‘City and Village’

Rabindranath Tagore, ‘City and Village’ (Palli-prakriti), in Towards Universal Man (London: Asia Publishing House, 1961), pp. 302-22.

WHEN THE bee first made its hive, its main object was food. But when bees banded together to gather honey from many flowers and stored them up against inclement seasons, they also found in the hive their community. This had not merely the mathematical feature of numbers but also the moral aspect of mutual service.

That which begins thus in the enjoyment of the many, ends in the renunciation of the many. Work for all takes the place of work for self; the individual life finds wider scope in the life of the community. So does one transcend the actual and realize the yet-to-be. Even the effort that fails to be fruitful in one’s lifetime is not lost. The community becomes a common ground where relations are extended from the self to others, from the present to the future. And food, becoming abundant, transcends its materiality and expresses a spiritual value, revealing the infinitude of Anna Brahma.

In the primitive age men wandered alone, each in pursuit of his precarious livelihood. Their temper was fierce, their habits predatory, their behaviour unsocial. As, on river banks, food became plentiful, communities took form and civilizations were born.

Tilling the alluvial soil, men grew rich crops, year after year. They began to see that individuals could gain much more by mutual aid than by trying to deprive one another. [302] With the food problem solved, the social instinct inherent in the nature of man was stimulated. When, at the invitation of the Earth-Mother, men sat down to feast together, their isolated lives found a basis of brotherhood through their common food.

The realization came that in union there was not advantage alone but also satisfaction. For its sake the individual would accept suffering and even death. The Earth gives us food in such a way that it gladdens our eye and enraptures our mind. The golden sunlight, flung from sky to sky, finds a response in the golden harvest from horizon to horizon. This splendour makes man think not only of his meals, but of festive rejoicing.

In the storehouse of the Earth there is, above the provision for our hunger, the nectar of joy. Lakshmi, the Goddess of Plenty, is beautiful as well as benign. The fruit tempts us not merely with its nutriment, but with its form, sweetness and fragrance. As the fruits of the Earth are beautiful, so also is the fellowship of man. The food we eat in solitude may have nourishment, but the food that we eat in fellowship has, in addition, loving-kindness. In such a feast of hearts the utensils become elegant, the serving decorous, the viands refined.

Dearth cramps the hospitality of man, on which society is founded. That is why villages had to grow on the threshold of the Earth’s store of food. It was through his re-unions that the immortal in man has expressed itself : his morality, his literature, his music, his art, the variety of his ceremonials. It was ‘through these that he began to be conscious of his own depths, and the ideal of his own perfection became manifest to him.

With the growth of the villages evolved the town. There became focused the forces of government—forts for [303] soldiers, emporiums for merchants, colleges for teachers and students in their pursuit of knowledge, centres of commerce arid communion with the outside world. There the soul is encased in hard stone, living is arduous, force contends with force. There the individual seeks to grow at the expense of others. So long as it is not carried to extremes, all this has value. If individuality be suppressed overmuch, man cannot attain fullness, of stature. The young forest tree gets stunted if it is smothered under a profusion of undergrowth. On the other hand, the volcanic fire of individual ambition forces up the level of the masses. The standard of achievement is heightened. Competition enhances the output of energy .There is ever-fresh creativity in the fields of knowledge and work, and the sphere of wisdom is enlarged by the influx of the cultures of diverse peoples and countries. And so in the town, where the pressure of the community is relaxed, the individual mind gets a chance to rise superior to the low uniformity of the mass mind—“rustic” is everywhere a synonym for the mind’s narrowness.

In their natural state—that is, when the community does not incline too much to one side—the village and the town have harmonious interactions. From the one flow food and health and fellow-feeling. From the other return gifts of wealth, knowledge and energy. A civilization which comprises mainly village life cannot advance very far. There the individual is unimportant, the community predominant. There we have, not the divine warrior, Kartikeya, on his winged steed, but King Demos—pot-bellied, elephant-headed Ganesha:. On the other hand, where the town predominates, the individual is all-powerful, the community negligible. There civilization burns itself in its own fires ; the more brilliant its flame, the blacker its fuel, until at [304] last it is reduced to ashes. Many civilizations have thus been destroyed by preying on themselves. It is yet too early to say that the civilization of modern Europe is not of this self-exhausting type.

