, Indian and foreign, 
were closed for one day, and absolute peace was maintained under 
what was virtually Congress R.ule. This has been done on several 
occasions in different parts of the country since I have been here, 
and wherever Congress have been allowed to take control of the 
situation there has been complete order. Every single instance of 


rioting and disorder of which I have heard so fax has occurred 
-when the police have insisted on handling the matter their own 

The time of the arrest (12.45 a.m.) and the circumstances were 
interesting. That night Mirabehn drew my attention to a passage in 
Matthew and said: Have you noticed that? She was pointing to the 
last words of the twenty-first chapter: But when they sought to lay 
hands upon him, they feared the multitude because they took him 
for a prophet. I turned over a few pages and pointed in turn to 
Matthew xxvi. 55: Are ye come out as against a thief, with swords 
and staves to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the Temple, 
and ye laid no hold on me.* I have already mentioned one alleged 
incident at the time of the arrest, in discussing Bapu s genius for 
studied anti-climax. I cannot say for certain if it was true, but that 
story about him cleaning his teeth instead of making a speech was 
certainly characteristic. And again, I cannot vouch for the story that 
some of the Indian police joined in a parting hymn or that there 
were tears in their eyes. Such stories are too easily invented. But 
Gandhiji s companions were certainly allowed to sing a hymn before 
he was taken away; and that was an act of courtesy to the credit of 
those who made the arrest. 

The news from Peshawar was terrible it was not unlike General 
Dyer s massacre at Amritsar in 1919. But it had a heartening side. 
The courage shown by unarmed people under fire from the military 
was something new. The mutiny of two platoons of the Garhwali 
Rifles (a Hindu regiment), -who refused to fire on their Moslem 
feHow-coimtryrnen, was another sign of the times. (At their trial, 
later, where these men received heavy sentences, they said: We will 
not shoot our unarmed brothers. You may blow us from the guns, 
if you like.*) Not without reason did the Daily Telegraph correspon 
dent, Ashmead Bartlett, express the greatest alarm -it was the 
beginning of a nationalist movement within the Indian forces which 
was one day to facilitate the formation of Subhas Bose s National 
Army* out of prisoners taken by the Japanese; and it led on to the 
Indian Naval Mutiny of 1946. Less than sixteen years after those 
Garhwali heroes refused to join in the Peshawar massacre, the Bom 
bay correspondent of the Daily Mail (of all English papers the one 
that had most obstinately denied the existence of any real national 
movement in India, apart from a few scheming lawyers, out-of- 
work graduates and fanatics*) was to comment on the Naval 


Mutiny that: The real mainspring of the mutiny has been the desire 
for independence which is now sweeping across the colour belt . . / 
In so short a time that I could certainly not have believed it in 1930, 
the ranks of Tuscany, though they did not cheer, had learnt to face 
the facts. The real cause of that post-war mutiny, according to John 
Fisher (Daily Mail, February 25th, 1946) was the existence of 
British rule in India*. It raised a problem that no amount of reforms 
or increases in pay -will eliminate . 

Many Indians believe that the Naval Mutiny, more than any 
other single event, determined the policy of the Labour Govern 
ment in implementing Churchill s wartime promises. I do not know. 
There were so many contributory causes - political, economic, 
military - in addition to an admitted change in the attitude of most 
British residents in India and the deep personal impression made by 
Gandhi and his methods on world opinion, that it seems to me to be 
pure speculation if one selects any particular event or development 
as *the cause* of what was undoubtedly a revolutionary change in the 
attitude of all the political leaders in England. What we can say with 
certainty is that the Garhwali Mutiny was recognised at the time as 
one of the most significant events in the struggle of 1930. It was 
certainly, also, a true pointer to the future. 

The third fact which marks the Peshawar disturbances of spring, 
1930, as important is that the North-West Frontier Province is 
ninety-two per cent Moslem. The association from that time on 
wards of the Pathans of the N.W.F.P. with the Congress cause was 
one of the clearest answers to the monotonous lie that Congress was 
*a Hindu organisation*. Always resourceful, The Times of India 
explained that unrest on the frontier was caused by Congress 
agitators* who had been inciting Moslems in the N.W.F.P. against 
the Sarda Act. This Act, prohibiting child marriages, has been 
claimed (a) as a result of Kathleen Mayo s propaganda, and (6) as a 
triumph of British rule; so that a few words of explanation may be 
necessary here. As regards Kathleen Mayo s book 1 it is sufficient to 
say that the Act was preceded by years of agitation on the part of 
Indian reformers, long before Miss Mayo s name had ever been 

1 Mother India, a compendium of all the filth which could be found in India (or any 
where else) plus many gems from Miss Mayo s imagination - therefore a best seller. 
The dust-cover of the edition in -which I read it had a quotation from the New States 
man, showing again how far we have moved. The New Statesman review had said that 
this book makes the claim for Swaraj seem nonsense and the will to grant it almost a 


heard in India, and that similar Acts had been passed in Baroda, 
Mysore and Indore before her book "was written. The cTm on 
behalf of the British has been made, characteristically, by Mr 
Beverley Nichols in his preposterous Verdict on India, where he says 
that the Act was fought, tooth and nail, by the orthodox Hindus , 
and gives all the credit to the enlightened British rulers. 

The facts are very simple. The Bill had been sponsored through 
out by the Indian nationalists. In the Legislative Assembly it was 
opposed by the Government and by all members (save one) of the 
nominated* bloc, i.e. nominees of the British Government, who 
constituted nearly one-third of the Assembly members, under the 
Montagu-Chelmsford constitution. My friend Horace Alexander, 
in The Indian Ferment (1929), had charitably explained that the 
Government opposition was not from any lack of sympathy with 
Indian social reform, but through timidity , . .* Eventually, Govern 
ment opposition had been withdrawn, the nominated bloc remaining 
neutral, and the nationalists had passed the Bill. But, as the executive 
power was in no way responsible to the legislature, the apathy of the 
Government guaranteed the ineffectiveness of the new law. H. N. 
Brailsford, in his Rebel India, quoted the case of an attempt to set a 
precedent by a conviction under the Sarda Act a prosecution in 
the Punjab - when the convicted person was immediately pardoned 
by the Government. After that,* he remarked, the Act became 
virtually a dead letter/ 

This digression may have some general interest it does, at least 
help to explain the backwardness of India today when one realises 
the attitude of its past rulers to social reform. It also throws some 
light on the type of calumny which was once used to discredit 
Congress; for in spite of the ingenious story in The Times of India it 
was hardly likely that Congress people would agitate* against a 
measure which they themselves (or rather, those of them who had 
been trying to work the Constitution) had pushed through against 
Government opposition. It would have been much more credible 
had anyone suggested that the Government was itself inciting 
Moslems against the Sarda Act and blaming Congress (quite rightly) 
for its existence. I certainly learnt a great deal about the ethics of 
journalism while I was in India, but I am so incurably naive that the 
things journalists get away "with still astonish me. 

The North-West Frontier was to play a very prominent part in 
the future, of which the 1930 disturbances* were only a beginning. 


In the Provincial Elections of 1937 Congress proved to be the 
strongest party in the N.W.F.P. 1 , and in the post-war elections of 
1946 this ninety-two per cent Moslem province gave them a clear 
majority out of fifty seats, thirty were won by Congress and two 
more by other nationalists, opposed to the Pakistan* policy. (It was 
significant that the two seats reserved for big landowners fell to the 
Moslem League, which had adopted the Pakistan idea in 1940.) 
But tragedy lay ahead for the gallant leaders of the Frontier Pro 
vince. Partition found them cut off from India; and the sudden rise 
of the Moslem League to influence and power in the Moslem 
territories between the N.W.F.P. and the Indian Union left them 
helpless. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Gandhi of the Frontier , 
and all his principal followers, were thrown into jail by the Pakistan 
Government, and there they remain at the time "when this is written. 2 
It is quite impossible to discover whether the Pathans as a whole 
have succumbed to the usual anti-Indian atrocity propaganda, or 
whether they have been forcibly suppressed. Their contribution to 
India s struggle for freedom remains, in either case, and is remem 
bered with deep gratitude in the Republic of India today. 

My own adventures on that first visit to India came to an end 
soon after Gandhi s arrest. I remained in the country about two more 
months; but it very soon became obvious to me that my work at 
Sabarmati was finished. Bapu had twice made it clear to me that he 
wished me to edit Young India after his arrest, unless his secretary 
Pyaralal "was free to undertake the work a proviso he had added 
when I saw him at Karadi. Even at the time I doubted my fitness for 
such a responsibility - today, I am extremely glad that I was saved 
from it. Gandhiji had left no instructions with any other person, and 
I think he expected the paper to be suppressed earlier than it was. 
What actually happened was that, after some confusion (during 

1 This -was one of the many facts of -which Mr Beverley Nichols was apparently un 
aware. *And why, if there were even the faintest shadow of opposition to the [Moslem] 
League in the Muslim ranks . . . why, oh why is even Congress unaware of its 
existence? ... It is because the League is Muslim India. There are no discordant 

voices When Mr Nichols wrote this in his Verdict he had, on his own admission, 

met Abdul Ghaffar Khan, -whom he described as *Gandhi*s understudy on the North- 
West Frontier.* Apparently he did not realise that Abdul GhafFar Khan and his Pathan 
followers were Moslems; which is curious. 

2 Abdul Ghaffar Khan was interned without trial. Objectionable as this practice un 
doubtedly is, it would be unfair to the Pakistan Government not to point out that the 
present rulers of India also detain people without trial though such detentions -were 
frequently, and very rightly, condemned by Indians when the British rulers had 
recourse to them. 


which Pyaralal turned up, but declined the honour), I found myself 
with two bosses on the spot and a third the new nominal editor 1 
lying at Karachi "with a bullet wound in his thigh. (He had been shot 
by the police, while trying to pacify a crowd.) 

Meanwhile my own health was deteriorating; and I was worried 
by the prospect of becoming a drag on my friends instead of being 
any help to them. I thought increasingly of "what I might be able to 
do in England to counteract the propaganda of the press and the 
Labour Government. Even the most liberally-minded people seemed 
to be hopelessly ill-informed, many of my own Quaker friends (who 
read the Viceroy s words, but could not see his actions) being under 
tbe impression that Lord Irwin was showing what they called the 
spirit of forbearance and conciliation . Indian comment on such 
curious misconceptions might have been summed up in the lines: 

It s all very well to dissemble your love, 
But why did you kick me downstairs? 

I was determined to get to grips with opinion in. Britain, and began 
to make plans for my return. 

Before I left Sabarmati I visited Mahadev Desai and Vallabhbhai 
Patel in the local jail. Like Gandhi, they talked of prison as a place of 
rest and peace - the only rest they ever had. My old friend Abbas 
Tyabji (he was seventy-six) was among the next to be arrested, with 
a batch of fifty-seven followers, mostly old friends of mine from the 
ashram. He had been threatened with the loss of his pension from 
Baroda State, as a retired Chief Justice - 1 do not know whether he 
did lose it, but he "was cheerful enough at the prospect. From 
Dholera came the news of 30,000 people breaking the salt laws on 
one day, and the women were playing an increasing part in the 
struggle. This campaign, a friend remarked to me, will strike a 
mortal blow at purdah, if it does nothing else.* A number of these 
women were charged by mounted police on one occasion and beaten 
with lathis and rifles. The explanation of the Director of Information 
was that the horses got out of control . He neglected to explain how 
the lathis and rifles proved equally uncontrollable. An official denial 
in another case (at Agra) that there had been a baton charge on 

1 Many Indian papers in those days had a ^ail editor* in addition to the real one. 
The ^ail Editor" took all responsibility and went to prison in the event of a prose 
cution, when he was succeeded by another jail editor. This would give the journal 
some continuity and a slightly longer expectation of life. 


women proved, on enquiry, to be based upon a neat technical 
distinction between a baton and a to/-the stick carried by an 
Tf rttan policeman* 

It would be possible to fill several books with such incidents, in 
cluding the many cases -where the police opened fire; but fortunately 
this is all part of the dead past. I mention these examples now merely 
because such incidents, and official prevarication with regard to 
them, helped me to decide on my next move. Somehow I had to cut 
through this intricate tangle of falsehood; and at Sabarmati I felt 
powerless to deal with the reports appearing in British papers. Even 
today it may be worth recalling that continual conflict between 
facts and the official reports regarding them. Nowadays, I never read 
a Government statement or a Fleet Street report of a *riot in some 
part of Africa -without the same query inevitably coming into my 
mind: What is the truth behind all this? When one considers how 
few events that one has witnessed - even in England, and including 
occasions of no political importance - have been correctly reported 
in the press, it ought to make one very sceptical. I can safely say that 
I have never yet seen a correct newspaper account of anything that 
I have ever witnessed not even of a garden party. How much less 
reliable must the press be when it is dealing with distant events of 
which the reader has no direct knowledge and the writer, too often, 
every strong inducement to distort or suppress facts for political 

None of Gandhi s satyqgrahis would go to law - it was a strict rule 
that they should boycott and ignore the courts; and even when 
prosecuted ttey made no defence. Consequently there were no 
prosecutions for assault or for libel, though every day gave scope 
for both. 

Refusal of land tax was begun in Bardoli while I was still at the 
ashram. My personal news at the end of May was mainly of the im 
possibility of co-operating with, a new Acting Editor of Young 
India, whose authority had eventually been established after much 
argument. He was a man whom I have since learnt to respect; but as 
he. is still considered a difficult person to work with, I may have had 
good reason for my criticisms of him. I also recorded sadly that since 
the heat became really intense I have had to give up manual labour 
in the fields . During my last week at the ashram three N.C.O.s 
from the cantonment visited me, following the example of the 
officers and the chaplain. I liked the sergeant-major (*a pleasant 


young fellow with a familiar Midland twang on his tongue, mild 
blue eyes and unassuming manners not a bit like the sergeant- 
majors of song and story ). I showed the N.C.O.s round and noted 
that they asked many questions and seemed impressed with what 
they saw and heard*. They persuaded me to return with them, and I 
spent the evening in the N.C.O. s Mess, and answering questions and 
discoursing on Gandhi to a highly respectful audience of sergeants 
and corpprals, who nodded solemnly as they sipped their beer. 

I left on May 25th, all the ashramites being convened specially to 
see me off. I tad been looking forward/ I wrote, to resuming my 
travels; but when the moment came I felt very sad. They made the 
sacred mark on my forehead and garlanded me with yarn spun by 
Bapu on his march. They wanted me to speak to them, but I 
could not. I think they understood. They were all standing in the 
road as the tonga rattled me round the first bend, with Bande 
Mataram . . . still ringing in my ears.* 

My immediate destination was Bombay, and I had arranged to 
travel with a batch of Congress volunteers who were on their way 
to Dharasana (one of the storm-centres). Their route lay for some 
distance along the main line to Bombay and their leader was one of 
my friends. So I went first to the Congress headquarters at Ahmeda- 
bad, marching from there "with the volunteers in a sort of procession 
to the station. Not since Gandhi set off firom Sabarmati had I seen 
such dense crowds as those which turned out to cheer us on our way. 
As at Lahore, in the Congress procession, even the roofs were 
crowded. The police, fortunately, kept out of the way, so every 
thing went peacefully. Congress volunteers along the road managed 
to control everything except the dust, which choked and blinded 
one. There seemed to be no air in the narrow streets, and I was almost 
overpowered by the heat and the smelL 

About half an hour after we had boarded the night train it made 
an unscheduled stop. In spite of the usual discomfort I was half 
asleep, firom sheer exhaustion; but the word police* roused me 
instantly to full consciousness. Sure enough, there they were, led by 
a self-important little man -who was arresting all my companions. 
This was a new game arresting volunteers before they had even 
begun to break any laws. They wanted him to show his "warrant. 
He turned purple. Warrant?* he shouted. What are you talking 
about? I m the D.S.P/ There was more shouting and confusion. 
Police began entering the carriages and hurling the occupants on 


to the platform. They asked where I was going to. Bombay/ I 

The police left me alone after that. There was a great deal of con 
versation in Gujerati, after which the volunteers began to leave the 
carriages without the assistance of the D.S.P/S minions. When I 
asked what had happened I was told that he had declared the 
occupants of those carriages an illegal assembly*, and was arresting 
them as such. It was a hasty improvisation to cover his lack of a 
warrant, and the procedure was still quite illegal. In law he should 
have told an illegal assembly to disperse, and was only empowered 
to arrest people if they refused to do so. But he gave me my cue. 
After a few moments* thought I jumped out of the train. 

Is it true/ 1 asked the D.S.P., that you are arresting the occupants 
of this carriage as an illegal assembly? 


Then you will have to arrest me, too.* 

Very well, then, I will, cried the little man. The volunteers 

He thought again and snapped at me: Are you going to 
X)har asana? * 

Where I am going/ I pointed out, has nothing to do with the 

For a moment he seemed quite at a loss. Then he came back with 
a singularly silly question. 

Did you get into this carriage by accident, then?* 

I don t generally/ said I, patiently, get into a carriage by 

At that point some colleague - of higher rank, I presume 

Mr Reynolds can go/ he said. 

He spoke as though that ended the matter; as, in fact, it did. The 
stupidity of the whole business suddenly undermined my self- 
control, and I exclaimed: 

It s the biggest damn* farce I ve seen!* 

What? shrieked the D.S.P. Who are you calling a damned 

Tm not calling anybody anything/ I answered wearily (feeling 
that I should very much like to have called him a good many 
things). Tm only saying that this business is a damnable farce/ 

So they arrested all my companions and I shook hands with the 


friend who was leading them, before I returned to the empty 
carriage. It s honour bought cheap,* he said, and laughed. I never 
saw him again. 

At every station crowds were waiting to welcome the volunteers 
and I had to explain that they had been arrested. As on the return 
journey from Dholera, I received the garlands intended for others. 
Owing to the crowds at Ahmedabad station I had been unable to 
obtain a ticket, but an Indian stranger who had entered my carriage 
on the journey paid the Inspector before I could get my money out. 
He resented as an insult my attempt to repay him, saying it was the 
least he could do to show his appreciation of a friend of his country. 
It was one of many similar experiences. 

I slept little, if at all, that night and saw one of the strangest dawns 
I can remember. Across a dreary, barren waste of flat land a ridge of 
hills rose abruptly, pitch black against a ghastly yellow sky. Over 
the hills hung a bank of black cloud. A few stunted palms in the 
foreground only added to the air of desolation. There was some 
thing apocalyptic about that scene which appealed to my mood at 
the moment and remained permanently in my memory. It was 
Nature imitating Nemesis. 


. . iff lo wring Hindostan 
Rose, like its destiny, the fated man: 
The scattered wars receive an altered- form. 
And heaven s full signs foretell the final storm. 

ERNEST JONES (about 1849) 

I WAS now on my way home, via Colombo. This route gave me an 
opportunity to see a little of Southern India, with the advantage of a 
cheap (third class) passage on the Orient Line. 

In Bombay I stayed with Moslems again, on Malabar Hill. My 
host was a retired judge, a brother of Abbas Tyabji. Both brothers 
had been brought up to support British rule and had eventually 
turned against it, becoming strong supporters of Congress. Old 
Husain Tyabji and his legal friends astonished me by the un 
concerned, matter-of-fact way in which they discussed the bribes 
said to have been received by a former British Governor of Bombay 
Presidency. In India today one still hears very similar discussions 
about prominent politicians and officials, and it is very difficult to 
arrive at any conclusions. On the -whole I was, perhaps, more 
sceptical on my second visit to India because I felt that charges could, 
and should, have been substantiated in the courts. Before India 
became independent there were obvious difficulties about this - such 
as the bias of the courts and the sacrosanct character of a Governor 
who (being a representative of the King) could *do no wrong* and 
could not be sued. A prominent Congressman had, however, 
publicly made a number of charges which had provoked a libel suit - 
and had won his case. The same technique was then being used to 
expose the Maharajah of Patiala (the father of the present ruler), who 
was quite the most criminal of the Indian Princes. Unfortunately he 
was too -well advised to prosecute for libel, or to take action under 
the Princes Protection Act. 1 He was saved from disaster by the 

1 In the first two editions of my White Sahibs in India there will be found an appendix 
on Patiala and on the discreditable means used by the Government in 1930 to cover his 
tracks. It is far too long a story to discuss here, but it is worth mentioning as one of the 
subjects to which I devoted considerable time on my return to England. 


shrewdness of his Political Secretary, Mr Foishbrook Williams, and 
the venality of the Labour Government. 

Bombay, seen from the steep slopes of Malabar Hill, did not much 
resemble the pkce that had so horrified me when I first arrived in 
India. Of an evening I -would look down from a balcony, over the 
tops of trees, to the long sweep of distant lights that marked the 
curve of the bay. On the hill we did not even know of a riot in the 
city, until it was all over. It had broken out on the day of my arrival, 
in the Mohammedan quarter - the police had fired on some Moslems 
and the Moslems had thrown stones at the police. As to who began, 
or why, there were the usual conflicting accounts, that of the 
Government communique being based on the sole testimony of a 
British police sergeant, against a large number of Indian "witnesses. 
This sergeant was later dismissed from the force - apparently be 
cause it was considered a blunder to quarrel with Moslems: it was 
certainly against Government policy. 

Congress workers had hurried to the spot, pacified the people and 
taken care of the wounded. A wealthy Congressman had opened his 
house as a hospital, which I visited shortly afterwards. There I found 
many high-caste Hindus among those caring for the wounded 
Moslems. A number of casualties from Dharasana and other places 
were brought to this hospital - passive resisters who had experienced 
what was officially called Snfmmnm force in the form of police 
lathi charges. The night in Bombay ended with the burning of a car 
from which the owner an Englishman - was rescued by Congress 
workers. An open-air meeting was arranged by the Moslem 
nationalists on tie following day; and with no more than a few- 
hours* notice they collected a crowd of about 15,000. This, I -was 
told, was only a small number, but many who would otherwise have 
been present were in a funeral procession for the victims of the riot. 
(Bodies are disposed of variously in India, according to different 
religious customs; but in one matter practice is uniform, and that is 
speed. The climate is conducive to rapid putrefaction.) 

I was asked to go on the platform at this meeting and suddenly 
confronted with an unexpected request to speak. It was my first 
experience of talking into a microphone, and a wind from the sea 
blew my own words back from the loudspeakers, almost deafening 
and quite confusing me. I spoke in English, and a translation was 
given afterwards. 

My time in Bombay seems to have been spent mainly in meeting 


people - everybody from Congress leaders (including members of 
that distinguished Parsee family, the Naorojis) to American movie- 
men, "who persuaded me to give a message* before the microphone 
and the camera. I cannot think (and shudder to imagine) -what non 
sense I talked. One well-known Moslem I was particularly glad to 
meet was Brelvi, editor of the leading nationalist daily paper, die 
Bomlay Chronicle. I liked him, but found him too desperately afraid 
of having his paper suppressed*. He did, however, publish my 
account of the arrests on the train - an article which made the best of 
a ludicrous situation and might well have caused trouble for any 
editor. ( Calculated to bring the Government into hatred and con 
tempt was a very common charge in relation to such articles in the 
daily routine of trials and convictions.) Two years later Brelvi did 
land himself into serious trouble by publishing the investigations 
made by Verrier Elwin regarding the repression of the Pathans on 
the North-West Frontier. 

Gandhiji was now at Yeravda Prison, Poona, which was on my 
route to Madras. He had written on May 22nd asking me to visit 
him and I planned to make Poona my next stop, staying for a few 
days at the Christa Seva Sangha. This place was one of the very few 
Christian ashrams (High Anglican) and I was going there at the 
invitation of Verrier Elwin Father Elwin, as he was called in those 
days - a man whom I had not yet met, though I had read a few- 
things he had "written with strong approval. So at the end of May I 
left Bombay with one of Gandhi 5 s nephews, a Parsee friend and 
Mirabehn. Gandhi s English disciple had met us, to our great sur 
prise, on the platform of the station as we left Bombay. She had 
come down from Sabarmati with an urgent cable for me which had 
arrived from England at the ashram they did not know my Bom 
bay address, and the cable concerned my proposed interview with 
the celebrated prisoner at Yeravda. My journals are very inadequate 
at this point. (I had been vaccinated in Bombay, in accordance with 
the regulations of the Orient Line, and I was just beginning to feel 
the effects.) I think the cable was from C. F. Andrews, and concerned 
Gandhi s terms for calling off the Civil Disobedience Campaign; but 
I am not sure, nor do I know how it happened that whoever sent the 
cable knew so soon of my intended visit to Yeravda. There may have 
been a press rumour correct, for once. 

Anyway, there was Mirabehn, to my great delight for I had said 
good-bye to her with the others at Sabarmati - and she had taken 


the chance of finding me at the station, knowing the train by which 
Gandhi s nephew Mathurdas was travelling. Having come so far, she 
decided to travel with us in the hope of seeing Gandhiji. Two of us 
being far from well, we travelled second class; and I dimly remem 
ber the train "winding and tunnelling through beautiful mountainous 
country. On arrival at Poona we drove straight from the station to 
the jail. 

Mathurdas Gandhi had already arranged with the prison authori 
ties regarding his visit. I had written a week before but received no 
reply. The other two had made no arrangements and merely hoped 
for the best. The position was that Bapu was not a convict but 
detained during the Government s pleasure*, so that ordinary prison 
rules did not apply and visits were subject to die discretion or 
caprice of the Prison Governor or whoever gave him his instruc 
tions. Mathurdas sent in a note and we waited in the sun for what 
seemed to me with my mounting fever an intolerably long time. 
Word came back that Mathurdas and Mirabehn could see Mr 
Gandhi, but not the other two (my Parsee friend and myself). The 
privileged two went in and asked Bapu "what should be done in these 
circumstances. He replied that he could not countenance this dis 
crimination, and that they were to go back unless we -were all to be 
allowed in. Eventually we received word that the other three -were 
to be admitted, but not Mr Reynolds. The Superintendent s note, 
which I still keep as a curio, stated that Mr Reynolds is informed 
that his request for an interview cannot be granted/ 

I never fathomed what lay behind it perhaps the news of that 
cable from England, though surely any other member of the party 
might still have acted on my behalf in the matter. The four of us 
withdrew, two having at least seen the dear man for a minute or 
two. A letter which I received two months later from a member of 
Gandhi s family stated that Bapu does not take interviews since you 
went to Yeravda* - from which I conclude that he had been refusing 
to see other visitors as a protest against my exclusion. Before I left 
Poona I was visited by an Associated Press reporter and for once I 
even welcomed a journalist when I found that he had come to con 
firm the Prison Superintendent s account of this incident. The Super 
intendent s story was simply that Gandhiji did not wish to see any of 
the four visitors who had called that day. This somewhat inaccurate 
version I managed to stop. It remained unpublished, and was re 
placed by a brief statement of my own. 


From the jail we drove to the Christa Seva Sangha, where the 
others left me and returned to the station. At last I met Verrier 
Elwin, who was a very striking figure even in those days. He had 
not even begun to achieve fame as an anthropologist, but he was 
known to a small circle for his poetry, his wit and his charming 
personality also for the courageous way in which he had often 
expressed his sympathy with Congress. He was very good-looking, 
and in his white khaddar cassock gave an impression of having stepped 
straight off the streets of gold through one of those gates of pearl. 
Not until he laughed - which was fortunately almost at once - could 
I be quite convinced that he -was human. In the absence of Father 
Jack Winslow, Verrier was in charge of the ashram; and even two 
days of high temperature and torment (when my bowels, like those 
of Job, boiled and rested not ) did not prevent me from remember 
ing my short stay at the Christa Seva Sangha as one of the happiest 
episodes during my time in India. I lived once more in a stone cell, 
where for forty-eight hours I fasted (until something resembling 
normal conditions "were restored) entertained by Vender s drolleries 
and visits from other Brothers of the small community. The place 
was dedicated to St Francis; and I don t know whether to call it pure 
Franciscan!, but it was certainly pure Laurence Housman - which 
may be higher praise, for I always suspected my oldest literary friend 
of having improved on his original in those delightful plays. Much 
of the life of this Christian ashram had been borrowed from Hindu 
culture; but I am sure no Hindu institution ever enjoyed so much 

I don t know how High Anglicans manage about Holy Water, 
but these friends at Poona used it, and preserved it with contraband 
salt. They were doing a great deal of social work in neighbouring 
villages, about which they told me. Some time after I left Poona one 
of these Brothers was assaulted in the road by a British officer from 
the cantonment - apparently because, he was wearing khaddar. No 
action was taken. "With Verrier I discussed the matter that was 
uppermost in my mind - the problem of counteracting Govern 
ment propaganda in Britain. This had become even more difficult 
from the Indian end owing to the frequent interference with mails 
(in spite of the usual glib denial by Wedgwood Benn in the House of 
Commons). Verrier was one of many who had reason to complain 
of this unacknowledged censorship- My journals also record at least 
one Elwinism* apropos of a British Quaker who had been pouring- 

out entirely fictitious information and figures about India faster than 
I could hope to reply, even when I was allowed to do so. 1 *He men 
tioned X / 1 wrote, whom he had met in London. I referred to 

our Friend s statistical inaccuracies. "Ah/* said Verrier, "I thought 
he was no statistician when I found he had dismissed the Trinity in 
a footnote." * 

There must have been something more than vaccination behind 
that fever in Poona, for I remained in very poor health during those 
last weeks in India. My final entries were tltose of a very tired and 
sick young man who was finding how distressing notoriety could be 
in such circumstances. However, nothing of special importance 
happened on the train to Madras, except that we ran over a buffalo 
and a whole village turned out to lament the catastrophe. With 
Bombay and Poona I left behind the gulmohur (the most beautiful 
tree, to my mind, that I had ever seen) with its flame-coloured 
blossoms. I came to a land, as it seemed, of palm trees and bananas. 

My host at Madras was Dr Gravely, the Superintendent of the 
Museum. I noted as a matter of some interest that I had paid four and 
a half times the normal rate to wire him, because it was the King- 
Emperor s birthday. (On the lesser festival known as Easter Monday 
I had only been made to pay double.) Dr Gravely, a Quaker whose 
family had known my father, was very kind to me. He was an 
excellent host and on the best of terms with everybody, including 
the local Congress people -a thing which was then rare among 
Englishmen, especially those in official positions. So far as my health 
and weariness permitted I was taken around to meet people, and was 
interested to find the carpenter s shop at the Ramakrishna Mission 
busy turning out spinning-wheels to meet the growing demand for 
them. The local Congress people -were somewhat divided, and some 
of the leaders had been accused of timidity. As a result, a number of 
women had come to the fore, and they had sent saris and bangles to 
the less intrepid leaders by way of a hint. 

At first I managed to dodge the press, safe in the Museum and in 
my host s house, but before I left Madras they were on my trail 
again. My next stop was at Madura. I left Madras in the evening, but 

1 The Friend the Quaker weekly in which most of this fiction appeared has long 
been in better hands. But it was then edited by a cousin of mine, who allowed the most 
outrageous libels on TTKJf aT >s in general, and Gandhi in particular, seldom permitting 
any attempt to correct them, even -when it was a matter of official statistics of which 
there could be only one correct version. Fortunately,, the attitude of the Society of 
Friends towards India and Gandhi was soon to be completely revolutionised, 


after a night s journey I still had some hours of travelling before my 
arrival at noon on the following day, and I was not fortunate in my 
company. A Cockney (who turned out to be an Army baker on 
leave) and another Englishman, in the Criminal Investigation Depart 
ment, boarded my train that morning. They gave me to understand/ 
I wrote, that they knew who I was and forthwith began to abuse 
Bapu and the satyagrahis in filthy language. However, I continued to 
read The Letters of Gertrude Bell, I think to their disappointment and 
annoyance/ At one station, where I breakfasted off a bunch of 
bananas, a monkey mother, clutching her infant, came through the 
window. With amazing speed she snatched my last banana (almost 
from my hand) and ran off with it, eating the stolen fruit a few feet 
from where I was sitting. 

At Madura I was met by Dick Keithahn, a young American 
missionary with whom I had made acquaintance - 1 think on a visit 
of his to Sabarmati. He rescued me from pressmen and Congress- 
wallahs, taking me off in his Ford. Keithahn - like his fellow- 
countryman, Richard Gregg, the Brothers at Poona, and myself 
wore khaddar, a very rare thing indeed among Europeans. Dr 
Forrester Paton, a Scottish missionary, was another of this small 
band; and in 1932 Dr Paton s hand-spun clothing was considered 
sufficient provocation for two British police sergeants to attack him 
with lathis. 

Paton s case, in fact, became quite a cause celekre. Having beaten 
him up as he was walking along a street in Madras, the police called 
a water-cart and had him drenched with green water from a hose 
pipe, after "which he was arrested on fabricated charges and a 
prosecution was begun which had to be dropped for lack of any 
evidence. 1 Another European who wore khaddar was, of course, 
Mirabehn; and though she was not persecuted for wearing it she 
was apparently considered an undesirable character for assisting in its 
manufacture. When she was externed from Bombay in 1932 the 
Daily Telegraph (February xyth) solemnly listed her offences: She 

1 A full account of this incident appeared in a Christian journal, the Guardian (then 
published in Calcutta) of February 4th, 1932. Dr Paton happened to have a brother-in- 
law who was a Conservative M.P., and this case consequently had some publicity. Sir 
Samuel Hoare - then at the India Office - wrote to the indignant MP. that a mistake 
had been made*. It had, indeed. It is always a mistake to assault people with respectable 
friendfrin Parliament; but the Indian villagers had no such protection and (according 
to Dr Paton) were afraid to go into town in homespun. It was not considered a 
mistake when they were similarly treated. 


has acted in a manner prejudicial to public safety in furthering an 
unlawful movement. Miss Skde has spent the greater part of her 
time, since the arrest of Gandhi, in spinning [sic] cloth. 

The wearing ofkhaddar was therefore a badge of brotherhood that 
really meant something in those days. Keithahn was strictly law- 
abiding - his pledge of political neutrality (demanded of him as an 
American citizen) had never been dishonoured. But there was no 
doubt, in private conversation, as to what he really thought about 
things: his clothes, indeed, proclaimed his opinions. Nevertheless, he 
contended that supporting village industries was legitimate; and 
how, indeed, could anyone argue that it constituted political 
partiality? No British official would have considered that Keithahn 
was taking sides had he worn foreign doth, which was their own 
badge*. Nevertheless, he had been warned by the Collector. 1 He 
told me of another member of his American mission who had been 
rash enough to tell the Collector s wife that he thought Gandhi was 
sincere. For this terrible statement the missionary had been given to 
understand by the Collector that when next he went home on leave 
he would not be permitted to return to India. 

I should think/ I wrote in my journal, *that my visit will con 
stitute almost a penal ofience. I was not far wrong. For giving me 
one night s hospitality and inviting some of his friends (Indian 
Christians) to meet me on the roof of his house (a private gathering 
later described officially as a political meeting*) Keithahn was kicked 
out of India. 

This case was to be made the subject of a question in the House of 
Commons by a man then unknown to me - Wilfred "Wellock 
who asked Wedgwood Benn whether he was aware that Keith ahn s 
*only ofience was to give shelter for one night to an Englishman*. 
Benn replied that he was making enquiries and there - so far as the 
House was concerned the matter ended (Hansard, July 28th, 1930). 
Subsequently there was some controversy about Keithahn in the 
Spectator. A correspondent (Horace Alexander) stated that he had 
been through the file of the National Christian Council relating to 
this matter. The more I read,* he said, the more astonished I became 
that such a thing could have happened. No complaint was made 
against Mr Keithahn whatever, except that he had entertained Mr 
Reynolds and had been present at the station to see him off (a 

1 My journal contains other references to this persecution of khaddar. Even the 
distribution centres -were sometimes wrecked by the police. 


courtesy not unusual towards one s guests) when there was also a 
Congress demonstration in Mr Reynolds* honour/ Horace Alexan 
der, in this letter, mentioned that another of my hosts easily 
identified as Verrier Elwin, from whom I later heard the full story - 
had been questioned about me. The official who addressed this 
enquiry ( thinking, apparently/ wrote Alexander, that the un 
expectedly easy triumph over these missionaries might be profitably 
followed up ) was silenced by Verrier s reply that he would sooner 
die that allow any authority to dictate to him in matters of 
hospitality. 1 

I had to intervene myself in that discussion, as Dr Edward Thomp 
sona man for "whom I had the greatest respect -had suddenly 
come forward as advocates diaboli, for some obscure reason, and 
attempted to justify the Government by suggesting that Madura 
was *off my beat , as though I had been a perambulating policeman. 
There was no further reply to the letters by Horace Alexander and 
myself which did, in fact, clinch an irrefutable case. And I am happy 
to add that Edward Thompson and I had a good laugh about the 
whole thing many years later; for we became friends before a tragic 
illness ended the life of that most erratic, sincere and lovable man. I 
admired him as a scholar, a poet and a real friend of India. 

Keithahn himself, to whom I naturally "wrote in apology "when I 
learned the result of my visit, replied that had he not been compelled 
to leave on account of his hospitality to me he would still have been 
forced to resign two weeks later, when the Collector (a certain Mr 
Hull) sent out requests that missionaries should uphold the Govern 
ment and speak against the nationalist movement in any informal 
gatherings at "which they might find themselves. Much to his disgust, 
the American group with which Keithahn had been working took 
this request without protest; but a Danish missionary, engaged in 
work which received a Government grant, had resigned from his 
post and protested against the circular. Keithahn himself eventually 
returned to India, and -was among the old friends who welcomed me 
in 1949. But I must go back to June, 1930. 

The famous Shiva temple at Madura I found hideously over- 
ornamented. Half of it seemed to be in use as a bazaar - a den of 
thieves, also of beggars. Lit up at dusk by hundreds of tiny lamps, it 
looked better; but on the whole I much preferred the old palace of 
the rajahs, then used as law courts. It "was good to see columns with 

1 Spectator, December 6th, 1930. 


unbroken lines. Generally speaking, however, the architecture of the 
South repelled me owing to its superfluity of decoration, obscuring 
all sense of form. 

On the way out to Keithahn s house at Pasumlai I noticed a 
mosque, perched on a high rock. It looked so solitary, remote and 
quiet that I had a great desire to visit it. So we rose early the next 
morning to make the climb while the day was still cool. We found 
an aged Imam at the mosque when we reached it, and asked his per 
mission to enter. He replied that there was but one God, Allah - 
evidently an adequate answer in his opinion, and we took it as an 
invitation to enter. Like most mosques, it impressed me Moslem 
architecture seemed to me to have so much more grandeur, and I 
liked its comparative simplicity. It has, of course, an affinity with 
some European styles, which Hindu architecture has not, and is so 
much more easily appreciated, in consequence, by the average 
Westerner. In this matter I was (and still am) a fair specimen of that 

Before I left for Ceylon I "was kidnapped, more or less, by the 
local Congress chiefs and taken off to their centre at Madura, where 
I had to sit and answer questions (always the same questions, to 
which I became so tired of replying). There were also the same 
embarrassing compliments, and there was the same inevitable 
garlanding and cheering. I breakfasted at last "with an Indian friend - 
a Civil Engineer but found the same crowd "which had gathered 
round the doors at the Congress centre waiting to see me off at the 
station. The whole business seems to have been getting me down 
and my journals record the exhausting delay at the station, due to the 
train being late and remaining so long when it eventually arrived. 
All this time I had to talk pleasantly with my well-meaning friends 
when my whole idea of happiness was a haystack on Mount 

Six hours later I was on a boat, crossing the narrow seas between 
India and Ceylon, Thanks to the crowd at Madura, I had not a hope 
of travelling incognito. Everywhere I moved on that boat there was 
nudging and whispering. R.egret and relief were curiously mingled 
as I watched India slip out of sight. I wondered if I should ever return. 
But my adventures were by no means at an end. At Talainannar 
Pier the Customs examination of my personal papers held up every 
thing else and considerably delayed the boat train. My private letters 
were read and all books and papers closely scrutinised. Fortunately 


my very cryptic method of taking notes is meaningless to anybody 
but myself, so nothing of any great interest to the authorities was 
discovered. They took away my passport and told me that I could 
recover it the next day at the C!.D. office in Colombo. 

