The Quiet Soldiers of Compassion

on Sunday, August 17, 2008

In 1971, Baba Amte took his young son Prakash Amte to a fierce, isolated jungle to work with the Madia Gonds: 37 years later, as the Magsaysay honours the family a second time, SHOMA CHAUDHURY unlocks their inspirational journey.

In concert: Dr Prakash and Mandakini Amte step out into the rain for dinner Photos:Shailendra Pandey

EVEN IF you saturate yourself in the Amtes, day and night, you cannot entirely look their work in the eye: you turn away from the full experience of it because if you didn’t, you would be forced to confront and change your deepest self. You would need to re-examine your entire life.

But let us start at the beginning. If you drive deep into the forested heart of India, 360 kilometres away from Nagpur, you will find nothing but giant mosquitoes and thoughts for company, and occasional clusters of huts — mere lashings of damp leaf and grass. It is a beautiful country, an emerald world cut by streams and rivers, but it is so lonely, so isolated, you can almost touch its forgottenness. Six hours into this silent receding world and suddenly you come to a white arch: Lok Biradari Prakalp, Hemalkasa. Turn in and the first thing you feel is disappointment. There seems nothing here but the standard issue buildings of middle India — grey cement, green mould. It is dusk and raining hard. A wiry man in white vest and white shorts steps up.

We didn’t expect it all to be so large, we say

We didn’t either, he says and bursts into a hearty laugh. And the miracle of it all starts to reveal itself.

Media and television crews are thronging the red-verandah house of Dr Prakash and Manda Amte, both now 60. They have just been declared recipients of the prestigious Magsaysay award — an award that Prakash’s revolutionary father, the “scientific humanist” Baba Amte was himself honoured with over 20 years ago. It is an invitation for the world to come looking for the Amte family legend. Sitting in the gathering darkness, thick moths swirling around unreliable lights, the doctors are trying hard to comply, but the legend runs deeper than anecdotes about snake bites and bear attacks, deeper than grainy black and white pictures can tell. The spirit of it is caught for a moment as husband and wife step into the rain under a common umbrella for a community dinner in a common dining hall. The morning brings fresh revelations.

Life at Hemalkasa always begins at dawn with a walk to the Indravati river, two kilometres away — an unfailing ritual, a slice of

pleasure, before the urgencies of the day take control. In a sense, it is also a daily return to roots. Thirty-seven years earlier, Baba Amte had brought his wife and sons, Vikas and Prakash, for a rare outing here to Bhamragad, a confluence of three rivers where Baba had roamed as a young boy hunting with the Madia Gonds, the tribe indigenous to the region. The picnic would become a crucial turning point. Decades after independence, the Madias were still living in a pitiable condition. As huntergatherers, they had little access to regular food, and almost no healthcare — barring the whimsy of witchdoctors. Malaria, tuberculosis, diarroehea, whooping cough, gangrene, ulcers and malnutrition raged among them. The sight of strangers sent them scuttling like startled deer. Baba made an impulsive decision to start work among them.

It took three years for the government to give him 50 acres of land in the heart of the jungle. Baba moved in with a handful of workers and his elder son Vikas in 1973, clearing bits of the hostile land, cutting through stone. About a year later, Prakash cut short his degree in general surgery and joined the project in Hemalkasa. He came with his adopted sister Renuka and his new bride, Mandakini, an anaesthetist and the daughter of RSS pracharaks from Nagpur — not exactly conventional material for the unorthodox life. They had nothing but two thatched huts to live in, and the fierce jungle around. Baba and the others moved back to other urgent projects scattered across the country. Prakash and Manda and Renuka stayed with a small band of volunteers.

For six months, not a single Madia Gond would come near them.

Today Hemalkasa runs a 50-bed hospital and an OPD that treats over 40,000 Madia tribals a year. It has a residential school up to Class XII for 650 Madia boys and girls and a training programme for barefoot doctors. All of this free of charge. It also has an animal orphanage — affectionately christened Amte’s Ark by a visitor — that houses an astonishing range of wild animals from leopards, lions and bears to crocodiles, wolves, hyenas, snakes, porcupines, badgers, deer and owls: all of them in lustrous health, all of them personally looked after by Prakash and some helpers.

NONE OF this reveals itself as immediately extraordinary unless one explores the tenacious will and dedication it took to

Miracle workers : Miracle workers Prakash and Manda Amte tend to a skeletal frame in their open air OPD
at Hemalkasa; their grandchild Arunav plays

accomplish it. To live in Hemalkasa in the 1970s meant poverty and utter isolation. There was no electricity for 17 years, no supplies, no school, no community. Food meant a simple, unchanging menu of rice and moong dal, darkness meant the hiss of the hurricane lamp. For six months in the year, Hemalkasa was completely cut off when the river Bandia flooded in July. News of the world only came in sporadic gusts when Jagan Mechakale, a Herculean volunteer, cycled or walked the 60 kilometres from base camp Nagepelli to deliver messages. Once a year, Sadhnatai — Baba’s warrior wife — walked the distance herself to see if her youngest and his family were still alive. In 1975, it took several months for Prakash to know his second son Aniket had been born — and had been sick. When he was barely 18 months old, they almost lost their elder son Diganth to cerebral malaria; he suffered from epileptic fits for years afterwards. Manda, a deceptively strong woman, short on words, high on action, wept then and again years later when all three of her children — Diganth, Aniket and adopted daughter Aarti — consecutively failed their board examinations. Had they done right in choosing this life for their children? “There was an atmosphere of death in the house when this happened,” says Prakash, “but we absorbed these shocks and kept moving on.”

Ask him what kept him in Hemalkasa through all this, though, and his response is instinctive and quick. “Manda’s companionship — and the people’s faith. That is what keeps us here. I have never seen such tolerance for pain. They come to us from a radius of 200 kilometres, we try to help them. Sometimes when I cut their wounds, the pus sprays onto my face and body. We never had gloves but it never mattered. When I watch their wounds — black, poisonous, foul-smelling — slowly turning red and healthy, that is my reward.”

This unassuming compassion — this life-affirming gratification in serving others — is the foundational chromosome of the Amte legend. Every family member — and the vast armies of volunteers and journeymen who have walked the path with them — seems to

have it in differing measure. It has been, or is being, played out across a hundred projects in places like Anandwan, Somnath, Yavatmal and the banks of the Narmada. It has sprung hospitals and schools and universities and communes and self-generated employment out of unrelenting jungle and hard stone. More, it has sprung dignity and self-reliance for thousands of the most outcast and destitute. This simple, unassuming compassion — this way of life — presents itself as an unspoken challenge to the most fleeting of visitors.

