As I read on… …what the great man writes… …I realize there is so much that goes on in a teenager’s mind which people tend to ignore. Some learn on their own by experimenting and some learn by reading books and journals. Prof. Kaul is one of those who learnt by himself. As a teenager he had thousands of questions which were never answered, so he went out looking for the answers. One such episode is part of this journal.
Concepts of Life
Once, in a village of Hindus and Muslims, I was very thirsty. On the outskirts of the village there was a well. A tall, lean, dark man wearing only a loincloth was bathing near the well. He had with him a bucket tied with a rope. I thought that he could give me some water. I approached the well.
The man had finished his bathing and was putting on fresh, clean clothes. I asked him for some water. He asked me what caste I belonged to. I thought he would certainly give me water as I was of the highest caste. So. I told him that I was a Brahmin, He told me he could not give me any water. I asked him why and he said that he was an untouchable, and hence I would be polluted.
I explained to him that he was neat and clean and I have no qualms about drinking water from him. But he would not agree. He told me to bring my own bucket and drink. This was my first experience of untouchability.
Later, I learned that untouchables lived in the cities also. The Arya Samaj Movement was against untouchability. I started visiting the homes of Chamars and Mehtars (the then untouchable caste people coming from the class of cobblers and sweepers). They wanted me to visit their homes to see how clean they were. They said that the higher castes kept them away and called them untouchables.
I could not understand this concept. Each day, I felt that I could not be of any service to these people and that I did not have the capacity to alleviate their sufferings.
At the same time, our leaders also felt that inducting the young would not be of any benefit to the Independence Movement. They felt new types of schools should be opened for them.
In Aligarh, the students who graduated from the Muslim University and the students who were studying there, at the instance of Mohammed Ali Sahib, started the Jamia Milia. In Benares (Varanasi), Kashi Vidhyapith was begun. In Delhi, the Swatantra (Freedom) School was opened. I enrolled there.
My parents asked me, “Why did you leave school in the first place, when you have now returned back to school?” How was I to make them understand why I had done this! My parents wanted me to be educated as, without education, I would not be able to get a government job.
No one had ever explained the ways of the world to me. I had no idea where food and water came from and that one needed to earn to live. My elders would admonish me by saying, “If you don’t study, you will end up only cutting grass.” I did not feel that cutting grass was such a bad thing.
Often, on Sundays, I would go into the jungle to collect plants and animals such as snakes, lizards, scorpions and other of this type. I would also collect different types of insects and store them in boxes.
I had no idea of the concept of ‘working for a living’. My father was an officer in Jaipur and the people would salute him. My grandfather was a Diwan (Prime Minister) in Jaipur and people called him their benefactor and people gave him respect. I thought that as the air we breathe is free, in the same way we obtained material things.
No one ever enlightened me about the hidden dramas of family and community life or gave me a map to the ‘Green Room’.
When I left school, I gained knowledge of village life through the teachings of Gandhiji. All the problems of India seemed to be standing in front of me and they needed to be tackled and solved. I did not understand much about them. I was only in the 10th standard.
Our leaders had taught us to sing the praises of Independence and to hail the coming revolution. I did not understand exactly what the revolution was about and only understood that our goal was to confront the British.