Chapter 21: Personality: The Carbon Cop-out
The first question:
Why were you so mischievous in your childhood?
Do you think I am different? Not a bit. I am still the same. I did not allow my childhood to be spoiled by anybody. And what you think of as mischievous, I have never thought about it in that way. Even today I don’t think that anything I have ever done was a mischief. I had my reasons, and very valid reasons.
For example: the first day I entered high school from my middle school. In high school they used to have a prayer at the beginning of the day. It was a very famous song of Mirza Iqbal, who was one of the greatest Urdu poets of this age. As far as the language is concerned, it is certainly a great piece of art, but the philosophy behind it is ugly. The song says: “My country, my nation, is the best of all the nations. My country is a beautiful garden and we are nightingales in this garden.” And that’s the way it goes on.
I said to the principal who was standing in front of the two thousand students and fifty teachers, “I will not participate in this prayer because to me this is absolute rubbish. Every country thinks of itself in the same way and every country has its ego in it.
“You ask the Chinese, you ask the Japanese, you ask the Germans, you ask the English, you ask anybody - they all think the same. So what Iqbal has written is simply rubbish as far as the philosophical background is concerned. And I am against the very concept of “nation.” The world is one; I cannot say that my country is the best of all the countries.
“And I don’t even see the reason for singing the song. It is not only that I am against nationalism, the song is untrue too, because what do you have? - poverty, slavery, starvation, sicknesses, increasing population and increasing problems. And you call this our garden and we are its nightingales! I don’t see a single nightingale anywhere! These fifty teachers are here; can anybody raise his hand and say, ‘I am a nightingale’? Let him sing, and let us see! These two thousand students are here; can anyone say it? Look at these poor students.”
And they used to come from faraway villages, miles every day, from at least a twenty mile radius around the city, because there was no other high school except this. “They walk, they come utterly tired, they are hungry. And I have seen what they bring with them: just dry bread, not even buttered, and a little piece of salt. That’s all that they bring every day and every day they eat it.