In the last quarter of the twentieth century there used to be a Mumbai-based newspaper with the title Afternoon Carrier & Despatch.
This paper used to publish interviews with politicians and publish these under the caption “Twenty Questions”.
In 1991, when I was approached for this 20-question interview, its very first question was: “Mr. Advani, what would you identify as your greatest weakness?
My answer was: “Books!”. I added “At a grosser level, chocolates.”
Since then, on all special occasions like anniversaries, poll successes etc., visitors coming to greet me would generally keep adding books to my personal library, or sometimes fetch me a packet or box of chocolates!
Quite a few books have been presented to me by Father Bento Rodrigues of Father Agnel’s High School, Delhi. In my memoirs titled “My Country, My Life” I have recorded that after the Hawala allegation levelled against me during the Narasimha Rao regime, I not only resigned forthwith from the Lok Sabha, but simultaneously declared that I shall not go back to Parliament until absolved by an appropriate court of law.
The hawala charge was levelled against me in early 1996. So, when Lok Sabha polls were held later that year, I did not contest. Meanwhile, I challenged the chargesheet filed against me.
This case went on for sixteen months in the Delhi High Court. In April 1977, Justice Mohemmed Shamim of the Delhi High Court delivered the verdict, quashing the charge of corruption against me.
Fortunately for me the 11th Lok Sabha formed in 1996 did not last its full term. It was dissolved within two years. So, when elections took place again in 1998, I contested, and won. It was in 1970, that I had first been elected to Parliament. Since then, it is only these two years (1996-1998) that I have not been in Parliament. It was some time during this period that Father Rodrigues gave me an inspiring book, Tough Times Do Not Last! Tough Men Do.
Some months back, he gave me another interesting book captioned “THE SHIFT”. The book is written by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. The sub-title of the book is “Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning”. The sub-title immediately rang a bell. It reminded me of one of the closing chapters of my own autobiography, “The Pursuit of Meaning and Happiness in Life”. Some reviewers of my book of memoirs have described it as the best chapter of the book.
This chapter opens with a reference to a widely acclaimed thriller I had read. This book written by Jed Rubenfeld, a law professor at Yale University is titled “The Interpretation of Murder”. However, I found the book less about a murder mystery, and more about the mystery of life.
This was Rubenfeld’s debut novel. The author, a student of Shakespeare and Sigmund Freud, presents in this book a psychoanalytical exploration of two basic questions about human existence: happiness and meaning.
There is no mystery to happiness, affirms the author.
“Unhappy men are all alike. Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn – or worse, indifference - cleaves to them, or they do to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He doesn’t look ahead. He lives in the present.
“But there’s the rub. The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the present: he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning - the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life - a man must reinhabit the past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus, nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.”
For myself, I have chosen meaning – that’s what I have said in my book.
Meaning, I wrote, comes with purpose, with a sense of mission, whatever be one’s calling in life.
In my autobiography published in 2008 I have recorded:
“When I look back at my life of eight decades, I remind myself that I found my calling in life when on a tennis court in Hyderabad (Sindh) I first heard the name of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and became its swayamsewak. I found meaning when I started attending Sunday evening discourses on the Bhagwad Gita by Swami Ranganathananda at the Ramakrishna Mission, Karachi. I found meaning when I left my home and family to work as a pracharak of the RSS, first in Karachi, and later, after being uprooted by Partition, in Rajasthan. That meaning got further enriched when I embarked on a political journey fifty-five years ago, first as a worker of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later of the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is a journey that has not yet ended. From the age of fourteen and a half years till now, only one duty has defined the purpose of my life: to serve my Motherland.
“During the course of fulfilling this duty, my devotion, sincerity and commitment to my own cause and ideals have been tested many times, especially when I have faced any adversity in my life. I can say, with both humility and contentment, that I have not been found wanting in the eyes of my own conscience. Errors of judgement, I have committed many. I have also erred in the execution of my tasks. But I have never indulged in scheming or acts of opportunism for self-promotion nor have I compromised on my core principles for personal comfort or gains. I have stood my ground for the sake of self-respect and for what I believed was in the larger interest of the nation, even when doing so carried obvious risks. Whether I had to spend long stints in prison, as happened during the Emergency, or had to face a false charge of corruption in the Hawala movement, or when I was misunderstood and castigated for having betrayed my ideology after my visit to Pakistan, I have followed the call of my conscience and stood firm. Besides fortifying my self-belief, it has given me happiness and imparted meaning to my life.”
The novel that had provoked the above thoughts in me claimed that a man can either have meaning or happiness in life.
I have had the good fortune of experiencing both, and in abundance.
L.K. AdvaniNew Delhi13 June, 2012