The Message and Ministrations of Dewan Bahadur R. Venkata Ratnam, volume 2/Chapter 2

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II

A SOCIAL PURITY ASSOCIATION.

(1891)


In health — be it of body or of mind — there is a negative or abstinent, as there is a positive or active, element of duty. On the one hand, we have to curb certain cravings or refrain from certain deeds; while, on the other hand, we should systematically exercise certain faculties or diligently practise certain acts. The duty of building up and preserving a sound body, which is undoubtedly a necessary and valuable accompaniment and auxiliary of a sound mind, resolves itself into the three main factors of temperance chastity and exercise. Scrupulous abstinence in food and drink; unblemished purity in thought, word and deed ; and free and healthy exercise to the system in harmless and invigorating recreation — these are the very tripod of health. And considering the present tastes, tendencies and avocations of our nation in general, every one of these three imperative duties requires to be strictly enforced. At a time when the "big-bellied bottle" is supposed to be the concomitant of western culture and refinement, when the "model gentleman" thinks it no blemish, if not an actual grace, in his conduct of life to be what young Novall terms a "free colt," and when it is held derogatory to one's dignity to take part in manly games or exercises, the responsibility of pruning the prejudices, refining the tastes and elevating the mo- ral tone of the people devolves with treble force upon every well-wisher of his country. And it is really cheering to observe that many a "good templars' lodge" and "band of hope" is springing up in the land as a solemn protest against intemperance or a sheltering haven unto repentant drun- kards. It is equally pleasant to behold the country studded with "courts," "courses," "turfs" and "grounds" for physical exercise of one kind or another. Our only wish is that the promoters of these very important institutions would proceed more modestly, directly and ardently towards the object in view. But alas! what are our countrymen doing to arrest the destructive spread of that social pestilence which eats into the very marrow of a nation ? There are at least as many that pollute their bodies and ruin their souls by looseness of morals as those that are indifferent to physical exercise; and for every votary of Bacchus are there not, at the lowest computation, half a dozen sons of Belial in India ? In the very capitaj of the Empire, the number of those social upas-trees whom a shameless and culpable euphemism terms "dancing girls" is so alarmingly large, according to the latest census, as to call forth a national protest and wide- spread agitation in any civilised country. But here in India they that are deeply tainted in body and mind are given the sanction and shelter even of religion. Se- dentariness may be peculiar to those that "loom large" in their own eyes ; intemperance is, generally speaking, confined to our modern educated man with his "veneer" of fashion and to the scum of our society ; but few and far between are the thresholds in the land which the "black death" of inchastity has not at some time or other crossed. And yet next to nothing is being done to exorcise this fair devil. The whole nation, with just a few honourable exceptions, is conniving at, or partaking in, the sin ; confessing by its very silence or indifference how wide-spread is the malady and how urgent the reform.

Consequently, to those that are really desirous of promoting the moral health of the nation it may be welcome news that, in the historic town of Masulipatam, a "Social Purity Association" has been started for watching or improving the moral character of its members and others. As yet our number is no doubt extremely small, and our Association very tiny ; but, as a great man once remarked, such must be the necessary feature of all good and righteous institutions.— There is such close mutual relation between thought, word and deed that every attempt to purify the national morals should touch and refine them all alike. As the good Baronet of Coverley observes, "the whole man must move forward." This principle will, to a considerable extent, explain the pledge which every member is called upon solemnly to take and religiously to keep. The pledge is as follows : —

"With thd help of God, I pledge myself to keep the following covenant : —

"(1) I will not attend any gatherings where nautches are present, or invite them myself, or do anything else that tends to encourage them.

"(2) I will not use impure language, or tell course jests, or sing indecent songs, or indulge in listening to such language, songs or jests.

"(3) I will not indulge in witnessing indecent pictures, paintings, or scenes.

"(4) I will not converse or read, for the sake of impure pleasure, about subjects that are calculated to suggest impure thoughts, and will strive my best not to entertain any such thoughts.

"(5) I will be chaste in body and will endeavour my utmost to be chaste in mind, as well as promote the cause of purity in general."

Such is the little institution with an undoubtedly noble object and with, let us hope and pray, a long and useful career before it. May God bless it ; and may sister institutions arise and flourish over the length and breadth of this ancient land!