Wishing all readers and contributors of this blog a very happy new year. Its been a pleasure Walking with you and i hope the new year will affirm this relation. God bless you.
26 December 2005
23 December 2005
Just tie their balls with a string and make a circus out if it. Where names like Prathibha, Snigdha, Megha et al. comes in line of a same tune, one feels ashamed. Ashamed of our identity, ashamed of our society and ashamed of ourselves. These are not the sporadic events that fill the page of newspaper. They are the hues of our system, our democracy and most importantly our identity as humans. In a country which boasts of a billion of population, a workforce that will eventually take over the world and more importantly when we are doing all sorts of tricks to show off the culture and heritage of this great nation. I still look in disdain.
In this great country when we talk about double-digit growth and reaching the ultimate sanctum of United Nation Security Council, somewhere we still find a girl being molested, a beggar still begging for his life, a girl child is still being aborted. Humans are so wretched. This is circle of life. A circle of life, in boarder perspective. The white feet have changed to brown ones but it still tramples the normal human being. It still creates fences not only in the real world but also dugs dip into the psycho of an individual.
Just a month ago there was news. Obviously every news is reported with an intention. To seek justice. And the Goddess of justice still has her eyes covered. And as long as the eyes of the perpetrator are open, felony is bound to happen. Let me come back to the story when a poor girl was raped in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Hardly big deal, some may point out when we have a rape every 36 minutes in a country where does the names like Prathibha, Snigdha, Megha stand out. But this news is amazing not in terms of the coverage but in terms of the audacity of a person who is bestowed to protect the basic civil rite. A constable on a morning walk in the beach happens to find his prey. Just that the prey was a 16-year-old girl and was struggling hard to meet her end. Just that the ends met her. There was a huge cry all over the nation. The cop was suspended and internal enquiry was set up. About a fortnight later the girl was forced to take back the complaint and the constable was released and still goes out on a morning work. The libido of an animal always gets along its prey.
Couple of weeks back when a call center girl was raped and then murdered by the cab driver of her company everyone shuddered. The instances are countless and at the end of each year these names are pinned in the register of the police department. Names are marked by numbers and numbers keeps stacking in files.
We talk of giving exemplary punishment; we talk of making an instance so that the crimes can be deterred. At the end we eventually end up mocking the entire system. It’s contemptuous to the fabric of democracy, which can’t guarantee the basic right of human freedom. Forget about freedom of expression.
Its high time that we realize severity of punishment should be revisited with the notion of consistency of punishment. A person who is jailed for 14 years and then hanged might make us proud of the system. But even he had his mother and father crying in front of temple to save him. Human life is precious. And severity of punishment is not an instance to anything its just the consistency of it. Lets not revisit the barbaric ways of ending life. Lets talk of ways towards freedom. Freedom from the clutches of the system.
If at all we have to go to barbaric ways then just tie their balls with a string and make a circus out if it.
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 3:28:00 AM
19 November 2005
SEX in Democracy - I
The premise of premarital sex is not a just a substantiation of the west mindedness. It’s not something that has epitomized the 21st century. In fact it’s a conjunct of mind over matter, the libidos that drive a species called Homo sapiens. So, when one gushes through the issue of premarital sex, I look in disdain.
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 2:05:00 AM
Wilfred Owen's Contempt for War
Torture and Misery in the Name of Freedom
By HAROLD PINTER
The following remarks were adapted during Mr. Pinter's acceptance speech on winning the Wilfred Owen Award earlier this year.
The great poet Wilfred Owen articulated the tragedy, the horror--and indeed the pity--of war in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.
But the "free world" we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.
What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading--as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves)--as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.
An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".
We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.
You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.
What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror?
I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.
Harold Pinter recently won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 12:58:00 AM
22 October 2005
As the traffic light turned red, two auto rickshaws pulled up next to each other. And sitting in one of them, I could only see a pair of hands holding a bouquet of red roses in the other auto. They were the sort of hands that unleashed a desire to discover the face. But their delicate geography offered clues to the owner's history.
A diamond ring clinging possessively to one of the fingers meant they were reasonably rich hands. And those flamboyant roses further testified that. Those hands were born to enjoy the comforts of an air-conditioned car. What were they doing in a rundown three-wheeler getting mauled by the city's savage heat?