An all-night journey in a crowded train brought me to the capital 
- or, at least, to one of the outlying suburbs. I had hoped to spend a 
quiet day and night before leaving for England, at the Y.M.C.A. - 
specially recommended by Keith ahn on account of its "Warden, 
whom I later discovered to be indeed a sympathique character. But at 
the last station before Colombo I was almost carried out of the train 
by some Indian Congressmen who had made very different arrange 
ments for me. Helpless to resist, I let them take me into Colombo 
by car. 

I had not realised until then that about one-fifth of the population 
of Ceylon consisted of Tamils - immigrants from Southern India. 
It was one of these, a member of the Ceylon Legislative Council, 
"who had taken charge of me, and it was to his house that we now 
drove. I was immediately besieged by Indians, including many 
journalists, and submitted to all the questions and compliments 
which I thought I had left behind for ever - with pressure from my 
host to make statements for the press on the grounds that the oppor 
tunity for propaganda must not be lost. In the middle of all this I was 
shown a handbill announcing that I was to address a public meeting 
that afternoon on the political situation in India. In vain did I plead 
the state of my health and the strong reasons that I had for wishing 
to avoid trouble for myself in Ceylon. It was, I considered, obvious 
that any speech I could make on this subject was bound to be rankly 
seditious in the eyes of the Government - no wonder, as the chief 
purpose of the meeting "was to raise money and recruits for the Civil 
Disobedience Campaign in India. Writing kter on the Orsova, 
homeward bound, I said: 

I was particularly averse to giving the police any excuse for 
arresting me now that my plans were made and my passage 
booked. I have since learned how far my fears were justified - at 
least the story goes on board here that I was within an inch of 
being arrested in Colombo. 

But my protests were unavailing. My visit to Ceylon had been 
rumoured for some days, something of this sort was expected of 
me, and the matter was an affair of noblesse oblige. My host told 
me that the political apathy of the island was disgraceful and that 


he relied on me to make a stir. I hope he is satisfied with the *stir* 
I created. 

"Well, there were more flags and garlands and cheering crowds 
and everything I have come to hate, and finally I landed back at 
Natesa Aiyar s house with a double-barrelled headache and a host 
of new friends who crowded into the place after the amiable 
fashion of the Orient. Among them was a partner in an Indian 
shipping firm who mercifully carried me off in his car to his 
house, well away outside the town. It was close to the shore and 
he gave me a room facing the sea. The murmur of waves was 
never so soothing. 

Unfortunately it was necessary to revisit the town, before I em 
barked the following evening. Photographs had appeared in all the 
newspapers, and although all my business was of a purely private 
character such as the collection of my passport from the C.IJD. and 
a short visit to the Y.M.C.A., where I met Keithahn s friend 
crowds collected everywhere I went. At last my kind host of the 
previous night put me on board the Orsova in his company s motor 
launch. Many passengers who had been on shore had bought news 
papers and apart from seeing the photographs had read accounts 
of my adventures (varying in accuracy) together with interview s, a 
resume of my speech the previous evening, and the news that I was 
sailing on the Orsova. This was not conducive to the peaceful 
anonymity I had promised myself for the voyage; but after the first 
flutter of curiosity I was left alone a good deaL In fact I made it very 
clear from the start that I had no wish to discuss either politics or 
my own affairs with anybody; and I soon settled down to write 
articles on various aspects of the Indian political situation. But first 
I watched the lights of Colombo till they had disappeared. I was 
mentally numbed and very apathetic as I said good-bye to the 

The monsoons really brought me back to life. In wind and rain I 
paced the rolling deck, feeling that at last I could breathe again. Tie 
lost energy returned, and I set about vigorously tie many jobs I had 
determined to tackle on the voyage. In less than three weeks I -was 
back in England, ready for a fresh campaign with, new companions. 

As I am -most fortunately - not writing an autobiography, the 
story of my own life from July, 1930, until I sailed again for India in 


October, 1949, is mainly irrelevant to my present purpose. A few 
things only need be mentioned. 

In England I found many old friends anxious to help and new 
ones to whom I was drawn by a common interest. Until Indian free 
dom was achieved it remained my principal concern; and the first 
book that I ever wrote, in 1937, was one result of this preoccupation. 
The White Sahibs in India was, perhaps, my own most effective con 
tribution to The Cause*; and I do know now that it made a number 
of people really think seriously about India for the first time, on their 
own admission - though I too have an admission to make, which is 
that the book had many faults. One s earlier works always have. It 
was, of course, banned in India; but in Britain it sold well enough, 
going into a second edition in 1938. It was also republished in an 
abridged and revised form after the war. Perhaps its most curious - 
and (to me) unpleasant adventure was the way in which it was 
plagiarised in a big way in France under the German occupation. 
Under the title Ulnde et YAngletene, with the name of Robert 
Brifiault as author, a book was published which apart from the last 
chapter - was little more than a French pot-boiler rehashed from my 
White Sahibs. There were frequent acknowledgments to my own 
book, but the numerous quotations and references which were not so 
acknowledged had all been, quite obviously, lifted* - unless one 
allows for an extraordinary degree of coincidence, even in the matter 
of press cuttings from British and Indian papers over a long period. 

I do not mention this matter merely on account of the plagiarism. 
In normal times I suppose my publishers would have dealt with that 
as they thought best. But the last chapter of V Inde et YAngleterre 
covered the war years - a period subsequent to the publication of my 
own book in 1937 and 1938. This last chapter openly favoured the 
Japanese liberators* of Asia; so that, in effect, my own work was 
adapted to a very different purpose from that which I had intended. 
I did not know about this until after the war, when a copy of the 
French book was given to me as a curiosity by somebody who had 
already noticed the extensive use of my historical material. This use 
of it for what was, quite blatantly, Nazi propaganda carried out 
under German occupation and in German interests - naturally 
annoyed but did not greatly surprise me. I had always realised that 
any exposure of our own crimes and blunders was liable to be used 
in this way -just as the exposure of Nazi crimes could be used (and 
was, in fact, used) to further the interests of British Imperialism and 


Russian Communism. There is no safeguard against distortion of 
one s words except silence; and such silence, whilst it safeguards the 
individual in this sense, protects at the same time the abuses he dare 
not mention. Even with L Inde et VAngleterrc lying before me as I 
write, I still cannot regret for one moment the work upon which it 
was based. 

It is impossible, of course, to evaluate such work, and I shall never 
know how many or how few people I helped to influence "with 
regard to India. Much clearer in my own mind is the knowledge 
that my interest in India brought me into touch "with some of the 
finest people I have ever met, including names that were already 
almost legendary, the Old Campaigners of previous struggles. Quite 
suddenly I found myself working with people whose names my 
father had mentioned with approval in my early childhood. To 
speak on the same platform, for example, as Mrs Charlotte Despard 
was an unforgettable experience "which linked one up with a sort of 
Apostolic Succession of Radicals. 

On one occasion, I remember, old Henry Nevinson looked round 
the room and said to Laurence Housman: *It*s the same old crowd; 
the people who opposed the Boer "War, the people who stood up for 
Ireland, the people who backed Women s Suffrage and all the un 
popular causes. It s the Stage Army of the Good! 9 That sardonic 
humour was typical of Nevinson; but behind it, I think, was a kind 
of pride. As a very raw recruit in the Stage Army* I, at least, was 
proud to be in such company. (Incidentally, old Nevinson was very 
good to have associated himself -with, us at all on the Indian issue - it 
was force of habit rather than conviction, for he was distinctly 
woolly himself about India and had even reviewed the stillborn 
Simon Report, in the New Leader* as a revolutionary document*. 
But he couldn t see the old gang move into action again -without 
wanting to give them at least his blessing.) 

Among my souvegairs of those times I have four letters from 
Romain Rolland, like so many bugle calls in the days when I was 
beginning to feel disillusioned and depressed. Only recently I came 
across a newspaper article in "which Madame Rolland had published 
extracts from her husband s journals; and I found to my surprise that 
she had selected references to our correspondence in 1930. The warm 
and kindly way in which Rolland wrote in his diary about the 
young Englishman whom he had never met confirmed my con 
viction as to the personal value of any struggle for freedom the 


value to those who participate in it. Reflected glory is only ridiculous 
when we mistake it for our own; for to live and work with greater 
and better people than oneself is (to my mind) a legitimate source of 
happiness and even of pride the pride of having been accepted into 
their company. In, one letter Rolland himself gave a very practical 
twist to this same thought, when he spoke of the Great Soul of India. 
VousenporterezJ he wrote, *toute votre vie, le reflet i*awrole sur vous. 
Transmettez-le! C est votre lotJ Such reflected glory* is not a borrowed 
halo but a responsibility something you have been privileged to 
realise at first hand and must impart, as well as you can, to others. 
Curiously enough it "was Romain Rolland who sent Mirabehn to 
Gandhi, whilst in my case it was the association with Gandhi which 
brought me into touch with Rolland, I wish, indeed, that I could 
adequately reflect the glory* of both these men, 

To Gandhi himself I wrote very seldom, only when there -was 
some matter of real importance which seemed to justify taking any 
of his time - and, wherever possible, I told him that no reply was 
expected. To have acted otherwise after what I had seen, of his life 
(?md particularly of his correspondence) would have been unpardon 
able. But one of the exceptional occasions occurred in 193 1 -when the 
"Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed and Civil Disobedience suspended. 
Gandhiji, I suddenly heard, was to come to the Round Table Con 
ference after all Once he had stood out for what he called a Square 
Table Conference, where we know where we are* - such a conference, 
in feet, as "would have resulted from the fulfilment of his original 
terms in 1929. That he should now be prepared to attend the con 
ference on any other terms bewildered and distressed me. So did the 
cessation of Civil Disobedience. 

As soon as negotiations were reopened with the Government, I 
wrote. It was not, as it might appear, impertinent interference. I had 
a perfectly legitimate motive, which was that - as one of the few 
exponents of the Congress case in Britain I ought to know just 
where they stood. It was of vital importance to me that I should 
understand the reasons for this change of front if I was to continue 
writing and speaking in defence of India and her leaders. Gandhiji s 
reply to this first letter was written from Delhi on February 23rd, 
193 1. It was much longer than most of his letters to me, and typed. 
(Most of the letters I had from him were in his own hand or- very 
rarely - dictated to an amanuensis.) The old man said he honoured 
me for my long, frank and emphatic letter*, but after this and some 


other kind remarks he -went on to say that he completely disagreed 
with me, giving his reasons. 

I was not in any way entitled to such an explanation, but it -was 
typical of Gandhiji that he found time to offer it. Others who wrote 
to him with queries or criticisms at different times in his life in 
variably had the same experience. Bapu asked me to *remember . . . 
that Satyagraha is a method of carrying conviction and of converting 
by an appeal to reason and to the sympathetic chord in human 
beings. It relies upon the ultimate good in every human being*. This 
I could appreciate - but I still could not see that it explained the 
change of policy. However, the letter invited further criticism if I 
-was not convinced. If this does not satisfy you, he wrote, do by all 
means strive with me. You are entitled to do so . . / There followed 
words of appreciation and encouragement, referring to my efforts to 
present the Indian case in Britain. 

The political part of my second long letter in this controversy 
was published in Young India (April i6th, 1931) together with 
Gandhiji s reply. This again was typical the courteous gift of 
publicity to views which "were in conflict with his own. At the same 
time he wrote from Sabarmati to tell me of the way in which he had 
used my letter. I was still only twenty-five, and my support or 
opposition at any time could have made no difference to him. Yet he 
wrote, because each individual person meant so much to him: Don t 
therefore desert the cause or give me up/ Of all the things he ever 
said or wrote to me, those words move me most because of the 
value that he clearly placed on personal friendship. And then, be 
cause I must have mentioned other and more personal problems, he 
added: But I am more concerned with your personal references 
th^ti with your spirited attack. . . . If you are not at peace with your 
self there, will you not come here? You know that the ashram is 
your second home/ 

It was the second time that he had used such an expression about 
my home* at Sabarmati, and they were words which I was to recall 
with deep emotion when I eventually accepted the invitation. For I 
went to India in 1949 with the feeling of keeping an appointment, and 
kept it on the patch of sand above the river, the prayer-ground of the 

Satyagrahashram However, we were to meet again before Gandhi s 

death not at Sabarmati but in England; for in 1931 he arrived to 
attend the Round Table Conference. Still politically unconvinced, 
I was nevertheless delighted at the opportunity of seeing him again. 


Tbe full story of how I managed to meet him on his arrival must 
be told elsewhere, for it is concerned with the very pleasant relation 
ship which I frgfi established with the Criminal Investigation 
Department at Scotland Yard. In my dealings with the detectives 
who used to follow me about on my return from India I had adopted 
Gandhi s own methods. 1 It is one of the few matters in which I can 
claim to have followed them faithfully, and it worked wonders. It 
also gave me great amusement and provided me with quite a good 
story for one of my broadcast talks on my recent visit to India. 

But all I need say here is that I was the first to board the boat "when 
Bapu arrived - or rather, the first after a detective-inspector who 
submitted a list of those "waiting on the quay. I was there with John 
Haynes Holmes, then editor of a Chicago paper called Unity ; and 
neither of us had the Home Office permit which was supposed to be 
necessary in order to pass the police cordon that was "where I 
cashed in on past courtesy shown to the sleuths of the Yard, for they 
escorted us through the cordon. (For this purpose, two detectives 
even met us at the station.) When the inspector reappeared at the 
top of the gangway to call the names of those whom Gandhiji 
wished to see, my own name was called first. It is difficult not to feel 
pride at that memory, but the real credit goes to Gandhi, who put 
personal friendship before all the claims of M.P.s, Government 
officials, press representatives and others -who were also waiting to 
speak with him. We were only allowed on board one at a time. He 
saw Holmes next and then - so far as I remember - Fenner Brock- 
way. My American friend and I returned to town greatly elated. 

During Gandhi s stay in London I saw him seldom - 1 -was lectur 
ing in Sussex for the Workers" Educational Association, and in any 
case he had far too many visitors without adding to them un 
necessarily. But for the first few days I was at Kingsley Hall (where 
Bapu was staying with his son Devadas, Mahadev Desai, Pyaralal 
aad Mirabehn). Here I was able to be of a little use in the early 
stages, until the workers at this East End settlement became accus 
tomed to the requirements of their guests and to the Who s Who* 
of their visitors. In order to prevent Gandhiji from being over- 

1 Gandhi s methods and their success in this matter can best be illustrated by a story 
I heard in 1929. Gandhiji would always offer full details of his plans and movements to 
ttoe police, thereby saving them a great deal of trouble. One police inspector who 
availed himself of Gandhi s courtesy in this matter is said to have been severely 
reprimanded by his Chief. *Don t you know,* he told the inspector, that everyone 
vrbo comes into dose contact with that man^oej over to his side? 


whelmed, by callers we guarded the doors carefully; and in any case 
of doubt I was called in. 

On one occasion I was urgently asked to come because an Indian 
woman was fighting her way up the stairs and refused to wait while 
her name was sent in to Gandhi. I ran to head her off and at the top 
of a flight of stairs I almost came into a head-on collision with Mrs 
Sarojini Naidu. The well-known Indian poet and politician was 
sweeping onwards shouting furiously at two men who were trying 
to restrain her, one on either side - or rather they appeared to be 
dragged in her wake, like a couple of dinghies towed by a square- 
rigged ship in a heavy squall. Breathless she paused to readjust her 
sails - 1 mean her sari and then fired a broadside at all in sight. In 
vain I tried to reason with her, explaining the necessity for protect 
ing Bapu and the difficulties of the doorkeepers, as yet unfamiliar 
with even such famous people as Mrs Naidu. ... It appeared that 
she had never been treated so disgracefully. The lady had a reputa 
tion as a wit, but I think she must have lacked ordinary humour, a 
little of which would have preserved her temper on that occasion 
and saved us all from an embarrassing situation. 

Bapu s next letter to me was written, he said, whilst I am sitting 
at the Conference . It was a reply to another critical query relating to 
policy justifying economic concessions which I had -wrongly at 
tributed to lack of firmness on his part. Mis letter made it clear that 
he did not offer these concessions from weakness, but out of sym 
pathy for the British people, of whose economic problems he had 
learnt a good deal. He had been especially interested in the con 
ditions of the Lancashire textile workers. It must have been hard for 
him, faced as he was by so much misrepresentation by his opponents, 
to be misunderstood by his friends also. 

The night before Gandhi left England I was at the office in 
Knightsbridge which was used by his group, helping them pack 
books and papers. Repression had begun again in India, in defiance 
of the terms of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Gandhiji was going back to 
face a situation which would almost certainly lead to his imprison 
ment again - as, in fact, it did. But one little incident I recall with 
pleasure, and it concerned two of those very detectives with whom 
I had established such good relations on my return to England. 
These two men had been assigned the job of guarding Gandhi 
during his stay in this country, and he became very friendly with 
them. Indeed, on one occasion somebody pointed out a young girl 

D 89 

who was typing at the Knightsbridge office. That s Sergeant Evans s 
daughter/ I was told, *and she s giving us voluntary help/ Delight 
ful as it was, that, however, was not the incident I had in mind. It 
was Bapu s last request to Sir Samuel Hoare, with whom political 
relations were already strained to breaking point. But however 
much they might differ politically, there was no question of a 
personal quarrel on Gandhi s side; and he seems to have known how 
to obtain a human response even from a Cabinet Minister. So when. 
Gandhiji asked if Sergeant Evans and his colleague could accompany 
him to Italy, as he had taken a liking to them, the request was 
granted. Each of these detectives received a "watch as a souvenir of 
the strange little man for whom they had come to form such an 
affection and respect. 

On a dull, grey morning he left London. Compared with the 
welcome he had received on his arrival, the few of us who were 
there to say good-bye made but a poor show. He stood at the 
carriage window, his palms pressed together in the familiar salute 
that was one day to be his final gesture when the first bullet struck 
him. ... I cannot remember what he or any of us said, though I 
knew that I might never see him again. As on previous occasions, 
this seemed to me unimportant. He remains the central figure of this 
book, but that was actually the last time that I ever saw his face. 

My next three letters from Gandhiji were from Yeravda Jail. 
They were very personal - full of affection and, indeed, such letters 
as a father might have written to a son. His gratitude for the little 
that I had been trying to do was embarrassing; and it still makes me 
feel rather a fraud to read what he said about my poor efforts. With 
him at Yeravda were various old friends of mine, including Maha- 
dev Desai, whom we were so soon to lose, for he died in prison. 
You do not know/ wrote Bapu, *how glad we all are when we hear 
from you/ As he was incapable of flattery, this had to be taken as a 
literal expression of his feelings. It is fortunate that affection is some 
thing we have no need to earn or deserve. 

The work in England became progressively easier after 1931. As 
I have already pointed out, the difficulty with regard to press 
publicity had been at its greatest under the Labour Government, for 
obvious reasons. The more radical papers, which consider it part of 
their normal stock-in-trade to have a crack at imperialism from time 
to time, will only do so when it serves to show up the sins of the 
Tories. "Writing once more under a Labour Government, I have had 


reason to realise this fact again, with all its implications. 1 Indeed, 
there were even greater difficulties. One of my most depressing 
memories of the campaign in England after my return in 1930 was 
of a meeting in a working-class area. I had followed my usual 
practice of giving only facts which could be substantiated from 
Government reports or other British sources known to be hostile to 
Congress; and from these sources I had built up a picture of political 
repression the numbers in jail for political reasons, the official 
figures of those killed, the lawless Ordinances* "which placed life, 
liberty and property at the mercy of a few individuals. The details, 
however, are unimportant. What got me down was the comment of 
a simple, sincere old man with a troubled face who seemed to me to 
speak for millions in this country. He rose from his seat in the silence 
that followed my speech and spoke with obvious emotion: Tve 
listened to what tie speaker said, and I just don t believe such things 
are done by any Government of which George Lansbury is a 

The audience applauded that - it -was the straw at which they 
clutched, overwhelmed by an ocean of unpalatable facts. Bun it 
served. I did not even tell them for it would only have increased 
their scepticism - that Lansbury had been continually and directly 
informed of all that I had told them and much more - that he had 
been begged in vain to resign just in order to avoid such a situation 
as this, in which his name stood gna.ran.tor for the good conduct of 
the Government. In later years Lansbury publicly admitted that he 
had defaulted as a pacifist during that time - a confession which 
took courage. But the failure of his colleagues, as professing socialists 
and democrats, though never acknowledged, was no less fatal; for 
they too carried with them, in varying degrees, the pathetic con 
fidence of the British working-class. 

From the time when the National Government* was formed 
everything changed. The age of the Blimp Cult began. It was 
strange that a cartoonist in a Tory paper should have set the fashion 
for the Left intelligentsia. From the point of view of the Evening 
Standard the whole creation was clearly a convenient Aunt Sally, 

1 To take but a single example, my friend George Padmore recently wrote a book 
entitled Africa Britain s Third Empire. Its importation has been banned in Kenya, 
Uganda, Rhodesia and the Gold Coast. Had this occurred under a Conservative 
Government I have no doubt that the Labour press would have used it as an example 
of Tory villainy. But in the present circumstances we shall be lucky to get a faint 
squeak from the Labour Back Bench and its press equivalent. 


which to a large extent diverted attention from the real reactionaries 
and focused it on a dead-and-dug-up figure of fiction. This simple 
device "worked; and for years fatuous young men, feeling frightfully 
*left*, boldly plugged this deceased donkey, with his antediluvian 
Gad, sir!* under the impression that they were disposing of reaction 
with a sophisticated ha-ha. 

Ridiculous as this was - and it certainly gave plenty of cover to 
all the really dangerous people who had the sense not to talk like 
stage comedians - it did mark a period when it was correct and 
fashionable to be awfully jolly progressive, so to speak; and India 
came in for a pittance of favourable publicity. Even so there were 
exceptions. Harold Laski, writing in the Daily Herald (April 2nd 
1932) went out of his way to praise Sir John Anderson, who had 
been sent out to Bengal so that he might repeat the exploits with 
which his Black and Tans had attempted to subdue Ireland. And 
even later Mr Attlee, writing only a year or two before the war, 
said that there is no particular gain in handing over the peasants and 
workers of India to be exploited by their own capitalists and land 
lords" 3 an ingenious argument which somehow justified the 
Labour Party in its policy of collaborating with British capitalists 
and helping to hold down India in their interests. But events were 
moving faster than Clement Atdee; and in the great retreat from 
India it was not long before the Labour leader was trotting alongside 
of Churchill. 

For my own part, though I never deserted the Indian cause, I 
drifted away from Gandhi s philosophy of life and conduct. From 
1932 until the war my approach became increasingly political, mov 
ing fairly steadily to the left until I could see the Trotskyists at some 
distance to my right, looking very conservative. The effect of this 
absorption in politics was that my correspondence with Gandhiji 
became even less frequent, for I was excluding from my life all the 
tilings he held to be of greater importance ffrap politics. One has 
always to remember that Gandhi was a politician* only in a 
secondary and a very limited sense. (He never stood as a candidate 
for any legislature, never exercised the authority of any government, 

1 la The Labour Party in Perspective, by Clement Atdee, 1938. In this book Atdee 
appKed a very different standard to the situation in Britain, where the foundations of 
dass collaboration in war were already being laid; *It is no good telling the ordinary 
Braton, he said, that it does not matter to him whether he is ruled by British or 
Foreign capitalists. He does not Meve it. He is right.* Indians felt similarly, but were 
erafently wrong - in 1938. 


and never -wanted, to do so.) A post-card from him in 1935, saying 
that he had written to an English friend I had recommended to him, 
asked Why don t you tell me something about yourself?* The 
answer, had I given it, -was that I did not expect him to approve of 
my general line, and preferred not to discuss it. 

Three years later, I made an exception to this rule, for personal 
reasons, telling him some things which I knew would not please 
him. In his reply (dated April I4th, 1938) he said: *My heart goes 
out to you. What does it matter that on some things -we don t see 
eye to eye?* At the end of that letter he wrote: 6 The feet that you 
are a seeker of truth is enough to sustain the bond between us/ Like 
all his later letters to me this was addressed to * Angada* - a name I 
had acquired in India 1 and signed *Love from us all, Bapu/ We had 
never been further apart in thought and in our objectives, yet he 
could write these unforgettable words of true comradeship and 

My last letter from Gandhi -was received seven years later. During 
the war I had written very little to friends abroad, and not at all - so 
far as I remember to GandhijL I had felt no interest in such 
correspondence when letters had to run the gauntlet of enemy 
action* and those which survived my supposed enemies were sub 
mitted to the scrutiny of my alleged friends for the censorship was 
quite certain to prevent one from saying anything of any real interest 
or importance. But those years were for me a time when I re 
considered my ideas on many subjects. When the war began I -was 
merely anti-imperialist and anti-militarist; at the end of it I had 
found my way back to a real and positive pacifism. I was ready once 
more, in 1945, to learn from the greatest man of our time what he 
could teach me about the sources of spiritual vision, of human 
understanding, of tolerance and charity. 

In this new mood I therefore wrote to Gandhiji again, feeling 
that much of what I had now learned -was the result of my associa 
tion with him fifteen years previously though it had taken years of 
trial and error (especially the latter) to show me how right he had 
really been. I even began to understand at last the emphasis that he 
placed upon social decentralisation. This conception, which had 
interested me in my early study of the panchayat and its functions, 
suddenly acquired new significance; for I realised that it is only 

1 He was a white ape employed by the Gods when opening hostilities against the 
powers of Darkness, at that time residing in Ceylon. 


through the small community that we can hope to save mankind 
and what is worth saving of civilisation*. Decentralisation had, in 
fact, become a corollary of my pacifist faith - as it was in the mind 
of Gandhi himself. 

He received my letter on New Year s Day, 1946, and replied the 
same evening, Your letter/ he said, just presents you as I have 
known you/ He never saw people merely as they were, but as what 
diey could become. Once more ttere was the warm invitation to 
return to India; and this time I was determined to find a way, 
though there were many difficulties. An Indian friend, returning 
from London two years later, saw the old man in December 1947 
and recorded in a letter that he had especially asked* for information 
about me. So I know that at the time of his death I was still 
remembered with affection. 

He died, I think, a very lonely man. As Pascal said, On mourra 
seul. 9 It came out in things that I was told later by those who were 
nearest to him in thought. Very few could follow him all the way. 
Not many could fully understand him and, true to form, I am one 
of those who is still frankly perplexed by the apparent contradic 
tions in some of his last utterances, especially those which related to 
Kashmir. Many people could have expressed themselves more 
clearly than he did at that critical point in the history of the new 
India; but nobody could have offered a clearer testimony in terms 
of life. The great thing that one came in the end to appreciate about 
Mohandas Gandhi was that what a man is and does matters so much 
more than "what he says. Most of us can talk much better than we 
live; but Gandhiji> who said many fine and memorable things, 
overshadowed his own words. If they were sometimes hard to 
understand, his life "was a beacon set upon a hill; its meaning could 
not be mistaken. 


Judge no 9 he said. His wisdom saw 

That crime was judgment on the Law; 

For crime is measure of desert 

Disease that festers in the social dirt. 

Like quacks we drug the nerves, and see no flaw 

When all our cure is but to kill the hurt. 

THE CIRCUMSTANCES of my first visit to India were involved, 
subjective and inexplicable; but one thing may be mentioned here 
which directly links them with my return twenty years later. It 
concerns Horace Alexander, a man almost as -well known in India 
today as Charles Andrews was in my boyhood, and that for similar 
reasons, which cannot be briefly explained. But among the many 
Europeans who have been associated with Gandhi and the cause of 
Indian freedom the name of Horace Alexander cannot be ignored 
either by future Indian historians or by biographers of the Mahatma. 

I first met him in 1922, having gone straight from school, before 
I was seventeen, to a Quaker college at Selly Oak, known as 
Woodbrooke Settlement. It was a place where you could study a 
good range of subjects, and I attended lectures by Horace on various 
aspects of international politics. I liked his dry, sardonic humour and 
his paradoxes, and above all I enjoyed his indiscretions. I liked the 
place, too and the people. I went for a single term originally, just to 
broaden my mind (as the saying is) before forcing it into the groove 
of a university syllabus. I stayed two years instead, nominally work 
ing for an external degree at London. But the broadening just -went 
on I could not help it and of course I failed Inter* and never 
looked back. 

It was Horace Alexander who encouraged me to set aside text 
books and begin "what should have been (so far as I remember) a 
study of mediaeval and modern English History by reading Gibbon s 
Decline and Fall. After that he prescribed Bryce s Holy Roman 
Empire and a number of other excellent books of which those who 
compiled the syllabus were apparently ignorant, such as Rousseau s 
Contrat Social. And the odd thing is that it was not this meandering 


course in history that bunkered me unless it did so indirectly, by 
rnftlcjng life far too interesting. Where I came unstuck was in my 
pitiful ignorance of Latin, which I had always disliked and given up 
entirely from the age of fifteen. In vain I now kept rigidly to the 
text books, so far as Latin was concerned. To this day when the 
lore of mediaeval Latin writers has become a passion and a hobby, I 
read their works slowly and painfully. If Horace had only superin 
tended my Latin studies he would probably have told me to give 
the set books a rest, and turned me loose on Matthew Paris or the 
Malleus Maleficarum, with the aid of Du Cange. It might even have 

And it was Horace who turned up in the spring of 1929, when 
everything had gone wrong, the way things do go wrong. I don t 
mean examinations - 1 had put all that behind me years ago, and 
gone into the family business at Glastonbury in Somerset, where I 
was a conspicuous failure but I don t mean that, either. On 
Street Hill, part of the long ridge south-west of the Vale of Avalon, 
I walked one Sunday with Horace, who was a week-end visitor to 
those parts. He had recently returned from a visit to India, and was 
full of the Indian Ferment - the title he gave to his first book about 
the country. Any number of people had given me sensible advice, 
but that was what I most did not "want, Horace listened to me, 
striding by my side and nodding his bird-like head with the mis 
chievous eyes, and then he said, quite suddenly: *Wlty don t you 
go to India?* 

*To India/ I said - he might as well have said Hell or Timbuctoo 
at that moment - *and where should I go to in India? 

*To Gandhi s ashram* 

*What do you mean you can t just go to a place like that.* 

But that s just what you can do/ 

*And what happens then? 

*Oh, you leave that to Gandhi. He d find a use for you, all right, 
if you could fit into the life there. And I think you would.* 

So it was Horace who really sent me to India in 1929, for that 
conversation was the beginning of the whole business. Ite con 
versation "was resumed in August, in the Norwegian mountains, 
where I had an interesting holiday "with Horace Alexander and 
other old "Woodbrooke friends. Conversations witjb Horace are a 
little disjointed on such occasions, as lie is an ardent ornithologist. 
But when his binoculars are not in action he can come to earth, all 


right. His ideas are often startling, but be is always prepared to work 
them out in practical detail. 

It was, therefore, not surprising to me when I heard, in 1947, of a 
new project sponsored by Horace and otiers which had super 
ficially an air of unreality about it. And yet, because he was 
involved in the matter, I knew that it was no mere whimsy - it "was 
likely to be worked out "with all the energy and patience which 
my friend could throw into any scheme to make realities of his own 
dreams. Had he not dreamed of Indian freedom when it had ap 
peared madness to most Englishmen and something far beyond the 
horizon of hope even to those who most strongly believed in its 
essential rightness? For many years Horace had been living in India, 
trying - at Gandhi s own request - to fill the great gap left by the 
death of Charlie Andrews, on "whose advice the Mahatma had so 
often relied in his dealings with the British. Like Andrews, Horace 
-was universally trusted and esteemed, and, above all, he -was trusted 
by Gandhi himself in many difficult negotiations. 

This time the talk was of a conference of pacifists from all over 
the world, who were to meet in India. Gandhiji himself had agreed 
to preside, and the purpose was that the pacifists of the West and of 
the world in general should learn something of the mind and methods 
of the man who had made non-violence* a positive force and 
proved its efficacy in social and political struggles. It was a project 
which appealed to me from the day when I first heard of it, "walking 
around the grounds of a guest house at Haywards Heath. My 
informant one of the earliest initiators of the plan, for it had 
evidently been privately discussed for some time expressed a 
strong opinion that I should be among those to attend this conference 
in India. It seemed quite incredible. 

For months after that I could only hope that it would indeed be 
my privilege to meet the great Guru of India once more. It was like 
my neglected Latin I felt I had missed the chance of learning when 
I had it, and that I was working my way slowly and painfully 
through the problems of social ethics with utterly inadequate equip 
ment, and above all with inadequate spiritual power. But here, 
indeed, was an opportunity to make good some of my deficiencies 
if that opportunity came. And step by step I watched it materialise. 
While die plans for the Conference in India became each month 
more concrete, my own place in it became assured. One could only 
attend the Conference by invitation of an ad hoc committee set up in 


India. But the Council of the War Resisters* International, meeting 
in August, 1947, put forward two names to the Indian Committee, 
requesting their consideration; and my name was one of them. Not 
long after I was unofficially informed that I was *on the list*. 
Humility is not a strong point with me, but when I heard that news 
I did wonder, in spite of my great longing to go, -whether there 
were not many others -who were better fitted to do so. To that doubt 
I replied that there was certainly none with a greater need, if need 
rather than desert were to be the criterion. 

Then, on a grey evening in January, 1948, there came news which 
stunned humanity. I was on a bus on Janizary 3Oth -when I saw those 
horrifying placards. Gandhi was dead. My first words when I had 
grasped tie fact and read the blurred print of a newspaper were the 
same, I found, as those of many others: Thank God it "was a Hindu/ 
Had the assassin been a Moslem, the results would have been too 
frightful to contemplate. But there is no need to detail one s personal 
thoughts at such a time. What struck me in the days that followed 
was the wealth of testimony regarding men and women who had 
never known this man or so one would have thought except 
through the ridicule of caricature and the unscrupulous misrepre 
sentation by newspapers of everything he said and did. These 
people - factory workers, charwomen, housewives and people of 
all conditions, but especially the poor in this England of ours in 
instance after instance of which I afterwards heard, had spoken of 
Gandhi s death as something they had felt personally. They had been 
deeply moved. 

I did not know this at first. I only read the papers from time to 
time and fell into silence, one half of me glad that the leaders of the 
world had found sufficient magnanimity to pay such tributes to a 
man "who was so much greater than the greatest of them the other 
.half of me bitterly resentful that such a man must die a martyr s 
dealt before he could obtain this recognition. Words came into my 
mind-ike -words of Vachel Lindsay in his lament over John 
Altgeld, The Eagle that i$ Forgotten: 

They had snarled at you, harked at you, foamed at you, day after day 
Now you ivere ended. They praised you . . . and laid you away 

Less than twenty four hours after I heard the news of Gandhi s 
death I -was at Haywards Heath, -where a special commission of the 
War Resisters* International was meeting for the week-end. We 


met in the same guest house at -which, during the previous year, I 
had first heard of the World Pacifist Conference and first glimpsed 
the hope of meeting Gandhiji again. 

Now everything was changed. I did not know whether there 
would be any conference, or whether I wished to go if it was still to 
take pkce. I was supposed to open the subject for discussion, but 
arrived utterly unprepared. However, it was good to be with a 
group of people who felt much as I felt, whether they had known 
Gandhi or not. "With a determination such as Gandhiji himself 
would, I know, have approved, we got on with the work assigned 
to us and considered his death in the same practical way - how his 
work could best be continued, and how, in particular, his martyr 
dom itself could be made an instrument for the fulfilment of his own 
ideals. One thing stood out immediately in our view - tte problem 
of the wretched man who had murdered him. Unanimously -we 
decided, some two dozen English men and women whose names 
were not widely known, whose influence would certainly not be 
great, that we would do what we could to prevent die execution 
of the assassin. I shall say more of this later, but I wish to record it as 
the first practical decision in the minds of a group of people who 
loved and admired Gandhi that they desired to see his known wishes 
applied in this matter and to stay the hand of vengeance which has 
too long usurped the name of Justice. 

News came eventually, after some months, that die Conference 
was to take place in spite of an event which must inevitably change 
its character, though not its essential purpose. We were still to meet 
in India, and (if we willed it) the spirit of Gandhi would indeed 
preside at our discussions. Here, again, I saw the hand of Horace 
Alexander - it was the course I would have expected frim to urge. 
I, too, had realised by then that this was the right decision - any 
other would have been an admission of defeat. If Gandhi s life and 
teaching meant anything at all, it meant that we must not be 
dependent on the physical presence of any leader. The corporate 
strengths of all those who ever came under his influence must now 
be organised to replace this one man; and the Conference was, in 
that sense, more urgent than, ever. 

The official invitation came to me, but there was delay and a 
year s postponement. It was not until October 22nd, 1949, tfat I 
found myself actually on board the Jed Azad of the Indian-owned 
Scindia Line, with thirteen other delegates (four of them women) 


from twelve different countries ~ a small contingent of the ninety or 
more delegates assembling in India. 

They were an interesting collection of people, but I will name 
only a few- Heinz Kraschutzki I had known before, on the Council 
of tie War Resisters* International. A German Naval Officer of the 
first world war, he had been in command of a mine-sweeper at the 
time of the German naval mutiny in 1918 and had the distinction of 
being elected by the men previously under his command to repre 
sent them in the revolutionary Workers and Soldiers Council* at 
Brcmerhaven. Under the Weimar Republic he had opposed Ger 
man re-armament and exposed the secret measures whereby it -was 
even then being carried out. Indicted for High Treason on this 
account, he had fled to Spain and lived there peaceably until the 
Civil War, when he had been imprisoned by Franco. It was not 
until after the second world war that he had been released, being 
one of the many who owed their freedom to the untiring efforts of 
the War Resisters* International or rather, to its Chairman and 
Secretary. (The story of escapes and prison releases organised by 
these two, the late Runham Brown and my friend Grace Beaton, is 
appropriate matter for a thriller yet to be written.) 

Returning to Berlin, Heinz soon found himself too pro-Russian 
to please the Americans, and too pro-American to satisfy the 
Russians. He was refused a visa to visit the United States for a 
temporary lecturing post, and he was sacked from a post in the 
Russian Zone for teaching history without the proper Marxist bias. 
His only comment, in a letter to me, was Now I know that I am 
right!* One of his sons is among those lost prisoners who have never 
come back from Russia, but he is completely without bitterness. 
With the same stoical endurance he accepted the loss of an eye, after 
his return from Germany, -when a splinter flew from some wood he 
was chopping. I never heard that man even once complain of his 
hard fete. 

