The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 30, 2000

Hitler’s chosen man and critic
by V. N. Datta

A journalist remembers and recounts
Review by
Jaspal Singh

Habits make a new you
Review by P.D. Shastri

A voyage into void
Review by
Rumina Sethi

Community of constant conflicts
Review by

No cure for this sick policy
Review by
Jagdish Chander

1000 years of history
Review by
Kuldip Kalia

Gun or black door? Fear blocks freedom
Book extract


Hitler’s chosen man and critic
Off the shelf
by V. N. Datta

ALBERT Speer, the undisputed master of the German machine on which the German victory during the World War II largely depended was the only defendant in the Nuremberg trial who confessed his guilt and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He was released in 1966. During his incarceration he wrote for the most part on lavatory paper which was smuggled out and later published as his secret diary. His sensitive and vivid account of the gloomy era which he witnessed is now acknowledged as a first-class source material of primary importance on Hitler and the Nazi Germany.

About his own role, he said during his trial: "I assumed responsibility for all the orders from Hitler which I carried out. I took the position that in every government orders must remain orders for the subordinate organs of government but the leadership must examine and weigh the orders it received. In political life there is responsibility for a man’s own sector. For that he is fully responsible. But beyond that there is collective responsibility when he has been one of the leaders. This collective responsibility of the leaders must exist." This bold and daring confession astounded the judges!

At his trial Speer admitted his part of the responsibility for everything that the Nazis did with remorseless impunity, including their policy of genocide but denied knowledge of the specifics. Gitta Sereny’s full-scale and illuminating biography published in 1995, "Albert Speer: His battle with the truth", focused on the predicament that had exasperated Speer, torn by a conflict between his loyalty to Hitler and the moral values to which he was committed. Speer was convinced that Hitler’s policy was calculated to bring disaster to Germany.

The present work under review "Albert Speer" by David Edgar (Lyttelton Theatre, £ 25) deals with the issues of Speer’s guilt and denial, which provoked much debate during his trial.

The first part of Edgar’s study is a straightforward chronological narrative of Speer’s early life. Speer’s political career was extraordinary. He was not an active Nazi party worker. Not prone to fawning on men in power, he kept a low profile and avoided public gaze. Politics was irrelevant to him. He was an outstanding technocrat. Hitler was greatly impressed by his sparkling intellect, administrative acumen and dedication to work. At the age of 37 he was entrusted with the control of armament production and the coordination, distribution and restructuring of the industry. According to the author, Speer was easily the ablest and the least corrupt member of Hitler’s court.

Like a number of his versatile colleagues, Speer too came under the spell of Hitler. He was probably the only person close to Hitler who was not reprimanded or rebuked by him. His judgement on the whole entourage of that "dreadful monster" was not corrupted. Speer had the courage to take an independent line of action on some of the crucial issues facing the country. Edgar emphasises that Speer’s analysis of Hitler and his policy is candid.

Speer’s secret diary is indispensible to the understanding of Hitler’s mind and plans. The main contribution of this comprehensive work lies in describing the gradual changes which came over Hitler’s habits and character during the war and, in particular, after the plot of July 20, 1944. According to Speer, Hitler was an artist who by force of circumstances was compelled to jump into the whirlwind of politics.

According to Edgar, Speer failed to understand Hitler because he judged him by non-political standards and waxed lyrical on his personal life and tastes. Speer’s account of Hitler’s peacetime life is idyllic, and it seems as though he had a vested interest in romanticising the past. Some of the character sketches that Speer has drawn are brilliant. About Joseph Goebbels, he wrote; "I often had occasion to notice that Goebbel’s style was Latin, not Germanic. His propaganda principles were essentially Latin. For example, it would have been better if he had given the same watch ward as Churchill gave his people, "blood, sweat and tears". That was a hard and honest watchword and it would have suited the German people well. But the tragedy was that Germany always raised false hopes before the people which merely caused discrepancy between his propaganda and the trends of popular opinion?

Edgar follows Speer through his prison term and his writing spell. Here too he concentrates on Speer’s secret diary. Speer’s reconstruction of the past is compelling moral philosophy. He asserts that in early 1945 he was convinced that economically and militarily the war was lost, and the only way to save Germany from further catastrophe was to negotiate peace with the Allied powers. He warned that if the nation was not to be lost, it was necessary that some material basis be preserved upon which the life of the people, however primitive it might be, could continue.

Speer’s views were conveyed to Hitler who sent for him and said, "If the war is to be lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no need to consider the basis even of a most primitive existence any longer. On the contrary, it is better to destroy even that, and even to destroy ourselves. The nation has proved itself weak and the future belongs solely to the stronger eastern nation. Besides those who remain after the battle are of little value, for the good have fallen." That day Hitler issued new orders for destruction, and eight officers who failed to destroy bridges were shot.

Edgar describes Speer’s last meeting in the bunker with Hitler which lasted eight hours, while the Allied planes bombed the city. Hitler knew of Speer’s antipathy to his policy, yet he did not fume or fret. Speer found Hitler absolutely cool and calm. Hitler entertained a strong affection for Speer who came from the favourite "artistic world". Hitler knew that all was over and Germany was soon to surrender to its foes.

There is perhaps another explanation for Hitler’s courteous behaviour towards Speer. Hitler was in a state of unnatural calm, the calm after the storm. Hitler realised the fate that awaited him. "Readiness is all," Shakespeare’s greatest line is relevant at such critical moments in history. Perhaps Hitler viewed the world philosophically, awaiting death as a release from the stormy life of difficulties. Of course, Speer never knew that in his political testament Hitler had dropped him from the new Nazi government.

According to Edgar, Speer was a class by himself. Speer had the capacity to understand the force of politics and the courage to resist Hitler which others could not. For 10 years he was at the centre of politics and understood the mutations of Nazi government and its sinister policy, but he proved to be a pathetic spectator, though at the personal level he expressed his strong disapproval of Hitler’s policies. Hitler dismissed Speer’s fears as "idle thoughts of a technocrat". Speer, however, had no strong following to resist the menace of Hitler’s authoritarianism imposed on the whole German nation.

Edgar renders Speer’s role of an honest man assailed by a moral dilemma simplistically. "I could have known, I did not know. If I had known, then I would have resisted it positively." This is a reconstruction in retrospect. Edgar skirts Speer’s role at Nuremberg probably because others have discussed it in detail. The general view taken by western writers with the notable exception of Trevor Roper is that Speer shrewdly used his Machiavellian skills for self-preservation during his trial which charmed his inquisitors and saved himself from the gallows. The question about his moral responsibility still remains unanswered.

Written with sharp imagery and precise characterisation, that work is a savage morality tale of a brilliant man of extraordinary genius caught in a dilemma in troubled times.


