Padma Bhushan Mr. N Vittal is a career IAS officer who is credited with affecting changes in the Central Vigilance Commission like Mr. TN Seshan did in the Election Commission of India. He is also known for his outstanding work in the Department of Telecommunications and the Department of Electronics. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Vittal]
I congratulate Nixon Fernando for coming out with an unusual book “Rising to Second Freedom: Enlightened Minds and Ignited Spirit”.
It is an unusual book because of a number of reasons.
It has multiple dimensions and has huge potential to influence action over a wide spectrum of areas. Edward de Bono says that ideas are spectacles with which we look at facts. What Nixon Fernando has done is to bring within the compass of single book an amazingly wide spectrum of ideas. His style of writing is such that the tone is always calm, looking at every issue first with the focus on facts and secondly evaluating every issue from an objective and rational point of view.
This exercise carried out throughout the book in such a way that as I read the book, I got the impression that I was following an young enquiring mind which was exploring a whole range of ideas, in such a manner that this can be a source book for wide range of readers and social activists.
Nixon Fernando has been associated with two great active thinkers and leaders of our times, TN Seshan and Prof Bala Balachandran. Seshan who is my senior colleague in the IAS has become a legend when in the nineties he practically reinvented the Election Commission and made the Election Commission of India the gold standard with which all other such institutions are judged for conducting free and fair elections in a democratic system.
Prof Bala Balachandran single handedly established a world class advanced institute of Management in Chennai in a record time of a couple of years, realized his goal of setting up an outstanding Indian School with a global mindset and Indian roots. This made him after a lifetime track record of academic achievement in the US, a global icon for excellence in management education.
The book is designed to provoke ideas and action on the ground. In fact, as I read it from cover to cover, I got the impression that this is the book that should never be read alone by a single reader. It is the type of book that should be read in groups.
Ideally, such groups could be students in a classroom, participants in a conference or seminar, in an institute of higher education in Management or a study circle of a serious minded political group /party or the corps of socially committed activists and civil society organizations.
Nixon presents the facts at every page and while you read, you wonder how is it going to be implemented? And then, if the reader or the group of readers reading this book gets provoked by these ideas, then they themselves will develop the ignited mind to find appropriate solution and course of action to see at least that part of idea for betterment of society and better India are implemented.
Therefore, this book has an immense potential to influence thinking like Eric Shoemaker's “Small is beautiful” and others which influenced thinking and had a major impact on a wide range of people across the world.
For us Indians particularly, this book should have a special appeal because it virtually holds a magic mirror before us in which we find ourselves and our history and traditions, culture, religion and our value /belief framework analyzed and reflected upon. The book lists many of its multiple dimensions and facets are like a sparkling diamond.
This book in short, is intellectual tinder.
Another aspect of this book is its supreme timing of publication. After 1947, when our county became independent, till the general elections of 2014, the political narrative was dominated by the overwhelming impact of Nehruvian socialism. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision and his charismatic impact on the whole nation not only during the freedom struggle, but also the years after, first as the first Prime Minister of India for 17 years and later on by the Indian National Congress had the focus on left of centre and the critical narrative was highlighting the need for secularism, in the sense that the state will not have any link with religion.
Elections of 2014 when the BJP led by Shri Narendra Modi established a government for the first time which was decisively and explicitly a right of centre, a massive tectonic shift took place in the political narrative of India. In this context, the word, Hinduism and Hindutva have become emotionally charged words conveying a wide range of impressions. As Mr. Seshan points out in his Foreword, Nixon Fernando, being a practicing Christian has provided an insightful understanding of the essence of Hinduism i.e. Sanatana Dharma. This in itself is an intellectual performance of high order which will be welcomed.
Facts and ideas analyzed in this book should provide the answer to many of the issues raised by the left of centre intelligentsia who question whether there is an intellectual gravity and depth to make a case for a valid and credible modern state in our country. The way of actually understanding of the essence of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharmain as brought out in this book should go a long way in providing for an informed understanding of the philosophy of political right in the country.
An equally important aspect of this book is its exposition of equally important is its focus on Mahatma Gandhi. Our former President Dr Abdul Kalam and Prof Dr P.V. Inderesan former director of IIT Madras, articulated the concept of reconciling town planning with the vision of Mahatma Gandhi of village republics and PURA [Providing urban facilities in rural areas] was the result. This concept has been brought out beautifully in the book by Nixon Fernando.
In fact, in this book Nixon has displayed a quality which is in the Hindu philosophy, normally attributed to the divine! That is the capacity of combining the opposites! As a student of physics, with the focus on quantum theory and Heighenberg's uncertainty principle, Nixon Fernando has displayed what in Sanskrit called, ‘agatitha gatana samartyam’ i.e. the capacity to combine in harmonious way the opposites. After all, God is considered to be ‘anoraniyam mahatvamahiyanan', smaller than the atom and bigger than the universe.
In other words, this Book is indeed an unusual book with very provocative ideas. The impact it has will depend as much on the readers and users of the book and the institutions and organizations that access it.
Once again, I congratulate Nixon Fernando on his efforts and wish the book all success.
3rd December 2018
The book can be accessed at