If one had to fill in, little by little, the gap between day and night, it would take an eternity to do it. But the sun rises and the darkness is dispelled--a moment is sufficient to overcome an infinite distance.
One day there came the new era of Swadeshi 8 in Bengal; but as to how it happened, we had no distinct vision. There was no gradual slope connecting the past with the present. For that reason, I imagine, the new epoch came in like a flood, breaking down the dykes and sweeping all our prudence and fear before it. We had no time even to think about, or understand, what had happened, or what was about to happen.
My sight and my mind, my hopes and my desires, became red with the passion of this new age. Though, up to this time, the walls of the home--which was the ultimate world to my mind--remained unbroken, yet I stood looking over into the distance, and I heard a voice from the far horizon, whose meaning was not perfectly clear to me, but whose call went straight to my heart.
From the time my husband had been a college student he had been trying to get the things required by our people produced in our own country. There are plenty of date trees in our district. He tried to invent an apparatus for extracting the juice and boiling it into sugar and treacle. I heard that it was a great success, only it extracted more money than juice. After a while he came to the conclusion that our attempts at reviving our industries were not succeeding for want of a bank of our own. He was, at the time, trying to teach me political economy. This alone would not have done much harm, but he also took it into his head to teach his countrymen ideas of thrift, so as to pave the way for a bank; and then he actually started a small bank. Its high rate of interest, which made the villagers flock so enthusiastically to put in their money, ended by swamping the bank altogether.
The old officers of the estate felt troubled and frightened. There was jubilation in the enemy's camp. Of all the family, only my husband's grandmother remained unmoved. She would scold me, saying: "Why are you all plaguing him so? Is it the fate of the estate that is worrying you? How many times have I seen this estate in the hands of the court receiver! Are men like women? Men are born spendthrifts and only know how to waste. Look here, child, count yourself fortunate that your husband is not wasting himself as well!"
My husband's list of charities was a long one. He would assist to the bitter end of utter failure anyone who wanted to invent a new loom or rice-husking machine. But what annoyed me most was the way that Sandip Babu 9 used to fleece him on the pretext of Swadeshi work. Whenever he wanted to start a newspaper, or travel about preaching the Cause, or take a change of air by the advice of his doctor, my husband would unquestioningly supply him with the money. This was over and above the regular living allowance which Sandip Babu also received from him. The strangest part of it was that my husband and Sandip Babu did not agree in their opinions.
As soon as the Swadeshi storm reached my blood, I said to my husband: "I must burn all my foreign clothes."
"Why burn them?" said he. "You need not wear them as long as you please."
"As long as I please! Not in this life ..."
"Very well, do not wear them for the rest of your life, then. But why this bonfire business?"
"Would you thwart me in my resolve?"
"What I want to say is this: Why not try to build up something? You should not waste even a tenth part of your energies in this destructive excitement."
"Such excitement will give us the energy to build."
"That is as much as to say, that you cannot light the house unless you set fire to it."
Then there came another trouble. When Miss Gilby first came to our house there was a great flutter, which afterwards calmed down when they got used to her. Now the whole thing was stirred up afresh. I had never bothered myself before as to whether Miss Gilby was European or Indian, but I began to do so now. I said to my husband: "We must get rid of Miss Gilby."
He kept silent.
I talked to him wildly, and he went away sad at heart.
After a fit of weeping, I felt in a more reasonable mood when we met at night. "I cannot," my husband said, "look upon Miss Gilby through a mist of abstraction, just because she is English. Cannot you get over the barrier of her name after such a long acquaintance? Cannot you realize that she loves you?"
I felt a little ashamed and replied with some sharpness: "Let her remain. I am not over anxious to send her away." And Miss Gilby remained.
But one day I was told that she had been insulted by a young fellow on her way to church. This was a boy whom we were supporting. My husband turned him out of the house. There was not a single soul, that day, who could forgive my husband for that act--not even I. This time Miss Gilby left of her own accord. She shed tears when she came to say good-bye, but my mood would not melt. To slander the poor boy so--and such a fine boy, too, who would forget his daily bath and food in his enthusiasm for Swadeshi.
My husband escorted Miss Gilby to the railway station in his own carriage. I was sure he was going too far. When exaggerated accounts of the incident gave rise to a public scandal, which found its way to the newspapers, I felt he had been rightly served.
I had often become anxious at my husband's doings, but had never before been ashamed; yet now I had to blush for him! I did not know exactly, nor did I care, what wrong poor Noren might, or might not, have done to Miss Gilby, but the idea of sitting in judgement on such a matter at such a time! I should have refused to damp the spirit which prompted young Noren to defy the Englishwoman. I could not but look upon it as a sign of cowardice in my husband, that he should fail to understand this simple thing. And so I blushed for him.
And yet it was not that my husband refused to support Swadeshi, or was in any way against the Cause. Only he had not been able whole-heartedly to accept the spirit of Bande Mataram. 10
"I am willing," he said, "to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it."
8 The Nationalist movement, which began more as an economic than a political one, having as its main object the encouragement of indigenous industries [Trans.].
9 "Babu" is a term of respect, like "Father" or "Mister," but has also meant in colonial days a person who understands some English. [on-line ed.]
10 Lit.: "Hail Mother"; the opening words of a song by Bankim Chatterjee, the famous Bengali novelist. The song has now become the national anthem, and Bande Mataram the national cry, since the days of the Swadeshi movement [Trans.].
[Transcriber's note: After Indian Independence in 1947, the song Jana Gana Mana written by Rabindranath Tagore was chosen to be the national anthem of India in a very highly debated ruling of the Constituent Assembly of India on Jan 24, 1950. Jana Gana Mana was considered more secular, harmonious and that it truly reflected the young nation's spirit better.]