Ashram School 5

Before we move on to the next part dealing with the meetings with Mother, it is important to mention about another aspect of the project of The Spiritual History of India. Manoj Das Gupta wrote a letter to Mother regarding the project to which Mother replied with a long comment.  We are reproducing it below.

5 April 1967  

(Mother writes a note.) It is an answer to a question. Do you know what I told the teachers of the school? I have been asked another question. Here is the beginning of my reply:  

“The division between `ordinary life‘ and `spiritual life’ is an outdated antiquity.”

Did you read his question? Read it again to me.

“We discussed the future. It seemed to me that nearly all the teachers were eager to do something so that the children could become more conscious of why they are here. At that point I said that in my opinion, to speak to the children of spiritual things often has the opposite result, and that these words lose all their value.”

 

“Spiritual things” – what does he mean by spiritual things?

 

Obviously, if the teachers recite them like a story…

 

Spiritual things… They are taught history or spiritual things, they are taught science or spiritual things. That is the stupidity. In history, the Spirit is there; in science, the Spirit is there – the Truth is everywhere. And what is needed is not to teach it in a false way, but to teach it in a true way. They cannot get that into their heads.

 

He adds: “I have suggested that it might be better to meet and listen to Mother’s voice,1 for even if we don’t understand everything, your voice would accomplish its own inner work, which we are not in a position to evaluate. About this, I would like to knowwhat is the best way of bringing the child into relation with you. For all the suggestions, including mine, seemed arbitrary to me and without any real value.

“Mother, wouldn’t it be better if the teachers were to concentrate solely on the subjects they are teaching, for you are taking care of the spiritual life?”

 

I shall give him this reply: There is no “spiritual life”! It is still the old idea, still the old idea of the sage, the sannyasin, the…  who represents spiritual life, while all the others represent ordinary life – and it is not true, it is not true, it is not true at all.

If they still need an opposition between two things –  for the poor mind doesn’t work if you don’t give it an opposition – if they need an opposition, let them take the opposition between Truth and Falsehood, it is a little better; I don’t say it is perfect, but it is a little better. So, in all things, Falsehood and Truth are mixed everywhere: in the so-called “spiritual life”, in sannyasins, in swamis, in those who think they represent the life divine on earth, all that – there also, there is a mixture of Falsehood and Truth.

It would be better not to make any division.  

(Silence)

 

For the children, precisely because they are children, it would be best to instil in them the will to conquer the future, the will to always look ahead and to want to move on as swiftly as they can towards… what will be — but they should not drag with them the burden, the millstone of the whole oppressive weight of the past. It is only when we are very high in consciousness and knowledge that it is good to look behind to find the points where this future begins to show itself. When we can look at the whole picture, when we have a very global vision, it becomes interesting to know that what will be realised later on has already been announced beforehand, in the same way that  Sri Aurobindo said that the divine life will manifest on earth, because it is already involved in the depths of Matter; from this standpoint it is interesting to look back or to look down below – not to know what happened, or to know what men have known: that is quite useless.

The children should be told: There are wonderful things to be manifested, prepare yourself to receive them. Then if they want something a little more concrete and easier to understand, you can tell them: Sri Aurobindo came to announce these things; when you are able to read him, you will understand. So this awakens the interest, the desire to learn.

 

I see very clearly the difficulty he is referring to: most people  and in all the things that are written, or in the lectures they give – use inflated speech, without any truth of personal experience, which has no effect, or rather a negative effect. That is what he is referring to.

 

Yes, that is why they should do as I have said.

Ah! But not so long ago, most of the teachers were saying, “Oh! But we must do this, because it is done everywhere.” (Smiling) They have already come a little distance. But there is much more to be covered.

But above all, what is most important is to eliminate these divisions. And every one of them, all of them have it in their minds: the division between leading a spiritual life and leading an ordinary life, having a spiritual consciousness and having an ordinary consciousness – there is only one consciousness.

In most people it is three-quarters asleep and distorted; in many it is still completely distorted. But what is needed, very simply, is not to leap from one consciousness into another, but to open one’s consciousness (upward gesture) and to fill it with vibrations of Truth, to bring it in harmony with what must be here – there it exists from all eternity – but here, what must  be here: the “tomorrow” of the earth. If you weigh yourself down with a whole burden that you have to drag behind you, if you drag behind you everything that you must abandon, you will not be able to advance very fast.

Mind you, to know things from the earth’s past can be very interesting and very useful, but it must not be something that binds you or ties you to the past. If it is used as a spring-board, it is all right. But really, it is quite secondary.  

 

(Silence)

  

It would be interesting to formulate or to elaborate a new method of teaching for children, to take them very young. It is easy when they are very young. We need people – oh! we would need remarkable teachers – who have, first, an ample enough documentation of what is known so as to be able to answer every question, and at the same time, at least the knowledge, if not the experience – the experience would be better – of the true intuitive intellectual attitude, and – naturally the capacity would be still more preferable – at least the knowledge that the true way of knowing is mental silence, an attentive silence turned towards the truer Consciousness, and the capacity to receive what comes from there. The best would be to have this capacity; at least, it should be explained that it is the true thing – a sort of demonstration – and that it works not only from the point of view of what must be learned, of the whole domain of knowledge, but also of the whole domain of what should be done: the capacity to receive the exact indication of  how to do it; and as you go on, it changes into a very clear perception of what must be done, and a precise indication of when it must be done. At least the children, as soon as they have the capacity to think – it starts at the age of seven, but at about fourteen or fifteen it is very clear – the children should be given little indications at the age of seven, a complete explanation at fourteen, of how to do it, and that it is the only 

 

way to be in relation with the deeper truth of things, and that all the rest is a more or less clumsy mental approximation to something that can be known directly.

The conclusion is that the teachers themselves should at least have a sincere beginning of discipline and experience, that it is not a question of accumulating books and retelling them like this. One can’t be a teacher in this way; let the outside world be like that if it likes. We are not propagandists, we simply want to show what can be done and try to prove that it must be done.

When you take the children very young, it is wonderful. There is so little to do: it is enough to be.

Never make a mistake.

Never lose your temper.

Always understand.

And to know and see clearly why there has been this movement, why there has been this impulse, what is the inner constitution of the child, what is the thing to be strengthened and brought forward – this is the only thing to do; and to leave them, to leave them free to blossom; simply to give them the opportunity to see many things, to touch many things, to do as many things as possible. It is great fun. And above all, not to try to impose on them what you think you know.

Never scold them. Always understand, and if the child is ready, explain; if he is not ready for an explanation – if you are ready yourself – replace the false vibration by a true one. But this… this is to demand from the teachers a perfection which they rarely have.

But it would be very interesting to make a programme for the teachers and the true programme of study, from the very bottom – which is so plastic and which receives impressions so deeply. If they were given a few drops of truth when they are very young, they would blossom quite naturally as the being grows. It would be beautiful work. 

1Tape-recordings of Mother’s classes during the 1950s. 

CWMCE P205-207

 

 

We shall now take up the talks that we had with Mother for a period of four months from December 1972 to March 29 1973. It will not be possible to give all the details of the conversations, but I will try to give the highlights and the key points that Mother stressed upon. As already reported earlier, Mother took a lot of interest in the running of the school and was keen that it should be brought up to the expected standard. The key points may be summed up as follows:

 

1. She wanted to introduce the free method of education from the earliest possible age. In fact She sent Tanmaya to the Primary section Avenir (age 7 to 9) to select students who were ready for the gradual use of freedom.

2. She was insistent that in order to succeed in this endeavour, the most important requirement was that at least some teachers should be in contact with their psychic being, or at least make a serious effort to do so.