With every passing second, a yearning to see the owner of those tender, touch-me-not hands grew inside me like a giant bubble. The woman's concealed face was teasing and tormenting him. I would have liked the driver to steer the vehicle a little ahead. But that wasn't possible.
The auto was inches behind an Opel Astra. In desperation, I even wanted to get down, walk a few paces and steal a shameless glance or two in between. But I couldn't. I also considered asking the driver, positioned at a far more vantage point, if he could tell him how the passenger sitting in the other auto looked like.
But I was aware that wouldn't be of much help either. I knew that every narrative between two individuals was marked by an absence, a void no word could ever fill. By this time, the bubble was almost choking me. I felt at war with myself.
In the past, I had always stayed clear from every crooked line for the tried and tested path of the predictable. And, had always stifled every reckless urge and allowed moments with infinite possibilities slip away like water running through fingers.
With only 10 seconds left before the light turned green, I could hear a chorus of violent voices inside commanding me to seize the moment. It was now or never. So I got down, walked to the flanking auto, looked inside and said, "Excuse me, do you have the time?"
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 12:23:00 AM
18 August 2005
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 7:03:00 PM
“I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me.”
Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank, who were German Jews. Anne's parents come from respected German families. Otto, Anne's father had been officers in the German Army during World War I. Anne and her older sister Margot had friends of many nationalities. Their parents have taught them to respect and tolerate others. Adolph Hitler's Nazi party came to power in Germany in 1933. Hitler begins his campaign against the Jews and the Frank family starts to fear for their future in Germany. In the summer of 1933, Otto Frank leaves Frankfurt for Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, to set up a new business called the Dutch Opekta Company. Less than a year later, Edith, Margot, and Anne join Otto in Amsterdam. By the mid-1930s the Franks settle into a normal routine in their apartment at 37 Merwedeplein; the girls attend school; the family takes vacations at the beach; and their circle of Jewish and non-Jewish friends grows. In 1938 Otto expands his business, going into partnership with a merchant, Hermann van Pels, also a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, the Frank's belief that Amsterdam is a safe haven from Nazism is shattered when, in May 1940, the Germans invade the Netherlands, and the Franks are once again forced to live under Nazi rule.
Discovered in the attic, which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a classic – a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. The epigraph of this book is in Anne's handwriting and claims that she hopes she will be able to confide "completely" in her diary, and that it shall be a great comfort to her.
The first entry of the diary is on June 12, Anne's thirteenth birthday. She tells the story of how she woke early and then had to contain herself until seven a.m. to wake her parents and open her presents. She claims that the diary, one of those presents, is "possibly the nicest of all." She relates her list of presents, adding that she is "thoroughly spoiled," and then goes off to school with her friend Lies. On Sunday she has a birthday party with her school friends. Her mother always asks who she is going to marry, and she has managed to dissuade her from the boy she really likes, Peter Wessel.
On Saturday, June 20, Anne divulges that she wants her diary to be a friend to her - unlike her other friends, someone she can completely confide to. She will call her diary "Kitty" and address it like a friend. She tells Kitty the history of her family: her parents' marriage, her 1929 birth in Frankfurt, and then, "as we are Jewish," their 1933 emigration to Holland. After 1940, Hitler conquered Holland and brought anti-Jewish measures there.
The next entry, also on June 20, begins with the signature greeting of "Dear Kitty." Anne says that she has taken a liking to ping-pong; she and her friends often play and then go get ice cream at the nearest shop that allows Jews. At this point, Anne lets the diary know that she has plenty of boy friends, whom offer to escort her home from school and almost always fall in love with her. She tries to ignore them when they do. In the boiling heat, Anne wishes she didn't have to walk everywhere--but alas, Jews are not allowed to ride trams. The only place they are allowed is the ferry, which the ferryman let them ride as soon as they asked. Harry Goldberg, a sixteen-year-old boy she met at her friend Eva’s house, approaches her. He "can tell all kinds of amusing stories," says Anne, and soon the two are seeing each other regularly. Although Harry has a girl friend, Fanny, a "very soft, dull creature," he is smitten with Anne. Although his grandparents, with whom he lives, think Anne is too young for him, he stops going out with Fanny and makes himself available to Anne. When she asks how, he claims, "Love finds a way."
