18 August 2005

As India rushes to celebrate yet another Independence Day,people across the country will tell you that they are not free.Because independence for them has ceased to mean freedom.The country, Imrana will tell you in Muzaffarnagar, will be freewhen maulvis brandishing the Qur'an will not tear away a helplessmother of five from her husband and children just because her father-in-law raped her. The country will be free, Sharmila will tell youin Manipur, when women won't have to strip naked to protest theviolation of their bodies and minds by jawans who are supposed toprotect them.There will be freedom, Gladys Staines will tell you in Baripada,when rampaging mobs will not burn missionaries along with theirlittle sons.Most of all, there will be freedom when people in khaki won't rapegirls in police chowkis in Mumbai and exploit tribal women inRanchi.There will be flag-hoisting in schools and government offices andhousing colonies this year. Toffees will be distributed and babus,plump with bribes, will unfurl the Tricolour. But Imrana will not bethere, nor will Sharmila. And there won't be Ramnath Behara, whosold his three-year-old daughter in Bolangir for Rs 1,500.It is these people and their fates that the country, the governmentand the powers-that-be have to mull during freedom day festivities.Independence should make sense to such people, who now watch otherscelebrate freedom. The meek, it seems, are light years away frominheriting the earth. We can brag about the spiffy malls, smoothflyovers, the growing middle class and its rising buying power, butthe blinding light of modern India keeps in the shade realities thatare as primitive as they are barbaric. Horrific bits of news that weread every morning can dull the gloss of any billboard ranting aboutIndia's shining march to peace, progress and prosperity.It is shameful when, in the 21st century, a village gathers in theinteriors of Uttar Pradesh to hang a girl who dared to marry someoneoutside her caste, or when entire towns are full of men withoutwives because all girls have been killed in the womb. Or when peoplewho have been beaten, raped, abused and threatened, need to bribethe local police inspector just to lodge an FIR. Out freedom ishollow if a pregnant Dalit woman, unable to move in time to give wayfor a politician's convoy in Bihar, is beaten to death.Freedom, by extension, should mean justice. Then why can't we pinthe blame, 20 years after, for the massacre of innocent Sikhs in thecountry's capital. Amazingly, enforcers of justice don't know whomto blame. Not that the murders happened surreptitiously. They tookplace in broad daylight, orchestrated by people who were known."To be free", said Nelson Mandela, "is not merely to cast off one'schains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedomof others". That, sadly, is yet to happen. Going by his definitionof freedom, half of India is not free and the other half doesn'tgive two hoots about it. Otherwise, there would have been anationwide furore when an entire state remained cut-off for 49 daysdue to a blockade by students who wanted a separate homeland. Thecountry would have been shocked every time a woman was killed forbeing a 'witch', every time a Dalit was abused and every time achild was sold.There won't be freedom, either, as long as 400 million of thecountry's one billion people are below the poverty line and 40% ofthe population can't read and write.There are, of course, no British boots to trample over brown faces,but there are boots everywhere — brown feet in boots quashing brownpeople. Real independence will come when among the crowd thatsprints to the town square for the flag-hoisting there is the happyface of Imrana, laughing with her children. When Behara, instead ofselling his little girl, carries her in his arms; when Sharmila, whohas been fasting for years in protest against the excesses ofsecurity forces in Manipur, says she no more feels an alien in thecountry she was born. Then, all of us can clap as the flag fluttersin the wind.

ANNE FRANK - The Diary Of A Young Girl

“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


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.

Book Summary:

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

12 August 2005


"Every once in a blue moon, is born a person, who has the clarity of vision, and the greatness of deed, to make us all recognize the dizzying heights the human spirit can really achieve, Baba Amte is one of those people."- Neesha Mirchandani


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.
In doing this he left behind his family, virtually forfeiting all claims on their support and his large inheritance. The couple began by setting up a shram ashram near Warora. About the same time, Sane Guruji was leading a campaign for Harijans to gain entry into the temple of Vithobha at Pandharpur. A few months after Murlidhar and Indu's wedding, in 1947, Sane Guruji began a fast-unto-death at Pandharpur and succeeded in gaining temple entry for the Harijans. Sane Guruji's example gave a deeper meaning to compassion in Baba's life. For the rest of his life, Baba carried in his heart this verse of Sane Guruji:
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