Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gandhi’s Modus Operandi: “I preach, you practice” Part I

Hi, Everyone! Gandhi has spouted his “lofty” principles often and often, but only a cursory glance is sufficient to drive home the fact that rarely did he hold himself accountable to them. I shall only point out a few, but telling, instances.

·        The Vow of Poverty was certainly an ideal Gandhi upheld.
How did he follow it?
He collected thousands of Rupees from his benefactors, encouraged industrialists to keep making a fortune and make donations, lived in palatial homes, traveled first class, ate an expensive special diet, and he even accepted gifts and sold them for money.
This is what his biographer Keer writes in Mahatma Gandhi: Political saint and unarmed Prophet:
Page 464
“Answering the query about his expenses, he [Gandhi] said: ‘I do make the claim that I attempt to act as I preach. But I must confess that I am not as inexpensive in my wants as I would like to be.’ . . .

Yet Gandhi had at his disposal the biggest fund ever collected in the world by a political party, and he spent millions on political propaganda. His was an expensive leadership. Just to humor him, first class railway saloons were sometimes called second class. Just to satisfy his love of simplicity, palaces were called huts. It is no exaggeration to say that Gandhi’s menu and living were undoubtedly expensive.”

Page 489

“He [Gandhi] left Manglore on October 28 and reached Bombay on the morning of October 29 by the S.S. Vegavati. As usual, Gandhi did a little ‘business’ on the launch taking him to the steamer, by selling one of the gifts of the previous evening for Rs. 125.”

But the very worst of all is the fact that he made a profit from his speeches on spirituality in England in 1931 . . . !

“Meanwhile Gandhi attended a journalists’ party, visited India Office and gave a spiritual message for a gramophone company, drawing a profit of £5,000.”[1]

·        Gandhi considered surgery, injections etc. to be against his “staunch” principles of nonviolence.

His wife died in dire straits, but he did not allow the doctor to give her the newly discovered penicillin shot.

And yet there are at least two operations that Gandhi himself underwent: one for hemorrhoids in January 1919, and another for appendicitis in January of 1924. He also took fifteen shots prior to the operations, in the hope that they would give him relief from his ailment.[2]

Eighteen months after the death of his wife, Gandhi developed what Keer calls “malignant malaria.” His blood pressure was high at the time, too. This is how Gandhi’s health at the time is described by the Gandhiserve Manibhavan website:

 Gandhi was released from Aga Khan Palace on 6th May, 1944. During his detention, he had developed hook worm and amoebic infection in addition to malaria. All this led to acute anemia.”

I have been unable to find even one reference in his biographies or the Gandhi websites as to how Gandhi was able to recover from this severe sickness—especially without the aid of modern medicines which he had just a little while before deprived his dying wife of.

I did find online an excerpt from one book, 100 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know by Russ Kirk (pp. 167-169), which claims:

A mere six weeks after Kasturba died, Gandhi was flattened by malaria. He stuck to an all-liquid diet as his doctors tried to convince him to take quinine. But Gandhi completely refused and died of the disease, right? No, actually, after three weeks of deterioration, he took the diabolical drug and quickly recovered. The stuff about trusting God’s will and testing faith only applied when his wife’s life hung in the balance. When he needed a drug to stave off the Grim Reaper, down the hatch it went.”

I haven’t found corroboration—yet. Hopefully, the book itself will give a reference where this information came from.

·        In his Hind Swaraj (reprinted with Gandhi’s full backing over and over for many years) Gandhi advocates that true nonviolence lies in making it easy for a thief to steal one’s home. And yet, what did he do when his ashram was being robbed? Here it is:[3]

“Nor could he [Gandhi] follow his principle in respect of thieving. When thieves attempted to steal things from the Asharam, Gandhi instead of asking, as he did in Hind Swaraj, ‘to keep your things in a manner most accessible to him’ instructed Maganlal to ask someone to sleep in the verandah and send others also to do so.”
More tomorrow . . .

Mahatma Gandhi Facts: Gandhi Revealed

[1] Keer’s biography on Gandhi, page 560
[3] Ibid page 268

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gandhi: A British Mole . . . !

Hi, Everyone! Dhananjay Keer was a very reputable biographer. Indeed, his biography of Gandhi—of some 800 plus pages—was invaluable for my research.

Out of the forest of words therein, out jumped these words given below and smote me a deadly blow between the eyes. The timing of this incident is 1919, after the Noncooperation Day (and the resultant Jallianwala Bagh tragedy) declared by Gandhi.