The town is a point where activities are concentrated. The vital forces of our body are gathered at various centres. In the lower types of life these centres are not organized ; with evolution, the brain, the lungs, the heart and the stomach gain in their functions. These may be compared with towns.

Towns are organized centres for serving the special needs of the body politic. Of old, machines played a minor role in fulfilling those needs. The joy of creation was the chief motive for manufacture, not the hunger for results.

In the modern age the machine has not only multiplied working capacity but also the hunger for gain and the scale of profit. That is why there is disharmony between the interest of the individual and the community, leading ultimately to conflict. Greed severs the relations between town and village. The town has become a drain on the village because it has ceased to make its contribution to the village. The artificial lights of the town are ablaze—lights that have no connection with sun, moon or star—but the humble lamps of the village are dead. The siren of the factory lures men away from the peaceful refuge of their community. And man is fast reverting to his primeval forest instincts. The individualism of those days has come back to life, but with a new, gigantic stature.

In the beginning, men had grouped themselves in villages to gather and store for mutual benefit. Now they have crowded together in much larger numbers, but each one is the centre of his own accumulation and enjoyment. So, in place of social regulation has come a more rigorous [305] police rule. The solidarity of fellow-feeling has been replaced by the more stringent pressure of a complex system of laws. Where self-gratification is thus exclusive, we are either our own slaves, or slaves of others—in either case slaves. The work that has no room for voluntary renunciation is but a bondage. As an ever increasing number of people get tied together by necessity, with no internal bond of relationship, rivalry and malice rear their heads higher and higher.

The task before us today is to make whole the broken-up communal life, to harmonize the divergence between village and town, between the classes and the masses, between the pride of power and the spirit of comradeship. Those who rely on revolution to achieve this end seek to curtail truth in order to make it easy. When they are after enjoyment, they shun renunciation; when they incline to renunciation, they would banish enjoyment from the land and subdue man’s mind by cramping it. What we, of Visva-Bharati, say, is that the nature of man is denied if truth is not offered to him in its wholeness. From this deprivation comes his despair and his ailments.

The factory may be an intstrument of much wrongdoing, but it is not a thing that we can reject. The machine is also an organ of our vital force. If our hands have committed robbery, the remedy does not lie in cutting them off : they must be purged of their sin. To try to improve ourselves by crippling ourselves is a counsel of cowardice. All the powers of man seek development and expansion. From the earliest times man has sought to make tools. No sooner had he discovered a new, secret of Nature than he tried to capture it with the help of some machine and make it his own. It is in this way that his civilization has advanced. [306]

The day man first drew out the fertility of the soil by making the plough, a hurdle was removed from the path of his progress. This not only revealed the source of his food, but also illumined an obscure chamber of his mind. When he first devised the spinning wheel and the loom, they not only enabled him to cover his nakedness, but also roused the sense of beauty which was to possess so much of his life. If, today, man’s body is clothed, so is his mind. The Kingdom of Man depends on this dual clothing.

If any sanyasin would plead that this extended commerce with the outside world should be restricted, then he must begin by an indictment of man’s pair of hands. And the extreme sanyasin does go to that length. He allows his arms to wither by his ascetic practice of keeping them perpetually uplifted, in a gesture of denial of the world, asserting that he has attained freedom. To restrain man’s hands with the command, Thus far you shall go and no further, is equivalent to this cult of uplifted arms. Who has the right to lay down such an injunction, to cripple man’s God-given powers by saying that he shall not advance as far as the World-worker calls upon to do? We can regulate the exercise of power to ensure our welfare, but we must not bar the way to its expansion.

