as told to Jamuna Rangachari
What is the source of super-achiever Kiran Bedi’s inspiration?
I nurture the garden of my body, mind and spirit everyday and ensure that weeds don’t creep in,’ says Kiran Bedi, one of the most admired women in India today. The first woman police officer in India is a humanist who introduced many ground-breaking prison reforms and is the founder of two NGOs (India Vision – working in the area of prison reforms, crime prevention, education, rural development and Navjyoti – working for drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation). A tennis champion, Magsaysay award winner, Civilian Police Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations (another first), regular columnist and author of many books, her achievements are truly awe-inspiring.
Every moment of one’s life is to be used in the right manner, in a spirit of alertness and wakefulness. The laws of life are as simple and as clear as the laws of nature. Just as garbage thrown in a garden will make it rot, anger will surely spoil one’s life. Just as loving care will bring forth flowers and fragrance, bhakti and love will surely bring joy and inner peace to oneself. Always inclined towards spirituality, a defining moment in my life was Vipassana, which helped me take a leap into a higher plane of existence. Today I am totally at peace, not caring for any position, status or material possession. I go on with my life in a watchful, alert state, free and in tune with the present moment. I do not react to any aspersions or allegations, carry no animosity and sincerely wish for the well-being of all in this world.
The only treasures that I value are my books and audio collection.
I have many books on India and its politics – notably the commentaries of and about Gandhi, Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose and other great patriots. These I use as inspiration for myself and also quote from them to inspire others in the police force.
On the spiritual side, The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, The Art of Manmaking by Swami Chinmayananda and the interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita by Sri Parthasarathy are some of my all-time favorites. The books of Krishnamurthi, Osho, Pandit Rajmani Tugunait, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Stephen Covey and Brian Tracy are some others that I value and enjoy. I keep adding to this collection and additionally, receive many as gifts. It is amazing how the gifts I receive are often books which I would have loved to pick up myself. In this manner, my treasure trove of wisdom keeps growing.
I read everyday; my reading being a mix of repetition, revision and revelation. Several of the passages and sentences that appeal to me are marked and I keep going back to these. I also have audio versions of many books and listen to them whenever possible, sometimes while going for a walk, sometimes when attending to my daily routine.
My iPod has my favorite audios loaded. When I travel, I carry my treasures with me and continue my daily tryst with them.
A Day in my Life
My day begins early and a daily walk in the garden is mandatory, followed by a fitness workout on my treadmill. Music soothes me, particularly the bhajans of Jagjit Singh. So spiritual music is always playing in the background.
The rest of the day is dictated by the needs of my work commitments, with reading and/or listening packed in somewhere in the day. I usually write at night.
I usually have a glass of milk for breakfast. During summer I supplement it with bananas and in winters, with porridge of dalia (broken wheat). Lunch is either soup or a cooked vegetable with no cereal. Dinner is a roti, dal, sabzi and a cup of yogurt. I am strictly vegetarian, do not snack at all and avoid tea or coffee.
have never really thought of success as a milestone. Discipline and hard work lead to achievement, and achievement in turn builds up self-esteem and confidence. This is the simple formula which I learnt early in life, reinforced by my tennis. In our time we played in the best spirit of the game – to excel, do our best and never give up. It was not as lucrative then, and we had to travel third class to various places. Materially, all that we got was a cup. So it was the sheer joy of playing that kept one going.
Constant discipline and hard work was essential in tennis and so it is with life. Being alert and watchful at every moment is essential while playing, and so it is with life. Never giving up and always putting in your best is essential in tennis and again, so it is with life.
This is what life is all about to me, and I am thankful that it has brought in what is commonly known as ‘success’.
All that I have done has always been in me, waiting for opportunities to express itself.
What comes naturally to you is who you are and all you need to do is express yourself. I always wished to serve in the government. Similarly social upliftment is something that I deeply care about, and from this, Navjyoti and India Vision were born.
To be true to one’s nature is extremely important. For instance, though I am a wife, I could never be a housewife. That is not who I am. By that it does not mean I have any less respect for people who are housewives. In fact, if one finds fulfillment in being a housewife, one should be just that without trying to prove a point.
Likewise, people who inspire me are ones whose lives are totally in synergy, such as the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Rajmani Tugunait.
Being close to nature is as essential as oxygen to me. My room has a view straight to the garden. I wake up to see greenery, to see the birds chirping. Everywhere I go I try to get a place close to nature, and most often, have succeeded in doing so.
What do I do with all that I see, hear, read and observe? I can forget, ignore, complain or postpone…. But I needed to write and express in words what I saw and will continue to do so. I have often been asked what message I want to give through my writing. I don’t know. I share what inspires, provokes and touches me, hoping it would have the same impact on the readers.
Vipasana means to ‘look at oneself in a special way’. This ancient Indian practice, known to our seers and sages is what helped Gautama the prince to become the Buddha.
In the police force, I saw no difference between prisoners and the police officers. Both were in a prison of their own making. That is why I made an attempt to introduce Vipassana in the prisons and to the police training college.
Though initially it met with sceptiscism, many people were dramatically transformed in just ten days and I feel most fortunate in having been a part of this remarkable happening.
A Global Citizen
The Magsaysay award catapulted me into the global arena. While giving a global perspective, it also made me realize that people everywhere are the same.
Practically, the main advantage of global recognition has been that I have been able to take the issue of prison reforms, an area close to my heart, to a much larger audience. An example is the documentary on the impact of contemplative meditation, You be the Sky, by Dr Lavlin Thadani, which is being shown worldwide to demonstrate the importance of humane management and sensitive governance, be it in prison or policing.
My parents have been a pillar of strength to my sisters and me. They taught us the value of hard work and discipline and gave us the confidence that we could achieve anything. After school, my sister Reena and I would go straight to tennis coaching where my mother would wait with hot milk and fruits. My father would be there to ensure our proper coaching. On and off the court, we were motivated and inspired to become champions.
In later life, my parents took care of my responsibilities at home, allowing me to concentrate on my professional life.
My Daughter and I
Saina and I are very close and she shares my values and vision completely. At one stage in life, she probably did feel the pressure of having to ‘live up’ to the image of being the daughter of a well-known person, but today, she is grateful for that pressure as it helped her focus and achieve more in life. Today, she is the driving force of Navjyoti and India Vision.
Her life partner, Ruzbeh Barucha, is a wonderful person and they have a truly spiritual partnership. His coming into the family has made us even closer than we were before.
Money has never been an issue but I have also been most fortunate in the fact that I never had to face any financial hardship. In fact, even financial management was not my responsibility. My mother ran the house with diligence, taking care there was no wastage and saved enough money from my salary to enable me to buy a house. The house started yielding returns, and soon I was able to acquire one more property. All in all, this is one area of life in which I have no interest or aptitude and Providence has ensured that it has been taken care of by others for me.
I will go smilingly away from this world but do realize that my family and close friends will surely grieve and miss me, when I am gone.
I have four more years of active service to complete and am looking forward to every minute of it. At the same time, retirement would be a welcome break into a more reflective phase, when I shall probably be able to do much more writing and also devote more time to the causes I have taken up.
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