3 She also identified the obstacles that were blocking the progress of the school. They were first the attitude and the expectations of most parents and second the giving of certificates after they finished their studies; she felt that it was one of the main reasons for diluting the motives of the students.

4. She was clear in Her mind that many of the text books in the field of Humanities like History, Literature etc, should be rewritten in the light of Sri Aurobindo.

5. She was at a very sensitive stage of the transformation of her body and every dispute in the school or in the Ashram affected Her. She explained a mantra that She would repeat all the time.

 

All these points will be illustrated in the next article with quotations from Her conversations first in French and then in the English translation.

Narendra Modi and the promise of authenticity | The Caravan – A Journal of Politics and Culture

News organisations like elections. Everyone knows when they are going to happen, they provide a natural narrative of struggle, climax and catharsis, and they are, most of the time, genuinely important. For foreign correspondents covering South Asia, the last 18 months have been busy. The cycle started with Pakistan’s polls last May, then came Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and now, finally, the biggest of them all, India.

Trying to pick a single theme—beyond the most banal—which unites all of these is tough. But if there is one element that is increasingly evident, it is that all these contests are, to a very significant extent, about the interaction of successive societies with the world beyond South Asia.

This is odd, given the fabulously insular nature of political debate in each of these countries. But in a very real way we are seeing, played out in each contest, a fierce battle to define the terms on which a billion or so people construct their identities in an increasingly interconnected, but not necessarily “globalised” and “flat” world in the coming decades.

Religion is one central element in that process of construction, obviously, though urbanisation, the expansion of media, and education also play a role, albeit a more indirect one.

So in the Muslim majority countries—the Maldives, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh—there is an ongoing debate over the forms, practices and values of faith almost identical to that occurring from Morocco to Malaysia. In Pakistan, the nationalist, moderate Islamism of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League has triumphed over the more liberal vision of the Pakistan People’s Party. Other factors than religion were important too, such as corruption, violence and the failure of the outgoing government to revive the economy. But the PML victory reflected a long-term shift away from a rural, socially hierarchical Pakistan, where religious practice was dominated by the folksy, syncretic, Sufi-influenced Barelvi school familiar in much of South Asia to a more urban, more egalitarian, wealthier, better-educated lower-middle-class Pakistan influenced heavily by the rigour, intolerance and politicisation of contemporary Islam as practised in the Gulf.

Similar contests are underway in the Maldives, and in Bangladesh, where both main political parties are struggling to find a way of accommodating a surge in Islamism and Islamist identities among a new generation who barely remember, or are seeking to redefine memories of, the independence struggle and civil war of 1971. In Afghanistan, ethnicity complicates the situation too, but such dynamics are also clear. There is the neo-traditionalism of the Deobandi Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamism of many conservatives in the cities, and then those whom, for want of a better label, outside observers sometimes call “liberals.”

In India of course, religion is also ever present, however much overseas analysts might talk of a post-communal, post-Ayodhya generation. But their belief that Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party may triumph because of their explicit or implicit Hindu majoritarianism, or even, as some commentators say, extremism, is misguided. Modi appeals because he offers Western-style management skills while, metaphorically and sometimes literally, wearing saffron. The message is that India can be made to run like Sweden but without sacrificing elements that hundreds of millions of people see, rightly or wrongly, as integral to the country’s cultural identity. Modi is saying that India can benefit from foreign capital and foreign methods without selling her soul.

You see the same argument in many European countries, particularly those like France, which are deeply uneasy with the continuing erosion of cultural difference globally, or indeed, in parts of the UK, where there is a profound fear of an essential, if constructed, “English-ness” suffering from some kind of new European identity. Religion in a profoundly agnostic country like Britain is less of a factor, but in France, whatever the commitment to secularism, the Catholic Church remains central to the national identity for millions.

If somewhere like France, this appeal to the “authentic” is enormously effective—as seen during recent demonstrations against gay marriage, for example—its power in the Islamic world is even greater. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives, the fusion between religion and nationalism is close. In all these countries, Islamist groups have long stressed that they are not against Western technology or, indeed, management techniques; but they do not want the cost of development to be the sacrifice of their cultural identity.

In India, the link is much more complex, with regional differences of language and lifestyle, and making such a direct connection between the majority religion of Hinduism and being an Indian citizen is much harder. But the appeal to the authentic remains hugely powerful. The BJP manifesto also talks of gaining power from Western technological advances without paying a cultural cost, and my suspicion is that most Indians currently see their country as effectively a Hindu country—though of course with minorities coexisting peacefully within it—in much the same way as most French people see France as a culturally Catholic country despite its official commitment to secularism. Results in these elections can indicate if that impression is at least partially correct.

The results may therefore hold one key lesson for observers overseas.

One of the many failings of the West over recent decades has been to allow Westernisation, with its key component of secularism, to be associated not just with an assault on local cultural values but also with increased inequality. As long as it is the elites, rather than the masses, who benefit most from closer ties to a world in which Western models still broadly dominate, we can expect repeated waves of support for anyone who symbolises a strong assertion of local cultures and faiths to be popular. In a month India may join Japan and China—already 1.5 billion people—in having a nationalist who stresses reform and governance as a leader. This may shock many Western observers overseas who, for no obvious reason, have always expected that this country would match economic development with a steady cultural convergence with the West, and an enthusiastic embrace of all forms of globalisation. Global news organisations may like elections, but they may not actually be very good at explaining them.

 

Ashram school 4

We shall now take up the period from 1968 to November 1973 when the Mother left Her body.

As already mentioned En Avant was started in December 1967. We still had the two separate sections En Avant and Vers La Perfection functioning separately. However in December 1968, the two sections got united and we had one section called En Avant Vers La Perfection. In the first two years the responsibility of running these sections were given to Tanmay, Amita and Kittu. Despite the two sections being united they were still sitting in two separate blocks in the Eastern and Western parts respectively. One revealing incident happened at that time. I asked Mother through Pavitrada whether we could start the classes in our part of the section also at 7-45am with Mother’s music. She replied to Pavitrada that She wanted to know why I wanted to start with Mother’s music. Do the students want it? Besides it should not become a ritual that we should start with Mother’s music wherever there is a Sri Aurobindo school. So I checked with the students and the majority wanted it. I then wrote a letter to Mother and She replied as follows:

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Here is the English translation:

Sweet Mother,

Next year we would like to start cleaning the rooms of En Avant.
This work will be done each morning by some teachers and students. We shall start at 6 in the morning and the work should be over by 645.

Many students and teachers have asked me if we could start the classes daily with Mother’s music. We are praying for Thy permission.

Thy child Kittu

 

Mother’s answer

That is good. Blessings

Mother

In 1970 it was decided to divide EAVP into six sections and give the charge of each section to a group of teachers. That system is still continuing today.

It will not be out of place to relate one interesting development that took place 1967. Many teachers felt that during the last few years there was a marked lack of interest among the students in the spiritual aspects; one of the reasons could be that the Mother had stopped taking classes since 1958; after that the students had very little direct contact with Her. The teachers were concerned as to how to remedy this state of affairs. Therefore after a great deal of discussion among the teachers and  Kireetbhai, a proposal was made that a study project named “The Spiritual History of India”  should be taken up; it was decided that all the teachers and students of the Secondary classes would get involved in it. An outline was prepared and was sent to the Mother for Her approval. .After reading it, this is what She commented:

 No! It won’t do. It is not to be done that way. You should begin with a big BANG! You were trying to show the continuity of history, with Sri Aurobindo as the outcome, the culmination. It is false entirely. Sri Aurobindo does not belong to history; he is outside and beyond history. Till the birth of Sri Aurobindo, religions and spiritualities were always centred on past figures, and they were showing as “the goal” the negation of life upon earth. So, you had a choice between two alternatives: either —a life in this world with its round of petty pleasures and pains, joys and sufferings, threatened by hell if you were not behaving properly, or —an escape into another world, heaven, nirvana, moksha…. Between these two there is nothing much to choose, they are equally bad.

