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THE SAINT AND SATAN
MELUSA MOOLSON
 

MELUSA MOOLSON

THE SAINT AND SATAN

Thought Gandhi : "Ruined are we culturally, Politically, economically,
And socially,"1 and any other - ally
(Except, of course, the adjectival bally)
What matters it-an adverb smaller, larger?
"A Mr. Rajah2 or a Maharajah?
With words I juggle, and if they must know it,
I sometimes take the licence of a poet.
But where's the harm? Since I began as notary,3
And since to have become Truth's darling votary4
Is no mean task, an inexactitude
Or two to point out surely were most rude.
But now enough of all this...Let me ponder
Before my wits again begin to wander.
Ah, let me see, the Government Britannic,
Or rather, I must tell the truth, "Satanic,"5
Has battened long upon the toiling masses
And treated them like curs, like sleeping asses.
Of course, I see in this the hand of Satan,
Who came to India via Market Drayton,6
And having tired of his home in Hell, he
Has taken up his fast abode in Delhi,7
Where through the tangled web of laws and taxes
His baneful power waxes, ever waxes.
To think that I at one time were so foolish
As to ally myself with powers ghoulish !
But that was long ago in nineteen fourteen,
When war broke out and wits required sorting,
When knaves were heroes and when good men     scurvy,
When wrong was right, the whole world
    topsy turvy !
What wonder if I also pressed the pedal
And struck a jarring note–to win a medal8
To think that I became a warring ped'ler
And I, Mahatma Gandhiji, a med'ler !
But those were sorry days and I regret them,
So what's the use of talking? Let's forget them,
But not the base ingratitude of Britain,
Who breaks her verbal promises and written.
In nineteen seventeen came the declaration
Of Montague9 to thank our Indian nation

For all the services that it had tendered
In war-time–and for those that it had rendered.
That was in seventeen when sole reigned     depression,10
But victory reigned in nineteen with repression.11
'Tis true that, in between, I agitated
To get the new reforms12 a little hated–
But agitation, surely agitation
Is Life-blood of out ancient Indian nation,
And this, our life-blood, was poured out by Dyer13
(The very name's enough to rouse one's ire !)
In Jallianwalla Bagh of old Amritsar
At point of bayonet, rifle and howitzer.
Of course, as saint I must forget and pardon
His fault, although as patriot I must harden
My heart and see the bitter memory lingers
By National Weeks14 and even more national     singers.
If any sees in this a contradiction,
I can assure him that there is no friction
'Tween Gandhiji, a saint to patriotic–
(Whom slanderers have dared to term neurotic)–
And Gandhiji, a patriot so saintly,
Whom sometimes acts as Christ but ever quaintly.
'Twas then I launched my non-co-operation15
That roused the universe's admiration.
'Twas marvellous to preach complete non-vi'lence
And every Monday keep complete silence16
'Twas marvellous to hear the rolling Charka,17
The cheers alike of worker and of shirker–
(A pity that there were so many shirkers
Amongst our non-co-operating workers)
What better, when our spirits all were sinking,
Than make the smaller fry give up their drinking;
Our spirits rose with Government revenues falling–
If people drank at home it was appalling,
Of course, but no concern of ours, whose business
Was just to make the Government lose     business.18
Alas that Chauri Chaura put a sad end
To all this, where policemen met a bad end.19
It was a shocking orgy of non-vi'lence !-

I simply had to keep a three weeks' silence,
So great my fast was and so great my sorrow,
That I awake from trance upon the morrow
To find my fame on wings of Chauri Chaura
Had flown at once from Hyderabad to Howrah.
(The Hyderabad I have in mind in Sind is,
While Howrah is next urbs prima in Indis)20."
'Twas then I shook the world with saintly thunder
And loud proclaimed my "Himalayan blunder"-
A find phrase that, which won the admiration
Of poets, critics and the entire nation–
(I said "miscalculation," but then blunder
Is better far-it rhymes so well with thunder !)
In every paper stood the flaming headlines–
They were by far away the widest read lines.
And after that I soon retired to prison;
My sun had set, but then my star had risen.

