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Forgotten Polymath’s Jail Experiment Impressed Bollywood Traditional & Gained a Golden Globe

Do Aankhen Barah Haath, a 1957 Hindi cinema traditional directed by V Shantaram, which amongst different accolades gained a Nationwide Award and Golden Globe Award, has a exceptional again story. A cannon of standard Hindi cinema, this movie took inspiration from a singular pre-Independence social experiment organised by a rare Jewish polymath and polyglot from Poland.     
(Above picture of Maurice Frydman on the Left and the movie poster on the correct)

Within the late Nineteen Thirties, Maurice Frydman, who glided by ‘Swami Bharatananda’ after renouncing the world and taking vows of Sannyasa, was invited by Apa Pant, the Prince of Aundh, a small princely state in present-day Maharashtra, and his father Raja Bhawan Rao [Balasaheb, titled ‘Pant Pratinidhi’], a robust supporter of the freedom battle

Maurice, an engineer by commerce, was referred to as upon by Apa Pant to enhance the situation of impoverished villages within the princely state affected by common drought-like circumstances.        

At this erstwhile princely state, Maurice helped MK (Mahatma) Gandhi implement his concepts of native self-government, which historians famously name the ‘Aundh Experiment’. 

In addition to aiding Gandhi in drafting the ‘November Declaration’ in 1939, which handed over the rule of Aundh from the monarch to its residents, and satisfied the Raja to abolish capital punishment, he additionally established a free jail or open jail in Swatantrapur village. 

On this ‘open jail’, prisoners had the choice of staying with their households, engaged on farms and have been made to do work for village tasks like digging wells and constructing faculties. 

“He taught them methods to construct homes, he taught them agriculture; he taught all of them the talents they wanted to dwell unbiased lives and the recidivism fee was zero. Not a single one in all these folks ever wanted to return to jail. I’ve seen interviews with these folks. Filmed interviews (of them) of their 90s. They have been outdated males, they usually have been crying. They simply stated, ‘Maurice saved us’,” stated David Godman, a good friend and writer of ‘Be As You Are’, an edited anthology of the revered Hindu sage Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, in a 2016 interview for the YouTube channel Buddha At The Fuel Pump.

Years later, filmmaker V Shantaram heard about Maurice’s social experiment. Godman said that Maurice was employed by Shantaram as a technical advisor for the movie. 

Regardless of Shantaram’s repeated requests, Maurice refused the provide and requested him to not put his title within the movie credit. He additionally threatened to take out an injunction towards Shantaram within the Bombay Excessive Court docket forbidding him to place his title on this mission. 

“He was simply completely a rare man. And went out of his method to cowl his tracks; to cover what he really had completed in his life,” stated Godman.

A religious pursuit

A local of Krakow, Poland, Maurice was born in 1894. This was a time when Poland was dominated by Tsarist Russia. Maurice grew up in a poor ghetto the place entry to public schooling was restricted by the Tsarist administration, a destiny suffered by many Jewish youngsters in Poland.  

Nonetheless, he was blessed with prodigious intelligence. In accordance to Apa Pant, “He was studying and writing within the Cyrillic, Roman and Hebrew alphabets and talking fluent Russian, Polish, French, English and Hebrew earlier than he was ten.” Whereas his father needed him to change into a rabbi, Maurice went in one other route and earned a scholarship to check engineering.

“Earlier than he was 20, he had about 100 patents to his title for his electrical and mechanical innovations, of which a ‘speaking guide’ was one,” wrote Apa Pant. Following his college stint, he labored in a collection of analysis institutes, laboratories and electrical factories throughout Europe. 

By his mid-20s, nevertheless, he had reached a section of religious disillusionment after emigrating to Paris. Regardless of finding out a wide range of scriptures of the Jewish and Christian religion, he felt deep discontentment. He had no real interest in organised religions and their rituals and dogmas. 