Sri Aurobindo has told us that this was a fundamental mistake which accounts for the weakness and degradation of India. Buddhism, Jainism, Illusionism were sufficient to sap all energy out of the country. True, India is the only place in the world which is still aware that something else than Matter exists. The other countries have quite forgotten it: Europe, America and elsewhere…. That is why she still has a message to preserve and deliver to the world. But at present she is splashing and floundering in the muddle. Sri Aurobindo has shown that the truth does not lie in running away from earthly life but in remaining in it, to transform it, divinise it, so that the Divine canmanifest HERE, in this PHYSICAL WORLD. You should say all this at the first sitting. You should be square and frank… like that! (With her hands Mother makes abig square sign on the table.) Then, when this is told, strongly, squarely, and there is no doubt about it—and then only—you can go on and amuse them with the history of religions and religious or spiritual leaders. Then—and then only—you will be able to show the seed of weakness and falsehood that they have harboured and proclaimed. Then—and then only—you will be able to discern, from time to time, from place to place, an “intuition” that something else is possible; in the Vedas, for instance (the injunction to descend deep into the cave of the Panis); in the Tantras also… a little light is burning.”

31 March 1967

After receiving Mother’s comments there was a discussion among the teachers in Kireetbhai’s office; there were many differences of opinion as to to what should be done. I wrote a letter to the Mother. The letter is reproduced below.

I am giving first the English translation: 

Sweet Mother

This Sunday Kireet read to us what you had said on the project The Spiritual History of India. Among the teachers there are differences of opinion as to what should be done now.

There are those who believe that we should abandon the project and that we should concentrate solely on Sri Aurobindo.

The other say that we should not abandon the project but we should insist first on Sri Aurobindo as you had wanted and then gradually introduce the other parts like the Vedas, Buddhism etc by stressing on what Sri Aurobindo had said on these topics.

We pray to you in this situation to tell us what you would like us to do.

Thy child

Kittu

The Mother picked out the second suggestion and wrote:

This is good. Blessings. Mother.

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It was early in 1967 that I was approached by Sisirda and Sanatda to take charge of the History Board. I told them to refer the matter to Kireetbhai who would refer it to the Mother. The Mother warmly approved of it and let me know this through Pavtrada.

It was later in the year that the concept of Spiritual History of India was mooted.

Regarding the project, The Spiritual History of India, I wrote another letter to the Mother; this letter was concerning the part that I was entrusted with two other teachers. I was to take up Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. One of the students in the group wrote a letter to Mother which prompted me to write to Mother a question.

Here is the letter to the Mother which I wrote and Her reply.

Letter to the Mother from Kittu

 We have started the project “The Spiritual History of India”.  Priti, Ratna and myself are doing the part related to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. There are 16 children who have joined the project and most of them are between the ages of 11 and 14. One of the students showed me a letter written by you to him, which says: “There is no harm in studying but their teachings have been surpassed; and to know the Truth it is safer to understand Sri Aurobindo’s teaching.”

After reading this, the question that comes in front of me is: Is it really useful to speak to such young children about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and is there not a risk in doing this? Will they be able to understand all this in the proper perspective even after it is explained to them? Personally, I have my hesitations, but we would like to know what you have to say on this.

 Mother’s answer

 All studies or at least the greater part of studies consists in studying the past with the hope that this would make one understand better the present. But if one wants to avoid the danger that the students would get stuck to the past and refuse to see the future, one must take great care to explain to them that all that has happened in the past had the aim of preparing all that is happening now and all that is happening now is preparing the road to the future which is really the most important thing for which we have to prepare ourselves. It is by cultivating intuition that one prepares to live for the future.

 

 

All studies or at least the greater part of studies consists in studying the past with the hope that this would make one understand better the present. But if one wants to avoid the danger that the students would get stuck to the past and refuse to see the future, one must take great care to explain to them that all that has happened in the past had the aim of preparing all that is happening now and all that is happening now is preparing the road to the future which is really the most important thing for which we have to prepare ourselves. It is by cultivating intuition that one prepares to live for the future.

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In 1972 I organised an exhibition on Sri Aurobindo. Mother gave me her fullest support and the exhibition which was held from August 12 to 20 was a tremendous success; in fact Mother told Satprem that Sri Aurobindo was present in the hall during the Exhibition. I requested Mother to grant me permission to meet her to express my gratitude. She fixed 31 August at 10am to meet her with Andre. After some initial talk about the exhibition I told Mother that after coming in contact with  the manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo which we exhibited I had fallen in love with them and would like to help in preserving them in the new department of the Archives. Mother asked me if I knew anything about the preservation of manuscripts and as I was preparing to answer, Andre intervened and said that I was very much needed in the school. Mother paused for a while and then said: “Kittu, my dear child, Kireet is often outside travelling and Tanmaya has gone to France; I count on you to do something for the school”. I replied: “Mother, I am already working in the administration of the school and also taking classes, what else do you want me to do”? Mother replied that Andre would tell me.

After a few days, Andre called me and told me that after a detailed discussion with Mother the following points were decided.

  1. I was to take immediate charge of the Avenir section in the Flower room. This section consisted of children from the age of 6 to9. She wanted me to observe the classes and see whether even at that age there were some children who could be given some freedom. In fact, after Tanmaya’s return from France in November, he was requested to go and pick out children who were ready to use the freedom. More about that later.
  2. I was also told that after a year or so, I should do the same thing for the next higher group of classes from the age of 10-12. Mother was very clear in her mind that we should start choosing children right from the early stages who were to be the future leaders.

I started my work in dead earnest and many teachers of that section wrote letters to Mother and sent them through me; Mother send the replies generally written by Andre and these were communicated to the teachers by me. Mother was not writing much at that time. Andre also met many of the teachers to get a first hand report of their views which he then conveyed to Mother.

I was also assigned an unpleasant task by Mother. Mother expressed her wish that a few teachers needed to be weeded out of the school and She asked Andre to find out how it could be done. When Andre stated the problem to me, I told Andre quite clearly that it was beyond me to do it but since Mother wanted it to be done, I can make a suggestion.  I proposed that I could meet the section heads and ask them to give a written report on the teachers they felt should to be removed with the reasons. I also told the section heads that these reports should be shown to the teachers concerned. After that they would give it to me and then I would show them to Andre; this was followed by a detailed discussion with the section heads. After he was fully satisfied, he would present them to Mother. Mother rapidly went through the reports and then took her decision. She decided that some teachers would be given a warning and a few others were asked to work in some other department. What is very clear is that Mother was taking a lot of interest in the school and trying to bring it on line to fulfil the ideals set before us.

 In November Andre left for France and Tanmay returned from France; Kireetbhai was also back in Pondicherry. Mother started meeting them for discussing matters relating to the school. This started in the end of November. In the first week of December I joined them in the meetings. The meetings were held with the Mother every alternate evening between 7 and 730. These meetings lasted till March 29th after which they were stopped as Mother started meeting very few persons. Tanmay recorded most of the talks with a small tape recorder and transcribed many of them which he passed on to Kireetbhai and myself. I still have them with me. In all there were about 60 meetings with the Mother in four months. Evidently many areas of great importance regarding the school were covered, besides some other topics connected with the Ashram and even her physical transformation. Another point that needs to be noted was that Mother clearly indicated to Tanmay that all the tapes should be given to Satprem who would then decide what to publish.