Diderick Lund, from Norway, had been a passive resister tinder 
tie occupation. Like most members of his family, he had been in a 
German concentration camp, from which he had escaped. I wish I 
could give an account of other members of the party, But I will 
restrict myself to the undisputed *leader* of the group, who took the 
chair at our private discussions Richard Gregg, a quiet, gentle 
American (it sounded almost like a contradiction in terms) whom I 
had met very briefly on my previous visit to India. Only three of us 


had been in the country before, and there was no question that, of 
the three, it was Richard who best knew and understood India in 
general and Gandhi in particular. He too had lived at the Sabarmati 
ashram and had done much to explain Gandhi s ideas to the West in 
his books, especially The Economics of Khaddar and The Power of 
Non-Violence. For years Richard had been farming in Vermont, 
successfully applying the principles of organic husbandry associated 
in England with the name of Sir Albert Howard. Dreamer, philo 
sopher, fanner, I do not know a man living who is nearer to being 
also a saint, and a very amusing, leg-pulling, lovable old saint at 

Of that voyage on the Jal Azad-z. most memorable event for 
most of us the discussions every evening on the poop deck were 
the more interesting feature; and my own notes on this subject, 
made while we were still in the Red Sea, describe the development 
of these discussions as I recorded it at the time: 

It was obvious that the delegates (three from England, one 
from America, and the rest from various countries in Europe) 
would need to meet and discuss many things. 

With nearly three weeks at sea before us we hoped for some 
useful discussions which would help us to know each other better, 
and to make a better contribution when we meet the rest of the 
delegates at Santiniketan. Meeting every morning we have tried 
to fulfil this double purpose, -while those -who have previously 
been to India have done their best to *put the others wise* regard 
ing any matters in which Indian customs differ from those of 

And yet, important as these small group discussions have been, 
I think that for most of us another, and quite unexpected, develop 
ment has come to overshadow them. It is something that began 
quite spontaneously, and -without any planning on our part, after 
we had all been shaken together in the Atlantic. 

With better weather and passengers enjoying the sun (also the 
luxury of not feeling sick) it happened that two people who were 
not members of our delegation asked a delegate to tell something 
of his own story. He soon found that he was talking to five or six 
people, and was asked to continue the next day. 

Somehow this became a regular event on the poop deck, every 
evening at 4.30 p.m., when different delegates spoke of their 
experiences. Out of 150 passengers (all classes) some forty or fifty 
began coming regularly. 


The Talks , as they came to be called, were given in English; 
but it soon came to light that a young Punjabi was giving a 
translation of what was said to about a dozen others, mainly 
Sikhs, who did not understand English. 

No announcement has ever been made about these meetings - 
people just met, and during the day one would be asked who was 
to talk this evening, and what about. *The Talks* have been 
attended by Indians and Europeans from all the three classes , the 
European element including, beside our own delegation, a Scottish 
Sergeant-Major (at present on loan to the Indian Army) and others 
from Europe and America. 

The delegates have carefully avoided either advertising these 
meetings or taking any responsibility for organising them. The 
only organisation required is that someone should be asked to 
speak, and this is left to the decision of people outside our group. 

Our speakers did not talk theoretical pacifism, but discussed 
their work and their personal experiences. They invited questions, 
and invariably had so many that the meetings were only broken 
up by the supper bell. 

Then gradually those attending The Talks* began to decide for 
themselves what subject or speaker they -wanted for the next 
evening. The two people who Jhiad been most active in this matter 
were delighted at this development, and gladly handed over the 
responsibility they had assumed. 

The next development was that the Sikhs, who were about to 
celebrate the birthday of Nanak, the Guru who founded the 
religion, expressed a wish that we should all join them. 

The pacifist delegates, at their next morning meeting, decided 
that some further information about Sikhism was desirable, and 
so for the first time we ventured to make a suggestion ourselves, 
regarding The Talks*. It was accepted, and we devoted an even 
ing to the subject, our Punjabi friend (a Hindu) helping the Sikhs 
to explain the nature of their religion, and to answer questions. 

Guru Nanak s birthday celebrations were held this morning 
(November 5th, an easy date to remember) and were attended by 
nearly a hundred passengers, mostly Hindus and Europeans - 
about two-thirds of the total number on board. 

Meanwhile, *The Talks have become increasingly popular. 
There was a record attendance this evening; and although we 
were interrupted by a lifeboat drill, everyone hurried back to make 
use of the remaining half-hour. 

Slowly, too, as tie group - roughly the same nucleus every 
evening - becomes more coherent, the character of The Talks* 


themselves is changing. Those who were at first silent listeners 
are now active participants, and this evening we dispensed with 
any prearranged speaker or speakers. 

T^e Europeans on this occasion asked questions which all of 
the In dians were free to answer. We had intended to reverse the 
procedure tomorrow; but the feeling was that we should con 
tinue from where we left off. 

There is no chairman at these meetings. We are just so many 
people talking, as we might in our own homes. As we talk, the 
sun goes down abruptly over the rim of the Red Sea, and within 
forty-five minutes the only light on the faces of the speakers is 
that of the moon, now at its full. And among the fourteen dele 
gates there is a great sense of exhilaration - a sense that the work 
of our Conference has begun here and now, among a strange 
variety of people whom chance has thrown together. Friendships 
on board a ship are notorious for their superficiality; but we are 
all convinced that here we have found something deeper. 

Among those lasting friendships one is particularly worth noting. 
Few of our party thought, when we heard that the new Czech 
Ambassador to India was on the ship, that we should later remember 
Dr Kratochvil and his charming wife among the great discoveries 
of the voyage. Modest, unassuming, gentle, understanding and 
intellectually brilliant, the Czech Ambassador soon showed himself 
also a very keen observer of people. Those of us who met him later 
in India were astonished at the rapidity with which he had applied 
the same powers of observation to the complicated problems of that 
country. But most of all I think he impressed us by his humanity. 
His own sufferings in a German concentration camp seemed to have 
deepened his sympathy with his fellow men. I thought him one of 
the most really sensitive people I had ever met. 

The last night on the JW Azad we sang songs on deck songs of 
every country. I recalled by contrast my last night on the voyage 
out in 1929, when the gentlemen of the First Class demonstrated the 
superiority of the British Rulers (and of their own class in par 
ticular) by prolonged and drunken bawling. On thejal Azad it was 
the Indians who set tie pace; and as we approached the shores of 
free India the young students sang Jana-Gana^Mana, Tagore s 
beautiful poem, which has now become the national anthem. They 
gave it all they had, and I have never heard it better sung than it 
at the end of our impromptu concert. 


Jaya hay, Jaya hay I Victory be thine, they sang. They seemed - 
yes transfigured. And in my own heart there was great hope. 

At last, on the morning of November nth, we docked at Bom 
bay. Prominent among those whom "we could see on the quay was 
the long, lean figure of Horace Alexander. He was soon on board, 
with a number of others who had come to welcome us, including 
representatives of the press and the radio; and it was clear that we 
were to be treated as honoured guests. It was soon known that the 
Governor of Bombay Presidency had invited us to a reception at 
Government House on the following day, and that the Provincial 
Prime Minister wished to meet us afterwards. In view of a matter 
that had been weighing on the minds of us all, so official a welcome 
was particularly embarrassing; for our first duty on arrival was to 
express some opinions unlikely to add to our popularity in govern 
ment circles. Within two hours of clearing the customs we were in 
earnest discussion regarding this matter with Horace and members 
of the local Reception Committee. 

I have already referred to the deep feeling which had clearly been 
shared by those who happened to meet at Haywards Heath the day 
after Gandhi s death -a feeling with regard to the imperative 
necessity for clemency in the treatment of the assassin. It was not 
simply that all real pacifists must obviously be opposed to capital 
punishment. All in that group at Hayward s Heath were opposed 
to the death penalty in any circumstances, and so were my com 
panions on the Jal Azad. But from the very beginning the friends 
and admirers of Gandhi in the West felt that an additional and 
peculiarly urgent reason applied to this case. It was not even that 
the execution of the assassin would be directly contrary to Gandhi s 
known views on violence and his clearly expressed wishes on pre 
vious occasions when he had been treated or threatened with 
violence. In a way which any moderately sensitive and imaginative 
person could understand the sacramental character of Gandhi s 
death would be reduced to the level of any common felony and its 
future value very largely destroyed if blood was taken for blood. 
What, after all, is tie Ritual Murder which we call the death penalty 
if it is^not a sort of blood offering by which one death is supposed 
to be expiated* by another? 

It was essential, in our view, that India and humanity should not 
be deceived into thinking that the blood of Gandhi could be so 
easOy "expiated*. In an inspired moment Krishna Menon, the Indian 


High Commissioner in London, -when speaking shortly after 
Gandhi s murder, had said: We are all guilty/ Everyone who had 
thought or condoned violence, even by apathy and indifference, had 
contributed to the spirit which, had found its expression ultimately 
in that assassin s bullet. So long as we knew that and accepted it we 
had something for which to make atonement. In India, where 
Gandhi was already all but deified by those 

Who first misunderstood and murdered him 
And then misunderstood and worshipped him, 

the consciousness of some share in the guilt might yet make the 
worship less sterile. But with a scapegoat sacrificed this responsi 
bility could be forgotten. And all that I subsequently saw in India 
confirmed my view that, for most people, this was exactly what 
actually took place. 

From the time of that decision at Haywards Heath, during nearly 
two years, many of us 1 had used every means in our power to 
persuade the Indian authorities. In London two of us had tackled 
Devadas Gandhi, the Mahatma s youngest son. I had hopes of 
Devadas, "whom I remembered as a gentle youth, without affecta 
tion, devoted to his father, whom he admired without seeking any 
reflected glory. When I had met him on this occasion I had found 
him much changed by twenty years, which had included many 
years of prosperity, as Business Manager of the Hindustan Times. 
With him was his "wife, whom I had then met for the first time, the 
daughter of the first Indian Governor General, Rajaghopalachariar, 
the key-man if there was to be a reprieve. I shall not easily forget 
the shock "with which I realised, at that meeting, how a man who 
had been at one time so close to Gandhi could regard the question 
of hanging or not hanging purely as a matter of political ex 
pediency. Neither principles nor sentiment had claimed any place 
in Devadas s dispassionate weighing-up of political pros and cons. 
And then, dismissing with relief a subject he clearly preferred not to 
discuss, my old friend had turned with, real enthusiasm to ask my 
opinion about a project for erecting *Gandhi pillars* in honour of 
his father, all over the country. . . . 

It was while we were still at sea tbat the pacifists on the Jal Azad 
had learned of the Governor General s decision -with regard to 
Godse (the; assassin) and another man, who had been condemned to 

1 Including Laurence Housman, H, N. Brailsfbrd and Tolstoy s youngest daughter. 


death as his accomplice. Both were to be hanged on November I5th 
-four days after our arrival. The chance of saving these men, 
especially at such a late hour, was clearly very small; for we did not 
over-estimate the very small importance in India of our opinion 
though it was firm and unanimous. But we felt that something must 
be done at once to make our views known in Delhi, where - if 
there should happen to be any hesitation still in the mind of the 
Governor General or the Cabinet it was possible , . . well, one 
never knew. We could neglect no conceivable chance in a matter of 
such importance. 

Our discussion with friends in Bombay, on the day of our 
arrival, revealed an opposition that we had little anticipated. In the 
land of Gandhi, we had expected to find his known opinions under 
stood and respected by at least an appreciable minority and that 
minority we expected to find both organised and well represented 
among those who welcomed with so much enthusiasm the dele 
gates to the "World Pacifist Conference. Instead we found every 
conceivable reason put forward against our doing or saying any 
thing at all. First of all there was our own position as newcomers in 
the country and to some extent guests of the Government, which 
had granted us special concessions for travelling at cut rates, and was 
anxious to show us courtesy in many other ways. Indeed, we had 
received invaluable help from the Government of India even in the 
matter of the voyage there, for all the members of our party owed 
their berths on thejal Azad to the personal intervention of the High 
Commissioner, who had shown us the utmost kindness and good 
will. To this objection, however, we replied that we had already 
considered this matter, and decided that it ought not to deter us. 
Although it would not have been our preference, obviously, to 
begin our stay in India with a criticism, however privately made, 
it seemed wrong that we should let ourselves be silenced by the 
kindness we were receiving or that we should fail to speak out on a 
matter of moral urgency merely because we were newcomers. 

Next we were told the point of view of the Governor General 
and of Vallabhbhai Patel, who was in charge of Home Affairs, and 
(as Deputy Prime Minister) the real ruler of the country during 
Nehru s absence in the West. They were all for hanging, we were 
told, and could hang with a good conscience - though I still cannot 
imagine Rajaji* doing the job himself. To put our point of view 
(we were told) was surely an attempt to violate the consciences of 


these men By some distorted, logic of non-violence* the effort 

to dissuade a person from violence had become a violent activity 
the real violence contemplated no longer mattered. Then there were 
Godse s supporters and the *R. S. S/ (Rastriya Sevak Sangha) the 
revolutionary Hindu-fascist organisation which has been breeding 
violent communal hatred against Moslems. Ironically enough, mem 
bers of this organisation - which stands for everything that Gandhi 
died to oppose - had very recently been made eligible for member 
ship in the Congress Party. But we were told that our appeal for 
clemency would be confused with that of Godse s friends and other 
Hindu fanatics. (It reminded me of the days when one was told that 
it was wrong to expose the evils of British imperialism because it 
would *play into the hands of Hitler - and indeed there is always 
some such plausible excuse for being silent about any evil, no 
matter how glaring.) 

Many who claimed to be pacifists seemed to see nothing wrong 
in the cold-blooded, calculated murders that are committed in the 
name of law - so much less excusable than violence in the heat of 
passion, or in self-defence. We were referred to a tepid article in 
Harijan, written by one of Gandhi s numerous disciples , of which 
the gist was that a Government must administer the law (tie old 
British law - which Gandhi had so often defied). There seemed to 
be no recognition of the fact that the Government can make and 
unmake laws, that (apart from this) in matters of punishment the 
power of pardon or commutation of sentence lies with the head of 
the state. And, above all, there seemed to be no realisation of the 
fact that the death penalty is not the basis of law and order*; that it 
has, in fact, been abolished in many countries; and that the opposi 
tion to it is by no means confined to pacifists. The conservatism of 
the opinion we encountered in Bombay, its utter unawareness of 
more progressive currents of thought in other countries, was a 
shock from which I took some time to recover. I have dealt with it 
at some length because it conveys as clearly as words can my own 
first impressions of what passes for progressive opinion in that city 
of merchant princes and paupers. It was fortunate that in my subse 
quent travels I was able to see a very different side of Indian life, 
but at the outset I was deeply depressed. 

One person in particular, however, did not fail on that first day 
to encourage us in going forward with what we had determined to 
do - that was Madame Sophia Wadia, the Secretary of the PJi.N. 


Club in India and the hostess at whose house we met for our final 
decision on the evening of the nth. Our decision was that Richard 
Gregg should fly to Delhi the following morning and immediately 
seek an interview with the Governor General, to whom he was well 
known personally- Richard was to represent our united view in this 
matter and to make a final bid for the application of a little Gandhism* 
in Gandhi s own country. 1 Hopeless as the task was, we all knew 
that Richard, alone of us all, could undertake it with even a shadow 
of hope. 

Bombay has been described often enough - 1 avoided attempting 
any description of the place on my first visit and I think there would 
be little purpose in attempting to say much of my impressions on 
this occasion. I found myself housed in considerable luxury high up 
above the town, on Cumbala Hill, in the flat of Kamalnayan Bajaj, 
the son of old Jamnalalji, who had been a most generous supporter 
of Gandhi and often my own kindly host at Wardha. Of the many 
functions which we attended, in rapid succession, I will only men 
tion our interview with the Prime Minister of Bombay Presidency, 
at his own request, because it was such a strange one. The P.M. had 
evidently heard of our concern regarding the impending executions 
and (although the matter had absolutely nothing to do with his own 
Provincial Government) he led the conversation directly to this 
subject. I call it a conversation, but it was almost a monologue, for 
Dr Kher hardly ever paused. If he asked a question, as very occa 
sionally he did, it was clearly a mere figure of rhetoric, because he 
immediately interrupted anyone attempting to answer it. His dis 
course was a cheerful eulogy of the virtues of hanging in general, 
and of hanging Gandhi s murderer in particular. 2 In a Lower 
School debate it might have passed as tolerable, but as an oration to 
a reasonably intelligent audience it "was quite preposterous. All that 
we kept asking ourselves was why on earth this man had taken it 

1 On one single point I would like to qualify this criticism. There was absolutely no 
*gkting* in the Indian press with regard to Godse s condemnation and death. In this 
respect I thought India compared favourably with England, where a kind of vulture 
journaKsm thrives on such cases. Miss Rebecca "West, among others, has excelled 
herself in attacking men whose punishment, one would have thought, was sufficient 
without the addition of abuse to which they were powerless to reply, 

* I was interested to learn later, at Allahabad, that Dr Kher had visited the Agri 
cultural Institute and had turned away, much revolted, when a. young bull was being 
castrated. It really is a pity mat those who support and maintain the institution of 
capital punishment are not compefled to be witnesses at hangings. The practice would 
soon, I think, be abolished. * K 


upon himself to open up the subject at all; and I still do not know 
the answer to that, though I could have answered all his rhetorical 
questions standing on my head. Once only, when he paused for 
breath, I cut in with May I ask you a question?* 

Why yes/ he said guardedly. 

Do you agree with the principles of Gandhiji or those of Godse?* 

He knew quite well what I meant - Godse was to die on Godse s 
own principle, which, the Prime Minister himself had explained as 
one of expediency. He had even gone out of his way to explain that 
Godse sincerely believed the end to have justified the means, which 
corresponded exactly with the Prime Minister s own case for the 
death penalty. So the issue was simply whether Godse was to be 
judged by his own law or by Gandhi s. I had no reply, of course. 
The Prime Minister continued to regard us with the same expres 
sionless grin, and to talk round and round the point until it was time 
for us to leave. 

Richard, of course, failed in his mission to Delhi. We did not 
hear the full story until later, but the Governor General paid him the 
courtesy of calling personally at the Quaker Centre, where Richard 
was staying, on the morning of Sunday 13th. He soon made it dear 
that he believed in capital punishment, and that so far as he was 
concerned the matter began and ended there. It is curious to reflect 
that Rajaji was once known as the Gandhi of the South*. 

Meanwhile I had made my own plans. Nehru was arriving in 
Bombay from his visit to America and England, and there was to 
be a big reception on the I4th, to which -we were invited. I felt I 
could not stand much more of Bombay, and certainly not all this 
tamasha at the very moment when official India was spitting on the 
memory of Gandhi. It was Nehru s birthday, too, and somebody 
had conceived the vulgar notion of presenting him with a diamond 
studded pillar, "worth some incredible sum, to which the wealthy 
citizens of Bombay who cheerfully watch their neighbours starve 
- had very gladly subscribed. I was gkd to hear later that Nehru 
had treated this ridiculous gift with evident impatience, utterly 
unimpressed, as well he might be. But I was far away by then. 
Early on Monday morning, November 14th, I took the train to 
Ahmedabad, following the route of my first visit to India and 
making my way to the one place where, at that moment, I could 
hope to feel at home - the old ashram at Sabarmati. 



We must acquire a new sense of purpose. . . . It is safe to say that 
one of its signs will be a revolt from the mechanistic view of the 
world and from the related conception of man and his fellow creatures 
being primarily cogs in an economic machine. 


IT WAS late at night when I arrived at Ahmedabad. I was met by 
the ashram car the first innovation to be noted -and by some 
kindly strangers. Though they did not know me, they knew a good 
deal about me, and they knew that I had come back*. They were 
evidently determined to treat me as a very special guest. I appre 
ciated their motives, but reminded them that I had been used to 
living at Sabarmati not as a guest, but as one of the community. I 
told them of Bapu s words: *The ashram is your home*, and said I 
wanted to take this literally. They smiled and said that was all they 
wished to do to make me feel at home. 

I was taken to a new guest house new, that is to say, since my 
time - equipped with unheard-of luxuries, such as chairs and a 
table, knives and forks and china. Here I was offered a bath - Indian 
style, of course - with hot water from a boiler (another innovation). 
Three men and two women sat and talked to me as I had supper, 
waited upon by the women. The food, though simple, was less so 
than in the old days, and I had a great surprise when I was asked 
whether I would like tea or coffee. 

How well I remembered the English lady who had once visited 
Sabarmati when I was there. She had thought her needs very 
simple. She did not even know that she was sitting on the only chair 
in the ashram. She had said she wanted nothing just a cup of tea*; 
and I had laughed a little maliciously (for she -was of the patronising 
kind) and said that tea was just what she would not get. 

*When I was travelling to Wardha with Bapu, I told the five 
friends, I remember how we stopped at a station, and there sat old 
Abbas Tyabji (one of Bapu s closest Moslem followers, as you will 
remember) - well there he sat looking wistfully at the tea being 
sold on the platform. I was watching Bapu watching Abbas, and it 


was a comical sight. Bapuji s eyes were twinkling and suddenly ib 
laughed. "Go on Abbas," he said, "go and get your goisoti*" We all 
laughed and Gandhij i suddenly wheeled round towards mei, "You d 
better take Reginald with you/ the old man said, - Tie s dying fori a 
cup too." Well, I won t say no to the poison, but I never .expected 
to be offered it at Sabarmati/ . .,i[ him 

We talked until about midnight. Then two of tbd men took me 
outside. Without a spoken word they led me -past the little house 
where Gandhi had li ved, at which place we paused long, in silence! 
Then on to the prayer ground, -where we took off our shoes and 
walked straight to the place where Bapu used to sit. I do not know 
how long I remained there, for there was a timeless moment when 
past and present merged. There are things which we profane, merely 
by trying to describe them with our limited vocabulary, drawn 
from the material world, and the equally useless abstractions, sb 
vague and theoretical when the spiritual world becomes vivid and 
substantial. The two friends joined in my silence and spoke no word 
as we returned to the guest house. -jj , 

Prayers the next morning were at five o clock - an hour later 
than they used to be, but still before dawn. I threw a blanket round 
me and joined the silent group of figures on their way to the prayer 
ground - all of us roused by the same ferocious bell that used to 
jerk me from sleep, twenty years before. It was the morning of the 
execution, and they gave me Bapu s place on the prayer ground. 
The two who had been -with me the previous night sat long with 
me in silence, after the others had dispersed. In a strange, indescrib 
able way I felt that I was there for some purpose, a pitifully inadequate 
representative of Gandhi, chosen by fate for reasons as obscure as 
those which had once caused Bapu himself to choose me to be his 
emissary. I knew that something was being done to him which the 
assassin s bullet could not do. Nathuram Godse had destroyed that 
frail body; but those who were hanging Godse were defiling the 
memory of his victim. This man had given Gandhi the crown of 
martyrdom if ever a man had failed, it was the assassin, who had 
but gilded an immortal name when he tried to destroy an idea with 
his leaden argument. But where Godse had failed, those who 
reverenced the name of Gandhi had succeeded. The murderer also 
was now to be honoured with martyrdom; it -was the code of 
Barabbas which had triumphed. 

Over the dusty plains of Gujerat the sun rose. I remembered how 


the ahufdereibof tbc first Christian apostles had lived to repent and 
become hkRBjrffjtbc^ greatest of those apostles. Had the friends of 
Jesus fcecrt as- jxDfwcrful, as stupid and as tiniroaginative as the friends 
ofi<3a0obfc4 Padl \votild never have taken the road to Damascus and 
k Coqinthaam adii;; would never have been written - the man who 
might have written those words would have been stoned to death 
bgrrBfetet and jdbd t>ther$, It is no wonder that Justice is represented as 
felimdl fijetHtotive justice is the most stupid and blasphemous of all 

fhk two friends Wiro had been with me the previous night showed 
lai^all thattwas, to be seen at the ashram during the four days I spent 
tfaerel;Qne bffchose friends was the Head of the Basic School* and 
the other ra?a& the art master. As their names are both tongue- 
bmstesror an Englishman, I will refer to them only by their 
bocupationis. I had heard much of Basic Education*, the system 
devised by Gandhi for the needs of the Indian village, and I took a 
gccdt interest in all they could show me. But as I was later to see 
many similar schools I will not discuss the system at present. The 
really distinctive feature of Sabarmati today is that it is a self- 
supporting Harijan colony one of the many that were started, 
under Gandhi s influence, to give a new opportunity to the out- 
castes by teaching them useful trades and establishing them firmly 
in Indian society. 

There had been a considerable extension of the original ashram 
buildings, and the colony now numbered over 500. Activities 
included the cultivation of die land and a model Goshala (dairy 
farm) the energetic director of "which was trying to improve the 
breeding of cattle in the neighbourhood and to foster co-operation 
among the local owners of cattle. There were numerous industries, 
including sandat-making (I bought an excellent pair), paper-making, 
soap-boiling, spinning, weaving and the manufacture of charkhas 
(spinning wheels) - of which I was told that they sold thousands 
every year, almost all within the neighbouring district. I was 
interested to see that, in the manufacture of charkkas* as in many 
otter things connected with the cotton industry, the design had 
been improved. The new charkha was derived from the portable 
wheel which Gandhi used to take witii him. (He would spin not 
only on railway journeys, but often at public meetings - a most 


enviable solace when speeches were long and uninspired.) People 
thought that portable spinning wheel something of a fetish; but it 
was a symbol, and at least as useful as a pair of knitting needles 
(the use of which is restricted to women, by an absurd taboo, thereby 
costing men a fortune in tobacco). But it was that ridiculous port 
able wheel which was eventually adapted for general use, and the 
modern type - costing about thirteen shillings (Rs. 9) at Sabarmati 
- folds into a compact box with a handle like a small attache* case. 
The Harijans at Sabarmati looked well fed and well clothed. They 
were certainly -well housed, and appeared altogether a thriving 
community. A judicious use of electrical power had been applied to 
some of the industries, which interested me. Electrical power, like 
wind and water, can be applied to decentralised industry, and in my 
own conception of any effective revival of crafemanship it should 
have its place. In the various tasks, in each industry, all took their 
turn in order to avoid the more monotonous -work falling always 
to the same people. The proof of the success of this enterprise was to 
be seen in die conditions of life and work. The workers here ate 
their own freshly grown produce, breathed pure air, took a pride 
in their work, found in it variety, and (by producing all the essen 
tials of life) were largely independent of booms and slumps in the 
world market. They worked neither for a capitalist boss nor for a 
soul-less state corporation, but for themselves, each other and the 
pleasure of making a useful article, well designed. 

The only objection to the introduction of mechanical power into 
such a community is that it requires capital, a primary object of such 
communities being to enable workers to find an independent life 
without such capital, which is not normally available. In this case, 
however, they had been able to accumulate the necessary capital, 
and I was glad to find that advocates of decentralisation* were not, 
in this instance, as bigoted about machinery as they are commonly 
believed to be. As to the size of the unit, I should judge that 500 is a 
good number for an effective community large enough to reduce 
overhead costs substantially, but small enough to preserve the 
community sense which a decentralised economy ought to foster. 

I stayed for five nights at SabarmatL From the first morning 
three silent girls acted as my hostesses. They were Harijan lasses from 
the Girls* Hostel, where seventy-five girls from outlying villages 
came and lived for a period of five years, attending die Basic 
School, which was run primarily for the children of tie coloiry. 

*Why no boys* hostel? I asked. The answer was that education 
among the male section of the Harijans was now in advance of the 
education of girls. They were trying to level up, as educated young 
men wanted educated wives! These girls were selected carefully, 
and it was hoped that they would return to their villages. As I shall 
explain later, Basic*, unlike most forms of education, trams country 
peopk to make the best of their environment, and to help their 
fellow-villagers to do the same. It does not take the most intelligent 
people from the country and make them unfit to work anywhere 
except in a town office, or in one of the urban professions. 

My three Guardian Angels, as I called them, had elected to look 
after me during my stay. They looked about sixteen years old, but 
were probably younger. When I protested that their presence was 
not necessary I was gently told that it would disappoint them if I 
refused their services. Besides, it was part of their essential training 
to know how to look after a guest! So they remained three silent 
shadows which glided into the guest house before dawn and hovered 
on the verandah, watching me with large, soft eyes whenever there 
was nothing definite to do. It was by these girls that the boiler 
would be lit for my bath every morning, and breakfast brought to 
me after prayers. They swept the floors, made my bed, brought 
drinking water, and burnt incense continually in my room. 

One thing to which I had to re-accustom myself in India was that 
silent, bare-foot entry of people through doorways that always 
stood open covered at most by a curtain. You think you are 
alone, and suddenly you know that you are not. With servants this 
continued to irritate me -probably because I dislike the idea of 
servants, anyway, but also because my earlier training in India did 
not include a long enough course of being waited on by menials. 
However, with these kind hostesses, once my first feeling of em 
barrassment was overcome, I felt quite differently about this matter 
of privacy. All they did -was carried out with the efficiency of an 
adult and the gravity of a child at play. They spoke no English and I 
knew no Gujerati, but we smiled and said Namusteh 9 to each other 
from time to time. By my standards they were three very srweet 
children, and by their standards I expect I was a very funny man 
fonny peculiar*, that is to say. 

I had long and interesting talks with the headmaster, the art 
master and an ex-diamond merchant, a much travelled man "with a 
good knowledge of the world and a witty tongue. He had given up 


the world, the flesh and the diamonds to come and live at this place, 
where he was (I gathered) in the process of finding himself*. (It 
is one of the subsidiary functions of a good ashram that it serves the 
needs of such people. Many a neurotic in the West who has spent a 
fortune on psychologists, nursing homes and expensive holidays 
prescribed by equally expensive physicians would, in my view, be 
healed by six months of work and meditation in an ashram.) The art 
master a man with singularly sensitive and beautiful features 
showed me the work of the children and some of his own, all of 
which was very striking, especially the modelling in clay. I expressed 
my delight at the way in which the arts had at last found a place in 
the Gandhian way of life, so puritanically austere in the past. 

When, in 1930, 1 had visited Santiniketan and talked "with Rabin- 
dranath Tagore he had spoken much of Fulness of Life* and 
deprecated what he called artificial simplicity by which I think 
he included the more rigorous austerities sometimes practised in the 
Gandhi ashrams. There is still on record in my journals a -wild hope, 
as it seemed then, that the two eyes* of India would see together, 
and the traditions of Sabarmati and Santiniketan be united into 
something that would preserve the dedicated services of the one 
without sacrificing the rich cultural heritage that the other was 
trying to preserve and increase, 

And here you have achieved just that synthesis,* I said. 

Yes,* replied the art master, that at least is "what we are trying 
to do.* 

I reminded him of how Gurudev (Tagore} had once visited Bapu 
and how they had sparred, the way they liked to do, those two 
and they loved each other the more for it. 

Why don t you dance?* asked Gurudev. 

When we have Swaraj I will dance,* Bapu replied. 

Ah,* sighed the poet, you keep in better health than I do, 
although you don t dance.* 

That s because you don*t behave yourself, answered the Sage of 
Sabarmati; If you behaved yourself you would get an arrest cure, 
I always do.* (A prison sentence was the nearest thing to a holiday 
that Gandhi ever experienced.) 

The art master assured me that Bapu s promise had been kept. 
They had Swaraj and they most certainly danced. Would I Kke to 
see the girls of the hostel dance? Certainly, I said, if they would care 
to. The provision was unnecessary I soon learnt that they would 

be delighted to dance (not merely for my benefit I suspect); and the 
last evening of my stay I was given a display by these village girls. 

They danced by the light of hurricane lamps, on the soft sand. 
The first dances were very formal, and rather slow; but gradually 
the tempo increased and the kst dances were as wild as an Irish 
ceilidhe. They included some aboriginal dances, and a comical dance 
about a girl - impersonated by one of the dancers - who is being 
instructed on her future behaviour in the house of her husband s 
family, when she marries. (To understand all the subtleties of that 
dance one would have to know a good deal about the Hindu Joint 
Family System.) The music to which they sang was that of their 
own throats, one dancer generally leading the song and the others 
following, according to a method very common in Indian singing. 
Once, when the school staff became convulsed with laughter, I 
asked what the words were. It turned out that the girl leading the 
song was improvising and criticising each member of the staff in 
turn. They "were admiring her resourcefulness and ingenuity. 

I left Sabarmati unwillingly, being bound by a promise made in 
Bombay to visit Saurashtra, for a tour beginning on November i8th. 
At the ashram I had at least seen something of the work which 
Gandhi had begun, continued with devotion, enthusiasm and intelli 
gence by his real followers. I emphasise intelligence, because there is 
still far too much blind following of Gandhi in India by people who 
neglect his perpetual injunction to his own disciples that they should 
think for themselves. In all periods of history blind followers of 
great men tend to pick upon external and unessential things, the 
things a stupid, rigid and unimaginative mind can most easily grasp. 
In India this generally means wearing khaddar, not smoking and not 
drinking*, 1 three signs of a Congressman that are not infrequently 
found in conjunction with a hard and aggressive spirit and often 
with political faults that I prefer not to discuss here. But at Sabarmati 
I found at least four or five people who deeply understood the ideas 
of GasxUri and were giving those ideas new forms of expression, 
carrying tie spirit of his message far beyond the limits of any 
particular plans which he had initiated. I left with less regret because 
I had arranged to spend a final night at the ashram on my way back 

1 Tiie taboo with regard to drink has taken some curious forms. let Indian films, for 
example, a man may be seen pouring out his Kquor and even Tifimg his glass; but the 
consummation, when it reaches his lips, must not be witnessed. This resembles die 
Anglo-American Bedroom Convention. 


from Saurashtra, before going on to Delhi. I travelled on the iSth 
via Dhandhuka the route I had followed when visiting Dholera 
in 1930. 

Saurashtra is an old name, recently revived, for the Kathiawar 
peninsula, which will be found on the map to the north of Bombay. 
Though it does not appear large when compared with the rest of 
India, I made more than one night journey of eight or nine hours 
within its limits, and the population is about equal to that of Den 
mark. At one time a conglomeration of small principalities, the 
peninsula was unified in 1948 by the firm hand of Vallabhbhai Patel. 
It has indeed been one of the real achievements of Indian self-govern 
ment (and particularly of Sardar Patel) that Indian States all over 
India, anachronistic survivals from the Middle Ages, too long per 
petuated by British policy, have been amalgamated into a few solid 
blocks. While retaining the outward forms of monarchy, these 
consolidated states have been made to introduce constitutional forms 
of government. In the case of Kathiawar, where the principalities 
were welded into the United State of Saurashtra, a leading part was 
played by a public-spirited citizen, A. P. Pattani, who at this point 
enters my own story. 

I must have met Anant Pattani in 1930, but it is pardonable that I 
should have forgotten the fact, because on that occasion he was 
merely accompanying his father, a man then known throughout 
India. Sir Prabhashankar Pattani was for many years Diwan of the 
small state of Bhavnagar, in Kathiawar. (Diwan is often translated 
as Prime Minister* - in fact it implies something nearer to Grand 
Vizier* or Chief Administrator, especially in a state -where there is 
no Constitutional government, -which was at that time the case at 

Old Sir Prabhashankar had been at the same school as Gandhi, 
and they were life-long friends, though Pattani was as respectable*, 
by official standards, as Gandhi was emphatically not. This made it 
the more remarkable that the venerable Ditvan of Bhavnagar should 
have chosen to visit his old friend on the very night before the Salt 
March began. It certainly puzzled the British press. 1 

I well remember the scene the vast throng at the ashram and in 
the road outside. I had made my way through the crowd to Gandhi s 

1 Thoughtful onlookers are wondering what Ees behind conversations . . between 
Mr Gandhi and Sir Prabhashankar Pattani, who it is thought may be a Government 
intermediary.* Bombay correspondent of the J>tify News, March X2th, 1930. 


House, and saw him greet die white-bearded stranger. Somebody 
told me who he was and explained that he had come to give his 
blessing to Bapu before the march began - a daring thing indeed for 
anyone in Sir Prabhashankar s position, for British Rule alone kept 
the Indian princes in existence, and a prince - let alone his minister 
could be sacked for insubordination as easily as an office boy. Only 
the extraordinary prestige of Sir Prabhashankar, as a man acknow 
ledged to be one of the shrewdest statesmen in India, must have 
saved him on that occasion; for on the following morning he even 
walked a few hundred yards with Gandhi and the Salt Marchers 
which was carrying his gesture somewhat far. 

But the picture that stands out in my memory is that of Gandhi 
facing two -white-bearded figures - Sir Prabhashankar and old Abbas 
Tyabji, the latter (as an ex-Chief of Justice of Baroda) having taken 
even greater risks in his association with this professional law 
breaker. Suddenly Gandhi s hands shot upwards, to seize the two 
beards and draw the heads of the two old men together. He said 
something in Gujerati, which caused some laughter, and I asked for 
a translation. Bapu says/ I was told, *that these two beards signify 
Hindu-Moslem unity/ 

On my arrival in Bombay, in 1949, I had met Pattani Junior at 
Government House. Anant had succeeded his father as Diwan of 
Bhavnagar in 1937 and administered the State for ten years. Eventu 
ally he had advised the Maharajah to establish constitutional govern 
ment and shordy afterwards he had played a leading part in bringing 
the princes of Katfaiawar together in tie Convention which led to 
their abdication en masse, the Maharajah of Bhavnagar having 
already given the lead. In 194.9 A. P. Pattani was a private citizen, 
taking no part in politics or in the administration of the newly 
formed State of Saurashtra. But he was interested in education, in 
various local societies and in people and things generally; also as I 
was soon to discover -he was greatly respected throughout 

Even at Sabarmati I had been expected to perform*; and though 
my hosts there had been very considerate I had not escaped from 
addressing the school children, -with the help of an interpreter. I had 
also spoken to the students of the Vidyapith (National University) 
who were able to follow me in English. (The Gujerat Vidyapith, a 
nationalist institution which had been functioning in 1929-30, is 
near Sabarmati ashram. The headmaster there had proved to be one 

of the original staff and one of the few of my old acquaintances still 
in the neighbourhood.) I had become somewhat wary, as I had no 
wish to involve myself in the internal politics of India, and my talk 
to the school children had, to my astonishment, appeared at length 
in a local Gujerati paper whether accurately reported or otherwise 
I had no idea. It was therefore rather a shock when I arrived at 
Bhavnager, after a long day *s journey, hot, dirty, tired and hungry, 
to find that I was expected to address a public meeting that night. 
Anant Pattani had apparently mentioned it in Bombay, but all my 
memories of Bombay were chaotic. As my train was an hour late I 
was driven direct to the hall where the meeting -was to be held it 
had, in fact, been in progress for some time. Two other delegates 
to our conference had fortunately arrived in time to fill the gap; but 
as I "was the only advertised speaker and the others were already 
answering questions I -was introduced almost immediately. The 
audience, I was told, consisted mainly of students and professional 
people, -who all understood English, so that no translation would be 

Muttering God help me (with more than usual fervour) I rose 
to my feet without a solitary thought in my head. The subject 
announced was our Conference -which had not yet taken place. 
I began to explain my difficulties, apologetically. It was a typical 
Indian hall, with high rafters where pigeons sat and heckled. I 
looked vaguely at the pigeons, which filled me with a great nostalgia; 
for in the old, old days at Sabarmati pigeons had nested in the eaves 
and cooed day-long as they flew in and out of my little cell. Sud 
denly two of the birds began a violent brawl and most of my 
audience looked up to see -what was going on. *Yes, I said, *even 
pacifists quarrel.* And with those words I found myself. It was 
quite a good meeting after all. 

The two delegates who had so providentially appeared in time 
to entertain my audience were old friends of the Jal Axad. One was 
a Dutch pastor who had known the horrors of a Nazi concentration 
camp on account of the help he had given to Jews in Holland. The 
other was a Dane, long interested in India, who had also made a 
special study of Tolstoy s writings and was extremely well-informed 
with regard to Soviet Russia and the social history of his own 
country. We soon discovered that his accounts of Producers* Co 
operation in Denmark and of the Folks* High Schools created more 
interest than anything that my Dutch friend and I had to say - at 


least this was the case in the numerous schools which we later 
visited, in Saurashtra. So we made a habit of pushing Aage Jorgensen 
forward whenever there was a request that we should speak. The 
Aage Khan (as I named him on account of his girth) never seemed 
to accustom himself to the idea that he was in a land where bananas 
were plentiful - a subject "which continued to enthrall him so greatly 
that we always -waited to hear some reference to bananas in his 
speeches. In this we were never disappointed. His eloquence on the 
subject was such that at Porbandar he was presented with an enormous 
quantity of bananas and somewhat disappointed the donor by 
giving them away to some poor children. 

