All you need is love, sang The Beatles in 1967. But here’s what John Lennon wrote to an Indian man just a year later: “All you need is initiative.”
Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980, was a compulsive correspondent and doodler — and many of his letters that have remained unseen have just been published in a volume called The John Lennon Letters.
His letter to a Mr Bulla, one of many he wrote to complete strangers while meditating and composing in Rishikesh in the spring and summer of 1968, is a terrific example. Apparently, Mr Bulla — a “poor clerk” — had written asking if Lennon, sitting on a huge treasure, could spare a bit of dosh so Mr Bulla could, you know, see the world.
Here is Lennon’s good-humoured and gentle reply:
"To Mr Bulla
Thanks for your letter.
If every request like yours was granted, there would be no ‘huge treasure’ as you call it…
Even a ‘poor’ clerk can travel the world — as many people do — including friends of mine, some of whom are at this academy, nearly all equally ‘poor’. All you need is initiative — if you don’t have this, I suggest you try transcendental meditation through which all things are possible.
With love, John Lennon."
Arguably, Mr Bulla did show some initiative in writing to Lennon. And guess what: it paid off.
More than 30 years after being turned down, Bulla’s family sold the letter off in 2001 (apparently for around $10,000). Last month, the letter was re-sold for $17,365 in Los Angeles.
Irrespective of whether Mr Bulla ever got to see the world, the world did get a glimpse of an early example of Indian jugaad — or initiative.