Famous personalities of India


Raj Kapoor

(1924-1988)

Known as the Showman of Indian Cinema, the image of Raj Kapoor as the Charlie Chaplin like ‘Raju’ is hard to forget. This Bollywood actor- director was born in Peshawar on 14 December 1924 to Prithviraj Kapoor, a famous actor.

As a child, Raj was affectionately called Chisto, Gora or Lashkaree. Even in school Raj Kapoor was more interested in extra-curricular activities like debates and acting. Since childhood Raj was interested in filmmaking but in those days there were no film schools where one could study. So Raj dropped out of school to work with Bombay Talkies as a clapper boy. There he started picking up knowledge about films by hanging out in editing labs, paying attention to the director and observing the going-on’s around him.

Raj Kapoor was convinced that his future lay in filmmaking. At the age of 23 he pumped in all his money to produce his first film ‘Aag’ in which he acted as well as directed. Aag was a big hit and Raj Kapoor was credited with introducing a youthful style of films.

The success of his second film Barsaat (1949) enabled him to launch R K Studios, and established Raj Kapoor and Nargis as hindi cinema’s most popular romantic star couple.

It was with Awara (1951) that Raj Kapoor first emerged as a lovable tramp. Raj played a young tramp who comes to Bombay in search of an honorable existence only to find himself caught in the world of criminals. The story deals with his struggle to find an honourable way out of the underworld. His trademark, rolled up trousers, patched overcoat and bowler hat in Awara were adored by audiences both at home and abroad. Awara became so popular in the USSR that puppet shows featuring Raj and Nargis dolls were organized, the film was dubbed in Russian and its prints were even flown out to two Soviet expeditions near the North Pole!

As part of the trio of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor emerged as one of India’s best-loved screen idols.

With Jagte Raho (1957) Raj Kapoor entered the ranks of more srious or art film makers. The film dealing with the adventures of a thief who runs from house to house trying to escape from the police received the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 1958.

Sangam, produced in 1964, was Raj Kapoor’s first film in color. The film tells the tale of a love triangle, but with patriotism and the spirit of sacrifice as its backdrop. Sangam became the biggest box-office grosser in the history of Indian cinema, a record it held for 5 years.

Raj Kapoor continued making films like Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Prem Rog and Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Kapoor’s later films stood out for their showmanship and glamour as much as his earlier films had been noticed for their social vision.

He was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1988, and died soon after. What remains however is his contribution to Indian Cinema and his place as one of its finest products.

Mother Teresa

(1919-1997)

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on Aug 27, 1919 in Shkup, Albania (now Skopje, Macedonia) as the youngest of three children in a middle class family.

At the age of twelve she felt for the first time the desire to spend her life for Gods’ work. She prayed a lot over it and talked about it with her family. She asked her father: “How can I be sure?” He answered: “Through your joy. If you feel really happy by the idea that God might call you to serve Him, then this is the evidence that you have a call.”

In her teens, Agnes became a member of a youth group in her local parish. Through her involvement with the group she developed an interest in the activities of missionaries. She had a strong desire to help the poor and needy.

When she was only 17, Agnes took up the vocation of a Catholic missionary nun. She went to Ireland and joined the Irish order, the Sisters of Loretto, a community known for their missionary work in India. When she took her vows as a Sister of Loretto, she chose the name Teresa after Saint Therese of Lisieux. Six weeks later, Teresa set sail to Calcutta, India to serve as a teacher.

In Calcutta, Sister Teresa as she was known taught geography and catechism (a way of teaching the bible) at St. Mary’s High School. In 1944, she became the principal of St. Mary’s. In the same year she contracted tuberculosis, and was sent to Darjeeling for rest and recuperation. It was on the train to Darjeeling that she received her second call — “the call within the call”. Mother Teresa recalled later, “I was to leave the convent and work with the poor, living among theme to be God’s Love in action to the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity.”

She sought the permission of the Vatican to leave the Sisters of Loretto and pursue her desire of helping the poor in 1948. She was granted permission on the condition that she would not give up her vows. Sister Teresa started a school in the slums to teach the children of the poor. She also learned basic medicine and nursing and went into the homes of the sick to treat them.

In 1949, some of her former pupils joined her. The group rented a room so they could care for helpless people otherwise condemned to die in the gutter. Mother Teresa adopted Indian citizenship, and her nuns followed her practice of wearing a white sari with a blue border (representing God’s will) as their habit.