The first line for Anne's entry of July 8 lets us know that something crucial has happened: "Years seem to have passed between Sunday and now." At three o'clock on Sunday afternoon, she was reading on the verandah, waiting for Harry to come visit her. When the doorbell rings, she barely notices it. Her sister Margot comes to her, very excited, and says that the SS has sent up a call notice for Mr. Frank. Anne is instantly frightened--a call-up notice means "concentration camps and lonely cells."
The doorbell rings again - Harry. Margot warns her sister not to go downstairs, but Anne needs no such warning. Mrs. Frank and Mr. Van Daan go downstairs and talk to Harry, then close the door and do not allow anyone else in. In the privacy of their bedroom, Margot tells Anne that the call-up notice was for her, not for Mr. Frank. Anne is horrified that the SS would call a sixteen-year-old girl alone. With questions swirling in her head, she begins packing "the craziest things" into a school satchel in preparation to go into hiding. At five o'clock Mr. Frank arrives, and the speed of the preparations picks up. They leave the next morning, wearing layers and layers of clothes.
They walk to their hiding place in the rain, and Mr. Frank explains that they were to go into hiding on July 16 anyway, but had to speed up their relocation because of the call-up. Anne describes their hiding place, the rooms on top of Mr. Frank's office building, and adds a drawing. When they arrived, Margot and Mrs. Frank were too miserable and depressed to do anything - it was up to Mr. Frank and Anne to clean up the living area and unpack all the boxes. She is impressed with the "Secret Annex," calling it "an ideal hiding place."
A month later, Anne reports that little has been going on for her to report. The Van Daans arrived on July 13. They had planned to come one day later, but the Germans called up so decided it was wise to leave one day earlier rather than one day late. Their son, Peter, is almost sixteen, "soft, shy, gawky," in Anne's estimation.
Not all is well and good between the Franks and the Van Daans. They quarrel over things big and small. The matriarchs of the family have differences over plates and sheets; Anne cannot get along with Mr. Van Daan at all. Peter Van Daan had a fight with his parents when he snatched a book that he was not allowed to read "on the subject of women."
The last entry of the month is a veritable ode to the pleasures of hot baths and modern plumbing - both of which the Franks and the Van Daans have been forced to live without in hiding. All of them have been forced to go to great lengths to bathe in privacy and, when the plumber was at work, use the toilet.
Anne opens her entry for October 1 by saying that she was terrified when the doorbell rang - she thought it was the Gestapo. It was not, but there are other fears. One of the employees, an older Jewish chemist, knows the building very well and they are always afraid that he might take a notion to look in the annexe. News of the German concentration camps filters down to them, along with other atrocious German misdeeds. "Nice people, the Germans!" huffs Anne. "To think that I was once one of them too!"
On the night of October 20, all the residents have a scare. A carpenter comes to fill the fire extinguishers and is hammering on the landing opposite their cupboard door entrance. They settle down and try to be quiet as soon as they hear him, but then he starts to knock on their door. Everyone goes white as he begins pushing at the door to the secret annexe. Then they hear the voice of Mr. Koophius, one of their protectors. He asks them to let them in, and they do immediately. On Monday, at the end of October, Anne is worried about her father. He falls ill and they cannot call a doctor for him, and if he coughs he might give them away. She also notes that she is becoming more "grownup"--her mother allows her to read a book that mentions prostitution, and she learns about periods.
On November 7, Anne reports at length a quarrel that happened between herself and her family. Her parents took Margot's side when Margot and Anne fought over a book, and Anne writes tearfully that she feels the pain of her father's judgment all the more because her mother's love is not what Anne wishes it would be.
Chanukah and St. Nicholas Day are just one day apart, so the residents of the annex have two small celebrations. For Chanukah, they give each other a few small gifts and then, due to a shortage, light the candles for only ten minutes. St. Nicholas Day is more festive; at night, all the residents go downstairs and discover a large basket covered with a mask of Black Peter and filled with presents.
Still, all of that seems further away than what is going on in the annex. Anne's father is expecting the invasion at any moment. Churchill is recovering in England; Gandhi is fasting in India. Meanwhile, the owner of the building has sold it without telling Koophius and Kraler - when new owners come by to look at the building, Koophius has to pretend he has forgotten the key to the annexe. This brings new fears for the residents.
Anne's birthday comes again; the festivities are greatly subdued in comparison to last year. Nonetheless, she is happy, she is "spoiled" with sweets and her father writes her a poem in German, which Margot translates into Dutch.