I shall not give all the details of the talks that took place but I shall highlight some of the points that emerged which are very relevant to the Centre of Education. (to be continued).

 

 

 

 

ARE HINDUS DANGEROUS?

Whenever news about India make it to the local Nuremberg newspaper, my mother reads them out to me on phone. Usually, those news portray India in a poor light, like ‘people died from cold on the streets of Delhi’ or, especially in the past year ever so often, ‘another gang rape’, conveniently ignoring the gang rapes on home turf. During recent months, however, one term clearly dominates the western media, and going by the language used, it seems to be the most dangerous and heinous trait that any Indian could have, and that needs to be condemned by one and all.  The term is “Hindu fundamentalist”.  And the prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who is considered the frontrunner in the elections, is said to be one.

“A racist is India’s hope – Hindu fundamentalist Modi could win the election” my mother read out to me on 4th of April. Another article in the same paper, sourced from the German press agency (dpa) read “A man splits India”. In it, too “Hindu fundamentalism” was stressed and the RSS even being compared to Nazi ideology. English newspapers, too, paint ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ Narendra Modi as highly dangerous for India and the world. And leading from the front, the Indian mainstream media freely label any Hindu organizations as ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘communal’ since years and leave no doubt that the secular fabric of Indian democracy will be endangered if this ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ comes to power.

The relentless media campaign shows already results worldwide. On my last visit to Germany, a woman sitting next to me in a bus asked, “What about the Hindu fundamentalists?” when she came to know that I live in India. I told her that the fear of Hindu fundamentalists is unfounded. In fact, I am in India precisely because I treasure the fundamentals of Hinduism.

I am sure that most left liberal ‘intellectuals’ in India and abroad will come down heavily on me if they hear me say that. There is so much shouting in TV debates and living rooms that one cannot get down to the basics and ask simple questions. To be fair to Hindus, such questions need to be answered by those who malign Hindus in general and Narendra Modi in particular.

One question for example is: what makes Narendra Modi a Hindu fundamentalist? Is it the fact that he acknowledges that he is a Hindu? Or is it the allegation that he did not do anything to stop the rioting in his state in 2002? This allegation has been proven wrong in spite of intense scrutiny and the explicit desire to find him guilty. Yet let’s for a moment suppose the allegation were true and he really would have encouraged killing of Muslims as revenge for the killing of Hindus in the train burning. In that case, he would indeed deserve severest punishment, but it would not make him a Hindu fundamentalist.

Let me explain: the basic philosophy of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, as it was originally called is in a nutshell: this visible universe, including our persons, is divine. Everything is permeated by the same divine essence which is called by many names. Hindus do not, unlike Christians and Muslims, divide humanity into those who are chosen by God and those who are eternally damned. Hindus are those rare human beings whose dharma requires them to regard all as brothers and sisters. Their dharma requires them further to respect nature and not to harm unnecessarily any living being. Hindu children are not taught to look down on those who are not Hindus, unlike children of the dogmatic religions who are taught that their God does not love those others unless they officially join their ‘true’ religions. Hindus are also comparatively kinder to animals. The great bulk of vegetarians worldwide are Hindus. Strangely, this fact is hardly ever acknowledged; nor is acknowledged that Hindus never fought crusades or jihads to establish their religion in foreign lands. On the contrary, since over thousand years Hindus were at the receiving end of such jihads and conversion campaigns and millions of Hindus were killed in cold blood because they were Hindus.

Now coming back to the media assault on Modi as a Hindu fundamentalist: Is he called a Hindu fundamentalist because he openly says that he is a Hindu? Well, this would not be wrong, as he indeed seems to follow the fundamentals of Hinduism. He seems to be a genuinely good human being who wants to give his best to develop India and has the welfare of all Indians in mind.

However, though it is factually not wrong, it is at the same time very unfair by the media to call Modi a Hindu fundamentalist, because the term ‘fundamentalist’ generally has a negative connotation when it comes to other religions, and especially westerners are not knowledgeable enough to distinguish between a Christian or Muslim fundamentalist on one side and a Hindu fundamentalist on the other. If a Christian or Muslim follows the fundamentals of his religions too strictly, it is generally considered as bad for society as a whole. The reason is that such a person will stress his superiority, as his holy book claims that only his religion is true and therefore naturally superior to all other religions. Such a person would see nothing wrong and even might feel it is his duty to convert people of other religions by hook or crook, or, if they don’t comply, despise or even kill them. One only needs to look at history to see what havoc Christian and Muslim fundamentalists have wrought all over the world. So it is no surprise that no European or American politician is labeled as “Christian fundamentalist”, when he simply confesses to be a Christian. Muslim politician, too, are not called “Muslim fundamentalists”, even if they head an Islamic state.

What most people however don’t know: there is no claim of superiority in Hinduism. The reason is that it is not an unverifiable belief system that has to be indoctrinated as the one and only truth, but it is open to enquiry. Blind belief is not required. The fundamentals of Hinduism are sound and conducive for a good character. It is actually good to follow the fundamentals of Hinduism and see the one divine essence everywhere in this visible universe.

“There is talk about this God and that God. Our country is not like that. Here we maintain Ishwar  (God) is one. The paths to attain him are different”, Modi said in an interview on April 12th, 2014 (Aap ki adalat), when a woman asked him whether Christians and their churches will be safe under him. He assured his audience that the motto of his party, in tune with the Constitution of India, is to treat all different paths equally. Communal frenzy will not be allowed to retard the growth of India, he added.

Modi’s words deserve to be taken seriously. He has governed Gujarat with a population of around 60 million for the last 12 years and no major communal clash took place there after the riots of 2002, whereas many riots happened elsewhere. Yet in those 12 years, Narendra Modi managed to greatly develop Gujarat and make it the envy of other Indian states. He proved that he is not corrupt and highly capable.

So why is Narendra Modi relentlessly labeled as Hindu fundamentalist by the world media, which knows fully well that this label will make him look ‘bad’ in the eyes of the world? Could it be that the west is actually afraid of an economically strong India and uses the bogey of Hindu fundamentalism to beat Modi and India down?

Maybe it is time for Hindus to tell the world to have a close look at the fundamentals of Hinduism. They might actually want to adopt them.  

By Maria Wirth

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. Another write up with amazing clarity and loaded with only facts, Maria ! I guess it’s not the numbers that matter, and I’m no…we in India are glad at least one person sees and understand Sanathana Dharma in the right perspective. I travelled to Gujarat about 4 times, from top to bottom, and certainly could see the development there. A Muslim gentleman once told me on my travels there ‘if you see any flaws at all, send a mail direct to Modi and it will be taken care’. I was under the impression the false propaganda is happening only in India and which is no surprise esp. during election times, but surprised to hear that it’s happening beyond the borders as well.

    1. Maria Lozano · April 18, 2014 – 12:35 pm · Reply

      Of course, Sir. Nowadays there are no borders. You would be amazed to discover the many nexus there are from the West to undermine India´s unity.
      The depiction of India in the West is so sad as only to justify the “necessity for an intervention” from the West who will be the saviour of the universe, be it through charity (???), western fashion, secularism imported (imposed on) by the West, a western view of the human rights, and monotheistic religions. For serving this purpose, here in the West, besides curry and Bollywood coming from India, what we hear in the news is only about poverty, rapes, and lack of human rights. What is truely a pitty is how many indians, convinced by the one sided media here and in India itself, focus only on the bad part of India and perpetuate like this this destructive agenda.

