XLI. AN INSTRUCTIVE
From its very inception the Khadi movement, Swadeshi
movement as it was then called, evoked much criticism
from the mill-owners. The late Umar Sobani, a capable
mill-owner himself, not only gave me the benefit of his
own knowledge and experience, but kept me in touch with
the opinion of the other mill-owners as well. The
argument advanced by one of these deeply impressed him.
He pressed me to meet him. I agreed. Mr. Sobani arranged
the interview. The mill-owner opened the conversation.
'You know that there has been Swadeshi agitation
before now ?'
'Yes, I do,' I replied.
'You are also aware that in the days of the Partition
we, the mill- owners, fully exploited the Swadeshi
movement. When it was at its height, we raised the prices
of cloth, and did even worse things.'
'You, I have heard something about it, and it has
'I can understand your grief, but I can see no ground
for it. We are not conducting our business out of
philanthropy. We do it for profit, we have got to satisfy
the shareholders. The price of an article is governed by
the demand for it. Who can check the law of demand and
supply ? The bengalis should have known that their
agitation was bound to send up the price of Swadeshi
cloth by stimulating the demand for it.'
I interrupted: 'The Bengalis like me were trustful in
their nature. They believed, in the fulness of their
faith, that the mill-owners would not be so utterly
selfish and unpatriotic as to betray their country in the
hour of its need, and even to go the length, as they did,
of fraudulently passing off foreign cloth as Swadeshi.'
'I knew your believing nature,' he rejoined; 'that is
why I purt you to the trouble of coming to me, so that I
might warn you against falling into the same error as
these simple-hearted Bengalis.'
With these words the mill-owner beckoned to his clerk
who wa standing by to produce samples of the stuff that
was being manufactured in his mill. Pointing to it he
said: 'Look at this stuff. This is the latest variety
turned out by our mill. It is meeting with a widespread
demand. We manufacture it from the waste. Naturally,
therefore, it is cheap. We send it as far North as the
valleys of the Himalayas. We have agencies all over the
country, even in places where your voice or your agents
can never reach. You can thus see that we do not stand in
need of more agents. Besides, you ought to know that
India's production of cloth falls far short of its
requirements. The question of Swadeshi, therefore,
largely resolves itself into one of production. The
moment we can increase our production sufficiently, and
improve its quality to the necessary extent, the import
of foreign cloth will automatically cease. extent, the
import of foreign cloth will automatically cease. My
advice to you, therefore, is not to carry on your
agitation on its present lines, but to turn your
attention to the erection of fresh mills. What we need is
not propaganda to inflate demand for our goods, but
'Then, surely, you will bless my effort, if I am
laready engaged in that very thing,' I asked.
'How can that be ?' he exclaimed, a bit puzzled, 'but
may be, you are thinking of promoting the establishment
of new mills, in which case you certainly deserve to be
' I am not doing exactly that,' I explained, 'but I am
engaged in the revival of the spinning wheel.'
'What is that ?' he asked, feeling still more at sea.
I told him all about the spinning wheel, and the story of
my long quest after it, and added, 'I am entirely of your
opinion; it is no use my becoming virtually an agent for
the mils. That would do more harm than good to the
country. Our mills will not be in want of custom for a
long time to come. My work should be, and therefore is,
to organize the production of handspun cloth, and to find
means for the disposal of the Khadi thus produced. I am,
therefore, concentrating my attention on the production
of Khadi. I swear by this form of Swadeshi, because
through it I can provide work to the semi-starved,
semi-employed women of India. My idea is to get these
women to spin yarn, and to clothe the people of India
with Khadi woven out of it. I do not know how far this
movement is going to succeed, at present it is only in
the incipient stage. But i have full faith in it. At any
rate it can do no harm. On the contrary to the extent
that it can add to the cloth production of the country,
he it ever so small, it will represent so much solid
gain. You will thus perceive that my movement is free
from the evils mentioned by you.'
He replied, 'If you have additional production in view
in organizing your movement, I have nothing to say
against it. Whether the spinning wheel can make headway
in this age of power machinery is another question. But I
for one wish you every success.