The walk to the river is done, a light drizzle has set in. As the Amtes turn into their compound, a Madia family is leaving the hospital with a newborn baby, barely a few hours old. The mother, a frail slip of a girl, steps into the drizzle with her baby and climbs into a makeshift cart — a charpoy balanced between two bicycles. Simple, stoic, they walk into the rain. The OPD has begun. Lines of ailing tribal men and women walk to a counter and give their name and village; assistants either pull out old case histories meticulously filed, or make fresh ones. Diganth, now a qualified surgeon, and his wife Anika Sadhale, a gynecologist from Goa who laughingly says she did not just “reply” to the matrimonial, she “applied” for it, are at their stations: the third generation of Amtes to subsume their lives to the service of others. A severely wheezing barebreasted woman is slowly stopping to gasp. She had just raced past us at the river, perched on a motorcycle between two men. Now the generator has been put on, a nebuliser is breathing gentle breath into her. In the open air shed a short distance away, Prakash and Manda dress an amputated foot. The patient — an old man — lies stoically on the hard floor; he does not want a hospital bed. A wood-fire smoulders near him. A few feet away, a ragged skeleton is recovering from tuberculosis next to a toddler with kidney failure.

All of this would make an urban doctor faint, but in truth, it speaks of daily miracles over three decades. It speaks of lives saved without elaborate investigations or prophylactics. It speaks of urgent operations under torchlight, of emergency deliveries and complicated cataracts executed on the run with a textbook on the side. (Dr Prakash’s first delivery was an emergency caesarean: a tranverse baby dead in the womb, a mother in shock. He had to literally cut the baby limb by limb out of the mother’s body one night without anaesthesia in candlelight. She walked away the next day. A couple of years later, she returned to deliver a healthy child, alleviating some of the tortured dilemmas of that night.)

AS THE day progresses at Hemalkasa, 17 teachers in starched white and rows of boys and girls freshly fed in batches line up under some trees. A melodious song rises in the air to the resounding beat of a drum. School has begun. When you remember that this project began with one teacher and 25 children of all ages, 15 of whom ran away in the first month, the standard issue buildings lose all of their disappointment. Hemalkasa is nothing short of a miracle wrought by human will.

Prakash — on the surface a mild, likable man, gifted with sudden bouts of delightful, self-deprecatory humour — is now taking a round of his orphanage, a menagerie of rescued animals brought in from the forests by tribals. Jaspar the hyena frolics with him, George Bush the wolf pounces on a roti, Ranghu the leopard playfully nibbles at his arm. Sheer spectacle, yet Prakash seems disarmingly untouched by his accomplishments. There is nothing pious or self-righteous about either him or Manda — what you get instead is an infectious appetite for adventure, a rich story told more in its physical evidence than in words. As Prakash moves from animal cage to patient, dressed in his perennial white vest and white shorts, little Arunav, their three-year old grandson, trails barefoot behind him, feeding the deer and squirrels, unconsciously absorbing his grandfather’s fearlessness.

Steel and splint Prakash Amte and his son Dighant reduce a fracture in an old woman’s
wrist without any painkiller. The Madias’ tolerance for pain is humbling

Life in Hemalkasa has always meant a continuous and present danger. A fraught tightrope between Naxal guns and state suspicion, nearfatal accidents and bouts of ill-health. Four years ago, while showing a poisonous Russel’s viper to a visitor, Prakash was momentarily distracted and it emptied its fangs into him. But nothing can perturb him, his children vouch: he always exudes a quiet, unflappable dignity in a crisis. He is the shade tree you take for granted, until it is cut down. Now, instead of flinging the snake from him, he gently extricated it and put it back in its cage before walking towards Manda in the clinic. She, always the fit partner, the shadow he leans on, did not panic either. On his way back to the house while she got the antidote ready, Prakash collapsed at the threshold and his blood pressure dropped to zero. A long hot drive took him to Nagpur; ten excruciating days followed. His body swelled like a balloon, blistering in a hundred places. Not once did he complain. Both husband and wife — still visibly and palpably in love — have this understated sturdiness about them. Not for them the glib sentence, the worldly pitch. Instead, you sense the close workings of Nature in them, a kind of wise acceptance born of daily grappling with life and death.

“One good thing came of the snake bite,” Gopal Phadnis, headmaster and co-traveller at Hemalkasa, laughs. “Prakash was never a talker, but he began to talk more after the bite.”

In faraway Anandwan, Prakash’s 82-yearold mother Sadhnatai says, “I have no words to describe what Prakash and Manda have done. I feel guilty to think that they relived everything we had already been through, but I don’t regret it once.” Tai’s remembrance bears within it a vast and complex history. A double helix of sacrifice, a double helix of achievement.

It was not easy to be Baba and Tai’s sons. Baba was a tall, tempestuous man, “a living storm”, as Tai puts it, that came to roost in her nest. In trying to tame it, she became a part of the storm herself, as did her sons. Stories of Baba’s youth abound. His family had ancestral homes and 450 acres of land, he wore pinstriped suits, hunted, played bridge and jazzed about in a Singer sports car nicknamed Green Lady with leopard skin covers on its seats. But very quickly things began to wreak transformations within him: there was Gandhi, Tagore, visits to Shantiniketan, Vinoba Bhave, and the revolutionary poetry of Sane Guruji. There was also his growing sense of a wilful callousness in families like his, an engineered blindness to those less fortunate. But in a curious way, his mentally ill mother Laxmibai wrought the most powerful transformations. Her illness set her free from convention and, in turn, liberated her intensely loved son. “I am basically the mad son of a mad mother,” he once told a biographer.

That madness — creative, white hot — sent him on a frenzied journey that would last more than 70 years and draw thousands into its magnetic field. At first it led him through a series of purificatory experiments: he declared sanyas, grew his beard and nails and restricted his diet. But an accidental encounter with Sadhanatai, the shy daughter of a Brahmin family, put a quick end to that. An electric love blossomed. Tougher experiments followed. After their marriage, for instance, Baba took Tai, who had never crossed the boundaries of religion, community and caste, to live in Shram Ashram, a low-caste workers’ commune in Warora. He followed this with stints as the president of the Sweepers’ Union, and then as a night soil worker, cleaning dry latrines.

But all of this paled before Baba’s chance meeting with a dying leper one dark, rainy night. If compassion is the X chromosome of the Amte legend, the Y chromosome is the confrontation of fear. Here was a man liquefying in maggots. Terrified, Baba — who prided himself on an absence of fear — recoiled physically. That image and his own fear plagued him so intensely, he forced himself to go back and tend to the man: Tulshiram. It became the pivotal experience of his life.

Training himself in the treatment of leprosy in the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta, in 1951, Baba moved with Tai and his toddler sons, Vikas and Prakash, to a grant land of 50 acres near Warora. Rocky, overrun by snakes and scorpions, it was, in his words, “outcast land for outcast people”. Accompanied by six leprosy patients, one lame cow, one dog, Rs 14, and a comet’s tail of stigma, they set up home under a bargat tree. Their horrified families did not visit them for over 10 years. Early life in Anandwan was a “daily fight with death” as Sadhnatai puts it. There was heat, hard labour, leopards, scorpions, snakes, wild boar — and a wild dream. The toddlers scratched about in the sand and played with the lepers’ kids, while their parents worked. “I could not even buy them a packet of biscuits for 50 annas,” Tai remembers. “I was so overworked, I used to get annoyed sometimes if they finished the dry rotis I packed for them in the morning. When Vikas was about five, he once came and asked me for some money. ‘What do you want it for,’ I asked him. He told me he wanted to go to the market and buy some friends.”

