O beautiful! O broken and betrayed!

Endure thou shall, unconquered, unafraid, ...

The two lines are from Sarojini Naidu's poem Panjab 1919 that appeared in Young India, the weekly newspaper that was integral to the freedom struggle. The rest of the poem has not aged well, written as it was at an emotive point in our history, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, but the two lines struck a chord as I looked around the third floor of the library of Tokyo University.

Serendipity had a large part to play in my finding a superb treasure, the 1981 limited edition reprint of a facsimile copy of Young India. this is the first of a 13 volume set being published by the Navjivan Trust in Ahmedabad- Tokyo University did not have the remaining 12 volumes- and from the first page onwards, there was something to see and value... Amidst the advertisements for Powell's Abdominal Belts and Pragjee Soorjee & Co.'s chemical dyes, each article points to some part of the National Movement. The measured language, the dignity, the intent, and the effort that went into the making of this newspaper is evident in each article..

The book itself is a pleasure to see- folio sized, it is hardbound in Khadi katiya silk, and the volume I saw was numbered 46 out of a total of 250 copies that were produced. However, very little information is available in the public domain on this book- nothing at the Navjivan Trust site, for instance, or for that matter anywhere in the web. Copies of the book are, naturally, not available easily. I'm not sure that our University Library has copies, for instance, and some of our historians specialise in the National movement.. The Nehru Memorial Museum Library, arguably the most important library for our national movement does not have it- we checked... And more surprisingly, digital copies of Young India are not available, not even at a price. At the present time, this seems, at best, a little sad.

If, as Borges famously imagined, heaven to be a kind of library, then the Tokyo University Department of Mathematics library seems like a little slice of paradise. where I have just spent some happy hours...

There is no point in comparing this experience to one I had less than a month ago in Chennai where I went looking for some papers published in some Indian journals from the 1930's and 1940's, before digitization was upon us. At Tokyo University, the issues were here, neatly bound, properly catalogued... with very few missing volumes. I could spend my time on what I wanted to spend my time on, instead of commiserating with a substitute librarian about the shoddy conditions of work, pay, and so on... And to think that some of the volumes dated from the time of World War II, when both countries were at war, and on opposite sides!

But to come back to Young India, and to Sarojini Naidu. In today's world, who is "Beautiful, broken, and betrayed?" A visit to any of our libraries will tell you, we are. And of course, endure we shall, because we must. But diminished, perhaps conquered and probably afraid.

Comments