“He [Gandhi] gave interviews freely to the police at his place, visited their offices to give information about his tours and visits, and discussed with them the behavior of his lieutenants. He told police that ‘Horniman was an advocate of violence’ who believed that a revolution might be justifiable if justifiable ends could be achieved by no other means. He promised the British Police that if Umar Sobani revealed his mind to him he would tell them about it.”[1]

I read this passage once, did a double-take and read it again—and again. I couldn’t believe my eyes![2]

·        The Mahatma of the Indians, the “Father of the Nation” was passing on to the British the confidences made to him by the freedom fighters of India . . . !
·        And that was his conscious, deliberate act.
That is the action of a spy, a mole.
Mahatma Gandhi Facts: Gandhi Revealed

[1] Mahatma Gandhi: Political Saint and Unarmed Prophet, by Dhananjay Keer; Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1973; page 288.
[2] B. G. Horniman, a “dhoti clad, bare-footed” British citizen, has been described as being “more Indian than Indians as a freedom fighter, and his forceful speeches ignited the Bombayites’ to urge for freedom. His main themes were complete freedom and parliamentary democracy for India.”
Umar Sobani was a Muslim Nationalist who joined Gandhi in the Noncooperation Movement of 1920.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gandhi: a “Bapu” (father) or not a “Bapu” . . . ?

Hi, Everyone! To showcase Savarkar in Burning for Freedom as he most certainly deserves to be, I also had to reveal the unsavory truth of Gandhi and his true role in the Freedom Movement of India.

The more I researched, the more shocking it was. The truth about Gandhi was horrifying in the extreme, indeed. The childhood dislike and suspicion which I held him in was a mere instinct; now I had concrete, documented proof to back it. I have put it before the readers of my novel at my emotional best. All through chapter fifteen to the end, I felt I was cutting my heart open and bleeding into the novel. The pain I felt for the Indians, for the Hindus, whose faith and trust in their Mahatma was so grossly abused is impossible to put in words.

Yet there are several truths about Gandhi that I could not write about as the plot did not allow it. But revealed they must certainly be! Not in just my words, but the words of other writers.

You may well ask why I consider it so important to reveal this truth.

Besides the very important fact that revealing the truth of Gandhi is necessary to vindicate Savarkar and bring justice to his name and memory—when the President of United States quotes Gandhi as an ideal, as President Obama did, when the schools in the U.S. teach Gandhism, it is the outside of enough . . . !

The truth must be revealed!

I shall be presenting in a series of upcoming daily blog posts some of the Gandhi episodes that distressed me to the very core of my being. Some of the titles are:

·        Gandhi: A British Mole . . . !

·        Gandhi’s modus operandi: “I preach, you practice”

·        “Non”Violent Gandhi . . . ?

So stay riveted day after day! The first of it is given below:

A ‘Bapu’ or not a ‘Bapu’ . . . ?

“Bapu”—father—is how Gandhi was fondly referred to by all. He also had an honorary title bestowed upon him, “Father of the Nation.”

Joseph Lelyveld, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, has recorded an incident that happened during Gandhi’s Tour of Mercy in Noakhali, 1946, during the horrendous rioting when Hindus were mercilessly raped and slaughtered, their homes gutted, by the Muslims there.

“On reaching a village called Nayanpur in the third week of the walking tour, Gandhi couldn’t find a piece of pumice he used to scrape his feet before soaking them. He’d last used it at a weaver’s hut where he’d stopped to warm his chilled feet. Evidently, Manu had left the stone behind. This was a “major error,” Gandhi said sternly, ordering her to retrace their steps and find it, which meant following a path through thick jungle in an area where assaults on young women were not unknown. When she asked if she could take a couple of volunteers, Gandhi refused. She had to go alone. The weaver’s wife had tossed the stone out, not knowing that the Mahatma counted it as precious. When Manu finally recovered it and returned, Pyarelal tells us, she burst into tears, only to be met by Gandhi’s cackle. To him, her afternoon’s ordeal was part of their mutual “test.”

          “If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously,” he told her, “my heart would have danced with joy. But I would have felt humiliated and unhappy if you had turned back or run away from danger.”[1]

 Perhaps because I have a young teenage daughter, perhaps because I had cried till I had no more tears for the plight of the wretched, duped Hindus of yore (and even today?), or perhaps because it is such an unnecessary, petty, cruel, inconsiderate, and inhuman act which no decent human-being should have done—leave alone a Mahatma—I have chosen this incident to be the first to be presented.