HISTORY IS strewn with the tragic tailends of visionary men: resentful children who grow up hostile to their parents’ legacy, sometimes rebellious, sometimes wasted, sometimes ordinary, inevitably nagged by a poor sense of self-worth. The Amte boys could easily have gone that route. By all accounts, Baba was not the most simple of men — as father, husband or leader. A poet. A dreamer. A magnet. A soldier. Hypnotic. Heroic. Eloquent. Inspirational. Quick-tempered. Brus que. Impatient. Attributes flow around him in kaleidoscopic waves. “It is difficult to understand Baba unless you met him. To talk of him now is like the story of the six blind men describing an elephant,” chuckles Vilas Manohar, Prakash’s brotherin- law and one of his staunchest allies in Hemalkasa. Vilas used to run a successful aircoolers business and was a glider pilot and national rifle champion when he strayed into Baba’s energy field during one of his famed youth camps at Somnath. “I went to Anandwan and offered Baba some money. ‘More than money we need people,’ Baba said to me.” Moved, like scores of others, Vilas gave up everything. “One way of understanding Baba,” he says, “is to trace the stories and observe the people who were drawn to him.”

But as with every Amte undertaking — beyond the words, beyond even the people, the work stands awesome testimony. Today,

All things wise and wonderful
Prakash Amte on a habitual round of the animal orphans in his backyard

gone is every trace of that outcast land for outcast people. Anandwan is a humming, thriving community of almost 5,000 people. It has a leprosy hospital for more than 2,000 patients and another one for general category patients; it has a home for senior citizens; a vocational training centre for the physically disabled; it has colleges of art, science, commerce and agriculture with a student strength of 2,500 and a school for the blind and deaf-mute; it has workshops, manufacturing units and power looms run by the disabled and the cured; it has numerous agro-industries and 1,200 acres of land being used for modern farming. It also has a unique orchestra — Swaranandwan — peopled by the deaf, dumb and leprosy-afflicted. All this has been the focus of global applause, and much of this astonishing growth in Anandwan has been driven over the last two decades by Vikas Amte, the elder of Baba’s two sons, and chairman of the parent organisation — Maharogi Sewa Samiti.

Yet, the Amte children could easily have gone another route. “Isolation, extreme isolation,” is how Prakash Amte remembers his early childhood with brother Vikas in Anandwan. The double helix his mother refers to is his choosing to go to remote Hemalkasa as an adult, daring to retrace an arc the family had already lived through. “In a sense, we were afraid of Baba, and when we were in school and college we were always under such public scrutiny as Baba’s sons, we could not even go to see a film. I felt that as a torture in my life,” Prakash says quietly.

There are reasons why neither he nor his brother rebelled though, reasons why neither sought another life. “For years, people thought we were the useless sons of a big man,” Prakash smiles, “and you could say we had a tacit sibling rivalry with hundreds of people when we were growing up. But none of that really mattered. What I admired most about Baba was his compassion. My earliest memories are of watching him tend personally to the sores of the leprosy patients in Anandwan, and I think that karuna seeped into me.”

The miracle is it seems to have also seeped into three generations of Amtes — across branches of the family tree. In Hemalkasa, while Prakash’s elder son Diganth and his wife Anika dispense medicine, the younger Aniket, who graduated in civil engineering, has taken on the project’s administration; and daughter Aarti is enlisted as a nurse. In Anandwan, while Vikas himself has moved on to a new project in Yavatmal in the besieged Vidharbha district of Maharashtra, his son Kaustubh, a cost accountant, now manages the complex finances and running of the township, and daughter Sheetal has begun to consolidate and organise its vast and chaotic archive. Each generation has mutated the legacy in its own unique way. An extension of Prakash and Manda’s temperament perhaps, Hemalkasa feels small and intimate: the headlong rush of Baba transmuted into a gentler brook. “Baba had large visions — Bharat Jodo,” says Prakash. “Our vision is more local.” It is also more mindful of small, human emotions. “Baba once told me he wished he had been my son rather than my father,” laughs Prakash, with a quiet sense of what he himself has sculpted.

Anandwan, fuelled by Vikas, on the other hand, has modernised and grown. “Baba passed away on February 9 this year, but we didn’t declare it a holiday in Anandwan,” says Kaustubh, sitting in a large black leather chair, at first glance disconcertingly trendy and seemingly removed from his family’s inspiring story. As the younger generations have joined, there have inevitably been small skirmishes of vision and style, as computers and cellphones have replaced Jagan’s marathon telegraphic cycle rides, and Tata Safaris have come to be parked in the compound. But Baba’s philosophies run more than surface deep. Kaustubh could have chosen a career that brought him money and ease, but like his cousins, he volunteered to return. “Baba never wanted to be deified. His death should mean nothing to us because he was not an era, he was a thought process and we have to live out that thought and make it grow,” he says. “My father always says this was not meant to be Baba Amte and Sons Pvt Ltd, and it is true, we need new blood, new young people to join the work.”

Love’s conscription Prakash Amte’s nucleus (from left to right). Dighant,
Manda, Prakash, Arunav, Aniket, Aarti and Anika in the clinic in Hemalkasa

CHARITY DESTROYS, work builds. That is the rock on which Baba stood his vision of an equal, integrated world. It is the credo Vikas has taken with him to Yavatmal, to help the farmers of Vidharbha learn to stand on their feet. “The real measure of Baba’s work is that those who were in distress can now help others,” says Vikas. Indeed, almost everything in Hemalkasa and Anandwan has been cleared and built by a workforce from Anandwan itself. It is perhaps this insistence on self-reliance that gives the township its peculiar sense of serenity and dignity and joy. Everything there is relentlessly clean and industrious.

In Sandhi Niketan, Anandwan’s vocational centre for the disabled, the centre’s director, Sadashiv Tajane — a large, hearty, energetic man on a wheelchair — encapsulates the legacy of the Amtes in a way nothing else can. Tajane was three years old when he lost both his legs to polio. Son of a poor labourer, and one of eight siblings — “I think my parents wanted a cricket team!” he booms — he used to walk to his school on his hands, determined to get himself an education. After Class X, there was no further he could go. That is when he braved his way into Anandwan — still a terrifying, forbidden place in people’s imagination. He asked Baba if he could enroll in his college for lepers. Baba conceded but insisted Tajane learn some vocation as well. Where will your education get you, Baba used to say, who will give you a job? Driven by Baba, Tajane learnt weaving, carpentry and electricals. When he finished college, Baba urged him to start a vocational centre for the disabled. Tajane began to strafe the surrounding villages urging the handicapped to join them: a crippled surveyor in a bullock cart driven by a leper. It took a lot of persuasion, but slowly, seduced by his boundless enthusiasm, men and women began to trickle in. Today Sandhi Niketan has 103 full-time students, with others knocking the doors down.

