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Bangalore:  2 April 2005                                      Copied from “Keepsake - Vol. I”

78)   Aldous  Huxley in  “Jesting  Pilate”

The following are the observations  made by Aldous Huxley during his travel through India  in 1920s


To the eye of pure reason there is something singularly illogical about the way in which the Hindu shrinks from killing cows for eating their flesh when dead, but have no scruples about making the life of the sacred animals, by their ill treatment, a hell on earth.   So strict is the orthodoxy in Kashmir that Bovril is confiscated at the frontier ……… and yet nothing is done to protect these god-like animals from any cruelty that does not actually result in death.   They are underfed and when used as draft animals, mercilessly overdriven.   When the goad fails to make them move, their driver will seize them by the tail and, going through the motion of one who tries to start up a Ford car, violently twist.   In winter when the fodder runs short, the Kashmiris pack their beasts together in a confined space until they begin to sweat, then turn them into the snow, in the hope that they will catch Pneumonia and die.   To the eye of reason, I repeat it, it certainly seems strange, but then the majority of human actions are not meant to be looked at with the eye of reason.


In Cawnpore Congress the Tamil speaking delegates called for English speeches while speeches were in Hindi.   One of the delegates excited, complained to Mothilal Nehru that he spent more than Rs. 100  and understood not a word of his.   Later in the day, one of his compatriots mounted the rostrum and retaliated on the North by making a very long and totally incomprehensible speech in Tamil.   The North was furious, naturally.   These are some of the minor complexities of Indian politics

BENARES:.   (Huxley was in Benares during a solar eclipse day on the banks of the Ganges)

At a given moment the eyes of faith must have observed the nibbling of the demoniacal serpent  (here the reference is to the Hindu belief that a celestial snake, Rahu swallows the Sun and later vomits the Sun out thus causing the Solar eclipse. - CDN )   For suddenly and simultaneously all those on the lowest steps of the ghats threw themselves into the water and began to wash, gargle, to say their prayers and blow their noses, to spit and drink.   A numerous band of police abbreviated their devotions and their bath in the interest of the crowd behind.   The front of the waiting queue was a thousand yards wide, but a million people were waiting .   the bath must have gone on uninterruptedly the whole day.

Time passed.   The serpent went on nibbling imperceptibly at the Sun.   The Hindus counted their beads and prayed , made ritual gestures, ducked under the sacred slime, drank and were moved on by the police to make room for another instalment of patient millions.

Being stupid and having no imagination, animals behave far more sensible than men.  Efficiently and by instinct they do the right, appropriate thing at the right moment  -- eat when they are hungry, look for water when they are thirsty, make love in the mating season, rest or play when they have leisure.   Men are intelligent and imaginative; they look backward and ahead;  they invent ingenious explanations for observed phenomenon;  they elaborate and roundabout means for the achievements of remote ends.

No animal, for example, is clever and imaginative enough to suppose that an eclipse is the work of a serpent devouring the Sun.    That is sort of explanation that could occur only to human mind.   And only human beings would dream of making ritualistic gestures in the hope of influencing the outer world, for his own benefit.   While the animal obedient to its instinct, goes quietly about its business, men, being endowded with reason and imagination, wastes half his time and energy in doing things that are completely idiotic.

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