In the old days man applied his plough and loom, his bow and arrow, his wheeled vehicles, to the purpose of life’s progress. So today should modern machines be made to serve the needs of humanity. It is true that because of the machine one rich man is served by thousands; but this only proves that one man can acquire the strength of thousands with the help of the machine. The power thus attained should not be monopolized by the few; it should be used for the benefit of the many. Let not power be concentrated to keep men apart. Let it never be irresponsible. [307]

Civilization has grown by the conjunction of man’s intellect with the gifts of Nature. These two must always work in partnership. Whenever the acquisitions of the intellect are hoarded in some strong-room, the store goes on dwindling. We cannot live long on the accumulations of a bygone age.

This new power of man must be brought into the heart of our villages. It is because we have omitted to do so that whichever way we turn there is the picture of penury and defeat. Everywhere our countrymen are crying, “We have failed.” From our dried-up hollows, our fruitless fields, our never-ceasing funeral pyres rises the wail, “We have failed.” If we can possess the science that gives power to this age, we may yet win, we may yet live.

The ups and downs produced by the inequality of wealth are healthy only within a limited range. No great civilization is possible in a country divided by the constant interruption of steep mountains, as they retard the natural flow of communication. Large fortunes and luxurious living, like the mountains, form high walls of segregation. They produce worse divisions in society than physical barriers.

Some people believe that the solution is to be found in the abolition of the idea of property. But we have to remember that the urges which have created private property are rooted in human nature. If you have the power, you may abolish private property, but you cannot change human nature.

Property is a medium for the expression of our personality. If we look upon the negative aspect of personality, we see in it the limits which separate one person from another. And when, in some men, this sense of separateness takes on an intense emphasis, we call them selfish. But in its positive aspect, it is the only medium through which [308] men can communicate with one another. If we seek to kill our individuality because it is apt to be selfish, human communion itself will lose its meaning. If, however, we allow it to develop, then being creative by nature it will fashion its own world. Most often and for most men, property is the only framework for the creation of a personal world. It is not just money or furniture. It represents not merely acquisitiveness, but also our taste, our imagination, our faculties, and our desire for self-sacrifice.

Through this symbol of our personality we receive, we give, we express. Our highest social training is to make our property the richest expression of the best in us, of our individuality whose greatest illumination is love. As individuals are the units that build the community, so property, when it is alive to its functions, is the unit of wealth that makes for communal prosperity. Wisdom lies not in destroying separateness of units, but in maintaining the spirit of unity in full strength.

When life is simple, wealth does not become too exclusive. Individual property then readily admits its duties to the people. But with the rise in living standards property changes its aspect. It shuts the gates of hospitality, which is the best means of social intercommunication. It displays itself in extravagance. It begets rigid class divisions. In short, it becomes anti-social. With material progress, property has become intensely individualistic: the method of gaining it has become a matter of science and not of social ethics. It breaks social bonds; it drains away the sap of the community. Its unscrupulousness plays havoc.

The forest-fire feeds upon the living wood from which it springs, till it is completely exhausted along with the fuel. When a passion, like greed, breaks loose from the barrier of social control, it acts in the same way and feeds upon [309] the life of society; and the result is annihilation. It has ever been the object of the spiritual training of man to fight those passions that are anti-social and keep them chained.

There are insects in our fields which, in spite of their depredations, leave a surplus for the tillers of the soil, and it does not pay to try to exterminate them. But when some pest that has an enormous power of self-multiplication attacks our crop, it has to be dealt with as a calamity. In human society, in normal circumstances, there are a number of causes that make for wastage, yet we can afford to ignore them. However, the blight that has fallen today on our social life and its resources is disastrous, because it is not restricted to limited regions. It is an epidemic of voracity that has infected the total area of civilization.

We all claim the right to be extravagant in our enjoyment to the extent that we can afford it. We feel ashamed if we are not able to spend as much on individual gratification as our rich neighbour. The tyranny of respectability leads us to ruin.

There is a continual stress on the idea of convenience and comfort. The actual results fall short of the energy spent because of the wastage involved. The shrieking advertisements, which constantly accompany the increase in production, mean- an enormous waste of material and life force.

