Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Picture shot by Dr Shrirang Purohit

Sunday morning was a sad one for Sahitya Sahawas, the colony of writers in Bandra. One of its most respected residents, noted litterateur Govind Vinayak Karandikar – Vinda – passed away.

I had the fortune of knowing him as a neighbour. I also profiled him in 2006 when he won the Dnyanpeeth Puraskar. It was late afternoon and he had been tired of meeting and speaking to visitors and journalists who came to congratulate him. He just answered one question – did he have any advice for young writers? “There is nothing I want to say to the young generation. Let them do what they want. If I was in their place, would I have liked someone to tell me what I should do?”

Indeed, Bhau as he was lovingly called, lived life on his own terms. He never sought puraskars or the coveted chief guest position of the prestigious Marathi Sahitya Sammelan that even many noted authors fight and claw for. The awards came and they were many – the Janasthan Puraskar, the Kabir Puraskar and more. But his truest award lay in the following he had among Marathi readers.

With the awards came the prize money, but Bhau had no use for it. A Marxist, he donated over Rs 7 lakh he won, to the chief minister’s earthquake relief fund, to the SNDT University to start the R D Karve memorial lectures, to the University of Mumbai to start the Madhav Julian lecture series, and even to the Family Planning Association of India.
His major collections of poems include Swedaganga, Mrudgandha, Jatak, Virupika and Dhrupad. He has also written essays such as Sparshachi Palavi and Akashacha Artha. He has written ‘A Critique of Literary Values’ and Parampara Ani Navata – a critique on tradition and modernism in literature. He translated Sant Dnyaneshwar’s Amrutanubhav into modern Marathi. Sometime back he created a flutter when he announced he had ‘retired’ from writing poetry.

His poems for children are well known. As a child I remember asking him about one of his ‘spells’ to stop the ink in a pen from drying, that I had seen him recite on TV. A child when with children, Bhau promptly fetched the book and read it to me, along with other spells he had written.
Years later, on finding that I had chosen English Literature in college, he presented me with a book by John Dos Passos. “It’s a prize for choosing English Literature,” the former English Literature professor said. He also told me he had a copy of ‘A History of English Literature’ by Louis Cazamian and Emile Legouis and I could borrow it from him anytime. Strangely, when I did ask for it, he had no recollection of making the offer! But he trusted me, and though he said he never lent it, he firmly warned me to be careful with it. I was petrified and returned it a few days later, without having referred to it at all!

Bhau was active till about a month before he passed away. He would come down from his fourth floor house at least once a day, carrying a small cloth bag, and buy some vegetables from Anand Bazaar across the road. He had a habit of calling out to Sumatai, his wife. Sometimes in the evenings she would come down to chat with her colony friends. Restless that she was not back after some time, Bhau would stand in the balcony and clap and call her to get her attention.
Sometimes when he went downstairs, he would have forgotten money. He would then call her from below, “Sume! Sume!” When she arrived in the balcony, he would yell, “In our room, in my drawer, from the wallet kept to the left, not the right, throw me the Rs 2 note, not the Rs 5 one.”

Bhau remained a man content with simple joys till the end. He and Sumatai were most happy being with children. Every summer he cleaned the small canal passing through the colony. A poem on his lips, he would inspire many colony kids to join him. During the rains, if he saw the clogged parapet at the entrance of the building opposite his, he would fetch a ladder and clear it himself. If a kid’s kite was caught in a tv antenna on the terrace of his building, he would climb up and free it. He was always ready for a spot of carpentry at home, working on two chairs for himself and Sumatai in the balcony.

Like Sumatai who passed away a little more than a year ago, his body will be donated for medical causes. His eyes have been donated.
A lot will be said and written about him in the days to come. But he lives on in his works. Perhaps the best tribute to him will come when one simply enjoys his works time and again, just as much as he did creating them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Politics 1:

Now that the Rahul Gandhi circus has left town, everyone can breathe freely. The entire exercise has proven that the man has turned into a politician.
While he may claim his visit to Mumbai was a huge success, it was nothing but a cleverly executed stunt.
Sure, people are free to criticize the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for their so called political agendas. But this does not mean the Congress has none. That the young Gandhi has none. Why else would he chose to travel in a Mumbai local with a posse of police and securitymen following him? If he really had a point to prove on – all places in the country for all Indians – he would have travelled by public transport in Manipur or Assam, where outsiders are murdered. But no, Mumbai is the jewel that every politician wants in his crown.
If something had happened during the train journey, politicians would have been the first to blame the already overburdened Mumbai police.

On Mumbai for locals
As I have written earlier, every Maharashtrian is not a Shiv sainik. But yes, I am sure every son of the soil – be he/she a Marathi person or a Gujarati or anyone else who was born in Mumbai and is struggling to live and earn here – agrees with some part of their say.
Like many English speaking so called intellectuals would love to say, the Constitution allows every Indian to stay anywhere. Agreed. But it also says not at the cost of the locals.
There is a counter argument that Marathi speaking people should then leave their state to look for jobs elsewhere. Why? Isn’t it because there are too many outsiders coming in and getting jobs here that locals are not getting jobs? Why should one person come into the home of another and force him to leave? The problem arose because too many outsiders come here and are ready to work for a lower pay and live anywhere, alone. They then are able to support their families back home. The local, who does not agree to the low salary is left without a job. Why is it the responsibility of only Mumbai and Maharashtra to support all the jobless from India?
When this issue was brought up and discussed everywhere including the Parliament, all politicians from the north Indian states who were targeted, yelled venomously against Maharashtra at the top of their voices. The chief ministers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh told youth from their states to go to Mumbai for jobs as Mumbai ‘belongs to everyone’. Why didn’t even one of them say, “Come back, I will give you jobs and get even those Maharashtrians who are jobless, with you. I will give jobs to them also.” But that isn’t secular. Mumbai and Maharashtra bashing is.

On forcing outsiders to learn Marathi
In Rome, do as the Romans do. Then why in Mumbai should anyone do as Gandhi tells us?
In West Bengal, in Kerala, in Karnataka, locals insist on talking in their languages. In Karnataka perhaps they condescend to speaking in English, but never in Hindi. Why must Maharashtrians not insist that everyone who lives in their state speak Marathi? Conversational Marathi is all that we seek.
It was Gandhi’s great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who decided to form states on a linguistic basis. Has Gandhi forgotten this?
I had once watched a TV programme on the Gandhis in which Indira Gandhi said that she insisted everyone in the family speak Hindi when they dined together. Isn’t that one of the ways how Sonia Gandhi was forced to learn it?
Another story known thanks to TV, was about the time Sonia Gandhi first came to India to meet her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi, who felt Sonia was uncomfortable in English, spoke to her in French, as she did not know Italian, and French was the closest other language Sonia knew very well. How come the Gandhi family, which is so understanding, fails to understand this about Marathi? This is the same kind of respect that Marathi speaking people want for their language. No one disrespects Hindi. But why are a few being allowed to disrespect Marathi?
It is all very well to scream that the Congress is secular and wants a secular India. Just how secular is the question.