There is a curious air of celebration in the building: a blind boy whistles down a corridor, another with a kind face — more torso than boy really, and confined to a wheelchair — mimicks Nana Patekar to peals of laughter and claps. Outside, 50 couples – the result of interdisability marriages that Sadhnatai lobbied hard with Baba for — light their evening fires.

Tajane himself wheels briskly through the corridors, flailing his hands about in excitement. He is steered by his younger son, Yogesh — perfectly healthy and strong, born of Tajane’s marriage to Asha, a deaf and mute woman. His elder son Rajesh is a sales manager with Reliance, earning Rs 20,000 a month. Tajane’s life, once a closed book, now teems with boundless possibility. “Anandwan gave me a second life,” says he. “If I am born again, and I am born a cripple, I will have no regrets.”

As long as there are people like the Amtes in the world, he needs to add. •

Sensitivity versus Sensationalism

Any allegation of corruption or a scandal finds a ready buyer in us but if any virtue is attributed to anyone, the sceptic within us has doubts.

Can we invoke our sensitivity for a change and give it a chance over sensations? Our lives, public and private, are driven by sensations all around. Without killing sensitivity sensations cannot survive. Our growing appetite for sensations has therefore, if not killed, blunt our sensitivity. Media, print and electronic, has played major role in sensationalisation of everything for their commercial compulsions.

Murder, in itself, is news. But these days, mere murder does not give us the kick. It is not worthy of reporting, at least prominently. Murder must have other unusual ingredients, like parents killing child or some angle of illicit relationship or sex as the motive and so on and so for, for occupying prime time slot or headlines. It would be unfair to singularly blame the media for this state of affairs. We, the viewers and readers want sensation too. This appetite for sensation on our part makes commercial sense for the news channels. Is this appetite of ours not responsible for the crimes? Are we not together creating the world around us in which we are living? Can we see this? And if we are really tired of all this, will someone else come and change it for us, or will we ourselves have to bring about this change? Let us seriously examine this. All may not be ready to seriously examine it; and masses may not be prepared to be confronted with such direct questions. Besides, the politicians and organised religions will not want them to do so either, for their comfort is derived from the ‘fear’ and ‘escapist attitude’ of masses. Now, unfortunately, the media has become yet another party with vested interest in the insensitivity of masses. At times, one wonders whether we are collectively heading towards times when we shall directly partner in crime for the sake of sensation! Or are we not already doing so?

Our insensitivity towards the grief of the late Aarushi’s parents or the families of Nithari victims was evident when our taste buds for sensation were curiously relishing the baseless stories that were written and dished out to us by insensitive and inefficient police and security agencies through media. Aarushi was a bright student. Can the schools throughout the country not hold prayer meetings for this tragedy that happened with a student? Is it not enough for the schools to relate to Aarushi as a student? Or, is not enough for all of us, the society as a whole to relate to her because she was a daughter and share the grief and render prayers for departed little Aarushi instead of keeping glued to the TV sets showing disgustingly monotonous hypothesis on killings? If our conduct is driven by sensitivity and not sensation, the media will also want to report refined sensitivities.

Corruption and terrorism are also direct products of this appetite for sensation and lack of sensitivity. Charges of corruption give us the kick because it helps our subconscious mind to invent a villain in the corrupt person. Invention of a villain or a hero isolates our false identity, the ego, from one unified existence. Having found villain in a political party or an ideology, the ego goes out in search of a hero in antithesis and walks into the trap of exploitation laid by the opponents! We fail to realise that an equally corrupt other person, party or ideology is waiting to exploit us. Can we see this?

Any allegation of corruption or a scandal finds a ready buyer in us but if any virtue is attributed to anyone, the sceptic within us has doubts. Are we not, at some deep subconscious level busy playing a game that ‘I am’ better and therefore not prepared to see and believe a virtue (that I do not have!) but ready to believe the charge of scandal or corruption without a blink?

When our insensitivity fails to see injustice—and agonies of any individual, group or groups, such groups would want them to be noticed so that their cause is noticed. Sensation is a shortcut to being noticed. Initially, the deprived groups create sensation through terrorism. But before long, such groups are used by anti national and anti human groups for their dubious ends; and they invariably succeed because, we as a society, continue to remain insensitive. Thus, the roots of terrorism are in our collective insensitivity and manifestation of terrorism is the outcome of our appetite for sensation.

Sensitivity inspires our senses to act rightly while the sensation gives us a temporary tickle to otherwise dormant and dumb senses. Sensitivity is from within, sensation is external. Ego needs sensation; sensitivity is nature of being. Our appetite for sensation not only blunts our sensitivity but drives our personal and public life to lower levels of existence. Increase in stress levels and growing disharmony in personal relationships is direct result of growing insensitivity. Mind-boggling figures of corruption, immoral and unethical means of grabbing and retaining power, vulgar manifestation of ill-gotten wealth by politicians and powerful people through children’s weddings and birthday bashes are all creating a sensation. If such sensations stops giving us kicks, the politicians or ‘powerful’ people will have little incentive in staging such events. They only want to be noticed and if sensationalism stops coming to their aid, it will gradually lose its utlity. Once sensitivity replaces the appetite for sensation, the political leaders will be forced to exhibit greater sensitivity to get noticed, even when it is for electoral gains which will bring about an altogether new beginning.

Peace and harmony at social and personal planes will be a natural consequence of sensitivity replacing our appetite for sensation. Numerous sensational marriages and divorces in one’s life and superfluous emotions of pain and pleasure as shown in soap operas on TV screens would be found futile when human relationships at personal and at collective levels will experience the fragrance of sensitivity.

Do we want to experience a real, sane world around us, free of corruption, exploitation and terror, and not merely as another sensational utopian ideal? Then, let us give sensitivity a chance by first calming our appetite for sensations.


Mind Control

on Monday, August 11, 2008

Mind Control

The subjects of mind control, exit-counselling and deprogramming are very interesting. However when people mention these subjects, people often have incorrect preconceived ideas as to what the subject matters are about.

Mind Control for instance, is often confused with brain-washing. Brainwashing, is the act of actually kidnapping someone or holding them against their will so that we can “wash their brains” of what they already know, and feed into them a new way of looking at their beliefs, behaviour, thinking and emotions.

Brain washing is often mentioned in conversation by people who do not understand the reality of mind control amongst destructive cults and the occult. It is a way of glossing over the subject. The mindset has been put in place over the last 20 or 30 years that if someone is in a cult, then we do not have to do anything to do with them. We are to ignore them because they are “brain washed”.

This is not the case, and we would be doing very well to find anyone today who fits the category of brain washed.

Mind control, whilst sounding similar to brain washing, is actually very complex, and cannot be totally understood in our short time this evening. However, we will try our best to get a definition of mind control so that we at least know what to look out for when we deal with the cults and the occult.

What then is mind control? How does it affect people?

Mind control loosely defined is the the systematic and deliberate control of someone’s thought processes by another person or group. It is a “system” of influences that disrupt and individuals’ identity (beliefs, behaviour, thinking and emotion) and replaces it with a new identity.

In most cases, the new identity is one that the original identity would strongly object to if it knew in advance what was in store.