Civilization has turned into a vast catering establishment It maintains constant feasts for a whole population of gluttons. The intemperance which could have been tolerated in a few has spread to the multitude. The resulting universal greed is the cause of the meanness, cruelty and lies in politics and commerce that vitiate the whole human atmosphere. A civilization with an unnatural [310] appetite must feed on numberless victims, and these are being sought in the parts of the world where human flesh is cheap. The happiness of entire peoples in Asia and Africa is being sacrificed to provide fastidious fashion with an endless train of respectable rubbish.

What in the West is called democracy can never be true in a society where greed grows uncontrolled and is encouraged, even admired, by the people. In such an atmosphere a constant struggle goes on among individuals to capture public organizations for their personal ends. Democracy is then like an elephant whose one purpose in life is to give joyrides to the clever and the rich.

Under such conditions the organs through which public opinion is formed together with the machinery of administration are all openly or secretly manipulated by the prosperous few. They have been compared of old to the camel, which can never pass through a needle’s eye—the gate that leads to the kingdom of ideals. Such a society is callous and cruel to those who preach their faith in spiritual freedom. In such a society people are intoxicated by the constant stimulation of what they call progress, a progress which they are willing to buy at the cost of civilization itself, like the man for whom wine is more attractive than food.

Villages are like women. In their keeping is the cradle of the race. They are nearer to nature than towns, and in closer touch with the fountain of life. They possess a natural power of healing. It is the function of the village, like that of women, to provide people with their elemental needs, with food and joy, with the simple poetry of life and with those ceremonies of beauty which the village spontaneously produces and in which she finds delight. But when constant strain is put upon her, when her resources [311] are excessively exploited, she becomes dull and uncreative. From her time-honoured position of the wedded wife, she descends to that of a maid-servant. The city, in its intense egotism and pride, remains unconscious of the hurt it inflicts on the very source of its life, health any joy.

In the Sanskrit poem, Meghaduta, we follow the path of the cloud messenger and in imagination pass over the o1d- world towns with their beautiful names. We feel that these towns expressed :more than anything else the love and hope of man. They treasured some of the splendour of his soul in their houses and temples with the auspicious decoration daily executed by the women, and even in the picturesque bartering that went on in their market-places.

We can imagine what Delhi and Agra must have been in the time to which they belonged. They manifested the creative and human aspect of a great empire. Even in their decay these cities retain the glory of man. But modern cities merely offer opportunities, not ideals.

Cities there must be in man’s civilization, just as in higher organisms there must be organized centres of life, such as the brain, heart, or stomach. These never over- whelm the living wholeness of the body; on the contrary, by a perfect federation of their functions, they maintain its richness. But a tumour in which the blood is congested is the enemy of the whole body upon which it feeds as it swells. Our modern cities, in the same way, feed upon the social organism that runs through the villages. They appropriate the life stuff of the community and slough off a huge amount of dead matter, while making a lurid counterfeit of prosperity.

Thus, unlike a living heart, these cities imprison and kill the blood and create poison centres. When together only for some material purpose, they form an [312] aggregation but not a congregation, so that there is moral decay. This is the result of true civilization being substituted by what the West calls Progress. I am not against progress but if, for its sake, civilization is ready to sell its soul, I would rather remain in a primitive state.

In India we had for ages our family system. Large and complex, each family was a miniature society in itself. I do not wish to discuss the question of its desirability. But its rapid decay in the present age points to the nature and process of the principle of destruction which is at work. When life was simple and its needs normal, when selfish passions were under control, such a system was quite natural and happy. The family resources were sufficient for all, and no individual member made an inordinate claim. But such a group cannot survive when the personal ambition of one member begins to clamour for more than he needs, when the desire for exclusive advantages runs contrary to the common good. Brothers must then separate and even become enemies.

Goethe’s Germany was .considered poor by Bismarck’s Germany. The standard of civilization, illumined by the mind of Plato, or by the life of Asoka, is perhaps scorned by the proud children of modern times. But are those who lived then to be pitied by the adolescents of the modern age, who have more of the printing press, but less of the mind?

