My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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HYDERABAD, India, Tuesday ,—I have been reading a very interesting book which Sir G.S. Bajpai loaned me. It is called, "Sum of History" by Grousset, a Frenchman, and it gives one a brief digest of some of the complications that meet one in trying to understand religions which enter so deeply into the lives of individuals in this part of the world. I doubt very much if any Westerner can understand the symbolism and feeling which every gesture and every act of daily life seem to have, nor the complications within the castes.

There are more than a thousand different kinds of Brahmins, for instance, and so it goes in other groups. I can well understand, as the days go on, what one of the oldest newspapermen told me on my first day in India. "Either you write a book about India before you have been here a month," he said, "or you never write it at all."

After breakfast this morning I did some dictating, and the Finance Minister, who was so kind to us in Mysore and Bangalore, came to take us to the airport. He drove us through a lovely garden in which some of the trees must date back for hundreds of years and where Tagore, the famous Bengali poet is said to have made some of his most interesting talks.

The flower shows here are held in a building in the center of the garden, and the garden itself was laid out by the same landscape gardeners who did the gardens of Kew near London. England also has left here, as it has in so many other places, a bit of its own architecture in the palace of Bangalore, which is a copy of a small section of Windsor Castle. The British left their imprint on the gardens, on the buildings, and in the excellent civil servants, which they trained, and in the understanding of administration which is very evident in India and very lacking in Pakistan.

I doubt, however, if the British made a dent in the Indian spirit or character in spite of sending Indians to be educated in British universities and be trained in their armies, or of British titles and decorations received here.

The Indian people probably are as far from being understood by the British today as they ever were, and I wonder if any of us, even though we were to stay here a long time, could fully understand the deepest inward feelings of India or its people. Some of this understanding they themselves can give us, but some of it is bred into them and I doubt if they can give it expression in words.

The Finance Minister was deeply concerned for the need for economic development of his state of Mysore, and because of the Rockefeller Foundation, which has done so much there, there should be very good industrial opportunities. And these could offer real assurances of success.

I was sorry I was not able to meet the head of the Rockefeller Institute here, but I did meet Doctor Anderson, who is in charge of all medical work. The institute probably trained most of the expert public health people now working in India and they say there is a need for many more.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyderabad (India) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 19, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.