At last in prison I had ample leisure
Myself to scan, the world at large to measure.
The world I came to find was very ordinary,
While I, Mahatma Gandhiji, extraordinary,
So I resolved to give up politics,
My mind on Truth eternally to fix.

Those were the days when flourished C. R.
    Das,21 who,
To tell the truth, was but a silly ass, who,
Forgetting quite that I was Freedom's sentry,
Against me stood and championed Council entry.
The Swaraj Party followed him like ducklings
Quacking for more-the constitutional sucklings !
But I kept pure in holding quite aloof
And not coquetting with the cloven hoof.

But sanctity alone grew somewhat boring,
My soul would keep politically soaring !
So in my ashram22 I in love lay waiting
For times when I might justly do some hating
And soon they came, with the advent of Miss
     Mayo,23
Who made the universe sit up and say "Oh !"
At Mother India. (Pardon, -Mother India,
That broodest over Everest and Vindhya)
"The Gospel after Catherine the Saint."
The affin'ty made me shudder and feel faint !
I shivered at its tone of nag and brag–
"Report of drain-inspector,"24 cried a wag,
Who now I think upon it was no other
Than son of mother mine and not my brother !
At Mother India all her sons united,
Stood up and howled and mud for mud requited.
It was a dreadful time of ordure flinging-
Thank heaven that I to Purity kept clinging,
And though some sniffed once more the hand of     Satan,25
I blamed, this time,  America, not Britain !
But we were not for very long kept waiting,
To switch to Britain our united hating.
The sin of commission and omission–
In short, it was the Statutory Commission.
Once more we stunned the world with shouts of     thunder,
And loud proclaimed the Himalayan blunder.
It must have shaken Birkenhead in his parlour–
He might at least have put in Saklatwala !26
It might have been a far, far better Seven,
although  not  all  would  have  been born in     Heaven !27
He might so easily have put in Sastri,28
Who of so many arts has such a mastery;
Or else he might have put in Mr. Rajah,29
Or even, if he liked, a Maharajah30:
Or else he might have put in Ranga lyer31
But no !-his name rhymes more or less with Dyer !
Or else he might have put in Mr. Jinnah,32
Even though he mostly likes to back winner–
(I hope, dear boy, he'll pardon me in justice,
If I am doing him a rank injustice);
Or else he might have put in dearest Nehru,33
Who, I am very sure, must now the day rue
When, quite oblivious of the men that maunder.
From her to France his shirts he sent to launder !
What harm if he had chosen poor and Gandhi,
Who never  in  his life was such a dandy !34
Forgetting it takes two to make a hymen,
He put in his own kind and Sir John Simon,
And, quite forgetting I was Freedom's sentry,
He kept me out and made it parliamentary.
And so, from far Sialkot to Wide Arcot,
The universal cry was : Boycott ! Boycott !
And their Report, were God Himself to bless it,
We must condemn, unread35-why not confess it?
'Twas then I left my irksome meditation
To take my place as leader of the nation,
The land throughout was in a state of flutter
When I held forth to Congress in Calcutta.
I promised them Swaraj in only one year36-
What could I do? My father was a bania !37
I knew that what I promised was fantastic,
But Subhas Bose38 was getting quite sarcastic
With thoughts on Independence and on violence.
I simply had to do it for non-violence !
What if I had eye on Simon's Seven?
False promises are also made in Heaven.
And with this promise I subdued the nation
And wrung from England Irwin's declaration,39
At last appeared the words "Dominion Status,"
That did so much to rally and inflate us.
At once the Indian landscape dark grew sunnier,
But I insisted, as an honest bania,
To modify my welcome with conditions;40
They serve so well to hide our own divisions !
Of course, it was a moral gesture graceful,
And so, perhaps, my bargaining was ungraceful,
But as the proffered hand came straight from     Britain,
Was I to blame if I suspected Satan?
(A saint must be punctilious with the Devil,
Or else he soon will fall a prey to Evil.)
If mild my welcome was in mild November;
It cool and cooler grew in cool December,
