I cannot recall if I was influenced by anybody in particular. The reason, probably, is that during the years that one personally seeks to be influenced, that is, from the ages of sixteen to twenty two, I was not a free man. No, I was not in jail. Only I was, kind of, a bonded person. A tremendous lot of money – considering our resources – was being spent on my education. This was a sort of advance to me in the same way as one gives to farm labour in order to hire to work exclusively for oneself for a year or two. I could not allow my mind to be dyed in the colors of worth my while unless it helped me to get a job after my education. Besides, an ideology is like a big river to which a number of streams have joined. At any particular time, it is only a development of what had existed earlier. Even if one happens to be influenced by an ideology he may not be attracted to a particular exponent of it. That is how I escaped being influenced by anyone in the sense of adopting him as a Guru.
But as I settled down in life later, I found that I had some models before me to whom I was frequently referring for my moral bearings.
One of these was my brother who is about eight years older than me. All his life this man had never known what it was like to see daybreak in bed. He worked sixteen to seventeen hours a day, summer and winter. He knew it was a great luxury to sit under a roof in June, even without a fan, but he could not enjoy it without compromising his dignity as a worker. He had never known a holiday except when he went to a fair or to the village at his in-laws’. The extremes of weather held no terror for him. In fact, in hot May, he would go round and round on heaps of unthreshed, or partly threshed wheat from sunrise to sunset. The wonder of wonders, he really wanted it to be hotter so that the wheat may get threshed more effectively. On the farm he was not supposed to sleep soundly which one would think was his right. He was expected to sleep only in an alert manner (Tagre Ho Ke) so that thieves did not drive away his bullocks. What would he plough with then? In winter nights he dipped himself every now and then in canal water, which is as cold as water can ever get before freezing, in order to control and spread it into his fields. Yet he had no complaints because all those in the village who had strength and stamina and were free from vices, worked like him. To be able to do hard work was a distinction. He was always cheerful; even in high spirits. I could tell this from the way he behaved with his bullocks, and other animals. He himself, planned his unending labour because he had no boss unless, our father was the boss. An exposure to this kind of life on the part of our intellectuals, educationists and policy makers, which can only be by participation, would change our thinking and philosophy completely. It would also put in their place, people like Niren Chaudhury who think that sloth has an ancient and permanent home in India and whose total framework of thought is based on this wrong premise. It is only because of this misconception that they want to denigrate and destroy everything Indian and adopt everything British.
Later in life, when I heard about things like the number of hours per week for which a person was required to work and a list of holidays in addition to the Sunday, which came every week, I could not understand them. I could never share the talk about boredom merely because one had to do the same work every day with the same people or pass the same road day after day. I knew that boredom was not in the work or in the people or in the road but in their own systems. My brother had been doing the same work in the same fields with the same bullocks year after year and with great gusto.
This one bright example solved the problem of work for me for life. I always had the feeling of being under worked. I know how much work some others were doing and how much more was required from me before I was quits with life and society. It also formed my views on relaxation, entertainment and diversion, on clubs and social visits. I know it, firmly, without the least doubt, that in a poor society like ours, all these were mere indulgences and even sins. One of these is that hard physical work does not dull your mental faculties and that your stay as sharp and agile as ever, even if you have had no education. Another is that human sweat is not dirty and no harm would come to any one who wore clothes drenched in sweat, say, for a week; that tooth brushes and pastes were stupid inventions of a useless industry. Even the datan-like cleanliness was meant only to give the bourgeoisie a feeling of superiority over the worker who had no time for it. My brother had never touched any of these things all his life; and his teeth at sixty five years, are as good as they were at fifteen.