I ask you:

·        In the midst of rape, riot, and ravaging of the devastated Hindus, should the Mahatma have worried over a mere pumice stone? A missing stone, a “major error” . . . !

·        Where women were still being raped, even in the presence of the Mahatma in Noakhali, should Manu have been forced by the Mahatma to venture alone on the lonely, treacherous path?

·        Would any “Bapu” put his daughter through that hell?

·        With what face did the Mahatma—himself travelling (as always), violating his ‘stout’ principles of nonviolence, protected by an Armed Guard and a Sikh Volunteer Corps—dare to say that he would have been “humiliated and unhappy” if Manu had run from danger?

I leave you with that thought . . .

Mahatma Gandhi facts: Gandhi Revealed

[1] Great Soul: Mahatma and His Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld; Alfred A. Knopf, Newyork, 2011; pages 315-316.
The original story is to be found here: “There will be no tears,” Mahatma Gandhi: Last Phase, vol. I, by Pyarelal; pp 321.

I first heard of the pumice stone when Keer made a reference in his biography of Gandhi that Gandhi reached "Patna with the piece of pumice stone with which his feet were daily cleaned."

How very odd! I thought to myself. Why did Keer make such a particular mention such an insignificant object? Months later the mystery was solved when I read "The Great Soul."

Since then I have realized than when researching one must stay alert to this seemingly arbitrary references by authors---they generally indicate that there is something to sniff out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Savarkar: “Let us use our donkey . . .!”

Hi, Everyone! Savarkar had a very practical, rational approach to everything. He didn’t just talk and advice people in the abstract, he always had a concrete, viable workable option.

More from Mr. Joglekar’s “vignettes”:

“Savarkar was an ardent advocate of abolition of untouchability. It was an essential part of his movement for Hindu solidarity. The orthodox section approved of Savarkar's Hindu solidarity movement, but not his campaign against untouchability. The late Mr. Davare, who was one of the leaders of the orthodox section, indicated his dissent about it.

Savarkar argued with him thus: "Our Hindu Sanghatan movement has just begun. We have to face three antagonists - the Congress, the Muslims, and the British. So why begin with differences amongst the Hindu Sanghatanists? First establish the area of agreement. It is quite vast. Let us work with one mind in that area. A lot of good will is achieved. We will go our separate ways when the real differences arise. Why waste our little organized strength in playing up the differences at the present moment?"

Once the late V. G. Deshpande remarked about a certain prominent worker from the state of Uttar Pradesh that he was a government man. To this Savarkar replied: 'We are so few that our number could be counted on fingers. Why drive away people from our fold on mere suspicion? It is no use wailing that the Congress has a horse and we have a donkey. You will achieve nothing by it. We must use our donkey and try to get a horse. But so long as we do not have a horse, we should not foolishly drive away our donkey.'

There are lessons in these instances for a person who wants to be an administrator or an organizer.”


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Magic of Savarkar’s Oratory

Hi, Everyone! This is how Mr. Joglekar describe’s Savarkar’s oratory:

I had heard many of his public speeches and at a time when his eloquence was at its zenith.

I have read the speeches of Cicero, Demosthenes, Fox, Burke, Churchill, Hitler, and others. At some point in the speeches, you feel the eloquence. And yet there is a feeling that something is missing. One feels that they are not instinct with liveliness. There is no rhythm, no stress on words. Printed speeches are like Greek statues. They look beautiful but are cold. The future generations will have this experience while reading Savarkar's speeches.

We were fortunate. We heard some of his finest speeches.

The late Mr. D. V. Gokhale, former assistant editor of Maharashtra Times, wrote an article on Savarkar after his death. He wrote therein, ‘Next day he gave a lecture in Shivaji Akhada. The subject was Hindutva. I do not remember even a word of the historical and social arguments he then advanced. But I was caught in the cataract of his eloquence. It is said that the chariot of Dharmaraja used to run a few inches above the ground. I remember that I felt a little elevated from the ground while listening to Savarkar's first speech. His personality and eloquence cast a permanent spell on me.’

Gokhale's opinion, to a large extent, is a representative one.”