Although for this there was no cogent reason;
I found no change of heart,41 mere change of     season;
So I determined on an ultimatum :42
If they would not accept, then I could hate'em
Without disaster to my conscience tender.
But Irwin would not abjectly surrender !
So I unfurled the Flag of Independence
And played the patriot-saint' fore crowds no end     dense.
I itched to launch my Civil Disobedience,43
I had so much enjoyed my first experience !
'Twas wonderful once more to preach non-violence
And every Monday keep a perfect silence !
'Twas wonderful once more to hear the charka,
The cheers alike of worker and of shirker,
(There was no dearth of patriotic shirkers
Amongst our civil disobedience workers)
What better, when one asked to serve the Mother,
Then say : "Shout Jai44 and mind you put on     khadder,45
Come out from school and don't forget to picket.
It matters not if  that's not playing cricket !
(For cricket's but a paltry game Britannic,
And not for us whose souls are so Titanic).
Burn foreign cloth which you have bought already,
For sacrifice alone can make you steady,
Especially when it involves destruction !
Fell toddy46 palms and inculcate obstruction !"
This much for patriots, for their Saint what better
Than write the Viceroy letter after letter?
It was so good to write to him as "Friend dear,"47
although he stood for Satan's rule in India.
My arguments I marshalled, oh ! so smartly :
How rude of him to answer back so tartly48
To me, Mahatma Gandhiji, Dictator,49
Who kept the world spell-bound as one spectator !
Thus fared my fist, as for my second letter,50
Alas ! to tell the truth ! It fared no better;
To tell the truth, I was a little hurried
When I composed and so the style grew flurried;
But that was no excuse for such gross rudeness
To one whose saintly soul exuded goodness !
But this was nothing. I had won the nation
By a deft stroke that struck the imagination
I had resolved that I, Mahatma Gandhi,
On saintly toe would daintily tread to Dandi,51
Where on the far shores of the Arabian ocean
I'd make poor salt and make a rich commotion.
At once the Press entire took up the chorus
And pestered every mile that lay before us;
The Press entire, becoming shrill and shriller,
Published each day some more exciting thriller;
They soon grew indiscreet and indiscreeter :
Sugar  was sweet, but contraband salt was     sweeter !
The while the Government in cerebral flutter
Seemed paralysed from Bombay to Calcutta.
So then it was I did a little vowing,
The cock of Freedom's rising morn seemed crowing !
"I'll Freedom win," cried I with great emotion,
"Or else my corpse shall float upon the ocean."52
As soon as said, I turned back in a hurry,
Leaving the sea and motoring to Navsari,53
As soon as said, or perhaps even sooner,
The words were flashed across to distant     Poona;54
And hearing them, men came to me from Nasik
With grievances enough to make Mamma sick–
(I crave thy pardon, dear old Mother India,
Mother alike of Buddha and of Scindia).
It was a deputation from the masses,
The delegates of the depressed classes,
Who, not forgetting I was Freedom's sentry,
Fell at my feet, entreating Temple entry.
At once I loud deplored their woes distressing
And bade them come anon as time was pressing.
What could I do? I was "a poor old bania,"
That I might free first them-what could be funnier?
I was much more thrilling grappling with     Repression,
I had no time to deal with mere Depression,
Especially as freeing slaves Britannic
Was better game than freeing slaves Brahmanic.
Far sager bask in blaze of acclamation,
Than  feel the doleful pour of execrations !
(A saint is nothing if he's not a sage,
Especially when he has reached my age !)
And so I wandered hectoring and preaching–
A pity that I did not take up teaching !
The Government arrested my lieutenants–
I preached and preached on to its few left tenants !
But soon I tired of verbiage, written, spoken,
I asked for heads non-violently broken.55
At once they came from all parts of the country,
Including those, by fall of more than one tree
That struck the heads of my non-violent fellers56
Ah ! woe is me ! They should have been salt     sellers !57

