Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Youth to the Rescue

By Bhagat Ram Kumar

ONE of the many evils of the age we live in is the cheap coining of phrases by politicians and others, so much so that like an inflated currency, these cease to have any value and however much they may elicit our momentary admiration, they leave little impress behind them. Thus one of the current phrases of Indian politics to-day is that the future of India lies in the hands of the young; we all listen to it with applause, but how few pause to consider its implications! In a sense, of course, the future of every country lies in the hands of its young men; upon their character will naturally depend the character of the next age. But the phrase as used in India to-day obviously means something more than this; it implies that the immediate past and the present of our country is not all that it might be, and that radical reform is to be looked for, not so much from the elder generation which has grown up into a certain standard of rigidity, but from the young who are still plastic, and who still have the opportunity to grow up with, and assimilate, the spirit of the new age. For, each age has its own characteristics, its own note, and healthy growth demands our conforming to this spirit.

It is in our failure to recognise this last fact that a great deal of the ills of our society are due. Conservatism is good and useful so long as we conserve the best in us; it is poisonous when we begin to conserve all. The two banks of a river are essential to conserve its waters from spreading far and wide, causing not only immediate destruction, but losing its own life-giving powers and infecting the whole neighbourhood with disease. But equally vital for the health of the waters is the opening into the sea, so that the river is kept ever fresh, ever young, and therefore always healthy. Constant change, so far as the form is concerned, is a Law of Nature writ large over God's creation; hence its freshness, its beauty, its health.

But how often do we human beings not transgress the most natural of God's laws! And thus we find that whereas all Nature takes a pride in change,—change of form, because the spirit is changeless—it is only man who takes a pride in so-called Conservatism. As if it is a matter for pride that we have succeeded in mummifying customs and usages which were dead centuries ago! Well might the waters of the river take a pride in being stagnant and creating marshy lands, for is it not a proof of their conservatism?

Particular customs and conventions have their time and their place, and when they have served their purpose, they must give place to others more adapted to the changed times; otherwise they must inevitably stagnate and poison the whole body-politic. Thus at all times, and in all places, it must inevitably fall to the young to gradually change the customs and conventions of society; and normally the change is so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. But if the customs become entrenched in some strong-hold—whether religious or social—and the youth have not the courage and resource to attack them, then they inevitably become dead-stones round the neck of society, growing more powerful with each age, until they may well stifle its life.

Such is the danger of Indian Society to-day, and hence the appeal to its youth to come to its rescue. There are times in our lives when only a surgical operation will avail us; it is so with our society to-day. Half measures are of little avail. We must be prepared for an operation and cut off the deadweights of our society.

If we try to look for the fundamental cause that has been eating a way the very vitals of Indian Society, we shall discover it in the spirit of exclusion that has assumed such formidable proportions to-day. It is a fundamental axiom of politics that the body-politic is as much a single, indivisible, organism as the human body; and yet how far are we from this conception! Religion within religion, caste within caste, sect within sect, what a mosaic puzzle do we not present to the outsider! This would not matter, of course, if these divisions did not go beyond the surface. But as a matter of fact, they have created an exclusive spirit of the most objectionable kind within the narrowest limits. It is not to the country that our loyalty is in the first instance expressed, not even to our religion, but rather to the caste and the sect. We take pride, not in being Indians, or Hindus, but in being Iyers or Iyengars, Mudaliars or Reddys. And even within these narrow limits, we create narrower limits, so that there are sub-castes of Iyers, and Iyengars, Mudaliars and Reddys. Each such small sect has become a world and a law unto itself; refusing to dine, marry or mix on friendly terms, with the other. And this noxious spirit has so thoroughly saturated us that we see nothing absurd in a Brahmin not co-operating with a Non- Brahmin, or a Hindu not co-operating with a Muslim even in political and economic matters, on the mere ground of religious differences.

As if this was not enough, every art and device is used to patent our differences, and to perpetuate and intensify them by giving them a religious significance. The Iyengars, the Iyers, the Mudaliars, the Lingayats and the thousand others must invent different caste-marks and religiously put them on their foreheads to show to each other that they are not what others are. Different castes must shave their heads in different manner, to proclaim the same interesting fact to the world. Turbans must be worn differently, lest one be taken for the other. Every Iyengar and Mudaliar must call himself Mr. x. y. Iyengar or x. y. Mudaliar, so that we never know the man's name but only his caste. And thus one fantastic custom after another has been invented to intensity our differences.

It is for our youngmen to consider whether all this is not an anachronism, poisoning our life as a Nation. Do we want to be a Nation in the modern sense of the term, stressing our affinities, and not our differences? Then these absurdities, these forms without spirit, these mummies of the past, must disappear. Do we really believe that one caste is superior to another; that an Iyengar, even though a shoe-smith, is better than a Reddy, even though a professor? If not what is the good of proclaiming the fact of our caste by our name, by our dress, and by other marks to the world? They do no good, but a vast amount of harm. At a time when conditions were different, when politics did not play the same part in our lives as to-day, when the purity of one race was to be preserved from admixture with another, all these conventions had their place and value. But we are no longer living in the Vedic age, or under theocratic rule. Small things show which way the wind is blowing; and these things, each small in itself, have a cumulative effect which is far greater than their individual worth.

Will the youth come to the rescue?

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