Wisdom Song: The Life of Baba Amte
142 pages
English

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142 pages
English

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Born into privilege and wealth, Murlidhar Devidas Amte was a maverick who wanted to live life to the fullest. He realized early on that he had to live, not for himself, but for others - or else all his privilege, position and superior personal qualities would be mere tinsel. The pioneering commune at Anandwan, where those affected by leprosy could live with dignity and pride; the Bharat Jodo marches across the length and breadth of India to promote national unity and harmony; the decade-long vigil by the Narmada river in solidarity with those at the receiving end of state-sponsored environmental devastation - Baba Amte did this and much more, coping the whole time with a crippling spinal degenerative disease. The countless lives transformed by three generations of the Amte family are shining testimonials to the magnitude of Baba Amte's vision, and the indomitable spirit that made that vision real. With in-depth conversations with Baba, and interviews with many of his close friends and family, this biography is equally a record of the collective memory of those who have known him best. What emerges is an intimate portrait of one of the few individuals of our times who have embodied the cherished ideals of compassion and selfless service.

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Publié par
Date de parution 01 avril 2006
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9789351940623
Langue English

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About the book
Born into privilege and wealth, Murlidhar Devidas Amte was a maverick who wanted to live life to the fullest. He realized early on that he had to live, not for himself, but for others – or else all his privilege, position and superior personal qualities would be mere tinsel. The pioneering commune at Anandwan, where those affected by leprosy could live with dignity and pride; the Bharat Jodo marches across the length and breadth of India to promote national unity and harmony; the decade-long vigil by the Narmada river in solidarity with those at the receiving end of state-sponsored environmental devastation – Baba Amte did this and much more, coping the whole time with a crippling spinal degenerative disease. The countless lives transformed by three generations of the Amte family are shining testimonials to the magnitude of Baba Amte's vision, and the indomitable spirit that made that vision real. With in-depth conversations with Baba, and interviews with many of his close friends and family, this biography is equally a record of the collective memory of those who have known him best. What emerges is an intimate portrait of one of the few individuals of our times who have embodied the cherished ideals of compassion and selfless service.

ROLI BOOKS
This digital edition published in 2014
First published in 2006 by The Lotus Collection An Imprint of Roli Books Pvt. Ltd M-75, Greater Kailash- II Market New Delhi 110 048 Phone: ++91 (011) 40682000 Email: info@rolibooks.com Website: www.rolibooks.com
Copyright © Text: Neesha Mirchandani, 2006 Copyright © Photographs: Individual Photograhers/Sources
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, print reproduction, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Roli Books. Any unauthorized distribution of this e-book may be considered a direct infringement of copyright and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
eISBN: 978-93-5194-062-3
Cover Picture: Dr Sheetal Amte Cover Design: Sneha Pamneja
All rights reserved. This e-book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated, without the publisher’s prior consent, in any form or cover other than that in which it is published.
DEDICATED
TO
BABA
WITH LOVE

A common person with uncommon determination can change the profile of the entire century.

– Baba Amte
CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
INTRODUCTION
Part I: The Making of Baba Amte
1. Birth of Hope in a Time of War (1914)
2. Mad Son of a Mad Mother (1914-32)
3. Impetuous Youth (1933-43)
4. Coming of Age (1943-46)
Part II: The Legacy of Baba Amte: Action
5. Anandwan (1951)
6. Somnath (1967)
7. Hemalkasa (1973)
8. Maharogi Sewa Samiti
Part III: The Legacy of Baba Amte: Advocacy
9. Baba, Advocate for the Masses
10. Inchampalli & Bhopalpatnam (1984)
11. Bharat Jodo I (Kanyakumari to Kashmir, 1985-86)
12. Punjab Peace-by-Peace Missions (1986-87)
13. Bharat Jodo II (Itanagar to Okha, 1987-88)
14. Defending a Sacred River (1990-2000)
15. Pakistan Calling (2000)
Part IV: The Wisdom of Baba Amte
16. The Written and the Spoken Word
17. A Vision for Authentic Development
LIST OF INTERVIEWEES
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