And so I now resolved on concentrating
On stealing salt by force, but without hating.
'Twas glorious to face the world as salt-thief–58
(Although I'd rather die than be a malt-thief !)
And thus I planned aloud to raid the salt at     Dharsan,59
But soon, ah much too soon, came news of arson,
And tumult, murder, from remote Peshawar–60
At once my tears rolled down in copious shower !
And after that, I soon retired to prison;
My star had set-but then my sun had risen !
And now in prison I had ample leisure
To spin and muse, in short, indulge my pleasure.
But spinning, musing, pleasure, all were drowned     in
The roar of violence that kept resounding
From north to south, from Sholapur to Dacca,61
It seemed our Mother sat upon a Cracker !
From east to west, from Frontier Land to Howrah,
It seemed that every place was Chauri Chaura,
The while came news, from city, town and village,
Or riot, slaughter and tumultuous pillage !
And yet, though heads were daily broken,
    battered,
My faith unshaken still remained unshattered,
The while I kept on calmly spinning, spinning–62
If only Government had ceased its sinning !
But no ! With power Satanic, violence tainted,
They really were much worse than I have painted,
Requited force of Soul with Force of muscle
And blamed, of all men, me for all the tussle,
As though a Saint had not diviner notions63
Of when to start and when to cease commotions !
But violence reigned-and I expressed my sorrow
For each day's violence promptly on the morrow;
Yet violence reigned-I sat in sorrow spinning,
While Government and Satan kept on sinning;
Still violence reigned - be thine the curse, O     Britain,
Tainted with blood and close allied with Satan !

"Enough !" cried Satan, "You have spun enough !
It is high time for me to call your bluff.
On Taint you harp, but I'm expert on Taint,
A saint, twice sorry, is a sorry saint !"

 

___________________________________________________________________________________
1     "Socially." - In his Independence Manifesto launched on 26th January, 1930. Mr. Gandhi stated that the British Government had ruined India politically, economically, culturally and socially.

2     "A Mr. Rajah or a Maharajah" - This play of words was indulged in by Mr. Gandhi at the Lahore Congress in December 1929. Mr. Rajah is the representative of the Depressed Classes. While a Maharajah of course, is the opposite.

3.     "Notary." - Mr. Gandhi started his career in the legal profession.

4.     "Truth's darling votary." - See Mr. Gandhi's book. "My Experiments with Truth."

5.     "Satanic." A famous epithet applied by Mr. Gandhi to the British Government.

6.     "Market Drayton." - Birthplace of Robert Clive, founder to the British Empire in India.

7.     "Delhi." - The capital of British India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912.

8.     "Medal." - Mr. Gandhi was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal for his services to the Government in the Great war.

9.     The famous August declaration made by Mr. Montague, then Secretary of State for India, promising responsible self government to India.

10.     "Depression." - 1917 was for England the darkest period during the war, according to Mr. Lloyd George.

11.     "Repression." - The unpopular Rowlatt Bill, passed in 1919, giving the Government wide power to deal with the emergent situation that then existed in the Punjab and other places.

12.     "Reforms." - The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms inaugurated as a result of the policy laid down in the August declaration.

13.     General Dyer, who ordered firing at a mob at Amritsar in April, 1919.

14.     "National Weeks." - April 6th - 13th. when the memory of the firing at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar is kept alive in National Weeks all over India, both by speech and song.

15.     "Non-co-operation." - The Non-co-operation Movement of which Mr. Gandhi was the sponsor, waged furiously from 1920 to 1922, when Mr. Gandhi was arrested.

16.     "Silence." - Mr. Gandhi has adopted the habit of observing a weekly silence on Mondays.

17.     "Charka." - The spinning wheel, the cult of which is so enthusiastically advocated by Mr. Gandhi.

18.     "Lose Business." - Private distillation of liquor is forbidden in India, where large revenues accrue to Government from the sale of liquor. Hence Mr. Gandhi's anti-drink campaign is also an anti-Government campaign.

19.     "Bad end." - Several policemen were savagely slaughtered by the mob at Chauri Chaura in 1922. This unfortunate turn of his non-violent campaign caused Mr. Gandhi to confess in fasting and repentance that he had made a Himalayan "miscalculation" in fancying that his campaign of non-co-operation could remain non-violent.