A journalist remembers and recounts
Punjabi Literature
by Jaspal Singh

GULZAR SINGH SANDHU is a well-known Punjabi short-story writer. He was born in a small village Suni in the kandi area of Hoshiarpur in a jagirdar family with marginal means of subsistence. He did his graduation in the early fifties from the famous Khalsa College, Mahilpur.

People like Gurdip Singh Randhawa, Surjit Singh Bal (both retired as Vice-Chancellor), Surjit Hans, Sujan Singh (retired registrar of Panjab University), Justice Ajit Singh Bains, Prof Yashdip Singh, Darshan Singh Canadian, Ajaib Kamal, Ajmer Coventry and so on were associated with this college. Sandhu has to be included in the galaxy of these illustrious people.

Soon after his graduation he moved to Delhi to do his post-graduation in English literature from Camp College in the evening shift. During those days he joined as a sub-editor of two not-so-popular Punjabi papers, Pritam and Fateh, brought out by one Labh Singh Narang, a displaced person from Lahore.

Whenever Sandhu was fed up with the subbing work and planned to seek some other job his employer would cajole him and even inspire him by naming some of the well-known literary figures like Gopal Singh Dardi, Avtar Singh Azad, Justice Pritam Singh Safeer, Banjara Bedi and others who had worked in the same capacity in his papers. Sandhu would again change his mind and slog for hours together without much pecuniary benefit.

But this initial training stood him in good stead when he worked as editor of Punjabi Tribune and later as founder editor of Desh Sewak.

Now after several retirements from government of India as director in the Agriculture Department, editor of two well-known Punjabi newspapers, secretary, Punjab Red Cross and Professor of Journalism, Punjabi University, Patiala, Sandhu has become a wholetime writer. Six of his collections of short-stories have already appeared and three among them "Sone di Itt", "Amar Katha" and "Rudan Billian da" have been well noticed by literary critics.

He has now collected his casual writings in newspaper columns entitled "Mera Punjab te Meri Patarkari" (Navyug Publishers, New Delhi). Navjit Johl has painstakingly edited the discrete write-ups and the collection has appeared as a pleasant surprise carrying among other things a few historical interactions and interviews with some important political personalities of Punjab.

Mention may be made of Giani Zail Singh, Parkash Singh Badal, Buta Singh and Surjit Singh Barnala.

The collection has been divided into two main parts, "Mera Punjab" and "Meri Pattarkari". The first part consists of three sub-parts "Dekhia Sunia", "Punjabi te Punjabiat" and "Mulahjedarian". The second part "Meri Patarkari" consists of five parts. "Yatrinama", "Vichargirian", "Muhabatname", "Simritian" and "Mukkdi Gall".

The first part begins with these words, "The soul of Punjab is accustomed to take flight into the infinite - a kind of inebriation and elation. The exultation generated by this ebullience expands the soul of Punjab but at times shrinks it also.

"To erode, to disintegrate and to fall apart in shreds is part of its tradition and praxis through ages. But phoenix like it rises again from the ashes. It takes delight in being divided into parts and also in going across the mighty seas in sheer exuberance and abandon.

"It creates out of nothing new Punjabs in alien lands and climes. Wherever I find footprints of my Punjab, I try to capture them with unbound passion."

Sandhu’s journalism is also a product of his love for Punjab and its language and culture. The write-up about the partition of the country in 1947 is a very sensitive piece about the secular perceptions of the elders of Sandhu’s village who killed Sikh extremists to save the honour of Muslim girls of the village.

Despite his voluntary "exile" from Suni village for decades together in search of livelihood, Sandhu has maintained an intimate relation with it. Even now while living in retirement at Chandigarh, his heart longs for those youthful days when he was doing his graduation at Mahilpur.

In all his writings, the author shows his special skill at interviews. A major part of the present collection consists of them and they are conducted sharply and meticulously. He has a knack of digging up relevant information from evasive politicians.

His treatment of writers and intellectuals is sympathetic though politicians are pilloried and dragged on to an inconvenient terrain. From the portraits of politicians, Partap Singh Kairon and Giani Kartar Singh emerge as great sons of Punjab. The interview with Surjit Singh Barnala is very perceptive and it clearly brings out the difference of perception between him and Badal.

Sandhu asks Barnala whether Badal helped him in the 1985 elections. He replies:"Badal was mainly concerned with more tickets for his lackeys and that the parliamentary board should have the maximum member from his group."

Barnala admits that Badal was a senior leader but he started dissociating himself from Sant Harchand Singh Longowal.

Those were the election days and a majority of Barnala supporters were expected to win. As the election results were pouring in, the late Balwant Singh told Barnala that he would be the Chief Minister. He replied, "If I became the Chief Minister, you would be my deputy. In the process Badal had completely broken with me though I accommodated every one of his people."This did not surprise Barnala since "Badal did not like my popularity."

When Sandhu asked him whether Badal or Balwant Singh was a good associate, Barnala replied, "Balwant Singh is sharp and agile. We need such people at this juncture. Everybody is trying to cheat us. Balwant Singh takes care of it."

Barnala even told Balwant Singh to sort out matters with Badal. He retorted, "My fault is that I am not a Jat". Sandhu said, "It means he is really smart.""Yet, he is wise and knows how to handle a situation," was Barnala’s response.

This 1986 interview with Barnala which was done for Punjabi Tribune is very revealing and helps us in understanding the contradictions in Akali politics.

The author rues the day when Darshan Singh Canadian was done to death by terrorists near Mahilpur. He asks a rhetorical question:"What principles allowed them to commit this heinous crime on the land imbued with the legacy of the Ghadri Babas"?

Sometimes Sandhu goes euphoric in praising somebody whose contribution is just average at the global level. The write-up on Sobha Singh is an example. He was mainly a portrait painter which is considered the easiest thing to do. Producing replicas and facsimiles does not make a creative artist. Great modern painters are usually compared with people like Van Gogh, Cezanne and Picasso, the trend-setters in painting, who with the help of visual signs and symbols evoked an epoch in a single painting.

M.S. Randhawa, according to Sandhu, was tall like a mountain and deep like the sea. Devinder Satiarthi’s "Giddha" was a thunder-clap in the world of letters some six decades ago. This book was translated into many Indian languages and also English and it adorned many respectable bookshelves in the country.

Most of the pen-portraits in the collection are presented as "Muhabatname" (epistles of love) by the author. Beginning with Bhai Jodh Singh, a long list of well-known Punjabi writers, doctors, journalists and commentators appears. Gurbax Singh Preetlari, Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Diwan Singh Kalepani, M.S. Randhawa, P.N. Chhuttani, Prem Bhatia, Khushwant Singh,Sadhu Singh Hamdard, Kartar Singh Duggal, Tera Singh Chann, Surjit Hans, Gurvel Pannu, Ilias Ghuman and Nirupama Datt make their presence through Sandhu’s gliding prose.