T HE LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING OF MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS made this book possible. You know who you are – I wish I could mention you by name. Here, there is only space to mention a mere handful who happened to play a direct role in the writing of this book.
First, this book is the direct result of Vinay Sakhrani’s unequivocal support. He met Baba for only two-and-a-half days but he believed in the project from start to finish, and that made all the difference. Sanjiv Mirchandani was both my cheering squad and my reality check. Another diehard champion was Pallavi Sule. Saroj and Moti Mirchandani gave me the space I needed. Ms Allison and Ven. Robina enriched my writing. Anil and Sunita Hebbar always said ‘yes’ when I asked for help.
The Amte family gave me complete access and freedom. They never asked me to sugar-coat anything. Anu and Poonam graciously took me all over Nagpur for interviews, Piloo (Digant) and Anagha analyzed Baba’s poetry after hours of performing surgery. Munna (Kaustubh) and Sheetal magically made resources available. Arati’s youthful joy permeates the book. Jinku gave me insights that no one else could.
Vikas bhau juggled a zillion things and still always found time for the book. Vimala tai and Bharati vahini were good company during my frequent visits to Anandwan. Our informal chats while making chai, eating lunch together, and watching TV gave me a perspective I couldn’t find elsewhere. Manda vahini, even in the throes of planning her son’s wedding, saved me from drowning in a sea of research. Prakash bhau gave me the raw facts without window-dressing. Our conversations at Ashokwan in November 2004 proved very useful. Renuka tai’s frankness anchored me in reality; Vilas bhau was my sounding board and the source of the funniest stories about Baba by far! Also, Baba and Tai’s extended family including Sushi and Mini atya, the Sadaphals and Avinash Patwardhan recollected important memories from Baba’s younger days. Dr V. G. Pole patiently answered all my questions.
Dr Vijaya Bapat and Mrs Archana Bhadkamkar helped me translate volumes of material from Marathi to English. I spent many evenings in my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, with Dr Bapat. After a full day at work, she would sit with me from 6 p.m. till midnight, translating Baba’s Marathi prose and poetry into English. She infused this project with her knowledge of Marathi literature and grasp of Baba’s nuanced poetry. Mrs Bhadkamkar took the baton from Dr Bapat translating the rest of Baba’s poems during my trips to India. We both share a great attachment for Bal Kalyan Sanstha, a magical place for children with disabilities in Pune. Without the generosity of these two women, there simply would have been no book.
From the Narmada Bachao Andolan, I’d especially like to thank Medha Patkar. Sanjay Sangvai, author of The River and Life: People’s Struggle in the Narmada Valley, served as an incredible resource. Committed activist, Dipti Bhatnagar conducted crucial valley interviews in the nick of time.
Jacquie Childers, designed and built a website for the book, http://baba.niya.org, so readers can access a wealth of information about Baba.
At Roli Books talented editors, Himanshu Bhagat and Renuka Chatterjee capably took charge and brought the book to fruition.
This is Baba’s story. But it is equally the collective memory of innumerable people whose life he has touched and who, in turn, have been a part of his life. I am grateful to all those who agreed to be interviewed for this book. Though I couldn’t include every interview, each was valuable in one way or another. From the extraordinary statesman, Mr R.K. Patil, who completed his 98th birthday recently, to Bhau Mistry, the man responsible for all the original buildings at Anandwan, to the idealistic and courageous Bharat Jodo cyclists, Baba attracted many extraordinary people. This is their story too.
Across the Maharogi Sewa Samiti family, my all-volunteer research team included Nandu (scanned thousands of old photos), Anil and Ashok (hunted down over two hundred files and folders, photocopied documents and never said no to any research request), Avinash and Rahul (drove me around to the various projects) and Hari bhau (showed me around Somnath).
Others who offered assistance include Rajmohan Gandhi, Dr Jagannath Wani, Jasper Kappen, Ian Davidson, Lizzie Jacobs, Zohar Lavie, Nathan Glyde, Dilip Herlekar, Lorraine J. Elletson, S.K.Bhattacharjee, Aditya Kothekar, Count Arthur Tarnowski, Dinesh Parekh, Asmita Vaidya Peddibhotla, David Nesbitt, Inderjit Badhwar, Sudharak Olwe, Shyam Samant, Sachin Bapat, Pankaj Sadaphal, Ramesh Jagtiani, Mohan Shahani, Melody Ermachild Chavis, Rupali at Rediff.com, Sanjay Acharya, Marianne Luschberger-Eser, Pervin Jehangir, Vinay ‘Win’ Phatak, Ganpat Urkhude, Bansilal Dudhare, Shobha Pawar, Sujata Kabraji, Prakash Idnani, the Sadawarte family, Ashish bhai, Khush Kabraji and Sanjay Salunkhe. And I’m sure I’m missing a few...
I gathered a great deal of research from existing biographies, reports, documentaries, audio interviews and articles. That said, I take full responsibility for any factual errors; please email me if such errors are evident (baba@ niya.org). Every effort has been made to credit sources, but in case of any lapse, please contact me, so that it can be fixed in future editions. Some of the generous professionals who sent me source material include Arun Toke at Skipping Stones, Ali Kazimi ( A Valley Rises, 1994), Rajiv Mehrotra ( Baba Amte in Conversation, 1988) and All India Radio, Nagpur. Also, I tip my hat to anyone who has ever written about Baba, especially, Dr B.G. Bapat, Mr Shirodkar, Rajni Bakshi, Count Arthur Tarnowski, Jean Buhler, and the late Hans Staffner. Siddharth Kak’s documentary served as the foundation for the Bharat Jodo I chapter.
Sadhana tai’s wit, grit and faith has made this a more exciting and interesting story. I’m so glad Baba didn’t remain a celibate monk.
Most of all, I thank Baba Amte. His unabashed love for humanity and this earth are the source of great hope for me.
Neesha Mirchandani
Raleigh, North Carolina December 2005
INTRODUCTION

B ABA SWALLOWS HIS UMPTEENTH PILL BEFORE DINNER. HE puts on his back brace and walks to the living room, cane in hand. A six-year-old boy comes into the room. He is running circles around Baba with uninhibited glee. ‘Meet my guru, my teacher,’ says Baba, pointing to his godson. ‘He restores my innocence. With him around, who needs medicine?’
Baba Amte is over ninety years old. He is alive becaus

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