The three of us toured Saurashtra with Anant Pattani and an 
Indian doctor, who was in charge of the medical service of the 
State railways. Like Pattani, he proved to be excellent company - 
and very useful, too, when I had to struggle simultaneously with a 
heavy programme and an even heavier cold in the head. In the 
latter stages of that tour, in fact, Dr Vaidya more or less mothered 
me, saving me from many visitors and some of my engagements 
when I had become too exhausted to cope with anything or anybody. 

There are numerous state guest houses in Saurashtra - originally 
used by the various princes to entertain their guests - and it was in 
these that we now stayed as guests of the Government. On the long 
train journeys A. P. Pattani would provide endless entertainment, 
informing us about the places and people. Often he would produce 
some apt and unusual story to illustrate a point. The stories might 
be from the ancient Hindu scriptures or from his own memories of 
Cambridge and travels on the Continent. Even more often they 
were stories about his father or tales which he had heard the old 
man tell. 

*My father used to say . . . I only remember a few of those 
stories. One concerned the difference between London, Paris and 
Port Said. In London, Sir Prabhashanfcar had assured his son, a 
policeman raised his little finger and all the traffic stopped. In Paris 
the policeman waved his arms in all directions and the traffic went 
all round him. In Port Said also the policeman waved his arms and 

the traffic drove straight over him 1 liked to fhinV of that 

venerable, white--bearded statesman solemnly imparting these Facts 
of Ufe to his son. 

Once, when one of our party, by an injudicious word, had let 
himself in for an engagement and was complaining about it, Anant 


Pattani looked up and said: Why did you speak? After a pause he 
added, *My father had a story which explains my meaning. I 
don t know where he found it. Quite likely he made it up. There 
was a young prince who, in a previous incarnation, had just failed 
to qualify for Nirvana by speaking on one occasion when he should 
have been silent. As a special Heavenly dispensation the prince was 
born with a memory of this unfortunate episode, so that he might 
learn from the experience. He took full advantage of the concession 
and decided never to speak a word from the time of his birth, in 
order to be on the safe side. 

The old rajah was deeply afflicted to find that his son was 
apparently dumb. He offered a large reward to any person who 
could make the prince speak, but nobody succeeded. Then, when 
the prince was a young man, he went out with some huntsmen. 
They startled a partridge, and the foolish bird, instead of keeping 
still in the bush where it was sitting, made a frightened noise. 
Instantly a shikari drew his bow and shot into the bush. As they 
brought back the dying bird the prince murmured "Why did you 

Of course, the huntsmen heard him. They returned in triumph 
to the palace to claim the reward. The rajah sent for the young 
prince, but nothing would induce him to say another word. Then, 
as you will expect, the rajah became suspicious and presently he 
said in great anger: "These men are impostors. They have lied to me 
in order to obtain the reward. Take them away and cut off their 

One huntsman threw himself on his face before the prince, 
begging him to save his life. "You know," he said, "that you did 
speak in the forest. And now, because I have told your father, I am 
to die." The prince looked down on him with infinite pity and 
great sadness. And then he said again: "Why did you speak?" * 

Travelling with A. P. Pattani was, in feet, a series of crowded 
days followed by Arabian Nights of curious anecdotes from history 
and from a very mixed bag of mythology. Somehow in that week 
we found time for a good deal of sight-seeing, and I even climbed 
two mountains. At Palitana I went up the Golden Mountain, sacred 
to the Jains, in company with a young Jain -who explained the 
mysteries of his religion. By the time we reached the summit of 
Satrunja all I had really learned was that Jains did not believe in 
God or Gods but worshipped a large number of them. Incalculable 

E 121 

labour had been spent in making the steep mountain path as un 
interesting as possible by laying it out in endless flights of steps - a 
very common custom in India. Up these steps straggled a long line 
of pilgrims, some of them carried in doolis (chairs, slung on long 
poles). Two dooli-wallahs seemed to be considered sufficient for all 
but the very heaviest passengers, and (to my amazement) it had 
even been taken for granted that I should prefer to travel this way 

After dimbing I forget how many thousand steps, well into the 
heat of the day, we reached the City of Temples, -which crowns this 
mountain. Nobody lives in this city* though no other word can 
convey its size. Two thousand feet below us, on all sides, ky the 
plains of Saurashtra, from which the Golden Mountain rises 
abruptly. Before us was this great walled city, with its street of Jain 
temples, some on high terraces, from which we were soon to look 
down on sharp flights of steps that wound their way among the 
riot of temples immediately below us. Whether the Jains believe in 
God or not they have certainly been at great pains to invent him, 
and at great expense in their worship. Cool at last "within the 
chiselled walls and among the chifly idols, we stood on floors of 
intricate design, strewn with fresh flowers. (Jain temples, by the 
-way, are scrupulously clean; -which is more than can be said of some 
others.) There was the powerful odour of incense. Clanging bells 
mingled with strange chants. Ceremonially a Jain monk "would 
light the lamps and devotees would touch the forehead of God -with 
saffron and cedar wood. I was assured later that the staring eyes of 
the Jain idols were made in Germany another blow to Birtninghani. 

No leather is allowed inside this city. Your shoes you doff, as a 
matter of course. But watchers at the gate will also require you to 
remove a leather belt, and hold up your breeks as best you may. 
Among the 1,100 temples (comprising 16,000 shrines) we were 
taken to one "where there stood the carved figure of a camel. It -was, 
I -was told, an act of merit to crawl between his back legs and back 
through the front ones, because only those -who could do this could 
be sure of Heaven. Being a human hairpin I made sure; but the 
heavy freights of the dooli-wallahs stood no chance at all. Later they 
showed us some of God s jewellery his crown and vast ear-rings, 
his breast-plate and his armlets, all of Gargantuan proportions, 
wrought in gold and studded with precious stones. There was the 
inevitable and awe-inspiring accountancy, for few Indians can resist 


the fascinating theme of lakhs and crores when exhibiting a temple or 
a trinket. As one has first to remember what lakhs and. crores are, 
and then to divide by thirteen (a inost awkward number) to obtain 
the value in sterling, these impressive figures mean nothing to me 
except that I like to watch the look of reverence on the faces of 
those who utter them. (I feel much sympathy with ray wife s point 
of view; for I remember when an American once gave her some 
imposing figures in dollars Ethel put the whole dollar racket in its 
place with one simple question: Now what s that in money? 9 ) 

I will not discuss at this stage the various educational institutions 
which we visited on that tour. But something should be said about 
Junagadh, where we arrived after a night s travelling, on Novem 
ber 2Oth. The city of Junagadh was formerly the capital of a State, 
known by the same name, -where a Moslem prince ruled over a 
predominantly Hindu population. He -was also surrounded by 
Hindu States ruled by Hindus, so that his decision (in 1947) to bring 
his own State into the Moslem group, as part of Pakistan, was 
hardly judicious. This prince, however, had not been noted for 
wisdom, but was chiefly celebrated for the hundreds of dogs "which 
he kept, celebrating dog marriages with pomp and decorum at the 
Royal Palace. When his zeal for Pakistan led to a revolution he left 
hurriedly for the land of his dreams, taking with him most of his 
dogs but only the crime de la creme of his harem. 

Among the places which we visited at Junagadh was an old 
fortress on the hill, outside the town. Here we were shown two 
wells of great depth and immense breadth, with steps that led down 
to the water level, the worn and slippery stairways lit only by 
occasional windows opening into the walls. At the bottom were 
mysterious passages; and it was not difficult to believe the story of a 
rajah who had been besieged in this fort and made his way by a 
secret tunnel to a neighbouring mountain. This mountain - Mount 
Girnar - is another place of pilgrimage, with many Jain temples, 
and we climbed it before leaving those parts. It is higher than the 
Golden Mountain of Palitana (3,500 feet); and I was not surprised, 
after sweating up its steep slopes, to hear that there was unrest* 
among the local dooli-wallahs regarding their rates of pay. In spite 
of starting at 6.30 a.m. and climbing from the western side, I found 
tie 10,000 steps a warm journey, especially after we came out into 
the full blaze of the sun. 

Talking of which, it is interesting, after twenty years, to note how 


few people now wear the solar topee. First it was considered neces 
sary for Europeans all the year round, if they were to avoid sunstroke. 
From that it became part of the Englishman s uniform, later adopted 
by Indians in official positions. On my last visit I saw very few- 
Europeans wearing sun-helmets, for which there is no need in the 
winter; but some Indians were still using them as badges of their 
status in the service of the government or of the rail-ways. 

In addition to temples Mount Girnar offered, near its summit, the 
attractions of a bazaar with numerous booths where the reckless 
could drink tea and other concoctions. I call it tea out of courtesy 
it is a horrible drink in which water, milk and sugar are all boiled 
together with tea-leaves. The view from Mount Girnar was even 
finer than that which we had so much admired from the Golden 
Mountain. A. P. Pattani, who had not accompanied us on the climb, 
met us as we descended and took us the same evening to see the 
famous Asoka Edicts one of those rock inscriptions of the third 
century B.C. "which are a lasting monument to the greatest and best 
of India s past rulers. 

I was provided later, by the kindness of Dr Vaidya, with a full 
translation of the Pali script carved in that rock at Junagadh. The 
first edict prohibits the slaughter of animals. The second records 
that in all Asoka s dominions, *as far as Tamraparni, the kingdom of 
Antiochus the Grecian King*, sick men and animals were cared for 
and that where useful herbs for men and cattle were wanting he 
has caused them to be brought and planted/ He had also caused the 
planting of roots and trees (including fruit trees) and the digging of 
wells. The king exhorted his subjects to practice liberality, non 
violence and abstinence from prodigality and slander/ 

*His kettle-drum has become a summons to righteousness, says 
the fourth edict; and in the fifth we read of superintendents of 
morals* (Dkarma Mahamatra) whose grim title is qualified by the 
description of their functions. They were *to loosen the bonds of 
those who are bound and liberate those who are confined* (one 
thinks inevitably of the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah) also *to give 
encouragement to the charitable/ The king had discovered that 
the most worthy pursuit is die prosperity of the whole world/ He 
was an internationalist, indeed, and desired his great-grandsons to 
labour for the universal good; but this is difficult without extreme 
exertion/ He advocated toleration, reproved superstition and com 
mended above all things "sincere charity*. Asoka concluded that 


the conquest which bringcth joy springing from pleasant emotions 
becometh joy itself; the victory of virtue is happiness/ In a final 
edict he admitted a certain amount of redundance, evidently arising 
out of sheer poetic exuberance: Repetitions occur also, in a certain 
measure, on account of the agrceableness of various points.* He 
warned the reader, however, regarding the unreliability of his 
stenographers. If anything, he said, was written incompletely or 
not in order, it is because care has not been taken to make a good 
transcript or by the fault of the copyist* meaning the stone- 
engraver, the equivalent of the modern compositor. 

Our Hindu hosts, with good reason, regarded this ancient inscrip 
tion with great reverence. It meant to them all that was best and 
greatest in their religion and their history. Hinduism was never a 
persecuting religion, and so far as Hindus are responsible one must 
look elsewhere for the causes of communal riots - not to any desire 
of Hindus to convert others by force, but to the activities of 
interested parties in creating, and playing upon, the fear that Hinduism 
is in danger. It is fear that has been fostered by centuries of foreign 
rule -by persecution under the Moghuls and by Christian mis 
sionaries who were too often scornful and superior*, as well as 
being closely associated with the British R.aj. 

It was at Junagadh, however, where there had been, so recently, 
a clash between the Hindu population and their Moslem prince, that 
I saw A. P. Pattani go out of his way to do a kindness to a Moslem. 
He was a complete stranger, but Pattani muttered apologetically: 
These people were everybody and now they are nobody - 1 can t 
help sympathising with the under-dog in any situation/ And it was 
at Junagadh, as we came down Mount Girnar, that I saw Dr Vaidya 
turn aside by a little row of shrines, placed there for the puja of the 
Hindus and the worship of the Jains. He spoke with a man and I 
noticed that once his voice was raised, as though to reprimand him. 
He explained, when I asked what was said: There used to be a 
place there for the Moslems, too. Now it has gone. I asked that man 
what had happened to the Imam, and he said the Moslem had gone 
away. A good job, he said. I told him he had no business to talk like 
that. Ours is a secular State, and we have room for everyone. The 
man apologised - he said he shouldn t have spoken that way, so we 
parted friends/ 

These men Pattani and the doctor did not profess to be 
followers of Gandhi. They only admired from a distance, Yet often 


in things I saw them do or heard them say I felt that Gandhi s 
teachings could be traced; or perhaps it was the spirit of Asoka and 
the ancient sages, if one can really distinguish between Gandhiji and 
his spiritual ancestry. India is a land of unexpected things. It was a 
professing Gandhi-wallah -who said to me with sudden ferocity: 
*We are non-wiolent. But these people* (meaning the Pakistanis) 
*are not non-wiolent. And if they attack us we shall crush them in a 
fortnight. 9 Yet Anant Pattani, who stood afar off, like the publican 
in the parable, practised the virtues he did not profess to an astonish 
ing degree. *I am no pacifist/ he would say, 1 kept law and order, 
and that means force. In Bhavnagar I used to put Congressmen in 
prison/ And then he would laugh. 

He had reason to laugh, for we often met those men he had 
imprisoned - many of them now among the rulers of Saurashtra. 
And now that he was elderly and powerless they greeted him as a 
father and a friend. So did peasants, students and schoolchildren. He 
was one of the few exceptions - an administrator of the ancien 
regime who had ruled benignly, 1 resigned gracefully and accepted 
the new order with good will. Was it because of the personal 
friendship with Gandhi -which he, and his father before him, had so 
long enjoyed? This, at least, I know that when he advised the 
Maharajah of Bhavnagar to abdicate he took that step on Gandhi s 
advice, having specially visited him for consultation. 

The train from Junagadh rumbled and creaked on its journey to 
the coast. Lying on his bunk opposite me the ex.-Diwan was engaged 
in his favourite pastime. There is a story/ he was saying, *by the 
philosopher Chandrakant. . . / The story concerned a Brahmin who 
saw a scorpion drowning in a river as he sat on the bank. Three 
times he tried to rescue it and three times the creature stung the 
hand which would have helped him. You fool/ remarked a man 
who "was watching. Don t you know that it is the nature of a 
scorpion to sting?* The Brahmin stretched out his arm again. Yes/ 
he replied, and it is my nature to save its life/ 

Pattani Sahib finished the story with his usual chuckle. *I don t 
pretend to follow it, he said, but I suppose that s a good parable of 
pacifism. I can t see far enough to tell you whether it "will work, but 

1 Bhavnagar was one of the Best administered States; and in education* social 
services, etc, it compared very favourably -with British India*, also with most other 
Indian States. I was interested to notice that Pattani, from a long experience of Indian 
princes, compared them favourably with TrHfan capitalists. 

I can tell you that our way has failed. If the world doesn t find some 
other way we are finished. I am old, and it doesn t matter to me. 
But you are young enough to experiment. Good luck to you/ 

Propped up with pillows (he was suffering badly from asthma) 
the G.O.M. of Saurashtra fell asleep, his fine features still wearing a 
smile, half kindly, half cynical. He had given me, as usual, a great 
deal to think about. And my thoughts were not inappropriate to the 
occasion, for the train was carrying us to Porbandar, the birthplace 
of Gandhi. Sabarmati had been my first place of pilgrimage, and 
this was, in my reckoning, the second. 



, . . I was then perswaJed, & remained confirm d, that the voice of 
honest indignation is the voice of God. 


IT WOULD be unfair to Porbandar to say that I found it disap 
pointing. The fault probably began in my own head, in the form of 
a cold, and in my natural desire, having at last reached the sea again, 
to swim in it. The holy waters of Porbandar seemed to lack curative 
properties; and from the time of that bathe I found it increasingly 
difficult to cope with our heavily programmed tour. But I remem 
ber with pleasure the guest house on the shore, the sound of the 
breaking waves at night and the deep sigh of the receding sea, in 
which I joined. 

We visited the house where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had 
made his first appearance. It was quite a small house, though 
Gandhiji s father had then been Diwan of Porbandar - but Por 
bandar was not a large State. The Diwan used to talk to visitors in 
the courtyard from an upper window. It was safer, apparently. Next 
door the Gandhi Memorial was already nearing completion - a 
building that was to serve many useful purposes, such as housing a 
library, an Ayurvedic clinic and a school. Our doctor friend, whose 
training was orthodox, went over the clinic with me (for that part 
of the building was already complete) and I watched with interest 
while he examined the little bottles, listening as he discussed their 
contents and uses -with the young dispenser. He expressed satisfac 
tion and spoke with knowledge and appreciation of the ancient 
Ayurvedic system. Before leaving the Memorial I laid a stone, 
assisted by Dr Vaidya. Like my comma in the letter to Lord Irwin, 
this single stone (lost among so many) seemed to me a well- 
proportioned and well-chosen symbol. 

Somehow I found time to go out in a canoe - persuading an 
urchin to let me accompany him - and even to take a brief sail with 
some fishermen in a dhow, so as to examine the use of the curious 
rigging of these boats. The Heir Apparent of Porbandar was still 
living in the palace where the rajahs of this little state had lived and 

ruled. He invited our party there and on the following day drove us 
to a summer residence of his in tie hills, where we saw "well-cut 
lawns and plenty of bougainvillea, also a number of cranes which - 
we were told - came every year from Russia. The ex-royalties of 
Saurashtra had, it will be observed, been dealt with very generously. 
They retained much of their property, plus a pension amounting to 
ten per cent of the previous State revenues, with a maximum limit 
often lakhs of rupees per annum. (A lakh is a hundred thousand and 
a crore is ten millions. To make it more difficult Indians mess about 
with the commas, so that a lakh is written in figures as 1,00,000 and a 
crore as 1,00,00,000.) On the whole, the worst scoundrels among the 
princes came off best, as they had over-taxed their subjects and did 
quite well on ten per cent, without any administrative expenses. 
But maybe the deal was worth while, and it saved a great deal of 
trouble. A sliding scale of progressive reductions for heirs will 
ultimately wipe out this charge on the revenues of Saurashtra. 

The young ex-Prince himself we found pleasant and generous, 
though I did wish that he could have put his training, at an agri 
cultural college, to some practical use in a country that so badly 
needs men trained in better methods of farming. Some other ex- 
potentates, or their hangers-on, appear to have accepted the new- 
order less gracefully, turning to brigandage. The day I left Saurashtra 
one of the railway junctions was looted by dacoits believed to have 
been royalists . We heard a good deal about dacoits in Saurashtra, 
also about panthers and lions (this being one of the few parts of 
India where lions are still to be found). However we did not meet 
any of these beasts of prey. There are no tigers in those parts, the 
tiger and the lion not being on speaking terms. 

At Porbandar there lived an industrial magnate whose determina 
tion to entertain us was equalled only by that of the ex-Prince. I 
found that he was one of the owners of the Indian ginning mills in 
Uganda; and knowing that the Indian monopoly of this industry 
had been a serious source of friction between the Indian settlers and 
the native Africans, I decided to ask a few questions. As I feared, the 
old man was not very communicative on this subject, but he told 
me of a plan he had to found a university in Uganda, where the 
first consideration would be the allocation of free places to Africans. 
This, at least, seemed to have some useful possibilities; so I responded 
encouragingly and suggested the names of friends in East Africa 
who might be consulted. 

This old capitalist seemed to have quite a passion for education, 
and to have been generous in his efforts to further it. We were 
taken to sec the big girls boarding school which he had founded 
and heavily endowed, Having seen, by then, a number of Basic* 
schools I was not suitably impressed by the expensive equipment, 
the buildings or the nature of the education - 1 was also surprised 
by the relatively high cost per head, in spite of the generous endow 
ment. But -what most depressed me was the sight of a whole row of 
dummy rifles, used by the girls in their physical training. (One of 
our conference delegates, who had a similar experience in another 
Indian girls* school, mentioned later how he had made some com 
ment and asked -what the dummy rifles were for. The apologetic 
reply was that real ones were unobtainable.) The Arya Kanya 
Gurukul at Porbandar, however, had many good points - especially 
the freedom allowed to the girls. 

There was a long concert and speech-making occasion at that 
school, "where we were each expected to perform, on our first 
evening at Porbandar. We had gone through a heavy programme, 
my cold and the proceedings were becoming increasingly tedious, 
and I was quite determined not to play. When at last my turn came 
to speak, phrase by phrase, with Anant Pattani translating, I had 
already observed with sympathy that many of the smaller girls 
were yawning. I told them that I had noticed this and that a good 
yawn -would help us all. It proved much easier than speaking and 
avoided any necessity for further translation. We just enjoyed a 
little mass yawning, led from the platform. 

My pleasantest memory of Porbandar was of some vigorous (and 
very good) sword dancing by peasants before we left on the follow 
ing day. They wore the distinctive costume of Kathiawar pyjamas 
with a shirt and a short, Silled tunic. These are generally white, 
though sometimes (on ceremonial occasions such as this) coloured 
clothes are worn. This local dress is unique and very decorative. 

Gandhi s father apparently moved up the line to Rajkot when 
young Mohandas was five and took a job as Ltiwan there, so it was 
to Rajkot that we travelled next - another night journey - after the 
two days at Porbandar. At about 7 a.m. we were met at the station 
by a Reception Committee, complete with garlands and a cyclo- 
styled agenda of the day s fun and games, which accounted for every 
quarter-hour of our time. The programme "was to include a visit 
to a Destitute Home for Women*. Our party, as the ring-side 


reporters say, had taken heavy punishment; but we wearily set off for 
fresh receptions and more sight-seeing. Among the places we visited 
was the house -where the Gandhi family had lived after they moved 
from Porbandar - and indeed, it had continued to be a family 
home, for here we met Bapu s older sister, Faiba, aged eighty-seven. 
She had once lived at one of the ashrams with her brother Sabarmati, 
I suppose but had left when Gandhiji introduced untouchables* 
into the fold. Caste prejudice had proved too strong, It must have 
been one of the minor tragedies of his life to be deserted by one of 
his own family on such an issue; and I remembered what John 
Woolman had said about the snares of natural affection* - and 
Christ himself, in more than one passage. A really great man has to 
be big enough to accept all that sort of thing as part of the price paid. 
The old lady cried a little and I felt sorry for her, even though I 
wondered well, I wondered about a good many things. 

That evening I left for Ahmedabad. My two European friends I 
was soon to see again, but it was sad saying goodbye to Anant 
Pattani and Dr Vaidya. Somehow , in the way that some folks do 
on these occasions - when one can hardly say aujwiedersehen with 
any confidence - they made it easier than I expected. That, of course, 
was just typical of their perfect courtesy throughout the Saurashtra 
tour. Ram Ram 9 was our farewell the peasant salutation -which 
they had taught me. 

Once more it was late when I arrived at Sabarmati, glad to see 
my friends there again, however briefly, but sorry that my plans 
made it necessary for me to leave again early in the morning, after 
four hours* sleep. I came only to break the journey to the north, and 
to collect the rest of my luggage, for I had travelled Saurashtra with 
nothing but my roll of bedding and my portfolio, from which I am 

I heard that my German friend Kraschutzki, who had arrived at 
Sabarmati shortly before I left for Bhavnagar, had been to see the 
local prison the same at which I had once visited Sardar Patel. My 
friend had been favourably impressed, which meant something, as 
he knew a good deal about prisons, from the inside. Perhaps Patel 
and his colleagues, working on the same inside knowledge, had 
done something to improve the system I hope so, though I never 
found time on this trip to visit any jails myself! I did, however, as 
explained kter, meet some prison warders in very interesting 


Once more it was bard to say goodbye. Here I had been able to 
feel the past and yet to appreciate the growth and development - to 
realise something really important: that this place "was in many ways 
better even than it had been in Gandhi s time. I appreciated the 
greater emphasis on culture and (in prayer times) on silence. That 
was as it should be and as Bapu would have had it -no static 
discipleship, but a community capable of evolution and of *experi- 
menting with Truth* as he had always done himself. And yet I wish 
I could feel as confident about all those in charge of this ashram as I 
do about some whom I have mentioned; for there were one or two 
even here who seemed to me to have little real understanding or 
appreciation of the man to whose memory they paid so much 

One small thing with which this thought is linked in my mind is 
the use of memorial tablets relating to Gandhiji and his nephew 
Magunlal. There was a lushness, a vulgarity about the inscriptions 
which Gandhi would never have tolerated. Later I realised in 
creasingly "what a mistake had been made. By making Gandhiji little 
short of a god many people in India have found it easier to excuse 
themselves for not following his teachings. One law for the Hon 
and the ox is oppression; and to apply the moral standard of an 
Avatar to ordinary human beings is not fair that, in effect, is how 
they argue. 

But those -who knew Bapu or have even read his autobiography 
must know that he was a very ordinary man who became a saint 
by setting himself impossible standards and then seeking spiritual 
power to live up to them. His whole life was spent in an effort to 
achieve the same miracle on the widest possible social scale; and 
those -who suggest that he had natural gifts which gave him an 
unfair advantage imply that he was a hypocrite. If they are right, 
then Gandhi s demands on frail human nature were as fraudulent as 
those advertisements -which show pictures of muscular giants with 
the assurance that anyone can develop the same muscle-bound 
torso by taking a few pills. Gandhi s own claim was that his teach 
ings -were not merely for the Rishis and saints*, but for the common 
people; and to a large extent his greatness stands or falls upon 
the truth or untruth of that statement. Speaking from his own 
religious experience he would have said that to deny it was plain 

Already attempts are being made to explain away much of 

Gandlii s essential teaching. Any ambiguous phrase is seized upon 
and any isolated statement, though. his whole life should deny it. 
Gandhi did make some statements "which I should not hesitate to 
describe as foolish. I think, for example, that his description of the 
Polish resistance to Germany in 1939 as almost non-violent* "was 
about as foolish as anything that a wise man ever said. Yet it is upon 
such isolated sayings that the revisionists rely in their attempts to 
modify the lesson of Gandhi s life, which was his real message to the 
world. I have even heard non-violence described by a great devotee 
of the Mahatma as a purely mental attitude which (somehow) was 
quite compatible with any amount of slaughter. 

There were at least two revisionists, as I call them, even at 
Sabarmati; and it was my misfortune that one of them insisted on 
seeing me off at the station when I left for Delhi. The sadness of it 
-was that there came with us the art master, -who never spoke a 
word - indeed, he had no opportunity. He and I were both silent, 
-while the other man "went into a confused diatribe against Pakistan 
and enlarged upon an astonishing theory of Gandhi s murder, 
which - it appeared - had been engineered for no known purpose 
by the Aga Khan, General Smuts, Winston Churchill and others. . . . 
The moment that the train had pulled out of Ahmedabad station 
two Hindus sharing my compartment very promptly assured me 
that the -whole story (-which they had overheard) -was nonsense, in 
case I should have been inclined to give it credit. It was decent of 
them, but I fear that I must still look very green. 

As we left Ahmedabad I had a good view of a refugee camp. 
From the railway it appeared to be well arranged and equippecl, 
and I regretted that I had not found time to visit it. "We had now a 
twenty-four hour stretch before us, along the line that I had travelled 
in 1930 with Gandhijfs letter to Irwin. *We* included my two 
European companions of the Saurashtra tour, who joined the train 
during the day, having travelled overnight by another route. It was 
interesting to sort our impressions of things and people for them 
these "were first impressions of India and had proved somewhat 
bewildering. (I was not too clear about it all myself - there seemed 
to be so many things that were mutually contradictory.) It had been 
really hot in Saurashtra but not too hot for me to enjoy it. As we 
continued on our way north-wards that night one could feel the 
change in temperature. On a winter visit what I most dread in 
India is cold, for houses are built to keep dbe sun out and let the 


draughts in. There is rarely a fire, because most Indians do not seem 
to bother; and if there is, the heat gets lost somewhere up by the 
high ceiling or creeps out through one of the curtained doorways. I 
shuddered as we approached Delhi in the dim, chilly dawn. 

However, my luck was in - 1 was to stay, it appeared, with the 
Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, probably the most distinguished woman 
in India and Minister of Health in the present Government. I was 
surprised to find that jackals roamed at night in the Governor 
General s enclosure, where I was staying. After dark they could be 
clearly heard their howls not unlike the wailing of cats, except 
that cats generally favour duets, whereas jackals produce a full 
choir. As I spent most of my time in Delhi having some kind of 
gastric influenza I certainly landed in the right place. The Minister 
of Health took my temperature, "which is more than Aneurin Bevan 
ever did for me (even if he knows how to, -which I consider doubt 
ful) and I was looked after with the utmost kindness by my hostess 
and her brother Colonel Singh, a retired army doctor. Before 
this sudden collapse I had been whirled around on the usual sight 
seeing tours to gaze at places like the Red Fort, which I felt I had 
quite adequately seen on my previous visit (and I could not believe 
it had substantially changed in twenty years, having endured so 
much and so long). But I did manage to meet my old friends the 
Chaturvedis and found Chats like a caged tiger. Having reached the 
very top of his profession he had ended up in an office at New Delhi 
after a life-time of freedom in the forests. 

There were two new sights* in Delhi which I was taken to see 
before whatever bug it was attacked me. One was the Birla Mandir, 
which one could dismiss for the vulgarity of its architecture but for 
the one really interesting thing about it. For, at a time when temple 
entry* for untouchables* was still a live issue, this place was built 
especially as an example: it was to be open to all. For that reason 
Gandhi himself gladly opened it. The other new sight* was in the 
garden of G. D. Birla s house, where Gandhiji had been staying 
when he was assassinated. "With the desire to reconstruct in my 
mind the events of the final Act I visited this place, already a place 
of pilgrimage, though it remains at present in private hands. A 
stone marks the spot where Gandhi fell; and I am glad to say that 
there is no inscription except the last two words which he was 
heard to utter: Harg Ram. Hail God was his welcome to Death. 

By being ill I missed another reception to JNehru - a big affair at 


the Red Fort - and escaped the press. I had not been much pestered 
by journalists since I left Bombay. I also managed to catch up with a 
little outside news. The Constituent Assembly, which had been 
drafting the Constitution for the Indian Republic, had ended on 
the very morning of my arrival in Delhi - in fact, but for our train 
being late, my two companions and I would have been *in at the 
death*. As it was we had arrived to find an empty hall. But lying in 
bed later I was able to read with interest the product of the As 
sembly s deliberations. It was a tedious and uninspired document, 
full of florid phrases which meant little or nothing, and it should 
have ended that government of lawyers by lawyers and for lawyers 
may not perish from the earth/ What someone (was it Baldwin?) 
said of Lord Simon is true of almost any lawyer: *He is a big man 
on a small point and a small man on a big point.* The new Indian 
Constitution had clearly been drafted by such people. 

I looked with special interest at the section dealing with the 
detention of suspects just to see how Dr Ambedfcar 1 and his 
colleagues had legalised imprisonment -without trial and at the same 
time reconciled it with all the high-falutin* stuff in the pompous 
preamble. It would take up too much valuable space to quote the 
actual verbiage; but anybody who doubts my summary can check 
it for himself. Boiled down to plain English, the four relevant 
clauses said (believe it or not) when stripped of padding: 

(1) No person is to be imprisoned without a proper trial and 

(2) Notwithstanding this a person may be imprisoned without 

1 The responsibility given to Dr Ambedkar, both in the Government of the country 
and the drafting of the Constitution, must be a matter for astonishment. Granted that 
he has ability, his only other qualifications are that he spent most of his life as a 
vindictive opponent of Gandhi and Congress particularly of Gandhi s efforts to help 
the untouchables*. These efforts Ambedkar consistently and unscrupulously mis 
represented, claiming to be the leader* of the untouchables* because the British rulers 
had appointed frim (for reasons best known to themselves) as the Government- 
nominated representative* of the depressed classes* in the Legislature. At the Round 
Table Conference (in 1931) he even combined with the Aga Khan and the European 
and Anglo-Indian delegates in a pact against Gandhi. Notwithstanding a decisive 
defeat in the 1937 elections (when Ambedkar s party won only nine per cent of the 
seats reserved for the depressed classes ) he continued to be regarded by the British 
Government and the British press as the representative of those classes. During the 
war his long services were rewarded by Ministerial rank in the Government. Tfcat<be 
people whom he and his colleagues then imprisoned should, on such a record, trust 
him as they have done, proves their generosity but implies unusual credulity, for there 
are no visible signs of any change of heart. 


{3) In such cases there is to be a hole-in-the-corner investigation 
after diree months by a committee (not a court of law). 

(4) Notwithstanding which, there need not even be that. 
It is all very nauseating - the more so because, quoted by itself, the 
first of the four clauses might mislead any gullible person into 
thinking that all was well. As I have already explained, they do the 
same sort of thing in Pakistan. There the outlaws are Abdul Ghafiar 
Khan and his followers. In India the outlaws are, in most cases, 
suspected Communists. 

One of my great disappointments in Bombay had been a discus 
sion I had with leading members of the Socialist Party about 
detentions. Some Socialists had been detained without trial by the 
Indian Government and I thought the "whole party would see the 
essential iniquity of the procedure. Instead I had found that they had 
no objection in principle to such detentions - they approved of 
them -when applied to Communists and only objected when their 
own members were treated in the same way. I did meet later, at 
Itarsi (in the Central Provinces) a socialist editor who "was also a 
pacifist and objected in principle to these internments. That, of 
course, is the test of sincerity in all protestations about freedom. All 
will agree in demanding rights for themselves and people of then- 
own party; but we only show respect for those rights, as such, when 
we demand them for people radically opposed to our own point of 
view. I think my old friend Jaya Prakash would take this stand; but 
unfortunately when I eventually met him in Calcutta it was only 
for a few minutes, and we failed to meet again. 

It would be ungenerous, and even unfair, to mention this evil 
without pointing out that it was inherited by both India and 
Pakistan from the British system. Under our rule the practice of 
detention without trial was a frequent subject for attacks on the 
Government, and quite rightly so. The tragedy is that those who 
led those attacks are now using the same discreditable methods. 
When discussing the matter with the Bombay Socialists I was met 
by references to similar procedure in Britain, during the war, and 
was very glad to be able to say that I had consistently opposed it. 
With us, as I explained, one had only, in those days, to suggest that 
a person "was a Fascist and he was as good as damned. There was no 
legal definition of a Fascist or of Fascism, there "was no law making 
Fascism an offence and there was no attempt to prove before a 
court that a suspected person was, in fact, a Fascist (whatever that 

might be) or that he had committed or plotted any offence. I 
admitted the parallel between Regulation i8B and the Indian pro 
cedure, but tried to show that our own crimes and blunders were 
hardly a model to be copied. 

It so happened that I was peculiarly well-equipped to deal with 
this question, as I had made a close study of the dictatorial powers 
wielded during the war by Sir John Anderson, and kter by Herbert 
Morrison, with particular reference to certain individual cases* In at 
least one instance Regulation i8B was used to satisfy the personal 
spite of someone, who had failed to get his way in a court of 
law. He persuaded the authorities to intern a young woman for 
an offence after an Appeal Court had dismissed the whole affair as a 
foolish escapade committed years previously, -when this girl was (in 
the words of the judge) *no more than a child . In another instance a 
man was interned because he knew too much about the way in 
which a certain Oil Magnate was sabotaging the "War Effort* in his 
own interests but the Oil Magnate had friends in the right place, 
and his victim had not. There were many other such cases, and 
probably a vast number of which I never knew. St John Philby, 
who "was interned under this disgraceful regulation (presumably on 
the pretext that he was a potential traitor) actually had to be 
released in a great hurry in order that he might handle one of the 
most difficult diplomatic situations which arose in the Near East. If 
the Government knew that "he could be trusted for this purpose, 
there must have been other (probably personal) reasons for his 

I had pointed out the implications of all this to the Socialists in 
Bombay, showing that "where such powers existed they were bound 
to be abused. There is, in fact, absolutely no value to the Govern 
ment in wielding such powers if it does not use them to put incon 
venient people out of the way without the necessity of finding a 
true case against them. And when the power is available the ad 
ministration is obviously not going to restrict its use merely to one 
group of its opponents. However, the Socialists did not agree. They 
were so vindictive about the Communists that they seemed ready 
to take the risk of sharing their fate. 

In contrast to these depressing recollections, occasioned by the 
study of India s new Constitution, I found other news in the papers 
which gave me real satisfaction. Michael Scott had hit the headlines 
with his passionate appeal at Lake Success, on behalf of the tribes- 


men of South-West Africa. I remembered him slightly from a 
casual meeting in London a gaunt man with a far-away look in his 
eyes, as though he had perpetually in. mind the sufferings of his 
African friends. And now, at last, he had made the whole world 
attend to his claim for justice. My own heart responded: I wished 
him "well, half envying him a struggle in which I would so gladly 
have helped. Here I was in India, the country for which I too had 
fought, in my way and in my time. But here the struggle had 
reached a new phase it was to be henceforward, as I had always 
maintained it ought to be, an internal struggle, a matter in which 
Indians alone must decide the destiny of their country. Those of us 
in Europe who really cared about freedom and justice should be 
looking now towards Africa. About the same time I read of the 
police firing on Trade Union demonstrations in Nigeria, which 
emphasised the same point. As I read the bland explanations of the 
Labour Government I recalled how the same people had done the 
same things and made the same excuses twenty years before, in 
India. In focussing attention now on the African continent I felt 
convinced that this man Scott was on to the right thing. 

I could not have guessed that within a week I was to hear great 
news at Santiniketan. Michael Scott was flying to India, to attend 
the Sevagram sessions of our conference. The man whose task I had 
envied was soon to be my companion in many strange places. And 
in the very house where I was staying at New Delhi, it was to be my 
privilege to discuss with Michael and others the application of 
Gandhi s methods once more to the land where Gandhi first experi- 
mented with Truth*. Before I left India my mind was already 
turning to the needs of Africa and I was deeply absorbed in the 
plans of Michael Scott. 



Icelle moyennant, sent les nations, que Nature sembloit tenir 
absconces, impfrmeables et incongneues, a nous venues, nous a elles. 
. . . Taprobana a veu Lappia 9 Java a veu les mons Riptides, Phebol 
voyra Th&eme; les Islandoys et Engronelands voyroit Euphrates. 


THE ABSENTEE cure" of Meudon seems an odd sort of fellow to 
walk across these pages just now. The truth is that I was given a 
copy of John Cowper Powys s Rabelais just before I left England, 
and in a fortunate moment - 1 decided to take it with me. Even 
my day journeys on trains were generally occupied with writing, 
and I never finished reading that book; but it was just the right 
corrective to the over-seriousness of so many conversations witit 

I quote the passage above because of a curious coincidence. When 
Vera Brittain and I jointly concocted an account of our week at 
Santiniketan - the first week of the World Pacifist Conference - 
we described the meeting of the delegates on the first day: Finland 
talked politics with Burma, New Zealand discussed conscription 
with France, and Malaya shared experiences with Mexico/ Not 
long after the writing of this report I read the passage in which. 
Rabelais enumerated the virtues of the herb Pantegruelion. As 
Englished by J. C. Powys this reads: *By means thereof the peoples 
that Nature seems to have kept hidden, unattainable and unknown, 
have come to us and we to them . . . Tabrobane has seen Lapland, 
Java has seen the Ripaean Mountains, Phebol shall see Theleme, and 
the Icelanders and Greenlanders shall see the Euphrates.* We met 
tinder the banner of Gandhi; but I am happy to think that we also 
fulfilled the prophesy of Rabelais and were not unprovided with 

I travelled direct to Santiniketan from Delhi - some thirty hours* 
journey into West Bengal. It "was not my first visit to the home of 
Rabindranath Tagore. On my way back from Calcutta, in I93<> I 
had - in spite of being pressed for time - spent a few days there and 
met the poet, whom I had found like his picture, only more so*. 