In 1950, the group was established by the Church as a Diocesan Congregation of the Calcutta Diocese. It was named the Missionaries of Charity. Members of the congregation take four vows on acceptance by the religious community. In addition to the three basic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a fourth vow is required pledging service to the poor, whom Mother Teresa described as the embodiment of Christ.

In 1952, the Missionaries opened their first ‘Home for the Dying’, ‘Nirmal Hriday’ (Pure heart) in space made available by the Calcutta Municipal authorities near a Kali temple. She and her fellow nuns gathered dying Indians off the streets of Calcutta and brought them to this home to care for them in their last days. Ever since then, thousands of men, women and children have been taken from the streets of Calcutta and transported to Nirmal Hriday. Under Mother Teresa’s guidance, the Missionaries of Charity have also built, near Asansol, India, a leper colony called ‘Shanti Nagar’ (Town of Peace).

In an interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, in the book ‘Something Beautiful for God’, Mother Teresa tells how she for the first time picked up a woman from the street. “The woman was half eaten up by rats and ants. I took her to the hospital, but they could do nothing for her. They only took her because I refused to go home unless something was done for her. After they cared for her, I went straight to the town hall and asked for a place where I could take these people, because that day I found more people dying in the street. The employee of health services brought me to the temple of Kali and showed me the “dormashalah” where the pilgrims used to rest after they worshipped the goddess Kali. The building was empty and he asked me if I wanted it. I was very glad with the offer for many reasons, but especially because it was the center of prayer for Hindus. Within 24 hours we brought our sick and suffering and started the Home for the Dying Destitutes.”

Today there are over 450 homes of the Missionaries in various parts of the world. The mission has grown from 12 to thousands serving the “poorest of the poor” in 450 centers from America to Albania. In 1966, the Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded.
Mother Teresa gained worldwide recognition with her tireless efforts for the world’s sick and homeless. Her work brought her numerous humanitarian awards, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Fundu Fact

Mother Teresa was always thinking of ways to help the poor. When she was invited to receive the Nobel Prize in 1979 she insisted on a departure from the ceremonial banquet and asked that the funds for the same ($6,000) should be donated to the poor in Calcutta. Mother Teresa’s reason – the money saved on just one banquet could help her to feed hundreds for a year.

Beginning in 1980, homes began to spring-up for drug addicts, prostitutes, battered women, and more orphanages and schools for poor children around the world.
In 1985, Mother Teresa established the first hospice for AIDS victims in New York, U.S. In 1991, Mother Teresa returned for the first time to her native Albania (now known as Serbia) and opened a home in Tirana. By this year, there were 168 homes established in India alone.
Mother Teresa travelled around the world in her quest. She reached out to help the hungry in Ethiopia, radiation victims at Chernobyl, and earthquake victims in Armenia. In 1982, during the siege of Beirut, she convinced the Israeli army and Palestinian guerillas to stop shooting long enough for her to rescue 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital. For the Mother, no place was too dangerous for her, no destination too distant.

In November of 1996, Mother Teresa received the honorary U.S. citizenship with the Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award.
Mother Teresa has had more than her fair share of criticism. In 1994 a British television documentary, “Hell’s Angel: Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” accused her of taking donations without questioning the sources. She has also received some criticism for her strong views against abortion and divorce. Throughout her life Mother was unaffected by criticism, stating, “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.”
In the late 80s her declining health meant that she could no longer carry on her work as actively as before. In 1990 she decided to step down as head of the Misssionaries but was voted back by all but one (herself). She finally stepped down on March 13 1997. Sister Nirmala was chosen to succeed her.

Mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997 following a massive heart attack. She was 87. The inscription on her tombstone reads “Love one another, as I have loved you”.

Gautam Buddha

(563 B.C.-483 B.C.)

Gautam Buddha was one of the greatest religious teachers that the world has seen. He is the founder of Buddhism, a religion that is popular in Burma, China, Japan, Thailand and other South Eastern Countries.
The Buddha was born in 563 B.C. as Siddhartha, the prince of Kapilavastu(In Nepal). Gautam Buddha’s mother died at childbirth and he was brought up by his mother’s sister Prajapati Gotami.
It was predicted that Siddhartha would give up worldly pleasures and follow a simple life. Siddhartha’s father the King wanted to avoid this at all costs and did not let him out of the palace. He hoped that Siddhartha would one day become king.