  2. Maria Lozano · April 18, 2014 – 12:26 pm · Reply

    Great as usual, Maria. For that matter, let´s all be hindu fundamentalists, like you say in your other marvellous article. http://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/lets-all-be-hindu-fundamentalists/

 

Leave a Reply

 

Are Hindus dangerous?

very well written; it is a must read for Indian liberals

MARIA WIRTH

Whenever news about India make it to the local Nuremberg newspaper, my mother reads them out to me on phone. Usually, those news portray India in a poor light, like ‘people died from cold on the streets of Delhi’ or, especially in the past year ever so often, ‘another gang rape’, conveniently ignoring the gang rapes on home turf. During recent months, however, one term clearly dominates the western media, and going by the language used, it seems to be the most dangerous and heinous trait that any Indian could have, and that needs to be condemned by one and all.  The term is “Hindu fundamentalist”.  And the prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who is considered the frontrunner in the elections, is said to be one.

“A racist is India’s hope – Hindu fundamentalist Modi could win the election” my mother read out to me on 4th of April…

View original post 1,167 more words

‘Is Modi a good actor, or is he really so genuine?’

Last updated on: April 14, 2014 20:43 IST

 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

‘One very interesting thing happened when I was going around Vadnagar. One lady was there, doing some domestic work. The people who were taking me around introduced me, saying I was writing a book on Narendrabhai. So she said warmly, ‘Oh, come to my house.’

She said she also knew him well, that her son and Narendrabhai were in the same class and were very good friends. She told me how Narendra would come for all their family functions. Every marriage and every family occasion, he would be there. In short, she said she knows him much more because he was a good friend of her son.’

‘Yes, she was a Muslim.’

Rediff.com‘s Sheela Bhatt unearths some never revealed before details of Narendra Modi’s early life. Read on!

Read the first part here: ‘Modi’s marriage is a Shakespearean tragedy’

The concluding part of Sheela Bhatt‘s exclusive interview with Dr Kalindi Randeri, co-author of The Man of the Moment: Narendra Modi, presenting never known before details of Narendra Modi’s marriage to Jashodaben 46 years ago.

Why did he marry her? Why did he walk out of it?

Read it all only on Rediff.com, in this interview with Modi’s co-biographer.

Why did you and Mr Kamath decide to write a book on Narendra Modi?

Neither Mr Kamath nor I knew Modi as such. But one day, the publishers, who were quite young, came to Mr Kamath and said they would like to publish a book, they have approached Mr Modi, and he is ready to cooperate.

In fact, the publisher had approached Modi before meeting us. Modi inquired about the author. They said they haven’t decided yet. Mr Modi told them, ‘Bring 10 names to me and I’ll select’ — in the sense, if he likes any of them. So they took 10 names to him and he selected Mr Kamath’s name. He showed his readiness to cooperate with Mr Kamath.

When the publishers met Mr Kamath he agreed, but he said he would like to consult me.

Mr Kamath said he wouldn’t like to write the book alone because it involves many things that as a colleague I was competent to help him with.

We had only heard about Modi, we did not know him. He had become CM in 2001 and in 2002 the riots happened. The English media was bombarding Modi then, Mr Kamath and I felt that this was something going really wrong.

We always felt the people were not getting the right picture. So, when we got this opportunity to write the book on him with his cooperation, we thought fine, now we will have an opportunity to personally look into these matters and can write what we feel.

In 2002 and after, our instinct was that Modi was not doing anything wrong and he can’t be made responsible. That is how we came into the picture.

Did you meet Modi to write this book?

Yes, at that time we met him often. In fact, initially, we had three proper interviews with him, Mr Kamath and I met him for two, three hours at a stretch and we discussed many things with him. Subsequently, I met many people around him.

Also, if I needed any supplementary information, I used to meet him since I have family in Ahmedabad and I had to also visit Ahmedabad to do research in the archives there. During all that time I used to meet him alone, without Mr Kamath.

What was your first impression of Modi?

We were extremely impressed. In our very first encounter, Mr Kamath said, ‘Mr Modi, if you think this book is going to be all praise of you, then let’s end it right here. We will drink coffee and leave.’

‘Mr Kamath,’ Modi said, ‘don’t I know you and your reputation? You are free to write whatever you want.’

In one interaction Mr Kamath asked Modi, ‘Do you hate Muslims?’ ‘Let me ask you, are you a Hindu?’ Modi asked. Mr Kamath said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Were you ever brought up as a Hindu to hate Muslims?’ Modi asked.

He asked me this, too. When we replied in the negative, Modi said, ‘The same is the case with me. Why should I hate them? I have nothing against them.’

Then, we started talking about his childhood and the chronology of events in his life and all that.

Did you visit Vadnagar, his hometown?

Yes. I went to meet Rasikbhai, specially because he was one of Modi’s oldest influences. We went around, and I specially wanted to see the house in which Modi lived.

Modi’s family no longer lives in that house; in fact, his family is no longer in Vadnagar, they moved out and somebody else stays in that house. But still, I went to see it.

My god, it is made of tin-sheets! It is like a row of rooms, it has only one door, that is all there is to see in Modi’s house.

When you enter there is one room, then there is the second room which is the kitchen, and then there is the third room which is like a storeroom. It is completely dark inside his home.

They had built a first floor with bamboo-like material with a tin roof which would get hot in summer.

Earlier, when they were staying there, there was no toilet. But now you see a little corner to drain out the water in the front room, which they had covered with curtains. The women used to take a bath over there. But all members of the family had to go out in the open or to the field to answer nature’s call.

Narendrabhai always went to a nearby lake for his bath. That was the kind of life in his early years. Now, his house in Vadnagar has an Indian-style toilet just outside the house where you carry water whenever you want to use it.

He went to a government primary school till the fourth standard. Then he went to a private secondary school — only one high school was there, where everybody went and so did Narendrabhai.

In Vadnagar?

Yes, in Vadnagar. I met his teachers at the school. He was always considered a good student, not brilliant. He never came first or anything like that, but was an intelligent student.

He had lots of interests. He was reading all the time and active. He used to read a lot at the Vadnagar library which still stands. He read almost all kinds of books and magazines.

At a very young age he brought a book of seven hundred pages on Shivaji and read that. He was known as a voracious reader.

He was always willing to help others. Everyday, after school, he would go to help his father at the tea stall near the railway station. But in between, if there was any political or social activity coming up, he would attend it.

Later, he joined the shakha when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh arrived in the village. He attended it because all the children, his friends and everybody, were attending the shakha. In the evening, due to the shakha, the villagers got something to do. There also, he would prove that he was different.

I met Dwarkadasji, the person who was looking after the Congress party in Vadnagar. Even though he was a part of the RSS, he remembered whenever there was a Congress function Narendrabhai would come as a volunteer with his friends. Because, his idea was always to help people without any discrimination.

When he was five or six years old he went to Dwarkadasji and asked, ‘Can I sell badges?’ He told Dwarkadasji, ‘You give me, I will sell it to the people.’

Congress badges?

Yes. He extended help to the Congress or any other event in the town. Even though he was so young, he was active. In his early years he made an application to join the military school. He was very keen to go there because he wanted to serve the country. But his father put his foot down, so he could not go to military school.

Right from the beginning he wanted to do something for the country, for the people.

Modi’s school compound wall was broken at many places. It badly needed repairs, needed to be reconstructed, but there was no money. So, he told his friends, ‘Come, let’s raise the money.’