When it comes to historical dates, the author adopts a casual attitude. For example, "Partap Singh Kairon was done to death on May 5, 1965" and "P.N. Chuttanni became the first Dean of the PGI in 1969 and after that he remained its director for 16 years. In 1979 he became a member of The Tribune Trust and then its chairman in 1988."

Obviously some of the dates and years are not correct.

Despite these minor lapses, this collection makes delectable reading. The prose is soft and soothing without any jerks, a product of a mellowed mind.



Habits make a new you
Review by P.D. Shastri

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Simon Schuster. New York. Pages 358. $ 14.

THE first words on the title cover are "international bestseller". The claim to be an international bestseller is a tall one.

A psychology professor calls Stephen R. Covey an American Socrates. The presidents of Saturn Corporation and General Motors says this book played a major role in the development of their companies. "Our commitment to quality and our customers has roots in ‘Seven Habits’."

Some business boses treat their employees as they would treat their best customers and these employees are all courtesy and helpfulness to customers, with the result that any buyer who comes to their shop once would never go elsewhere.

The writer’s principles are character, honesty, integrity, fairness and human dignity. This is at variance with the paradigm that all is fair in business if it can bring in a huge profit. But Stephen Covey’s thesis is, "ethical basis works. Honesty, truth and character are the basis of outstanding success." Firms that have the reputation for truth and honesty come on top. While clever guys with doubtful integrity may have their brief day but are soon found out and are downgraded to the level which they deserve.

Today many businesses depend not on the intrinsic worth of their product, but on high-voltage publicity through press, electronic media and other channels of advertisement. But their fashions come and go. One may deceive some people for some time, but never all the people all the time. A business based on truth, honesty and fair dealing goes a long way, says our author.

Nor are top-notch businessmen earning millions of dollars the happiest people in the world. One such says, "I have lost my wife and children. Inside I am eating my heart out. My marriage is on the rocks." Being desperately busy, he can’t find any time for his family or close friends. That is why the Indian way — that is the moral or religious way — based on the book or the guru has brought peace of mind and happiness, certitude and equipoise. Gandhi said that emperors envied his peace of mind. Their life moves at a leisurely, harmonious and joyous pace, based on goodness, charity and godliness.

But such saintly men cannot run business empires of say Birlas or Ambanis. They haven’t the expertise, nor the genius. It is here that books like the present one are most valued. Our world is becoming more and more technology based; it is a world of computers (the latest one can solve a billion questions a second), electronic media and a dozen other novelties. Its gods are money and power and to run this machine requires highly trained professionals, specialists and experts.

Gone are the good old days when the lalaji who had established a middle-level business concern died and his son, an illiterate raw youth, jumped into his shoes and the old concern and the old profits continued with the old momentum, worked by old employees, who had a different work culture and a different sense of loyalty to the propreitor’s family.

Today professionalism, with the leaven of truth, honesty and other virtues is the key to success. The author read hundreds of books, research projects and their findings for the material for his book. Apart from the ethical or moral approach, the work contains fruits of psychological research of many specialists. The general reader will find the reading tough. Even the "professional" reader who reverentially comes to this book to enrich his professional knowledge and achieve greater gains would feel it a penace.

In business, fashions change; a product or a technique or a commercial venture which is on top today may be reduced to zero value after 10 years; people’s tastes and habits change. An idea whose time has come stays at the top for some time; when its time is over, its importance and fashion value are gone too. A professional expert had forseen all this and had an alternative blueprint ready to fill the gap. Professionalism is the key to success in today’s world. And this book teaches us that.

The author’s thesis is to describe the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", people who change the little world around them.

Habit 1: be proactive

What is pro-active? He says dictionaries don’t carry this word. (Later at Habit No 6, the heading is synergise. That word too is not found in the dictionary —the dictionary mentions it when explaining the meaning of some other word.)

New knowledge and new ideas need new words to express them. Hence these coinages.

What is pro-active — as opposed to reactive? The latter is influenced by good or bad weather. The pro-active people carry their own weather with them. Character is the sum total of habits and you can learn and unlearn habits. A pro-active person makes his own independent choices while the reactive one blames his lack of initiative on circumstances, enemies, even his stars. If people treat him well, he feels well; otherwise he feels ill.

"I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday," says the pro-active one. You are the creator, you can change his course of life. There are differences between what a man is and what he pretends to be. He has two maps in his mind — the way things are and the way he wishes they should be. We can’t break the laws, we can only break ourselves against the law.

Reactive people are moved by their reactions to outward stimuliei; the pro-active seek to create their own situation. Others wait for things to happen. They are creators, not slaves of circumstances. It means to subordinate our impulses to values by conscious choice.

Your growth will be evolutionary, but the results will be revolutionary. Human nature is conservative, it does not want to change. Each person guards the gates of change, which is locked from inside. We have to change our mindset.

As Einstein says, "The significant problems can’t be solved at the same level of thinking which created them." Turn an optimist and you see a new world.

Habit 2: begin with the end in mind

Write down your personal mission statement in detail and read it every day. It is your personal constitution. Heroes are those who have great vision, wild dreams and rich imagination of their future. Whether it is a building or business or party. You need a mental picture, a blueprint, executing the project from day to day. Each man has his centre — wealth, power, family. The four factors are: security, guidance, wisdom and power. Stick to your goal and work for victory. Private victory implies victory over your self, not a dilly-dallying person.

Habit 3: put first things first

Some matters are urgent, attend to them at once. Some matters are important and they could wait. Get your priorities right. Problems arise: there is need for crisis management. There are not problems but challenges and opportunities. The four human endowments are — imagination, conscience, independent will and self-awareness. Always look ahead with confidence.

This habit means realising your dreams, actualisation of plans. You maintain your vision to make a unique contribution. Make deposits in the emotional bank — that is, attending to little details and never breaking your commitment or promises, making a deposit of unconditional love.

Habit 4: think win/win:

 Not we win and you lose. As the Buddha said, ours is a fight (as for public good) in which all win and no one loses. A short-sighted executive made his managers fight; it was a win-lose policy.

If it is win-lose, the customers will go away, if it is lose-win, the store will go away.

Habit 5: first understand and then be understood:

Diagnose first before you prescribe; satisfied needs do not motivate; only the unsatisfied needs motivate.

Habit 6 synergize:

All habits prepare us to create the miracle of synergy, you become a trail-blazer or path-finder. Synergy is a principle-centred leadership. It unleashes the greatest power (untapped) within people. It means that the whole is greater than the sum total of parts.