This however, isn’t the way things turn out. Most people do not have the time or resources to discern the facts of the situation such as
1) Who the group they are joining actually are. (and)
2) What they do to the individual’s rights.

Leon Festinger, a psychologist, said of the “cognitive dissonance theory”, that there were three key elements to mind control. Control of behaviour, control of thoughts and control of emotions. Steven Hassen, author of the book “Combatting Cult Mind Control, Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults,” says that he likes to add another one to Festinger’s list, - that is “control of information”.

1. Behaviour
2. Thoughts
3. Emotions
4. Information

George Orwell, in his book “Nineteen Eighty Four” mentioned these concepts. He recognised that within cult groups there is no basic respect for the individual. The people are gradually led to think and behave in very similar ways through a process of mind control. As a result, they become totally dependent on the group: they lose their ability to act on their own and are often exploited for the sake of the group’s economic or political ends.

On example is the Watchtower Society, the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses are nobodies. They must give up many things to be in favour with the organisation. They give up their right to think for themselves in regard to their spiritual life, and do not even trust their own interpretation of the Bible.

A Jehovah’s Witness cannot understand the Bible by themselves. They are taught to only trust the Watchtower Society’s interpretation of the Bible. When talking with a Jehovah’s Witness, the results of this mind control process is obvious. You can point out Scripture that says one thing, and the Jehovah’s Witness will have a re-interpretation of the Scripture quicker than you can read it. Even if it may say that black is black, if the Watchtower Society says that it is white, then to the Jehovah’s Witness, black is white.

Mind control is a very subtle process. It is not something that people go looking to have done to them. It is often difficult to detect.

There are four main types of cults in the world. If you do not remember them, then that’s fine, the idea is to recognise the techniques that they use to recruit people and keep them within the group.

1. Religious cults.

These are the best known and are the most numerous. These groups tend to focus on religious teaching. Many are Bible based, however, some are eastern-religion based, whilst other are drawn into the occult ways and practises, and still others are purely inventions of their leaders.

Of the religious cults, most claim to be in the religious realm, however, one only has to look at the lifestyle of the leaders, their real estate, their business enterprises, etc.

Most religious cults make claims such as “we are the only true Church” “we are God’s church for this age” “we are the only way to truly know God” “we are the light” “our teacher is the Messiah” “you are on a pathway to becoming gods” “through us you can attain spiritual perfection”.

As soon as you hear phrases like that you know you are encountering a cult. Religious cults also see their group as “pure” and the rest of society as “misled” “evil” or “Satanic”, there is often a clear division between them and us. This is a very effective mind-control technique as any attempt to leave induces the terrible fear of entering the evil world and parting with the only possibilty of salvation of one’s soul - the cult.

2. Political cults.

Whilst not religious in their outlook, these groups often have a set plan in mind. One thing that spring to mind is the “fringe” or “extremist” groups that fight for such things as “white supremacy rule”, etc.

These groups often have key supporters in government and subtly recruit followers through training camps, etc.

3. Psychotherapy/educational cults.

These groups often hold workshops that are said to provide “insight” and “enlightenment.” The meetings are usually held in a hotel conference room environment, and often have a goal that should be achieved. This goal is often said to be the “peak” experience.

Those who attend, whether they achieve the “peak” experience or not, are then invited to attend more advanced courses. Advanced courses often lead to the attendees becoming involved in the group. Once the person is in the group, they are then to invite friends, business colleagues and family along to the meetings so that they can in turn invite friends, business colleagues and family along, and so forth.

These groups often cause nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, and business failures.

4. Commercial cults.

These groups exist for the purpose of greed. They deceive and manipulate the people within the group to work for little or no pay in the hope of getting rich.

Pyramid-style or multi-level marketing organisations that promise big money but fleece their victims are many.

Success within commercial cults involves recruiting new people who in turn will recruit new people, and so on.

People involved often become slaves to the “company” and turn over their money in order to pay for “living expenses.”

Who can fall a victim to mind control?

Cult groups recruit intelligent, middle class people. They look for bright young people who look like they could further the cause of the group/leader/organisation with little fuss.

When recruiting, the recruiter must size up the recruitee to determine the best approach to use to get that person into the organisation. A very deep philosophical approach would not be taken with a doer. Doers are people that respond to actions, to physical things.

Just a point to note, that not all of our decisions are thoroughly thought through, if at all. We have a certain degree of conscious control, but many more matters are controlled unconsciously. The conscious mind has a narrow range of attention. The unconscious does all the rest, including regulating all body functions. Imagine having to tell your heart to beat 72 times every minute. You would be flat out telling your heart to beat, and would have little time for anything else.

Our mind and the way it is controlled and can be controlled can be seen by a little experiment.

Try this: Close your eyes for a minute. Take a moment to imaging that you are in a tropical paradise for a minute. You are on a beach and the waves are gently lapping up on the soft white sand. There is a slight breeze blowing and you can smell the ocean.

Did you go somewhere else for a moment? This is one way in which we can control our mind, however, cults use more of subtle approach than this, and they don’t have a certain class of people that they restrict themselves to.

People are often recruited into cults in one of three different ways...

1. A friend or relative who is already a member
2. A stranger who befriends them
3. A cult sponsored event, e.g. a lecture, seminar, or movie.

People who are being recruited often do not know that this is the case. Surveys show that present and former cult members were recruited into the cult when they were most vulnerable, i.e. at a time of crisis, distress or depression. It may have been the death of a loved one, an accident or even the parting of company from a very dear friend. Starting a new job is another point when people are vulnerable, as is being in a financially bad situation. Commercial cults, i.e. those that have the aim of “making more money than ever and being your own boss” are the ones that breed on the latter situation.

A key factor is the suspension of “reality testing” during the entrance phase because the group is seen to be meeting a deep seated emotional, spiritual or financial need. Reality testing is our ability to check out the world for ourselves. It is our internal warning light against deception. It operates by comparing the object we are examining -whether it be a cult, a motor car or a house with some external standard such as Scripture, a RACQ check or a builder’s inspection. We use our knowledge, logic and common sense to “sus out” the situation. Cults isolate people from external standards in order to make reality checking as difficult as possible. They are like a fast-talking used car salesman who won’t let you look at other dealerships or have a mechanical check done on the car. It involves considerable assertiveness to resist such people especiaaly if they have a “nice personality” as most cult leaders do on first sight. People are conned by cults if they let their emotional needs lead them and fail to check things out thoroughly.

This brings us to the question of deprogramming and exit-counselling.

Deprogramming, especially in the 70’s and the 80’s, was the act of kidnapping someone against their will, locking them in a room with the deprogrammers and showing them all the wrong things about the group/ leadership of their cult. This is what the media portrayed anyway. This method often backfired, and the cult member would dig their heels deeper into the cult because everything out there is “satanic” and they are out to take the truth from you.

The best deprogramming, is done by the person themselves. It is the type where the ex-member must “de-program” their beliefs, thoughts, lifestyle and life. This way is the most effective.

