The amazing journey which we experience in very article written by Prof. Kailas Nath Kaul is extraordinary. One such journey down the memory lane with us again this week.
Today it’s his childhood he talks about and so he takes us into the zeitgeist of the early 20th century.
Kailas Nath Kaul
As a child, I loved the wide open spaces. To sit in a confined place of a madarsa was anathema to me.
Whenever a master questioned me on general knowledge, I was always ready with answers. The masters respected my abilities and always gave me pass marks in exams. But I never came first, or even second, in class. The masters complained that I did not study enough and that, if I applied myself, I could do much better. I enjoyed sports and was a leader in games.
In 1919, when the Baisakhi Mela took place I was studying in Ram Jas College in Delhi. The mela was organised in the suburbs and the college arranged for students to travel by train.
On our return, Old Delhi railway station was packed with crowd and policemen. We learned that Gandhiji had been arrested on his way to Punjab. We observed the goings-on but did not participate.
In those days, school and college students did not meddle in politics as they do today.
There was an unruly demonstration and the magistrate gave orders for it to be disbursed. But the police were unable to move away as the station was packed. The police fired into the crowd and wounded some of the demonstrators.
We realised the situation had become dangerous. We left the railway station and fled to Company Bagh. We then proceeded to Chandni Chowk and at Ghanta Ghar we saw more demonstrators. We slowly made our way home. My mother scolded me for venturing into this kind of situation.
There was a strike the next day also and the police used this opportunity to hurt some youth.
At Chandni Chowk, there is an old fountain. Nearby, there is a police station. During Aurangzeb’s reign, a Sikh Guru was murdered there. Therefore, a Gurudwara has been constructed at the site.
The Inspector of the Police Station was a short, fat man with a limp. On that day, he was lounging outside the station, when a young man passed by. He called for his rifle, took aim, and shot the youth as he would hunt a deer. He did this to create sense of terror in the city.
The boy died and the city was in an uproar. The body was paraded in the streets and even those who had been fearful took part.
When the crowd reached Jama Masjid my maternal grandfather who never ventured outside the home bareheaded, joined the procession and walked all the way to the crematorium. Everyone in the house was agitated as to why he had, at this time, done this since he was quite old.
When he was young, he had worked with the British. He believed in the honesty and integrity of the British had set as an example for us. If we ever spoke against the British, he would explain to us that our views were wrong.
On this day, he had left and joined the procession without covering his head or proper attire.
He returned home late at night. He told us that now the British had lost the right to rule and would not be able to stay in India. We were all astonished.
The whole country was in turmoil. The result was that in 1921, at the Nagpur Congress, Gandhji’s proposal was passed by all the parties.
In it was the policy that the British Government would not be aided in any way. Students should leave colleges and schools. Government employees should leave their jobs.
I could not speak for others but I was impatient with my studies. I always stood first in science and drawing. I managed to pass in others subjects. Therefore, I had never failed.
When Gandhji’s Satyagraha movement began, I was studying in DAV school. The Principal had studied in DAV College at Lahore. He was a proponent of Arya Samaj (a movement for reforming Hinduism) beliefs and made efforts to spread them. He was an elderly man and very fond of the students.
I was very fond of Scouting. Once, when I had refused to salute the Union Jack (which as a Scout, I was required to do), I was called to his office.
He, very kindly said to me, “Son, I respect your beliefs but if the Government learns of this, aid to the school would be stopped. So it is better if you leave scouting.”
I had no political intentions. Politics was never discussed at home. My parents were Sanatan Dharmi (believers in traditional, vedic, Hindu dogma) and the school was Arya Samaji. I had not received any religious indoctrination.
…and so the Kaul Journal continues.