Habit 7: sharpen the saw:

A wood-cutter was trying to cut a tree with a blunt saw; his labour was wasted. Keep your physical condition (with exercise and nutrition), mental health (by reading great books), social-emotional fitness and spiritual health (religious programmes) in top gear for best results in life. It is the age of inter-dependence, not complete personal independence, though that seems more sweet.



A voyage into void
Review by Rumina Sethi

The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra. India Ink, New Delhi. Pages 277. Rs 395.

"THE Romantics" is a quest narrative. A slow and winding story of the young, peripatetic hero, Samar, the novel starts in Varanasi and ends again in Varanasi, but not before it has travelled to Pondicherry and Dharamsala.

This geographical diversity provides the matrix for cross-cultural exchange both at the mundane and sublime levels. On the one hand are Debbie and Mark, the bored American woman who wants to convert to Buddhism and the Indophile man dabbling in Indianness which he hopes to find in Dharamsala if not in Varanasi. On the other are Catherine and Anand, the confused French woman and the aspiring sitar maestro whose relationship is doomed like that of the other couple. Poised rather precariously and almost forming architectural arches over these characters are two questers, Miss West and our narrator-protagonist, who are also on their own journey.

Here nativism is played against Orientalism with the realisation that they are the obverse and reverse sides of the same coin. Mishra’s narrative particularises the notions of class, gender, race and geographical locale without forgetting to contextualise these issues within the unavoidable areas of imperialist history.

Samar, like Joyce’s autodidact, has severe companions: Edmund Wilson, Schopenhauer, Flaubert, Turgenev. A graduate from Allahabad University, he happens to be in Varanasi to read and do little else besides. In the gloom of the city where funeral pyres were like "glow-worms in the gathering dusk", Samar soldiers on with his reading of the great European masters: "I would look up and let my eyes wander over the thick multi-coloured spines and grow impatient at the slow progress I was making, at the long interval that separated me from those other books."

There is something of this dull, gloomy slowness of the hero which not just keeps him from the other books but also contributes to his insularity from the Europeans who thickly pervade Varanasi. Understanding little of "The World as Will and Idea" there are, however, moments of bonhomie as he abandons Schopenhauer for Turgenev’s "Torrents of Spring". The inaction correspondingly moves to Miss West’s quaint terrace party where Samar meets the Europeans and the Americans who are to be his companions for the rest of the narrative.

A number of literary precedents find an echo here, not least among them being "A Passage to India". In the first part, the novel delights in polyphonic multicultural diversity of its subject. But as we read on, for the most part, the events provide little more than alternative forms for the hero’s self-absorption.

At this point begin Samar’s recollections, confessions and peregrinations. We find him struggling to find a foothold in a spirit of schizoid detachment from the world, but unable to do so in either of the two worlds he inhabits. He is helped, of course, by the ever-friendly westerners and their desire to be more Indian than the Indians. We first meet Miss West, a mysterious and melancholy woman, who "gazed at the river for long hours". She has been living in Varanasi for five years.

It is Miss West who introduces Samar to the female protagonist, Catherine, who overpowers the naive hero physically and intellectually. Catherine comes to Varanasi to be away from her "oppressively bourgeois" French parents. She falls in love with the long-haired Anand and plans to take him back with her to Paris, believing that he would create quite a sensation in France, enough to make a living out of his performances at any rate.

Anand and Catherine, oddly, complement another pair of characters in the novel, Panditji and his arthritic wife, Mrs Pandey. We cannot help feeling that had Catherine married Anand (whom she does take to Paris where it becomes clear that Anand is no Ravi Shankar), they would have ended up very much like Panditji, the pennyless musician, and Mrs Pandey who speaks nostalgically of the splendour of her father, a celebrated guest of the Maharaja of Varanasi. We also meet Rajesh, a rather enigmatic student leader who reads Iqbal and Faiz and yet keeps a bag of long-barrelled metallic pistols. It is in his friendship with Rajesh that Samar comes across as the boy-next-door who hangs about the university preparing for the "Mains" — the main civil service examination.

Samar frequents the house of Anand and Catherine. The inevitability of his very predictable love affair with her provides the main narrative tension of the novel. The first two sections of the book develop this relationship where Catherine is the Adela Quested to a much-less-articulate Aziz, Samar. Of course, in a typical European fashion, Catherine breaks off leaving Samar on the train to Pondicherry.

Once in Pondicherry, he is far more in control of his life, the Euro-American influence now on its way out. He still waits for Catherine’s promised letters but in the meanwhile finds company in Priya. The earlier pattern repeats itself as Priya falls in love with Samar. The last part of the novel has Samar travelling (or is he running away?) to Dharamsala on an assignment to teach primary students — the end of his travels, as he says.

This turn in the novel endeavours to persuade the reader into believing that western cultural imperialism does tend to make the nativist uncomfortable, that cultural hybridity appears to not complement the social fabric of the colonised nations. Although Mishra’s novel professes to be cross-cultural, or so one tought in the beginning, it remains trapped within a type of discourse that is geographically deterministic and hence culturally essentialist.

Mishra easily loses sight of imperialism as a transnational phenomenon which cannot be so naively dismissed as philosophically subordinated to a native tradition. One wonders: is this novel a social and political satire? Or is it simply telling the story of a man who seems to be stunted in his emotional and intellectual growth in his endeavour to find the remote possibility of love?

It is in Dharamsala that Samar achieves a little of the composure he had found when he had visited Rajesh’s mother’s house in the village: "The image with its perfect configuration of solitude, contentment and beauty was a kind of balm in those days of exhausting travel; it revived me by throwing me into daydreams of a simplified life and world — the kind of world where children herded cows all morning and returned home late in the afternoon to meals cooked on dung-cake fires.

"It was pure fantasy, and I now recognise it as such. But we live by fantasies, and this one did then what in retrospect was a necessary thing: it created new hopes in order to offset the destruction of old ones. It diminished, however briefly, the feeling I had known after Pondicherry that I had been contaminated in some profound way. It made bearable my random travels, and made it possible for me to think that I had another chance."

The novel, as I said in the beginning, appears to be a quest novel although there is little certainty whether Samar truly finds contentment. What we are fairly certain about, however, are the emotional limitations of the hero’s symbolic poignancy. In many ways, he is the exemplar of the solitary man whose self-effacement (which is a kind of narcissism) both motivates and is fatal to Mishra’s art.

Samar’s picaresque wanderings work inevitably to Mishra’s disadvantage. For much of the novel, he pits stylistic inventiveness against the limitations of his protagonist and plot. His style is as alive as the hero is emotionally dead. The liveliness of style of this bildungsroman does not alter the book’s oppressive stagnation.

Highly sensitive though Mishra is, his accounts of human conflict have a pasteboard, almost cartoonish, quality which make "The Romantics" an adolescent novel. It is possible that the emptiness of the novel might turn out to be a turning-up for a future work of greater ambition and more lasting significance.



