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Translated from the Hindi by Aditi Yadav 

The older the civilization of a society, the more convoluted are the chains that mentally enslave it. The stature of India as an ancient civilization is unassailable, which is why greater are the obstructions to its advancement. Mental slavery is the biggest impediment to progress. 

Our sufferings, socio-economic & political problems are so pronounced in multiplicity and complexity, that unless we strive to think about them with a transparent and unfettered perspective, we can’t come up with any solution. The beginning of the present century stands witness to the flood of nationalism in India, especially among the newly educated youth.  This nationalism was praise-worthy in many aspects, yet outrageously blind on several parameters. 

The aim was to present the history of one’s country in the most exalted and blameless way possible, without any concern for veracity of facts. It implied viewing all virtuosity of politically important phenomena of 20th century in the antiquated figures of sages, writers and philosophers, kings and royal institutions. 

The misplaced intention to project ancient India and its inhabitants as the most superior among all countries led to publishing worthless baloney in the name of historical research. When such hogwash was refuted by Western experts, instant ‘fatwahs’ were issued against the fraud of all Western historians— English and French, German and Italian, American and Russian, Dutch and Czech— who only conspired against India and wrote malignant lies about its otherwise glorious past – in their opinion, the age of our venerable Vedas was only between three and a half to four thousand years (as against their actual age of one billion and ninety two years).  

These simple-minded folks think that if somehow, they can prove their books and sages to be the most ancient on earth, their job is done. Perhaps the world will grant us freedom without any strife, by the mere virtue of how ancient our rights are; or may be the youth will make supreme sacrifice for the country fueled by the euphoria that the blood of the makers of ancient civilization flows in their veins. How long will it then take the country to achieve independence? We may have nothing in our hands when it comes to firearms, tanks, machine guns, warships, and submarines. But if we prove the mettle of Raja Bhoj’s flying wood horse and Shukraniti, we will emerge victorious on all fronts. I wonder if there’s any end to this tomfoolery of eulogizing our forefathers and wasting half our energies on vainglorious aggrandizement. 

The jingoistic pride we take in our ancient ages rigidly ties us to love for the past. It triggers the surge of adrenaline, manipulating us to blindly follow the religious dogma of the ancestors. It is possible to differentiate between truth and falsehood when it comes to exploring gunpowder and flying saucers. But in the realm of religion, every human is free to spot a black cat in a pitch-black room. Here, you will neither find the scales to accurately weigh 16 annas against 32 rattis, nor the foolproof parameters to judge veracity. It’s a Machiavellian rapscallion of the highest grade.  Deploying its skills, wealth, chicanery and multiple baits, it gathered a bunch of headless rich and selfish folks to establish a cult of the nose-less. And then thousands of big and small, educated and dumb, black and white sheep lined up with asinine laughter to get their noses chopped off. That fiend made the most out of its life, and enjoyed a jolly good time on earth.  After its death, its followers went on to exalt its status. When people of this ilk succeeded in sustained propaganda for centuries, the rascal was made famous as a great human and pure soul that graced the earth. 

Well, let’s leave behind the past. In my lifetime, I have seen with my own eyes, humans – some dead by now, some still alive - whose inner lives are disgusting, mean and reckless. However, in public life, their devotees are overwhelmed and enchanted by mere glance and siren songs. Observe them closely, the mathas and ashramas of these religious mahatmas are open universities for hypocritic propaganda and religious publicity- an employment that generates millions in profit. Most people set their foot in this field to reap benefits out of this lucrative business. 

There was a certain mahatama in Ayodhya. Lord Ram was so pleased with him that He came all the way from Baikunth to marry him. Yes, to marry him. Mahatma was a male, so the Lord transformed him into His female consort. What difficulty can Ramji ever have? Given that He can transform a rock into a female, what’s the big deal in transforming a male into a female? Such transformations have been randomly seen these days on numerous occasions. 

A new strand of thought has been in vogue for the past 50 to 60 years. It is hell-bent on proving all foolishness, ghosts and magic through science. Dimwitted Indians understand that Oxfords and Cambridges do not raise donkeys and also that all Jacks and Johnsons do not entertain anything unscientific. These half-baked pundits stepped out with their incomplete knowledge to prove theories of ghosts and spirits, gods and goddesses, saints and worship through some thirty years old scientific ‘theories’. 

However, 75 percent of those theories have now been overturned. Yet, for the cult of the blind, the tomes penned on the basis of the obsolete science have become the eternal truth. The history of Hindustan spans extensive length and width both in time and thought. Our list of follies is proportionately voluminous.  Blind nationalists and propogandists have evoked excessive reverence for our past. The rotten pseudo-science and bankrupt philosophies come in really handy to feed all our foolishness. Why don’t we then just get ready to sell off our brains? After all, here wooden horses fly alongside planes, and fires spewed from one’s mouth incinerate the adversaries instantly, in tandem with explosives and missiles. Can any lie be spun in a place where analysis and reflections on micro philosophies are glorious enough to stupefy the world? 

Through ghost-calling on tripods, mesmerism, hypnosis, etc. we were first scientifically brought closer to our expanding idiocy and now those with consolation prizes in science can be seen distributing the ashes of Harsuram and Hariram Bramha in open fields. Well, when Nobel laureate Mr. Oliver writes books on ghosts and spirits today and vouches for them while advertising among people, how can Swadesi brethren be at fault?