In those days it had already been a great educational centre and 
international in its outlook. But my own comments, made at the 
time, indicate that I thought the place *at its best "where it is most 
purely Indian/ However, I had been impressed with the success of 
co-education in the school and university. Young men and women 
had seemed more at case -with one another than I had found them, 
even at Sabarmati, in 1930. 1 had also visited the agricultural college, 
Srinifcetan, about two miles away in the village of Surul. Here they 
were already teaching village crafts as well as agriculture and I 
remember an amusing incident -when two English officials (one of 
them the Bengal Education Secretary) arrived just as I had sat 
down at a spinning "wheel and begun to try my hand. Where did 
you learn that?* asked one of these visitors, very surprised. *At 
Gandhi s ashram* I said, and went on spinning. As it was before the 
days of my notoriety it must have given him a bigger surprise than 
my spinning, which was never very good. (I found I had lost the art 
completely when I returned in 1949.) 

My -week at Santiniketan, in 1949, kept me so busy that I never 
revisited this sister institution - -which was a pity, because I should 
then have been better able to form an opinion about the work there. 
In 1930 1 had noted with satisfaction the efforts to teach the value of 
co-operation to the villagers and to give training in crafts whereby 
good use could be made of long enforced leisure in the summer 
months. They were also teaching the peasants how to fight malaria. 
But I -was not so clear that the use of tractors at Sriniketan was a 
good (or even a possible) practice for the villagers to imitate. The 
top soil, being commonly not very deep, should only be lightly 
scratched in most parts of India; and only the wealthiest peasants 
could afford tractors, anyway. Apart from that, I should today 
regard with suspicion any innovations which made the Indian 
peasant less self-dependent. In a racket-ridden world of booms and 
slumps the less he buys and sells on the world market, the greater 
his security. And what he buys abroad such as petrol for tractors - 
must be paid for by the export of agricultural produce, when every 
scrap of land is needed to feed the population. 

Dr Tagore himself had not made such a deep impression on me at 
Santiniketan as he did on a later occasion in London. That second 
meeting deeply stirred me, and I have tried to recall the -whole 
incident elsewhere. 1 My visit to Santiniketan in 1930 had been *a 

1 Tkc Wisdom of John W&olman, 1948, p.p. 65-156. 


pleasantly confused impression of moonlight and mango-groves, 
fire-flies, boys playing football with bare feet, mixed classes of 
children in bright saffron clothes, sitting under the trees, and friendly 
argumentative students.* I had also noted the poet s face (rather than 
his -words) among my impressions and his curiously constructed 
house (*It looks like a gallant ship when lit up at night*). The moon 
had been at the full anjd I had occupied an upper room in a guest 
house, with a balcony. As my journals very rightly say, *It is 
ridiculous to attempt description to anyone who hasn t seen Indian 
moonlight or smelt mango-blossom. And if you have, description 
is superfluous. 

The Santiniketan to "which I now returned was hardly the same 
thing. Most of the delegates were living in tents, though I soon had 
to be moved into a guest house owing to some more internal 
afflictions. Conference sessions were held in the poet s house, now 
occupied by a son of Rabindranath, but we had our meals in the 
open air, under a striped awning, in the middle of our camp. We 
had little opportunity to see much of the educational institutions, 
and in this respect I was -worse off than most. It had been agreed that 
the press should not be admitted to our conference sessions, but that 
a statement should be issued daily by a Publicity Committee. Ap 
pointed chairman of this committee on the day of our arrival, I soon 
found that I had absolutely no leisure. The main work seemed to 
fall on Vera Brittain and myself, perhaps because we were the only 
English members of the committee, and less modest than the 
American members. Others claimed, with some plausibility, that as 
the proceedings and reports were in English, they felt unequal to 
the task of reporting. The job proved to be extremely involved, as 
a great many discussions took place which had to be handled with 
the greatest caution, so that several revised drafts were necessary 
sometimes before we gave our final hand-out* for the day to the 
press agencies. One reason for this caution "was that many delegates 
came from countries where an injudicious report could have caused 
a great deal of trouble for them; so many of our summaries had to 
be discussed, phrase by phrase, with various speakers who had 
contributed to whatever session we were reporting. 

I mention this press -work first because, from my point of view, 
it was my principal activity for the whole of that week. The 
publicity results were far beyond our expectations, for many Indian 
daily papers published our reports in foil (making up to two columns 


a day) and often used them on the front page. I have already empha 
sised that India is no more pacifist than any other country ; and it was 
one of the many paradoxes that we noticed in this country of 
contradictions that a pacifist conference should have been given such 
a good show in the press. Another paradox, of which we had no 
knowledge then, was that even -while we were meeting at Santini- 
ketan which means literally The Abode of Peace* some members 
of the staff were away on a military training course, preparatory to 
the introduction of compulsory military training for the students. 
This compulsory training began a few weeks after we left. 

Of the students themselves we were very much aware. Before 
dawn they roused us from sleep with their songs, marching round 
the camp. In the dim light the early riser saw the scavengers at work 
student volunteers again - cleaning up the camp. They -waited on 
us at table. They patrolled the camp and watched at the gates, 
acting as guides and keeping out unauthorised persons. I was person 
ally sorry as I think most of the delegates were that we were so 
pampered. It is true that we had plenty to do, and that, in my own 
case, I had letters and reports to write which kept me up so kte 
that I rarely slept for more than four or five hours a night. But I 
think that with a little re-arrangement of our programme we could 
have found time for some of the camp chores* and that it would 
have been good for us all. One Indian student even expressed 
surprise on finding me washing some clothes; he said he had never 
known a European to do that. It seemed to me, in that case, that we 
were missing an opportunity to show that -we could do something 
else besides talking. 

Nearly a hundred delegates assembled at Santiniketan. Twenty- 
eight of these were from India, but they included Horace Alexander 
and three other domiciled Europeans as such people used to be 
called. From Pakistan we had, originally, only two delegates both 
Hindus and both from East Bengal. Useful as their contribution 
undoubtedly was, we were glad when a Moslem Professor from 
Dacca University joined us later, at Sevagramu We had, unfor 
tunately, no delegate from West Pakistan, where feeling against 
India is so much stronger. But we had other Moslem delegates 
(from the Near East) who took a deep sympathetic interest in tie 
work of reconciliation between their co-religionists in Pakistan and 
the predominantly Hindu population of the Indian Union. Over 
sixty delegates came to Santiniketan from outside these two 


countries (the number -was nearer seventy at Sevagram) and thirty- 
four countries altogether were represented. In our first bulletin we 
were able to give a formidable list of religions and occupations 
under which the delegates could be classified. 

It was my bad luck to be ill on the second day of the conference, 
and unable to attend the session when one of my old comrades, 
Acharya Kripalani, gave what was evidently a memorable address. 
A gaunt figure with an almost Mephistophelian expression, especi 
ally when he smiles, Kripalani was quite the most amusing person I 
met -when I first went to India. It was he who once translated* a 
speech of mine a dull speech, too, as I realised even at the time. 
To my surprise, in the Hindi version every phrase had raised a fresh 
laugh. I have no idea what he told the audience, except that it must 
have had little or no relation to the speech he -was supposed to be 
in^rpreting. Indeed, he later admitted this fact, looking more than 
ever like a stage version of the Prince of Darkness. For this and 
many other things I loved Kripalani, and after twenty years I found 
him unchanged. Still a member of Congress, 1 he -was using his wit 
to lash his own leaders; and the Government, since independence 
was won, has had no sharper critic than thisfranc-tireur. One might 
almost compare Kim with Shaw; for, however unpopular his views 
may be, he is always sure of a good press on account of the original. 
way in which he expresses them. 

At Santiniketan, it seems, my old friend listened to some speeches 
which indicated, all too clearly, a sentimental and far too solemn 
appreciation of Gandhi. Kripalani, who had himself given up a 
great deal in order to work with the Mahatma, was the ideal person 
to do the necessary de-bunking of pious platitudes, and it seems he 
did so with zest. Non-violence, he told the delegates, was not rooted 
in sentimentality. Nor could it be found "where there was fear, which 
had first to be uprooted. Gandhi had considered fear, rather than 
violence, the greatest evil. Gandhiji was a hard man (well I knew it!) 
but he would cleanse anything from a soul to a latrine, Kripalani 
seems to have given the delegates what -was for many of them their 
first really live picture of Gandhi - the practical man who took 
everything in life into the scope of his philosophy and religion. Best 
of all, with so many Indians and others prepared to use the Mahatma 
as a measuring rod, he told them not to copy Gandhi, but to use 
their own initiative. What they needed was Gandhi s spirit and his 

1 He has since resigned and formed a new opposition party* 


sense of urgency. It was the authentic stuff, all right, by all accounts - 
the real Gandfaian Gospel. 

In these pages, however, I shall not attempt to give a record of 
the conference. This book is an account of Gandhi as I knew him, of 
the problems he set out to solve and of the extent to which I traced 
permanent results of his work in the life of India. At Santiniketan I 
met, among the Indian delegates, many who deeply impressed me 
as people "who "were really trying to carry further the work which 
Gandhi had begun. First there was his own son, Manilal a quiet, 
gentle man who edits a paper in South Africa. "With him I made 
almost immediate contact, as he was greatly concerned about the 
frequent friction between Indian settlers and native Africans. It is 
perhaps worth mentioning here that, apart from that single instance 
at Porbandar (where the wicket was very sticky), I found educated 
Indians everywhere sympathetic to the African and very critical of 
those among the Indian settlers whom they regarded as responsible 
for the trouble between the two peoples. Those with whom I 
discussed the matter included Pandit Nehru himself, the R.aj Kumari 
and her brother, Colonel Singh. I found their attitude greatly to 
their credit, for it showed not a trace of nationalist prejudice. Nehru 
has declared publicly that his government will not support any 
Indian interests in Africa which conflict with the rights of the 
native African people. 

Another Indian who expressed himself strongly on this subject 
was my old friend Amiya Chakravarty, then a professor on the staff 
of a great Negro institution - Howard University (Washington, 
D.C.). Amiya, whom I had met at Santiniketan in 1930, and later in 
England, had been Tagore s secretary. He was among the delegates 
and so was his Principal, Dr Mordecai Johnson - a big man in every 
way, who ultimately made, I think, a deeper personal impression on 
that conference than any other individual. However, Mordecai is a 
Negro and I am thinking at the moment of the Indians whom I 
considered outstanding. 

There was Professor Nirmal Kumar Bose, the anthropologist, 
with his astonishing knowledge of Gandhiana*. Madame Sophia 
Wadia (who gave tkcjal Axad delegates such welcome support in 
their attempt to stop the execution of Godse and his accomplice) 
was among the delegates - a very fine woman, though I am not 
sore that I am right to include her among the Indians, as I believe 
she is French by birth. One could mention many others, whose 


names arc little known, even in India, especially those who have 
dug themselves into the village life of the country, fostering co 
operation and rural reconstruction, running Harijan colonies or 
Basic Schools. These little known workers, as I h^4 already realised, 
were of all people the most important. The conference quickly 
responded to what was told of such work, many delegates having 
seen some of the rural centres, as I had done. 

Among those listed as Indian delegates who "were Indians only by 
adoption I was very happy to meet Dick Keithahn once more - the 
American missionary who had been turned out of India for giving 
me bed and board. Back once more, he was helping in the work of 
an ashram , down south, and had become a great enthusiast for Basic*. 
(The reader who is impatient had better read my last chapter at this 
point. As for me, I have my own way of telling a story and I shall 
explain Basic* when I think it is time to do so.) Many of the other 
delegates, apart from my companions on the Jal Azad^ turned out 
to be people I had met before. What was important was the pkce 
in which we were meeting. Inevitably the friction between India 
and Pakistan loomed much larger on the programme than it would 
have done in any such conference, had it been held in Europe or 
America. Inevitably Gandhi presided* at our sessions or rather, 
one had that feeling when the discussions were at their best. He was 
frequently quoted - too often in fact, and sometimes a little slavishly 
(in spite of KripalanTs warning.) But it was one of the Gandhi- 
wallahs who himself drew attention to the defects of disdpleship, 
reminding us of R.enan*s saying something to the effect that when 
Fate could not destroy a great man it sent him disciples in revenge. 

Politically speaking India has rejected Gandhi in circumstances 
similar to those in which Britain rejected Churchill, but for precisely 
the opposite reasons. Each of these men was given the leadership in 
a struggle. Churchill led a military struggle, and was rejected at the 
end of it because many British people "who had accepted him as a 
war leader did not consider a war leader the best person to lead the 
nation in time of peace. Gandhi led a non-violent struggle for 
independence; and when it was won his ideas were rejected because 
those who had accepted a pacifist and his methods in trying to win 
freedom were unable to believe that the same methods could pre 
serve that freedom, once it was achieved. After the war we should 
really have asked for Gandhi (if we wanted the logical opposite of 
Churchill) and in granting independence to India -we should have 


offered Winston to the Indians, as they evidently wanted that sort 
of thing. Gandhi s disciples* in India today can be roughly divided 
into those "who -would agree -with this analysis, and those who 
would hotly dispute it. Generally speaking ~ so it seemed to me 
those who recognised that Gandhi had been politically rejected 
were doing the best work. The others pursued what Chesterton 
called the -wrong kind of idealism idealising the real instead of 
realising the ideal. Both types were represented at Santiniketan, and 
the difference seemed to me to be very marked. 

But there were some whom I never quite fathomed, for lack of 
opportunity. One was a pandit on the staff of Santiniketan. He gave 
an address at the mandir shortly before we left, and I never had an 
opportunity to ask him exactly what he intended in a strange little 
story which he told. It concerned a Sepoy, at the time of the 
Mutiny - which is due for a centenary in seven years* time, now I 
come to think of it. (And, pacifism or no pacifism, who can blame 
Indians if they celebrate the First War of Independence in a big 
way? 1 ). This Indian soldier in the story killed a sadhu under some 
misapprehension just ran him through like that. As the holy man 
died he smiled and said: *O, my Lord, have you appeared to me 
today in this form?* (The word used was darshana* -which appear 
ance 9 renders somewhat weakly). Our pandit had been struck by the 
resemblance between this - even the actual words (Ha mera Ratn) 
and the last words of Gandhi. But I was astonished when he went 
on to say that he had, in his youth, met *an old religious man* who 
was none other than the murderer. Who knows,* he concluded, *if 
the martyrdom of Gandhi will not turn out to be such a challenge 
to the world and bring about a similar conversion? But surely, one 
wanted to add, the whole point of this story was that the murderer 
himself lived to repent. . . . Was that what the pandit intended to 
hint, or had he overlooked this most obvious point? 

I -was asked to do a good deal of broadcasting during my short 
stay in India and somehow crammed tiiree recordings into one day 
during the week at Santiniketan, It was all good publicity for the 
Conference. The strain of that week was even further increased by 
the ubiquitous autograph hunters. During meetings of our Publicity 

1 It is astonishing, in view of the evidence of contemporary British writers (such as 
the diary of Sir William Russell and General Pcrronct Thompson s Audi Alteram 
Partem) that the popular, one sided version of this struggle is still that which is com 
monly taught in British schools. It is a version which finds no support even in such 
standard British works as Kaye and Malleson s History oftke Mutiny, 


Committee, -which, sat in the open for want of any other central 
place to meet, we had to ward off these fiends (mostly children, 
which made it harder) like flies or mosquitoes. To weaken and yield 
to one child was to attract the whole swarm around you, and we 
were always pressed for time. Horace, Vera Brittain and several 
others were showing signs of strain, as I know I must have been; and 
it was a relief to be at last in he train to Calcutta, though Vera and I 
spent the -whole journey working on a fii^T report. As we were all 
to meet again so soon the departure from Santiniketan was an easy 
one. For myself I felt that the place had changed. I had not felt about 
it, as a place, in the way that I had felt in 1930. Sabarmati without 
Bapu had still retained something essential; but Santiniketan without 
Gurudev (Tagore) seemed very different. Perhaps I -was unfortunate 
in having had no time to cultivate* anybody apart from people 
attending the conference. 

But two memories are still outstanding. One is of the superb 
ballet "which we saw Chitrqganda. In 1930 1 had been impressed by 
a ballet rehearsal at Santiniketan, with Tagore himself producing. 
But as it had not been possible for me to stay for the first perform 
ance I was glad, at last, to have an opportunity of seeing the real 
thing. Politics had interrupted me on that first occasion; but now 
Gandhi s promise of dancing after Swaraj was to be fulfilled. The 
ballet Chitraganda was adapted, I believe, from, a play by Tagore, 
itself based upon one of the old Hindu legends in the Mahabharata. 
All the dancers were students, except for the man who took the part 
of Arjuna. His was indeed a brilliant performance; though I thought 
at first that it was either faulty judgment or bad memory which 
made me compare him favourably with the leading Indian pro 
fessionals whom I had seen. Afterwards I was told that *Arjuna* was 
the dancing master, a man much noted in his profession, and that my 
high opinion of his technique was shared by people better able to 
judge. Indian dancing is peculiarly intoxicating. I wonder if I was 
the only person who went to bed that night feeling slightly drunk. 

Very different was the other memory. A small house had recently 
been built to serve as a memorial to Charles Andrews, the greatest 
of Gandhi s English friends, who had also been the closest English 
friend of Tagore. It is not possible here even to sketch the life of 
Andrews, whose name ought to be known as well in England as it 
is in India, though quite certainly it is not. From South Africa to 
Fiji, from Kenya to the most remote parts of India, he was the 


champion of human rights. It was a commonplace among those who 
knew him that his face reminded them of certain pictures of Christ - 
a smiling Christ. India knew him as Deenabandhu, the Friend of the 

The modest memorial at Santiniketan was to serve as a centre of 
better relations between East and West - a cause which Charlie 
Andrews had served all his life by the simple expedient of striving, 
as a European and a Christian, to serve the most downtrodden 
people in Asia and Africa. The memorial -was formally opened 
during our week at Santiniketan. The appropriate Sanskrit Mantras 
were chanted. There were a few speeches - one (especially moving) 
by my friend Agatha Harrison, who for years had followed where 
Andrews led the way, and is among the most respected of India s 
English friends today. But they sang one English hymn, and that is 
what I most clearly remember. It was chosen because it had been a 
link between Deenabandhu Andrews and Bapu. It had history. And 
it linked both men with the Prince of Glory. 

My mind inevitably recalled something which will never quite 
lose its freshness - the occasion, two years earlier, when some of us 
had met for a memorial meeting to Gandhi. The usual things had 
been said about his work and his spirit living on. They had not 
meant much to me. I only knew that I had lost a friend and that the 
-world had lost a leader. It was that same hymn which had suddenly 
changed everything, and I couldn t possibly explain why. The 
emotion with which I had been struggling was instantly transformed 
- it was no longer grief that tried to choke me. It was joy, the kind 
of joy that hurts, as though one was not big enough for it. 

As we sat outside the Deenabandhu Bhavan in the setting sun I 
remembered all this, and in some measure I did more than remem 
ber. But there is no formula for inspiration; and I did not expect 
that I should quite recapture it. It seemed sufficient just to remember 
what had happened. There is a strange thing about a certain type of 
ecstasy, that it brings peace; and even to remember it is to know 
that peace again. 



Do you together walk* together hold converse,, together 

come to a common mind, 
Even as they who walked before us, finding knowledge 

together, worshipped as one. 


THE DAY I arrived in Calcutta Professor A. G. Stock of Dacx- 
University also arrived there on her way back from New Zealand. 
Dinah* Stock and I had worked together since 1930 in the WJE.A. 
and in various anti-imperialist activities; we had even collaborated 
once in an anthology of prison literature. As it was now clear that I 
should not have time to visit Pakistan I was very glad indeed 
apart from the personal pleasure of meeting an old friend and 
colleague - to have such an opportunity of learning something 
about events in East Bengal. 

Dinah s experiences in Pakistan had certainly been interesting. 
She had been in Dacca at the time of Gandhi s assassination. His two 
last fasts - at Calcutta and then at Delhi - undertaken as protests 
against inter-communal violence, had convinced most Moslems of 
his sincerity, in spite of all the propaganda directed against him. At 
Dacca the reaction to his death, as my friend had seen it, was one of 
sheer personal grief , after which *they began to feel the ominous- 
ness of it and ask each other "what would happen.* One of Dinah s 
Moslem friends said that what he had experienced in Calcutta was 
enough to cure a man of cynicism for ever*. He and thousands of 
others owed their lives to Gandhiji they knew it and knew that it 
"was in the nature of a miracle. They also realised that Gandhi had 
paid with his own life for their safety, After the murder Jinn ah had, 
of course, added his frosty tribute to those which poured in from 
all over the world; and at that time I had been glad to hear that 
Moslem students resented such damning with faint praise: they had 
seen that it was small-minded, and felt ashamed. 

Two Hindus -who came from Pakistan to attend our conference 
had, however, made it dear that the new Moslem nationalism had 
already developed deep roots, and one of these men had spoken 


warmly and generously of the Moslem Renaissance* which he 
believed to be implied in this development. Dinah Stock confirmed 
most of what I had heard, and said, in effect, what all the most 
intelligent observers had told me - that Pakistan was a fact, and that 
the problem was now to promote better relations between the two 
States and the two religions without raising questions which could 
only exacerbate existing tensions. 

There were the usual meetings and receptions in Calcutta, but what 
interested me most was a visit to a village fifteen miles from the city 
where Dinah and I were invited as guests of a professor of Calcutta 
University and his enterprising wife. Our hosts were indeed remark 
able people. They had started ^school for 50 refugee children and about 
400 from the surrounding villages, a courageous venture into which 
they were pouring all their own money and a very independable 
(also quite inadequate) grant from the government. "We arrived late 
and sat on a verandah listening to the story while the sky darkened. 

Where are the school buildings?* I asked presently. 

My hostess laughed. There aren t any/ 

But. . . . What do you do in the monsoons? 

There is always this verandah.* 

Tte verandah surrounded a large building, intended originally as 
a museum of Indian crafts to contain a great collection made by the 
late Gurusaday Dutt. Dutt had founded a movement for the 
revival of the indigenous culture of Bengal, but he had died before 
his plans relating to the museum had been completed. This had one 
fortunate aspect, for the empty building served to house the refugee 
children. A small village had grown up round this place, known as 
Bratacharigram; and although Dutt never completed his plans re 
garding the museum he did leave behind him a centre of village 
culture and a live movement. 

In its insistence on the dignity of labour and the attempt to 
express this belief in rural reconstruction, the Eratachari movement 
is closely in line with the Gandhi centres, though it shows more 
interest in the old songs and dances than one could find, until 
recently, in the Gandhi ashrams. The movement is also in line with 
Gandhi s ideas in its equal emphasis on internationalism and regional 
patriotism. (It has often occurred to me that the modern nation- 
state is a dangerous sham because it is at the same time too big and 
too small too big to be a real community and too small to express 
human brotherhood. The parish pump is a reality and so is humanity 


in its widest sense - the nation-state is the enemy of both, crushing 
regional initiative and perpetually threatening -world peace.) 

Hindu-Moslem unity is another point on -which the Bratachari 
movement lays great stress. Altogether this little cultural centre 
seemed very suitably chosen for an educational experiment, and 
that -was -what our friends the R.oys -were attempting. *I suppose you 
started the school on account of the refugees,* I said to Mrs R.oy, 
and she laughed again. *The refugees/ she answered, -were a means 
to do -what I ve been wanting to do all my life.* The village children 
were from backward* tribes and started at some disadvantage; but 
owing to the conditions attached to die precarious government 
grant all were being educated with one eye on matriculation* This 
was unfortunate, as examination standards make any full application 
of Basic* principles impossible. However, as we saw the next 
morning, the crafts played a big part in this school, and the curricu 
lum included spinning, weaving, basket making, carpentry, metal 
work, gardening and farming. Professor and Mrs R.oy reckoned the 
cost per head for the refugees (who were boarders) at Rs. 18 per 
head a month about a shilling a day. 

That night we ate in the communal kitchen. It was a long build 
ing, where we sat in rows on the mud floor. The place and everything 
about the meal reminded me of Sabarmati twenty years previously; 
and that greatly pleased me, as the common kitchen was one of the 
things I had missed in re-visiting the old ashram. This place took my 
mind back to those great days of fellowship and -why are meals 
together, I wonder, such an important ritual of friendship and 
camaraderie? Very vividly I recalled each detail - the servers passing 
up and down the lines, the sudden clang of a gong, the chant that 
ended *Om, Santi, Santi, SantiJ Santi means peace, which was, on 
the whole, more evident here at Bratacharigram than it had been at 
Santiniketan, its official Abode*. That is probably because peace is a 
by-product - something which just happens when you are looking 
for something else. 

The Bratachara Society run camps at Bratacharigram, where 
adults take short courses in various things - principally in dancing 
and singing, I gathered. One of these courses was in progress at the 
time of our visit, and the campers ate with us. When we were 
introduced to them individually, after the meal, I -was astonished to 
find that among them were prison warders who had been given 
special leave for this purpose. They came to learn folk-songs and 

folk-dances to teach the prisoners, as apparently the authorities had 
discovered that dancing and singing in a jail made life more tolerable 
for everybody concerned, including the warders. 

Late that night I was piloted through a. maze of narrow paths to 
the mud hut where I was to sleep. Like so many places in Bengal, 
Bratacharigram is a little village Venice, and on my way to the hut 
I saw the gleam of "water in all directions, my guide and I being 
often obliged to walk in single file along narrow causeways between 
ponds. In the morning I had a clearer view of all this. Everywhere 
I saw ponds and canals, groups of palms and flooded paddy fields. 
Although it was then light I still needed a guide to thread my way 
back to the museum, where we all breakfasted on the verandah. 

I do not specially dislike Calcutta, as so many people do (including 
my wife) but I was very sorry to return to the city after this delight 
ful interlude. My compensation was that I spent my last night there 
with Naresh Kumar, a young international tennis player with, whom 
I had shared a cabin on the Jal Azad. Before I left for Allahabad I 
had the pleasure of seeing my host s excellent form in the Provincial 

Among the childish delights of any visit to India is that of collect 
ing advertisements, and I make no apology for sharing "with the 
reader a few extracts from one I found in Calcutta, in the pro 
gramme of a youtii organisation which invited me to a demonstration . 
Headed Revolution in Astrology and Astronomy , it proclaimed 
the Services of Jyotishsamrat Pandit Sri Ramesh Chandra 
Bhattacharyya, Jyotisharnab, M.R.A.S. (Lond.) who *has won 
unique fame not only in India but throughout the world (e.g. in 
England, America, Africa, China, Japan, Malaya, etc.) . The ac 
complishments of this genius cover the biggest range I have yet 
discovered, and make small beer of all our patent medicines and 
what-not. He can heal diseases Svhich are the despair of doctors . . . 
can help people to win difficult law suits and ensure safety from 
dangers, prevent childlessness and free people of family unhappi- 
ness.* His achievements, I was impressed to learn, had -won him 
unstinted praise and gratitude from all quarters includirig His 
Majesty George the Sixth . . . 

Should any of my readers desire the services of this pandit, I am 
happy to quote his terms for solving some of our common problems. 
He offers WONDERFUL TALISMANS (Guaranteed). In case 
of failure, money returned/ THE ROTHSCHILD TALISMAN 


is first on the list, Its wearer earns immense -wealth with little 
struggling and it fulfils the desires without fail. Lakshmi resides 
at his house and gives him son, 1 fame, vast wealth, long life, all- 
round prosperity in life. Price Rs, 7.10. Special for Speedy action 
R.S. 29.11. Super powerful with extraordinary effects Rs. 129.1 1/ 
No one, I am sure, would seriously dispute that the pandit has 
found a talisman for acquiring immense wealth with little strug 
gling* and I certainly hope Lakshmi has given him a son to carry on 
the business. Other talismans offered for sale at the same graded 
prices for degrees of speed and potency include a useful gadget for 
doing other people down: To overcome enemies it is unique. The 
wearer gets promotion in services and succeeds in pleasing higher 
officials. In winning in civil or criminal suits it is unparalleled. I 
am not clear what happens in a law suit if each, party is armed with 
a talisman of the same grade - say, with a Super Powerful charm at 
Rs. 184.4. Probably die Judge has to declare a stalemate. 

The students, of course, are not forgotten and can be sure of 
success in examination* for a mere nine rupees nine annas, though I 
should have thought it a better investment to buy a Rothschild 
Talisman - the common or garden variety at seven rupees ten annas 
and have everything you want, which surely ought to include 
matriculation and even a B.A, It seems unfair to pay more for 
exam results than one shells out for immense wealth, fame, pros 
perity and a son thrown in but perhaps this just shows how highly 
education is valued in Calcutta. What I really do not like is the odd 
number of annas tagged on to every price. Even if they do represent 
a fixed percentage of profit on the wholesale prices, I think they 
should be adjusted to the nearest round figure in rupees. The 
examination talisman, I notice, is the only one which is not offered 
in the third, or superlative, degree of potency. You can buy an 
ordinary B.A. or a Special, but not a Super Powerful. 

The pandit was not a surprise I felt I had met him before. Much 
more surprising was the number of Streets, squares, etc., in Calcutta 
still bearing the names of past British rulers - not even the more 
colourful ones, but the duller proconsuls, mass-produced in our 
public-schools and universities, I had noticed this in Delhi even 
the lady Minister of Health still lives in Willingdon Crescent but 
in Calcutta I found such names even more common. If Indians re- 

1 In case this should be misunderstood I should perhaps explain that Lakshmi is the 
Hindu Goddess of Fortune. 

F 153 

named such places after Shakespeare or Shelley one could take it as 
a charming compliment to Britain; but the retention of names 
designed to immortalise British rule and the starchy satraps who 
once propped it up was something which I found inexplicable. 

The route which I next followed was roughly that of 1930, and 
offered some interesting comparisons. Hurrying back from Calcutta 
twenty years previously I had gone to Allahabad after my short 
visit to Santiniketan, and then into the Central Provinces. I had a 
pleasant memory of Allahabad, where I had stayed with an Anglo- 
Indian barrister whom I had met on the way out in 29 - a man 
exceptional for his thoughtful and liberal attitude, at a time when 
his community was not noted for liberal opinions. Cecil Desanges 
regretted the social exclusiveness of the Eurasians. (The name is for 
some reason discredited today, though it is much more accurate 
than Anglo-Indians , as other Europeans have been involved in 
these mixed marriages.) Far into the night, on the verandah of his 
house, Desanges had made me tell him of my travels, asking in 
numerable questions about Gandhi. And at the end of it he had said 
something which later consoled me when I thought how short had 
been my experience of India. 1 have lived all my life in this country/ 
he said, *and I am near fifty. In a few months you have learnt more 
than I have about it/ I had looked up quickly to see if he was 
laughing at me, but there was still the same grave, kindly expression 
on his face. I tried hard to trace that man again in 1949, but could 
only discover that he had left Allahabad. 

Having in 1930 just missed the Kumbh-Mela at this town prob 
ably the biggest of the Hindu religious festivals, which takes place 
every twelve years - 1 did the next best thing in 1949 by rowing 
down to the sangam, the place where the Mela is celebrated, at the 
conflux of the Jamna with the Ganges. Even without a Mela I found 
the sight curious and quite unforgettable. On the bank were crowds 
of people, terrible as an army with banners*. And the banners were 
not lacking. For every part of India from which the pilgrims come 
in their millions there is a panda who keeps the score, marking up 
their attendances and ablutions at this holy spot. Each panda has his 
own pennon, by which he can be found; and as this scoring is a j 
family business the records kept by some of these Recording Angels 
are said to be of very great age. As I rowed down stream "with my 
host other boats were converging upon the same spot, and soon we 
were right in the most sacred part of the sacred river. Here the 


devout -were washing themselves and their clothes, spitting hard and 
blowing through their noses in the approved fashion. After which 
those who were thrifty of grace would fill bottles or lotas with the 
holy liquor to take home with them. 1 

One pleasant memory of this second visit to Allahabad is of drives 
round die town in an ekkha, a horse-drawn vehicle similar to the 
Irish side-car, where the seats face right and left. The ekkha-wallah 
had a magnificent horse, in excellent condition, and drove like a 
charioteer, using an enormous motor horn (which he held under 
his arm) to clear the way. He showed much approval of my Gandhi 
cap and called me Panditji* (i.e. Pandit Nehru), which was very 
flattering. In spite of language difficulties we made friends over 
cigarettes, which I gave him, and sweets which he bought from a 
street hawker accepted by me with some alarm but many signs of 
pleasure. The Gandhi cap on a European head will still arouse 
interest and promote friendship, but among Indians its use is more 
dubious. Once it took courage to wear it. 2 Today it is often, as a < 
friend said to me, the badge of a rascal - i.e., of somebody wishing, 
for ignoble motives, to curry favour with those now in authority. 

From Allahabad onwards I seem to have walked into a crime 
wave. Dacoits had been busy around Allahabad and chaukidars were 
in demand to guard pkces at night. The stillness was punctuated by 
the long, wailing cries whereby each chaukidar made sure that all 
was well at the next post. The brigand chief was, so I was assured, 
well known in the neighbourhood you could see the hadmash any 
day at a neighbouring village, making up arrears of sleep on a 
charpoy after his nocturnal exertions. 3 Meanwhile news reached me 

1 1 am informed that at a Kumbhr-Meld as many as 3,000,000 will come to this place 
for such purposes. My friend Francis Evelyn, who was present in 1906, found it *a 
dreadful spectacle 1 , and I think I should have felt similarly had I ever seen a Mela. It 
was at this spot that some of Gandhi s ashes were consigned to die Ganges - tne rest 
being disposed of similarly in other parts of the country after a singularly inappropriate 
military funeral. 

8 At Sholapur, for example, wearers of Gandhi caps were assaulted by soldiers and 
police in 1930 as a matter of deliberate policy, though the Labour Government at first 
tried to deny this. In general die cap -was an invitation to be penalised and possibly 
assaulted by the police (or shot by accident, if shooting started anywhere). 

* Behind this crime wave there was considerable social disturbance. On November 
25th, 1949, fifteen to twenty thousand kisans (peasants) had demonstrated against 
die United Provinces Government at Lucknow - headed by the Vice-Chancellor of 
Lucknow University. The U.P. Government was - to its credit - attempting to end 
landlordism, but its methods were unfortunate. It was trying to collect several years* 
rent in one year from these kisans in order to buy out die big landed proprietors whose 
tenants diey had been. 


that a murder had been committed in the compound "where my 
next host lived near Hoshangabad, in the Central Provinces and 
I arrived there to find everyone except my host and hostess in a 
state of alarm. The police, to reassure all concerned, had given out 
that the murderer was probably somebody living in that compound 
(a small Mission Centre) and I felt rather like Lord Peter Wimsey 
on arriving at such a place. But I found no clues and did no brilliant 
deductions, so the similarity was not over-worked. 

My hosts at Allahabad were Quakers, and until I reached Seva- 
gram all the people -with whom I stayed were either members of the 
Society of Friends or people connected with Friends* Missions. The 
change during twenty years in missions and missionaries was one 
of the really encouraging things which I often noticed. On my first 
visit I had met a few missionaries who impressed me favourably - 
though one of these (Verrier Elwin) later gave up that work and 
became highly critical of missionary activities. But on the whole my 
own impressions in 1929 and 1930 were very adverse. The few 
missionaries who came to Sabarmati probably the more liberal 
minded - had struck me, with one or two exceptions, as meddle 
some busy-bodies. 

In the U.P. I had met Dr Stanley Jones, but I had also met an 
American missionary lady who looked and talked like a caricature. 
Hearing I had come from Lahore she had said vaguely That is 
where all these nationalist people have been meeting, isn t it? From 
her later conversation, as I noted at the time, it was clear that she 
thought they met to discuss the possibility of bombing her. Any 
way, now I understand why Bapu always tells the missionaries to go 
and live in a hut among the peasants. The luxury in which so many 
of these professing Christians lived, in the midst of India s poverty, 
was no less depressing than their support of the British R.aj. My own 
impressions in this matter were abundantly confirmed by others, 
including the more enlightened missionaries. It was, I remember, 
from the Brothers at Poona that I heard some 01 the worst accounts, 
for the unsatisfactory attitude of missionaries with regard to freedom 
and social justice weighed very heavily on the minds of the few who 
really cared about these things. 1 

1 The comments of non-Christians were sometimei iHuminatrng. Two Parsee 
critics of Gandhi told me in 1930 how they admired the Christians. "They are the most 
violent people, I was told, *and therefore the most successful. You have only to look 
at the map . . .* 

Without going into any details, involving personal criticisms, I 
should make it clear that I "was even extremely unhappy about "what 
I saw of the Quaker mission work, in 1930. One mart at least had a 
deep love for the people of India and a rare understanding of them. 
But there was something utterly unhealthy about the "whole relation 
ship between the missionaries and the converts, who were spiritually 
spoon-fed and economically dependent. An atmosphere had been 
created in which free and frank discussion, such as I had been used 
to enjoy "with my Indian friends, was quite impossible. Politically 
and in most other ways the converts whom I met then in the Central 
Provinces were very backward by comparison with any other 
group of Indians I had known. Worse still, they seemed to me 
timid and even sycophantic I felt that one might as well have 
expected an eighteenth century farm-labourer to speak his mind 
frankly to the squire as hope for any real expression of -what these 
people thought and felt in the presence of the missionaries or other 

It was a great relief, in 1949, to discover how much things had 
changed. Indeed, it "was more than a relief, for I was very happy 
with my various hosts, all of them working for the Friends* Service 
Council. There were plenty of problems still unsolved - not least 
the problems created by generations of patriarchal mission "work. 
When Indians become Christians for all the wrong reasons and are 
brought up in a state of spiritual and economic dependence upon a 
Big White Chief you cannot undo all the harm in a few years. 
Although Quakerism is probably the most democratic expression of 
Christianity, no attempt had originally been made to cultivate that 
independent spirit which is so characteristic of the Society of 
Friends. The new missionaries with their new approach had, in 
fact, to deal with a situation in which a body of nominal Indian 
Quakers still insisted on regarding them as equivalent to priests or 
bishops - exactly what they were determined not to be. Indeed, the 
most devastating comment on this was made by an Indian Christian 
who said to a friend of mine, *We are sheep without a shepherd.* 
Generations of mission work, so fax from lifting these people up, 
had destroyed all independence of character. Some argued from 
this that the old pastoral* methods must be introduced again. The 
new Quaker missionaries, with more logic, reasoned that this would 
only perpetuate a deplorable state of affairs by the very methods 
which had created it. 


Even the "word missionary* is, with very good reason, not a 
popular one with the new type of Christian worker. The name 
connotes, in Indian minds, too many unpleasant political associa 
tions and an attitude to other religions which has been justly resented. 
I myself remember how I once had to listen for hours to an almost 
continuous diatribe against everything Indian and particularly every 
thing Hindu the speakers being two perfectly sincere Quaker 
missionaries. But those Hindus and Moslems who hate one another 
to the point of murder are also perfectly sincere. What is needed 
most of all, in India today, is not further bigotry and a new Christian 
commimalism* , but the spirit of reconciliation. It is to the great 
credit of the Quakers now working in India that most of them have 
made this their first concern. 