20.     "Urbs Prima, in Indis," - i.e., Calcutta, although Bombay disputes the title.

21.     "C. R. Das." - Was the leader of the Swaraj Party during Mr. Gandhi's temporary retirement from politics. Against the views of Mr. Gandhi he advocated entering the Provincial Councils and the Legislative Assembly. During his ascendancy Mr. Gandhi was politically in eclipse.

22.     "Ashram." - Mr. Gandhi's hermitage or retreat in Sabarmati.

23.     "Miss Mayo" - i.e., Miss Katherine Mayo, whose book, "Mother India," had a sensational vogue in 1927. As reaction to Miss Mayo's Mother India, Ranga Iyer's Father India and K. L. Gauba's Uncle Sham may be referred to : Editor

24.     "Report of drain inspector." - While Mr. Gandhi thus criticised Miss Mayo's book, Mr. Wyndham Lewis went one better by styling in the report of a sanitary inspector gone mad.

25.     "Hand of Satan," - Amidst the chorus of condemnation that greeted the appearance of Miss Mayo's book in India, persistent cries were raised that the Government had subsidised the book.

26.     "Saklatwala." - Lord Birkenhead, who as Secretary of State for India, appointed the Simon Commission in 1927, consisting of Seven Commissioners, all Members of Parliament overlooked the claims of Mr. Saklatwala, communist member from Battersea, and the sole member of the House of Commons who was an Indian. It is interesting to speculate whether the storm of indignation because it contained no Indian would have been averted by the inclusion of Mr. Saklatwala.

27.     "Born in Heaven." - Members of the ruling race in India are sometimes ironically referred to by non-members as "Heaven-born." The Indian Civil Service, which until recently was almost entirely British, is sometimes dubbed the "Heaven born service."

28.     "Sastri," - The Right Hon. Mr. Srinivasa Sastri, one of India's foremost "moderate" politicians.

29.     "Mr. Rajah" - To represent the Depressed Classes.

30.     "Maharajah," - To represent the Princes of India.

31.     "Ranga Iyer." - Author of "Father India." one of the many retorts to Miss Mayo, and a prominent politician.

32.     "Mr. Jinnah." - Leader of the "moderate" Muslim group of politicians.

33.     "Nehru" - Pandit Nehru, leader of the Swarajists, is reported to have been at one time so famous as to send his soiled shirts from India to be laundered at a favourite laundry in France.

34.     "Dandy." - Mr. Gandhi himself recounts how he used to wear silk hats and take dancing lessons in his London days but we have never heard that he at any time sent his shirts from India, to be laundered at any place other than at the nearest dhobi's (indigenous washerman).

35.     "Unread." - Several politicians in India loudly proclaimed that they would not read the Simon Report and as loudly condemned it. Pandit Motilal Nehru : President of the Congress, in a speech in June, 1930, said that it would be a crime to read the Simon Report and a greater crime to buy it. In the same breath he styled it "a farce." It is not reported whether the venerable Pandit had committed the crime of reading the Report, or whether he had committed the folly of having stigmatised it without reading.

36.     "One year." - In December, 1928. Mr. Gandhi, having returned to politics, promised the Congress at Calcutta to procure Swaraj in one year if his programmes were blindly followed. Needless to say the promise has remained unfulfilled.

37.     "Bania." - One of the innumerable castes into which Hinduism is divided. The Banias are generally shopkeepers and petty tradesmen renowned for their shrewdness and bargaining. Mr. Gandhi was born in this caste, and by the ineluctable laws of Hinduism in it must remain.

38.     "Subhas Chandra Bose." - An extremist politician of Bengal, where he leads the clamour for full independence.

39.     "Declaration." i.e. the Viceroy's declaration of 1st November, 1929 envisaging "Dominion Status" as the goal of British policy in India.

40.     "Conditions." - In November, 1929. Mr. Gandhi welcomed the Viceroy's gesture, but with conditions. If his welcome was mild in November it had become frigid when he, along with other Nationalist leaders, met the Viceroy in December. And on the 1st January, 1930, Mr. Gandhi at the Lahore Congress, declared for full independence. There was no change, however, in the political situation in India between November and January.

