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TEN: BEYOND THE PEN & THE HAND – Jawaharlal Nehru’s thoughts and sayings on building a New India



Looking Forward

We are citizens of no mean country and we are proud of the land of our birth, of our people, our culture and traditions….

We have a long way to go and much leeway to make up before we can take our proper station with others in the van of human civilization and progress. And we have to hurry, for the time at our disposal is limited and the pace of the world grows even swifter.

I invite all of you to become partners in this great enterprise of building a new India.

India is an ancient country with millennia of history behind her but she faces the world today as a young and dynamic nation.

To endeavour to understand and describe the India of today would be the task of a brave man, to say anything about tomorrow’s India would verge on rashness. Indeed, at no time in the world’s history has it been more difficult to forecast the future of any country or of the world. Events move at an incredible pace, and change follows change.

But when that society is changing from day to day, it is difficult to know how to prepare and what to aim at.

I dare not look into the crystal ball any more, but I have given you some vague idea of how I look at the future of India. That gives me hope and a sense of function. After all, it will be for others to decide and to work for this future India.

Throughout India’s history we see two sets of contradictory forces at work-those in favour of a synthesis and absorption and those fissiparous tendencies which separate. Today we face the same problem in a different context. There are powerful forces working for unity, not only political but cultural also. There are also forces that disrupt and lay stress on separateness.

What I seek in the eyes of the innumerable men and women when I go round the country is great and high ambition to do great things. Sometimes, I see some eyes which rather thrill me; there is something of quality in them. The more I see such eyes or faces, the more I am assured of the future, which depends on the men and women who have the spirit of adventure and who do not flinch from difficulty.

So, in the tumult and confusion of our time, we stand facing both ways, forward to the future and backwards to the past, being pulled in both directions.

How can we resolve this conflict and evolve a structure for living which fulfils our material needs and, at the same time, sustains our mind and spirit? What new ideals or old ideals, varied and adapted to the new world, can we place before our people, and how can we galvanize them into wakefulness and action?

The future is dark, uncertain. But we can see part of the way leading to it and can tread it with firm steps, remembering that nothing that can happen is likely to overcome the spirit of man which has survived so many perils; remembering also that life, for all its ills, has joy and beauty, and that we can always wander, if we know how to, in the enchanted woods of nature.

Shall we not also think of our tomorrow sometimes? If we are thinking in terms of progress, we have to build for a tomorrow that will make progress possible; and we have to build on a firm foundation, even though the laying of that foundation may create some difficulties today. That is the correct attitude..

I felt how good it would be if the rest of India would also think more in terms of constructive and creativity effort rather than of conflict.

So I love this work-this constructive work which you do. But I do not think that all that we do is sheer work of destruction. Our work may not bring the results that it ought to bring. Sometimes the results are terribly disheartening.

Happiness and work are really wedded together, for there can be no true happiness without a feeling of doing something worthwhile. And what can be more worthwhile for any of us in this great land of India than to participate in the building up anew of this ancient and Ever-Young country?

A new India is being built up and new responsibilities will devolve on young shoulders. Ultimately the country’s burden will fall on the present generation and if it does not equip itself for the task, I don’t know what will happen to the country?

The fight during the freedom movement was of a different nature and now people have to reconstruct the country not by slogans but by discipline.

Often, as I look at this world, I have a sense of mysteries, of unknown depths. The urge to understand it, in so far as I can, comes to me: to be in tune with it and to experience it in its fulness. But the way to that understanding seems to me essentially the way of science, the way of objective approach, though I realize that there can be no such thing as true objectiveness. If the subjective element is unavoidable and inevitable, it should be conditioned as far as possible by the scientific method.

Science is advancing far beyond the comprehension of a very great part of the human race and posing problems which most of us are incapable of understanding, much less of solving. Hence the inner conflict and tumult of our time. On the one side, there is this great and overpowering progress in science and technology and of their manifold consequences; on the other, a certain mental exhaustion of civilization itself.

We have to break through this barrier by profiting by the new sources of power and modern techniques. But in doing so, we should not forget the basic human element and the fact that our objective is individual improvement and the lessening of ine qualities; and we must not forget the ethical and spiritual aspects of life which are ultimately the basis of culture and civilization and have given some meaning to life.

Unless we have some clarity of, at any rate, are clear as to the questions posed to us, we shall not get out of the confusion that afflicts the world today. I do not pretend to have that clarity of thinking or to have any answers to our major questions. All I can say, in all humility, is that I am constantly thinking about these questions. In a sense I might say that I rather envy those who have got fixed ideas and therefore need not take the trouble to look deeper into the problems of today. Whether it is from the point of view of some religion or ideology, they are not troubled with the mental conflicts which are always the accompaniment of the great ages of transition.