The old houses of the missionaries still show traces of the past. 
One notices such things as the disused punkah, a fan once worked by 
a wretched punkah wallah, who would sit for hours at a time serving 
no purpose but that of preserving a missionary sahib or his mem-sahib 
from the heat. One of these big houses, formerly occupied by 
Quaker missionaries - a real bara sahib 9 s house - had been turned 
into a Basic Education Training Centre. That was news which 
indeed delighted me. 

Only once did I hear what seemed to me an echo of the unhealthy 
relationship which had formerly existed between the missionaries 
and the Indian Christians. That was when a man, unwilling to act 
in conflict with instructions given to him by one of the missionaries, 
explained that *the sahib "would be angry*. But an ex-missionary of 
the old school assured me, with apparent satisfaction, that an Indian 
with whom he had recently been talking would have liked the 
British back. There are, I imagine, quite a number of British people 
still living in India who cultivate the illusion that this is a common 
view; though (if they only thought for a moment) there is a very 
simple test. If any considerable number of Indians are really of that 
opinion, one might reasonably expect at least the formation of a 
small, anti-independence party with a simple and attractive pro 
gramme: Back to Foreign Ride and Down with Self-Govemment. 
So far no such party has even made an appearance. 

Itarsi is roughly the centre of Quaker work in the C.P. The 
future of some of this work -was still uncertain, but at the time of 
my visit in December 1949 it included a hospital, an agricultural 
colony, a multi-purposes co-operative store, a Boys School, a Girls* 


Boarding School and a co-educational Basic School*. This last is at 
Rasulia, near Hoshangabad, "which I consider the loveliest of all the 
Indian towns that I have seen. My chief regret was that I had no time 
to revisit Hoshangabad. I remembered it vividly as I had seen it from 
a small boat on the river Narbada, looking up a succession of 
terraces at white temples glittering in the sunlight. I also remem 
bered it for the only jungle fire I ever saw, a thin stream of flame 
that swept up the Vindhya Mountains, beyond the river, at dusk. 
In 1949 I had time only for a very rapid tour of the rather scattered 
centres of Quaker work, but I am glad I made it. It gave me a new 
conception of what the "word mission* could imply and God 
knows there s need for some sense of mission* in a world where 
millions live in slavery, millions on the verge of starvation and the 
rest drift placidly on towards an atomic war . . . 

Freedom, Security, Justice and Peace might all be achieved if 
enough people made a mission* of rural reconstruction, democratic 
de-centralisation of industries and education based upon real values 
instead of social fictions. It would be a mission of Life against Death 
and Damnation. 

I reached Sevagram late on Christmas Eve, and I arrived -in 
company with several other conference delegates in a Black Maria. 
It was not because we had been misbehaving, but because the local 
authorities had kindly offered to provide transport facilities, and 
this was the fulfilment of their promise. 1 It showed great delicacy 
and tact, as most of our crowd had, I should think, been in jail at 
some time or other. It was too late to see Sevagram that night, and 
in fact I never really looked over the grounds and buildings till a 
week later, press work keeping me busy all day and late each night 
in my tent. Two sparrows nested at the top of a tent pole, right over 
my bed. We cleared the nest away once, in their own interests, 
feeling that so temporary a structure as a tent was no place to be 
hatching eggs. But the sparrows immediately rebuilt - they had 
taken a fancy to the place. I had to sleep under a mosquito net 
although there were no mosquitoes, and by day the birds nattered 
and pecked at their reflections in my shaving mirror. 

Twenty years before I had spent Christmas under canvas at 
Lahore. In all the turmoil of our arrival Gandhiji had somehow 

1 The authorities were, as usual, very good to us. For our benefit a temporary post 
office was set up at Sevagram and tihe Postmaster General of the Province arrived one 
day to we that we were receiving proper attention. 


managed, between committees and personal discussions with other 
Congress leaders, to remember the young Englishman. Would he 
not be feeling a bit lost and even homesick, seeing it was Christmas? 
Anyway, the old man had made sure, sending a khaddar pillow case 
full of fruit to my tent. He had apologised afterwards for the fact 
that he possessed no stockings, so this was the best he could manage. 
He had also insisted that Mirabehn and I should sing a carol at the 
morning prayers. It all came back to me, and I wondered what sort 
of a show we should make of Christmas this time. Should we just 
carry on with the conference, regardless? I was feeling somewhat 
depressed as I opened a huge pile of letters waiting for me and read 
them by the light of the inevitable hurricane lamp, for on top there 
had been a cable from England, announcing the death of an old 
friend and colleague. 1 

However, it was soon clear at least that the ashram people were not 
going to let us forget that it was Christmas. Like Gandhi, they 
wanted their Western friends to feel at home and, apart from 
that, inter-religious unity is something "which normally finds ample 
expression at Sevagram. On Christmas evening they produced a 
Nativity Play or (strictly speaking) a mime, "which was a much 
better idea, as it presented no language problems. The three shep 
herds were played by Buddhists from the mountains of Thibet, who 
had recently joined the community. Nearly all the other players 
were Hindus, St Joseph being the only Christian, and a mere 
Quaker, at that. The audience sat on mats in the farmyard, the 
stage* being in and about the cow sheds where the Hindu cows 
co-operated with an occasional moo. So the "whole setting was 
highly realistic. A cow calved just as the performance was about to 
begin. Some of us had formed a choir, which (after one rehearsal) 
managed appropriate carols under the producer s instructions* 
When I write about it I am afraid I give an impression of the worst 
kind of dumb charades; but it was not like that at al}. It was deeply 
moving. At the end somebody began to sing Adeste FiJeles and 
others immediately joined in, while the scratch choir and the 
audience closed slowly round the manger. All that was quite 
unprogrammed and spontaneous. 

In the "week that followed -we realised, much more tbyn at 
Santirriketan (where so many of us had met as strangers) a sense of 
unity which nevertheless defied all efforts to express it adequately in 

1 Runham Brown, a good friend of India, mentioned in Chapter VL 


any formula. It -was something at least akin to that harmony "which 
is expressed at the head of this chapter, in the words of the Pdgveda - 
words "which had been chanted on Christmas morning. And there 
were other words which had been read, appropriate to the occasion, 
-which for at least one delegate had a hidden secondary significance: 
For unto us a child is bom, unto us a son is given; and the government 
shall be upon his shoulder. To me this was the key to all our problems 
- Indian or universal. Tlie children of today being the citizens of 
tomorrow, the government will be upon their shoulder s^ The new 
experiments in education, -which had been interesting my mind 
increasingly during this Indian visit, were now a special object of 
investigation by a Commission of which I -was a member. 

I propose here, however, to give only a few impressions of that 
week. Like the siege perilous* at Arthur s Round Table, the place of 
Gandhi on the prayer ground was left empty. (All the same, I did 
not regret my acceptance of the invitation to occupy his place at 
Sabarmati; and it was certainly not because I had fancied the role of 
Galahad.) Then I recall the morning when some of us went harvest 
ing millet with the students (before the first session) and for a short 
while we sensed the feeling of the place something which it was 
hard to do -whilst our own invasion was so disrupting its normal life. 
I call to mind the attentive student volunteers, like those of Santini- 
ketan. They rose before dawn to light fires, so that they could bring 
hot water for the camp bathrooms*. At night the crescent moon 
reclined on her back -a position which always looks so odd to 
visitors from the North. Drenched with unslept sleep - for once 
more I managed a bare four and a half hours a night - 1 envied her 
supine indolence. 

One morning, by invitation of the villagers, we visited Sevagram 
village. This was at 7.30 a.m., to fit in with their work and our 
sessions. They had improvised an archway, decorated with mango 
leaves, under which -we passed. The women gave us flowers and we 
sat down tinder a tamarind tree, opposite rows of healthy and high- 
spirited children. This village had been the object of some intensive 
work by Gandhi s followers, and one could see the results even in 
the trim appearance of the tiled huts, with their neat bamboo 
screens, shading cool verandahs. The place had a feeling of well- 
being. They chanted words which, twenty years before, had seldom 
been heard outside the Gandhi ashrams; but Gandhi had made them 

1 A tibought wHch I owe to George Sampson in English for tke English (1931). 

popular throughout the country, and I had heard them often on the 
Jal Azad and all over India since my arrival: 

Rhagupati Raghava Raja Ram, 
Patita Pawana Sita-Ram . . . 

What is especially interesting in this invocation of Ram and Sita, 
apart from the subtle variations in the melody, is the introduction of 
a verse since my first visit to India - in "which the Moslem Allah* 
is identified with Ishwar , a name of the Supreme God in the Hindu 

The villagers also sang two songs of Tukaram, many of whose 
beautiful verses Gandhi translated into English while he was in 
Yeravda Prison. A representative of the village, in a brief speech of 
welcome, mentioned very modestly what had so far been done 
under *Bapu*s constructive programme . They had a maternity and 
child -welfare centre, a *pre-basic school (i.e. roughly for children of 
kindergarten age), a grain bank, a multi-purposes co-operative store, 
and a small centre for the production of palm gur (a form of un 
refined palm sugar.) They had started a scheme for making the 
village self-sufficient in cloth, they had a village panchayat and court, 
they were trying to improve the breeding of cattle and were making 
compost for their crops. They had even formed a housing society to 
build better houses. Most of tiiese activities I was able to inspect with 
approval after the conference was over. The grain bank specially 
interested me, as it cut across the pernicious money lending system 
and indeed - cut out money altogether in its own transactions. The 
village spokesman, as translated by one of our friends, apologised 
nevertheless that so little had been done because of our ignorance* 
and referred to the many problems which remained to be tackled. 

We were allowed to do rather more for ourselves at Sevagram 
than we had done at Santiniketan, but too often the vigilant student 
volunteers would anticipate one s slightest needs. If you expostu 
lated the reply was almost invariably the same: *It is my duty* 
usually accompanied by what I have learnt to call the double 
swerve* (a curious motion of the head). Occasionally the reply 
would be: *It is nothing. In either case the expression would be 
equally solemn. One has to know Indian -ways to understand this. 
In reality it is the equivalent of You re welcome* or Don t mention 
it*; and the absence of a smile is quite unimportant. Too easily the 
European interprets the rather wooden phrase and the lack of 

expression in his own terms, making them mean It s a bore, but I 
am doing -what is expected of me, however reluctantly. 

Before noon each day it was really hot, but the nights and morn 
ings were cold and I admired the heroism of Richard Gregg, who 
went about at all hours in a dhoti of white khaddar. Most of the 
Westerners, myself included, followed the example of Asher. 1 
(Incidentally, I wonder whether a more ungainly garment than a 
dhoti has ever been devised especially as seen from the rear when 
it is even a little crumpled and only a very conservative people 
could so long have used anything so wasteful of doth, considering 
the poverty of the country. I wore one myself often enough twenty 
years ago, but certainly not for comfort or elegance - merely as a 
token of my political sympathies. The only merit that I can find in it 
is that of all garments it is surely the furthest from anything military. 
But this fact did not prevent R-ajaghopolachariar, as Governor 
General, from reviewing troops in a dhoti a sight which I should 
rather have enjoyed for its Thermopylist incongruity.) 

The Commission to which I gave a good deal of my time had as 
its chairman Wilfred Wellock. Since the days when he had taken up 
Dick Keithahn s case in Parliament he had completely separated 
himself from politics. His interest had shifted to organic methods of 
farming and the de-centralisation of industry. Wellock, Gregg and 
others from the West felt, as I did, that in these rural centres founded 
by Gandhi we had a working example of a new method of social 
revolution through small groups. The idea gradually seemed to 
grip the conference as a "whole, and a proposal was even put forward 
that an international centre should be founded in India as a training 
ground in ashram methods. I am sure this would have been a mistake; 
and it was immediately opposed by one of the most devoted and 
(at least among the European visitors) the most respected of the 
ashram workers, Asha Devi. She seldom spoke, but "when she did 
there "was always a deeper and closer attention among the delegates 
a fact which was most noticeable if there had been a somewhat 
clamorous debate. The voices of Indian women generally sound 
shrill to a European ear. Asha Devi s voice is as gentle and quiet as 
her face. Tlie whole point of an ashram, she explained, was that it 
^vas indigenous to a locality - any soch centre under international 
control must lose that indigenous character. 

The Negro Principal of Howard University came m at that point 

1 According to Judges V. 17 he abode in his breaches*. 


with one of his memorable phrases. Mordecai Johnson had come 
to be accepted as the most formidable personality among the dele 
gates. Unless my notes are inaccurate he said that he respected the 
fear of Asha Devi that the tender plant growing here would be 
ruined by an international blunderbus and by putting too many 
babies at its tender breast/ It is unfortunately impossible to convey 
the personality of that man to the reader - he always seemed to me 
somehow larger than life-size. His phrases became current coin 
among us. Innocuous positionalism* meant passing pious resolutions 
without action. Of a worthy, but somewhat wordy, document he 
suggested that it needed the word water squeezed out of it . Once I 
heard his deep voice booming that this place is about saturated 
with phrases spilt by me and I m not spilling any more. Fortunately 
for us all he never kept to that threat. 

On New Year s Eve, the last day of our conference, Jawaharlal 
Nehru visited Sevagram to address the delegates. Twice I had 
missed him and I was glad that, now we were to meet, it was to be 
in surroundings something like those in which I had known him in 
the past. I had met him once or twice in London, but my last vivid 
memories of Panditji* were connected with Sabarmati. He had 
been there before I took Gandhi s letter to the Viceroy; and that 
very day, before we both took the night train from Ahmedabad, 
we had attended a Hindu wedding at the ashram. It was quite a 
society wedding, so to speak, for some many of the Congress 
notables were at Sabarmati just then to consult with Bapu, and they 
all came - Sardar Patel, Jammalal Bajaj and the rest. The future 
Prime Minister, sitting next to me, had given me a running com 
mentary while the pandit in charge of the business rattled off 
Sanskrit at an amazing speed and the congregation chatted happily 
without paying any apparent attention. I remembered Jawaharlal 
telling me that this pandit was obviously an amateur at the job - as 
appeared from the feet that he periodically became lost among his 
vast pile of books and papers. 

Later we had left together on the same mail train, parting com 
pany at a junction, where I had insisted on carrying his bag, be 
cause*, I explained, you "will be famous one day and I shall be able 
to say that I once carried your bag*. Such were my memories of 
Panditji all pleasant and personal, beginning from our first meeting 
at Wardha and the talks in Dr Mahmoud s tent at Lahore. After 
Gandhi left Sabarmati on his march to the coast I had seen more of 


Jawaharlal, in his political capacity. Already, after the Lahore 
Congress, I had written It is not quite fair to call him the Cavour of 
the movement, but that is the nearest historical parallel/ At a 
Congress Working Committee, which I had attended by invitation 
shortly before PandigTs arrest, I had heard him address his comrades 
in an almost dictatorial mood - though nobody, in the circumstances 
could have blamed him. They had been discussing his powers as 
Congress President in emergency situations, and he had listened to 
several long-winded speakers before he intervened curtly from the 
chair. In an emergency,* he said, *the President will act as he tjiinlcs 
fit, and you may censure him afterwards if you like/ They could 
pass, he told them, whatever resolutions they pleased. His firmness 
on this occasion had certainly snuffed out a discussion which was 
peculiarly silly in such a critical situation. 

And now he was arriving as Prime Minister, heralded by armed 
guards who prowled around the camp. I turned suddenly from a 
conversation to find him at my side. He looked even more distin 
guished th.flTi he had when I first met him and far more so than any 
other living statesman. There was something in his face -which no 
photograph has ever conveyed - a curious blend of humour and 
sadness, kindness and irony, especially noticeable when he smiled. 
"We spoke briefly, only for a few minutes, for many were waiting 
to meet him. It "was not until I lunched with him later, at New 
Delhi, that I was really able to talk with Panditji, and even then 
conversation was somewhat limited. 

Politicians always make me nervous the more so if I like them 
personally. I feel that we look at the world from different angles, 
and the gulf widens "when they become administrators, moving in 
an authoritarian world that is foreign to my anarchistic tempera 
ment. On that later occasion, at Delhi, Jawaharlal fortunately talked 
mainly of India s refugees, for whom he feels deeply. A maharajah 
who had been at Harrow with Nehru interrupted this with reminis 
cences of their school days to which his host listened patiently. It 
was a strange lunch, altogether, in the Prime Minister s garden, 
where I sat next to a not very talkative English lady. The only 
words I remember her to have uttered "were occasioned by the 
sudden appearance of a pheasant, when she turned to her husband 
and said: Darling, "what a pity you haven t got your gttnf That was 
the last time I saw Jawaharlal, and as we parted I fumbled for dbe 
rigjit phrase, muttering something about the pleasure of seeing him 


*in all his glory . He half turned away and said, as though he had 
been thinking aloud: Tm afraid it is faded/ 

This is all anticipating - but chronology is a bore. At Sevagram 
Nehru addressed the delegates and made an excellent impression. 
He always does. But the real speech of the conference was not that 
of our distinguished visitor nor was it one of the many brilliant 
addresses by Mordecai Johnson. It was the last speech on the last 
evening, made by a gaunt, haggard man who had been with us for 
a week and said very little. The last word lay with Michael Scott, 
and it was the cry from Africa which I shall retain as the thing which 
most deeply impressed me. Here, indeed, was work that needed the 
inspiration and the leadership of a Gandhi. The prayer of an African 
chieftain has yet to be answered through human hearts and hands: 
*Oh, Lord, help us -who roam about. Help us who have been placed 
in Africa and have no home of our own. Give us back a dwelling 

The rest of my experiences before I left for England can be told 
briefly enough. I remained one day at Sevagram, in order to see the 
place - revisiting the village, going all over the Sevagram farm and 
inspecting the training centre of the All India Spinners Association. 
That day Sevagram resumed its normal life, "which it was pleasant 
to share. Our invasion, however, had at least dealt drastically with a 
local glut of bananas, of which 100 guests had consumed 3,000 in a 

At last I visited Bapu s hut, and saw the small, bare room where 
he had lived and worked in his last years, There were his few 
possessions a staff, a pair of wooden sandals, his spectacles and not 
much else. Though it lacked those personal associations which, in 
my case, are largely confined to Safaarmati, this place evoked more 
than I had felt at Gandhi s birthplace or on the spot where he died. 
As I stood there in silence the inevitable autograph hunter entered 
and presented his book for a signature I stared at him. 

After a twenty-four hour journey I arrived in Delhi, where most 
of the delegates had gone the previous day. Here we were all invited 
to numerous receptions, including one at Government House, as 
guests of the Governor General. This was real comic opera. Armed 
guards lined the drive, the stairway and the hall in which the recep 
tion was held. The entertainment ended with some films, including 

one of Gandhi s life, with a somewhat lush commentary that 
emphasised the virtue of non-violence. India is a little bewildering 
at times. The Governor General (whose cumbrous name is com 
monly shortened to *Rajaji* or *C.R/) remembered me from the 
old days and spoke kindly. 1 He had taken no offence at our attempted 
interference with regard to the executions. As a matter of fact, it was 
part of the general Indian paradox that he had treated Gregg with 
such exceptional courtesy when he went on that hopeless mission. 
There are many countries where the ideas about capital punishment 
are more enlightened; but there is no country in die world where 
"ordinary people like Richard Gregg or myself, without official 
status or the advantage of fame, can hope for so much courtesy from 
those in power. 

Nehru was at that reception, also Devadas Gandhi, whom I did 
not see again, as he left for London. He seemed anxious as to 
whether I had any resentment against his father-in-law, and I was 
able to assure him truthfully that I had none. We were grateful for 
all the kindness we had received from the government. Criticism is 
a different matter, and I did not wish to discuss the many hal- 
fbrmed impressions in my mind. It is hard enough even now to get 
everything into true perspective. 

At Delhi I stayed at first with the Principal of the Hindu College, 
N. V. Thadani, a man of independent character, who criticised 
everything from the Government to Indian educational standards 
with knowledge and complete objectivity. But I soon found that 
my address in Delhi was too well known and too accessible. After 
some days I moved outside the city, as the guest of a young Scottish 
Sergeant-Major whom I had met on thejal Azad. He "was on loan, 
as a radio technician, to the Army H.Q. Signals Regiment, In the 
Wireless Village* I really found some peace at last among the 
soldiers. Few people knew where I "was and it also amused me to 
t-ltmlc that I was protected from intruders by a sentry. Even inter 
nationalism thrived in this place, for Angus, my host, used to chat 
on the radio with amateur radio enthusiasts all over the world. 
Helsinki, Rangoon, Saudi Arabia, Melbourne and Lhassa were all 
among his regular contacts. He had, so he told me, chatted with the 
Kon-Tiki adventurers when they were crossing the Pacific on their 

1 la my 1929 30 journals I find that I said of Rajaji: *He is a simple man and lacks 
"distinction", but may succeed in spite of it, just as Bapu did." Today I should certainly 
withdraw the charge of simplicity. 


raft. So here, too, Pantagruelion seemed to have been at work. 
Among the people whom I visited "when Angus drove me into the 
city was another friend whom I had acquired on theja/ Azad the 
Czech Ambassador, I was astonished to find how much he had 
learnt about India in so short a time; and that knowledge was not 
merely superficial. He was too good a man for the job; and the 
news of his resignation a year later did not surprise me. 

With Michael Scott and a few others I next visited Mirabehn, 
staying three days at Rishikesh, a night s journey from Delhi, on 
the south bank of the Ganges. Rishikesh is perhaps the most ancient 
centre of Hindu scholarship, and still a great resort of sadhus. Here 
Mirabehn herself now wearing the saffron garment of a sadhu - 
had made her ashram, a centre from "which she supervised a big 
government cattle-centre, known as Pashuhk. From Mirabehn s 
hut one looked across the clear, shallow rapids to the foothills of the 
Himalaya, rising from the further bank to about five thousand feet, 
though at such close distance they looked very much higher. Some 
of us climbed that first range, and from its summit saw the vaster 
mountains that lay behind it, the snow being just visible on the 
furthest peaks in sight. It was astonishing to find a small village near 
the top of this range, the steep slopes being cultivated by means of 
terracing and contour ploughing. "We had lost our way in the 
jungle of the lower slopes on our way up, and had to hurry back to 
avoid being overtaken by darkness. There were tigers and other 
wild beasts in these parts, we were told, though we did not see any. 
But Mirabehn said that leopard footprints were frequently to be 
seen on the path between her hut and the one where most of us 
were sleeping. 

The cold here, from dusk till about n a,m., was intense; but 
Mirabehn, hardy as ever, was enduring it in Spartan conditions. 
For most of us three days seemed quite sufficient at this time of year. 
We made good use of the time, going all over the government 
estate on an elephant and seeing among other things really 
Gargantuan compost heaps. "We also visited a camp of Thibetan 
weavers, who come every winter - perhaps because it is less bitterly 
cold here than it is in the hills. After seeing them at work 1 and 

1 These weavers work in wool. For spinning they do not use a wheel, but a takli 
(spindle) which is spun like a top. The wool is spun from a distaff, held over the 
shoulder and tucked into the clothes at the back of the neck. When the takli is used for 
spinning wool it seems usual for the spinner to sit on a raised platform or on the roof 
of his hut, allowing the yarn to reach ground level before winding it. 


admiring some of the products we were entertained by the Lama in 
his hut of bamboo and pampas grass. He sang many songs, accom 
panied by the ringing of bells, the beating of drums and a strange 
noise from a wind instrument. 

At Hardwar, where we spent some hours on the way back to 
Delhi, we were interested in two notices. One, in a large private 
house, informed us that spitting and deciphering* were forbidden. 
This worried Michael Scott a good deal, not because he wanted to 
spit, but because he wanted to decipher* the other word. The other 
notice, on a bridge, announced that non-Hindus, other than officers 
on duty, were forbidden by the Municipality to use it. 

Hardwar, it is true, is one of the seven holy pkces of the Hindus, 
and (like Allahabad) a great centre of pilgrimage at the time of the 
Kumbh Mela; but we all knew well enough that this was the sort of 
thing which breeds communal friction. Indeed, when we reported 
it to some Hindu friends in Delhi they were most indignant, 
declared it to be contrary to the new constitution, and promised to 
take the matter up with the appropriate authorities -without delay, 
demanding the removal of such notices as offensive to Moslems and 
others. On the whole this ready response of our Hindu friends at 
Delhi was very typical of what Hindus feel about communalisro. 
They do honestly want a secular state, not a Hindu state. In big 
centres such as Delhi and Ahmedabad the drums of the mosque still 
call the Faithful to prayer, and most Hindus that I met - however 
bitterly some felt about Pakistan - had absolutely no thought of 
discriminating against their Moslem neighbours in the Indian Union. 
Riots have always been local, and confined to a relatively small part 
of the country. 

Staying one night more in Delhi, I arrived at Bombay with about 
a week to spare before I was due to sail. Almost the first news I 
heard on my arrival was that Verrier Elwin was in Bombay. Having 
felled to meet him in the C.P. I was glad of the chance at last to hear 
him speak to a small meeting about his work among the aboriginal 
tribes. These primitive peoples had all loved Gandhi, he told us, 
and many refused to believe that he was dead. He spoke of their fear 
of outsiders British or Indian. One, who had seen an aeroplane a 
rare sight in the central jungles ha<l aptly described it as *the vehicle 
of the God of Death*. The Tribal Welfare and Research Unit, 
which Verrier and a few friends have founded, is not a body en 
gaged in purely academic research. Their records of the songs, 


dances, myths and customs of the aboriginals can be, and already 
have been, of value to those who want to understand these people 
and treat them rightly. Verrier and his friends have succeeded in 
bringing about changes in government policy and have themselves 
undertaken educational work among the tribes, which might have 
done more harm than good if they had not acquired the necessary 
knowledge of the people and a respect for their culture. They have 
engaged in everything from digging wells to running a home for 
lepers and conducting a dispensary. All this requires money, for 
which Verrier was appealing at this meeting. 

Until the last few days I stayed outside Bombay, in the suburb of 
Bandra, as the guest of an Indian friend, Prakash Tandon, and his 
Swedish wife. This was another happy consequence of the memor 
able voyage on the Jal Azad, when I had first met these two and 
their three beautiful children. Bandra is a curious place, with a 
considerable Catholic community (Indian and Anglo-Indian or half 
Portuguese) which was pampered by the Government from the 
time of the Sepoy Mutiny and has a long loyalist tradition. English 
and Portuguese names are used by these Christians and England is 
still home* to some of them (even those who have never set foot in 
this island), their ways resembling the habits of the lower middle 
class in England about fifty years ago. To be a Christian* in Bandra 
is a communal distinction - not merely a matter of religious belief. 
( Is so-and-so English?* No, he is a Christian/) The Tandons had 
several stories illustrating the nature of this cultural backwater. One 
woman -an Indian herself -had been worried about rationing 
because of the difficulty of feeding one s native servants*. Among 
these people we* has long meant themselves and the British - they* 
refers to other Indians. They use only western music, speak bad 
English as their first language and affect an English accent when 
using Hindustani words. In the past, members of this community 
were employed either by the British rulers, in the smaller administra 
tive positions, or by British commercial houses. Their education, 
though in many respects deplorable, made them useful as clerks. 

In many respects the problems of this small community, in the 
New India for which they were so utterly unprepared, resemble 
those of the Christian converts whom I met in the Central Pro 
vinces. Their religion, according to Ingrid Tandon, often shows 
traces of Hindu infiltration. One ayah whom she heard scolding a 
child ( If you aren t good, Jesus will turn you into a pig ) must 


clearly have had some dim conception of reincarnation in the back 
of her mind. Hindus (and Moslems too) have even adopted* one of 
the Catholic Churches, built on the site of an old Hindu temple, and 
kept up a fertility cult. Dolls are sold outside the church and women 
irrespective of their religion - will buy one of these and present it 
to the Virgin, in the hope of being rewarded with a child. 

Which reminds me. The three Tandon children gave me endless 
pleasure Manu, Gautam and Maya, with her amber eyes and long 
plaits (ending, Indian fashion, with black silk tassels). These children 
spoke a mixture of English and Hindustani, but were liable to burst 
into Swedish too. There was a curious blend of culture in that 
friendly home, and a very good blend. Ingrid Tandon always wore 
Indian clothes and had a sad little story of meeting an Indian woman 
(a Christian) on a *bus. The other woman, dressed in European 
style, as is common in her community, asked why Ingrid wore a 
sari. Because I live in India and am married to an Indian,* replied 
my hostess, why don t you do the same?* The Indian lady shook 
her head. Anybody can see that you are educated,* she replied. *J 
have to show it/ 

Within a short walking distance of the residential suburb of 
Bandra is an old fishing village, which I explored with Ingrid, and 
further up the coast there was good swimming. Before I left, 
Prakash drove us out to see the new centre at Aaray t where a dean 
and adequate milk supply for Bombay is being organised under the 
direction of Dara Khurody a pioneer who took training in Den 
mark and has adapted what he learnt to the solution of Indian 
problems. The city milk supply is quite inadequate and was recently 
considered - in the opinion of experts much more dangerous than 
London sewer water. The centre proved to be a really impressive 
undertaking in hilly country, to the north of Bombay. Since it was 
started two years previously it had grown to house 2,800 buf&loes. 
It was making a profit on which the first charge was to be repay 
ment of loan capital and the next would be extension, with the 
object of increasing the number of buffaloes to 12,800. The scheme, 
in addition to assuring a clean supply to the consumer, and ultimately 
an adequate supply for the whole city, is a model one for its com 
bination of efficiency, co-operation, assurance of a steady market 
and scope for individual enterprise. 

My last night in India was spent right in tbe heart of the city, 
with a friend who had a flat near the Apollo Bander*. In contrast 


to the public occasion made of our arrival, the pacifist delegates 
departed very quietly. Indeed, my last taste of anything resembling 
publicity was quite accidental. Ingrid Tandon had come into Bom 
bay witt me, and "we drove together in an ancient Victoria up a 
deserted street which was lined "with soldiers. Apparently the street 
had been closed for a rehearsal of the Governor s drive on a state 
occasion, which was scheduled for the day before I left the country - 
the day -when India was to be declared a Republic. I think we were 
allowed to pass owing to a misunderstanding, on the assumption 
that we were standing in* for the purpose of this rehearsal on behalf 
of His Excellency and Lady Singh. Anyway, it is as good an 
explanation as any other, and quite the pleasantest. 

Westerners so commonly go about India obsessed with the idea 
that everybody is trying to swindle them that one small thing is 
perhaps worth mentioning. I was only once given "wrong change, 
so far as I know, and that was on a bus during this last week in 
Bombay. As the mistake was to my advantage or would have 
been, had I not pointed it out - I naturally wondered what conclu 
sion would have been drawn by most Europeans had the mistake 
been to the advantage of the conductor. Incidentally, I also had 
money returned to me by a hawker at a station when I offered him 
too much through misunderstanding the price he had stated. There 
are plenty of rogues in most places, including India; but I see no 
reason to believe that they are any more common there, in spite of 
the provocation offered by poverty, than they are in other countries. 

Before leaving India I -was given a final taste of journalistic 
incorrigibility. The Times of India is no longer British owned, and 
it no longer specialises in defaming Indian leaders or British friends 
of India. But journalism is still journalism; and my only speech in 
Bombay was so reported in this paper that it read as a very flattering 
account of the New India whereas, in point of fact, I had carefully 
avoided committing myself one way or the other. To this the 
reporter had added other inventions of his own which made no 
sense at all. And though my visit had been all too short, I was not 
pleased to find that my supposed optimism about India -was said to 
have been based upon a three weeks* tour*. 

Among the people I met during those last days was one who had 
been a boy at Sabarmati in 1930. 1 had specially enquired about him, 
for I had enjoyed the company of the youngsters at Sabarmati and 
among them Rasifc had always been my favourite. I had sometimes 


wondered wliat sort of man he had become. The last I had ever 
seen of him in 1930 was when he went with Abbas Tyabji to break 
the salt laws; and in my journals his reported defiance of the 
magistrate at his trial -was the final record. Meeting anyone after 
twenty years always involves some speculation, the more so if it is 
a boy who has grown up, but Rasik was no disappointment. He 
seemed surprised, but very pleased, that I should have remembered 
him so well and taken steps to find him. 

I reminded him of his own words, as reported to me after his 
arrest and conviction in 1930: *I have no faith in this Court and its 
"laws", which I consider to be illegal. At such a pkce I have nothing 
to say. Whatever I have to say, I will say it before my own Swaraj 
Government, whenever it may be established/ 

We didn t think/ said I, that the day would come so soon/ 

Rasik was silent for a moment. Then he said: * With me that day 
was another boy you might remember him/ He mentioned the 
name, but I had forgotten it. 

He became a Communist. Not long ago he was killed. This was 
done by my own Swaraj Government. He was a great friend of 
mine . . / 

On January 26th the Republic was declared. Twenty years 
previously I had spent the day travelling. The train had been so full 
that only the silver tongue of Chaturvedi had secured me a seat with 
some railway officials, in a compartment supposed to be exclusively 
for their use. We had passed through Chauri-Chaura - an ill- 
omened name, for it had been on account of serious riots there that 
Gandhi had suspended his first Civil Disobedience movement. But 
that day all was quiet at Chauri-Chaunu Perfect order had prevailed 
almost throughout the country, the ceremonial reading of the 
Independence Resolution and hoisting of the National Flag being 
unaccompanied even by speeches, in most places. On January 26th, 
1950 it was clear that the order of the day was to be very different. 

Streets and houses everywhere 1 now displayed the national flag - 
that emblem once penalised so savagely in the town of Sholapur 
(under Martial Law) that to carry it was then punishable "with ten 
years* imprisonment. That was in May 1930. Boys had been flogged 
for the same offence. Surely I ought to be glad that the long straggle 
had ended so triumphantly. But the events of Republic Day foiled to 
arouse any response in me. All that really mattered, I knew very well 

1 With the exception of most Christian houses at Bandra. 


was political freedom, which had already been achieved, and social 
emancipation, which had yet to come. The Republic meant abso 
lutely nothing - it was noteven, properly speaking, a Republic at all. 

In fact Republic Day was something of a comedy. On the front 
page of the Bombay Chronicle there "was headlined the message of 
H.M, Kong George VI, congratulating the Indian Government on 
the foundation of the Indian Republic within the Commonwealth*. 
The statesmen of Britain and India have been much congratulated 
on the formula* -which they evolved; though -what it all means I 
have yet to discover. What really made me smile was the wording 
used in tfo? message. One naturally asks what commonwealth? *The 
British Commonwealth of Nations may be (and certainly is, so far 
as I am concerned) a euphemism for an Empire, which is not a 
commonwealth at all. It is, if you like, a thumping lie, since it 
implies that the tribesmen of Kenya, the British owners of the land 
stolen from them and - say - Mr Herbert Morrison enjoy common 
rights and share common interests, their weal* or welfare being a 
matter of common concern. But, however foolish the phrase may 
be, it does connote something. We know what somebody is talking 
about if he refers to the British Commonwealth. In the royal 
message the word British* had to be left out for reasons of tact; and 
what remained had no meaning whatsoever. The King certainly did 
his best it was this new republicanism which made things so 
difficult. How can anyone hope to say anything very intelligible 
about a republic which acknowledges the crown of another country 
as a symbol of unity* and remains part of the British Empire whilst 
refusing to call it an Empire or to face the fact that it is British? 

There are, however, heroes in our midst to whom the impossible 
is unknown. In the same paper (the Bombay Chronicle ofjanuary 26th) 
Fenner Brockway made the whole thing clear. It appeared that 
there were serious differences between India and Britain still, relating 
to foreign policy and imperialism. India was not playing Western 
Bloc* politics, and had no part in British imperialism. But two such 
minor differences, apparently, need not prevent the closest co-opera 
tion between Nehru and Attlee, which had, in fact, been achieved - 
though a change of government in Britain might involve *a serious 
change in psychology , whatever that may mean. Moreover Britain 
and die Labour Party, though they practised imperialism, on Mr 
Brocfcway s admission, were democratic*. And so on. But after 
reading this article I -was no less puzzled than before as to just what 


this new Republic was, and what were its relations with the alleged 
Commonwealth, British or otherwise. 

There was to be an amnesty for prisoners in celebration of 
Republic Day, but this was not to include habitual offenders, 
persons detained for failure to furnish security* and other specified 
classes - in fact, it did not cover any of those who had best reason to 
complain of their imprisonment; for under the Criminal Procedure 
Code habitual offenders* could be imprisoned without any specific 
charge being brought against them 1 and the old British law on this 
point had not yet been modified in any way. 2,521 Communists 
(according to The Times of India) also remained in detention. 
Prisoners condemned to death were not to be executed on 
January 26th or ayth, for which no doubt they were grateful, 

The first President of the new Republic -was to be Rajenda 
Prasad, a man whom I had known slightly from my first visit and 
seen quite recently at Sevagram. There he had presided* (in a rather 
formal sense, as he did not actually chair the sessions) over the 
Pacifist Conference. I only remember two occasions on which he 
spoke during the sessions once to defend the practice of imprison 
ment without trial, and once to put the Indian case when we were 
discussing the friction between India and Pakistan. Knowing that he 
had already accepted nomination for a post in which he would be 
head of all the armed forces of India, I had not been surprised at the 
nature of his small contribution to our discussions. What had really 
surprised me was not his acceptance of office as President of the 
Republic but the fact that he had agreed to preside at Sevagram, 
or even to attend. I find people like Nehru much easier to under 
stand. I have never felt that I knew where Prasad stood; and 
sometimes I have wondered whether he himself has any clear ideas 
on the subject. 

All day, on January 26th, people streamed into Bombay, and by 
night-fall the streets were hot with humanity so hot with breath 
and bodies that one never felt the sudden coolness "which comes with 
evening in the Indian winter. The tamasha was something which had 
not merely to be seen but heard, felt and smelt to be believed. The 
crowds eventually immobilised all vehicles on tie main streets, and 
in the side roads they could only move very slowly between long 

1 Under Sections 109 and no of the Code. The nature of these sections -was folly 
discussed in Chapter VTTE of my White Sahibs with examples of the way !a which the 
law was actually applied in the thirties. 


halts. An old man I once knew used to say, when the supposed 
responsibility of the pedestrian for street accidents was under discus 
sion, that it was surprising how few fatal accidents were occasioned 
by pedestrians colliding with one another. Here, however, quite 
the most dangerous thing on the road appeared to be the human 
biped. Solid masses of them surged, swayed and crushed one 
another. It would have been very easy to have been trampled under 
foot if there had been room to fall down; but there seldom was. 

And yet, somehow, in odd corners which just escaped the great 
mainstreams of homines sapientes the inevitable sleeping figures were 
still to be found that night. There they lay like corpses, with sheets 
pulled over their heads, as I had seen them when I first came to 
Bombay; and no amount of noise, no trampling feet within inches 
of them, not yet the great occasion itself could alter their habits. 

From a high, flat roof I saw the illuminations. The whole of 
Bombay lay below and about us, each landmark clearly outlined 
by its own lights. Prakash Tandon, who had taken me there with 
his family, fortunately pointed out the Apollo Bander. I knew it 
only as the place from which I had gone on a motor launch to visit 
the Elephant Caves, as part of the programme on the arrival of the 
delegates in November. When I came down I soon realised that it 
was now my sole guide; for my host in Bombay lived somewhere 
near there; and with me was his small daughter (aged eight) who 
had no more idea than I had as to where we -were. We said goodbye 
to the Tandons, who were to make their way back to Bandra as 
well as they could by side roads, and I set off with the child in the 
direction so I hoped - of the Apollo Bander. 