41.     "Change of heart." - Mr. Gandhi has always been clamouring for a "change of heart" on the side of the Government. He has not been heard to advocate a "change of heart" on the part of the Government's adversaries.

42.     "Ultimatum," - In his December meeting with the Viceroy.

43.     "Civil Disobedience." - This second anarchic fling of Mr. Gandhi's was launched in March, 1930, after Mr. Gandhi had given "legal notice" to the Viceroy though the medium of his first letter to Lord Irwin.

44.     "Jai." - The slogan of the patriots.

45.     "Khaddar" - Coarse, home-spun cloth affected by Mr. Gandhi's followers. These include a number of school boys incited to leave their studies to take part in political activities, which consist largely in picketting liquor and foreign cloth shops, schools and colleges. Intimidation is a common concomitant of peaceful picketting.

46.     "Toddy Palms." - Toddy is a strong liquor made from the juice of the toddy palm.

47.     "Friend dear." - Or to be more correct. "Dear Friend" the style in which Mr. Gandhi addressed Lord Irwin.

48.     "Tartly." - The reply of the Viceroy to Mr. Gandhi's somewhat discursive epistle was curt.

49.     "Dictator." - Mr. Gandhi was appointed "Dictator" by the "War Council" of the Congress.

50.     "Second Letter." - Written on Mr. Gandhi day of silence, and shortly before his arrest in May, 1930. It was couched in somewhat hysterical language.

51.     "Dandi." - The destination of Mr. Gandhi's famous stroll to the sea to break the salt law and make contraband salt.

52.     "Ocean". - Mr. Gandhi's thrasonical vow, taken by the shore in April, 1930.

53.     "Navsari." - Where Mr. Gandhi had his camp.

54.     "Poona and Nasik." - The depressed classes at these two places put into practice Mr. Gandhi's principle of "Satyagraha" by doing passive resistance at the gates of the Hindu Temples in order to secure entry. They were as a result, brutally handled by the higher castes, and at Nasik were assaulted with the utmost savagery. A deputation of their representatives which waited on Mr. Gandhi at his camp of freedom, poured out their woes to him, and asked him to divert his liberalising energies to securing for them the elementary rights of ordinary human beings. It was cold comfort to them to hear from Mr. Gandhi's own lips that he, the "Dictator" of India, was powerless to help them, as he was "only a poor bania."

55.     "Broken." - Mr. Gandhi, in one of his April speeches, is reported to have said he was tired of merely filling the jails, and wanted broken heads.

56.     "Fellers." - Several of Mr. Gandhi's volunteers who with inexpert zeal, rushed, at the leader's behest, to cut toddy palms, were killed or injured by the falling trees.

57.     "Salt-sellers." - Hawkers of "contraband" salt under the aegis of Congress were numerous in India in April and May 1930.

58.     "Salt-thief." - Mr. Gandhi referred to himself and his friends with pride as "salt-thief."

59.     "Dharsana," - The raid on the salt works at Dharsana conceived by Mr. Gandhi, was actually attempted several times by his followers, after his arrest.

60.     "Peshawar." - Where the Congress were reported to have entered into treasonable intrigues with the foreign tribes across the border.

61.     "Sholapur to Dacca." - The violence and anarchy at Sholapur in May, 1930, where wounded policemen were reported to have been burnt alive and savagely cut to pieces, led to the proclamation of Martial Law, while at the opposite end of India the barbarities perpetrated in the Hindu-Muslim riots at Dacca in May, 1930, sent a thrill of disgust and horror through India.

62.     "Spinning." - Mr. Gandhi is so zealous about his spinning that he is reported to have spun throughout the last interview he granted to the poet Rabindra Nath Tagore.

63.     "Diviner notions." - Mr. Gandhi is reported to have exclaimed in February, that he was lost in darkness and was waiting Divine illumination to guide his next step in the war he had launched upon the British Government. Early in March he decided to start Civil Disobedience. Presumably light had arrived in the meanwhile.