56 ART OF LETTER WRITING All that was done in that respect during the first World War was sheer madness. The offensive at Verdun, for example, was an act of lunacy. From beginning to end, all the commanders responsible for that operation should have been put in strait-jackets. We've not yet completely got over those mistaken notions. It's probable that, throughout the 1914-1918 war, some twenty thousand men were uselessly sacrificed by employing them as runners on missions that could have been equally well accomplished by night, with less danger. How often I myself have had to face a powerful artillery barrage, in order to carry a simple post-card! It's true that later I had a commanding officer who completely put a stop to these practices. The spirit has changed since those days, and a day will come when such absurdities can no longer occur. A war commander must have imagination and foresight. So it's not extraordinary that our people is at once a people of soldiers and of artists. My strength lies in the fact that I can imagine the situations that the troops are called upon to face. And I can do that because I've been an ordinary soldier myself. Thus one acquires the rapid understanding of the appropriate steps to take in every kind of circumstance. 38 Night of I3th-i4th October 1941 How to expand—How to wait—How to meditate—How to recognise essentials. I've acquired the habit of avoiding every kind of vexation, once evening has come—otherwise I wouldn't be able to free myself from it all night. I likewise have the habit of allowing my despatch-rider to have a rest before I send him off. Some people are perhaps astonished not to get an answer to their letters. I dictate my mail, then I spend a dozen hours without bothering about it. Next day I make a first set of corrections, and perhaps a second set the day after. In doing so, I'm being very prudent. Nobody can use a letter in my own hand against me. Besides, it's my opinion that, in an age when we have facilities like the train, the motor-car and the aircraft, it's much better to meet
ABILITY TO RELAX 57 than to write, at least when some matter of capital importance is at issue. You easily get your mind excited when you're writing to people. You want to show them your mettle. Your correspondent, of course, has the same wish. He answers you in the same tone, or else he rushes to see you in order to insult you. Not long ago one of my colleagues came to ask my advice on how to answer an offensive letter. I simply forbade him to reply. We have a ridiculous law by which, in matters of insult, a complaint must be lodged immediately, or else the right to bring suit lapses. It would be much more just to decide that complaints on such matters cannot be lodged until after a delay of three weeks. In fact, as a rule the complainant's anger would have gone up in smoke, and the work of the courts would be lightened. I write drafts of letters only concerning matters of vital importance. It's what I did, for example, for the Four Year Plan—and last year, when I was contemplating the action against Russia. At present, I spend about ten hours a day thinking about military matters. The resulting orders are a matter of half an hour, or three-quarters of an hour. But first of all every operation has to be studied and thought over at length. It sometimes takes up to six months for the thought to be elaborated and made precise. Doubtless the time will come when I shall no longer have to concern myself with the war or the Eastern front, for it will be only a matter of carrying out what has been already foreseen and ordered. Thus, while these operations are being completed, I shall be able to devote my mind to other problems. What is fortunate for me is that I know how to relax. Before going to bed I spend some time on architecture, I look at pictures, I take an interest in things entirely different from those that have been occupying my mind throughout the day. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep. What would happen to me if I didn't have around me men
Vaishali Shah has visited many places to promote our Indian cultures. On the holy Makar Sankranti day this year the traveler Vaishali Shah was fortunate to be at the haveli of Mahaprabhuji. The journey to Champaranya was so refreshing and beautiful.