And yet, even though it may be more comfortable to have fixed ideas and be complacent, surely that is not to be commended because that can only lead to stagnation and decay. The basic fact of today is the tremendous pace of change in human life. In my own life I have seen amazing changes, and I am sure that in the course of the life of the next generation these changes will be even greater, if humanity is not overwhelmed and annihilated by an atomic war.

Nothing is so remarkable as the progressive conquest of understand ing of the physical world by the mind of men today, and this process is continuing at a terrific pace.

It is not an easy task for us to rebuild India. It is very big problem, though we are a numerous people, and there is no lack of resources in India, there is no lack of human beings, capable, intelligent and hard working. We have to use these resources, this manpower in India.

India can look forward with assurance to sustained economic progress. Even in this ancient land, for so long governed by tradition, the winds of change are blowing and affecting not only the dweller in the city but also the peasant in his field. At each stage, new conflicts and new challenges arise. They have to be met with courage and confidence. There is an excitement in this changing face of India as the drama of India’s development plans unfolds itself.

The touchstone, therefore, should be how far any political or social theory enables the individual to rise above his petty self and thus I think in terms of the good of all. The law of life should not be competition or acquisitiveness but co-operation, the good of each contributing to the good of all. In such a society the emphasis will be on duties, not on rights; the rights will follow the performance of the duties. We have to give a new direction to education and evolve a new type of humanity.

Often our difficulty has been that we take up large schemes and talk rather big, but in implementing them we lag behind. This is not a good thing. It is better to take up small schemes and complete them immediately.

We want dynamism in our activity, in our implementation, not eloquence in our resolutions and in our discussions. At the present moment in India, we have to get going in certain directions. We have to move fast and our activities have to be efficient and co-ordinated.

The more developed region in a country tends to grow faster. The less developed region either does not grow at all or grows at a snail’s pace.

In the solution of these problems the way of observation and precise knowledge and deliberate reasoning, according to the method of science, must be followed. This method may not always be applicable in our quest of truth, for art and poetry and certain psychic experiences seem to belong to a different order of things and to elude the objective methods of science.

In the constructive schemes that we may make, we have to pay attention to the human material we have to deal with, to the background of its thought and urges, and to the environment in which we have to function. To ignore all this and to fashion some idealistic scheme in the air, or merely to think in terms of imitating what others have done elsewhere, would be folly.

Influencing the future, partly determining it, possibly even largely determining it, and yet, surely, it is not all determinism.

There is no natural conflict between free will and determinism. Life is both. Life is like a game of cards. You have no control over the hand that is dealt you. The hand corresponds to determinism; the way you play the cards corresponds to free will.

Because it is difficult for me to judge myself. But, partly, I suppose. because there is still somewhere in me a bit of the young man of twenty or thirty. I have changed, no doubt; but I am not completely divorced from that young man.

But one thing I may tell you: in spite of all the happenings which I have gone through, all the disappointments and disillusionments. I seldom felt frustrated for any length of time.

There is no reason or logic for my saying so. But there is in me a sense of confidence in the future: in India’s future; in the world’s future. A confidence which I cannot justify by any reasoning because if I sit down to reason, all kinds of other thoughts come in. This feeling is helped, partly, I suppose. by my relative good health. I have a sense of adventure and joy in life; in work and in doing things in general. And this carries me very far, without ever depressing me.

The Work You Do

Nobody could say how quickly one can change an old habit which is considered undesirable. But if cone goes ahead, im a certain direction, the pace gradually quickens. Also, apart from legislative habits, changes take place in the social order itself. Industrialization and many other changes come in. People work together and that in itself shakes up the old agricultural outlook, the outlook of isolated villages. All this is happening. But everything should be taken together. What will finally emerge will be, of course, the balance of these various forces.

I’II have loved India and sought to serve her not because of her geographical magnitude, not even because she was great in the past, but because of my faith in her today and my belief that she will stand for truth and freedom and the higher things of life.

The problems which India faces are to some extent common to other countries, but we have new problems for which there are no parallels cor historical precedents cèlesewhere.

We are little men serving a great cause, but because the cause is great something of that greatness falls upon us also. And so we have to labour and to work and work hard to give reality to our dreams.

The older I grow the more I feel that there is so much to be learnt and studied and so little time to do it in. Most of us after a very perfunctory education imagine that we have learnt as much as is necessary and do not even attempt to increase our knowledge. This is sad, for progress can only come with knowledge and the few years that we spend at school and college teach us precious little.

College etc. does not teach very much but it serves an important purpose by training and developing our minds and making us capable of self-educating ourselves in life’s ways later on.

Then with this background of mental training and a wider culture I expected you to return to India and discover the fascinating thing that is India.