Community of constant conflicts
Review by G.V.Gupta

The Myth of Community — Gender Issues in Participatory Development edited. by Irene Guijt and Meera Kaul Shah. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 288. Rs 295.

THIS collection of 22 papers by 30 highly educated and academically articulate persons who are connected with the formulation, execution, monitoring and training in various aspects of participatory development in different parts of the developing world, together their experience so as to create a theory of management of programmes to integrate the issue of gender justice. It is virtually a manual for trainers and programme formulators. As pointed out in the foreword, the critical concepts are "participation" and "gender justice". In management and execution of the community developmental programmes one has to be aware of the complexity, diversity and dynamism of thr local context avoiding many a bias. One has to be conscious of the issues of ethics and accept the inevitability of conflict. It is claimed, "the myth of community takes us, developmental professional, a long step forward. After this, "gender" and "participation" can never be quite the same again.

It is also somewhat of a tall claim.

The volume has been divided into three parts. The first deals with theoretical reflections on participation and gender followed by a section dealing with practical experience gained in different parts of the world. The last section lists examples of successful integration of gender sensitive issues in the participatory programmes. Since the book addresses itself to workers the world over, the experiences and examples are generalised in an effort to create a general theory. For specific country requirements these need to be supplemented by in-depth country experience and for a country like India, by regional studies.

Post-war optimism called for state-led development with equity. Development was an open -ended theme. Equity was thought to be best achieved by state-led growth. By the seventies disillusionment had set in. Inequality increased. Growth was painfully slow. People’s alienation widened with increased bureaucratic controls. Alternatives were sought.

The new slogan was sustainable growth with people’s participation. It was development of the community with its involvement in formulation and execution of programmes. Sustainable growth was thought to be possible only by increased use of local resources which could be regenerated locally with the least cost. International development agencies’ emphasis shifted to NGO’s and local panchayat and other village institutions. Liberal funding brought articulate intellectuals into the fold.

But then what is community? It could be any group having a particular communality. However, the historical and anthropological tradition of our intellectuals convinced them that it meant essentially a the village community. Thus participatory development came to mean essentially rural development with village as the unit. Hence the acronym PRA or participatory rural appraisals, as the base of experiences and that is and that is what has a created this volume.

The funding agencies soon learnt that this "community" is a myth. It contains within itself serious conflicts of interests and can be a highly oppressive unit. "Communities never existed the way people romanticise them today….due to the focus on majority rule in the community processes, minority groups may lose out…..normative use of community feed political conservatism by conveniently ignoring the darker side of traditional communities…a community focus may be culturally oppressive.

Massive disillusion has led to the title of the book. But the mission "to do good" continues. Only the focus has to be shifted. Programmes have to be specifically designed to work for justice, particularly gender justice. Mere development is not enough, even if it is materially beneficial to women. sensitisation is must. One cannot run away from conflict. Women have to be saved from their husbands, their own parents, brothers and sons as much as they have to be saved from those who exploit their menfolk. For this the approach has to be appropriately redesigned.

Illustratively we come to Chapter 7. This deals with participatory investigation of the issue of female infanticide in a village in Bihar. A group of village dais (midwives) is collected. They are encouraged to list the advantages and disadvantages of being born a women and were asked whether they would like to be born again as women.

Thereafter the influence of caste and social status on infanticide was discussed and it came out that the incidence was the highest among high caste people, lower among the backward and almost nonexistent amongst dalits and the Muslims. This got related to female work value and property relations. Women were most oppressed in high caste homes but there was no religious compulsion even though religious preachers always emphasised patriarchal values.

Various suggestions to stop this practice were made. These included making infanticide publicly visible, controlling it by setting up watch dog committees, promoting anti-poverty programmes and welfare programmes directed at girl child. From these discussions arise lessons for participatory approaches to examining gender relations. These include the selection of right participants, obtaining help from block level workers, encouraging participants to come out with information even if it related to crimes in which they were themselves active agents, trying to locate the reasons for infanticide, and then come to ways of combating it which are thought to be effective locally. All this obviously for the benefit of uninitiated foreigners or purely urban degree-holders. Thus is created a bible for "us the development professionals".

Here is a community, or part of it, that kills its girl child. It is known because much poorer and deprived families do not have so many deaths of girls at birth. It does not cause any ethical revulsion. Bur what is the conflict and what is the historical development of it? This is kept beyond the scope of the work.

Sociologically speaking, female infanticide comes out to be a problem of modernisation; of more recent origin, of property relations. In some communities it is a problem of patriarchal status. It cuts across communities. It is there in rural as well as urban areas. Education probably makes a marginal difference. But probably more important is the fear of a division of property.

A socio-historical analysis has to married to field data to work out an effective programme. More and more women have to assert their property rights and make it a common event and mechanism has to be found to provide space to those who rebel. However, it is more likely to evaporate with the rise in professionalism among women and land ceasing to be the coveted property with growth of other assets.

Proof of the pudding lies in eating. There is no success story highlighted in the vplume. Such surveys and programmes based on them are not known to have achieved much. These are more the problems of social change. And we should have looked at some of the successful examples.

Probably it would have been more beneficial to study the success stories like the SEWA movement started in the slums of Ahmedabad and now taking root all over the country providing identity and security to the most oppressed without giving rise to any ethical or social conflict. A habit of self -help, some savings under their own control, a rudimentary knowledge of marketing and banking, and marginal development of skills were its essential ingredients. And all this was imparted without detaching them from their jobs or families. Here was also complete community identification based on socio-economic identity. But it was not the job of a "professional" who is paid a salary in international scaleand is essentially concerned with saving his own job by using language skill. It was done by a person who had spent a lifetime with them without earning a paisa from this "profession’"and earning the trust of her clients. It was more in the nature of a movement than a programme.

Why not go back to Gandhi and think of the Transvaal march? This was the most emancipatory event in the life of an oppressed people, both male and female. Emancipation need not be essentially gender oriented. An oppressed woman in not so much in danger from her husband as she is from him who oppresses her husband. Reducing the conflict to only the family has the danger of depriving the female of her present security and space. Gender problem of a modernising society is different from the gender problem of a modern society. This volume does not even warn the workers of this.

We have a large stock of success stories of conservation of local resources and consequential local development encompassing all aspects of life. Suketri is close to Chandigarh. But again it was not a the work of a professional trained by these manuals and paid international salary. He was a pensioner committed to evolving a model of development of a community having a community of interest defined as a way of agrarian life. It was successful introduction of a technology of self-sustaining growth based on community interests.

A manual like this is, however, valuable for academic debates. Gender justice is also a fashion these days. Universities are vying with each other in having a dedicated department for this. International funds are coming easy. It seems to be part of the white man’s burden. The tragedy is that even these debates are dominated subconsciously by patriarchal values.