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Savarkar: The Orator

Hi, Everyone! From his childhood, Savarkar had paid great attention to honing his talents. They were his invaluable resources for achieving his goal—freedom for his beloved motherland. He studied the art of oratory, until he had polished his natural talent for it to excellence.

Chitragupta has this say about Savarkar’s oratory:

"Savarkar Speaks

And now rose Savarkar—he was always careful to have the “last word” which never failed of effect—and the difference, not in rhetoric but in lucidity of expression and sincerity of feeling, was marked from the beginning. Although Savarkar’s speech used to be marked by a certain indifference to grammatical precision, he had a magic way of riveting the attention of his audience and holding every one spell bound for the whole time he spoke. His words proceeded from a deep feeling and conviction and penetrated to the depth of the listener’s heart. His appeals were never made in vain; they went straight to the heart. As I review the past to day, I feel bound to acknowledge that the quality which secured his speeches a place unmistakably superior to that claimed for studied rhetoric and polished oratory, was deep “Sincerity of feeling.”

Nor is it an exaggeration to say Savarkar is one of the few really effective speakers I have known and heard, and there is hardly an orator of the first rank either here or in England whom I have not had the privilege of hearing— excepting Mr. Eardily Norton, of whom I have heard so much that I should be almost reluctant to avail myself of the opportunity of hearing him speak lest I should be disappointed. So it was a walk over for Savarkar and poor Riza had lost his chance.”



Monday, September 24, 2012

Savarkar: The Leader

Hi, Everyone! Author Chitragupta has written a biography of Savarkar’s London days, Life of Barrister Savarkar. His words are very valuable in giving us an insight into Savarkar’s personality. He says:

“For the first time I heard of Savarkar in the most casual way from Riza just before I left for England in 1909. But I had no idea of who and what he was. On arriving at the India House, Highgate, London, I, my old friend Saiyad Haidar Riza who distinguished himself as a powerful platform speaker in the year 1907 and 1908, and another friend (all the three of us having traveled together), were ushered into the dining room, where several cheerful faces greeted us. Saiyad Haidar Riza carried a reputation with him, especially as he had been granted a scholarship by old Pandit Shyamji Krishnavarma (which, however, he like others, resigned within a short time of his arrival there), and therefore it was natural to expect that Savarkar, who was the “boss of the house,” would personally welcome Saiyad Haidar Riza.

I meet Savarkar

I took another gentleman, who looked rather prominent, and who has since then become sufficiently distinguished in his own to be Governor of the House, but he hastened to inform us that Mr. Savarkar would soon be down. Presently the door of the dining room was thrown open and there entered a short but rather agile figure, bearing a clean shaven and smiling face, a pair of keen and, I thought, fascinating eyes behind a gold pince-nez secured by a real gold chain attached to the left ear, hair parted on one side so as to make a neat bracket with curls on a moderately open forehead. The moment he opened his lips there emanated from them a sort of juvenile musical voice, which was inclined to be shrill but not unpleasantly so. There was a softness in his appearance and a something in his voice, which bordered on the feminine—to be something out of the ordinary one must possess something of opposite sex, for is not genius sexless?

This was Savarkar, fragile as an anaemic girl, restless as a mountain torrent, and keen as the edge of a Toledo-blade.

There was no hesitation, no stopping to think, about him. All opinions and actions came from him in an easy flow, and bore the stamp of unshakeable self-confidence. He seldom opened lips except to convince or at least silence the listener. As I think of it now, I wonder how so young a person—for he could not have been much beyond two or three and twenty in 1909—commanded the will of almost everyone who came into contact with him. I knew he was accused by some of his intellectual friends as a born leader, a man cut out for the part. He typified in himself the rivals as a “tyrant,” but Vinayak was a spirit of Shivaji and, I believe, consciously imitated Giuseppe Mazzini in his general behavior.

Savarkar’s manner

He used to be an ardent admirer and a very careful student of Mazzini’s life teaching and owned much of his politics, inspiration to that Italian patriot and thinker. But apart from what he had consciously acquired or unconsciously assimilated he seemed to possess no few distinctive marks of character, such as an amazing presence of mind, indomitable courage, unconquerable confidence in his capability to achieve great things, and a subtle genius for mastering complete details and devising astonishing means to reconcile conflicting interest.

A born captain, he loved and clove to his lieutenants and those who could fit into his scheme of things, but he brooked no rivals and somehow managed to leave every claimant to the first position in the cold, in a manner that you failed to notice any maneuver about it. He struck me as an incomparable strategist; whose maneuvers were sure and certain, and so cleverly marked that the practiced eye failed to detect the process, and yet the results were there, and you admitted his nimble skill.”