Exit counselling is different again. The cult member must be willing to talk with an exit counsellor.

In Australia, there are only a few exit-counsellors for people within the cults. This number is very sad, considering the vast growing mission field in the cults and the occult.

Exit-counsellors discuss aspects of the group with the cult member, and best try to help them realise that they have been conned. The term “mind-control” is generally best not used at first so as not to be too confusing. The aspects that are discussed are generally:-

A. Leadership.

Who is the leader of the group in question? What is his or her life history? What kind of education/training have they undertaken? Does the group’s leader have a criminal record? Where does the balance of power lie?

B. Doctrine.

Does the group publicly disclose their beliefs? Is there an “insider” and an “outsider” doctrine? Do they believe that the end justifies the means? Do they claim the “only truth”? Does or has their truth changed?

C. Membership.

Is some form of deception used to recruit members? In the membership drive, is the org’s real name involved? Does the recruitee meet the leadership straight away? Are members segregated from society? How is membership maintained?

This will show a basic organisational structure, and will help the cult member to actually consider how they get into the group, and what happens once they are in there.

Deeper questions will reveal exactly the state of the group...

How long have you (the recruiter) been involved? Are you trying to recruit me into any type of organisation?

Can you tell me the names of all the other organisations that are associated with this group?

What does your group believe?

What are new members expected to do once they join? Do I have to quit school or work, donate my money and property, or cut myself off from family and friends who might oppose membership?

Is your group considered to be controversial by anyone? If people are critical of your group, what are their main objections?

How do you feel about former members of the group?

Have you ever sat down to speak with a former member to find out why they left the group? If not, why not?

Does your group impose restrictions on communication with former members?

What are the three things that you like least about the group and it’s leader?

What to do to help a cult member change and grow as their own person ...

Build rapport and trust. It is recognised that friendship evangelism is the most successful evangelism today. If people know and trust you, then they will certainly listen to you thoughts, desires and opinions.

Collect valuable information. You want answers from the cult member, not the leaders of the organisation. You want “him” to answer the questions for you.

Develop the skills to promote a new perspective. After you have the trust of the cult member, and you have much information on the group, you are now ready to promote a new perspective to the cult member. This is the hardest step, and your exact approach will be determined by the nature and character of the cult member involved.

Get the cult member to consider reality from a number of perspectives. This is like explaining the Trinity doctrine 14 different ways until the person finally grasps its factuality.

Side step the thought stopping process. Negative remarks and thoughts are side stepped by destructive cults, therefore, side-step the negatives and introduce a positive. Instead of stating that “your leadership ripped you off $500,000 and now live in a nice big mansion because you were stupid enough to give them your money,” you could try “Where did the money for such a big mansion come from, and why are you living in this small shed, 6 to a room?”

Show the member, after you have done the other steps, a concrete definition of mind control, and how it works, Get them to understand that they are a victim of mind control. Get them to re-establish reality testing and their critical faculties so that they trust their own opinions again. This is an important step forward. It is therfore very important to encourage every type of individual expression they have - even if may seem insignificant it is a first small step back to thinking for themselves. Please go from this seminar with real compassion for those who have been involved in cults and if a cult member should cross your path listen to them, befriend them and believe them - it will be a healing for them and a blessing to you.

State of denial

on Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jug Suraiya

The case of the Mumbai couple, the Mehtas, who have been disallowed by the high court from preventing the birth of their unborn foetus whom doctors have prenatally diagnosed as having a serious heart problem gives rise to a thicket of legal and ethical questions. While female infanticide, often performed by quacks in unauthorised and insanitary holein-the-wall ‘clinics’, are horrifyingly commonplace, the statute book does not permit law-abiding couples like the Mehtas to terminate pregnancy if the foetus is more than 20 weeks old — even if the foetus has been diagnosed with a lifethreatening condition from birth onward. There is a blatant anomaly here that needs to be addressed, not just by jurists and ethicists but by the community at large.
The judgment also raises the issue of ‘mercy killing’, or euthanasia, which again is disallowed by the Indian state on the legitimate grounds that the sanction to take the life of individuals who have not of their own volition sought the termination of their existence (to end the agony of an incurable disease, for example) is tantamount to condoning murder. However, the law confuses ‘mercy killing’ — where others decide on the termination of someone’s life (a critically ill person, a foetus) — and suicide, or the termination of one’s own existence. Many who oppose ‘mercy killing’, on grounds of its dangerous potential for misuse, would on moral and philosophical principles support the right of an individual to terminate his own life, should he after sustained and reasoned consideration find that existence unbearable for physical or spiritual reasons. Indeed, many might aver that as the right to life is (supposedly) a basic right, its obverse, the right to terminate one’s life, must also be deemed to be equally inviolable.
Apart from such life-and-death issues, the Mehta case reveals the fundamentally flawed relationship between the Indian state and its citizens. Whether it is the termination of pregnancy or one’s own life, or smoking in public (which some would equate with both suicide and manslaughter), or taking photographs of such putatively ‘sensitive’ facilities like airports, the Indian state largely manifests itself in the life of its citizenry as a naysayer. It’s always ‘No — you can’t do this’; never, or hardly ever, ‘Yes — you can do this’.
The hallmark of the Indian state is denial, the power of veto. Its injunctions are almost always negative, rarely affirmative. It’s always: ‘You can’t smoke’; ‘You can’t shut down your factory or business even if it’s losing money’; ‘You can’t be in contempt of the court or of Parliament’. It’s never: ‘Yes, you can and must have clean drinking water and basic health care’; ‘Yes, you can be enabled to earn your livelihood by dint of your own enterprise’; ‘Yes, you can question courts or Parliament why they so often seem to hold you in contempt’.
If India remains a largely poor and underdeveloped country, which it does, it is mainly because of its negative laws, its laws of denial which instead of emancipating and enabling its citizens have shackled and disenabled them. Why can’t India have more affirmative, freedom-enhancing instead of freedom-depriving laws? (Caste quotas for seats is not affirmative legislation; it is the disguised denial of merit on the pretext of social equity.) Because our political masters see themselves not as providers of governance but as wielders of power. Moreover, and wrongly, they see power as a zero-sum game: the more you deprive others of it, the more you have for yourself.
That’s why one of the few affirmative laws we do have is not just the right but the obligation to vote (since there is no negative vote by which you can discredit all the contestants in an election, your vote is less an exercise in choice than an enforcement of duty). That’s the one right our political leaders are only too willing to grant us. For they know that when we vote them into power, we vote ourselves out of it. We contribute to our own state of denial.

The challenge of Hiroshima

The challenge of Hiroshima

Special to The Japan Times

MEDFORD, Oregon — When the penetrating heat of summer rises to a scorching point, I am brought back to one sunny day in 1945, faraway from my Oregon home today. I was a sixth grader waiting for my mother. On that day, Aug. 6, in Hiroshima, the sun and the Earth melted together. Many of my relatives and classmates simply disappeared. I would never again see my young cousin, Hideyuki, who had been like a brother to me, or Miyoshi, my best friend. And on that day of two suns, my mother did not come home.

