YOU COULD BE FORGIVEN FOR MISTAKING HIM FOR A RELIGIOUS FANATIC. BUT HE IS ACTUALLY IS A BELIEVER, A BREED HARD TO FIND IN OUR CYNICAL-BY-DEFAULT WORLD. AARISH CHHABRA MEETS SIDHARTHA, A YAMUNA NAGAR-BASED ACTIVIST-WRITER-FILMMAKER WHO IS ON A MISSION TO SAVE BUDDHA “
Thirty-five-year-old Sidhartha is resident of Yamuna nagar, a district headquarters town in the north-east of Haryana, a place you did least expect to have a connection with Buddhism. But Sidhartha, a self-trained documentary filmmaker, has Put together DHAMMACHHETRA – The Lost Land of Buddha, a fact-filled film that tells you there are 14 historical stupas in the state. it was released last month. He has a mission to save them, and through them the legacy of Lord Buddha (see box).
He says it’s his love for religion as a concept that made him start creative work aimed at preserving heritage. “I trained as an engineer, but never wanted to work as one. My mind was always attracted towards deeper, more spiritual things like Reiki and meditation techniques,” he says. His first formal foray into the public domain of spiritualism and religion was soon after he had completed his Bachelors in Technology (B Tech) from the National Institute of Technology (Regional Engineering College) in Kurukshetra, a prestigious college considered hard to get intoIt was in 2000 that he published a book titled God’s New World: Global Citizen and One Nation. Finding it hard to get a publisher to print it here — “most of them said it was good but won’t sell” — he went online and struck a deal with 1- Universe in Nebraska(US). He made the payment online, and they shipped the books and also put it up for sale online. Sidhartha says the book did rather well.
The funds came, and still do, from his dentist brother Dr Satydeep Gauri, who lives in Melbourne, Australia. The parents, though relieved that their son wasn’t into bad habits, were more than a tad perturbed about his obsession. You know how Indian parents are. It’s a difference of personalities. Plus, I don’t expect them to completely understand me. I just know that they have my back.” is all Sidhartha says. His father. MR Gauri,and mother Meurial Prashad, arc both retired government servants, so his predicament is not hard to understand, though one does expect them to be a bit more liberal when Sidhartha tells that his dad. A Hindu, and mom, a Christian, had a love-cum-arrange marriage.”My mother believes in Krishna and also respects all religions. That’s all I can say “insists Sidhartha, who attended a Christian missionary school, Sacred Heart Convent School. in Yamunanagar twin town Jagadhri.
Anyways, after the book came a period of self-understanding and planning for “the world good’. as Sidhartha puts it. Somewhere in the middle of that. Sidhartha got infatuated with the Ramayana. He wanted to know if it had any scientific basis, and the curiosity grew as the issue of the Ram Sethu (Adam’s Bridge) gained ground in political, religious and drawing-room circles. Everyone had an opinion on whether the set of little islands between India and Sri Lanka was a natural formation or the bridge Ram and his army made to reach Lanka. Mythology or history? Sidhartha, who frequents ISKCON (International Society for Krishna consciousness) temples, derided to put himself behind the scientific lobby and decided to make a movie. Around 2OO7 a production house focusing on issue- based films, White Horse Works, was formed with some help from like-minded people, and in 2008, the movie was ready. It took him months to Censor clearance as the matter was too touchy”. But he managed to bring it out as most of the stuff they said in the film had been said by experts at public hearings by then. “It was expected, but I was confident so I was not very bothered about the delay” he says. And in the course of reading history books, he chanced upon Lord Buddha’s Haryana connection. He has now started a campaign under the aegis of his NGO. The Buddhist Forum, to preserve Bodh stupas in the state. “I don’t think what I’m doing is off-beat. It has to be done, that’s what I know” says Sidhartha. What next, ask him: he smiles benevolently “God willing, more of the same.”