The work you do here should be infused with adventure, life, and the things that come out of life. When you are building a bridge, it signifies infinitely more than just a bridge. When you are working for a river valley scheme, for instance, you must also see the other vast things that flow from it besides canals and irrigation… There is something even more important than these, and that is, the progress of humanity…..

A nation cannot progress if it merely imitates its ancestors. What builds a nation is creative, inventive and vital activity.

It will not profit a man very much if he is clever with his hands, o even with his tongue or brain but has no foundations of character o wider vision. Such a society will ultimately perish.

We should not be afraid of innovations.

Men and women, who have ideals and objectives before them and the urge to achieve them, do not wait for the turn of fortune’s wheel.

One inch per day is not enough. You have to find, therefore, a measure of advance which produces sense of vitality in him; a sense of self-confidence in him, a desire t work harder for further advance. How much that is? -The more the better, of course.

In other words, the essential thing is to produce a certain psychology in people. I believe that it can be done.

To hell with the man who cannot walk fast. It serves him right if he gets out of the ranks and falls out. We want no sluggards. I want work and work and work…

Here, so far as the people are concerned, they want to go as far as you can take them. They won’t obstruct the way. It is the vested interests and other interests which do. I am not using the term “vested interest” in a bad sense. I want to change the “vested interests”. I do not want to destroy them. Actually, I think that here in India they are a little more amenable to reason than possibly in other countries. Maybe it is due to public pressure; may be it is due to the whole development of our movement. Maybe they are realizing that it is no good opposing such a big movement. Whatever it is, they are amenable. They try to influence as much as they can. But if a thing is done they accept it.

So, I think, it is possible for us to go ahead by democratic means. In fact, the difficulties arise, if I may say so, not from the “capitalists” or of this group or that, but rather from the difference of views within the smaller directing groups; within the Government and others. Not that this different way of thinking is in opposition, but it differs….

Democratic planning means the utilization of all our available resources and, in particular, the maximum quantity of labour willingly given and rightly directed so as to promote the good of the community and individual.


I look far…towards this our country. India, whose children we are. Where is she going? Where have we to lead her, which way have we to walk and what mighty tasks have we to undertake? Some of these will be completed in our lifetime. Others will be taken up and completed by those who come after us. The work of a nation or a country is never completed. It goes on…

We have thus to do our own thinking, profiting by the example of others, but essentially trying to find a path for ourselves suited to our own conditions.

Tomorrow’s India will be what we make it by today’s labours. I have no doubt that India will progress industrially and otherwise; that she will advance in science and technology.

Our economy and social structure have outlived their day, and it has become a matter of urgent necessity for us to refashion them so that they may promote, the happiness of all our people in this material and spiritual. We have to aim deliberately at a social philosophy which seeks a fundamental transformation of this struc ture, a society which is not dominated by the urge at for private profit and by individual greed and inwhich there is a fair distribution of political and economic power. We must aim at a classless society, based on co-operative effort, with opportunities for all. To realise this we have to pursue peaceful methods in a democratic way.

Political wisdom consists in anticipating events and guiding them. I do not like dictatorships. I do not like authoritarian regimes. I am sure that I would not survive an authoritarian regime..

I want you to do things… I want you to build India. Can you conceive of a bigger thing than to build this new country of ours.

The people of India today, with all their burdens and problems, live on the frontier of a new world which they are helping to build. In order to cross this frontier they have to possess courage and enterprise, the spirit of endurance and capacity for hard work, and the vision of the future.

And so…we worked in India and we shall continue working as long as there is any energy and spirit left in us. What is one’s purpose? How is one to shape the future when, with so many events, the pace of change becomes ever faster?

We have started on this pilgrimage with strong purpose and good heart, and we shall reach the end of the journey, however long that might be.

I am not a religious man, dogmas do not appeal to me; nor am I really interested in the after-life and all that. Why should I worry myself? The problems of the day are enough for me and I do not care what happens to me or to my reputation once I am dead. When I am dead, what does it matter to me.

What does matter to me is that things I have worked for should prosper and the country should continue in the same direction, or in some better way if that is devised later.

There is no journey’s end when a nation is marching.

Thus, in the final analysis, one just works. The Gita says, work we must for results, but not to care too much about the results. It really means, to work but not to be so utterly attached to the results that they upset one. In other words, to have a certain detachment even in the midst of action.

The future is not one of case or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of INDIA means the service of millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease, and inequality of opportunity

You know we have to carry on till we reach our goal. And often I feel a certain measure of dissatisfaction at the inactive character of much of the work that we do, of the destructive character of our work.

You know we have to carry on till we reach our goal.

Credits: National Institute of Urban Affairs. | BIBLIOGRAPHY

The text has been created using OCR, so there may be some errors. We are taking every effort to fix the errors.
To read all the published thoughts by Jawaharlal Nehru on building a New India,

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