There is a real burglary on July 16 1943 - the thieves take cash and sugar ration coupons. The bombing continues - Anne says, "Whole streets lie in ruins." Meanwhile the bombing and destruction continues, setting everyone's nerves on edge.
Anne gets the flu. She tries all sorts of cures and is embarrassed when Dussel lies on her "naked chest" and listens to her heart. The household receives nice Christmas presents from their protectors, but Anne feels jealous of them because they can go outside and still enjoy many things she cannot. She feels "a great longing to have lots of fun myself for once." Morale, she adds, is "rotten" as the war is at a standstill.
Outside, the war continues. A plane crash near their building surprises and frightens everyone. On March 29, Anne writes that an exiled Dutch government minister has announced that after the war they ought to make a collection of diaries and letters. Anne is excited at the thought and believes that it would be interesting if she wrote a novel about the secret annex Anne despairs about the war, wondering what the point of it all is. She thinks, "the little man is just as guilty" as the big politicians and businessmen, because "otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt a long time ago!" Despite her despair, she is confident that the invasion is coming soon Anne tells her diary her parents' biographies. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frank came from rich families and tell grand stories about wealth and privilege. "One could certainly not call us rich now," Anne says, "but all my hopes are pinned on after the war." She then writes again about her desire to be a famous writer and mentions that she wants to publish a book called "The Secret Annex"; she expects her diary to be of great help to her in this regard.
Their vegetable man is arrested for hiding Jews in his attic, another blow. Fresh fears bloom among the residents. Anne wonders if it would not have been better for all of them to have not gone into hiding, "if we were all dead now and not going through this misery."
The invasion goes along well, even though for three weeks the troops have been operating in heavy rains. July 15 is another important entry; Anne goes in-depth about herself and what she believes. She says, that it's "really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and so impossible to carry out." She keeps them, she says, "because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
The war continues to turn in the Allies' favor. On July 21, Anne writes that an attempt has been made on Hitler's life by a German general. In her last entry, on August 1, Anne talks again about how there are "two Annes," the public Anne and the private Anne. She wonders what she could be like "if... there weren't any other people living in the world."
Anne Frank’s diary ends here. It is a work utterly complete in itself, and its eloquence requires no further comment. At approximately 10 am, August 4, 1944, the Frank family's greatest fear comes true. A Nazi policeman and several Dutch collaborators appear at 263 Prinsengracht, having received an anonymous phone call informing them that Jews are hiding there. The police head straight for the bookcase that leads to the Secret Annex. The residents are taken from the house, forced into a covered truck, taken to the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, and then sent to Weteringschans Prison. On August 8, 1944, after a brief stay in Weteringschans Prison, the residents of the Secret Annex are moved to Westerbork transit camp. They remain there for nearly a month, until, on September 3, they are transported to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. It is the last Auschwitz-bound transport to leave Westerbork. In October 1944, Anne and Margot are transported from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Anne and Margot, already weakened from living in the concentration camps, become ill with typhus. The camp is liberated by allied troops in 1945, one month after the death of Anne Frank.
Review / Analysis
Anne's diary was written during the years 1942-1944. These years were the toughest times of World War II in Europe. In the beginning part of her diary, we meet Anne before her ordeal. The picture we get is of a typical thirteen-year-old: intelligent in some ways childish in others. If she had been allowed to continue living outside and going to school, interacting with others, or if the war had not targeted Jews, she would have continued to be a charming, if faceless young girl. The Nazi invasion of Holland changed the very essence of this somewhat faceless girl. The diary of Anne Frank epitomizes the unrelenting human zeal and dreams. The book is in its entirety a collection of the diary that had been discovered from the “secret annexe”. The growing up of Anne Frank as a young girl to her days in the annexure, symbolizes the passion of humanity. She had dreams and though faced with difficult circumstances she never gave them up. The diary is a recollection of the vivid impressions of her experiences during this period, by turns thoughtful, moving and amusing, her accounts offer a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young girl whose promise was tragically cut short.