We had luck. Somehow we made our way through the dense 
crowds until Vimula recognised some place. For twenty minutes, 
after that, this small child led me through alleys and. back streets till 
we reached her father s home. The noise continued all night, and I 
lay awake most of the time. It seemed strange and appropriate that 
I should be leaving India the day after the inauguration of the 
Republic. Whatever criticisms I might make of the whole peculiar 
set-up it was, after all, the formal ending of an era. For me that 
meant Nunc dimittis from this land of strange contrasts. I thought 
long of its wealth and its poverty, its violence and its non-violence, of 
the princely generosity of rapacious capitalists and of the confusion 
of good andevilin Indian politics. How would I ever sort all this out 
and find the true pattern behind it or was there any pattern at all? 


Michael Scott and four other delegates sailed with me on the 
- two of them people with whom I h^4 come out on the Jal 
Azad. I felt I had already said goodbye to India before I ever went on 
board. I had been saying it all over India for weeks. But I "was glad 
that a few of our Indian friends came to see us off. As Bombay faded 
from our sight I was already beginning to sort out my impressions, 
trying to map out this book. It seems now a long time since I began 
the first chapter, on the Stratheden; but I have still to attempt the 
most difficult thing, which is to summarise my own observations 
and to answer as well as I can the question: What did Gandhi really 
leave behind for India, or for the world? The second anniversary of his 
death, on January soth, passed almost unnoticed, I suspect, on the 
Stratheden. But in India it must surely have had a sobering effect 
after the events of the 26th. All over the country the more thought 
ful people must have asked themselves that same question. And 
some, at least, must have known that the answer lay in their own 
hearts and hands. 

Soft February sunshine -a rare gift -lit the docks at Tilbury 
when we arrived at the end of our journey. Even here the river 
justified its tide as the Silver Thames, glittering in the morning 
light. Coming from the land where all rivers are sacred, I remem 
bered how Pope, rising above his own satirical genius and the 
limitations of a stylised age, saw for a moment the vision of a new 
England, worthy of the highest patriotism. It was in those lines, the 
finest in Windsor Forest, that the poet prophesied the reign of peace: 

O stretch thy reign, fair Peace, from shore to shore, 
Till conquest cease and slavery be no more; 
Tilt the freed Indians in their native groves 
Reap their own fruits, and woo their sable loves . . . 

No need to quibble over the fact that it was the Red Indians whom 
Pope had in mind. The sentiment and the words still serve their 
purpose. And it is in such a -world that his prophesy may yet be 

Unbounded Thames AaB flow for aU mankind. 

It is a good thought. But love of one*s country has been so 
perverted to cover every evil that I had to re-learn it from the old 
Sage of Sabarmati before I could find a place for it in my philosophy. 



Terraces of privilege and loathing. 


ONCE, IN the nineteen-thirties, an ex-suffragette took me to a 
meeting of what I nearly called, her confreres. . . . Many speeches 
were made about the Good Old Times, and I remembered the 
remark once made by a friend of mine, that if one spent several 
miserable months shipwrecked and living on a raft one would say 
afterwards *Ah, but those were grand days we had on that raft/ I 
often felt like that on my second Indian visit. I met men and women 
who had changed immeasurably, and often I felt that they were 
more prosperous but certainly less happy. Then the paradox struck 
me, that the struggle for freedom brings out the best in people - its 
achievement too often brings out the worst. Such was once the case 
with the Society of Friends, which was at its best in the time of 
persecution but was almost destroyed by prosperity in the eighteenth 
century, and only saved by such men as John Woolman. 

But to return to my ex-suffragettes: after many nostalgic speeches 
a woman suddenly dared to speak of tasks still needing the same 
loyal devotion - and I am glad to say that she did not speak as a 
feminist but as a human being. She spoke, among other things, of 
prison reform. In those Good Old Days -when suffragettes had been 
imprisoned, she said, they had come out with knowledge of jail 
conditions and enthusiasm for reform. There had indeed been some 
reforms, but these were inadequate. The speech fell flat - these old 
veterans had not met to survey new worlds to conquer, but to 
celebrate their own past adventures. Then a pioneer of the Women 
Police rose from her seat and expressed her strong disapproval of 
what had been said. 

The police-woman said these were her actual words, as far as I 
remember - 1 was in prison before the war as a suffragette and I have 
often visited prisons since the war in my capacity as a police officer. 
I can assure you that conditions have completely changed.* There 
was no trace of irony in the voice of that woman or in her dull, 
worthy face. She was quite unconscious of any subjective difference, 


arising from her own altered status, which might have accounted 
for the complete change*. Being the only male guest I felt the 
restraint imposed by good manners; but as I caught the eye of the 
other woman, the enthusiast for prison reform, -we both laughed 

I was to remember this incident many times on my second visit 
to India, and I often quoted it when asked about the changes in the 
country. I had visited it twenty years previously as an unknown 
young man, and now I was returning as an honoured guest of those 
in power. I had travelled third class on most occasions - now, by 
arrangement with the Government of India, I had, in common with 
the other delegates, a special concession to travel first class at cheap 
rates. The Government of the United State of Saurashtra went even 
further, for the three of us who travelled there went with our two 
Indian hosts in the special saloon (like a royal railway suite) formerly 
used by Sir Prabhashankar Pattani. Granted that I travelled as far in 
two and a half months as I did during the ten months of my previous 
visit, that our programme was often exhausting and that railway 
journeys were my chief opportunities to do any writing, the fact 
remains that I was seeing India from a very different angle. Things 
had indeed changed for myself. 

I made my own decision regarding this matter of travelling, and 
it may have been the wrong one. Third class travel, incidentally, 
was far more difficult than, it had been twenty years previously 1 
unless one was prepared to fight for a place on the train it would in 
many cases have been impossible to board the third class coaches at 
all. Probably the right way to see India is to see it on foot, as a 
sadhu but you cannot do that in two and a half months. I used my 
concession, as did the other delegates, and was often glad enough 
merely for the privilege of a reasonably good night s rest between 
strenuous days, or following the strain of conference sessions, with 
nights of publicity work and correspondence. 

But though I could to some extent justify my own position, and 
knew that third class travel in such a heavy programme would have 
caused a complete breakdown in health, I could not get over this 
complete discrepancy between the two viewpoints, making all 
comparisons far too subjective, dependent upon my own changed 
circumstances. There were, indeed, many other differences between 

1 Only once on my previous visit did I travel on. a train widx passengers on the roof 
and footboards. This was later to become quite a familiar sight. 


my previous visit and this highly programmed tour of Northern 
and Central India. It was not simply that I attended receptions at 
places where I would have been most unwelcome in 1929-30 
(Government House, New Delhi, for example, and Government 
House, Bombay). The outstanding fact was that I often met the 
same people in such altered circumstances that comparisons were 
impossible. My companions of twenty years ago had been jail-birds 
who, even when they were not in prison, lived a great deal more 
simply, and by more Spartan standards, than most soldiers on active 
service. Where these men and women had taken the place of the 
previous rulers I could see some changes in the individuals; but the 
world in which they and I had once lived had now surely passed 
beyond their view. In so far as I kept their company that world 
eluded me, too. 

A phrase used by an ironical old Quaker comes to my mind, 
recalling two analogies which I have already used that of Quaker 
history and that of the two views on prisoners. e ln the old days, he 
would say, *the Quakers used to be in the dock. Today they sit on 
the Bench/ That was approximately the difference I found in so 
many of my old Indian friends - men and women whom I still love 
for all they have been in the past, and for something that goes 
deeper than politics. 

The late Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel may be taken as an example - 
he, at least, was too shrewd a man to think that people like Richard 
Gregg approved of his policy. And, apart from that, the Deputy 
Prime Minister, India s Strong Man*, was far too powerful to care. 
In fact I was surprised "when I was told in Delhi that the Sardar 
wanted to see me. At first I did not believe this, and then another 
person remarked: Vallabhbhai said he only wanted to see Richard 
and Reginald,* That explained everything. The old man was still 
sentimental enough to remember with some kind of pleasure the 
American, Richard Gregg, and the Englishman, Reginald Reynolds, 
who had offered their small tribute of service in the days of struggle. 
I responded at once in the same spirit. To me there were two 
Vallabhbhais, and always will be. There was the ruthless and 
powerful politician who now ruled India perhaps even more or 
so it was said than the Prime Minister. But there was also the 
*Sadar* who won that tide by leading 80,000 peasants of Bardoli to 
victory in a no-tax campaign* Gandhi s great lieutenant from the 
year 1928 onwards. 


And above all, as I looked at that wrinkled face, where the eyes 
still twinkled to recall some adventure of the past, I remembered 
little personal incidents, like the day at Lahore when some generous 
friend sent a vast hamper of vegetables to the Gandhi camp. Onions 
were found among them, and those were the days before Gandhiji 
had discovered the great value of onions and garlic - they were still 
classified by ashramites as stimulating foods , enemies of Bramka- 
charya (Chastity) and almost indecent to mention. Mirabehn, 
sternest in her orthodoxy, as became a convert from heathen Eng 
land, put those onions resolutely aside and I asked with alarm what 
would become of them. I heard that they were to be thrown away, 
and my immediate protest was suddenly supported by the formid 
able Sardar. Reginald and I will eat them,* he said firmly; and that 
we did, sitting a little apart and viewed with some horror by our 
companions, rather as though we had been cannibals. There is, of 
course, a sound social law governing the eating of onions, that all 
should partake or none; but I am still glad that Vallabhbhai and I 
broke that law. 

When we met in 1950 our conversation must have resembled 
that of two men who had been at school together and followed 
widely different paths for many years. Trivial but tender -were the 
memories that bridged the difference of age and outlook. I had no 
intention of saying anything to the Sardar on any subject of im 
portance. From an outsider who had been only a few months in the 
country criticism would have been impertinence; and I knew him 
well enough to be certain he had no more desire to receive polite 
flattery than I had to offer it. But when the old man said to me: 
*Bapuji was always talking of you/ I knew that I -would have gone 
a long way just to hear those words there "was such warmth in 
them. A friend had arranged that Michael Scott should go with me, 
and on the comparatively neutral ground of South Africa Michael 
made some headway. But once more I knew that meeting the same 
people gave me no clue to the changes in the country - only to the 
change in a few individual lives and the outlook of those who had 
been tested and tried by two years of success. 

There "was one thing that I tried hard to avoid in, India and I am 
still trying to avoid it, though I may not have been entirely success 
ful. It is the conceit which made a popular writer, not many years 
ago, give the title Verdict on InMa to a very superficial book 
-which contained more than a reasonable quota of jprejttdicc and 

misinformation. If I have risked some generalisations I want it to be 
clearly understood that they are based upon my own highly subjective 
impressions. I do not wish to make "wholesale criticisms of Indians, 
and I am particularly anxious to avail myself of the privilege - 
arising from the new situation since 1947 of being neutral in the 
internal politics of the country. As I have sometimes had to remind 
my Dublin friends, all that English radicals gained themselves from 
Irish independence was freedom from a long headache. I work on 
the assumption that in India, as in Ireland, this neutrality is my 
personal prerogative and my plain duty as an outsider, also that any 
Verdict by one man on a subcontinent can only be a verdict on 
himself. Nevertheless there have been difficult moments when both 
English people and Indians have pressed me to commit myself at 
least on some points. If I say some rash things I hope that my 
tempters will not be among my accusers. 

Once, in Calcutta, when I had to speak at one of those public 
receptions so frequently organised for us by Indian generosity, I 
remembered suddenly a story about Gandhi s visit to London in 
1931. He went to see an old friend, who had shared his hard life, 
many years previously, a staunch companion -who had given up 
much and taken great risks in his devoted adherence to a good cause. 
Gandhiji found him living very differently, surrounded by every 
evidence of affluence. He stood in the hall of his friend s house, 
paused in a bewildered manner and then So you have got on 9 was 
all he said. I felt suddenly that this was all I really had to say to the 
New India, or rather that it was all I had to say to most of my old 
friends, -who now ruled it. And then, even as I spoke, I remembered 
all those men and women I had met in the constructive centres*, the 
nameless ones, unknown (like those who have made Indian in 
dependence possible, for without them even Gandhi would have 
been powerless.) I realised again, as though this truth were a new 
revelation and not as old as humanity itself, that these unknown 
workers were the real salt of the earth - the people whose names 
would never appear in the headlines of the newspapers. 

And I heard myself pleading that these men and women, to whom 
independence was not an end but a beginning, the people who were 
continuing the great work of social and spiritual reconstruction 
begun by Gandhi, should not be forgotten. India offered now so 
many attractive jobs for the educated, so many plums which 
had oace fallen into British hands; and the glamour of political 

independence, with new personal opportunities, too easily obscured 
the need for people who would still Uve a soldier s life*, campaigning 
for little remuneration and litde rfcantcg against poverty, disease and 
ignorance. The fact that such an army still exists is to me the most 
hopeful thing in India today; and an urgent necessity, as I believe, is 
what I attempted to do that day in Calcutta - to make the towns 
people, especially the intellectuals*, conscious of the continued^need 
for this work and of opportunities very different from those which 
generations of Indian University Students have been taught to 

This brings me to a last generalisation, as rash as those I have 
already made. The Indian intelligentsia*, or such members of it as 
I met, gave me the impression of being very disillusioned about the 
present government. That, of course, is the special privilege (and 
perhaps even the special duty) of the intellectuals* in any country 
and at any time - though it is no more justifiable in India than 
elsewhere. In Bombay, particularly, I noticed this tendency, and I 
welcomed it as a sign that this section of the population, at least, was 
not to be contented with mere political independence - a change 
of masters which involved few major changes in the social structure. 
To them too, independence was a beginning and not an end; and I 
regard it as being to their credit rather than otherwise that after two 
years they were already impatient. 

By that I do not mean that independence is valueless unless it 
produces vast social reforms immediately - 1 value independence 
for its own sake and for the social changes which can only be 
achieved in a politically free country, however slowly they may 
come about. But the old catch-word gradualism*, which made 
slowness almost an aid in itself was at best a perversion of the 
trudi, and in our own time it has been exploded by the speed at 
which events move. If those who want peace are going to move 
gradually* they will find that the forces making for war will not 
obligingly wait until the gradualists have martialled their cohorts. 
And in India hunger will not wait for gradualists to act - famine 
threatens every year. So in every really vital problem I am in favour 
of the impatient people every time, by comparison with those who 
make a virtue of procrastination and deliberately continue the legal 
protection of social abuses which they have the power to remove. 

But speed does not necessarily mean talrmg short cuts, and I have 
for some time felt that the idealist in politics is always inclined to 


make this mistake. All corruption, graft, exploitation and oppres 
sion, in India or anywhere else, rests ultimately upon lust for power 

- by no means confined to the few who wield it and the ignorance 
of the masses. In the case of the masses I am thinking of their lack of 
education (particularly) in methods of co-operation, in the best 
use of their existing resources and personal capabilities, and the lack 
of a common^/a/r/i through which alone passive resistance to oppres 
sion can be carried out. On such a common faith personal self- 
discipline can be built up and developed into corporate self-discipline 

- the very essence of Gandhi s satyagraha and (incidentally) of a 
non-governmental society. Any attempt at speed which does not 
begin at this point may succeed in overthrowing a bad regime, but 
is unlikely to create a better. In India, and throughout the world, I 
believe that the really urgent task, in "which we cannot afford to 
delay, is the education or re-education of the people as a whole - 
beginning with ourselves. And if that appears to contradict my 
observations about war and hunger, my reply is that, since these 
evils can only be met successfully by a revolution, both spiritual and 
social, any attempt to hurry ahead of that revolution is speed in the 
wrong direction, a dissipation of energy and a waste of precious 

As to these young intellectuals of India, in Bombay I was struck - 
almost nostalgically - by the resemblance between the comments I 
heard and those of the malicious wits of Dublin. There was the 
same love of scandal, the same feeling that it would be disappointing 
if a scandal about some minister of state were untrue, but that even 
so it was better to invent the scandal than not to have one. I had not 
been twenty-four hours in India before I was asked -what I thought 
of the Bania Raj ; and of one much revered Congress leader I was 
told: Of course, you know what Motilal Nehru said about him - 
that if he swallowed a nail it would come out as a cork-screw/ The 
usual stories of corruption were told with more than the usual 
amount of amusing detail, and the Literary Set was devoured (with 
cannibal ardour) as greedily as the rest. As in Dublin, the game 
appeared to be to knock everyone off his perch and make all appear 
equally ludicrous. There is even something essentially healthy in 
this iconoclasm. 

It was not until I began to discuss the good work being done 
outside &eir own set, away from the political cockpit and beneath 
the notice of newspaper headlines that I discovered tbc limitations 


of these intellectuals. Of the principles and practice of Basic Educa 
tion they knew nothing - they might as well have been living in 
London for all they understood about it. Even more astonishing 
was my discovery that one Bombay writer an experienced 
journalist who was proud of his knowledge regarding the less 
creditable secrets of Cabinet Ministers - had never so much as heard 
of the Bombay Milk Scheme, which is, after all, a little revolution 
in itself and an important piece of education by example in the 
general revolution which is so urgently needed in dairy-farming and 
Indian agricultural practice. The fact that this was happening, un 
noticed, on the very doorstep of my Bombay friend struck me as 
symbolic. He was too interested in the sins of politicians in distant 
Delhi to see the beginnings of something very much more important 
in his own town. 

That -to complete my rash generalisation is the epitome of 
intellectualism, not in India alone but in most other countries of 
which I have any knowledge. It is peculiarly Indian only in the 
sense that the Indian middle-class is even further divorced than the 
middle-class in most other countries from the basic realities of life. 
This is the result, so far as I know, partly of a caste heritage in which, 
for countless generations, an elaborate hierarchy of professions has 
relegated the lowest social status to the most honest and useful 
forms of labour. Our own class system is similar and was at one 
time, perhaps, equally rigid. I remember that an Elizabethan 
authority once defined a gentleman as one who can live idly and 
without manual labour*. 1 This conception of social value is by no 
means dead in England even today, but a combination of circum 
stances has modified it. In the suburbs of London it is not infra dig 
to work on your allotment; and, indeed, certain, forms of manual 
labour such as gardening - are even considered genteel . The 
middle-class wife in modern England is much less dependent upon 
servants; and what is more important psychologically is the fact that 
she tells you with pride of the work she has done in the house. 

But only a minority of educated Indians would consider working 
in either kitchen or garden if they could possibly pay somebody else 
to do the work. Even more important is the different attitude to 
money. In England it has for some time been fashionable to be 
*poor\ although the poverty* of many of my upper middle-class 
friends would keep a few dozen people such as myself in more 

1 Sir Thomas Smith, De Rcpublica Anglorum (1583). 

G 185 

comfort than we have ever known or even desired. Even so, 
insistence on this poverty , however fictitious, is still important. 

It is evidence of a change, moral and psychological, in which the 
importance attached to wealth as a source of prestige has actually 
declined. It has nothing to do with political changes, though it may 
if carried to its logical conclusion - bring about changes much 
more profound than any that can be achieved by political action. 
Even the discrepancy between our Western attitude to money and 
what we say about it is of importance. We hang on to it and pretend 
we are poor - affect to despise it and scheme to obtain it. Unless I 
completely misread this, it means (on the one hand) that we want 
money because it gives us a feeling of security in a chaotic society, 
providing us also with those luxuries to which we cling that 
higher standard of living "which simply means a higher price paid 
for a less happy existence. But less and less is money the path to 
popularity and prestige, the greatest incentives to the accumulation 
of excessive -wealth. 

A vulgar display of wealth once made an impression*, but that 
impression has diminished, and continues to diminish, whilst an 
adverse reaction becomes more and more common. The next bid 
for popularity, on the part of wealthy Englishmen and Americans, 
was through philanthropy; and the chief result was that, within two 
generations, the word charity* " (a fine word "which nineteenth 
century philanthropists debased beyond recognition) began to 
stink. It had to be avoided. After various experiments with endow 
ments to national and public Trusts, the rich seem to have realised 
that the best thing to do about money is to keep quiet about it. And 
surely the next question "which must arise is whether there is any 
point in anybody having more than enough to live comfortably, 
human needs being limited and other things - especially that esteem 
of our fellow men which most of us value apparently going off the 
money market. 

It is this subtle change which makes it possible for Mrs A. in 
England to tell her neighbours with pride of floors that she has 
scrubbed and dinners that she has cooked even though neither 
statement may be strictly true. Meanwhile, in India, a lady under 
the misfortune of having to cook the dinner herself, -who might be 
reasonably proud of having done a good job, may actually prefer 
you to think that it was done by her cook. 

In the case of the intellectuals these prejudices were undoubtedly 

1 86 

reinforced by the system of education introduced by the British. 
Purely academic, it turned out generations of lawyers, graduates in 
Arts, *F.B. A.Y and such products, but for two generations care "was 
taken not to train men or women in those professions which dealt in 
practical knowledge - especially that technical knowledge which 
was so often used to prove the indispensability of British R.ule. As I 
have already observed, Macaulay s policy of creating a new caste 
of de-nationalised Indian clerks and minor officials was completely 
successful; and the British despised their own creation with a 
peculiar loathing - the *babu*, pathetically trying to be British. The 
very term *Wog*, once used in contempt by Europeans for the 
people of a country upon which they had forced themselves, meant 
originally Westernised Oriental Gentleman*. The phrase was in 
vented in the nineteenth century, in an honest official effort to 
secure more civility on the part of Europeans towards this class, in 
the hope that such hybrids -would obtain more courtesy than the 
rest of their countrymen usually received. Characteristically, the 
British residents, especially the military, reserved what little respect 
they could spare for the Indian soldier, with a little for the peasant 
and none at all for the Westernised Gentleman. 

As to the nature of Indian education, men trained in medicine, 
engineering, agriculture, forestry and other branches of practical 
knowledge cannot, as a rule, maintain for long the decadent attitude 
towards work which I have tried to indicate though even here 
there are some notable exceptions, which I will mention presently. 
Medicine was, I believe, the first field of practical knowledge for 
which Indians were able to qualify in their own country. Only very- 
late, and very slowly, with the maximum of obstruction, were 
Indians allowed to qualify for responsible work in forestry and 
admitted into the LF.S. The lamentable shortage of Indian engineers 
is still one of the legacies of our negative policy in that field - it was 
probably because the British rulers realised that Indian engineers 
meant an independent Indian industrialism; and not without reason 
were Indians excluded, for many years, from any responsible posts 
in the Air Force and the mechanised units. The secrets of mechanical 
power, both civil and military, were kept a close monopoly as long 
as possible. I state this merely as a fact without reference to my 
own views on militarism and on mechanisation. 

If that were the whole story it might well be argued that India 
lost little of any real value and was saved, for a time, from, much 

that is deplorable in our civilisation. But by some grotesque process, 
whether deliberate or accidental, orthodox education in India has 
become a caricature of all that is most ridiculous in our own system. 
Everything is sacrificed to passing examinations which enable a 
man to put a few letters after his name how valueless the educated 
Indian often realises later. *Our B.A./ said the principal of an Indian 
college to me, *is about equivalent to your Higher Certificate.* Yet, 
in spite of this, all orthodox* education is geared to examination 
standards, often from the earliest years. In one case I heard of a 
child of seven who was found hard at work late one evening at 
about 9.30 p.m. When the visitor a friend of mine expressed 
astonishment the reply of the child s mother was that *he must get 
through his matriculation/ Couldn t that wait until later?* my 
friend asked. No, it couldn t. Mother was taking no chances. 

A young student once asked me whether degrees were rated as 
highly in England as they are in India. 

*I think not, I told him. *I have no degree, nor has my wife, but 
we get along. Nobody bothers/ 

Over here/ he replied sadly, *y u can S et nowhere without a 
degree. You can t get a job/ 

It was symptomatic. You can t get a job did not refer to the 
hundreds of millions who obviously had no degrees yet earned some 
sort of a living. Education in England is not so utterly soul-destroy 
ing that an educated man cannot become a farmer, or even a farm- 
labourer I ve worked on the land myself. Or such a man may 
work in a garage or join the merchant service. But in India and 
again I shall have some vitally important exceptions to make later - 
he must either pass through the gateway of examinations to a 
sedentary job, be it only a clerk in an office, or sponge indefinitely 
on his family. (Even with the coveted degree this may still be his 
fate.) It is not entirely his fault. He has not, as a rule, undergone any 
hardening process enabling him to compete on equal terms with 
Indian manual workers - surely the toughest in the world for their 
size. (Consider the weights that any undersized coolie will lift and 
carry on his head.) And the mental and spiritual background of the 
educated Indian is such that only a spiritual revolution can make 
him even consider the idea of manual work. 

As an instance of the rigidity of this Indian hierarchy of profes 
sions (something that has continued while caste, in its purely religious 
aspect, is rapidly breaking down) I may mention the refugees from 


Pakistan. Except for some of the Punjabis ("who are endowed with a 
certain virility and adaptability, as Pandit Nehru remarked to me 
when we were discussing their problem) most of the refugees, 
irrespective of circumstances have tried to resume their previous occu 
pations. In a sense this is natural enough. But when, in over-crowded 
Delhi, one sees the thousands of little shops set up by the 50,000 
refugees in the city one begins to have a great deal of sympathy with 
the Indian Government in its efforts to re-settle such refugees in the 
country. It is a fight against generations of prejudice. 

Only a small proportion of the refugees from Pakistan could be 
classed as intellectuals*, and at first sight these observations may 
appear digressive. I mention the matter because it illustrates a prob 
lem that lies deeper than that of the purely academic education from 
which the intelligentsia suffers. It goes even beyond the middle-class, 
for manual workers are often as unadaptable; and even among the 
Harijans there is still to be found the paradox of caste distinctions 
among outcastes - distinctions which were even more rigid -when 
*untouchability* was still strongly entrenched in Hindu society. In 
the case of the refugees I was told by Pandit Nehru of one camp 
(which I unfortunately had no time to visit) where excellent 
pioneer work had been done, first in clearing jungle land, then in 
cultivation and setting up local industries. Here some thousands of 
Punjabis had shown great adaptability with both the desire and the 
capacity to leam new trades. But for the most part the story of 
Delhi is more typical. From a national point of view the addition of 
thousands of redundant shops to this city merely means that the 
previous shopkeepers have a harder struggle, not a single useful 
product being added to the sum total of India s real wealth. India 
merely has so many more mouths to feed, so many more bodies to 
clothe, without any increase in her resources. 

The situation is, in fact, a perfect exposure of the fallacious 
reasoning which regards the creation of employment* as the solu 
tion of a social problem; for employment has indeed been created 
by these refugees for themselves, but the country would be no 
worse off if they were paid to do nothing. The standpoint of these 
refugees, however, is simple and given their premises unanswer 
able. *I am a shopkeeper. My father and my grandfather were shop 
keepers. How can you expect me to do anything but keep a shop?* 
How they would fare on a desert island one can only imagine; but 
not being on a desert island many of them regard it as proper that 


the Indian Government, if unable to set them up in their previous 
line of business, should keep them indefinitely as pensioners. 

With a complete recognition of all that these people have suffered, 
with wholehearted sympathy for them and a full recognition of the 
splendid efforts made by many to rehabilitate themselves, I still feel 
tiat in this matter the Indian Government deserves more apprecia 
tion than it generally receives in India for its efforts to deal con 
structively with an extremely difficult situation. And I feel that, 
without blaming the refugees, one has to realise that their mis 
fortunes include this occupational rigidity which is so often found 
among them, and among the Indian people as a whole. It is the 
same kind of rigidity which makes a man go hungry rather than 
eat food to which he is unaccustomed or food which in some way 
fails to conform with a caste law. Both of these situations have been 
known, even in times of famine. 

Having digressed so far on the subject of these refugees, as an 
illustration of social rigidity in India, I ought in fairness to add that 
similar experiences have not been unknown in the West, in very 
similar circumstances. I well remember one particular occasion in 
the middle thirties, when many of us in England were doing all we 
could to help refugees from Germany. One day a man and his 
wife, young enough to have started life in some new field of 
enterprise and apparently in good bodily health, came to see my 
wife and myself They were made welcome as victims of anti- 
Semitism who had been told that we might be able to help and 
advise them as to their rehabilitation in Britain. It so happened that 
I had recently been consulted about the best use of some land in the 
West of England - the owner, who had a conscience about refugees 
and also about possessing a disused garden "which she could not 
cultivate herself, was willing to give free lodging in her house to a 
refugee couple, with the free use of this large garden to develop for 
marketable produce. 

It was the only hopeful offer I had in hand at the moment, and I 
mentioned it. There was no discussion of practical difficulties^ such 
as some training and a little capital. Without going into such 
questions our guests waved their hands in dismay. *But ve do not 
vant to vork vith our hands* those were the very words that 
shattered the scheme (and us). It was a sentence which we have 
never forgotten. Other well-intentioned friends of ours had similar 
experiences. Nevertheless I would still maintain that, taking the 


Western peoples as a whole (and perhaps this is true of the British, 
the Americans and the Irish more than of the others) the prejudice 
against manual work is less common among the middle classes than 
it is among those classes in India, 

So, if we consider the cause of the present ineffectiveness of the 
Indian intellectuals , it must be traced, in the first place, to long 
standing traditions which have deep roots in Indian society. Gandhi s 
campaign for opening all temples to Harijans was a good move, a 
very courageous step at the time when it was first taken, and has 
proved very effective, but only in a limited sphere. Gandhiji knew 
well enough that it was only a beginning, and his own work went 
very much further. The legal abolition* of untouchability* is 
probably much less effective, though superficially it appears to be 
more far reaching. You cannot by a legal statute make people 
respect other people, and the work they do. And the relics of caste 
prejudice, shading imperceptibly into a new class snobbery, have 
roots that would still remain untouched, even if untouchability* 
were completely eradicated. 

As to the educational factor, so important in the emasculation of 
the intellectuals*, I had one surprise on my recent visit to India that 
made me realise how little orthodox education had adapted itself to 
the needs of the country, even when applied to a practical subject. I 
stayed at an Agricultural College, an American foundation still 
mainly financed by American money, but receiving a small grant 
from the Government, I was shown many interesting things 
improved instruments, fascinating experiments. And then I noticed 
something - the appearance of the people working in the fields. 
They did not look like students. 

Plow many acres have you? I asked my host. 

About six hundred,* he replied. 

*And how many students?* 

About three hundred.* 

And who do the work - on the land?* 

Hired labourers.* 

I drew a long breath and he laughed, You ve hit it,* he said, 
c that*s the snag.* 

But why . . . ? 

Examinations. If they arc to get their B.Sc. there is no time to do 

But it s preposterous!* 


He shrugged his shoulders. I knew he was in a helpless position 
a junior member of the staff, with no hope of changing the course of 
education in a big institution. Against his enthusiasm and submerged 
impatience were the tradition of the place and of examination 
standards generally in Indian education, probably the Government 
officials and quite certainly the parents and the students themselves. 
They did not want to learn to become good farmers. They wanted 
some letters to put on their notepaper and visiting cards. 

*How many of them go back to the villages?* 

Very few - hardly any.* 

What becomes of them all, then? 

They get government jobs in some Department. It s all a bit 

That night we talked late. He was a really good man - not just a 
fault-finder in the affairs of others, but the sort of man whose 
discontent begins with himself Tell us what you really think, he 
would say, about our way of living.* 

What s worrying you?* 

His wife spoke. We ve been used to living more simply and we 
were happier then. Here we live in European style. Once I wore a 
sari here I can t: I should feel self-conscious.* 

It "was then that I suddenly saw, or thought that I saw, some fresh 
light on the whole problem. 

*You*re Western,* I said, *and you*ve no need to be ashamed of it. 
Twenty years ago an English man or woman here might well have 
been ashamed. I was myself. One wore Indian clothes, and khaddar 
at that, to express one s sympathy with the national struggle - at 
least, a handful of us did. Today it s all different: that national 
struggle is over. ^WeVe left some unpleasant legacies and still have 
a duty to do what we can as individuals; but "what exactly can we 
do? The need is no longer for national liberation but for social 
emancipation. What does it matter whether you wear a sari or a 
frock, whether you sit on a chair or on the floor? What does it 
matter whether you eat with your fingers or with a knife and fork? 
You have answered your own question about the sari if you can t 
wear one now without feeling self-conscious, you had much better 
not wear it. But I ll tell you "what I think does matter/ 

What I said then comes back to me now very forcibly, because it 
represented a sudden and unexpected revolution in my own point 
of view. Briefly stated it was this that we Westerners really had a 

possible contribution now to the needs of India, one which I had 
never previously considered: and that, of all unlikely things, it was 
simplicity. Not, as yet (and perhaps never) the austere simplicity of 
an Indian ashram, but the simplicity of educated people who were 
not ashamed to work. I remembered Cowper s lines about *John 

With oriental vices stuffed thy mind, 

But left their virtues and thine oum behind. 

Perhaps, after all, many of the things which I have most con 
demned in my own countrymen, as I have studied their ways in 
India during two centuries, were not really * Western* traits at all. I 
began to wonder whether some of the worst crimes of England and 
Englishmen had been committed through the acceptance by English 
people of those oriental vices and the complete neglect (as Cowper 
put it) of the virtues of both countries. Quite certainly both Clive 
and Hastings justified themselves in their own eyes by appealing to 
what they regarded as the customs of the country; and English 
people have done the same ever since. * You -will probably not like 
the way we treat our native servants,* said an Englishman to me on 
my first voyage to India, but that is the only way wealthy Indians 
behave in the same manner/ It was no accident that most of the 
worst social institutions of India were so carefully preserved under 
British rule - landlordism (though that system we created ourselves) 
the feudal principalities and (in the police and armed forces) even 
the ban on untouchables*. British rule was an imitation of all that 
was worst in India interwoven with some of our own worst institu 
tions. The Viceroy affected the pomp of the Moghuls; but the best 
thing that India had produced, the village system with its panckayats, 
was systematically destroyed. 

In my White Sahibs in India? written thirteen years ago, I devoted 
a long chapter to the value of the village councils and the way in 
which they had been destroyed. What I did not see then was the 
extent to which we had not merely destroyed Indian virtues, but 
imitated Indian vices. I do not know if this fact in any way mitigates 
the charges against British rule: in any case the question is no longer 
one of present politics but of past history purely academic except 
in so far as knowledge and understanding of history may quicken 
our sense of responsibility with regard to present problems in India 
and elsewhere. But when I realised the extent to which our faults 


had so often been faults of imitation it did \nake me "wonder for die 
first time about those virtues left behind*. And as I talked "with my 
friends of the agricultural college this thought suddenly took hold 
of me. 

There is one simple test/ I said, which should take one a long 
way out here. People like us live very simply at home. Not as 
simply, we ll agree, as the Indian peasant or those constructive 
workers in the villages. But our middle-class life is simplicity itself 
compared with the way the same class lives when it s transplanted 
to India, where labour is cheap and the educated people acquire 
false and corrupt values. As an immediate measure the simple 
standards of your own home life would be a revolution in educated 
circles here. You ve nothing to be ashamed of in being Europeans. 
The worst shame of Europeans lies in the fact that so many of them 
ape the worst kind of Indians. When Kipling wrote about there 
being no ten commandments East of Suez he had in mind the 
maharajahs, zemindars and swindling banias> whose habits his class 
so faithfully copied, "wielding a truncheon with one hand and 
picking a pocket with the other**, as Sheridan said ofjohn Company. 
When we ve learnt to be really English again we ll still have a long 
way to go a lot still to learn from Gandhi, for instance. But first 
of all why not consider what is best in our own traditions?* 

The; e thoughts must have been germinating for some time. Maybe 
it was a young Indian friend in Saurashtra who first put it in my 
mind - this idea that in quite a simple, unassuming and almost 
unconscious way we had something to offer India, provided that 
we kept our eyes on "what "was best in our own traditions and 
respected what was best in the traditions of Indians. I had merely 
been packing some things for a night journey into my bedding and 
rolling it up when a young man, well educated and (I believe) 
well-to-do, came and helped me, demonstrating a better way of 
securing the bundle. 

You could have left this to the servants/ he had said. We had 
been staying at the time in a Government guest house. 

No doubt; but I prefer to do it myself/ 

As he fastened the strap the young man had said: We Indians 
(meaning, as usual, those of his own class) always leave such things 
to servants. But we admire your independence. We have a lot to 
learn from you/ 

Several things, I remember, had struck me as odd even at the 


time, in that trivial conversation over such a small matter as packing 
and rolling one s own bedding. Firstly, the triviality itself- the fact 
that in such very elementary matters one could actually be setting 
a good example! Secondly there was the uneasy feeling that most 
English people living in India had long since acquired the habit of 
letting servants do everything imaginable for them - sometimes 
even to taking off their shoes. Who, I wondered, had this young 
man met (I do not think he had been to England) that he should 
know so much about the independent spirit of my own people? 

"Whether we could have taught anything to India so long as we 
sat on her back is at least doubtful, but I did have, that evening in 
Saurashtra, some glimmering of a new situation. It is odd, and 
almost unbelievable, but after all those years of tension between 
Government and people, between Britain and India, two years after 
our rule ended people in that country showed a respect for the 
British people which I am sure was never known when the British 
Raj was at the height of its power. , Perhaps the same thing has 
happened to India which has happened to me. While India lay under 
the heel of Britain, and most of all when the struggle was at its 
height, Indians naturally tended to idealise themselves and to con 
centrate upon the worst traits in British character. I myself folio wed 
this tendency the tendency of any nation at war and in this war* 
I was pro-Indian. Today the situation "which provoked this distor 
tion has changed; but it is rare for objectivity to be restored so 
rapidly, and I rihfnk it shows real generosity of temperament in 
Indians that they have or so many of them have so completely 
re-adjusted themselves in so short a time. 

It is ironical that after they had struggled against us for independ 
ence, it should have been our own independent spirit which many 
Indians came eventually to admire the spirit which despises 
flunkeyism, abhorring alike the idea of being a flunkey or of being 
dependent upon the flunkeyism of others. I have sometimes felt that 
rickshaws still so common in Calcutta are symbolic of what is 
wrong in India. It is a degradation of humanity that one man 
should trot down the street, pulling another man - possibly twice 
as big as himself- the latter sometimes accompanied by a fat wife 
and two or three children. So long as Indian opinion tolerates that, 
it has a long way to go in realising true independence. 1 But if man 

1 It is a step forward that in some parts of India only bicycle rickshaws are now 
permitted. In Western India no rickshaws of any kind are used. 


is degraded by employment as a human cab-horse, those who make 
use of his services are infinitely more degraded - unless they are too 
old or too sick to walk, and can find no other conveyance. How can 
a young man in good health let himself be pulled along by another 
man, without feeling a poor specimen of a worm, unless he is 
completely devoid of self-respect? 

Again it must be noticed that Europeans especially in the days 
before cars became common - accepted and encouraged this dis 
gusting trade, though they did not initiate it. And yet every one of 
them must have known, during the past hundred years, that in their 
own native lands they "would never have found any of their country 
men so downtrodden as to accept work of this kind. Also, from the 
time when the chairmen* ceased to function in the streets of Euro 
pean cities, I think most Western people, -when in their own 
countries, would have been themselves ashamed even to use such a 
vehicle, suggestive of the barbaric vulgarity of a Tamerlane. In 
considering this symbol of slavery (the rickshaw) it is worth recalling 
that Gandhi on one occasion vehemently refused to use such a 
conveyance, though sick at the time. With that sure instinct of his, 
he knew that in no circumstances, however mitigating, ought he to 
countenance this practice. The pity is that Europeans, coming 
from a more bracing social climate, have so seldom felt the same 
conscientious scruples. 