Curiously, his first encounter with the religious traditions of India got here within the type of a second-hand copy of a guide written by the Indian thinker Jiddu Krishnamurti translated into French, which he had discovered on a sidewalk in Warsaw, in response to Godman. 

But it surely was throughout his stint in Paris when he found a wide range of Hindu scriptures together with the Vedanta texts, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and the Mahabharat. 

In accordance with NK Srinivasan, who wrote a brief biography on the lifetime of Maurice Frydman, “He discovered the Vedantic path appropriate to quench his religious thirst, away from dogmatic precepts. He resolved to go to India and search religious knowledge there.” 

Srinivasan goes on to notice, “He met Annie Besant and her protege J Krishnamurti within the Swiss Alps. He turned an in depth good friend of JK for practically 40 years. Maurice, nevertheless, was at all times a severe questioner of JK’s ideas they usually had a number of verbal ‘duels’ in later years. Maurice organised conferences for JK in Paris and likewise translated a few of J Okay’s works into French.”

However what sparked his need to go to India was a guide by Paul Brunton ‘A Search in Secret India’ the place he first learnt concerning the Hindu sage Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. “Maurice was now burning with need to satisfy the sage at Arunachala or Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, and observe the trail of Jnana. He was nonetheless tied to his work in Paris,” wrote Srinivasan. 

Maurice Frydman was a Forest Gump like figure. His prison experiment inspired a Golden Globe-winning Bollywood classic.
Maurice Frydman (carrying a swimsuit) sitting in a Nineteen Thirties group picture with Ramana Maharshi. (Picture courtesy David Godman)

Divine intervention

Divine intervention got here within the type of Sir Mirza Ismail, the Diwan of Mysore state, who was visiting Paris on a mission to seek out engineers who may improve the commercial base of his state. 

Impressed by intelligence and technical brilliance, Ismail prolonged an invite, asking him to arrange electrical factories in Mysore state. With out hesitation, Maurice accepted the invitation and made his method to present-day Bengaluru the place he started work organising the Authorities Electrical Manufacturing facility. This manufacturing facility would go on to supply India’s first electrical transformers. 

In addition to receiving a beneficiant wage, Ismail additionally gave him a automotive and a home. For Maurice, although, this was an opportunity to satisfy Ramana Maharshi at Thiruvannamalai, which was about 250 km from the town. In 1935, Maurice made his first go to to the religious guru’s ashram. 

“Maurice travelled on weekends to the ashram of Bhagwan Ramana and have become an ardent disciple of Maharshi. Later Maurice stayed within the ashram for 3 years…The spirit of renunciation burned within the coronary heart of Maurice. He would quickly resign every part. He needed to take sannyasa  —vows of monkhood in response to Hindu traditions,” wrote Srinivasan. 

Regardless of his devotion to Ramana Maharshi and writing a small guide in English compiling his teachings, it was Swami Ramdas, who “gave sannyasa to Maurice and provided the gerua material with the monastic title ‘Swami Bharatananda’ – a reputation Maurice would use in later writings”. 

The religious transformation was practically full with Maurice donning a shaved head, saffron robes and a begging bowl as nicely. Going additional, practically every part he earned because the Common Supervisor of the Authorities Electrical Manufacturing facility in Bengaluru was donated to the poor. 

Ismail wasn’t very keen on this transformation. However unwilling to lose a superb engineer, they arrived at a compromise. He would put on formal British clothes solely whereas receiving necessary company to the manufacturing facility. However that dynamic modified when Apa Pant first visited him on the manufacturing facility. 

Affiliation with Gandhi

Apa Pant sought Maurice’s providers for 3 months to enhance the situation of villages within the Aundh princely state. Sir Ismail rejected his request and stated he may solely launch Maurice from his duties managing the manufacturing facility at a later time. Even a letter from the Raja of Aundh requesting the identical couldn’t change Ismail’s thoughts. Maurice, nevertheless, was having none of it and gave up his profitable job on the manufacturing facility to work in service of those impoverished villages. 