It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, and I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more" – Anne Frank, July 15, 1944
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 6:55:00 PM
12 August 2005
Murlidhar Devdas Amte was born on December 26, 1914 in Hinganghat, Wardha district in Maharashtra, state of India. As the eldest son of a wealthy Brahmin landowner, Murlidhar had an idyllic childhood. Murlidhar was amongst the affluent and lucky few of those days and hence received a wholesome education. He found himself born into a family where the father’s conservative notions about social class and status were strictly enforced. By the time he was fourteen, Murlidhar owned his own gun and hunted boar and deer. He developed a special interest in cinema, wrote reviews for the film magazine The Picture Goer and even corresponded with Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. When he was old enough to drive, Murlidhar was given a Singer sports car with cushions covered with panther skin! But even then, Amte did not appreciate the restrictions that prevented him from playing with the 'low-caste' servants' children.
"There is a certain callousness in families like mine." Baba says. "They put up strong barriers so as not to see the misery in the world outside and I rebelled against it."
Laxmibai, his mother was the only one who dared to question such rigidities of traditions in the Amte household. From early childhood, the boy was a puzzle to his father, a stern and distant man and a dutiful government official, for Murlidhar was consistently and congenitally irreverent. As a schoolboy in a red blazer, he was often seen with a can of worms and a fishing rod, a good Brahmin was not supposed to take life. At 14 he slipped away from home to learn hunting from the Madia Gonds, the tribes deep in the Gadchiroli forests. Endowed with traits of curiosity and questioning, of rebelling against rigid, meaningless norms, Murlidhar appeared distinct from the rest of the brood. Unfortunately even when Murlidhar was young, as a result of some domestic conflict, which much exceeded her endurance limit, Laxmibai felt prey to acute psychosis. Her mental illness, however, never mitigated the son’s admiration for the mother.
“She was an uneducated artist and did go mad. But she helped me keep myself sane in an insane world” recalls Baba.
During the college holidays, Baba traveled all over India. He visited Shantiniketan, initially attracted by Rabindranath Tagore's music and poetry. Shantiniketan, located amid lush natural beauty, was a microcosm of Tagore's ideal world - here was a community united in joy, work and love. Baba came away deeply touched and somehow altered for life. Closer to home, at Sewagram (Gandhiji's ashram) near Wardha, Baba was equally fascinated with Gandhi's relationship with God. Through Gandhi, Baba saw that:
God is that indefinable something, which we all feel but which, we do not know. To me, God is truth and love, God is ethics and morality, and God is fearlessness. God is the source of light and life, and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience.
Simultaneously, he was deeply impressed by what he saw as Gandhi's scientific attitude to life. For Bapu's ideals were never some personal fetish but the rational basis for finding solutions to the problems of life. He felt closer to the worldview of John Ruskin and Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, which emphasized the empowerment of the community with greater freedom from the state.
When Baba was in high school, his father retired from government service and moved house to Dharampeth – a posh area of a larger town Nagpur. There he joined the Morris and Hislop College. After gaining a B.A. degree, he studied at a government law school, graduating with a law degree in 1936. He would have preferred to have studied medicine but yielded to his father’s wishes and entered legal profession. Amte built up a lucrative practice as an advocate in Warora. On weekends, he looked into affairs at the family's farm of 450 acres, at Goraja near Warora. A restless, dissatisfied, disturbed mind in search for raison d’etre of life roused in him a wanderlust. At times he often wandered into the nearby jungles and villages.
“That microscopic look at the village life taught me to hear the heartbeat of reality”, he recalls.
He was appalled by the poverty, hunger, disease and deprivation that he witnessed all around. Learning of the plight of the downtrodden he also gained an overwhelming sense of potentialities latent in the most humble and afflicted human being. This faith in humanity has been one of the main springs of life and one of the principle reason for his success in bringing out the best in patients, workers, outcast and even those rejected by their own people. By now Murlidhar Amte has become a recognized lawyer, on weekends; he looked into affairs at the family's farm of 450 acres, at Goraja near Warora. Soon he was organizing farmers' cooperatives and was eventually elected vice-president of the Warora municipality. But the money, prestige and comfort were not making Baba happy. Instead, he became restless. This surely could not be the purpose of life, he thought. At times, his legal practice forced him even to be dishonest. This bothered him still more. He discovered that many clients expected him to lie for them:
A client would admit that he had committed rape and I was expected to obtain an acquittal. Worse still, when I succeeded, I was expected to attend the celebration party.
