Sunil Modi, New York, USA
Reading through your article makes me proud that our motherland
has visionaries and writers like you. I agree with your views 95%.
I would like to add though that 3 years ago I heard exactly the
same views from an official of RSS of India. I know you personally
may not agree with the RSS ideology, but I must say: I was
impressed by Mr. Madan Devi, Joint Secretary , RSS India, just as
much as I am impressed by you.
Keep up the good work and I pray to God that some of your
writing skills rub off on me.
Bittu Sahgal replies:
You may be thousands of miles away, but your heart says it all!
Thank you. I feel good being supported. It spurs me on because I
know I can't be far off the track if guys like you endorse even
part of what I perceive to be the truth.
As for the RSS, I think there are many things they say that
everyone would agree about. The trouble is that when such bodies
become politicised and intolerant the combination is bad for all
Thanks a million again,
I am a simple NRI in Singapore, and was very touched reading
your lovely article on Gandhi, a man ahead of his time. I too am
part of a growing number of people who has seen and been
disillusioned by what has been touted as "progress" at the expense
of god-made invaluable resources. I too question the logic of a
defining "a rich developed country" in terms of raising what god
has given us to the ground and replacing it with ugly man-made
concrete structures. Anyway the purpose of writing this is whether
you have any magazines,groups which have similar views, and if so
I would like to contribute both monetarily and with time and
Thanks and warm regards
I read your article on Gandhiji in India world dated 2.10.98
and I think it is very well written. May your tribe increase. I
wish more people in India thought this way. Especially the bit
about flying the flag at half mast rather than celebrate. The
money spent on the meaningless celebrations could have been better
Even as expats we don't change our attitudes, there are many
organisations but each one is trying to establish itself rather
than work for a common goal.
More power to your pen Sir !
Bittu Sahgal's response:
How do I begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to have your
views ratified by sensitive people. When you fight tough and
uphill battles as I seem fated to do, self-doubt begins to creep
in. How can I be right all the time and Prime Ministers,
bureaucrats, businessmen and such like... always wrong? Then along
comes ratification of the kind I received in response to the
Gandhi article... and I know my direction is right... so I
redouble my effort.
The article 'A man before his time' on the occassion of Gandhi
Jayanthi is well written. And there need not be any mystery about
"Apart from their resources, we also stole from the proud people
of India that one asset so vital to the human spirit -- dignity.
It is a mystery to me how we have managed to absolve ourselves of
responsibility for such crimes". And I feel that is the
legalisation of 'crime'. And it is true, today there is need for
one more Satyagraha to get out of the mire we are in.
Bittu Sahgal replies:
My dear Laxman
Thanks for your wonderfully supportive message. I cannot tell
you how many letters I have received in response and this makes me
feel good that Gandhiji is alive and well in most ordinary people,
even if he has died in the hearts of most politicians who wear
khadi uniforms as they abuse his memory.
"To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny
to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse than starving the
body; it is starvation of the soul... the dweller in the body."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
How different things would have been had Gandhiji been alive
today. If we had him at the forefront of the human rights and
environmental movement he would have travelled from village to
Indian village to consult with the people. Instead of dispensing
knowledge to them, he would have learned from them their
technologies for survival and sustainable development. He would
then have prevailed upon us in urban India to set an example of
simple, ecologically sound, living for the benefit of others.
After nearly two decades of meandering through the perplexing
paths of environmental rethink, I have come to the conclusion that
Gandhiji had provided solutions to our current environmental
problems even before they had cropped up. He was not merely a man
before his time, but also an environmental prophet whose precious
life was squandered on a people who, even decades after his death,
have failed to recognise his true worth.
The fact is that many of these technologies though
environmentally sound, are not efficient. The very history of
technological innovation has been to come up with better and
better methods to solve a problem. Yes, they have to be made
environmentally sound, and sustainable.
That is where the solution is in my opinion, and not in
necessarily going back to age old and inefficient technologies.
Gandhi may have provided a solution, but sure modern
environmentally-sound technology can possibly give better
Udaya Kumar D.
Dear Mr. Bittu,
I am proud that at least one person in my great land has got
dignity and self-respect and an understanding of our nation and
our people. India will surely be at par with other countries. But
what stops it is our own attitude. Until we believe that we are
all one. Until we stop thinking that my culture is different from
yours. Until we stop thinking in terms of mine, mine, mine.
People must think, it's my nation, my people, live and let
live. Surely India, my great motherland will be the most elegant,
beautiful, prosperous country in the world.
