Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gopal Krishna Gokhale - Turnbull

Did I tell you about Select bookshop? It is an antique bookshop in Bangalore, perhaps the only one of its kind. The proprietor Mr. Murthy, is a columnist in Times Of India. If you want a book that you could not find in any of the other book stores in India, because it was printed in 1916 and is out of print now, there is still hope for you because just one last copy with its yellowed pages may be resting safely in Select bookshop that is hidden from the eyes of the multitude in the busiest part of Bangalore.
Careful! Touch the book as if it were a delicate flower!

This is one of the books I picked up at Select bookshop.
Printed in 1935. 130 pages. Price – 14 annas. :-)
A book by Lucia Turnbull, H.G.D. Turnbull.
Foreword by Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastry.

I was attracted to this book because of the last name, Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastry, whose English according to my father and his sources was of the highest standard in India.

As I read this one, I revisited not only a part of Indian history, but an Indian society that was so different and Indian people who were made of a superior soil. Indeed, with time, as soil looses its fertility, so people loose their vitality.

The following is what I would like to remember of all that I read.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (GKG) was born on the 9th of May, 1866.

- He was not a freedom fighter but a statesman.
- He was a disciple of Ranade.
- He was very balanced in his endeavour to help India.
- He was a moderate, not an extremist. He did not show any signs of non co-operation with the British, but criticized only what he believed was not in the interest of the nation.
- He was a greater orator. His speeches were marked by qualities such as knowledge, lucidity, reasonable ness, restraint and calm, as opposed to aggressiveness, blind passion etc…
- Evolution, not revolution was his watchword.
- The wider employment of Indians in the higher posts of services, the reduction of military expenditure, the reduction or even abolition of the salt tax, more money for irrigation and for technical education and free and compulsory primary education were the recurring themes of his speeches.
- He was an example of the golden mean between the idealist and the realist. The idealist and the realist who works for great moral and spiritual ends the realist who has learnt from history and experience that they can be attained only by patient and steady effort and that we must build stone by stone. On the foundation that is at hand.
- In his speech of 1911 on the council regulations, he said that when the Mohammadan community was agitating for special electorates, he supported their claim and thereby incurred to some extent, the displeasure of his Hindu brethren.
- When a proposal by him related to compulsory mass education was not received well, he said, “I have always felt and have often said that we of the present generation in India can only hope to serve our country by our failures. The men and women who will be privileged to serve her by their successes will come later.”
- He fought against indentured labour in South Africa.
- Gokhale was much before Gandhi. In fact, Gandhi was starting his all India tour after his return from South Africa when Gokhale was reaching the end of his life.
- His speeches helped to diffuse what Mr. Gandhi called the “Gokhale atmosphere”. That, one should have a character so pronounced that a new phrase be coined after their name is great.
- On Feb 19th, 1915 his heart, which had been overtaxed, gave up forever.

Certainly, the importance of good communication was well understood by people those days. Also, since many of them sailed to England for higher education, their language was of a higher standard.

Unlike the movies that show the Englishman in complete bad light, the book gives views that are apparently unbiased.- it’s enlightening to read about the good that the Englishmen did and to read that people were actually happy to receive the English after the Mughal rule and the chaos.
The English brought to India, railways, post and telegraph etc. Gokhale openly acknowledged their superior loyalty and superior administration.

I don’t know how unbiased the author is because of 2 reasons.
First reason : The mention of Partition of Bengal as an effort to increase efficiency sounds biased. (It was lord Curzon’s initiative) given the popular belief that it was a ‘divide and rule’ trick to separate the Hindus and the Muslims.

That’s the problem with most of the authors. Some are pro Hindu, some pro Muslim etc.., It’s very difficult to find a book on History written by someone unbiased. Our history was written mostly by foreign authors and not natives and this continues even today.

Second reason : The book shows extremists in really bad light..Tilak and others…almost as if they were terrorists.

One line I particular liked was “Time has the last laugh.”

The book evokes patriotism in you as you read it. It awakens you to all the hardships people had to go through those days and the sacrifices they willingly made for their motherland.


Pramshanks said...

Select is one of Old Bangalore's last remaning bastions... its companion, Nalanda on Markham Road, closed down a few years ago.

Select used to be run by Mr. Murthy's father originally. I have been going there for over 20 years.

Yes, it is indeed a sanctuary from the mindless noise and relentless pretension of the City. And the irony is that it's so close to the 'happening' Brigade Road!

Glad you discovered select. may your tribe increase!

Sowmya said...

20 years!!! Oh my!! You must be so well read by now. I never knew this side of you... :)

I would love to see your selection sometime.

Pramshanks said...

Dear Sowmya

Indian writing has gone far beyond Tagore and Nirad Cowdhury today, and is sparkling with Mistry, Daruwalla, Ramanujam and even Crasta.

Most of the time I just pretend to be well-read, but am a wordsmith and a word-lover, active always. Helps me maintain my sanity.