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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, June 13, 1929, Image 16

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16
GLIMPSING THE FAR EAST
By GIDEON A. LYON,
Member of American Journalists’ Party Now Touring Orient as Guests
of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
May 3, 1929.
Somewhere Northwest of Midway
Islands.
WHEN we went to the pier at
San Francisco to board the
steamer for the Orient we
saw, fluttering around the
baggage section, a number
of turbaned Hindoos, bearded, remote
looking. Later we saw' them, and some
others, on board the ship, before we
sailed. In the con
fusion of departure
we missed them.
and concluded that mis
been bidding bon
friend. It was not ■Bjj|
were on our way
friend was. He en
lng slowly, hands
clasped behind his Mr. Lyon
back, his fine
bearded face bent. Behind him came
a young Hindoo, much darker of com
plexion, stouter, obviously a secretary.
It needed no announcement to iden
tify Rabindranath Tagore. India’s fore
most poet, educator, lecturer, and, occa
sionally, storm center of discussion and
agitation. His splendid head is too w'ell
known through frequent illustration in
public prints to require an introduction.
Next Monday Tagore will be 60 years
of age. He bears those years wonder
fully well. He walks slowly, but it is
the slowness of dignity rather than
feebleness. He has come to table regu
larly throughout the voyage, and, so
far as I have been able to observe, has
partaken with good appetite of the pro
visions set before him.
At Honolulu Tagore went ashore,
being greeted by a large delegation, and
entertained at the Hawaiian capital and
making an address to his followers,
English and Japanese Buddhists. He
denied himself to interviewers, some of
whom were anxious to learn what he
had to say about the reasons for his
sudden departure from the United
States, which had been attributed to
his displeasure at the customs examina
tion. On board the Taiyo at San Fran
cisco he had likewise denied himself to
the press. Consequently the members
of our party had respected his desire
to be let alone and had made no at
tempt to reach him.
Granted an Interview.
But the other day Chairman Johns
asked the secretary, A. K. Chanda, who
is an Oxford man and a member of the
educational staff of Calcutta Univer
sity, whether Dr. Tagore would receive
the ’“representative American journal
ists” before the end of the voyage. And
he has done so. It was arranged yes
terday that today, after tea, we should
G^WNS^^T^IHIT^HATi
jgg
tj white shoes! The season says, j
“While, absolutely. ’ Hahn says, I I
assemble in one of the smaller dining
rooms to meet the Indian sage. There
was no suggestion of restriction regard
t ing the "interview,” which was to be a
> collective one.
: Some of us were wondering how we
> should address him. He was knighted
■ by King Oeorge of England in 1915.
> This would make “Sir Rabindranath"
• tfie correct form. But several years
> ago, in his indignation at the shooting
of a number of Hindoos by British
troops at Amritsar, he renounced his
title. So w-e were given to understand
that “Dr. Tagore” is the accepted and
correct style of address.
Tagore’s manner at the reception he
accorded to us was simple and digni
fied. He shook each by the hand upon
Introduction. He then seated himself
and waited. Mr. Johns briefly thanked
him for the courtesy of the meeting,
and said that we should like to hear
from him about the conditions in his
cbuntry. ,
“That is a very large subject,' was
the reply. “If you will ask specific
questions I will be glad to answer.”
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THE EVENtyOf STAR, WASHINGTON, H. C., THURSDAY JUNE 13, 1929.
The poet’s voice la soft and pleasant
and his English enunciation is perfect.
There is just the slightest thickening of
some of the labials—it can hardly
be called a lisp—to indicate that knowl
edge of the tongue is not native, but
has been acquired. He seldom raises
his voice, which is musically pitched.
He never hesitates for a word. Occa
sionally he uses a colloquial phrase, as
for example wtyen he said, regarding
some of the questions confronting the
people of India, “those are problems j
that we must tackle.”
Save for a slight motion of the fln- j
gers, sometimes twisting a fold of his !
robe as he speaks. Tagore talks ahead
with perfect serenity. Once or twice j
in the course of the discussion, which
lasted for nearly an hour and a half,
he became quite animated—it would
not be fair to say excited—afid his face
was drawn into an expression of the
keenest feeling.
Lack of Education.
We first, through the’mediumship of j
Francis Clarke of Atlanta, got the in- |
terview going along the lines of educa
tion in India, a subject in which Tagor’
is deeply interested, he having a school
in the neighborhood 6t Calcutta at
which he is seeking to hold aloft the
torch of enlightenment for his people.
He spoke in terms of sadness regard
ing the lack of governmental aid for
education for the masses of the people.
The implication was rather explicit that
the British administration in India has
not made for progress, but rather been
marked by a retrogression.