With this account one can see the Savarkar who turned around the Indian Freedom Struggle situation completely. In his short four years in London, he had stirred patriotic fervor in very many Indian students. He had posed a grave danger to the stability of the British Empire.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

David Garnett’s plan for Savarkar’s escape.

Hi, Everyone! Here in David Garnett’s words one can read how Savarkar’s situation was at the time, in 1910. The British really bent the law to slap the extradition order on Savarkar. They dug up speeches that he had given in 1906 and declared they were seditious.

There are two peculiar points regarding this.

·        There are government letters written in 1906 that clearly state that this very same speech was not a threat to the British empire.

·        The law that allowed the British to stretch reality to the extent of charging this speech as seditious was not passed until 1908 . . . !

David Garnett understood this injustice to Savarkar and was determined to help without worrying about the consequences to himself.

“After telling him I would do my best to find him a temporary home, I went to Bow Street, where I understood Savarkar was up before the Magistrate. I did not see Savarkar, but found myself being given a searching questioning by Inspector Parker of Scotland Yard. I realized immediately that it would not do to try to be clever. My best line was the truth. But in my answers I exaggerated my ingenuousness. I explained I was a science student who had met Indians in my classes, had visited India House and become acquainted with Savarkar. Seeing he was in trouble I had come along to see if I could help in any way. When and where could I see him?

Parker’s attempts at grilling me broke down before my truthfulness. Finally he told me that as Savarkar was only a remand prisoner I could see him any morning at Brixton Gaol. When I left Bow Street I felt convinced that Parker had classified me as a young fool of no importance----and he was quite right in doing so. I was only eighteen and certainly looked innocent.

Next morning I went to Brixton Gaol. The prison lies at the end of a long cul-de-sac. There was a big door for vehicles with a smaller door in it for men. The visitor to the prison rang a bell and a warder unlocked and opened the smaller door, and the visitor stepped in. The warder immediately locked the door, took his particulars, and walked across to unlock an inner door of steel bars, and the visitor found himself in the prison proper. It was obvious that the warder’s chief duty was to see that the outer and inner doors were never unlocked at the same moment, since there were frequently prisoners passing inside. There was sufficient space between the two doors for a lorry or a Black Maria to stand while they were both shut.

I took in all this at a glance; the strength and weakness of this mediaeval system were instantly apparent to me, and I thought over the weakness of the system as I waited with others in a room. The weakness was the time-lag before the warders in the prison could render help to the forces of law and order outside the gate. Presently we were shepherded along a passage divided into a series of open compartments with arrow-mesh steel wire separating the visitor from the distraught prisoner he had come to see.

The vehement jabber of these distracted creatures, who seemed to be trying to combine whispering with talking at the tops of their voices, was horrible. Presently I came to the compartment where I was to see Savarkar. It was empty. 1 examined the steel mesh netting. A moment or two later he strolled in and was very much surprised to see me. He was perfectly calm and at his ease. I discussed his defense and offered to collect money for it, and to do anything I could to help him. All he wanted at the moment were some clean collars: the size of his neck was only 131/2!—the size of a schoolboy.

From the point of view of the government his arrest was peculiar and required careful handling. They had evidence of his connection with the murder of Mr. Jackson at Nasik, but were not prepared to charge him with it. For the murder occurred while Savarkar was in London and he ought, therefore, to be tried in London. If he were tried in England on, let us say, an incitement-to-murder charge, he would, if convicted, get a sentence of two or three years. If he were tried in India, it would be another matter. The authorities were therefore trying to extradite him to India, but to do so they had to dig up, or manufacture, evidence of crimes committed while he was in India, carefully avoiding reference to the crimes he might have committed in London. This took some time, and while the case was being prepared, Savarkar had to be brought up at Bow Street week after week and remanded, bail being refused.

Eventually, the Indian authorities dug up some speeches that Savarkar had delivered in India several years before, and for which they had had ample opportunity to prosecute him at the time. They then applied for his extradition on that evidence only. The evidence was thin, for the speeches had been delivered at a time when the political atmosphere in India was completely different. The speeches, which had not been thought worth prosecuting him for at the time, had become seditious as the ferment of unrest increased in India.