So Baba set about changing what he could. Harijans (also known as untouchables) on his family's lands had always walked a long distance to collect water because the village well was forbidden to them. Baba defied the bitter opposition of the upper-caste villagers and opened up the well to all people. During the Quit India movement, in 1942, he organized lawyers to take up the defense of the jailed leaders and he was thrown into prison. Soon Baba lost all interest in the law practice. More and more he admired the 'richness of heart of the poor people' and despised 'the poverty of heart of the rich'. It was the 'common man', he decided, who was really uncommon. Perhaps, one-way of ensuring a full life was to become one with the poor and oppressed. Baba let his hair and fingernails grow and spread the word that he had taken a vow of celibacy.
While attending the wedding of a distant relative, Baba met Indu Ghuleshastri. She belonged to a conservative Brahmin family of Sanskrit scholars. Her innocence and humane heart won his admiration and love. Having successfully made himself seem ineligible, Baba now had to work hard to persuade Indu's parents that he was indeed a suitable groom. Eventually, Baba and Indu were married in December 1946, and together they launched on an arduous joint adventure. In marrying Baba, Indu, who was re-christened sadhana, knew that she was marrying a man who lived an unconventional life and did not adhere to the codes of conduct practiced by the Brahmin caste. On their wedding day Baba renounced his property and gave up his legal practice.
Through my tears I shall reach my ideal;in my tears rests the power to crush steel and stone.My tears are my God.Never deprive me of my tearsLet my eyelids never get dry.
Soon there was a poor Brahmin family that knew something about agriculture, one shoemaker, one umbrella repairer and some Harijan families at Baba and Indu's shram ashram. Together this unusual community cultivated a small patch of land and shared a common kitchen. Baba and his wife were now considered outcastes themselves. So Indu could not count on her mother's help, when she was due to deliver her first child. Nor could she expect her mother to come and share a house with 'low-castes'.Meanwhile Baba's involvement in various organizations deepened. Now, he was vice-chairman of the Warora municipality and chairman of the scavengers union. For nine months he worked as a scavenger, carrying baskets filled with excreta on his head.
The turning point in his life came one rainy evening, as Baba headed home. A huddled figure lay on the roadside. At first it seemed like a bundle of rags. But then he noticed some movement. Baba looked closer and recoiled instantly. Lying before him was a man in the last stages of leprosy. The dying man had no fingers. Maggots crawled over his naked body. Horrified by this sight, terrified of infection, Baba ran home. But he could not run away from the self-loathing, which began to hound him. How could he have left a lonely forsaken man to lie there in the rain? So he forced himself to return and feed the man. He also put up a bamboo shed to protect him against the rain. That man, Tulshiram, died in Baba's care and irrevocably changed young Amte's life. Baba had always thought of himself as being fearless and daring. The encounter with Tulshiram shattered this self-image. For the next six months Baba lived with the unrelenting agony of this crisis. There seemed to be only one answer, one lone way of overcoming this problem. He must live and work with leprosy patients:
"That is why I took up leprosy work. Not to help anyone, but to overcome that fear in my life. That it worked out good for others was a by-product. But the fact is I did it to overcome fear."
Thus Baba, and Sadhana, set out on the path that is now history. He began by reading intensively about leprosy and offering his services at the Warora leprosy clinic. Soon, he was running his own clinic. In 1949, he went to the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine to learn more about leprosy. By the time Baba returned home the discovery of diamino-diphenyl-sulphone had made leprosy curable. With this wonder drug in hand, Baba began treating leprosy patients in sixty villages around Warora. Soon there were eleven weekly clinics within a radius of about fifty kilometers from Warora, with a total of about 4,000 patients. But stemming the disease did not make the afflicted whole again. And receiving charity is not particularly conducive to enhancing self-respect. Amte was fully aware that merely arresting the progress of the disease was not enough. Leprosy not only harms the body but also inflicts deep wounds on the mind. It destroys the personality. Traditionally, leprosy patients are excluded from society and even from their own family. With their face disfigured, crippled hands and feet, they are shunned by all. Even if the disease is arrested, and they are no longer infectious, it makes little difference. The stigma and the fear of society make it impossible for them to live as productive members. Thus self-respect is destroyed and this hurts more than losing fingers or toes.