Sixty-three years have passed. The survivors of Hiroshima continue to testify to the horrific consequences of that day and the casualties that continue to the present. At the same time, nuclear arsenals have made quantum leaps in quantity and effects. More nations possess such weapons today — enough to extinguish the world. The worst evil, "the fear of violent death at the hands of other men" in the words of 17-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, resonates in these developments. The demise of Hiroshima was a beginning of what was to come from the darker side of human nature.

However challenging, we must now appeal to our higher nature and take hold and seek a pathway of hope, valuing and affirming life rather than ending it, before it is too late.

My path to Hiroshima began in Tokyo, where I was born. My family life changed abruptly when my father was drafted into the military. We moved to his hometown, Hiroshima, where my grandfather owned and ran a multinational conglomerate that produced rubber goods and sewing needles. He was a devout Buddhist who taught charity to all in daily life and employed disabled persons to do what they could. In school, filial piety, patriotism and Spartan discipline were our early building blocks beneath a sweeping nationalism. Despite a mythic hope of victory, the toll of the war was evident in the disappearing food, material goods and young men. The end came on the day the A-bomb exploded.

Moments after the explosion, a sea of injured and dazed emerged as their city went up in flames. I fled with a friend from next door and her family. She had just gotten home from an outdoor assembly and was so burned that her face was unrecognizable. As I searched for my mother I found a kindergarten teacher from the neighborhood lying naked without any sign of burns or any other injuries. She died in front of me, gasping for air and convulsing. Many people continued to die around us in a similar way. I developed a high fever and remained for sometime on the borderline between life and death.

The often unexpressed inner wounds were as scarring as the physical wounds. The void created by massive loss and termed "psychic numbing" by American psychiatrist Jay Lifton, who is known for his studies of the psychological effects of war and atrocities, permeated our very being and remained. Intense anxiety persisted over ubiquitous radiation effects. Our internal resistance to complaining and the prohibition by the Allied authorities on reporting the growing casualties kept the matter silent.

I read voraciously in search of the meaning of our predicament, but found nothing that spoke to my devastated soul. This compelling quest since my teens would not be fulfilled without a lifetime of searching and trials. It would include deeply sincere encounters and bonding with dedicated teachers, loyal friendships from both sides of the ocean, and study abroad with lengthy graduate and professional training in the healing profession in which I would spend most of my adult years in the United States.

The country that took away my mother and relations during the time of war also sent a young missionary who believed in me and filled my empty heart. In the segregated South, I found black college students and their families living with unbending dignity in spite of social injustice. A Pennsylvania Dutch family welcomed me as a daughter and even included me in their will before they passed away.

In the Nuclear Freeze movement of 1982, I began to speak on the subject of Hiroshima in the U.S. and Britain. But it was not until I came to the University of Chicago Hospitals as a clinical social worker in 1987 that I witnessed so clearly a life-validating choice for the use of radiation. There in the Radiation Oncology Department, not far from the site of the Manhattan Project, the very substance that destroyed our city and its citizens was saving and extending lives.

My father believed that there would be a peaceful use of radiation. I also remembered his recollection of stopping civilians from stoning a very young wounded prisoner of war shortly after the bomb explosion. As a commanding military officer, he ordered burials, out of respect for Western tradition, for prisoners of war who died that day. They, too, became a part of our soil.

Since my retirement from the hospital in 2003, I serve on the Multicultural Commission for the city of Medford, Oregon. I took some 40 Americans to Japan to sing songs of peace for the 61st anniversary of Hiroshima's bombing. We sang to the sick in Kyoto, with the Kwansei Gakuin Glee Club OB in Kobe, and with the Iris Choir in Hiroshima. In the Peace Park by the Memorial Mound, where the 70,000 unidentified ashes rest, my daughter sang an ode she wrote to my mother whom she never met. Our American conductor sang his own song of regrets over Hiroshima and of his prayer and love for the people of Japan and their land. The hosts and the visitors embraced each other in this experience of a lifetime.

Today, OSD (One Sunny Day) Initiatives, an educational organization I formed after this trip, provides pathways to connect people for purposes of reconciliation and collective healing. Among its activities is assisting the Hiroshima Peace Museum in presenting its photo exhibition in all 50 states in the U.S. by the end of 2008.

We have seen ultimate destruction, but it is not enough to simply warn against it. Amid the threat of human extinction, the formidable challenge is living and spreading a life-affirming quest for being truly human. Our future depends on it

Hideko Tamura is a retired therapist/consultant and a Hiroshima survivor living in Medford, Oregon.

Indian Olympians

on Monday, August 4, 2008

As Beijing beckons, a nation of a billion-plus desperately seeks Olympic glory. Sunday Times turns the pages of our sporting history to find a few pioneers who did India proud

Ronojoy Sen | TNN

Besides a string of gold medals in hockey, India’s record in the Olympics has been, to put it mildly, pedestrian. There are a few names that invariably pop up when discussing India at the Olympics — hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, the so-near-yet-so-far experiences of Milkha Singh and P T Usha and the more recent medal winners such as Rajyavardhan Rathore and Leander Paes. But if you rum
mage through India’s dismal history at the Games, there are some remarkable stories that stand out. Of players who excelled on the playing field — and sometimes off it — and are now largely forgotten.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these Olympians is Jaipal Singh, captain of the hockey team that won India its first Olympic gold medal — several years before Independence — in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Born in a remote village in what is now Jharkhand, Jaipal was taken to England by the English principal of his school in Ranchi.
After two terms at a college in Canterbury, Jaipal joined St John’s College, Oxford, where he made a name for himself as an ace defender in the university’s hockey team. When he was chosen to play for India, Jaipal was a probationer in the Indian Civil Service. The decision to captain India, however, meant taking leave from the India Office in London. “I did not get leave! I decided to defy the ruling and take the consequences,” he writes in his autobiography.
The Indian team, which included Dhyan Chand, would go on to win the Olympic gold medal convincingly. But by a twist of fate Jaipal did not play in the final. Dhyan Chand later said, “It is still a mystery to me why Jaipal Singh, after ably captaining us in England, and in two of the three matches in the Olympic Games, suddenly left us. I have
heard many stories, but so far I have not had the truth.” Jaipal himself did not throw any light on his sudden withdrawal. He merely says in his autobiography that on his return to London from the Olympics, Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, congratulated him personally.
Jaipal’s story does not end there. After the Games, he was told he would have to stay one more year in England because he had taken unauthorised leave. He immediately quit the ICS. After various jobs that took him from Calcutta to Ghana to Bikaner, Jaipal returned to Ranchi. There
he took a decision that changed the trajectory of his life. In 1939, along with a few others he formed the Adivasi Mahasabha which sowed the seeds for a separate Jharkhand. A Constituent Assembly member and a fourtime MP, Jaipal remained till his death in 1970 an eloquent defender of Adivasi rights.
If Jaipal was part of India’s first tryst with hockey glory, there was another athlete — Norman Pritchard — who had already won two medals in the 1900 Paris Games. Born in 1875 in Calcutta to an English couple, he studied in St Xavier’s School. Pritchard
was a name to reckon with in the Calcutta maidan, winning the 100-yard dash for seven consecutive years.
Pritchard’s participation in the Olympics happened almost by chance. During a visit to London in 1900 he took part in and won the London Athletic Club’s Challenge Cup for the 440-yard hurdles. Within a week he was competing against international athletes at the AAA Championship. Pritchard came second in the 120-yard hurdles and was chosen for the Paris Olympics. Pritchard competed in five events and won silver medals in the 200m sprint and 200m hurdles.
There is, however, a dispute over whether Pritchard represented India in Paris. Though the International Olympic Committee credited his medals to India, the athletics statistics book of the 2004 Olympics said he repre
sented Britain. This was after an article had appeared in the Journal of Olympic History arguing that Pritchard had represented Great Britain. As for Pritchard, he returned to Calcutta after the Olympics and served as secretary of the Indian Football Association for two years. Later, he left for America and made a career in Hollywood, starring in silent films under the name of Norman Trevor alongside stars such as Cary Grant, Clara Bow and Ronald Colman. Legend has it that he died penniless in 1929.
There are two sportsmen worth recalling in the years immediately following Independence. In the 1948 London Olympics, a teenage triple jumper from Bangalore, Henry Rebello, was considered a sure medal prospect. With the best jump worldwide in 1948 — 50 feet 2 inches at a national meet in Lucknow — he was the favourite for the event. Rebello followed it with a 52 feet one-and-half-inch
es jump, a few inches short of the world record, a fortnight before the Games. But on D-day, he faltered.
As Rebello has recounted in an interview to sports journalist Gulu Ezekiel, he committed two fateful mistakes that drizzly and cold afternoon in London. One, he did not warm up before his jump; two, he went flat out in his first jump itself. The result was a torn hamstring as Rebello launched into his jump. He landed in a heap in the pit, his medal dreams in tatters. His misfortune was partially rectified by K D Jadhav, who won independent India’s first individual medal in 1952 — a bronze in bantamweight wrestling.
These pioneer Olympians are now mere names in the record books. But for a nation starved of Olympic glory, they serve as reminders of athletic achievement in the face of formidable odds.

