Sep 24, 2013

"Collegians' Callous Conduct" from Sermons in the Stroms

Once while I was camping in a village of Gujarat during the summer, I went to a fine small orchard there for the purpose of washing and bathing. At that time, four aged boys dressed in western style were there playing cards.
The wells in any orchard or agricultural farm of any village are free, common and open bathing places for all and more so of the passing strangers. As such, it isn't customary to obtain anyone's permission to use them.
I had carried with me my water-pot and rope, but as there was a bucket and a rope near the well already, and that too, of a bigger size than what was with me, I soon became busy with bathing. One point which escaped my notice at the outset was, the withered state of the rope at the end by which it was fastened to the bucket. The pressure of about half a dozen draws by me must have added to its -earlier weak condition and brought it to the verge of breaking point. And so, when after my bath I drew the last bucketful to wash my towel and the loin cloth—no more able to bear the weight—the rope snapped and the waterful bucket went down from high-up making a boisterous noise of splash.

The youths rushed to the well—they had not to be told anything. The clamorous sound announcing the fall of something heavy into the well which was heard by them and the snapped end of the rope hanging down the pulley which they saw on reaching the well made them aware of the occurrence. One of them cast a meaningful glance at me as though to ask if that was how I had learned to make use of others things. 'Bring the bucket from the bottom or from the bazaar' said the other of a more practical bent of mind—in a tone not unmixed with blunt brusqueness. The third youth babbled basely and I felt that, left to himself, he would have taken the stern step of charging me with trespass and loss to property. With a great philosophical attitude, the fourth just looked on. I could well imagine anyone of common stratum treating the faulty with the demeanor of the first three youths. Had I checked the rope and its fastening, before usage, I would have saved myself from the awkward situation and at the same time obviated the fairly new bucket dashing down to kiss and cleave to the marshy bed of the well. Of course, I had blundered and I sincerely felt that I should do something to set things right.
Since I happen to be good at swimming and diving, I chose the easy way and asked them to lower me into the large well which was diametrically very wide and with about 18 feet of water. They did so. In about three attempts, I managed to get hold of the bucket, bring it up and tie it tightly to the rope. That done, I got into and stood in it holding to the rope. Unaware of what more I had yet to bear by way of penalty for having wrongly used that bucket that day, I was feeling joyous over my successful feat as I was being pulled up by the boys. I must have been about well over half the way up—when all of a sudden, I went down forcefully with the bucket into the water. Before the fall could take me too deep, however, I let go the bucket and swiftly swam upwards and reached the surface of the water. In that quick and rash effort, I dashed against the wall which had sharp, layers of protruding stones and sustained minor bruises on my left hand, hip and elbow. My knee-caps which banged with the clamped handle of the bucket when I shot out upwards were also giving me pain. When I looked up, I found the literate lads laughing loosely. After some time, I was informed by one of them that their grip gave way, that they were sorry for what had happened and also that they would be more cautious next time. Coaxed that way, I got into the bucket as before and was drawn up almost upto the upper-end of the well and they then wantonly let go the rope with an outburst of jubilant laughter. By the grace of God, nothing happened to me this time and I some-how came up above the water. But for the width and depth of the well, the writer wouldn't have lived to narrate this terrible incident.
As the deft boys were in a funny mood, I was not inclined to remonstrate. I remained in the well hanging by holding on to some holes inside. When somewhat tired, I swam across and in that way passed about twenty minutes. I then heard one of them telling the others that the time of their grandpa's arrival was nearing and that the game should be put to an end by finally drawing me up. In unison and assuring words, therefore, they appealed to me. But I remained silent to signify my rejection.
I could see their eagerness to get me out before the old man came and since I did not budge from my decision, they began to hit me by throwing small stones. In order to ward off the hits, I had to do a good deal of dodging by ducking myself under the water each time the stones came. As they were four, my strategy failed and some stones did hit me though without hurting my head which was then bushy with matted locks. The stone-throws stopped and one of them was heard! Saying, 'grandpa is coming'. That soothed me a bit. Their guilt was pinching them and they appeared to be puzzled. All the same, they once again renewed their entreaty but I only nodded my head to notify a no. Two of them were biting their lips out of annoyance and all of them seemed to be in a great fix than myself. The next moment I saw one of them with a hopeful glow over his face bringing the other three close to him and telling them something with his arms thrown around their shoulders. Later, that very youth bawled out, 'grandpa, come soon. A mad sadhu has jumped into the well and does not come up. We would be put to trouble if he dies within.' What brains! What dexterous tact!. Oh—yes, they were current century's CUNNING— collegians, who, above all other things, true to their breed, were very slick in scandalous scheming and sordid squabbles.
The old man peeped into the well and with folded hands begged me to come up. I quickly got into the bucket and was pulled up by them all. Hardly had I set my feet on the ground, one of them told to the old man, "Good, you came in time, or else, this fellow would have definitely drowned and died inside, and consequently, the police plus post-mortem proceedings would have dragged us all to the Police Station and to the Coroner's Court. Branded insane as I was, the chances were that I would not have been heard. Yet, before I could say anything, the old man who was by then visibly very vexed, all too suddenly gave me one hard kick in my abdomen. I wasn't prepared for it, and hence, unable to withstand the force of that farmer's firm feet, I fell down. I did not take long to rise up and I was instantly signaled to Ieave the orchard. I gathered my clothing and without even donning them, left the place. In that haste, I forgot my water-carrier and rope there. I put on my clothes on the way and reached the temple where I was halting.
Later, I believe, that the one who happened to be the friend of the other three brothers, repenting for his joint ruthless conduct towards me and being also moved by the silent manner in which I suffered their cruelty, divulged to the old man the truth behind the whole incident.
That had a humane reaction upon the old man who there and then verbally chastised his guilty grandsons and came running to me with about fifteen others following him. Excepting the one who subsequently became remorseful and who was then standing before me with my water-pot and rope in his hands, his other three colleagues were conspicuously absent in the crowd. The old man fell prostrate over my feet and I felt "them moistened with his tears. The sight was very much touching and all stood in rapt quietude. I raised the old man and asked him to forget the whole event. He wanted to say something but his voice was choked with sons and perhaps also, he did not know how to begin. "I am a great sinner - Sir, do please forgive me" said he at last. Then, the repentant collegian came forward and apologetically asked "Won't you forgive me?"
Inspite of my repeated requests to desist, the old man who must have seen seventy simple summers, imposed upon himself a forty eight hours' fast by way of self-mortification. I myself had to stay back to give him company. After all, the Illiterate old man's fault, if any, was negligible. For, didn't he act solely under the guileful information and inducive impulse?.

Minus Humane Feelings, Education is of No Value.

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