I am just 20 years old. But, I have seen lots of people, who
don't even care for their fellow Indians. I some times feel "Why
did Gandhi get us our freedom ?". Poor Gandhi !. He could only
free us from British rule. But who is going to change the people
who are in politics: they are the people who can change India.
Udaya Kumar D.
My Dear Udaya Kumar:
Thanks so much for your lovely letter. You are completely
right. Unless we start living our lives as though we were a
family, the country has no future. Unfortunately, a very powerful
minority has begun to usurp the resources of millions and this is
precisely what Gandhiji died fighting against. You may be just 20
years old but I think you display more wisdom than many of the
white-haired politicians who talk about Gandhi while practicing
exactly the opposite values. Who is going to change the people who
are in politics you ask? The answer to that is obvious... YOU! ME!
All of us together. Don't despair.
Everything takes time and the tide is indeed working in our
favour right now because the exploiters have made life so
uncomfortable for everyone else that even the smallest resistance,
such as the article I wrote, seems to have a sea of support.
Warm regards and good luck to you in your own personal battle
to make India a better place.
Thank you for the interesting thought provoking article. Though
not as experienced as you, I join you by way of empathy in feeling
the plight of the majority of our fellowmen.
However, I keep reading about problems again and again, but
rarely get to read about proposals to eradicate or mellow them.
Thank you very much for the article.
While reading your article I am so moved that I decided to pen
my thoughts. I feel deeply sorry at the state of affairs in India.
I cannot agree with all that you said in your article. I would say
your main concern seems to be environment, although you have
talked about the degrading political system and increasing
poverty. Last 7-8 years I have mostly spent in Wesern Europe, US
and India. It is wrong to say that urbanisation and development of
infrastructure is made on the corpse of environment and poor
people etc. The most developed countires have the best
I agree with your every statement about Gandhiji as I am myself
a Gandhian at heart and soul. We need a Gandhi to clean the
political mess that we have today, but it is wrong to say that
Nehru's endeavour about the modern temples was not a move in the
It is said that democracy is "for the people, by the people"
but we forgot that "power leads to corruption and absolute power
leads to absolute corruption", hence while we should be proud of
our democratic achievements, our constitution could not contain
the abuse of power by people who were in control for too long a
The leaders of today have only one obsession i.e power. Their
personal interest and party interest comes before any call of
national interest like alleviation of poverty, what to say of
ethics and principles.
There is not much hope since the masses (we people) have
accepted the current situation of corruption, poverty, poor
environment and the political system as part of our lives. Why
can't we make an effort to improve the system? Why can't we stop
being so selfish and look above ourselves? Why can't we do
anything for the country? Why can't we stop blaming others and
shunning our responsiblity.?
This is with reference to your article ' A Man Before His Time
' I am Shankar .I am a software Engineer , currently in US on a
short term assignment for my company based at Hyderabad , India .
Whereas I could feel the tone of pain in the writing , I could
not help jotting my concerns about this .
I duly respect your age and knowledge . You must have seen the
evolution of India from 1947 to date . Must have experienced every
event, which is only available in the leaves of history, for the
younger generation, like me .
So, I do not dare to deny you on any of the issues you
mentioned in the article . But there are few concerns I would like
to airing. Yes !! It is true that , there is disorder and disarray
, prevailing in the System of India . I do agree with that . At
the same time , I would like to mention about the passive behavior
and attitude of our people .
A nation , which could unite itself and fight against a
colonial power and drive them away, is expressing its diversity
now . What do we think ...we think that Independence is an
achievement and we are complacent about it .
I am sure, Gandhi or Nehru or several others who fought for the
cause, must have known the fact that independence is a matter of
struggle and pain . Moreover , they must have been aware of the
greater pain associated with the nation after being independent .
Are we matching their expectations ? A Firm No. They never would
have imagined the vast mandate of India to be dumb and immobile .
Majority of us are passive.
Considering the state-of-mind of our people , I am worried
about one fact . Why do our elders not pass an optimistic way of
thinking to the youth ?? Why do they always scream about the
glorious past and mention the rotten present system ? They always
drive us to pessimism . This is an observation in your article too
, with due apologies !!
As I said earlier , I agree with you about the sorry state of
events. But the country does not necessarily have to look for
Gandhi to cultivate a positive attitude towards nation building .
Our elder people can do it , by motivating through their own
experience and optimism .
