Wednesday, December 17, 2008


So much happening! Flash forward - we are now in Sweden! Where the sun is setting at 2:45 p.m., and I am so busy, I barely notice!

Some of the Swedes who have accompanied Krishnammal to the engagements we have had in Stockholm surrounding the Right Livelihood Award ceremony have taken to calling her “Eldsjäl”, which means “Fire-Soul”. I have not been able to find the origin of the term, though it seems to have come from the Vikings, meaning one who has been possessed with the fire of the gods.

It is true she has been burning these days, and we have been seared by her heat. Men in suits (myself included, the suit being a rare event), have been reduced to tears or close to it, as she speaks simply of her life growing up in one of those wretched mudhuts with 12 brothers and sisters (six of whom died), and her simple message of the Divine Light within, the need for self-inquiry, and the possibilities of human development. “You cannot purchase human development in any shop,” she quips, and while the desire to eliminate the mud huts of the poor consumes her thinking, she emphasizes that the real revolution is the one that must come from within. “We are more than flesh and bone,” she says, “and we are placed on earth to do more than simply feed the body.” “You are not likely to find it in school either,” she pointedly instructs a group of university students, “but it is a daily struggle to allow yourself to be set free, which often comes with renunciation and suffering,” “I have passed my exam on this earth,” she states in her usual matter-of-fact manner, implying of course that is it now our turn.

Apparently, many of those associated with the Right Livelihood Award have been followed her work (and that of Jagannathan) for a long time. One went so far as to suggest (I have no idea whether this is apocryphal) they were closely considered for the Award in the 1980s, but at the time had been considered “too old”. Now, a member of Parliament, in introducing her, said it was one of the high points of his life (and one he didn’t expect) to meet someone associated with Mahatma Gandhi, and one who had truly carried on his legacy.

I was rather surprised by the number of people who actually seemed to know who I was. Some of it, I think, were the long letters and nomination documents I had been sending them over the years. Others knew the work of New Society Publishers (which I founded), and were pleased to hear it is still going strong.

Wherever we went, we were instantly surrounded, not so much by people asking questions, as by men and women simply coming up and either explicitly or implicitly asking for her blessing.

Eldsjäl indeed.

(You can hear an interview of Krishnammal with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! ( )


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