|Har Dayal in 1934. Photo via the South Asian American Digital Archive.|
Oriental life in Berlin during the war was quite picturesque and many-sided. But it was something of a tragedy, as I shall have occasion to show in the sequel. There were all nations of the East in the streets of Berlin: conceited Young Turks, fussy Egyptians, acute but pessimistic Persians, nondescript Arabs, handsome Georgians and others, who fancied that the triumph of German arms would redress the wrongs of their countries. Berlin was the Mecca of Oriental patriots of all shades of opinion. Their common bond was hatred of England and France. Every one formed plans for the regeneration of his Fatherland after the war. Their optimism was rather premature, as the ruthless logic of events has demonstrated. But during the first two years of the war these Oriental nationalists were elated with high hopes and went about in a state of political intoxication produced by a too ample dose of the Pan-Germanic "hasheesh." Thus a noted middle-aged Egyptian politician said on one occasion: "The liberation of Egypt is certain. I am 100 percent, sure of it." A party of young Egyptian students met in solemn conclave one day to discuss the measures to be taken immediately after the end of the war! It is worth remembering as a joke of the wartime that some Egyptian politicians had even nominated themselves in imagination to the highest offices of state in free Egypt! The Turks were all chauvinistic, and it was their habit to decry other Islamic nations. Thus a young Turkish official said to me: 'You know it is pure Turkish blood, Anatolian blood, that has been shed at Gallipoli. We Turks have thus saved the cause of Islam. Others have done nothing. We pity poor India and the Indian people." The supercilious tone of these remarks well illustrates the spirit of the new Turkish imperialists. Some Algerians also carried on their " propaganda " in bad French. One of them delivered a public lecture, which was insufferably dull, and which really proved that the people of Algeria were not discontented with French rule. But the obtuse patriot could not see the point. Unbounded optimism and sincere faith in the power and professions of Germany were common to all these Oriental " Nationalists." As I contemplated their somewhat sad countenances and heard their plaintive accents, I was touched with pity, as I knew that they sighed for an irrevocable past. They talked of the "Caliphate," of the age of the Crusades, of the Jihad-i-Akbar! I could not tell them all I thought. They were the rearguard of a vanishing host, not the pioneers of a new generation. They fed themselves on words, words, words. And they rejoiced at the German victories, as if they could sustain themselves by vicarious strength. And at last that bubble, too, burst!