IN 1916, THE EDITOR of the Hindusthanee Student, invited Lala Lajpat Rai to write a short message of advice to Indian students in America.
This is its full text.
I SAY IN NO SPIRIT of carping criticism that the first thing which has struck me about the Indian students in foreign countries is their lack of knowledge of the history of their country and of the origin and development of Indian institutions and Indian thought. Their knowledge of the present condition of the country is also lacking in exactness.
I would advise every Indian student to reserve three hours a week at least to the study of Indian literature or literature relating to India. This does not include news papers.
It is gratifying to see that Indians are now thinking nationally. It will take time for this habit to grow in perfection, and there is no reason to feel discouraged or depressed by the outburst of provincialism and sectarian feelings that now and then introduce disharmony and discord. What is wanted is that every provincial and sectarian movement should be interpreted in national terms. What does it contribute to the national cause and how it can be used to increase its quota in national service. Run down the sectarian, provincial and narrowing tendencies, but not the movements themselves. Acknowledge their contribution to the growth and development of nationhood, and do not expect the whole country to think, to feel, to move and to act, in one plane and in one groove. It would be a poor world if everything was reduced to one dead level of monotony and similarity. The world is rich in variety We have no reason to be ashamed of the multiplicity of varieties in India. That is only another proof of our being rich in spirit though poor in material wealth. Only let not these varieties produce disharmony and discord.
One thingI have no doubt of, in my mind — viz., that we have to learn to agree to differ in non-essentials, and in methods. Every sincere and honest worker in the national cause has his own place in the national machine. No one has a right to run down another unless he is positive about his motives. Honest, candid, and outspoken criticism is the sine qua non of progress. One should study to find out points of agreement, rather than emphasize the points of disagreement.
Indians of all classes and opinions must learn to co-operate in spite of differences—differences in ideals, in opinions and in methods of work. Co-operate with one another as far as you consider you can go together, and-then separate without ill-will. Take it from me that I say so, after thirty-three years’ experience of public life in India. We have too often frittered away our energies and resources, in fighting against supposed enemies and in carrying on fruitless controversies. The time for controversy has passed. It is time to act like men, each in his own sphere, according to the light of his conscience.
Never forget that we are Hindus (using the term in the sense in which it is used in America, i.e., Indian). Our people have a name for grace—in bearing, in expression, in language and in manners.
In these matters, every nation has a method of expression peculiar to itself. Living in Rome, we have to change it temporarily only so far as to make ourselves agreeable to those among whom we live and move, but that does not necessitate our forgetting ourselves. In any case, it will not do to good exchange our grace with their slang. They have many good things to teach us. Learn the spirit of their manliness, their self-reliance, their intolerance of snobbishness, their dislike of being patted, and so on. But do not imitate the ways in which they sometimes express their manliness and independence. What in them may look admirable may be outlandish in you.
Take their spirit, robe it with your own gracefulness, and remember that you are, and shall be, a Hindu first and a Hindu last, whatever you may choose to learn from them and wherever the circumstances may throw you in the course of your life’s journey.
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