When Siddhartha became a young man he ventured out of the Palace and saw suffering, pain and death for the first time. This experience changed his life. Though Siddhartha was married to a beautiful princess called Yashodhara and had a son Rahul, at the age of about 30 years Siddhartha left the palace in search of the truth about life. He spent many years in the company of saints and finally one day when he was sitting under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya (Bihar, India) he was blessed with the divine light. This was the turning point, as he realized the truth is within every human being. The search outside was pointless. After this he was known as ‘ Buddha’ or the enlightened one. For 45 years, Buddha spread his message of a spiritual life with 8 – fold path towards salvation –

  • Right speech
  • Right Understanding
  • Right Determination
  • Right deeds
  • Right efforts
  • Right awareness
  • Right thinking and
  • Right living.

According to Buddhism, by following this path one could overcome desires, which are the root cause of grief and misery.
Buddha died in 483 BC at the age of 80 years.

Swami Vivekananda
(1863-1902)

Narendranath Dutt or Swami Vivekananda was a great social reformer and Indian nationalist of the 19th century. Vivekananda was the disciple of the great social reformer, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. After his master’s death, Vivekananda organized the Ramakrishna Mission for the upliftment of the poor folk whom he called the ‘Daridra Narayan.’

The following speech was delivered by Vivekananda at the Parliament of world religions on 11 September, 1893. In those times not many people knew about India and its great religious heritage. The presence of Swamiji was greeted with much enthusiasm and helped spread awareness about the religious tradition in our country.

AT THE PARLIAMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS

September 11, 1893

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome, which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honour of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation, which has sheltered the persecuted, and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion, which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a, vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.”

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

Dr Rajendra Prasad
(1884 – 1963)

Dr. Rajendra Prasad began his professional career by practising law in Calcutta. His interest in national upliftment led him to participate in the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917. He was a follower of Gandhi and toured all over the country spreading his ideals.

He served thrice as the President of the Congress (1934, 1939 and 1947) and in 1952 was elected as the first President of India.

The following passages are taken from his speech delivered while unveiling the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Delhi.

TRUE HAPPINESS

11 October 1954

It seems to have been taken for granted that by acquiring certain material resources we can raise the standard of living of human beings. Following this principle, all the countries of the world are set upon acquiring and multiplying their resources. It is no doubt right that a hungry man cannot think of praying. Mahatma Gandhi himself once said that the hungry man sees God only in the form of bread. But even then we should think how far this kind of material prosperity can lead to real happiness.

I have also heard that the countries, which are known to be prosperous and resourceful, are not blessed with mental peace, whereas, on the other hand, we find lots of poor people, who excite our pity, leading a happy and contented existence. The truth is that the source of real happiness is in one’s own inner self and not in the outside world. We equate happiness with the world of external things and that is why there is a scramble for acquisition and accumulation of things. The fact is that these things are, at best, no more than the means to achieve happiness and not happiness itself. One can experience happiness even without them. Apart from this, it is worthwhile considering what is real happiness.

I think real happiness or peace of mind means the complete freedom from extraneous pressure or restraint or inhibitions. One basic fact, which must be recognized, is that any kind of inhibition or restraint is irksome. It ceases to be irksome only when it becomes something voluntarily accepted or adopted without restraint or coercion. It is this voluntary adoption of any line of thought or action without restraint or coercion from outside which brings real happiness. Any subtraction from complete freedom is loss of freedom to that extent and implies dependence on something else.

Man as a member of society or even as an individual has long ceased to be fully free, if he ever was or can be free. All that can be aimed at or achieved is the reduction or minimization of this restraint or coercion and increasing to the maximum the freedom which man enjoys. His material requirements can be satisfied, it is obvious, only by subjecting himself to some curtailment of this freedom. His mental satisfaction and possibly his spiritual aspiration becomes reduced in quantum and perhaps also in quality by the amount of material satisfaction which in the very nature of things implies restraint. What is generally termed progress has tended more and more to restrict man’s freedom. In every department of life and activity man has to submit more and more to external restraints and inhibitions.

