The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Rohini Nair
March 28, 2011

Ruzbeh Bharucha isn't a monk, and he didn't sell his Ferrari, but his books on spirituality and wellbeing, and hard hitting social documentaries reveal a mind that is finely attuned to the human condition.

Author/filmmaker Ruzbeh Bharucha

You're a prolific writer and a filmmaker...Can you tell us which of these mediums satisfies you more, as an individual? How do you decide which medium you want to tell a particular story in?
I enjoy writing the most as it's a personal experience and one can indulge in the art at one's own time, place and space. Filmmaking is a less lonely activity but when one has to be dependent on others, especially mad folks like other artists, I wonder why I didn't take up a less exacting vocation like paragliding or fighting with bulls! So writing books works best for me, especially for topics like spirit communication and life after death. That said, for social themes, nothing works better than films.

How do you decide which subject to explore for a particular book/documentary? How did your work on women prison inmates and the Yamuna Pushta slum demolition come about?
It was when I was the chief editor of a Pune newspaper that I came across a PTI news clipping about women inmates and their children celebrating Independence Day in Yerwada Prison. A three paragraph news report, but it broke my heart. It stayed in my subconscious for a decade. Eventually, I wrote an entire book on the condition of women and children in Indian prisons, for which I visited six major prisons in the country, from Pune to Srinagar. Then Dr. Kiran Bedi (Ruzbeh's mother-in-law) asked me to write a book on the work done by social organizations in Yamuna Pushta, a colony in Delhi. Two days after I stepped in, the Court declared that the 50 year old township comprising over 1.5 lakh residents and 40,000 homes be demolished in a few weeks. So from writing a book on social organization, I made a film and wrote a book on one of the worst human violations in the very capital of our country. Not one media house covered the barbaric manner in which the demolition took place. So now the book and film are virtually like a recorded piece of history.

Can you talk about some particular story incident or anecdote from these two experiences, that made a poignant impact on you?
I often met women who were in prison for some trivial crime and didn't have the Rs.4,000 to pay their bail. The inmate's kids became so attached to me, that when the shoot would wrap up, they would plead with me not to go. I just didn't know what to tell them. Or while shooting the slum demolition, a friend and I were precariously perched on a roof, shooting the demolition of a home of a man I had become friendly with. Suddenly I realized that somebody had gotten on the roof - it was the same man. He smiled, gave us a cold drink. I didn't know what to tell him. He looked at me and said, "All this goes on, you look very tired, please you must drink this or else the Delhi heat will get to you."

German edition of Ruzbeh's most popular work, The Fakir

Can you tell us a little bit about where your interest in matters spiritual stems from? How did it develop? What is your philosophy for life and how have you come by it?
For me, being spiritual means living a life, or trying to live a life, that makes my Master happy with me. Spiritually doesn't mean anything if you can't lend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

In all these years of reaching out to people - what is the one thing that you have learned?
I have learned that we are all alike. Circumstances have molded each one a little differently and have forces us to take various decisions. So don't judge anybody. You will never know what circumstances forced that individual to take a particular step. Another thing I've learned is that the greatest spiritualists aren't writers or healers but the man on the street. The slum dweller who offered me a cola when his world was crashing, in that moment, was more spiritual than all the self help, spiritual books ever penned.

Copyright 2014 Ruzbeh N. Bharucha.