I wrote a short letter on the subject, which was printed in the Daily News under the heading past offences. Meanwhile, I went practically every week to Brixton Gaol to see Savarkar, taking with me clean collars and handkerchiefs and I collected a few pounds for his legal defense.

Finally, the time came for me to leave Letchworth and I returned to London, sending my luggage by train and walking all the way as far as Finchley, starting about nine o’clock in the morning and getting home to Hampstead about six o’clock in the evening. I had meant to walk the whole way, but my heel chafed and the temptation of the electric tram was too great.

Next morning I went down to Brixton and learned from Savarkar that the documents from India were on the way and that it would only be two or three weeks, at most, before the case came up for trial. There was not the slightest doubt how it would go. I hesitated, waited until the warder walking up and down the corridor was out of earshot and said: “Why not try and escape? I have an idea how it might possibly be managed.”

Savarkar said he had been thinking of it, but had decided he would have more chances of success on the way back to India, but if I had a plan he would be glad if I would work it out. When I had done so, the necessary money would be forthcoming from C.C., with whom I could discuss it freely. I asked Savarkar a number of questions about prison routine and then went down to the Cearne that afternoon to think things out.

Savarkar was taken every week to Bow Street for the formalities of a remand, always in a taxi and not a Black Maria. He was accompanied by one, or sometimes two, detectives. His going up for a weekly remand had become a routine matter and he was taken from the prison at the same time, within two or three minutes.

The essence of my plan was that he was to be rescued at the prison gates, or within a few yards of them. A watcher would note when the taxi which was to take him to Bow Street drove up. A car would then drive up to the prison with supposed visitors, who would overpower the detectives, and Savarkar would jump in the car, which would drive off with him. The essential feature of the rescue was that the rescuers should not avoid arrest, or to escape themselves. They would have to deal with the two detectives, and the taxi-man, but there would not be time for help to arrive from the prison, owing to the routine of the two gates.

At first I thought I should have to find both the rescuers and cars, but I came to the conclusion that it was impossible for me to do so.”

David Garnett even traveled to Paris to make arrangements for Savarkar’s escape, but it all fell through. His father, too, found out what he was up to and hurriedly put a stop to what was certainly David’s treachery to his own country.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Savarkar, a hero for a British schoolboy, David Garnett . . . !

Hi, Everyone! David Garnett was a British schoolboy who had the opportunity to meet Savarkar.

The extent to which he held Savarkar in respect is evident in the fact that he was ready to commit what can most certainly be considered treason in a British boy . . . !

He was of significant help to Savarkar in London. It was David Garnett who had published Madan Lal Dhingra’s statement for Savarkar. The British police were taken aback at this, for they had gone to considerable pains to squash this telling statement. David Garnett  had even tried to arrange for Savarkar’s escape from the Brixton prison.

Had David Garnet been successful in freeing Savarakar—to annihilate whom the British had bent the laws of England and contrived new ones in India, so desperate were they to get him—one shudders to think what dire punishment he would have had to endure!

Here is what he says of Savarkar in his own words:   

“At my entrance there was some surprise. Nanu came forward and welcomed me and stopped a young man, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and introduced me to him. He was small, slight in build, with very broad cheekbones, a delicate aquiline nose, a sensitive, refined mouth and an extremely pale skin, which was almost as pale as ivory on the forehead and cheekbones but darker in the hollows.

Soon after my arrival we trooped into the dining-room and Savarkar, after addressing the company in Hindi, stood up and began to read aloud. As I could not understand what he was saying, I looked about the room without paying much attention to him. The sight of those brown men, some sitting round a long table, others leaning against the walls, all listening intently to the staccato voice of the speaker, was very strange to me. When I was with Dutt or Mitter I could forget they were Hindus and I was an Englishman, but at this meeting I felt alone. My race and colour did indeed create a gulf between me and these brown men. But the consciousness of this gulf did not dismay me. On the contrary, I rejoiced in the sense of freedom which it gave me. In this company I could be myself and say whatever came into my lead. There was no question of my feeling shy and, at that age, I was always feeling shy, now I was delivered from that burden, simply because I did not know these people’s standards. Whatever I did, or was, would be strange to them. I felt exhilarated. I had embarked on an adventure of my own finding; there was nobody to guide me; nobody to feel ashamed of me. It was a new departure. . . .