It follows that there must be consequential and proportionate diminution in the mental satisfaction and spiritual endeavor even though man may not feel that restraint or realize the ever-growing restraint being put on him from day to day. It is thus clear that real happiness lies in freedom from restraint, which in turn, implies man’s capacity to carry on with as little dependence on others as possible. We cannot escape from the conclusion that what is generally called high standard of living has served to increase our dependence on others and to that extent has removed us further from real happiness.

We see in the world of today that distance between country and country has almost been eliminated and nations living far apart from one another have come closer so that if something happens at one place it has its repercussion far and wide. It does not hold good with regard to only dreadful things like war but also of beneficent activities. One of the results of this progress has been that man is now dependent for his daily necessities of life on far off countries. An example will clarify the point. Many of us present here today have known the days when the railway system in India not expanded to the present extent, when there were no automobiles of any kind and when we had not even heard of the aeroplanes. At that time also food was as important as it is today. Then every community depended for its food on itself and on the land, which it cultivated. True, if there was failure of a crop on account of natural calamities like floods or drought, the community suffered. But otherwise it managed to live on what it produced and learnt in course of time the wisdom and the prudence to save food for emergencies. On account of the improvement in the means of transport today food grains can be easily supplied from one part of the country to another. We saw recently that food had to be dropped by aeroplanes on areas, which were rendered inaccessible, by flood. All this sounds so nice, but we have to see whether these developments have enhanced or restricted our freedom. My feeling is that by increasing such needs, as he cannot fulfill himself man has necessarily restricted his freedom.

By giving the example of food imports, I have tried to show our dependence on other countries. That is not all. If far off Argentina, Canada or America has a bumper wheat crop, it results in the falling of wheat prices in India. Because of the improved means of transport, the availability or otherwise of things does not depend on local conditions but on the overall world conditions. If food cannot be imported from other countries because of some natural calamity or as a result of the out-break of war, the needy country will have to suffer untold misery. We saw during the last war how even people of neutral countries had to suffer because of the restrictions on export and import of certain articles from overseas. So, there are two aspects of this, progress. One promises plenty during peacetime, the other threatens to release a rich harvest of sufferings and privations in case communications are dislocated on account of hostilities.

It is necessary to remember that even if all of our requirements are satisfied, we are bartering our freedom for that satisfaction. For instance, whenever there is disease in an epidemic form in the country, we have to depend on other countries to supply us with medicines. Similarly, whenever there is a famine, others can save us from its dire consequences, but at the same time, if they like, they can also starve us by withholding the supply of food grains. If war breaks out today the belligerents need not resort to deadly weapons in order to kill others. They can do it equally effectively by disrupting the system of transport. Therefore, while on the one hand, we are endeavoring to raise the standard of living; those very efforts might result in the curtailing of our freedom and independence.

In spite of this all-round progress we have not yet reached a stage when we could produce an article in sufficient quantity so as to meet the requirements of all the peoples of the world. When we cannot say this about food, which tops the list of man’s needs, it is no use talking about other things which are produced in still lesser quantities. That is why the standard of living of all the countries is not uniformly high and presents an unpleasant contrast. Those who possess more are anxious to extort more and more from those who do not possess much. The result is naturally conflict between man and man and country and country. The fear of this conflict has become a nightmare for the modern man.

It is, therefore, necessary to realize that what we have assumed as axiomatic truth, namely, that increase in material prosperity also means the attainment of happiness, is neither quite correct nor so self-evident. This assumption is true only up to a certain limit and the more we transgress this limit the more remote become our chances of being happy. This limit has to be fixed by man himself. This is undoubtedly beset with countless difficulties, but I do think that it is not altogether impossible for man to achieve happiness without the usual paraphernalia, which passes for his everyday necessities. This is exactly what is meant by the adage, ‘simple living and high thinking’. It was by practising this truth that Mahatma Gandhi could enjoy that happiness which a humble follower of his is unable to have even in the palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan.

I do not suggest that ambition or high aspirations or desire for progress should be discouraged. But let us be sure that our will to progress and rise high will materialize in the true sense only after we have realized that the source of our happiness does not lie outside us but is enshrined within our own hearts. Our happiness will vary directly in proportion to the degree of our faith in the above truth. The more we try to achieve happiness, basing it on the outside world, the more we shall be inviting conflicts and depriving others of their happiness.

source: http://www.indiavisitinformation.com

Swami Vivekananda
(1863-1902)

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