It appears too ideal a solution, but why don't we give it a
shot ? At least we can be positive and optimistic of our future,
rather than writing in despair. And let us together try to make
ourselves more reactive and optimistic
. Sorry for taking your precious time. I just felt that I
should write a couple of lines about your article and ended up
Bittu Sahgal's response :
Thanks so much for your response. You are completely right
about the need to communicate optimism. I promise you I do that in
fair measure as well. But on this occasion I felt that Gandhiji's
life itself was a symbol of optimism and it is being attacked so
mercilessly that it was necessary to be direct.
Frankly, there is so much optimism in his teachings and there
is need for us to resurrect them. You have such an important role
to play here as a young person who has a lifetime ahead to defend
India. Individually each of one can and should do our little bit
within our own spheres of influence and you are doing that by
communicating with others about the way you feel..
You are aware, of course, that many of the technologies for
survival that Gandhiji advocated are now being recognised as the
only way forward. For instance, vegetarianism and organic
agriculture that was considered backward less than five years ago
is being looked upon as the only way forward by a world whose food
security is at risk from poisoned beef, sterilised soils and
contaminated ground water.
In truth, however, it is Gandhi's attitude to resources, more
than the technologies themselves that we must recognise as
critical to future options. The throw-consume-throw away society
that he abhorred has brought the whole world to its knees thanks
to ecological ruin. Of course, modern technologies too can serve
to heal and repair the world. But if our ambitions are going to
mitigate against repair we will never solve our problems. Take the
case of cars. In America and Japan research into cleaner cars,
with recycled parts, has made major strides. But surely even the
cleanest technologies will bring the world to its end if everyone
in India began to use even the cleanest cars. Gandhi would
advocate that the nation prioritise public transport... and for
this he would probably have to contend with current-day Congress
Party officials who have personal investments in car companies!
These are the people who steal our optimism and there is no nice
way to fight them!
Dear Mr. Sahgal:
I had the opportunity to read your article "A man before his
time" sent to me through e-mail by a friend. I'm one of the many
NRIs who love and miss India with a passion and definitely want to
see her at par with the US, UK and Japan as you mentioned in the
article. At the same time, I have immense appreciation and respect
for the US and Australia (the only two developed countries I've
seen) for being technologically sound, providing "infrastructure"
to their people and preserving nature and the environment.
With all due respect to your seniority, knowledge and
experience, I would like to know what message were you trying to
convey in your article? What is it that drives all young, educated
and resourceful people out of India? What can people like me do to
make a drastic change so we can proudly say "saare jahan se
achcha hindustan hamara"?
Thanks for your letter. The wonderful thing about this world is
its diversity, not just its biological diversity, but the
diversity of views, religions, social mores and customs. There is
space for all of us to hold differing views, indeed if we did not
life would probably be unliveable.
You said you wished India to be like America, U.K. or Japan.
That might even be possible if the earth's resources were
infinite, but today all these countries are living wasteful
lives... and they are sending their nuclear wastes, toxic and
hazardous wastes and their dirty industries to other poorer
nations such as India. Now if we were like them, where would you
like to send India's wastes? Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan? And what
would they say about this. More to the point, if they became
"developed" where would their wastes go? All these nations are
replacing the infrastructures of nature, with those of commerce
and this leaves millions of "ecosystem people" -- fisherfolk,
forest dwellers, pastoralists, marginal farmers -- out of the
loop. They are considered fair game by those who sacrifice them on
the alter of their own development cathedrals.
The issue transcends waste. Where would India access its raw
materials if we achieved the absurd level of consumption of the
North? Today Japan is virtually stripping the forests of the far
east for items such as disposable chop sticks, even as they
strictly protect their own forests. At the height of the
sub-Saharan famines vegetables from Somalia and Ethiopia were
being exported to Europe by its own tiny fragment of powerful
warlords. Is this the kind of world that you envisage?
Perhaps you need to examine some of the above issues yourself
so that you come to your own conclusions. " Trust but verify" is a
very sane way to live community life on the globe. Please do not
misunderstand my response as being harsh or judgemental. On the
contrary I merely wish to share with you a frightening vision that
I see. If I am wrong, I would love to be corrected so I too can go
about my life without the horrific fear that on a daily basis
human rights and environmental abuse is being heaped on innocent
Gayatri our way of life is unsustainable. We are intelligent
minds trapped in disobedient lifestyles. The earth simply cannot
cope with our consumptive ways. This is what Gandhi had
anticipated. This is what we now reject because we want to party.