Then I looked at Savarkar and thought that his was the most sensitive face in the room and yet the most powerful. I watched how he spat out his words, with almost convulsive movements. And, from looking at him, I became aware that he was actually reading aloud in English, not in Hindustani. His accent, his mispronunciations, the strange rhythm of his staccato delivery had deceived me. What a wool-gathering fool I was! But it was a relief to make the discovery for myself. I listened then attentively and made out that he was reading about a battle in which an Indian general called Tatia Tope had been defeated by English troops and Sikhs.

Savarkar was, although I did not know it, reading aloud a chapter from his extremely propagandist history; the Indian Mutiny called The Indian War of Independence of l857 by An Indian Nationalist, which was secretly printed a few months later. When he had finished his chapter, the greater part of the audience went into an adjoining room and someone put a record of Indian music on the gramophone. . . .

After India house was closed by the police, Savarkar went to live over a small and extremely dirty Indian restaurant in Red Lion Passage, where Dutt, who had quarreled with Mr. Pal, joined him. I arranged with the proprietor, a large old Jew called Jacobs, to have lunch there five days a week for four shillings a week, paid in advance, and forfeited if I did not turn up.

As a result I saw a certain amount of Savarkar and was more than ever struck by his extraordinary personal magnetism. There was an intensity of faith in the man and a curious single-minded recklessness which were deeply attractive to me. The filthy place in which he was living brought out both his refinement and also his lack of human sympathy, both characteristic of the high-caste Brahmin. The windows of the room which Dutt and Savarkar shared as a sitting-room, looked across the narrow, filthy alley of Red Lion Passage---one of the dirtiest slums in London. In the room opposite lived an appalling slattern with four young children. Often she was screaming, frequently drunk, sometimes one could see her through the open window, lying insensible upon the floor.

Dutt often spoke of her and her children with horror and pity. But Savarkar was indifferent to her existence and indeed oblivious to his environment. He was wrapped in visions. What was his vision then? I cannot say, but I believe it was that India was a volcano, which had erupted violently during the Mutiny and which could be made to erupt again, and that every act of terrorism and violence would beget further violence and terrorism, until Indians regained their manliness and their mother country her freedom. All the sufferings involved were but a fitting sacrifice to her.

Eventually Savarkar was persuaded to leave England and go to Paris, as another assassination, in which his younger brother was compromised, had taken place in his native city, Nasik.”

More of David Garnett’s reminiscence tomorrow.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Savarkar, a hero of the schoolboys

Hi, Everyone! Savarkar’s personality, his words, his books, his speeches, all had stirred Indians, young and old, into patriotic fervor. Today, I have an anecdote of Mr. P. L. Gokhale who as a young school boy had traveled from his hometown Baroda to Ahmedabad in 1937, just to get a look at Savarkar.

Meeting Savarkar was never an easy job for anyone! His hectic schedule and his insistence upon visitors making advance appointments practically guaranteed that. Upon descending casually upon him, many a visitor, important though he may be, had found himself returning home with neither a whiff nor sniff of Savarkar.
Generally speaking, grabbing an opportunity to meet Savarkar at conferences and meetings was a great idea. Gokhale and his friends did just that for their first meeting.

The Hindu Mahasabha Convention was being held in Ahmedabad in 1937. Savarkar, now free from British bondage, was to attend it. Upon hearing that, Gokhale and his three-four friends were tremendously excited. They had heard many stories of Savarkar from Gokhale’s father, who had been a member of Savarkar’s Abhinav Bharat Society in the bygone days in Nasik. The boys had also devoured a couple of Savarkar’s banned books, My Transportation for life and Mazzini. They found Savarkar inspiring. He was their hero. They had to meet him, and Ahmedabad was not so very far from Baroda. They managed to wangle an invitation to the convention. And now here they were in Ahmedabad, right outside the bungalow Savarkar was staying in.

Gokhale and his friends crouched against the wall, peeping over it. In the room beyond the yard they saw a small-framed man, a little bent over, engrossed in straightening out the folds of his dhoti with both hands. His light skin glowed, the golden frame of his glasses shone. Is this Savarkar . . . ? they all thought.

“Arre, Gokhale, that does look like Savarkar!”

“Yes, it does. If only he will lift his head . . . .” Gokhale snapped his fingers. “I know! Let us hop over the wall and take a closer look.”

There was a brief babble of “Do we dare?” and “Oh, yes, let’s!” Then the boys hopped over the wall and tiptoed toward the veranda door through which they could see the man.