He staged a play. Narendrabhai wrote the play, acted in it, directed it, he did everything — it was a one-man, one-act play. The name of the play was Peelu Phool –the yellow flower.

The whole theme was based on untouchability. In the play a woman was in need of one yellow flower for her sick child, but because she was an untouchable she couldn’t enter the temple.

People in Vadnagar, his friends, still remember how well written and well acted the play was. At that time he was hardly 13, 14 years old, but he had shown all this talent.

Once there was floods in Surat. He told his friends, ‘Let us collect funds for Surtis.’ So at Janmashtami Narendrabhai and his friends got together, cooked the food, sold it, made a lot of money and contributed it to the flood victims.

What about his higher education?

There was no college in Vadnagar, so like all his friends, Narendrabhai migrated to Visnagar and joined college, but only for a few months.

Why?

Because he was not interested in sansar. He wanted to become a sadhu.

Really?

Yeah. During his childhood also, he showed signs that he would remain detached from worldly things. If any sadhu would come to town he would go to help.

Once a sadhu was staying in a mandir at the end of the street where he was living. He had grown jwara (wheatgrass) all over his body and so needed help with food and all. Narendrabhai would go there in the morning and help him.

Once the family was going somewhere for some festival, and he said he won’t join them because he has committed himself to the service of this sadhu.

Anyway, if you visit his village, lots of neighbours will tell you stories about how Narendrabhaiwas not interested in material life, I mean sansar.

But why?

As I said, from the beginning, he wanted to serve society. That was his inclination.

But, then, he was not clear what can he do. He thought at least he can become a sadhu.

When he was about 13 or 14 a sadhu had come to their house for food, like they used to go door to door in the early decades of the last century. His mother gave him food.

Then the sadhu said, do you have the kundli (horoscope) of any of your children? Heeraben(Modi’s mother) showed Narendrabhai‘s kundli to the sadhu. He said this man would be either like a chakravarty maharaj (emperor) or he will be like Shankracharya, a big sadhu.

Modi’s poor family could never imagine that he would be a shahenshah or a chakravarty.

So they thought he would become a sadhu?

Yeah. He was already showing such an inclination. Everyday Narendra would do jaap (chanting of mantras), meditation. He would meditate for hours. So the family got very very worried, decided to take control of his life and get him married.

The family got together, found a bride for him, Jashodabenimage, left, took him to her village and got him married, then quickly brought him back.

Narendrabhai insisted that he didn’t want to (marry). His elder brother was also married at a young age, so nobody listened to Narendrabhai.

That was the tradition in his family, like elsewhere in India some 50 years back. Nobody thought it was being done differently or awkwardly.

Then?

After marriage, Narendrabhai passed the matriculation exam and he was old enough. So the family said they would like to get the bride home (from her parents’ house).

Narendrabhai said he was not interested. They said how can that be possible? He kept refusing. He told his mother, ‘I want to go to the Himalayas. I want to become a sadhu, so you don’t call her.’

It took some time and lots of effort on his part to convince his parents. He told his mother, ‘Unless you give me your blessings I won’t go either. But I am also very sure that I don’t want to start sansar.’

Finally, his family gave him their nod to walk out of the marriage that they had forced upon the young boy.

His mother gave her permission because she thought he was really not inclined to start life like ordinary sansaris. He wanted to devote himself to the service of others.

Whether he would do it as a social worker or sadhu, he didn’t know. But he had heard that Swami Vivekananda had gone to the Himalayas for some time. And he was a big bhakt of Vivekananda by that time and had read everything possible about him.

There was a resident in Vadnagar who had a big library of books on Vivekananda and he had read them all.

We have written about it in our book. Narendrabhai would borrow from him to get all he wanted to know about Vivekananda. The monk was truly his idol, so Narendrabhai left Vadnagar to go to the Himalayas.

But he first went to the Ramakrishna Mission in Rajkot. But there also they would not keep him for long so he went to the Belur Math (in Bengal). But there, to become a full-time member, they needed certain education.

Narendrabhai was not a graduate. From Kolkata, he left for the Himalayas.

Where in the Himalayas?

To different places…

What did he do there?

He would roam around with sadhus. He would eat whatever the sadhus would eat. He would discuss with them philosophy or whatever he wanted to. Essentially, he was in search of purpose. He said he was searching for the truth.

What was this life all about? He was too young to even realise. He was not tutored to become a sadhu. He was on his own, searching for meaning in his life.

In fact, with one of the sadhus he stayed for a longer time, but after two years he was disappointed that what he was looking for, he did not get. Maybe because he did not know what he was looking for.

So why did he come back to sansar?

Because he realised something after he met so many sadhus. He understood that after becoming a sadhu you do not serve people all the time. And param satyani shodh (the search for the ultimate truth) that he was after, he could not see in the lives of many sadhus he had met. He didn’t see that they had achieved it or attained param satya.

He was not satisfied with spending his time thus. He said no, I don’t think being a sadhu is going to satisfy my life. So he came back.

To start his marriage?

No, not at all. He came back home to Vadnagar after wandering in the Himalayas. His mother was home when he gave her a surprise. She was very very happy.

He told her, ‘I have come only for a day, the next day I will be leaving for Ahmedabad to stay with my mama (maternal uncle).’

By that time, the family had reconciled that he doesn’t want to lead a married life. In fact, they had already informed the girl that you please feel free, we are very sorry. They said we were extremely sorry for the girl, but he was so adamant about it.

As a matter of fact, Sheela, when I met Heeraben, she told me with tears in her eyes, ‘This was a huge mistake of my life. His father, too, till he died, regretted very much that we forced the marriage upon Narendra.’

So, he did not come back from the Himalayas to start his married life. But he knew he had to earn his living, so he went away to the city. He came to Ahmedabad because his uncle was running a canteen there.

Near the Geeta Mandir area?

Yes, Narendrabhai agreed to work there. While working there and helping his uncle, he couldn’t draw a salary. But he could manage a living.

He used to go, in the evenings, for RSS discourses. Then slowly a point came when he got closer to the senior workers of the RSS headquarters in Gujarat. Around the age of 19 or so, this was his life.

One very interesting thing happened when I was going around Vadnagar. There are two neighbourhoods near his old house. One lady was there, doing some domestic work.

Naturally, in a village they get curious about who the visitor is. The people who were taking me around introduced me saying that I was writing a book on Narendrabhai. So she said, warmly, ‘Oh, come, come to my house.’

She said she also know him well. She said her son and Narendrabhai were in the same class and were very good friends. She told me how Narendra would come for all their family functions. Every marriage and every family occasion, he would be there.

In short, she said she knows him much more because he was a good friend of her son. So, you see, this also indicates…

Was she a Muslim?

Yes, a Muslim.

Then there was another friend, he had two Muslim friends.

While writing this book I once had a common meeting with 28, 29 friends of Narendrabhai. I met all his school friends in Ahmedabad who had come for some function. I had a group meeting with them, and when I met his other friends, his classmates, they all said when they were growing up, there was nothing like ‘Hindu-Muslim’ in Vadnagar.

They had all been brought up in such a harmonious setting. It was such a quiet town. There was always harmony. And they said they never thought of who was Muslim and who was Hindu, they always mixed with each other.

So that is Narendrabhai‘s background. In the RSS also he said they were never told anything against Muslims.

Interestingly, we asked him about Mahatma Gandhi. He said I did not know much about Mahatma Gandhi. No one in the RSS also talked much about him. He said he knew about him as much as any Indian child of his age would know.

