Nehru - Toward Freedom (1936).pdf

But more than all these festivals i was interested in

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But more than all these festivals I was interested in one annual event in which I played the central part the celebration of the anni- 23
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versary of my birth. This was a day of great excitement for me. Early in the morning I was weighed in a huge balance against some bagfuls of wheat and other articles which were then distributed to the poor; and then I arrayed myself in new clothes and received presents, and later in the day there was a party. I felt the hero of the occasion. My chief grievance was that my birthday came so rarely. Indeed, I tried to start an agitation for more frequent birthdays. I did not realize then that a time would come when birthdays would become unpleasant reminders of advancing age. Sometimes the whole family journeyed to a distant town to attend a marriage, either of a cousin of mine or of some more distant rela tion or friend. Those were exciting journeys for us children, for all rules were relaxed during these marriage festivities, and we had the free run of the place. Numerous families usually lived crowded to gether in the shadi-J^hana, the marriage house, where the party stayed, and there were many boys and girls and children. On these occasions I could not complain of loneliness, and we had our heart's fill of play and mischief, with an occasional scolding from our elders. Indian marriages, both among the rich and the poor, have had their full share of condemnation as wasteful and extravagant display. They deserve all this. Even apart from the waste, it is most painful to see the vulgar display which has no artistic or aesthetic value of any kind. (Needless to say there are exceptions.) For all this the really guilty people are the middle classes. The poor are also extravagant, even at the cost of burdensome debts, but it is the height of absurdity to say, as some people do, that their poverty is due to their social customs. It is often forgotten that the life of the poor is terribly dull and mo notonous, and an occasional marriage celebration, bringing with it some feasting and singing, comes to them as an oasis in a desert of soulless toil, a refuge from domesticity and the prosaic business of life. Who would be cruel enough to deny this consolation to them, who have such few occasions for laughter? Stop waste by all means, lessen the extravagance (big and foolish words to use for the little show that the poor put up in their poverty!), but do not make their life more drab and cheerless than it is. So also for the middle' classes. Waste and extravagance apart, these marriages are big social reunions where distant relations and old friends meet after long intervals. India is a big country, and it is not easy for friends to meet, and for many to meet together at the same time is still more difficult.
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