Suddenly the man looked up, fingers still straightening the fold. Oh, yes, this was indeed Savarkar! The boys gazed speechlessly at their hero, tremendously happy and excited to see him in person. With all the stories Gokhale’s father had regaled them with, they felt they knew him well.

“Tatyarao! We schoolboys have come all the way from Baroda expressly to meet you!” cried Gokhale.

A slight frown marred Savarkar’s brow and a faint irritation flashed across his face—a typical telltale sign of his dislike of being accosted without appointment. Seeing that, the boys subsided nervously.

Then Savarkar smiled. Training his penetrating eyes at Gokhale he asked, “What, boys, haven’t you come to attend the convention?” Without waiting for an answer he added, “Come, tell me about yourselves, your names, the classes you are studying in.”

When all the questions were asked and answered, Savarkar asked Gokhale again, “Are you Gokhale from Baroda?”

“Tatyarao, my father works in Baroda now, but before we lived in Nasik and Pune.”

Immediately Savarkar exclaimed, “Arre, I knew it! You must be the son of a Gokhale from our Abhinav Bharat Society. You look very much like like him.”

Gokhale’s face flushed with pleasure. Oh, Tatyaro still, inspite of all the hardships he had gone through, remembered his father well enough to recognize him! Oh, he was a great man, indeed!

But,” Savarkar was continuing, “He was such a well-built man, so very dedicated to exercise. You are just skin and bones. Hmm, don’t you exercise regularly? You must, it is very important.”

Gokhale didn’t know whether to stand tall and proud at being addressed so familiarly by Savarkar, or to cringe in embarrassment at having the slightness of his frame brought under such scrutiny!

This was Gokhale’s first meeting with Savarkar. He went on to become a close and trusted member of Savarkar’s entourage. He has written a book recording his many, many memories of Savarkar.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Schoolboy's reminiscence of Savarkar

Hi, Everyone! Every so often I shall be posting little anecdotes of Savarkar written by people who knew him. These give fascinating side-lights of Savarkar’s character.

Mr. Jaywant D. Joglekar is a well-known writer in Maharashtra, India. He has written about the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and the First Indian War of Independence, 1857, among other things. He has also written a biography of Savarkar, and it was upon reading this very biography that Savarkar was first revealed to me.

At the end of his book Veer Savarkar: Father of Hindu Nationalism, Mr. Joglekar has given lots of little what he calls “vignettes.” The one below records his first meeting with Savarkar. I loved to read about young teenage boys being so impressed and moved by Savarkar that they would play hooky from school when punished!

I first saw Savarkar at close quarters in Baroda in 1938. He had come to preside over the conference of the Marathi Literary Society. He was staying at the Baroda State Guest House which was located on the west side of the Baroda railway station, while the High School was on its east side. The distance between these two was about a quarter mile. Our teacher had asked four or five of us to leave the class for mischief-making. At the entrance to the school, there was a huge tamarind tree. We were sitting under its shadow when one of us said, "Let us go to see Savarkar."

I had heard some stories about Savarkar from my elders. But the most important thing was that I had read his book 'My Transportation'. The Bombay Government had banned this book. However, in Baroda, then a native state, the book was available in the Central Library. To read it was a thrilling experience. So when the idea of going to see such a great man was broached, we, at once, made a beeline to the State Guest House and were there in about ten minutes. There was a bearer in the waiting room. He went and told Savarkar that some boys had come to meet him. A few minutes later, he came into the waiting room. In my mind's eye I still see the picture of Savarkar as I saw him that day.

He was small in stature and was wearing a white shirt and a fine white dhoti. His skin was very fair. He was wearing a pair of golden rim spectacles and had a penetrating look. His forehead was broad and his brows were a bit knitted and a smile was playing on his lips - such was Savarkar's personality and he was standing before us. For a few seconds, he smiled and then asked us, "What brings you here boys?"

All were tongue-tied. No one could think what to say. Finally I summoned courage and said, "We want your sahi - signature."

"You mean swakshari." (Pure Marathi equivalent for the word signature) he said.

"No. I want a message and sahi", I replied.

He then said, "Yes, that is swakshari."

Having said this, he wrote in our notebooks: "Write in new script - V. D. Savarkar."

Savarkar was a stickler for the use of pure Indian languages without words borrowed from elsewhere. When no such words existed, he coined them. So many of the words he coined are now an integral part of the Marathi language. But not many know the history behind it.