|About the Book|
At the age of 68 there are very few people who wish to learn. But Gora is an exception. Learning is a mental process which implies unlearning. Many people nave new experiences. But do they kern from them? When we learn new things we unlearn our pastMoreAt the age of 68 there are very few people who wish to learn. But Gora is an exception. Learning is a mental process which implies unlearning. Many people nave new experiences. But do they kern from them? When we learn new things we unlearn our past notions about many things in life. We cling to our old habits and customs so much that we fear to learn what does not conform to or confirm our old ways of life.One should be fearless if one has to learn. If one is not frank one sets his face against anything new. Gora, a world-renowned atheist, conducted experiments in and with his life with atheistic outlook. With a scientific and humanistic mind he looked at the problems of life, analysed and understood them and suggested solutions. He had an open mind.All his life he fought against slave mind, blind faith, god and superstitions which made people close their minds against new ideas. To expose superstitious practices he organised open demonstrations of fire walking and of witnessing eclipse by pregnant women which is prohibited by custom.He was a lecturer and Head of the Department of Botany for fifteen years in various colleges in Colombo (Srilanka), Madurai, Coimbatore, Kakinada and Masulipatam in South India. He taught his students not only Botany but scientific c outlook on life. He fought against the unscientific attitude of teachers and students of science who confined their studies to text books and laboratories without translating scientific outlook into life.All his life he was a teacher and learner at the same time. As a teacher he expounded the cause of atheism but, at the same time, he was ready to learn from life. He was not bigoted or fanatical, but he was ever ready to learn.From 1932 to till his death on July 26, 1975, he propagated atheism in towns and villages. He addressed meetings in universities and slums. Met Mahatma Gandhi and became one of his close associates. He was with Vinoba Bhave in the Bhoodan movement. He started a movement for economic equality. He led a 1100 mile foot march from Sevagram Ashram to New Delhi in 1961 against pomp of the government ministers who, he said, should be the servants of people and not their masters. The long foot march culminated in meeting the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi. Gora appealed to him to set an example to people by leading an austere life and to shift from the palatial building of Teen Murthi to a modest residence. He conducted a campaign for partyless democracy.He strove all his life for eradication of untouchability. He promoted inter-dining and inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. He set an example by encouraging inter-caste marriages in his family. His daughter and son married the so-called untouchables with a view to break the traditional barriers of caste.The cause of economic equality was the basis of many of his programmes of action. To promote the movement for grow more food, he advocated replacement of flower plants with edibles. Considering that rigid food habits were responsible for keeping apart people belonging to different castes and religions, he openly arranged the Beef and Pork parties in 1972. He organized the first World Atheist Conference in 1972 at the Atheist Centre, Vijayawada.He went on world tours in 1970 and again in 1974. He met atheists, humanists, rationalist and social change workers in Europe, America, Australia and Asia. He was a delegate to the International Conference of the Humanist and Ethical Union held at Boston, U.S.A., in 1970 and at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1974. He visited the Soviet union also in 1974 at the invitation of the Union of Soviet Friendship societies and the Soviet-Indian Cultural Society. Thus he could make a comparative study of the capitalist and communist ways of life.He extensively toured India, especially villages, slums and untouchable quarters. He led an austere life and travelled in the third class railway compartments as a matter of principle. He had a variegated experience with all classes and castes of people. He made a positive atheistic approach to life. He urged people to be self-reliant and free and work for social and economic equality. He considered god as a falsehood which is responsible for keeping down people in poverty, illiteracy and ignorance.He was a prolific writer, His first comprehensive book on atheism, Nasiikatvam, in Telugu language published in 1941 creased a stir. He said that atheism is not godlessness, but a positive way of life. Man should have faith in himself in this world and not in god, rebirth and other world. Goras Positive Atheism published in 1972 is the essence of his thought. His autobiographical account, We Become Atheists, was posthumously published in 1975 and it shows how Gora, with his family and friends and colleagues, worked for atheism. Among his other books An Atheist with Gandhi and Partyless Democracy: Its Need and Form need special mention.To propagate his views he started Sangham (Society), an atheist Telugu weekly in 1949, Arthik Samata (Economic Equality) another Telugu periodical and a Hindi monthly Insaan (Man). In January 1969 he started The Atheist, an English monthly, with himself as its editor. He was an effective writer whose words appealed to the hearts of the people. Even those that disagreed with him could not but concede his point and have respect for his personality and his views.With such deep and rich experience of life, he wrote a regular feature in The Atheist I LEARN. It became popular. It is short and brief, no doubt, but relates an incident or experience poignantly. Attention is focused on it. Sometimes it touches ones heart. Some of them are humorous. In this connection it is good to remember that Gora had a very fine sense of humour. These articles have the intimacy of a sketch and the aesthetic sense of a short story. Some of them look commonplace and trivial. But Gora reads deep into them. His heart was there in every word he wrote so they move our hearts. Many look around but miss many things. Gora had a keen eye of a scientist. He was a clear observer and a sincere commentator. When he touched a problem, he suggested solution. He analysed a situation and drew a conclusion which was not simply logical, but psychological. He made a human approach to human problems. Dogmatism and fanaticism was not known to him. His conclusions were expressed at the end of each article in aphoristic and epigrammatic style. He dived deep into human experience and brought out pearls of wisdom.Life teaches many lessons. He learns them and shares the wealth of his experience with others. There is a deep moral import in what he says. Everything is on a human level. He makes the reader think and feel for others.Gora says I learn. But the readers may also say: We too learn from your I LEARN.