July 20, 1926
From the Wandering Singer
to the Spinner-Stay-at-Home,
Today is the first time in many breathless weeks that I have
been able to find or rather invent an hour's leisure from my incredibly
strenuous programme; and in this instance it is sheer physical necessity that
has been the mother of this invention - a heart attack which I have carefully
and discreetly camouflaged as indigestion amenable to a carminative mixture so
as not to alarm my friends and enemies. But there is no doubt that I am ill:
equally is there little doubt that Bengal is more acutely and dangerously ill
than I am: what is the heart attack of a lonely, wandering singer as compared to
the heart wounds of a stricken and sorrowing land? So... I have been, in fair
weather and foul weather, incessantly carrying out, to quote Padmaja, my
"wandering mission of peace and wiping out with poetry the blood feuds of
my race". With an interval of a fortnight which I spent in the villages of
the U.P., I have been in Bengal since the middle of May, and almost every dawn
of late has seen me in a new place with the old message which is to me the very
life-breath of my being. For some reason, purely racial and sentimental, Bengal
has taken me to her inmost heart: and I think, in my fashion, I have been able
to bring some ease, some measure of healing and of hope, some measure of desire
for reconciliation to the people of tragic Bengal. Everywhere the Mussalmans
come to public meetings and to private gatherings where very frank and free talk
is possible... and as is my habit my talk is both frank and free: to the Hindus
too I speak frankly, but with a certain stern affection because they are utterly
demoralised with fear: I have been able in most places to bring Hindus and
Mussalmans together for friendly discussion and a promise to find ways
and means of mutual settlement by generous and candid consultations and
conference with one another on the basis of the Unity Conference Resolution. At
my meetings where Hindus were apprehending trouble with the car procession I was
glad to find that I was able to make Muslim leaders sit down and discuss with
Hindu leaders the possible routes and timings that would prevent clash between Muharram
and car procession and both the Hindu Sabha and Anjuman-i-Islam
secretaries signed the written plan in my presence. The unseemly split in the
Congress camp too was successfully composed by the help of Srinivasa Iyengar and
Abul Kalam who backed me up in what Motilalji calls an "alternate policy of
repression and conciliation a la British Government".
My tour in Bengal will end in a fortnight and then - to fresh fields and pastures new though the only new pasture is growing in my "own countree," brocaded with white wild gentian.
If Bengal had a stability and sternness to give immortality to her sweetness what an incomparable race would this land of beauty and death and music produce! Are you a little pleased at my endeavours though victory is very for from me as yet?
Bengal has almost forgotten Deshbandhu... Basanti Devi has become as much a legend as her husband... the memory of a nation is very frail and transitory, alas!
Umar is dead... and in few weeks men will forget him... but to a few of us who loved him, he was despite all his follies and weaknesses, an incomparable king upon earth. But alas towards the end of his life he was the unhappiest, most lonely and tragic soul in the world: too proud to ask for pity and yet mutely craving for love and understanding: I thank God that I and mine gave that love in unstinted measure to this starving and haunted heart. Poor Umar, wonderful Umar, unhappy Umar of the royal heart and royal spirit.
Lilamani nearly died... One day a cable came while I was on tour to say she must have an immediate and very serious operation. And for days we who knew nothing of her illness beforehand waited in terrible suspense to hear - whether she had survived... She is better now. But hardly had we received reassuring news of Leilamani when came this shock of Umar's death. He was not less to me than Leilamani.
I am writing you an unpardonably long letter, but it is the best rest cure for my overstrained heart.
You sit in your little room and spin: but the long, long thoughts you think as you twist the long, long thread reach out across the world and send their benediction to hungry and grieving hearts. Always on my wandering mission of peace, I feel your spirit journeys with me to the little green villages where peasants die of fevers and apathies, to the towns where the citizens die of wounds and bloodshed. Always when I proclaim the message of peace above the tumult and clangour of communal hate and strife, my voice borrows an authority and power not mine, but partly yours, for you are the great apostle of the Evangel I bear from door to door and from heart to heart. You cannot escape the implications of your own gospel even though you sit apart, inaccessible, and spin! Your affectionate, weary-in-the-flesh, unwearied-in-the-spirit,
My address for letters is c/o J. M. Sengupta, 10 Elgin Road, Calcutta.