“India’s civilisation has been dis
located,” he said, in effect, "by the
economic changes that have taken
place since the advent of the Western
Influences. The village has been choked
by the town. The people, who formerly
lived clean, pure, wholesome lives in the
villages, where they found all that was
necessary for their comfort and their
development, have been drawn into the
i greater organism.”
Later in the interview, Tagore am—
i pllfled the thought of the change in
economic conditions when reminded
| that the drift from small to large com
munities was the order in most coun
tries. and particularly in the United
States.
Progress Cannibalistic.
"Progress,” he said. "Is cannibalistic.
It devours its own body. It feeds upon
Itself. India has suffered severely from
this progress. It is unhappily the na
| ture of things.”
Whether consciously or not, Tagore
painted a picture of a rather hopeless .
condition in India. The great mass of ;
the people, the division of that mass
into innumerable sects and cults, the
iack of a common understanding, the
lack, indeed, of a common language, <
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the facility with which misunderstand
ing and friction are engendered among
the people, the utter Inadequacy of the
educational processes to reach the mil
lions, the failure of the leaders to find
a formula of national spirit and ex
pression that is not a mere ritual of
words—these and other factors appear
to make the prospect a gloomy one.
“Oh, yes,” he said, w'hen asked re
garding the nationalist independence
movement, “they have passed a resolu
tion in Parliament declaring for inde- 1
pendence. But what of it? It means
nothing. They might just as well pass
a resolution declaring war on England
and providing for the conquest of that
country.”
Self-Government Needed.
What India needs, said Tagore, is
that the greatest minds of the land
shall get together and And a cure for j
the evils that afflict her, to prepare the
ground for a substantial structure of
self-government. But there is no pros- ,
pect of such a work. Ghandi has one :
formula, but it is not particularly es- j
fective. Nor does it arouse the interest
of the mass of the people. Others are ;
striving in their own way. but they can
not overcome the prejudices and affilia- :
tions of large groups.
Only through education can come the
enlightenment that will enable theindeed, not so well.”
people of India to solve their own prob
lems. Tagore's own school has 200
students, all that can be accommodated.
Two hundred students in a population
of several hundred million!
“Please tell us what you think of
Western music?” asked Francis Regal
of Springfield, himself a musical critic
and aware of Tagore’s deep Interest In
music and his creation of some delight
ful compositions. Tagore smiled with
a charming crinkling of the lines of his
usually placid face.
“I have earnestly tried to appreciate
Western music, but I must say that,
although I understand what it Is all
about, I cannot fully enjoy it. I re
member that when I went to England,
a lad of 17, In 1878, Carlotta Nelllsen, a
Swedish vo«dtet, was quite the rage In
London, and I went to hear her. She
sang, with other selections, one called
'The Nightingale,” In which she imi
tated that bird. And I wondered then,
as now. why a human being should, In
appreciation of the song of birds, try to
mimic them. It seemed rather funny to
me. I have not yet quite got to the
point of appreciating Western music.”
“And Chinese music?” suggested Mr.
Rearal.
Tagore laughed.
“I cannot appreciate that any better;
It was probably Inevitable that the
i subject of “Mother India” should be
broached. So when William Philip
Simms put the question we all felt
somewhat relieved. Tagore did not
flinch at the topic which has caused
' so much bitter controversy and so much
I deep feeling. He did not spare his de
nunciation of the book as unjust, as
an unfair misrepresentation of India,
and as a grossly unpardonable mis
statement of his own views and beliefs.
The phenomenon of the enormous
circulation of this book, he said, is a
sad one to contemplate.
"I feel sorry for the people who have
such debased minds and such unwhole
some thoughts as to seek and enjoy a
work of this character. India has not
. been harmed by it as much as have
those who have read it.”
There was much more talk. It
touched upon personalities, upon prin
ciples, upon religion, politics and eco
nomics. Tagore was ready for every
question. He evaded none. He gave
no sign of fatigue, but at the end of
the conference seemed good for another
hour. But it was growing late, and the
nervous fidgeting of the fingers gave
a sign of agitation over the questions
that had brought forth some deep ex
pressions of feeling. So it was an act
of considerable kindness on the part of
our chairman in the midst of a some
what lively disputation between Tagore
and some of the members of our party
regarding the "Mother India” affair
when he arose and thanked the Hindoo
sage for his kindness and for the en
lightenment which he had shed upon
the issues and conditions affecting his
people.
Tftgore will probably always arouse
discussion regarding his influence and
his motives. But there is only one
opinion among our 11 concerning him,
and that is that he is one of the most
interesting, vivid and significant per
sonalities ever met.
Note —Another of Mr. Lyon’s letters
will appear in The Btar tomorrow.
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