I often like to imagine that the moon, being smaller in size than the earth, produced life on her soil earlier than the earth. Once, the moon too had her festivals of colour, music, movement; her storehouse was perpetually filled with food. Then, on the moon, a race was born that began greedily to devour its surroundings. It produced beings who had an excess of animal spirit coupled with intellect [313] but lacked the imagination to realize that the mere process of addition does not create fulfilment; that acquisition because of its largeness does not produce happiness ; that movement does not constitute progress merely because of its speed ; that progress can have meaning only in relation to some ideal of perfection. Their plunder soon outstripped nature’s power of recuperation. Their profit- makers created wants that were unnatural. They dug deep into the stored capital of nature and ruthlessly exploited her resources. When they had exhausted the limited supply, they fought among themselves for the lion’s share. In their scramble they laughed at moral codes and took it to be a sign of racial superiority to be ruthless in the satisfaction of their desires. They exhausted the water supply, cut down the trees, reduced the surface of the planet into a desert riddled with pits. They made its interior a rifled pocket, emptied of its valuables. Like a fruit whose pulp has been completely eaten by insects which it sheltered, the moon at last became a lifeless shell, a universal grave for the voracious creatures who had consumed the world in which they had been born.

My imaginary selenites behave exactly in the way that human beings are today behaving on this earth. Mother Earth has enough for the healthy appetites of her children and something extra for rare cases of abnormality. But she has not nearly enough for the sudden growth of a whole world of spoilt and pampered children.

Man has been digging holes into the very foundations, not only of his livelihood, but also of his life; he is feeding upon his own body. The reckless wastage is best seen in the villages, where the light of life is being dimmed, the joy of existence dulled, the threads of social communion snapped. It should be our mission to restore the circula- [314] tion of life’s blood into these maltreated limbs of society; to bring to the villages health and knowledge; wealth of space in which to live; wealth of time in which to work, rest and enjoy; respect which will give them dignity; sympathy which will make them realize their kinship with the world of men, and not merely their subservient position.

Streams, lakes and oceans exist not for the hoarding of water exclusively in their own areas. They send up the vapour which forms into clouds, so that there is a wider distribution of water. Cities have their function of maintaining wealth and knowledge in concentrated form. They should do so rlot for their own sake alone; they should be centres of irrigation; they should gather in order to distribute; they should not magnify themselves, but should enrich the entire commonwealth. They should be like lamp-posts, and the light they shed must transcend their own limits.

Such a relationship of mutual benefit between the city and the village can function only so long as the spirit of co-operation and self-sacrifice is a living ideal in society. When some temptation defeats this. ideal, when selfish passion gains ascendency, a gulf is formed and goes on widening. City and village then stand as exploiter and victim.

We have started in India, in connection with our Visva-Bharati, the work of village reconstruction. Its mission is to retard the process of racial suicide. If I try to give you the details of our work, they will look small. But we are not afraid of this appearance of smallness, for we have confidence in life. We know that if it represents the germinal truth that is in us, it will overcome opposition and conquer space and time. We believe that the problem of [315] unhappiness, rather than of poverty, is the greatest problem. Wealth is a synonym for the production and collection of things and men can use it ruthlessly. They can crush life out of the earth and flourish. But happiness, though it may not compete with wealth in its list of materials, is ultimate; it is creative; it has its source of riches within itself.

Our object is to try to flood the silted bed of village life with the stream of happiness. For this scholars, poets, musicians and artists have to collaborate and offer their contributions. Otherwise, they too must live as parasites, sucking life from the people and giving nothing in return.

Most of us who try to deal with the problem of poverty think only of a more intensive effort of production. We forget that it brings about a greater exhaustion of materials as well as of humanity. It gives to the few excessive opportunities for profit at the cost of the many. It is food which nourishes, not money; it is fullness of life which makes one happy, not fullness of purse. Multiplying material wealth alone intensifies the inequality between those who have and those who have not, and it inflicts so deep a wound on the social system that the whole body eventually bleeds to death.


What I had to say I have said many times before, and left nothing out. I had strength then, and the current of my thoughts was unimpeded. Age and ill health have now impaired my strength and you should not expect very much from me any more.

