16 AUGUST 1930, Page 14


Thoughts on India

ARE the clouds really lifting, or is there only a lull, and will " the clouds return after the rain " ? Whatever the immediate answer may be, there seem to be some grounds for ultimate hope in this matter of Great Britain and India. We must not praise ourselves. but we should be foolish if we underestimated ourselves, or despaired of the republic when we had the qualities which might save it. And there are two qualities which we have that should go a long way towards solving the problem of India. One is a sort of practical ad hoc common- sense, which can size up a situation without being flustered, and find some sensible way of dealing with its demands. The other is a spirit of human friendliness—a spirit which, it is true, has to break through clouds of shyness before it can really shine, and is never genuinely at ease unless it is put at ease by being expected and accepted. Still, the friendliness is there, as many a traveller among us has noticed ; and, indeed, an Italian exile once remarked that if he had been free to choose the place of his abode, in any stage of existence, he would have chosen our island—" for if he had been born a flower, he would have been tended ; if an animal, he would have been protected ; if a man, he would have been respected."

This spirit of human friendliness has been a good deal obscured, for many years past, in our relations with India and Indians. The obscuration is partly our fault, and partly our misfortune. It has been our fault that at times, and among some sections of Englishmen, there has appeared a mixed vein of imperialism and racialism, which has issued in talk of " the white man's burden." The Nordic hypothesis has never flourished in England as much as in Germany or in the United States ; but it has flourished enough to produce some amount of colour feeling. It has been our misfortune, rather than our fault, that we have had to face, and to seek to understand, and to attempt to satisfy—as no other country has been forced to face or understand or satisfy--the first beginnings of a momentous national movement among the great peoples of Southern and Eastern Asia. The nationalism of India and the nationalism of China—the appearance of Dr. Sun Yet Sen and the appearance of Mr. Gandhi—are two of the greatest phenomena of our times. We may perhaps be pardoned if we have been a little slow to recognize the magnitude of such phenomena. But our tradition has not been a tradition of immutable repugnance to national movements. We were not slow to sympathize with Greece and Italy in the last century. In Ireland, even though the national move- ment was directed against us, there was always a large body of English opinion favourable to its demands ; and if the lesson of Ireland contains some sad pages, it none the less remains a lesson, and therefore a hope—for every lesson of the past is also a hope for the future.

But the hope for the future of India, and the future of British relatiorvi with India, is something more than the lessons of the past. It is the growing comprehension among English- men, in the present, of Indian problems, Indian aspirations, Indian needs. rcritas liberabit ; but before the truth can make men free, the truth has to be found. His here that the Simon Commission has done priceless service. Whatever we may think of its recommendations, we are all under the deepest of debts to its mines of information. Not but what there are other mines which have also to be worked. A Blue book, what- ever its profundity, cannot carry us into the heart and the glow of a national movement. But it helps to tunnel a way ; and it may even help to instil that will towardk understanding which will find the further and subtler way towards the heart of the Indian problem. Understanding of the facts, and sym- pathy based on that understanding, are the beginning of the final understanding which is settlement and peace. It is here that the Indian problem differs from a problem such as that of unemployment. The problem of unemployment is a problem of hard, apparently immutable, at the moment insoluble, economic facts. The problem of India is the problem of a people's mind. In a way it is a subtler problem. But it is also, in a way, an easier problem. We seem unable, by, all our thought, to add a cubit to employment. But we ought to be able, by taking adequate thought, to add many cubits to our understanding of a people's mind. It is a cheerful thing, recorded in the Times just lately, that the number of Englishmen competing for the India Civil Service this year is high, " notwithstanding the unsettled state of India and the prospect of constitutional changes." The young men are not despairing : on the contrary, one finds in talking with them, they are eager for work in India, among Indians, side by side with Indians. They feel that a new order is about to be made ; and they would like to share and to help in its making. To talk with Indian civilians at home on leave, fresh from India, is to gain a similar impression. They have learned to love India : they have worked side by side with Indians : they are ready to advise their sons to follow in their steps. Indeed it would hardly be wrong to say that the Englishman in India, the Englishman on the spot, is often more confident and hopeful than the run of Englishmen at home.

* * * * * * But it is on Indians themselves—on their gifts, and on their capacity for cultivating those gifts—that the future of India depends. For myself, I have only known Indians in England ; but I have known them there for the last forty years, and I can only record a growing sense of respect, and even admiration, for their gifts and their capacity. The Indian mind, in my experience, is as quick and ingenious as the mind of any nation. Indeed, I have often been astonished by the charm of the written style, and the eloquence of the spoken word, of Indians I have known ; and when I have reflected that the style and the eloquence were practised in an acquired and alien language, my astonishment has increased. I have known, as many beside me have known, Indians who had the grit to face unpopularity, and the courage to swim against the stream. One thing has particu- larly impressed me of late—a thing which may, in comparison, seem a little thing, but which I Mu always inclined to rate highly—and that is the sense of humour among Indians whOm I have met. A sense of humour has been defined as a sense of proportion ; and laughter is often a companion of wisdom. If Englishmen and Indians can laugh together, they have gone a long way towards understanding. * * * * t * *

To live and talk with Indians in England is to realize something of the great difficulties which Indians have to face. They are living in two worlds. The one is the world of Western thought, Western science, Western art, Western politics. The other is the world, the old and immemorial world, of Hindu family and village—family sentiment, joint family properties, the rule of caste, the domestic and intimate traditions of Hindu group-life. The leaders and thinkers of India are trying to-day to unify their worlds—to win, as it were, a single world in which they can live. That is the problem of India ; and because it is a problem of the unification of two worlds, one of which is our world, we arc bound, if we think the matter out, to sympathize with the struggle, and we are bound, if we can find the way, to aid in the unification. So far as one can see, the unification must come on the basis of Western nationalism, Western political ideas, Western political methods of self-government— all reacting upon, and all gradually introducing vast modi- fications into, the old Hindu social system. What a vast work it is--quanfae molls erit Indic= condere gentem. But just because it is so vast, and because the great task cif unification involves our ways and institutions and ideas, we may well long to be partners ; or rather, we may well long to continue to be partners, for partners we are already in virtue of centuries of history. How many British families have kindred dead who died in India, and lie buried in Indian graves ! India is not our country. But many of our countrymen have laboured hard there, not always, or alto- gether, just for the day's wage, but because they loved, in their way, the country in which they worked and for which they were working. It can hardly be wrong to wish that, in the great Indian experiment, a place and a scope will be found, until the experiment has completed itself and run clear, for the work of Englishmen-in India.