Category Archives: Non-fiction

Reading between the (Experiments with) Truth

Man and his deed are two distinct things. ‘Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world…

These words are of a man who made a deep impact on the psyche of not only India’s masses but also to the world at large. He was not only a man of words but he followed what he preached in fact he first experimented with his thoughts on himself and then only recommended others the medicine that could prove beneficial. Reason was tantamount in all his actions and with reason and a strong belief in Truth, he led India and its people towards a journey not only of freedom from foreign rule but a journey of freedom from the shackles of ignorance to the pursuit of truth and philosophy of non-violence.

This ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing everyday that the search is vain unless it is founded on ahimsa as the basis. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself.

The cover of 'The Story of My Experiments with Truth'

The cover of ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’, An Autobiography – M. K. Gandhi

The autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’, is filled with many such observations about Gandhiji’s continuous effort towards the practice of truth and non-violence as a result of a life sketched out of experiences and experiments, about which he confessed,

After all, however my striving after Ahimsa may have been, they have still been imperfect and inadequate…In fact what I have caught is only the faintest glimmer of that mighty effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa.

This book tells the story of Mahatma in his own words from his birth to the beginning of his active participation in Indian freedom struggle. He gave the masses of India a potent weapon in the form of non-violence through which they could participate in the Indian freedom struggle making it a popular mass movement. His ideas focused not only on the uprising of people and their awakening towards the cause of freedom but taking an active interest in self-purification. For him, this was the way Ahimsa could truly be practiced.

Without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream. Self purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life…Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.

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Filed under Autobiography, Classics, Non-fiction

Lives of the Poet

Dear Baptu,

I am sure you will enjoy this.

With Love,

Ma

1\12\2002

The copy of ‘Memoirs’ by Pablo Neruda, which I possess has been passed on to me from my cousin brother. He also did not buy this copy as it was passed on to him, probably borrowed to him from a friend, possibly called ‘Baptu’ with love.
Baptu was gifted this book by his mother and the brief hand-written note in the beginning of this book is by Baptu’s mother. This one line note is filled with warmth which when I first read it, I thought (as a stranger to the mother-son), I must not intervene between this bond by reading or sharing it. But I could not let go of it and it keeps coming back to me with its blue ink and small fonts written carefully below the author’s bio on the first page of the book. I imagined how the duo would look like and the day when Baptu would have received this book. When this book changes hands again, I am sure in addition to the brilliant narrative of the life of Pablo Neruda, one would also touch upon this short yet beautiful feeling.

So begins this amazing journey through Memoirs of Pablo Neruda, a poet of Latin American descent who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 1971.

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From the very first chapter of my English translation version, the mysticism of his craft starts unraveling itself and the reader finds itself immersed deep in the poetic verses of his memories. He starts with a note saying,

In these memoirs or recollections there are gaps here and there, and sometimes they are also forgetful, because life is like that… What the memoir writer remembers is not the same thing the poet remembers… The poet gives us a gallery full of ghosts shaken by the fire and darkness of his time.

Perhaps I didn’t live just in my self, perhaps I lived the lives of others… My life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet.

With a bundle of memories, collected from the very first page, I may also get to live the various lives of the poet through his written words. His journey takes the reader through different countries and the events of the early twentieth century, seen from the eyes of a poet, along with the innocent first memories of childhood and adolescence.

The beginning is mesmerizing and I imagine being captivated by the poetic craft in which Neruda writes his life building years along the verses of ‘The Chilean Forest’ so that I can also feel what he might have felt when he wrote,

Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet.

I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world.

*Note:

Picture Courtesy: Ahranya© (The cover of ‘Memoirs’, Pablo Neruda. Published by Penguin Books)

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Filed under Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry

The Mandela Story

What one finds in the Mandela story is the strong persistence for human rights and belief in the equality of all irrespective of their color, language or culture. Reading through Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, one finds several passages and pages marveling with sheer persistence and power of determination that we as humans are capable of.
The majority of this autobiography was written, while Mandela was still in prison and was published in 1994 by Little, Brown Book Group.

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In the final chapter of his autobiography, the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace winner, Mandela writes,

I never lost hope that this great transformation will occur…I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.

May be this was the power of hope that kept Mandela’s faith in the struggle against apartheid. He spent about 27 years in prison but that did not break his spirit nor did it lessen his belief in humanity. He writes,

Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.

The autobiography also depicts not only the freedom struggle of the black and colored people of South Africa, but the sacrifices that the freedom fighters had to make in order to bring that much awaited equality of life and opportunity to all. They sacrificed the normality of life in which a person can enjoy the smallest of pleasures that life brings such as living with one’s family. Those who chose the path of struggle, sacrificed their personal lives and were

forced to live a life apart, a twilight existence of secrecy and rebellion.

Mandela’s story is a reminder that to achieve something worthwhile you have to pay the price for it. Freedom to live life the way one chooses is a basic necessity which is the first step in the direction to the philosophy of live and let live. Mandela realized this, when he wrote,

…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…

Those who seek freedom, have to keep walking in the direction where they can cast off the shackles of “hatred, prejudice and narrow mindedness” and become truly free.

*Note:

Picture Courtesy: Ahranya© (Cover of ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Published by: hachette India)  

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Filed under Autobiography, Historical, Non-fiction