But the most depressing aspect of this common and tacit accept 
ance of such degrading practices leads me back again to the 
intellectuals*. The Parlour Bolshevik* has long been a familiar 
figure in London the product of an academic Marxism, commonly 
inseminated in the universities to be hatched in the incubators of 
Hampstead. But the contrasts are not so vivid and personal in 
English life as they are in he life of India. The Hampstead rentier 
(who enjoys the luxury of abusing the system on "which his material 
privileges depend) may be considered unimaginative. But in India 
the contrasts are within the very house or flat of such a person. As 
an educated man he is almost certain to have servants, even though 
he may be *poor* by the standards of his own class. The really 
astonishing thing, however, is to hear an Indian Socialist talk about 
The Masses* whilst a dirty-looking, downtrodden, dumb specimen 
of The Masses* passes noiselessly in and out of the room on menial 

Tlie failure of imagination in such a case is much more glaring, 


and it becomes evident that the social principles under discussion are 
totally unrelated to the immediate situation. Indeed, if there is one 
country more than another "where domestic servants might organise 
themselves with advantage, it is India. Here is the grand opportunity 
of the urban intelligentsia, with prospects as revolutionary as they 
could desire. But it is easier to talk about the politicians in Delhi. 
One very able young man, it is true, twice in my hearing pro 
claimed the Revolt of the Sweepers* as a sovereign remedy for 
India s evils; but he showed no haste to work for this end, and even 
added the remarkable rider that the revolt should be led by Dr 
Ambedkar - a man whose whole career has depended upon qualities 
diametrically opposed to those of a revolutionary leader. So my 
friend s proposal, which included a somewhat ruthless extermina 
tion of conservative elements in India remains as academic as the 
rest of the bright political chatter. 

The genius of Gandhi lay very largely u? his insistence on the 
application of general principles to one s personal life before 
attempting to apply them more widely. Thus a test of sincerity -was 
provided, also a training in the method of approach which was 
typical of Gandhi s many campaigns. It is often said, especially in 
Western countries, that Gandhi succeeded in India because India is 
more spiritual than the "West, which is assumed to be more 
materialist. This version of events has been fostered by some Indians 
T>ecause it flatters their self-esteem; and many Europeans have a bad 
conscience about India which makes them the more ready to 
swallow it. I could never see the slightest evidence for this opinion, 
unless one accepts (say) the building of a Hindu temple by a 
successful bania as proof of his spirituality. In that case our own 
Christian missions might as well be thrown into the balance; but I 
doubt if it is possible to make a general assessment of either contri 
bution. If men and women are to be assessed according to their 
lives and actions, only a minority of those who profess any religion 
of which I have any knowledge would pass the test ofbeing primarily 
-guided by really spiritual* motives. 

The common mistake that has been made with regard to this 
point has led to a double misconception on the part of many who 
iave tried to evaluate the part played by Gandhiji. First, by 
assuming that he worked on peculiarly favourable soil they have 
-completely underestimated the personal importance of Gandhi, The 
-conditions in which he worked were anything but favourable. The 


shallow nature of the supposedly ancient and traditional roots of 
ahitnsa in India was demonstrated before he died; for the miracle 
is that he controlled that volcano of violence for so long. And 
again, the appeal -which Gandhiji made to the educated people to 
leave their pampered lives in order to serve the poorest people in 
the land was as I have tried to show quite foreign to the national 
tradition. A man might indeed, once he has exhausted the pomp and 
vanity of this world, seek personal salvation as a sadhu - but certainly 
not as a sweeper. Yet that was exactly the type of work Gandhi 
would ask him to do first, that he might know more of the lives of 
the Masses* and be identified with them. 

Secondly, owing to this popular error about Gandhi s work - or 
so I believe - the applicability of his methods (adapted, of course, to 
the given situation) has been overlooked when considering other 
countries, and especially those of the West. Obsessed by the idea 
that Gandhi worked on favourable soil* the notion has been tacitly 
accepted that his methods would not be equally applicable in 
another country, with a different religious and cultural heritage. In 
many ways I believe that in contradiction to this assumption 
some "Western countries would actually offer more favourable 
opportunities for the development of certain methods associated 
with the name of Gandhi. We have reached a crisis in our Western 
civilisation, and all intelligent people know it. We know more than 
India knows of the fatal results of our own past policies - so much so 
that it is astonishing to hear Indians talk lightly of war or uncritically 
of industrialisation. And, above all, our educated classes are not as 
decadent, generally considered. 

In such circumstances it may well be that Gandhi will share the 
fate of so many other prophets, whose ultimate effect has been most 
deeply felt outside their own countries. I leave this thought entirely 
to the reflections of the reader my present and last concern here 
is to examine briefly the lasting efiects of Gandhi s work in the 
Indian villages. 



This word learning is taken in a narrower sense among us than 
among other nations. We seem to restrain it only to the book, 
whereas, any artisan whatsoever (if he know the secret and mystery 
of his trade} may be called a learned man a good mason, a good 
shoemaker . . . these, with suck-like dexterous artisans, may be 
termed learned men, and the more behovefulfor the subsistence of a 
country than those polymathists that stand poring all day in a comer 
upon a moth-eaten author, and converse only with dead men. . . . 
There is not a simpler animal and a more superfluous member of a 
state than a mere scholar* 


H o WELL s Familiar Letters were written in the seventeenth century, 
when a false conception of education had corrupted the values of 
only a small minority in this country. This makes it the more 
interesting that he should have deplored tendencies in that direction 
which he already saw. As to the printed word, it is surprising to read 
so early in its history HowelPs opinion that the art of printing *may 
be said to be well near as fatal as gunpowder*. You might think he 
had been reading the Daily Express. 

Nai Talim (Basic Education), as I have already indicated, repre 
sents an educational revolution in a country where education has 
been more purely academic than it is in most parts of the world and 
more ludicrous in its irrelevance to any social realities. The charac 
teristics of the new system may be briefly summarised as follows: 

(i) The object of Nai Talim is to educate people to face their 
personal and social problems. In a primarily agricultural country, 
such as India, where the vast majority live in villages, this means 
first of all an education which will make people better members of a 
rural community. 1 An educational system which merely equips the 
most intelligent village children for professional or clerical jobs is 
worse than useless -it takes them away from the centres where 
1 Most Basic Education enthusiasts are also believers in economic and political 
de-centralisation. Consequently their conception of urban education is influenced by 
this belief and Nai Talim may even be the best way of bringing about such de 
centralisation. I shall return to this question later. 


their intelligence is most needed and generally unfits them, tempera 
mentally and in every other way, for a rural life. 

(2) The central place in this education is therefore occupied by 
agriculture and the crafts. As there is much room for improvement 
in Indian agriculture and village crafts this is not merely a matter of 
learning trades* but of acquiring improved methods by experiment. 

(3) The school is considered as part of the community and the 
incentives to work are the pleasure of work itself and the satisfaction 
of co-operative service. No competitive inducements are offered. 

(4) A main barrier in the path of educational progress in India has 
always been the poverty of the country, which has made a wide 
spread system impossible on grounds of finance. Nai Talim aims at 
making schools economically self-supporting so far as this is possible. 

(5) In the case of the middle-class, Nai Talim creates for their 
children a sense of the dignity of manual labour -which is so con 
spicuously lacking in India among members of that class. 

Book learning* in such schools takes its places naturally as a 
corollary of practical knowledge. When I was at school I was 
taught a great deal of geography and some geology, most of which 
meant very little to me because I had no real contact with the soil. 
In history books I read of the Guilds, the Industrial Revolution and 
so on. But as I had only the haziest notions as to how cloth was 
made, how houses were built or about the lives of the people who 
produced any of the things in daily use, I was frankly bored and 
learnt very little social history. 

Basic* is used, in a narrower sense, to describe schools run on the 
principles outlined above, for children between the ages of seven 
and fifteen. Pre-Basic* schools have been started for younger 
children and Post-Basic* schools for boys and girls of fifteen and 
older. But the term Basic Education* is used to cover all such 
schools and as its exponents understand such education it ends 
only with life itself. They would not agree with the young American 
who put the single word Educated* on a wire to his family, after he 
had passed his finals. Before saying anything about particular 
schools it may be best to explain each of the five principles in 
further detail. 

First there is the most basic* of all problems - that of feeding the 
population of India, which would not have enough to eat even if 
the food at present available were fairly distributed. The kisan is 
no fool. For many things he has been praised by distinguished 


agricultural experts from the West. But there are some things he has 
yet to learn, and one of them is the value of co-operation. There 
are other things about which he is liable to be prejudiced, and one 
of them is the use of night-soil and sewage. Basic schools, by 
demonstrating the value of co-operation in farming can make an 
enormous difference to Indian agriculture. I have already noted that 
my friend from Denmark was the most popular speaker in the 
schools of Saurashtra - that was because Denmark is rightly 
regarded as the model for co-operation among smallholders. 

The right use of night-soil and sewage is part of the whole 
problem of increasing soil fertility. I have already discussed this in 
relation to cow dung. All the Gandhi wallahs engaged in constructive 
work seem to be alive to this problem all compost mentis, so to 
speak and Mirabehn has written an excellent pamphlet on the 
whole question, including the need for tree plantations to obviate 
the necessity of burning cow manure. At Sevagram I was shown a 
real forest of millet 10 to 12 feet high grown by the Basic 
School students on organic manure. They had left part of the field 
unmanured as a control* and there poor grain was ripening about 
4 or 5 feet from the ground. Those children are learning some 
thing of vital importance, and even demonstrating it to their elders 
at the same time. 

Drainage, irrigation and measures against soil erosion are also of 
the greatest importance. The British realised it far too late. In 
Bengal, as Sir William Willcocks pointed out some years ago, 
canals built 3,000 years ago fell into disuse under our rule. After 
seeing the results of seventy years of abandonment of it/ said Sir 
William, there is nothing before the country but to return to it.* 1 
With the decline of the panchayats, which had been concerned with 
such matters, and the taxation of wells, local initiative disappeared. 
The British rulers only very slowly took up irrigation when they 
began to realise that it meant increase in land revenue and a profit 
able field of investment. 2 It was a perpetual subject of criticism on 

1 Lecture by Sir William Willcocks at Calcutta University in February 1930 oa 
The Ancient System of Irrigation in Bengal and ib Application to Modern Problems*. 
Willcocks said the system had been introduced by experts from the Euphrates and 
the Nile. 

* See R. C. Dutt s Economic History of British In$a, sth Edition, vol I, p. 157 for 
taxation of wells and its effects and Vol H, p. i<56 for lie reasons which ultimately led 
to a change of policy. Dutt has also a good deal of information on the ancient irrigation 
system of India (Vol I, pp. 197-204, 211-214, 233 and 24?-} 


the part of Indians and far-sighted Englishmen in the nineteenth 
century that the Government pushed on with its railway programme, 
neglecting canals and irrigation. 

Railways, wrote Edward Carpenter in 1900, do not increase 
the productiveness of a country. We, in the West, are liable to 
forget that. . . . The hides, grown in Texas, are sent 1,000 miles to 
Chicago to cure them, then 500 miles farther to Massachusetts, to be 
made into boots, and then perhaps return to Texas, to be worn; but 
in the East . . . this ponderous circum-locomotion ("which after all 
is mainly for the benefit of the trader and the shareholder) is not 
needed. 1 

The consequence today is that work in this field is still badly in 
arrears, in spite of belated efforts with regard to irrigation, mainly 
within the present century. Also much of the ancient skill has been 
lost and is only slowly being recovered. Some of the biggest British 
schemes of irrigation, in the Punjab, had the effect of raising the 
water table - with the result that nitrous salts from the sub-soil rose 
and ultimately spoilt the crops, after a short period of increased 
fertility. Such problems have to be carefully considered in devising 
an effective system of land drainage, irrigation and soil conservation; 
and many of the Basic Schools "which I visited were fortunate in 
having on their staff experts able to give the necessary training. They 
can restore to rural India the knowledge of those ancient Native 
Indian engineers* whose work Sir Charles Trevelyan commended 
to a Parliamentary Committee, in 1873, as the model to be imitated. 

Next there are the various village crafts. The immediate urgency 
of a revival of village industries arises from the poverty of the 
villagers and the fact that for months they cannot till the sun-baked 
soil. Any means whereby such enforced leisure could be converted 
into profitable employment would improve their conditions - it 
would mean, for example, so much less food taken from the under 
fed and sold to clothe their bodies. But the attempt to revive village 
industries has a more far-reaching aim than this it is part of the 
deliberate attempt to de-centralise the economic life of the country. 
Although much nonsense has been talked about de-centralisation, 
on both sides, I shall venture to state the case for it briefly, without 
sentimentalising about the Middle Ages or indulging in any of the 
untenable economic theories with which I have sometimes heard it 

* Empire in India and Elsewhere by Edward Carpenter. London, 1900, 


I believe that - other things being equal - a small, rural community 
is in every way healthier than a large, urban community- It should 
be politically healthier simply because it really can be a community 
a living democracy which cannot be achieved in the impersonal 
relationships of urban life and mass-production industry. It should 
be healthier physically because rural conditions, at their best, must 
be more healthy than those of town and factory, however much it 
is sought to improve them. In de-centi alised communities every 
individual can take his share in healthy outdoor work and there is 
always a supply of fresh, home-grown produce. I have already 
discussed the Law of Return* in relation to de-centralisation, and it 
should be clear that if this law is to be respected de-centralisation is 
inevitable. This does not mean that certain urban populations cannot 
be, for a time, maintained in better conditions than certain rural 
populations. They can be and they have been - but this has only 
been possible by the systematic plundering of rural areas (e.g. of 
India) in order to provide townsmen (e.g. of Britain) with a high 
standard of living. That is a predatory system; and in the long run it 
destroys the source of its own false prosperity. Since the Law of 
Return cannot be observed under such conditions the tribute must 
ultimately be dried up by soil exhaustion. That is -what happened to 
the African provinces of the Roman Empire. And in times of 
famine a parasitic urban civilisation will ultimately prove more 
vulnerable than the impoverished rural communities which feed it. 

I believe that the alarming increase in nervous diseases among the 
more civilised* nations will be found to bear a direct relation to the 
extent to which people are divorced from the soil and unable to 
engage in creative work, their bodies fed upon highly processed and 
devitalised foods and their minds on palliatives and stimulants 
devised to recompense them for work in which they find no pleasure. 
In an earlier chapter I made it clear that I have no objection to 
machinery, as such. Nor had Gandhi. 1 But the use of any machine 
should be considered, not merely in relation to its productive 
capacity, still less in terms of somebody s dividends. Greater pro 
ductive capacity can only be justified if the workers involved in it 
live a better life. A craftsman who was a disciple of "William Morris 
once told me that he was in favour of the maximum mechanisation 

1 Gandhi used to point out that the spinning wheel is itself a machine. Among the 
more elaborate devices the use of which is consistent with de-centralisation and 
<^~af^rn art<t"h ip is the ordinary sewing machine. 


of drudgery. Give me/ he said, a machine that will make it un 
necessary for men to empty dustbins or spend their lives in coal 

I agree. I saw in India some jobs such as the binding of books by 
hand and the hand-setting of type in a press at Ahmedabad which 
I would call drudgery; and I would favour their mechanisation in 
small, de-centralised units, on the understanding that any purely 
mechanical work should be shared out among the community. But 
the making of any object -which can give creative satisfaction to the 
maker should be considered first in relation to that satisfaction it is 
a psychological necessity which we sacrifice at our peril for mere 
quantity. In agriculture both quality and quantity are sacrificed to 
profit, at the cost of posterity, when mass-production methods are 
applied. Dust bowls are a direct result of large-scale farming for 
immediate profit. The maximuni yield per acre of the finest quality 
products without loss to the soil can only be achieved by intensive 
cultivation, which means personal attention to every patch of 
ground. Commercially it may not be so profitable as raping the 
earth so long as that racket will last but that merely illustrates 
the difference between, commercial and real values. 

I recognise that a de-centralised society would involve a simpler 
way of living less gadgets and less clutter in the houses of those 
who now measure their standard of living by their ability to buy 
such things as cars, radios, refrigerators, unnecessary furniture, 
superfluous clothes and expensive toys for their children. Instead 
we should have fewer possessions of better quality and more indi 
vidual in design. We might have to work longer hours - a very 
heretical suggestion these days. But, speaking as one who works 
very long hours at a job he enjoys, I should say that my work gives 
me a great deal more pleasure than I could obtain from shorter 
hours at unpleasant work, with the compensation* of a regular dose 
of the fficks (for which I now have neither time nor money). The 
comparison is, in fact, ludicrous. So long as he can make do* at all, 
any man who really enj oys his job would refuse to exchange it for 
something uncongenial merely for the sake of shorter hours and 
money for things which can never compensate him. The happiest 
people I know are those who are fortunate in their work; and the 
happiest form of work is that which gives a creative outlet together 
with some sense of service to a community even if one is only a 
writer and the most one canhopefor is to provide a little entertainment. 


Finally, -while we live in a world of booms, slumps, competition 
and the Law of Grab I believe that the de-centralised community, 
as self-sufficient as it can be made, offers the greatest possible security. 
The arteries of London are at the mercy of foreign monopolists, 
strikes, lock-outs or a few well-placed bombs. Even the weather can 
freeze its water supply and its system of sanitation, with an aftermath 
of burst pipes which place us once more at the mercy of a foreign 
body the plumber. I remember once leaving London in mid 
winter with its frozen pipes and drains, its rationed coal, its restricted 
gas and electricity, and going to de-centralised* Connemara. Almost 
everything that one needed to live happily there grew within two 
hundred yards of my wife s cottage. The spring never froze, there 
was nothing in our outdoor sanitation that could go wrong, and 
there was as much fuel as I cared to cut from the woods. 

Basic Education aims at preserving every tendency to self- 
sufficiency in the villages and increasing it. Its ultimate effects, it 
successful, would include the de-centralisation of Indian society as a 
whole. Towns would remain, but they would be smaller. A few 
centralised key industries would remain, but they need not be 
many. And all that I have tried to picture in this brief survey of what 
de-centralisation would involve is implicit in the Mai Talim pro 
gramme. The ultimate aim is the minimum trade and the minimum 
employment* (equitably divided) consistent with the production or 
a sufficient quantity of the best quality goods in the best possible 
working conditions, to serve human needs. The object and the 
methods differ equally from those of capitalism and those of 
bureaucratic state socialism. 

Fortunately the skill is still to be found in India, though often the 
tools and traditional methods need much improvement, with which 
Basic Education is much concerned. On my first visit to India I was 
amazed at the skill of village craftsmen. I remember some ivory- 
elephants, so small that they could not be properly seen without a 
magnifying lens, though they had been carved without any such 
assistance. It is, however, typical of the false values current in a 
society which has lost all real respect for the craft and the craftsman 
that people confine their ideas of art to such toys as these. What is 
even more extraordinary is the fact that English travellers who have 
been to the East will actually boast of the small sums they paid the 
men whose work they will expect you to admire. I knew a woman 
whose flat was packed -with such plunder the result of years spent 


in India - but she always spoke with loathing and contempt about 
Indians. You were expected to admire her possessions, and her for 
possessing them (also her astuteness in beating down the price) 
anything and anybody, in fact, except the people who had done the 
work. Basic Education teaches people that it is highly creditable to 
be able to make a pair of sandals, but that there is absolutely no 
credit in having the money to pay for them. 

In 1930 I met Sir Jagadis Bose, the celebrated Indian botanist, in 
London, and I saw some of his remarkable experiments with plants. 
He told me that he could not get his delicate machines repaired 
anywhere in England or Germany. They had been made in Bengal, 
where skill (he said) had not been *ruined by mass-production*. At 
first he could not obtain, even in Bengal, the high standard of 
workmanship which he required. Then he had an idea. He worked 
on the very principle "which Nai Talim was later to develop, the 
complete co-ordination of hand and mind. His mechanics were 
given a six months* course in plant biology. After that they produced 
perfect machines. Many of them, in 1930, were doing experiments 
of their own. 

About the same time I visited an English progressive school , 
where I was expected to admire a new power lathe that had cost 
2,00. All I said was that the last lathe I had seen must have cost 
about twopence and worked admirably. It was the type used by 
many an Indian carpenter. Two wedges in the ground held the 
chair leg (or whatever was being turned) between a couple of 
spikes. Around the chair leg was twisted the string of a bow, and it 
revolved as the carpenter pulled the bow towards him with his left 
hand. His right hand guided the chisel, supported between the toes 
of his right foot. And the pace at which he turned out chair legs and 
walking sticks was amazing. To learn that way is to acquire real skill 
and self-sufficiency. You do not need capital, and nothing can go 
wrong which you cannot put right yourself. Even more interesting 
to me (as I did once throw a few pots myself) is the skill of the 
Indian potter. His -wheel spins like a top, its axle resting on the 
earth in a small hollow. You would never imagine, to see the 
excellent vessels which he produces so rapidly, that his wheel had 
been wobbling all the time. Here there may be room for improved 
methods; but what I am emphasising is the existence of remarkable 
skill. And who in his senses would not rather live that way than 
spend his days in the Black Country? 


There could not be a greater contrast than that which one notices 
in India between the inefficiency, slowness and general hopelessness 
of Indian clerks (e.g. in a bank or post office) and the skill and speed 
of an Indian craftsman. The pleasant young stenographer - a young 
man of exceptional ability - who worked for Vera Brittain and me 
at Santiniketan and Sevagram was one of the few sedentary workers 
I ever met in India who seemed to me to have any grip* on his job. 
Generally speaking I am convinced that Indian genius finds its best 
expression in skilled manual labour. It is a country of natural artists; 
but a bad system of education has turned vast numbers of these 
artists into fifth-rate clerks. A world without clerks would be a 
great improvement. A world without artists is unthinkable. 

When that Army Chaplain invited me to the Officers Mess, 
shortly before I left Sabarmati in 1930, I was asked many questions 
about spinning. But it s surely a very difficult process/ said one 
officer (according to my journals) and how are they all to learn? I 
pointed out that I, with no natural ability for such things, had learnt 
after a fashion. But my dear man, 9 said the officer, you surely can t 
judge by that you don t put yourself on the level of the native, 
do you? The true answer would have been, of course, that I 
certainly did not. I know that if I can learn anything at all about a 
craft, almost any Indian child can achieve perfection in that craft in 
a matter of years, or even of months. 

"With spinning, as with carpentry and pottery, the apparatus 
requires a negligible capital. At the A.I.S.A. Training Centre, near 
Sevagram, they have designed a spinning wheel made entirely of 
bamboo, except for the spindle, and the whole thing can be con 
structed in two days. A child might as well do that as make toy 
cranes out of Meccano ; and there would be much more point to it. 
There is a great deal of ingenuity being used at such centres now in 
the invention of new machines; but they must be cheap, adapted to 
home use and preferably made of indigenous and easily accessible 
material, so that once the design is perfected the villagers can copy it 

Much has been done to break down untouchability by having 
Harijans on the stafFof schools and training centres, and by allocating 
to students, on a rota basis, all the unpleasant chores usually left to 
outcastes. Mr Squeers obviously had his faults. But I think his 
methods were in certain respects ahead of his time and ours. 
*C-l-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour, was in some 


sense an anticipation of Nai Talim when the active verb was applied 
to the window. 

Special training centres for village workers are run on similar 
lines, and include methods of village self-government in their 
curriculum - one of these I visited at Shahpur, near Junagadh, where 
villagers came for a two year course that included spinning, weav 
ing, leather work, dairy farming, agriculture, economics, history 
and methods of co-operation. I also visited other Harijan centres, 
similar to the colony at Sabarmati; and at one (outside Delhi) I met 
the man who, next to Gandhi, had done most for these people - 
Amritlal Thakkur of the Servants of India. (He celebrated his 
eightieth birthday two days later.) From Thakkur Baba , whom I 
had met briefly in 1930, I gathered that, generally speaking, the 
whole pattern of Harijan work is closely in line with that of Basic 

India s ultimate problem will not be the untouchables, but the 
unteachables. What troubled Gandhi most was the hardness of 
heart of the educated/ In ashram circles the pendulum has swung so 
heavily against orthodox education that the mere possession of a 
university degree is presumptive evidence against anyone. One has, 
of course, to remember that the English language has been the 
medium of instruction in most Indian universities, and that most 
university products know more about English literature and history 
(though lacking a comprehensive grasp of either) than they do 
about the history and culture of their own country. The exceptions 
to this have been the students of the National Universities set up 
under Congress inspiration during the present century. 

At one of these - the Gujerat Vidyapith - 1 was interested to see 
that a large library had been acquired since 1930, and I enquired 
about this. I was told that, under the Copyright Act, copies of all 
publications had been sent to Delhi, where no attempt had been 
made, under British rule, to build up a library. Books had merely 
been stored. Now an effort was being made to use them, and all 
Gujerati publications had been sent to this college. Hence a begin 
ning had been made in the creation of a first-class Gujerati library. 
This attempt to re-create scholarship in the languages and culture of 
India is very typical. With it goes a tendency to regard the tradi 
tional culture of the villages with reverence - not uncritically, but 
with recognition that real 1 culture must be based upon this and not 
upon the hybrid scholarship of the orthodox universities, which 


does not attempt to be Indian and pathetically fails to be English. 
The organisers of the Nai Talim programme have already arranged 
for Basic Education to be carried up to university standards; and at 
the time when I left India the equivalent of a post-graduate* course 
on Basic lines was under consideration. 

The strong emphasis on agriculture and the crafts is conducive to 
the creation of an independent spirit among the children of the 
Basic Schools, especially as they realise the extent to which their 
schools have become economically self-supporting. But independ 
ence is also implicit in the relationship between staff and scholars. 
Self-government is cultivated by the experience of freedom. The 
staff share in all the work: there is, of course, no domestic staff 5 , for 
the students and their teachers do all the cooking, cleaning, etc., 
themselves. In school self-government there is an opportunity to 
discover the value of co-operation, but this can only be fully 
developed when co-operation is applied to the economy of the 
community. When I was at school I used to hear a great deal about 
the team spirit*, but it meant little to me because it was only 
applied to games, and the basis of games is competitive. You cannot 
really develop a sense of co-operation in community service by 
learning to play team games. If that were so the schools -which have 
made the biggest fetish of games would have turned out hosts of 
socialists, syndicalists and communists (with a small V). This is not 
noticeably the case; and the reason is that this team spirit is not 
applied at the level of production or for any real service to any 

That is where the Nai Talim method strikes at the root of our 
competitive and predatory social system. It pre-supposes, of course, 
example on the part of die staff and therefore requires a body of 
devoted and disciplined workers with all the fervour of a religious 
Order; and that is exactly how I would describe the Nai Talim 
teachers. They work very hard, give their whole lives to the job, 
expect little material reward and certainly receive little enough. A 
cheap and universal system of education could never have been 
devised for such a poor country without this sense of vocation, so 
foreign to modern thought in the West. These teachers will in 
dignantly deny that they are self-sacrificing . As Asha Devi put it: 
Doing what you want to do is not sacrifice but fulfilment. Asha 
Devi and her husband, E. W. Arya Nayakam, are among the 
leading personalities today in the development of Nai Talim. 


This brings us to the fourth point, regarding the cost of education. 
It is kept down partly by the service of these devotees, who work 
for little because they love the work and the children and unless 
they loved the children sufficiently to do that they would, in fact 
be of no use in a Nai Talim school. They live very much like the 
peasants whose children they teach. At Sevagram, where there is a 
residential Basic School, the total cost of board and tuition averages 
only Rs 18 (about twenty-seven shillings) per month for each child 
between seven and fifteen years of age. Of this sum one third is 
covered by the productive work of the children. I have similar figures for 
Basic Schools in many other parts of the country. These costs 
should be compared with those of the Girls Boarding School at 
Porbandar (Rs 55 per month for each girl, of which Rs 20 is 
covered by subsidies from the founder). After deducting the value 
of the children s work, the net costs of Sevagram will be seen to be 
only 21.5 per cent, of the costs at Porbandar. A European boarding 
school in Northern India charges at the rate of Rs 160 per month. 
The net cost at Sevagram is a mere 7.5 per cent, of that figure. 

Li Post-Basic* schools (aged 15 and over) the cost is Rs 20 per 
month, the whole of which is met by the productive work of the students, 
so that they are entirely self-supporting. I have heard it suggested that 
this is exploitation of child labour. I do not know whether it is 
worth discussing. I should have thought that exploitation could 
only exist if the object were to make money for somebody or if 
the hours or conditions of work were bad. These children -work in 
pleasant conditions; and the sole object is to provide them with an 
education which they could not obtain at all except for these efforts 
of their own. It is also a very much better education than they could 
hope to obtain any other way, whilst the very fact that they have so 
largely earned it themselves must surely give them a fine spirit of 
independence. And that covers my fifth point about re-asserting the 
dignity of labour among the middle-class children, who are per 
mitted to share this spirit of independence with the children of 
peasants and labourers. 

I was interested to hear from an Egyptian delegate at our con 
ference that experiments not unlike this had been successfully 
carried out in Egypt. The possibility of applying Nai Talim prin 
ciples to Africa was naturally a subject of discussion among us, and 
it caught the imagination of Michael Scott. Indeed, I feel convinced 
myself that much could be done in Africa on these lines. How far 


such methods can be adapted to the needs of the West I cannot 
discuss here at length; but the system does correspond in its general 
outline -with what I always felt (even as a child) to be the proper 
character of a school - a community of equals, as self-supporting as 
possible, in which all took a share in all the necessary work. 

Many objections would be raised, of course, with regard to the 
further extension of the crafts, regarded mainly as hobbies* where 
they have any place at all in our educational system. It is a curious 
fact, however, that when our civilisation has produced its inevitable 
nervous disorders and mental breakdowns 1 we immediately turn to 
the crafts as a cure. Occupational Therapy* is, to the best of my 
knowledge, the only method which has a fairly steady record of 
success in this sphere; and that is more than can be said for drugs or 
electric shocks. (As for psycho-analysis, I have never yet met a 
single person who has been subjected to it who was not manifestly 
the worse for treatment.) Perhaps the only way to get a decent 
education for everyone in this green and pleasant land would be to 
have the entire population certified*. All of us could then enjoy the 
advantages of occupational therapy* at present confined to the 
privileged few. 

In a selected district of Bihar Basic Schools have been functioning 
very successfully since 1938, uninterrupted as such schemes were 
in other Provinces by the political upheavals which preceded 
Swaraj. But in most parts of India Nai Talim is still something new. 
However, by last December 560 teachers, trained in these methods 
at Sevagram, had gone like missionaries to all parts of the country; 
and meanwhile over seventy other training centres for Nai Talim 
teachers had been started one of these being at Santiniketan. By 
the end of 1949 there were 450 to 500 Basic Schools established plus 
twelve Pre-Basic and two Post-Basic . The disproportion of train 
ing centres to schools is indicative. The demand for teachers trained 
in these methods is already much greater than the supply, and 
progress is retarded mainly by this fact. The seventy to eighty 

1 1 am informed, for example, that in the United States the number of persons in 
mental institutions or undergoing some form of mental treatment during any one 
year is about one tenth of the total population. I have been unable to check this 
estimate but find it quite credible. The nature of our own social, economic and 
political life proves that the majority and its chosen leaders (of all parties) might 
reasonably be described as border-line cases*, to put it with all possible consideration 
and tact. Moreover, so much attention is now given to juvenile delinquency* that I 
find the complete neglect of senile delinquency on the highest levels quite inexplicable. 
Consider our own Judges, Bishops and Cabinet Ministers. 

training centres are not, obviously, intended merely to maintain, 
staffs for the existing schools but to carry out a vast extension 
project which should increase by geometrical progression. Most of 
the existing schools are state-aided; but I sensed a clear determina 
tion among the Nai Talim workers to maintain the integrity of their 
principles against any attempt at government interference - par 
ticularly any threat of compulsory military training, with which 
most Basic* teachers would refuse to co-operate in any way. 1 

These schools, since they aim at creating a model of community . 
living, are, of course, co-educational. There is no dogmatic religious 
teaching, but a real effort is made to explain the teachings of the 
principle religions; and the beautiful chants which are part of the 
indigenous culture are used at appointed times. In these the children 
join with obvious enthusiasm; and some of the loveliest singing I 
heard in India was upon such occasions - particularly the solos by 
very small children 2 at Sabarmati. I do not propose here to enter 
into the general controversy regarding religion in schools. I am 
convinced myself that in the Basic Schools it is a normal and 
natural thing, because it is a religion of love and not of fear which 
pervades the teaching. The religious chants provide spiritual and 
emotional release no less normal than that which is found in the 
traditional dances. 

Throughout my last visit to India I was frequently seeing Basic 
Schools and other institutions which are still carrying out Gandhi s 
Constructive Programme*, but except (to some extent) in the case 
of my first experience at Sabarmati I have avoided detailed descrip 
tion of such institutions, as the general pattern was much the same 
in each new place. To a large extent I was also able to share the 
experience of delegates who travelled to places which I never 
visited and (better still) to talk to workers from such places. Dick 
Keithahn 3 for example, gave me a most interesting account of the 

* There is reason to believe that - apart from certain individuals the official sup 
port being given to Nai Talim is very half-hearted. There are historical and sentimental 
reasons for this support; but the revolutionary implications of this educational 
system must already have caused consternation in Government circles. 

* I remember especially the voices of some of the girls. "Why, I -wonder, are the 
voices of most Indian women so hard and shrill when Indian girls can sing so sweetly? 

* He is one of at least three Westerners directly concerned with Basic Education. 
One, Donald Groom, started the school near Hoshangabad, already mentioned, as a 
new development in Quaker work. Marjorie Sykes, also a member of the Society of 
Friends, and joint author of an excellent life of Charlie Andrews, has for years been 
teaching at Sevagram. 


Basic School where he now works, in the South, at Gandhigram . 
Almost every school had, within the general pattern, some dis 
tinctive feature of its own. At Gandhigram, for example, the school 
Government , instead of being open to re-election by the scholars, 
is replaced on a rota system which gives each child in turn the 
experience of leading and of following. The head of another 
school in the South (which I would like to have visited) sent some 
of us an interesting letter which showed, to my mind, a healthy 
distrust of politics and of all governments whatsoever as methods of 
concentration of Power in Society*. My general conclusion from 
all that I saw, heard and read was that the system was not only 
sound in theory, but faithfully carried out in practice, with excellent 
and rapidly extending results. 

In Pre-Basic* teaching Montessori methods are often used. This 
at first surprised me, for I knew that Gandhiji had not originally 
responded favourably to the introduction of these methods. In a 
letter to Verrier Elwin s colleague Shamrao Hivale (from * Yerawda 
Mandir 1 June 23rd, 1932) Gandhi had approved of the underlying 
principles but said that the way this method is being practised is 
wholly foreign to the Indian atmosphere. We cannot afford to 
spend so much money. Since then, however, it had been found 
possible to adapt Montessori methods, using natural objects or 
home-made ones to replace what Bapu had called expensive toys*. 
I mention this last point to show the willingness of these construc 
tive workers* to learn from the West, when the West has anything 
worth teaching. Gandhi himself was never hostile to Western 
thought, as such, nor -as this instance shows was he unable to 
change his mind. The question which concerns me much more is 
whether Western minds are not too inflexible and dogmatic to 
consider the implications of this new system in India and to adapt 
it to our own needs just as Indians adapted Montessori methods to 

The last time I saw Mordecai Johnson was in Delhi. He seemed 
almost transfigured by his experience in India, and it was clearly the 
idea of Basic Education which, above all other things, he wanted to 
take back and share with his fellow countrymen in America. 

In the last and most memorable speech I heard him make he 
1 Literally * Yerawda Temple*. That is to say, the prison at Poona, 


pictured, for us a world where every common object made by 
human skill would mean much more to you than the price you paid 
for it or even its utility. He spoke, I remember, of the skill in the 
making of a pair of shoes. These were things we took for granted 
because we had neither made a pair nor had to go without them. 
But he came himself of a people among whom the mere posession 
of a pair of shoes had once been something to make a song about: 
I got shoes, you got shoes, all God s chillun s got shoes/ The deep, 
rich voice slipped into song, without effort and without a trace of 
self-consciousness. Somehow Mordecai expressed just the thing so 
many of us had been learning in those months. When you have seen 
real destitution you know how little a man needs, materially speak 
ing. And -when you know something of the growing and the 
making of things you feel a sense of wonder because the little that 
man* needs may still cost so much in labour, knowledge and 

Most of us came from countries where we had been pampered. 
Some of us had thought we were poor because our standards of 
living* had been slightly lowered. But now we had seen people 
content and happy on so much less and we had discovered the true 
nature of our own poverty: it was an inner poverty the poverty of 
the rich, which they call being bored. Gandhi was never bored for 
one minute. He was one of the happiest men I have ever known; 
and maybe even that is an understatement. If life itself is to be the 
measure, Gandhi s standard of living* was about as high as could be. 
We did not imagine we had all the answers*, but a study of Nai 
Talim had given many of us a good few clues. While in India I had 
read the words of Kurt Hahn, the Headmaster of Gordonstown: 
The educational system of this country has not accepted the 
responsibility of finding the antidote against a poisonous civilisa 
tion. True enough - but that was exactly the responsibility which 
Nai Talim had, in fact, accepted. Kurt Hahn had even admitted of 
his own school that it was intimidated, like the rest, by the tyranny 
of the examination system.* 1 Basic Education is not. 

1 One delightful comment on British education is to be found in the writings of 
my friend, H. J. Massingham. In Where Man Belongs (London, 1946, page 97) he tells 
of a boy a natural craftsman who was sent to the Institute of Vocational Psychology. 
Reporting highly on his intelligence, the Institute thought he would be unsatisfied 
doing a job entirely in craft work and strongly advised him to try for a degree in 
economics and later to do a Social Administrative job*. The implication is clear 
intelligence is not considered necessary or desirable in real work. 


It was not possible for me then, and it is still not possible, to see 
far in this matter; but if life has taught me anything at all it is the 
futility of trying to calculate the results of any course of action, or 
even to judge by "what we call results* after the event - because 
results are never complete. People think they are working for one 
object and find that they have achieved something quite different; 
or if they fancy they have done what they set out to do, a later 
generation may find reason to take a very different view. One could 
illustrate this with reference to wars, revolutions, inventions, medical 
science or almost anything that has aSected human history. We 
never know the end to which we are moving. All we know is the 
means which we are using. I have come to the belief that if we take 
care of the means the ends can take care of themselves; and Nat 
Talim is for me an outstanding example of the right means. 

I know no more than that. It may or may not be possible to 
achieve world peace and a society from which money and power 
have been eliminated the kind of society I want to see. Meanwhile 
all I know is that, if I want peace and that kind of society, the place 
to start is here; the time, now; the people, my immediate associates; 
and the means are the direct application to the present situation of 
the principles I wish to establish in the future. Nai Talim applies 
this method to the most vital of all our problems if we are concerned 
with the future of man the sphere of education in its broadest 

More than once, as I looked at the zealots of this new faith, who 
are the salt of the Indian earth, I recalled again Vachel Lindsay s 
Eagle That Is Forgotten. But the words that came to my mind were 
not those which had come to me when I read the news of Gandhi s 
death. In place of them I recalled those lines of triumph: 

A hundred white eagles have risen, the sons of your sons, 
The zeal in their wings is a zeal that your dreaming began, 
The valour that wore out your soul in the service of man. 

The Eagle is not forgotten.