It was at Aundh the place Maurice met Mahatma Gandhi for the primary time. In accordance with varied accounts, it was Maurice who satisfied the Raja of Aundh to free his management over the 70-odd village properties, following which he drew up the November Declaration. He then wrote the structure of the state, which formalised the switch of energy from the Raja to his folks. 

“An fascinating aspect truth is that in his time with Gandhi, [Maurice] Frydman labored on and improved the design of the cotton spinning wheels that turned synonymous with Gandhi and his motion,” notes this description. However his affiliation with Gandhi didn’t finish at Aundh.

Maurice’s shut affiliate Barry Gordon, a former marine in the US Military, wrote in an article, “He was additionally energetic within the [Gandhi’s] Sevagram motion, which continued after Independence from Britain. Maurice performed a key function within the invention of a number of hand instruments, equivalent to spinning gear, which was then employed by the village industries motion.”

This Bollywood classic was inspired by Maurice Frydman's prison experiment
Movie poster of ‘Do Ankhen Barah Haath’: The movie was impressed by Maurice Frydman’s distinctive open jail experiment in Aundh, Maharashtra

Shelter for Tibetans 

Submit-Independence, his largest contribution got here within the type of help to Tibetan refugees escaping the Communist regime in China post-1959.  

Maurice had heard about their plight from his good friend Apa Pant, who on the time was stationed in Sikkim as a political officer by the Nehru authorities. Regardless of their horrible plight after an arduous journey throughout the Himalayas, the Nehru authorities initially exercised warning about methods to take care of them given this was a time when he needed to keep up shut ties to China. 

As NK Srinivasan famous, nevertheless, Maurice was having none of it. 

“Maurice met with the prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, an in depth good friend of Apa Pant. He requested Nehru to write down to varied states to offer settlement villages for these refugees and he would organise for his or her welfare. Nehru wouldn’t make a fast resolution. However Maurice was virtually adamant; met him a number of occasions and waited on Nehru for a number of hours and at last bought an official letter signed by him to varied state governments,” wrote Srinivasan. 

“With this letter, Maurice travelled to a number of states for Tibetan refugee villages from Delhi to Karnataka. In truth in Karnataka, the place he was a well-known determine with native officers and broadly revered, he may acquire three villages. They’re thriving Tibetan communities even right this moment,” he added. From 1959 to 1965, Maurice labored tirelessly for his or her aid and rehabilitation. 

Helping him on this endeavour was Wanda Dynowska, a rich Polish girl and secretary of the Theosophical Society in Poland, who got here to India in 1935 and was given the Indian title Uma Devi by Gandhi. For her in depth work within the aid and rehabilitation of the Tibetan refugee neighborhood, she was given the title ‘Ama-La’ or because the Dalai Lama recalled ‘mother-ji’.     

Submit 1965, Maurice spent quite a lot of his time in Mumbai, the place he turned a disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj, “a sage within the advaitic custom, very like Ramana Maharshi”. He edited and translated Nisargadatta Maharaj’s tape-recorded conversations into the English-language guide ‘I Am That’, printed in 1973. It contains an appendix written by him titled ‘Nisarga Yoga’ which briefly describes this type of Yoga. Maurice finally died on 9 March 1976 in Mumbai.      

Godman described him finest, “Maurice is one in all most extraordinary folks I’ve ever come throughout and just about nothing is understood about him. And due to his reference to Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Gandhi, Nisargadatta, the Dalai Lama, I sort of view him as a Forest Gump of Twentieth-century spirituality.” One would, nevertheless, go one step additional, and word that if there was a Forest Gump-like film made in India, it must be about him.  


David Godman – 2nd Buddha on the Fuel Pump Interview

‘The Extraordinary Lifetime of Maurice Frydman’ (Biographical Assortment)

‘Maurice Frydman–Jnani and a Karma Yogi: A Biography’ by NK Srinivasan

Maurice Frydman by Barry Gordon courtesy Inside Instructions

Twitter/The Paperclip

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)



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