No cure for this sick policy
Review by Jagdish Chander

Drug Supply and Use:Towards a Rational Policy in India by Anant Phadke. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 183. Rs 295.

THE past decade has seen a wave of "privatisation" and "globalisation" in the developing world. The drug sector is not an exception and is also witnessing proliferation. Actually the change started in the fifties. Policies on drugs adopted by the Union Government from time to time led to the gradual privatisation of the industry. Every policy statement protected the interest of big houses and ignored that of the common man. In addition to the burden of high prices of drugs, irrational drug usage jeopardised the health care delivery system of the country.

With the overall thrust being mixed economy, in the drug sector too the growth of the private sector was closely intertwined with the public sector. Now there is a major shift towards the private sector and the Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) of 1977, 1987 and 1995 are being drastically modified. The democratic process of routing the policy changes through Parliament has been given a go-by to bestow benefits on the private sector. That is the reason behind the collapse of the public sector manufacturing units which have become sick or have cut down their production or have been closed down or sold to multinational companies. This has forced the country to depend more on the private sector rather than the public sector.

In socialist countries like Cuba, the state is the sole provider of medical care, including drugs, and their use is on a rational basis. But most of the developed and developing capitalist countries have a mixed system of public and private health services.

The basic flaw in drug production in India is in allowing the drug industry a higher and unlimited mark-up (profit on the cost of production). The other flaw is the production of about 50,000 drugs mostly unnecessary combinations. For example, antipyretic drug paracetamol is available under dozens of brand names. In addition to their higher price, the most dangerous outcome of this combination of drugs is the emergence of several drug-resistant diseases like tuberculosis.

The book under review is divided into two parts dealing broadly with the theme of rational use of drugs. The first part, "The Indian drug tragedy" tackles the current agonising scenario. It offers suggestions to improve this situation.

The second part, "Drug supply and use in Satara district", is a summary of the findings of a study carried out over three years to investigate the supply and use of drugs in this district in Maharastra. The investigation was carried out under the guidance of the Foundation for Research in Community Health (FRCH), Mumbai. This book is basically a product of the collective efforts of the Medico-Friend Circle(MFC), the All-India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) and allied voluntary medical organisations.

The first part brings out some of the basic weaknesses in the production, regulation and use of drugs in India. Dr Anant Phadke has clearly outlined the causes of the present-day situation. Broadly the following afflict the Indian drug scene: (1) Production of non-essential instead of essential drugs;(2) production of irrational combinations of drugs and no control over such production and the absence of an aggressive approach to remove such combinations from the market;(3) irrational prescription by doctors either due to ignorance or because of pressure from pharmaceutical companies;and (4) ayurvedic drugs being misused because of very weak regulatory authority.

For instance, the Hathi Committee laid down in 1975 clear guidelines on the identification of essential drugs, shifting to generic names, etc. The production objectives of this Committee have been achieved, including self-sufficiency in drugs, but the health objectives have been ignored. Most of what the author lists as his recommendations quoting the measures suggested by the All-India Drug Action Network such as listing essential drugs, use of generic names, regulation of promotional literature,etc. were suggested by the Hathi Committee.

It is ironical that countries like Iran have implemented nearly all Hathi committee recommendations while India even while beginning to develop rational drug programmes in the states, continues to ignore these measures. The programmes will be more successful when developed and implemented in the states and not thrust by the Centre. The author also mentions that at long last the Union Government has prepared a list of essential drugs. But the impact of the list is negligible as the states make their own lists and use them for procurement and the central list becomes more or less redundant.

The Part I of the book is further divided into six different chapters. The first chapter, "Drugs and health in India", is an overall view of the current status of drugs, while comparing it with that in the western world under developed capitalist economy. It has been shown that drug production and use in India is irrational, irrespective of whether drugs are produced by Indian firms or multinational corporations. This can be changed only with a change in the overall orientation of drug companies, in the nature of the medical profession and in the relations between the drug industry, doctors and the lay people. Sadly, the opening of more government medical colleges has not been helped end the shortage of qualified allopathic doctors in rural areas.

The second chapter deals with the health status of the people and what role the profit motive plays. When priority is given to profit, the goal of health care to all is defeated. The situation has been analysed in the light of profits versus health and the various Acts regulating the drug industry. It has also been shown how drug manufacturing companies are indulging in marketing gimmicks to boost their profits.

The irrationalities in production, distribution and usage in India are no different from what prevails in other developing countries. From the point of view of medical science and the people’s need, the production pattern of drugs in India is wrong in two ways. One, it does not cater to the needs of the majority of the population and, two, it violates medical ethics by producing obsolete or hazardous drugs and their combinations. All these points are discussed in Chapter 3.

The fourth chapter analyses the problem of the use of fancy drugs. Allopathic drugs are prescribed by unqualified persons and it is the major factor behind drug companies marketing irrational drugs to such a large extent. It is possible to curb this misuse of drugs but the government has done nothing about it. The fifth chapter deals with the lobbying for a rational drug policy. In India, drug production has increased quite rapidly and dependence on foreign companies was significantly reduced, especially after the introduction of the Indian Patent Act, 1970. The Hathi Committee had also pointed out that the government should take prompt measures to eliminate irrational drug combinations. But the official response was not prompt. Even today, about 80 per cent of irrational drugs continue to flood the market.

Other developing countries, which have adopted rational drug policies, have banned most of the irrational drugs. Sri Lanka eliminated 1,900 such drugs in the 1960s; Bangladesh weeded out 1,700 drugs in 1978; Mozambique banned more than 12,500 brands within five years of its revolution in 1975. In India, however, the Drugs Controller has taken a piecemeal approach to deciding about every category of drugs separately, instead of making broad policy decisions as has been done in other countries.

The model list of essential drugs prepared by the WHO is now available for more than two decades. All that is needed is to make certain changes to suit the Indian conditions.

The sixth chapter explores the future perspective of drug usage. The author has also tackled various issues related to a rational drug policy that would take care of all these points. These measures cannot be separated from steps to protect and promote India’s own drug industry from the impact of the new patent regimen and the World Trade Organisation.

The author has analysed the effectiveness of some of the leading over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, cough syrups and remedies for cold, tonics and food supplements. It was found that all the OTC drugs studied were irrational and the claims made in advertisements were exaggerated and misleading. Like Vicks Vaporab, an allopathic OTC drug, was renamed as ayurvedic and thus became eligible for exemption from excise duty. Some unscrupulous manufacturers secretly add steroids to their ayurvedic preparations used for chronic diseases like bronchial asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. A very popular medicine "Select" was another product marketed as an Ayurvedic drug which claimed to change the sex of the growing foetus.