It is after a long time I am here. Some of you I do see from time to time—and all I can give you now is my [316] presence and company. When first I bought this house I had no special plans. This much I had thought: Santiniketan was far from crowded life, and while it helped its students also to pass examinations, it gave them some- thing more than the ration stipulated by the Education Department.

But another current flowed in my mind. Living in the villages of Shelaidah and Patisar I had made my first direct contact with rural life. Zamindari was then my calling. The tenants came to me with their joy and sorrow, com- plaints and requests, through which the village discovered itself to me. On the one hand was the external scene of rivers, meadows, rice-fields, and mud huts sheltering under trees. On the other was the inner story of the people. I came to understand their troubles in the course of my duties.

I am an urban creature, cityborn. My forefathers were among the earliest inhabitants of Calcutta and my child- hood years felt no touch of the village. When I started to look after our estates, I feared that my duties would be irksome. I was not used to such work—keeping accounts, collecting revenue, credit and debit—and my ignorance lay heavy on my mind. I could not imagine that, tied down to figures and accounts, I might yet remain human and natural.

As I entered into the work, it took hold of me. It is my nature that, whenever I undertake any responsibility I lose myself in it and try to do my utmost. When I once had to teach, I put my whole heart into it and it was a great pleasure. Setting myself to unravel the complexities of zamindari work, I earned a reputation for the new methods I evolved; as a matter of fact, neighbouring landlords began to send their men to me to learn my methods. [317]

The old men on my staff grew alarmed. They used to maintain records in a way that I could never have grasped. Their idea was that I should understand nothing more than what they chose to explain. A change of method would create confusion, so they said. They pointed out that, when it came to litigation, the court would be doubtful about the new way the records were kept. I persisted, though, changing things from top to bottom, and the result proved to be satisfactory.

The tenants often came to see me—for them my door was always open, day and night. Sometimes I had to spend the whole day listening to their representations, and meal- times would slip by. I did all this work with enthusiasm and joy. I had lived. in seclusion since boyhood and here was my first experience of the village. I was satisfied and heartened and filled with the pleasure of blazing new trails.

I was anxious .to see village life in the minutest detail. My duties took me to distant parts by river, canal and waterways, and here was a chance to see the changing panorama of life. The everyday tasks of villagefolk and the varied cycle of their work filled me with wonder. Bred in the city, I stepped right into the heart of rural charm and filled myself with it. Then, slowly, the poverty and misery of the people grew vivid before my eyes and I began to wish that J could do something for them. I was struck with shame that I was a zamindar, impelled by the money motive, absorbed in revenue returns. Since that realization I awoke to the task of trying to stir the minds of the people, make them shoulder their own responsibilities.

To try to help villagers from the outside could do no good. How to kindle a spark of life in them—that was my problem. It was so difficult to help them because they did [318] not have much respect for themselves. “We are curs,” they would say; “only the whip can keep us straight.”

One day a fire broke out in a village nearby. The people were so utterly dazed that they could do nothing. Then the men from a neighbouring Muslim village came rushing and fought the fire. There was no water and thatched roofs had to be pulled down to stifle the flames. The stricken ones had to be beaten up before they would let this be done. You have to use force in order to do good! And then they came to me saying, “What luck that our roofs were dismantled—that is how we have’ been saved.” They were happy that the beating benefited them; but I was filled with shame at their submissiveness.

I planned to put up a small building for them at the centre of the village, where at the day’s end they could get together, read newspapers, listen .to the Ramayana and Mahabharata—it would be a sort of club. For, I had been unhappy, thinking of their cheerless evenings; it was as if the same tedious line of a verse was being endlessly sung. In course of time the building was erected. But, then, it was never used. I engaged a teacher, but the pupils kept away with all kinds of excuses.

In contrast, the Muslims from the other village came to me and said, “Will you give us a teacher? We are ready to bear the expense.” I agreed and a school was set up in the village and probably it is still there. In my village, nothing could be done, its inhabitants had lost all faith in themselves.

The habit of dependence has come down to us from time immemorial. In the olden days one rich man used to be the mainstay of the village and its guide. Health, education and all else were his responsibility. I have praised that system, but it is also true that because [319] of it the common man’s capacity for self-reliance was enfeebled.