He said he used to read magazines, whatever came in his way. The RSS was neutral in projecting Mahatma Gandhi.

When you interviewed him, did you think he would become a prime ministerial candidate one day?

This reminds me of your first question, what we thought of him.

See, after the first interview, he was so cordial all along. He would come up to the gate to see off me and Mr Kamath.

Once, Mr Kamath told me, ‘See Kalindi, I have interviewed prime ministers, presidents, princes, anybody you name, business tycoons, all over the world. But, I really don’t know what to make out of this man.’

‘Is he a good actor, or is he really so genuine?’

 

 

11:13 (3 hours ago)

 

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/ls-election-sheela-says-is-modi-a-good-actor-or-is-he-really-so-genuine/20140414.htm

‘Is Modi a good actor, or is he really so genuine?’

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

‘One very interesting thing happened when I was going around Vadnagar. One lady was there, doing some domestic work. The people who were taking me around introduced me, saying I was writing a book on Narendrabhai. So she said warmly, ‘Oh, come to my house.’

She said she also knew him well, that her son and Narendrabhai were in the same class and were very good friends. She told me how Narendra would come for all their family functions. Every marriage and every family occasion, he would be there. In short, she said she knows him much more because he was a good friend of her son.’

‘Yes, she was a Muslim.’

Rediff.com‘s Sheela Bhatt unearths some never revealed before details of Narendra Modi’s early life. Read on!

Read the first part here: ‘Modi’s marriage is a Shakespearean tragedy’

The concluding part of Sheela Bhatt‘s exclusive interview with Dr Kalindi Randeri, co-author of The Man of the Moment: Narendra Modi, presenting never known before details of Narendra Modi’s marriage to Jashodaben 46 years ago.

Why did he marry her? Why did he walk out of it?

Read it all only on Rediff.com, in this interview with Modi’s co-biographer.

Why did you and Mr Kamath decide to write a book on Narendra Modi?

Neither Mr Kamath nor I knew Modi as such. But one day, the publishers, who were quite young, came to Mr Kamath and said they would like to publish a book, they have approached Mr Modi, and he is ready to cooperate.

In fact, the publisher had approached Modi before meeting us. Modi inquired about the author. They said they haven’t decided yet. Mr Modi told them, ‘Bring 10 names to me and I’ll select’ — in the sense, if he likes any of them. So they took 10 names to him and he selected Mr Kamath’s name. He showed his readiness to cooperate with Mr Kamath.

When the publishers met Mr Kamath he agreed, but he said he would like to consult me.

Mr Kamath said he wouldn’t like to write the book alone because it involves many things that as a colleague I was competent to help him with.

We had only heard about Modi, we did not know him. He had become CM in 2001 and in 2002 the riots happened. The English media was bombarding Modi then, Mr Kamath and I felt that this was something going really wrong.

We always felt the people were not getting the right picture. So, when we got this opportunity to write the book on him with his cooperation, we thought fine, now we will have an opportunity to personally look into these matters and can write what we feel.

In 2002 and after, our instinct was that Modi was not doing anything wrong and he can’t be made responsible. That is how we came into the picture.

Did you meet Modi to write this book?

Yes, at that time we met him often. In fact, initially, we had three proper interviews with him, Mr Kamath and I met him for two, three hours at a stretch and we discussed many things with him. Subsequently, I met many people around him.

Also, if I needed any supplementary information, I used to meet him since I have family in Ahmedabad and I had to also visit Ahmedabad to do research in the archives there. During all that time I used to meet him alone, without Mr Kamath.

What was your first impression of Modi?

We were extremely impressed. In our very first encounter, Mr Kamath said, ‘Mr Modi, if you think this book is going to be all praise of you, then let’s end it right here. We will drink coffee and leave.’

‘Mr Kamath,’ Modi said, ‘don’t I know you and your reputation? You are free to write whatever you want.’

In one interaction Mr Kamath asked Modi, ‘Do you hate Muslims?’ ‘Let me ask you, are you a Hindu?’ Modi asked. Mr Kamath said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Were you ever brought up as a Hindu to hate Muslims?’ Modi asked.

He asked me this, too. When we replied in the negative, Modi said, ‘The same is the case with me. Why should I hate them? I have nothing against them.’

Then, we started talking about his childhood and the chronology of events in his life and all that.

Did you visit Vadnagar, his hometown?

Yes. I went to meet Rasikbhai, specially because he was one of Modi’s oldest influences. We went around, and I specially wanted to see the house in which Modi lived.

Modi’s family no longer lives in that house; in fact, his family is no longer in Vadnagar, they moved out and somebody else stays in that house. But still, I went to see it.

My god, it is made of tin-sheets! It is like a row of rooms, it has only one door, that is all there is to see in Modi’s house.

When you enter there is one room, then there is the second room which is the kitchen, and then there is the third room which is like a storeroom. It is completely dark inside his home.

They had built a first floor with bamboo-like material with a tin roof which would get hot in summer.

Earlier, when they were staying there, there was no toilet. But now you see a little corner to drain out the water in the front room, which they had covered with curtains. The women used to take a bath over there. But all members of the family had to go out in the open or to the field to answer nature’s call.

Narendrabhai always went to a nearby lake for his bath. That was the kind of life in his early years. Now, his house in Vadnagar has an Indian-style toilet just outside the house where you carry water whenever you want to use it.

He went to a government primary school till the fourth standard. Then he went to a private secondary school — only one high school was there, where everybody went and so did Narendrabhai.

In Vadnagar?

Yes, in Vadnagar. I met his teachers at the school. He was always considered a good student, not brilliant. He never came first or anything like that, but was an intelligent student.

He had lots of interests. He was reading all the time and active. He used to read a lot at the Vadnagar library which still stands. He read almost all kinds of books and magazines.

At a very young age he brought a book of seven hundred pages on Shivaji and read that. He was known as a voracious reader.

He was always willing to help others. Everyday, after school, he would go to help his father at the tea stall near the railway station. But in between, if there was any political or social activity coming up, he would attend it.

Later, he joined the shakha when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh arrived in the village. He attended it because all the children, his friends and everybody, were attending the shakha. In the evening, due to the shakha, the villagers got something to do. There also, he would prove that he was different.

I met Dwarkadasji, the person who was looking after the Congress party in Vadnagar. Even though he was a part of the RSS, he remembered whenever there was a Congress function Narendrabhai would come as a volunteer with his friends. Because, his idea was always to help people without any discrimination.

When he was five or six years old he went to Dwarkadasji and asked, ‘Can I sell badges?’ He told Dwarkadasji, ‘You give me, I will sell it to the people.’

Congress badges?

Yes. He extended help to the Congress or any other event in the town. Even though he was so young, he was active. In his early years he made an application to join the military school. He was very keen to go there because he wanted to serve the country. But his father put his foot down, so he could not go to military school.

Right from the beginning he wanted to do something for the country, for the people.

Modi’s school compound wall was broken at many places. It badly needed repairs, needed to be reconstructed, but there was no money. So, he told his friends, ‘Come, let’s raise the money.’

He staged a play. Narendrabhai wrote the play, acted in it, directed it, he did everything — it was a one-man, one-act play. The name of the play was Peelu Phool –the yellow flower.

The whole theme was based on untouchability. In the play a woman was in need of one yellow flower for her sick child, but because she was an untouchable she couldn’t enter the temple.

People in Vadnagar, his friends, still remember how well written and well acted the play was. At that time he was hardly 13, 14 years old, but he had shown all this talent.

Once there was floods in Surat. He told his friends, ‘Let us collect funds for Surtis.’ So at Janmashtami Narendrabhai and his friends got together, cooked the food, sold it, made a lot of money and contributed it to the flood victims.