The second part of the book contains a detailed description of drugs used in Satara district. A study in one district provides an overall picture of the trends in other districts and even in other states. And it is thus possible to draw broad conclusions about the objective conditions in India. This part scrutinises the prescriptions issued by doctors.

It was found that the overall quality of prescriptions was low, that doctors in both private and public hospitals in rural and urban areas invariably used drugs irrationally. The use of undesirable drugs was unusually high. It is interesting to note that though senior consultants have the highest proportion of rational prescriptions, they tended to over-drug most of the patients. This section contains much interesting material, including an estimate of how much money is being wasted due to over-use of drugs. Investigators, health planners and policy-makers should closely read this study.

This book deserves to be widely read and debated but the author has not mentioned any of the positive developments. For instance, in Tamil Nadu and Delhi, where the system of procurement of drugs was changed a few years back, a major part of the budget is now spent on essential drugs. Moreover, pooled procurement has enabled states like Punjab to save a significant amount.

Dr Anant Phadke has concluded that in a country where a big section of the population lives below the poverty line, the additional burden of paying for costly drugs will result in further pauperisation of the masses. Focussing on the rationality of drug production at the national level, and based on an in-depth and comprehensive study, this book provides critical insights which should generate a debate on an appropriate national health policy.



1000 years of history
Review by Kuldip Kalia

The Indian Millennium: AD 1000-2000 by Gopa Sabharwal. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages x+716. Rs 495.

DO you know who carried out the first and accurate survey of land rights? When did the work on Khajuraho temples begin? Where do we find the first recorded reference to Haryana? What was the name of the mathematician who devised the ‘‘tantra sangraha’’, an equation that provided the approximate value of ‘‘pi’’? How did the first printing press come to India in 1556? Who brought a hair of Prophet Muhammed to Kashmir and consecrated it at the Hazratbal Mosque?

These and many other events and personal details that went to shape India are covered in the book under review. It is a comprehensive and well-documented reference volume, covering a wide range of topics such as politics, foreign relations, armed forces, religion, infrastructure, films, disasters, media, finance, agriculture, archaeology and many others. These are arranged in a chronological order but making it more useful by providing a detailed and exhaustive index.

Calcutta is known for many ‘‘firsts’’. India’s first lift was installed at the Governor’s residence in Calcutta in 1863; ‘‘The Star’’ was the first public theatre hall inaugurated in 1883. Similarly, the first boxing bout was held in the city. Moreover, it became the first city to have electricity in India.

For quiz masters and knowledge-seekers, it adds that independent India’s first budget was presented by Finance Minister R.K. Shanmu-kham Chetty on November 26, 1947.

Perhaps, the most horrifying event was recorded by Badaun in 1556. During a terrible famine in Agra, the conditions were so disturbing that men are reported to have eaten other men.

Similarly in 1947, when the Bahmani kingdom and Maharashtra were hit by a famine, about two-thirds of the local population was said to have perished.

Sports lovers will not be disappointed. There is a lot of information of their interest. Farookh Engineer became the first Indian to win a man of the match award in World Cup cricket in 1975. However, Anil Kumble is the second bowler in Test cricket to capture all 10 wickets in an innings. He did that against Pakistan in the second Test in Delhi.

Perhaps astonishing but interesting to note is that a naphtha missile was used in naval action near Multan between Mohmud Ghazni and the Jats of the Jud Hills in 1018. However, the first Indian nuclear device was exploded at Pokhran, Rajasthan, in 1974. The country’s first geostationery experimental communication satellite Apple was put in orbit in 1981.

Though unrelated yet a matter of interest to many that GA Sippy’s ‘‘Sholay’’ completed its six year run at a Bombay theatre in the same year (1981). It was the longest-ever run for an Indian film.

Again, one may call it a coincidence, 50 years of Indian talkies was celebrated in 1981. The first-lung transplant was carried out at the Madras Medical Mission hospital on April 25, 1997.

It was for the first time in the history of Indian law and justice that a Bangalore Judge accepted DNA fingerprint as evidence in 1988. Moreover, a visitor to Kashmir must keep in mind that the Shalimar Garden was completed in 1641. However, the Rock Garden in Chandigarh was created by Nek Chand in 1976. The foundation of the City Beautiful (Chandigarh) was laid in 1952. It was the creation of French architect Le Corbusier.

An unfortunate but again undeniable part of history is that the ‘‘Satanic Verses’’ by Salman Rushdie was banned in India in 1988. As early as in 1000 AD, the prose romance ‘‘Udayasundari Katha’’ of Soddhala was written under the patronage of Mummurriraja of Thane.

Undoubtedly, this volume can be a pride possession of anyone and the author deserves appreciation for making the record of the events of over past 1000 years accessible in a single book. But the distressing part is the index. Acharya Rajneesh is entered under ‘‘Osho’’. The stampede at Kumbh fair has not been covered under either ‘‘Stampede’’ or ‘‘Disaster’’. It is mentioned under ‘‘Kumbh mela’’ only, thus making it difficult to locate it.

Similarly, there are references under ‘‘famine’’ or ‘‘earthquakes’’ but do not find anything as ‘‘cyclone’’ or ‘‘air crash’’. Moreover, against Sriperumbudur page number 163 is mentioned, but the actual event is printed on the page 634.

‘‘Cricket’’has no place in the index. The volume does mention ‘‘Operation Vijay’’ against Pakistan with events column, but it should have been better placed under ‘‘Kargil conflict’’. Similarly, the news of Madan Lal Khurana quitting the Union Cabinet has failed to get a place in the 1999 events. One wonders why the news of Girish Karnad getting an award gets a place in the 1998 events when actually he wa selected for the award in January, 1999?

Moreover, the events of deaths of prominent personalities should have been covered under ‘‘Obituary’’.

Despite these shortcomings, the value of this volume cannot be minimised.



Book extract
Gun or black door? Fear blocks freedom

This is an edited chapter from a book of Osho’s select speeches on human freedom.

THE nature of human consciousness is absolute freedom. When I say absolute freedom, I mean you are free at any moment to be whatsoever you decide. Nothing holds itself against you. You may have been a saint up to now. You may have lived in celibacy up to now. This very moment you can change: you can shed celibacy and you can fall in love with a woman or a man. Because you have been a celibate in the past does not, cannot, become a bondage. You remain free. If you want to be a celibate in this moment also, you can be. But remember that it is not because of the past, it is again a fresh decision. You have to go on making your decision again and again and again, reviving it again and again and again. At any moment you can drop it.

Existentialists are right. They say that "existence precedes essence". It is a very pregnant sentence... .