In 1951, the government gave Baba some barren land for his leprosy project. The land was rocky, covered with scrubs and infested with scorpions and snakes. In June 1951, with a lame cow and a dog, and fourteen rupees, accompanied by his wife, Sadhana Tai and two infant sons, Vikas and Prakash, and a handful of patients, they called this place Anandwan the Forest of Joy. Baba worked and the leprosy patients worked shoulder to shoulder with him. Self-trained and self-taught, they converted rocky barren land into lush green fields. Life in the early days was very hard. They were extremely short of money. Somehow they survived. So they started growing not only vegetables but also prepared fields for growing millets, bajri and jowar (grains). Within three years, the Amte family and a community of sixty patients had dug six wells and cleared enough land to have a substantial harvest of grains and vegetables. Gradually, the scale and facilities of Anandwan grew. Once the leprosy-affected persons were fit enough to leave the hospital they ceased to be 'patients'. They became working members of the community, busy in the fields or workshops where a variety of products were being manufactured. This made Anandwan a virtually self-sufficient 'village'. Most of the erstwhile patients, having learnt a skill, returned to the world outside, self-reliant and capable of earning their own living. Eventually they added at Anandwan a College of Agriculture, a primary school for blind children, a school for deaf and dumb children and an orphanage. These multi-dimensional efforts won Anandwan a string of national and international awards, which brought it both fame and funds.
Baba lay motionless on the cot staring hard at the ceiling, his jaw tightly clenched. He felt as though he were lying in a coffin, awaiting burial. On one end of the bed was a contraption that kept his spine in traction for twelve hours every day. Murlidhar Devdas 'Baba' Amte was only fifty. The doctors diagnosed the agonizing pain in his back as a case of severe cervical spondylosis, which was causing a progressive degeneration of the spine. In 1971, friends collected money and sent Baba to London for a major operation on his spine. This kept him in bed for much of 1971 and 1972. His agony was compounded by the need for another operation, performed in Mumbai some years later. These operations allowed Baba to live but left him with a permanent handicap. He would never be able to sit again. He could either lie down or stand, but only for limited periods.
Baba Amte's success in building Anandwan had a two-fold impact on his mind. It increased his desire to lead India's suffering millions to a resolute effort at self-development and it strengthened his conviction that this could be done by rousing the impoverished masses to a creative awareness.
Baba now asked himself: 'If we could build up a happy community under the most difficult circumstances, why cannot healthy people do the same under much more favorable circumstances? Why can the youth of India not do the same?' For all the vehemence with which he posed this question, Baba somehow remained free of bitterness. Closely observing developments in Russia and China, Baba concluded that a true revolution would make people aware of their own capabilities. It would propel them to practical action:
I believe that political awareness without constructive work is impotent, and that constructive work without political awareness is equally sterile. If you must put a label to what guides my action, it would be 'creative humanism'.
He began by focusing his attention on a plan for a Workers' University. He envisioned students studying for a degree and simultaneously undergoing training for learning some practical skill. This plan gained support from the Planning Commission and thus 2,000 acres of barren land at Somnath, about a hundred kilometers south of Anandwan, was given to Baba for starting this work. In this case, however, there was vigorous opposition by the local people. Eventually, much of the land had to be relinquished and the plan for a Workers' University was abandoned. The remaining land at Somnath was developed as a center for annual youth camps. It became the starting point for a wide range of social and political activists who went on to identify with different political activists ideological streams from the Gandhian to the Marxist-Leninist. When Baba reached his 'late youth', many of these activists, then middle-aged themselves would enliven his world by their endeavors in different fields. The work at Somnath also led, in the mid-80s, to the Bharat Jodo Abhiyan. This campaign took Baba and teams of young people on a cross-country journey to appeal for communal harmony and peaceful solutions to regional disputes.
Hemalkasa was the place that truly shaped the politics of Baba's 'late youth'. It was also his most daring act of velour, defying his physical pain. In 1973, barely a year after he had undergone surgery for his back problem, Baba pitched a tent at Hemalkasa, a place deep in the forests about 350 kilometers south of Nagpur. In 1974, Baba and Tai's younger son, Prakash, graduated from medical college and came to work in Hemalkasa. Soon Prakash and his wife Mandakini, who had been a fellow-student, decided to settle there permanently. Like the senior Amtes, this couple faced many years of struggle with severe hardships, shortages of food, medicine and susceptibility to many diseases.Gradually, the hardships decreased and a community of workers came together based on a shared bond with the local people, the wild animals and the abundant fauna and flora. This community includes Renuka, whom Baba and Tai had adopted as an infant, and her husband Vilas Manohar.