What about his higher education?

There was no college in Vadnagar, so like all his friends, Narendrabhai migrated to Visnagar and joined college, but only for a few months.

Why?

Because he was not interested in sansar. He wanted to become a sadhu.

Really?

Yeah. During his childhood also, he showed signs that he would remain detached from worldly things. If any sadhu would come to town he would go to help.

Once a sadhu was staying in a mandir at the end of the street where he was living. He had grown jwara (wheatgrass) all over his body and so needed help with food and all. Narendrabhai would go there in the morning and help him.

Once the family was going somewhere for some festival, and he said he won’t join them because he has committed himself to the service of this sadhu.

Anyway, if you visit his village, lots of neighbours will tell you stories about how Narendrabhaiwas not interested in material life, I mean sansar.

But why?

As I said, from the beginning, he wanted to serve society. That was his inclination.

But, then, he was not clear what can he do. He thought at least he can become a sadhu.

When he was about 13 or 14 a sadhu had come to their house for food, like they used to go door to door in the early decades of the last century. His mother gave him food.

Then the sadhu said, do you have the kundli (horoscope) of any of your children? Heeraben(Modi’s mother) showed Narendrabhai‘s kundli to the sadhu. He said this man would be either like a chakravarty maharaj (emperor) or he will be like Shankracharya, a big sadhu.

Modi’s poor family could never imagine that he would be a shahenshah or a chakravarty.

So they thought he would become a sadhu?

Yeah. He was already showing such an inclination. Everyday Narendra would do jaap (chanting of mantras), meditation. He would meditate for hours. So the family got very very worried, decided to take control of his life and get him married.

The family got together, found a bride for him, Jashodabenimage, left, took him to her village and got him married, then quickly brought him back.

Narendrabhai insisted that he didn’t want to (marry). His elder brother was also married at a young age, so nobody listened to Narendrabhai.

That was the tradition in his family, like elsewhere in India some 50 years back. Nobody thought it was being done differently or awkwardly.

Then?

After marriage, Narendrabhai passed the matriculation exam and he was old enough. So the family said they would like to get the bride home (from her parents’ house).

Narendrabhai said he was not interested. They said how can that be possible? He kept refusing. He told his mother, ‘I want to go to the Himalayas. I want to become a sadhu, so you don’t call her.’

It took some time and lots of effort on his part to convince his parents. He told his mother, ‘Unless you give me your blessings I won’t go either. But I am also very sure that I don’t want to start sansar.’

Finally, his family gave him their nod to walk out of the marriage that they had forced upon the young boy.

His mother gave her permission because she thought he was really not inclined to start life like ordinary sansaris. He wanted to devote himself to the service of others.

Whether he would do it as a social worker or sadhu, he didn’t know. But he had heard that Swami Vivekananda had gone to the Himalayas for some time. And he was a big bhakt of Vivekananda by that time and had read everything possible about him.

There was a resident in Vadnagar who had a big library of books on Vivekananda and he had read them all.

We have written about it in our book. Narendrabhai would borrow from him to get all he wanted to know about Vivekananda. The monk was truly his idol, so Narendrabhai left Vadnagar to go to the Himalayas.

But he first went to the Ramakrishna Mission in Rajkot. But there also they would not keep him for long so he went to the Belur Math (in Bengal). But there, to become a full-time member, they needed certain education.

Narendrabhai was not a graduate. From Kolkata, he left for the Himalayas.

Where in the Himalayas?

To different places…

What did he do there?

He would roam around with sadhus. He would eat whatever the sadhus would eat. He would discuss with them philosophy or whatever he wanted to. Essentially, he was in search of purpose. He said he was searching for the truth.

What was this life all about? He was too young to even realise. He was not tutored to become a sadhu. He was on his own, searching for meaning in his life.

In fact, with one of the sadhus he stayed for a longer time, but after two years he was disappointed that what he was looking for, he did not get. Maybe because he did not know what he was looking for.

So why did he come back to sansar?

Because he realised something after he met so many sadhus. He understood that after becoming a sadhu you do not serve people all the time. And param satyani shodh (the search for the ultimate truth) that he was after, he could not see in the lives of many sadhus he had met. He didn’t see that they had achieved it or attained param satya.

He was not satisfied with spending his time thus. He said no, I don’t think being a sadhu is going to satisfy my life. So he came back.

To start his marriage?

No, not at all. He came back home to Vadnagar after wandering in the Himalayas. His mother was home when he gave her a surprise. She was very very happy.

He told her, ‘I have come only for a day, the next day I will be leaving for Ahmedabad to stay with my mama (maternal uncle).’

By that time, the family had reconciled that he doesn’t want to lead a married life. In fact, they had already informed the girl that you please feel free, we are very sorry. They said we were extremely sorry for the girl, but he was so adamant about it.

As a matter of fact, Sheela, when I met Heeraben, she told me with tears in her eyes, ‘This was a huge mistake of my life. His father, too, till he died, regretted very much that we forced the marriage upon Narendra.’

So, he did not come back from the Himalayas to start his married life. But he knew he had to earn his living, so he went away to the city. He came to Ahmedabad because his uncle was running a canteen there.

Near the Geeta Mandir area?

Yes, Narendrabhai agreed to work there. While working there and helping his uncle, he couldn’t draw a salary. But he could manage a living.

He used to go, in the evenings, for RSS discourses. Then slowly a point came when he got closer to the senior workers of the RSS headquarters in Gujarat. Around the age of 19 or so, this was his life.

One very interesting thing happened when I was going around Vadnagar. There are two neighbourhoods near his old house. One lady was there, doing some domestic work.

Naturally, in a village they get curious about who the visitor is. The people who were taking me around introduced me saying that I was writing a book on Narendrabhai. So she said, warmly, ‘Oh, come, come to my house.’

She said she also know him well. She said her son and Narendrabhai were in the same class and were very good friends. She told me how Narendra would come for all their family functions. Every marriage and every family occasion, he would be there.

In short, she said she knows him much more because he was a good friend of her son. So, you see, this also indicates…

Was she a Muslim?

Yes, a Muslim.

Then there was another friend, he had two Muslim friends.

While writing this book I once had a common meeting with 28, 29 friends of Narendrabhai. I met all his school friends in Ahmedabad who had come for some function. I had a group meeting with them, and when I met his other friends, his classmates, they all said when they were growing up, there was nothing like ‘Hindu-Muslim’ in Vadnagar.

They had all been brought up in such a harmonious setting. It was such a quiet town. There was always harmony. And they said they never thought of who was Muslim and who was Hindu, they always mixed with each other.

So that is Narendrabhai‘s background. In the RSS also he said they were never told anything against Muslims.

Interestingly, we asked him about Mahatma Gandhi. He said I did not know much about Mahatma Gandhi. No one in the RSS also talked much about him. He said he knew about him as much as any Indian child of his age would know.

He said he used to read magazines, whatever came in his way. The RSS was neutral in projecting Mahatma Gandhi.

When you interviewed him, did you think he would become a prime ministerial candidate one day?

This reminds me of your first question, what we thought of him.

See, after the first interview, he was so cordial all along. He would come up to the gate to see off me and Mr Kamath.

Once, Mr Kamath told me, ‘See Kalindi, I have interviewed prime ministers, presidents, princes, anybody you name, business tycoons, all over the world. But, I really don’t know what to make out of this man.’

‘Is he a good actor, or is he really so genuine?’

14:14 (0 minutes ago)

 

 

Shrikanth Reddy

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