A man is born; he is pure freedom. He has no essence, only existence. Then he will choose his essence, who he is going to be — and it will be his choice. He can be a saint, he can be a sinner; he can be a criminal, he can be a murderer, or he can be a martyr. He brings pure existence into the world — a blank sheet, a pure canvas. What colours he is going to use, and what sort of painting he is going to make of his life, is totally up to him. He does not bring a character. He simply brings a potentiality, pure potentiality. And this pure potentiality always remains pure; you cannot corrupt it.

You become a saint: that means you decide that to be a saint is going to be your essence. But this is your decision, and if you want to keep it up to the very end of your life; every morning, in fact, every minute of your existence, you will have to decide again and again and vote for it. Any moment you stop deciding, any moment you say, "Enough is enough, now I want to change", nobody is barring the path. You can cancel your whole past in a single moment, because that past was your decision, nobody else’s. It is not like a destiny forced from above, from outside. It is your own inner decision. You can change it.

You can become a sinner, but tomorrow you may again change. You can again take the vow of a Catholic priest and become a priest again, become a celibate. Try to understand this... . This has tremendous implications for your life.

Don’t throw the responsibility on anybody else. Nobody else is a deciding factor, neither your mother nor your father. Whatsoever the psychoanalysts say is really irrelevant to your being. It is for you to decide. Even the people who are mad are mad because of their own decision. Somehow they found it to be convenient. Somehow they decided; they voted for it. Nobody has forced them. Nobody can force anybody because the innermost quality of being is freedom. It is not something accidental; it is your very nature.

You have been smoking up to now. For 30 years you may have been a chain-smoker and you come to me and you ask, "What to do? How to stop?"

You are asking a wrong question. In fact, you don’t want to stop. Go deep into your own mind: you don’t want to stop; you are playing a game. You don’t want to stop; you want to show people that you want to stop. Or, this very idea that you want to stop gives you a good image about yourself. Then you go on saying, "What can I do? It has become such a long habit; I cannot stop, though I want to stop?"

This is simple, sheer foolishness and stupidity. You are not deceiving anybody except yourself. If you really want to stop, there is no need to do anything about it. The very decision that you want to stop is enough: the half-smoked cigarette in your hand will drop of its own accord. But you remain free. That does not mean that again tomorrow you cannot take it up. You remain free; nobody can bind you. Again tomorrow you can take it up. Then please, don’t start saying that it is because of old habit: "I tried my best, and I had stopped, and for twenty-four hours I didn’t smoke. But because of a 30-year-old habit, I am again taking it up. The urge is too much."

Do not try to fool anybody. There is nothing like that; you are again deciding. If you are deciding, then it is okay. You can find a thousand and one ways to decide again. But remember always, it is your decision, yours and nobody else’s; and you remain free.

Mulla Nasruddin had once decided that he would never touch any alcoholic thing again in his life, any intoxicant. And he was a drunkard. So just to test his own will power, he walked on the path where the pub was. Just in front of the pub, he looked at the pub in a very proud way and said to himself, "I have decided that nothing can attract me and nothing can force me to go astray" — and he walked 100 ft away. Then he patted his own back and he said, "Nasruddin, you are great. Now I will treat you, come to the pub."

Don’t play games with yourself. It is your freedom, but freedom is very dangerous because it does not leave any corner for you to hide in. You cannot throw responsibility on anybody else. Simply and absolutely, you are responsible. Just watch and see the fact of it, and truth liberates.

If you can see this, then whether you decide to smoke or drink does not matter. Whether you decide to drop it does not matter. The only thing that matters is to be always mindful of your freedom.

Try what I am saying, just watch what I am saying. Smoking... take a decision that you are not going to smoke. Let the cigarette drop from your fingers, and then watch. Just go on observing. Whenever you again want to smoke, don’t say that it is because of old habit. It is again a fresh decision, not an old habit. You go on throwing the responsibility on the old habit to save your own face.

Please don’t do that. Say, "Now I have decided to smoke again". Nobody is barring you; it is your decision. You can cancel, or you can vote for it again. But always insist that it is a fresh decision, and you will never be in the grip of so-called habits, so-called mechanical habits. You will feel a free man. Smoking or not smoking is immaterial; to feel a free man is very significant. Nothing is more significant than that.

I am here to make you aware of your freedom. If you go to the so-called saints, they will make you aware of your mechanicalness: that is the difference. They will make you aware of your mechanicalness, and they will create a new mechanicalness in you. They will say, "You have been smoking for 30 years? Now take a vow that you will never smoke again." Old habit is there; now they are telling you to create a greater habit in order to destroy the old habit. Then non-smoking will become a habit, but the freedom is nowhere there. Whether you smoke or don’t smoke, you remain a victim.

My whole emphasis is that you should become aware of your freedom. Let your life flow out of your freedom. Whatsoever you decide is up to you. Who am I to tell you to smoke or not to smoke, to drink or not to drink? I am not worried about such foolishnesses; this is for you to decide. You are your own master. These are trivia; they are not significant. All that matters is that you remain alert, remain centred in your freedom. Never do anything that goes against your freedom. Do — everything is allowed if it is done out of freedom. To act out of freedom is to be virtuous, to act out of bondage is to sin.


I will tell you a very ancient story, and one of the most beautiful I have ever come across.

There was a very wise king. His own Prime Minister committed a betrayal: he delivered some secrets to the neighbouring country, to the enemy. The Prime Minister was caught red-handed. There was only one punishment for it, and that was death. But the old king had always loved this man. He was sentenced to death, but the old man gave him an opportunity.

The last day, he called his whole court. On one side there was a gun ready to kill the man, on the other side there was a black door. And the king said, "You can choose, either to die — you have to die — or you can choose this black door. It is up to you." The Prime Minister asked, "What is behind that black door?" The king said, "That is not allowed. Nobody knows, because nobody has chosen it before. In the times of my father, in the times of my grandfather, many times the opportunity had been given, but nobody has chosen and nobody knows. And nobody is allowed; even I don’t know. I have the key, but when my father died he said to me, ‘I will open the door and you can go in and I will close it. Don’t look into it.’ But you can see — because you can choose. You can discover what is there. It is up to you."

The Prime Minister brooded, and then he chose the gun. He said, "Kill me with the gun. I don’t want to go behind that black door." The Prime Minister was killed. The queen was very curious. She persuaded the king somehow to see what was behind it. The king laughed. He said, "I know — there is nothing behind it. It’s simple freedom; there is not even a room. This door opens to the wide world. There is nothing, but nobody has chosen it yet."

People even, choose death before choosing the unknown. People even choose to be miserable before choosing the unknown. The unknown seems to be more dangerous than death itself. And freedom is the door unknown. Freedom means moving into the unknown, not knowing where one is going, not knowing what is going to happen the next moment. It is a black door. Rarely, sometimes a Jesus or a Buddha will choose the door; all else choose the gun.