Hitherto, the educated folks dismissed astrology as hokum.  However, a substantial chunk has transitioned into its ardent support-group classifying it as solid science. Our newspapers are raging war against each other to publish predictions made by astrologers. “Searchlight” issue of 27th August places weather predictions by a certain Mr. Astrologer Maharaj on one of its priority pages. Well then, what’s the use of investing lakhs of rupees in procuring instruments and specialists to this end? These are “Swadesi” times and Congress owns the Cabinet. A delegation of astrologers should arrange meeting with Chief Ministers of all states. They should rest assured that out of the six states governed by the Congress, there would be very few Ministers without any faith in astrology. It’s a given that the astrologers would be more than willing to take a pay cut in national interest. In the availability of this Swadesi technique, why the brouhaha for weather research instruments or seismographs to detect earthquakes or expending thousands per month for weather specialists? Astrologers can quite efficiently perform their duties. They neither require instruments, nor depend on external information; they provide all information just being seated at a single spot. It would be awesome to have just one person foretell floods and droughts and earthquakes. A glance at birth horoscopes of the ministers would suffice to predict any delay in installments of Swarajya. Well, this year, a certain Mr. Maharaja wanted to visit foreign lands to procure a throne. He was awfully concerned about nasty planets. Even more worried was his mother. An astrologer, after having accounted for Aries and Gemini, pacified the planets, allayed Maharaja’s fears, and guaranteed his mother that no misfortune would befall His Highness. Voila! there it was— happiness for all. Mr. Astrologer earned five thousand rupees. Can there ever be a cheaper life insurance scheme than this? Well, it also has additional benefits. If every state government appoints an official astrologer and 10-15 assisting ones, ministers and office bearers wouldn’t have to bother running around alleys requesting astrologers for their services. The annual horoscope readings of their wives and little ones would be served in time. Swadesi business should definitely be encouraged; and what purer Swadesi enterprise than this, a hundred percent Swadesi in all parameters - heart, mind, body and labor. 

A mythical belief here and another there- are we this scanty in this field to expound it all in this teeny article? We have records over records and files over files readily available for this sake. The most commendable part is that our leaders wish to cross oceans with the burden of this foolishness over their heads. They firmly believe that gods in Baikunth, nine planets in the sky, and earth’s astrologers and wise healers will lend a helping hand in this journey. 

Well, consider our caste system for instance. It is one of the inventions of our sages that we are supremely proud of. Although a few people have begun to opine unfavourably about it with the rise of nationalist sentiments. However, even now most of our stellar leaders are ready to swear by this marvel devised by our sages. They have witnessed how caste system has single handedly contributed to perpetrate internal divisiveness and discrimination. A few years ago, they had formed internal associations along caste-lines, which they still find hard to wean away from. I can’t comment on leaders other than those from Congress. These poor folks have a tough time in balancing the weight of nationalism and casteism on their left and right shoulders. Some among them might have realized by now that the task is impossible. Absolute nationalism cannot be ushered in unless one is ready to break the shackles of caste. If you haven’t broken free from those chains, then your actual world exists within caste itself. Your relationship with those outside the caste boundaries is mere make-shift compromise. When you rise to any high office, despite all integrity intact, your decision making will mostly be influenced by caste factor. The most successful lot in influencing you would be your caste brethren. In cases of appointments, constitution of committees, sub-committees and letters of references you would be bound to accommodate your caste priorities. The heart of a man is home to thousands of rooms, but having distinct rooms for casteism and nationalism that remain absolutely disconnected is not possible. Just as supporting farmers’ movement involves basic understanding of communism, those wishing to follow the path of nationalism should realize that this journey entails breaking the walls of caste divide. If one aspires to be a national leader, with hopes to stay close knit with a certain caste group, he would either be dishonest to his mission or end in utter failure. For how can someone favoring one’s caste earn the trust of other groups? Ministers will need to be extra cautious. Excessive attachment with caste brethren can easily be misused to defame them.  In my opinion, in the larger interest of states, country, Congress party and individuals, it would be great if prominent Ministers marry off at least one their sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandsons or granddaughters outside their castes, as soon as possible-  just like Mahatma Gandhi and Rajagopalachari did. 

We shouldn’t just wait for time with our eyes shut. We should be prepared to break the fetters of our mental slavery, mercilessly, one link after another.  More than an external revolution, we need a mental revolution. Left and right, forward and backward, wielding naked swords in both our hands, slashing past all orthodox traditions, we should march ahead. Ferocious are the flames of revolution; they won’t just disappear after burning a lone hut in the village. The fire will engulf all mud and concrete houses, burning them to ashes. And then will begin our work to lay foundations of building a new palace, all afresh. 

[This is the first chapter from Dimagi Gulami, published originally in 1944.]

Rahul Sankrityayan (1893-1963) was an Indian polyglot, who travelled extensively and wrote more than 100 books on a wide range of subjects including history, religion, philosophy and sociology. He is revered as “the father of Hindi travel literature” and was awarded Padma Bhushan by Government of India in 1963.

Aditi Yadav is a civil servant by profession and an amateur translator. Her first work of translation was published in January 2022 in HT Mint Lounge Magazine.

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