Rushing through life

I was recently on a superfast night train from Bangalore to my hometown in Kerala. I got up just before dawn and stood looking out of the door watching the land slowly wake up from sleep. The train was travelling very fast as we raced through the monsoon-wet, lush-green landscape. Nearby, streams wound their way through fields in which herons and storks waded. In the distance, the mists rolled down from the tops of green hills into the folds and valleys below. Here and there, in the morning coolness, the smoke from wood-fires was rising over red-tiled roofs as people started going about their daily business. It was all very serene and beautiful!

And we were rushing through all this at 130 kmph!

The streams and fields and hills in the distance were all talking to some deep, hidden part in me, inviting me to stop and stay, but I knew that this could never be. My long education is in rushing through and I would not know what to do if I find myself standing near the streams or fields or hills in the distance. I have a strong suspicion that human beings are designed to stand near streams and fields and hills and watch interestedly as the sun and moon and stars and people rise and set. I have a strong suspicion that this is where happy fulfilled lives can be lived. But, in my case, it reminds me too much of how small children were taught to swim in Kerala. When I was young we were thrown into the pond and we learned to swim and we learned to love swimming. The thought scares me. I think I will continue to rush through life at 130 kmph!

(Excerpt from Hind Swaraj by Gandhiji as an afterword:)

EDITOR: . . . . Railways accentuate the evil nature of man. Bad men fulfil their evil designs with greater rapidity. The holy places of India have become unholy. Formerly, people went to these places with very great difficulty. Generally, therefore, only the real devotees visited such places. Nowadays rogues visit them in order to practise their roguery.

READER: You have given a one-sided account. Good men can visit these places as well as bad men. Why do they not take the fullest advantage of the railways?

EDITOR: Good travels at a snail’s pace. It can, therefore, have little to do with the railways. Those who want to do good are not selfish, they are not in a hurry, they know that to impregnate people with good requires a long time. But evil has wings. To build a house takes time. Its destruction takes none. So the railways can become a distributing agency for the evil one only. It may be a debatable matter whether railways spread famines, but it is beyond dispute that they propagate evil.

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