“The time has come to leave Anandwan, the place where I entered into the world of joy, and the place that symbolizes the very meaning of my existence. I am leaving to live along the Narmada ... to attain a peace that all mankind desires. The struggle for a New India is taking place in the Narmada valley. Today the Narmada valley has become the arena for a new imagination and creativity, for a society in which there must be sufficiency for all before there is superfluity for some.”
On March 1990 the sun was setting in a bright orange splash over the river waters below, as Baba's van reached the center of the bridge. Suddenly the tractors swerved sideways and came to a halt, blocking the road. The NBA now informed the accompanying policemen that they intended to block this bridge, and thus the Mumbai-Agra highway, till their demand for a review of the Sardar Sarovar Project was heard. For the next thirty hours hundreds of people from different parts of the Narmada valley made the bridge their home. The specially fitted van, which had earlier carried Baba to the corners of India on the Knit India March, now became the nerve center of this protest action. Before him, on the barren sandy slope, was a two-room cement and brick structure-which the local villagers had constructed for him. For a flash, time seemed to melt away. He seemed to be back at the beginning when he had first stood staring at the scrubland near Warora. Baba retreated into his van, away from the anguish of this inhospitable site. Already he missed Anandwan, his home for forty years. Then, slowly the river, Rewa Maiya, began to work her magic on him. Baba's involvement with the issue of mega-dams had been growing through the 1980s. In the summer of 1988 the Anandwan community hosted a meeting of over a hundred environmental activists from all over India on this issue. The 'Assertion of Collective Will Against Big Dams', also called the 'Anandwan Declaration', became a landmark in the emerging movement against big dams. Accompanied by Tai and helpers from his old home Baba planted carefully selected trees and bushes all around the two-room house. Soon a makeshift shed was added on the east side of the house, expanding the space to accommodate the inevitable stream of guests. But in the first year Baba was often on the road as activities of the NBA reached a peak.
“Consider the honeybee. Its treasure is nectar, obtained even from the chilly plant. It is not at the cost of the flower. In fact, its act of extracting honey contributes to the progress of the flowers. You need not learn from Kahlil Gibran, Marx or Gorbachev, not even from Gandhiji. Choose instead to learn your lesson from the honey bees as your silent partners: they will show you how to develop without destroying."
-Baba Amte on community Living.
For a man who once speeded in fancy cars, wrote film reviews for The Picture Goer, corresponded with Hollywood icons like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer, Baba Amte has come a long, long way since that rainy night in Warora. The sight of Tulshiram, a maggot-eaten leper, changed his life forever. In June 1951, with a lame cow and a dog, and fourteen rupees, accompanied by his wife, Sadhana Tai and two infant sons, Vikas and Prakash, and a handful of patients, they moved to this place Anandwan the Forest of Joy. Baba's legacy has lived on through the tireless work of his two amazing sons and their wives, who in their own ways have contributed significantly to furthering Baba's vision. Dr. Vikas Amte runs Maharogi Sewa Samiti and coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects; his wife Dr. Bharati Amte runs a hospital at Anandwan and his brother Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Manda Amte run the school and hospital at Hemalkasa.
Due to his health, Baba has returned from the Narmada valley to his home in Anandwan but he continues to serve as a source of inspiration to others in the anti-big dam movement, not only in the Narmada valley, but also around the world.
The books give a story of a person who is very much real and exist among us. It is easy to ignore and forget some truly great men because they do not court publicity. They are too absorbed in their service to attract attention with media. Many of them still become icon with their selfless service in the life of living societies. Baba Amte is one of them.
"The new leadership in India is taking shape quietly, without any drum beating through the newspapers. ... Various centers, the centers of energy and strength in the life of society are gaining tremendous momentum. May be, the surging new generation of today appears to have lost it’s bearing, to have lost its soul. But it is absolutely certain that one day it will have its own leader and prophet.... I am absolutely confident that the phoenix of a new leadership is rising from the ashes of all its failure. Soon the world will witness the lightning hidden in its beak and the storm hidden in its wings."- Baba Amte
"I sought my soul, my soul I could not see,I sought my God, my God elude me,I sought my brother, and I found all the three." - Anonymous
Posted by Samiran Ghosh at 6:24:00 PM