In my estate the river was far away and lack of water was a serious problem. I said to my tenants, “If you dig a well, I shall get it cemented.” They replied, “You want to fry fish in the oil of the fish itself I If we dig the well you will go to heaven through the accumulated virtue of having provided water for the thirsty, while we shall have done the work.” The idea, obviously, was that an account of all such deeds was kept in heaven and while I, having earned great merit, could go to the seventh heaven, the village people would simply get some water. I had to withdraw my proposal.

Let me give another example. I had built a road from our estate office up to Kushtia. I told the villagers who lived close to the road, “The upkeep of this road is your responsibility .You can easily get together and repair the ruts.” It was, in fact, their ox-cart wheels that damaged the road and put it out of use, during the” rains. They replied, “Must we look after the road so that gentlefolk from Kushtia can come and go with ease?” They could not bear the thought that others should also enjoy the fruits of their labour. Rather than let that happen, they would put up with inconveniences.

The poor in our villages have borne many insults, the powerful have done many wrongs. On the other hand, the powerful have had to do all the welfare work. Caught between tyranny and charity, the village people have been emptied of self-respect. They ascribe their miseries to sins committed in previous births, and believe that, to have a better life, they must be reborn with a greater fund of merit. The conviction that there is no escape from sufferings makes them helpless. [320]

Once upon a time the rich regarded it as an act of merit to provide water and education. Through their goodwill the villages were well off. But when they started to move away to towns, the water-supply ceased, malaria and cholera struck hard, and the springs of happiness dried up in village after village. It is hard to imagine a life as cheerless as in our rural areas.

I could see no way out. It is far from easy to do something for people who have cultivated weakness for centuries and do not know what self-help means. Still I had to make a start. In those days my only helper was Kalimohan. Fever used to grip him morning and evening. With my medicine box I treated him myself, and never thought that I could get him to survive.

The shastras say: Shraddyaya deyam—if you give, then give with respect. That is how I set to work. From my office building I had often watched the farmers going afield with bullock and plough. Their land was in small strips and each man tilled his own holding. That, I knew, was a great waste of energy. So I sent for the men and said, “Plough all your land jointly. Pool the strength and resources of all. Then you can even use tractors. If you all work together, small differences in personal holl1ings will not matter. Whatever the profit, you will share it equitably. Store all the produce of the village at one place and you will get a fair price from the middleman.” They listened and said, “The idea is good, but how to work it out?” If I had the knowledge and the training, I would have said, “I will take the responsibility.” They all knew me. But one cannot do good simply by wanting to; there is nothing so dangerous as ignorant help. Young men from town once went to a village to help the people. But the people cried jeering, “Look, there come the quarter-rupee gentlefolk!” [321] No wonder—these young men knew neither the language of the villagers, nor the workings of their mind.

Something had to be done. I sent my son and Santosh abroad to learn agriculture and dairy farming. And in several other ways I started to work and to think.

It was about this time that I bought this house. I thought I would continue here the work I had begun at Shelaidah. The tumble-down house was supposed to be haunted I I had to spend a lot of money on its repair. Then, for a while, I sat still. Andrews said, “Sell off the house.” But I thought to myself, “Since I have acquired it, maybe there is some significance. Maybe one of my two objects in life will be fulfilled here.” How and when? I had no idea. When seed is strewn in an auspicious moment even on barren land, it suddenly sprouts. At that time there was no such sign. Everything was scarce. However, slowly the seed started to put forth shoots.

My friend Elmhirst helped me a great deal. It was he who turned this place into an independent field of work where progress was steady. It would not have been right to lump it with Santiniketan.

I have one more word for you. We must see that a force from within the people starts functioning. When I was writing Swadeshi Samaj the same idea had struck me. What I wanted to say then was that we did not have to think of the whole country; we could make a start with one or two villages. If we could free even one village from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance, an ideal for the whole of India would be established. That is what occurred to me then and that is what I still think. Let a few villages be rebuilt in this way, and I shall say they are my India. That is the way to discover the true India.