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June 10, 1999


The Rediff Business Interview/Srichand Hinduja

'Business people, journalists, politicians have hurt me, inspired me. My book will tell all'

Srichand Hinduja There are two Srichand Hindujas. One is SP, patriarch of one of the world's richest families. Tough, aggressive, controversial; the man who keeps doubling the fabled Hinduja wealth every few years. The other is Sri, shy, circumspect, deeply spiritual, who is still trying to recover from the trauma of losing his son a few years back. While everyone knows SP, Sri rarely emerges to speak out his mind on issues that move him the most deeply. As the business tycoon did, in this unusual encounter in New York with Pritish Nandy.

What is this Vedic research that the Hindujas are promoting in Columbia and Cambridge? What do you hope to achieve through this kind of campus research? A Hindu renaissance?

There are many popular misconceptions about Hinduism. The obvious one is the fact that we tend to see it as a religion, a faith. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any reference to Hinduism. Or, for that matter, to Hindutva as it is now described.

Email this interview to a friend Dharma is not religion. It is the law that governs all action. For centuries the world has misinterpreted this and, out of this misinterpretation, has come most of the misconceptions about Hinduism. Words like Hindu or Hinduism are anachronisms. They did not exist in our cultural lexicon. We coined them to suit our needs in different points of history. They ought to be re-examined, re-assessed, re-valued.

Jesus was not a Christian. Buddha was not a Buddhist. Mahavir was not a Jain. Moses was not a Jew. Nanak was not a Sikh. They were all great teachers who arrived at critical moments of history and imparted simple solutions based on love, faith, harmony. It was their followers who created religions and sects, which led to distinctions between man and man, often leading to conflict instead of the love and peace they spoke of.

But what is wrong with a revival of faith? In many countries of the world, religion has become a political and cultural rallying point for people. It has brought them together despite all their differences. Differences of colour, culture, ethnic diversity.

Maybe. But, in the process, their true value is being lost. The lessons that we have learnt from our scriptures are being forgotten. The products that we (as India) could have marketed to the world. That is what I am persuading our researchers in different universities to address. To find out the real products of our culture, our civilisation-- products that we can market to the world today. Once we discover these, the immediacy, the relevance of the Vedas will be obvious.

I will give you a simple example. I was giving a talk the other day at one of these universities and I asked them a very easy question. If you can have mind, if you can have consciousness -- things that doctors and scientists cannot see -- why can't you have a soul? What is the difference? Our science, our technology accept the existence of consciousness. They acknowledge the fact that the human mind exists even though they cannot see it. But they are reluctant to accept the idea of a soul. Why?

What is the soul, according to you?

There are two things we have no control over. Birth and death. All we have control over is the brief interregnum between birth and death and yet we are so proud of this! We do not realise that this means so little. It is so short-lived. The soul is that which lights up this period. Before it enters the body, nothing exists. After it leaves the body, nothing matters. Whether you are a king or a pauper, whether you are rich or poor, famous or a nobody. Nothing matters when the soul vanishes. It is like energy, power, electricity. It activates. The moment it is switched off, everything dies. People who worshipped you when you were alive will run around worrying about how to get rid of your lifeless body, by either burning it or burying it.

Look, Pritish, I am not educated in the scriptures. I do not even known Sanskrit. It was my son Dharam who led me into the Vedas. He was steeped in the scriptures and, when he passed away in such tragic circumstances, I stepped aside from the family business and started taking more interest in these subjects. My brothers are there. The family is there, to look after the business and I am always available to them. But now my interests are in those areas that Dharam was so keen on.

What are these areas and what specific research is taking place?

The research is in three specific areas. One, oncology. That is, medical science. The science of the body. Two, culture. Multi-cultural dialogue. The dialogue between different civilisations, different people. Communication between them. The interface between nations. Three, environment. That is the science of the world around you and, I dare say, within you. It is no use studying and trying to upgrade the external environment if we are not ready to probe and repair the internal environment. That is what I wrote to several world leaders, among them Tony Blair, when he said that the environment is a crucial concern for Britain. These three areas of research will throw up, I believe, insight into the future of man.

What is the future of man, in your view, and how can an understanding of the Vedas help us to figure this out and cope with it?

Every one of us faces the dilemma of Ram. But not all of us know how to deal with it, how to use the crisis as an opportunity to learn how to cope with life. Ram was just a few hours away from being crowned king of Ayodhya and suddenly He learnt that His father wanted Him to go away to the forests for 14 years, in exile. But He did not protest. He did not show His anger, His disappointment with Kaikeyi, His stepmother who had engineered the palace coup. Instead, He went to her and asked if there was any other wish of Her's that He could fulfil. There was no disappointment, no anger, no loss of faith. "I am off to be the king of the forest", He cheerfully told his real mother, "for that is what my father has willed".

That is the most important lesson of the story. That is the product we can sell the world. How to remain strong despite all adversity. How not to allow anger to seize you. Not to let disappointment derail you, take you away from your true understanding of life. The experience of how to face adversity and conquer it bravely, convert it into an advantage. That is what the Vedas teach us.

How has it taught you this in your private life? Do you forgive and forget easily?

There is no question of forgetting and forgiving. It is a question of using experience as knowledge, hurt as wisdom, adversity as challenge to a better understanding of life. I am writing this book, they are my Stars, which lists the people who have hurt me and injured me the most in my life.

This book lists each one of them -- in India, England, America -- politicians, business people, journalists, people who have used every opportunity to cause me pain and damage. I have thanked them in my book and shown how each of them actually inspired me, spurred me on to greater success, greater achievement. My book is a tribute to them. To my detractors. For they have made me what I am today.

Dharma also taught me how to overcome my intense personal grief and transform it into a meaningful and relevant mantra. A mantra of hope. That is what keeps me going today.


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