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The best of Bhavan's Journal: 1954 - 2003
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What India Means to Me
John Spiers
(Published in 1981 annual number)
It is not because India is a secular state that there is toleration of all faiths here; Indians have always been tolerant. Not because they were secular, but because they were truly non-secular, truly spiritual. I came to this country when I was 23, and an idealist, in full accord with India’s aspirations for self-government. I was brought up in a working class family in cold mountainous Scotland, a country physically as different from India as you can imagine. I remember as a child crying because of the bitterness of the freezing weather, the ice and snow. The very thought of a land of sunshine made me try my hardest to get there as soon as I could. But why India? You may ask. There are so many warm countries under the sun - Mexico, Malaya, the South Sea Islands, Africa, Brazil, and so on. Well, India has always endeared itself as a name of wonder to the European.
My father had been a soldier for years in India, and so had his friends. So, as a child, I heard much about India. And then during my school days, when I began to explore the books that interested me on ancient civilizations, like those of ancient Egypt and Babylon and Greece, I found myself drawn to the source-land of the Orient, to India.And so, at the age of fourteen or so, I was reading all I could find on India. I remember the first reading the Bhagavad Gita and I remember too, reading the poetry of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. I wonder how many Indians at that age take such an interest in these things.
I wonder whether they know about Mrs. Naidu. I was stirred on reading her verses on India. It is strange how little one sees of Mrs. Naidu’s poetry on the bookstalls. She is in oblivion like many other great stalwarts of the India of my time.
There was an active branch of the Theosophical Society in my hometown, Perth. When I found that their main interest was India, both in regard to their doctrines as well as politically, through Mrs. Annie Besant’s activities - another undeservedly forgotten heroine of those days - I joined the Society and had a great enlargement of contact through their version of India.


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