First Impressions of India
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF INDIA.
1. The nearness of India. From London to Bombay, by Brindisi, seems a marvelously short journey, occupying little more than a fortnight broken up into four sections,— London to Brindisi, Brindisi to the Suez Canal, thence to Aden, and thence to Bombay. There is something fresh to be seen every day as far as Aden, and on reaching Bombay you wonder that you have arrived so easily and speedily.
2. Its strangeness. In Asia you seem to enter a new world. The tropical strength of the sun, the dark skins and foreign dress of the people, their languages, shops, trades, houses, and ways, all impress you as utterly different from anything in Europe or America.
3. Its vastness. India is nineteen hundred miles in length, and also in its greatest breadth. It is itself a continent. England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, put together, would scarcely make so large a country.
4. Its populousness. There is an overwhelming impression of almost countless multitudes, with needs and destinies as important as our own. One is stirred to compassion, for they are still as sheep without a shepherd. India contains one fifth of humanity, and the bulk are still utterly unevangelized.
5. Similarity of race. Unlike many others, the people of India belong to the same race as those of England, America, and Europe. Their languages and features prove them to belong to the Aryan race. This fact gives a feeling of kinship with the people.
6. Intelligence. This is true of the people generally, and of the Brahmans, and of the Parsees in particular. No audiences of students in England and America seem to me brighter or quicker in apprehension than the Hindus I have spoken to here.
7. Gentleness. Hindus exhibit an amount of suavity, docility, and submissiveness never seen in the natives of England and America, with a remarkable absence of strong, self-reliant assertiveness. Their gentleness attracts and awakens sympathy, for it is largely due to prolonged oppression.
8. Affection for children. This is manifest in fathers as well as mothers, and parental affection is returned. Deep and touching exhibitions of filial love are met with.
9. Oppression of women. They are treated as beasts of burden. They pass by thousands, carrying fuel, fruits, manure, and loads of grass, or other vegetable produce, on their heads. They are mostly short, thin, worn looking, lightly clothed, with bare arms and legs, brown as a berry, walking with short, quick steps and upright carriage. In the home the wife is a servant, and often little better than a slave. The treatment of widows is infamous. Woman is crushed here, and knows not how to raise herself out of ignorance, oppression, and degradation.
10. Absence of home life. For the majority of the people the houses are all open to the street. The rooms are rude in construction, often of unpainted boards, without ornament, with scarce any furniture, mere eating and sleeping places. The people sit in the streets. Privacy can hardly be said to exist, except in the dwellings of the rich. The effect of this on family life must be tremendous. The inmates swarm like bees in a hive, or ants in an anthill. Virtue and morality are thus loosened at their foundations, and independence and self-respect must suffer in proportion.
11. Defective drainage. The sanitation of the towns seems deplorable. The plague at present desolating Bombay has its cause in this. It is no easy thing to get three hundred millions of people, who have lived without proper drains, to mend their ways. The country is hot and dry, or the results would be much worse. Still, under English rule, a better state of things is gradually being brought about.
12. Signs of progress. Magnificent buildings, good shops, railways, post offices, telegraph stations, hospitals, libraries, schools, colleges, abound as evidences of immense progress. English rule in India is rapidly transforming social habits and civilization. The people breathe a free air, live under just laws, are protected from civil wars and cruel massacres; education is spreading; and, altogether, a new nation is being born.
13. Presence of idolatry. This vast people is wholly given to idolatry. Temples, small, dark, dirty, ugly, and repulsive, stand open everywhere. Vile images of men, monkeys, bulls, and elephants are adored. The mind and conscience of the people are in abject slavery to the vilest superstitions. The darkness of India can be felt. It is a world of moral night. Religion has become animalism. The immoral priest washes his senseless idol, and worships it before your face. The Brahman stands there to argue in his defense. The fakir sits naked in the sun, smeared with ashes, with wild, uncombed locks, like a beast from the woods, and deems himself the most religious of mankind. India worships three hundred millions of divinities. To her, God is everything, and everything is God, and, therefore, everything may be adored. Snakes and monsters are her special divinities. Her pan-deism is a pandemonium. The things she sacrifices to idols she sacrifices to devils. O for light! light! Millions grope at noon, and stumble into perdition without a warning voice. They know not the true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. And we in England and America are content to preach and press the gospel, time after time, with measureless labor and expense on our home thousands, and leave these millions untaught, unwarned, unshepherded! How is this? Our missionary societies send them a few missionaries; but what are our churches doing? What right have the churches to delegate this tremendous work of raising up the entire heathen world to a few overburdened societies? Let every church arise and do its share directly for the salvation of mankind, and the problem of the world's evangelization will soon be solved. Let every pastor, every elder, every deacon, every church-member, every Sunday-school teacher, every individual Christian, be taught to feel, "This work is mine. I am personally responsible to give the gospel to some part of this unevangelized world. I have my share to attend to in this sacred business. No other can do my work, or answer for me before the judgment seat of God. Let me do my personal part in the work of saving mankind, or renounce the name of Christian."
14. Wide-open doors. No door is shut in India. The cities are open, the towns, the villages, the streets the shops, the zenanas, the halls, the market-places, the whole country and population. You may go where you will, and say what you will, none daring to make you afraid. The people sit by the wayside waiting for you. They wait, with their meek eyes looking out for the advent of the messenger of saving truth. A change has come over their thoughts. They have begun to scorn their priests and suspect their idols. They are willing to hear God's word when it is brought to them. But there are few to bring it. Scarce one Christian in a thousand has the heart to help them. Mammon is too mighty for our pity and piety. Our small home interests hide from us the immeasurable interests of a perishing world. The millions of the heathen to most of us are as though they had no existence whatever. Who shall roll away the dark reproach? Let each one roll it from his own door. Our responsibility is individual. As individuals, let us meet it in all its magnitude.
- Rev. H. Gratton Guinness, in Missionary Review.