My 50 Years as an Independent Writer
I have just completed 50 years as an independent writer. This is no news for a world busy with big things, but democracy needs truly independent, unbiased journalists and in this context my experiences of five decades have some relevance.
At the more obvious level, I could contribute about ten thousand articles/reports, and four hundred books and booklets in Hindi and English, apart from 70 short stories, two novellas and about a 100 poems and songs. I could maintain continuity in this work as an independent writer, never applying for a job anywhere. For this I would like to first and foremost thank my family, then the editors and publishers who supported me. Of course I can never forget the support and help of numerous friends and mentors.
In fact the biggest benefit of my life as an independent writer has been the opportunity I had to meet so many great and inspiring persons, some of whom in fact became family friends. I met several of them in course of my travels to very remote areas. They helped me to form a world view which is now invaluable guidance for me in my life and work.
I see progress of humanity as an unending quest for justice, equality, peace, protection of environment and all species and mutually cooperative social relationships. In this quest unfortunately there have been more failures than successes in human history. This failure has led to great distress and many crises, culminating in a survival crisis in recent decades which is now the most important issue of our deeply troubled world. A future without wars and arms race committed to resolving serious environmental problems is urgently needed, calling for governance reform as well.
As the urgency of these issues pressed on me, I wrote articles, novellas and books on this and took upon a new role as Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now with SED Demand ( demand for declaring the next decade as save the earth decade) ,within a framework of justice, democracy and peace. I collected signatures of eminent persons for this demand and sent it to the United Nations.
Earlier also I had in special circumstances taken up honorary responsibilities for specific periods for important campaigns of people’s right to information, rights of homeless persons, the longest tenure being as chairperson of Jan Hith Trust ( set up to support grassroots activism). However the present role in SED campaign involves more complex issues.
The urgent changes needed in world should be matched by changes in our value systems. Some of the most desirable values that need to spread at the level of educational and spiritual institutions as well as at family and community level are—try on daily basis to avoid causing any distress to any living beings, have a sincere belief in the equality of all and overcome all forms of discrimination, be caring and considerate towards the weaker and the poorer, have a commitment to protecting environment and all species, have a firm faith in peace backed by practice of non-violence in daily life, form and promote social relationships based on cooperation without trying to dominate others, try to be democratic in everyday life, base life on limited needs while avoiding greed and consumerism, altogether avoiding all intoxicants and most harmful products. The spread of these values can help to create a strong base of people’s support for resolving critical world issues in a framework of peace and democracy before it is too late.
With this understanding I will like to continue working as an independent writer, for as long as I can. However recent times have been more difficult than before. One should always keep hoping for better times, and in the middle of increasing difficulties I have therefore kept working as hard as before, if not harder.
The difficulties of earning one’s livelihood on lifelong basis as an independent writer can be formidable. In the present day world these unfortunately increase if you are committed uncompromisingly to truth and justice. One must nevertheless persist on this path less travelled. The state of world media being what it is, this is really important.
My overall experience has been that independent, unbiased writers devoted to truth and to serious study have a very important role in democracy. This becomes more evident to me in terms of the response I get from several persons for whom I have deep respect, or when people from weakest communities tell me that my reporting of their problems proved helpful to them. This is perhaps my best reward, even though I have received quite a few prestigious professional ones too. I feel strongly that I and others like me, even when we speak from the margins and as a minority, make an important contribution to democratic debate and this firm faith is also our biggest strength.
My recent books include Planet in Peril, Man Over Machine, When The Two Streams Met, Protecting Earth For Children and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food.