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The Other Side of Idealism

Monday January 10 2005 09:10 IST

By Karmayogi

The days of freedom fight had in the atmosphere idealism of all types. Congress workers took after the Mahatma, gave up the shirt and took to an angavastram. Some merely used a towel. Stalwarts gave up a lucrative practice at the bar to boycott the British courts. Dress was simple at all levels; even students in a great majority adorned the pure khadi. To espouse a cause means to lose one's job. Every district boasted of a cluster of young men who ran Gandhi Ashram, schools for Harijan children, courted intercaste marriage, and resigned government jobs. Life rewarded many when India became free, let down the rest who became insurance agents, last level volunteers for life in one or the other political party. One such young man in the forties risked the lecturer's job, which he had gotten after a wait of ten full years, to serve the cause of education.

His cause was well served, but he lost his job. The expanding horizon of education then honoured him with a better post. All the rest of his life, he fought a losing battle. Life that grants a great mind noble idealism has a way of balancing it on the other side with the opposite. He was affectionate in the extreme, mixed with his students on equal terms, and rose to great expressions of courtesy to one and all. All this was balanced by his being conscious of his social status. His boyhood friends whose idealism reduced them to paupers were a kind of victim to his unexpressed snobbery. It was no issue for them or him. But to one who admired him for his idealism, it came as a shock and surprise. Also, he began to espouse the imaginary causes of the victims of freedom struggle. In the fervour of patriotism, a caste Hindu youth married a Harijan girl. To his surprise, he found all his idealistic colleagues refused his wife admission into their houses.

Whenever the occasion arose, this idealist Professor used to express a great sympathy for the social victim of intercaste marriage. He once said, “If I have a plot or a house, I shall gift it to him.” All his hearers were all admiration of this noble sentiment. When he acquired two houses, the idea vanished. Now he began to advise his admiring young man to donate his house to another impoverished political worker. Knowledge of Sri Aurobindo's view of life enlightened the recipient of this advice about the nature of the suggestion. Life responded in its own inimitable fashion. The idealist who offered this unpardonable advice to one of his admiring youth was compelled by Life to give away his big house to a worthless fellow. The man who received the house from the idealist had not even honoured the commitment that went with it. Idealism is noble. In the scheme of things, it has its other side.
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