Team leader: Jaipal Singh

WIZARDS OF YORE: India’s 1936 Olympic hockey team (Dhyan Chand sitting second from right) poses with well-wishers

Why the elephant can dance better


In last column, i argued the case for Sino-Indian economic cooperation, suggesting the two countries had complementarities that could make such co-operation mutually beneficial (as some companies in both countries are already proving). I also dismissed any talk of comparing India to China, arguing that the two countries’ systems are so different that we simply can’t compete with China in the growth stakes. Lest some readers infer from this that i think China is superior to India in every respect, let me assure them that they are wrong.
Certainly, in absolute numbers, the Chinese are way ahead. Their export of electronic goods now tops $180 billion a year. One out of every three shoes exported in the world is made in China. They make 75% of the world’s toys. Foreign direct investment is at the level of $70 billion a year (for comparison, India gets $15 billion). Shanghai alone has nearly 4,000 skyscrapers (more than all of India, and exceeding Los Angeles and Chicago combined). China has built an estimated 60,000 kilometers of expressways in less than two decades and will soon outstrip the total length of the US highway network. Per capita income has risen nearly 10-fold since 1978 to over $6,000 a head, and the number of people living in absolute poverty has dropped from 425 million two decades ago to 26 million
today. The population is almost totally literate; life expectancy is reaching developed-country levels. This year, China is expected to overtake Germany to become the world’s third largest economy, behind the US and Japan. It won’t stay Number Three for long.
Against this, though, are a number of factors suggesting that not everything is rosy in China. Economic growth has occurred at breakneck speed, but that means some necks have been broken: the human cost of development has not been negligible (population displacement,
farmers thrown off their lands, villages flooded by dams, mounting pollution, low-wage labour in appalling conditions, widening disparities between the rich and the poor, an absence of human rights and few checks on governmental abuses). The Chinese have seen great and rapid improvements in their Internet access, but Beijing employs some 40,000 ‘cyber-police’ to monitor politically-undesirable activity on the Web.
Equally important, China’s success has not just been China’s; a disproportionate share of the benefit goes abroad, to the foreign companies who have set up factories in China. It has been estimated that of the $700 American price of a Chinese-made laptop, only $15 remains in China. Only four of the country’s top 25 exporters are
Chinese companies, according to Forbes magazine’s Robyn Meredith, who adds that in practice, ‘Made in China’ really means ‘Made by America (or Europe) in China’. The Chinese financial system also leaves much to be desired. Where India has been running sophisticated stock markets since the early 19th century — and Indians are so skilled at doing so that they got the Bombay stock market up and running within 24 hours of the 1992 bomb blasts — China is new at the game, and not particularly adept at it. The financial information provided by China’s companies, especially those in the large governmental sector, is notoriously unreliable, and standards of corporate governance are low. There are no world-class Chinese companies with sophisticated managers to match Tata or Wipro or Infosys. China’s capital markets are weak and its banks inefficient: the Chinese banking system carried an estimated $911 billion in unrecoverable loans as of 2006, mainly to government firms. Stateowned enterprises still account for half of China’s economic assets. China has yet to master the art of channelling domestic savings into productive investments, which is why it has relied so extensively on foreign direct investment. And the world has yet to develop any confidence in China’s legal system (where a contract still means whatever the government says it means). In other words, it still lags behind India on the ‘software’ of development — not just technical brainpower or engineering know-how, but the systems it needs to operate a 21st century economy in an open and globalising world.
And then there’s politics. Whatever you might say about India’s sclerotic bureaucracy versus China’s efficient one, our tangles of red tape versus their unfurled red carpet to foreign investors, our contentious and fractious political parties versus their smoothly-functioning top-down Communist hierarchy, there’s one thing you’ve got to grant us: India has become an outstanding example of the management of diversity through pluralist democracy. Every Indian has
been allowed to feel he or she has as much of a stake in the country, and as much of a chance to run it, as anyone else: after all, our last elections were won by an Italian woman of Roman Catholic heritage who made way for a Sikh to be sworn in as PM by a Muslim president, in a nation 81% Hindu. And our largest state is being ruled by a Dalit woman, from a community once considered ‘untouchable’, who bids fair to rule the entire country if she can make the coalition arithmetic add up right after the next election. She wasn’t promoted by the Brahmin elite in New Delhi; she rode to the top on the ballots of her political base. Contrast this with Beijing, where political freedom is unknown, leaders at all levels are handpicked from the top for their posts, and political heresy is met with swift punishment, house-arrest or worse. India’s politics means its shock-absorbers are built into the system; it has endured major road-bumps without the vehicle ever breaking down. In China’s case, it is far from clear what would happen if the limousine of state actually encountered a serious pothole. The present system wasn’t designed to cope with fundamental challenges to it except through repression. But every autocratic state in history has come to a point where repression was no longer enough. If that point is reached in China, all bets are off. The dragon could stumble where the elephant can always trundle on.