Hi, Everyone! As a tribute to Babarao (Ganesh) Savarkar (June 13, 1879 – March 16, 1945) on his birth anniversary, I am posting an excerpt on him—one of the scenes I utterly enjoyed writing—from my novel on Savarkar Burning for Freedom:
“We work with him on the freedom plan and make sure the rights of the Hindus are not sacrificed, then.” Babarao checked his watch. “Oh well, let us wait and see! The older kids must be home from school now. I am going to take them all, even little Chapala, to the beach. Baby Nima is only a few weeks old—it will give Vahini a break.”
The little troop headed for the beach. Just as they were about to turn into the beach lane, they heard shouts: “Babarao! Babarao!”
They stopped, surprised. Two figures were coming toward them practically at a run.
“Mohite! Namaskar,” said Babarao.
“Ah … Babarao … ah … namaskar!”
Mohite, of a plump figure, was somewhat out of breath with the short sprint. “We just missed you at the house. My friend here, Kambli, wanted to speak to you.”
“Well, let us get to the beach first, shall we? The children can play as we talk.”
At the beach, Babarao warned the children to stay close and away from the water. The currents didn’t make it safe to go in.
“Babarao,” said Ashok, “we will build Shivaji’s fort!”
Babarao beamed. “That’s my boy! Go for it.”
The older boys scavenged for some coconut shells to dig with. Prabhat watched over the little ones; no easy job, what with the twinkle-toed Harsh and the ‘I love to eat sand’ Chapala! Babarao settled down on a rock outcropping as the kids began the serious work of building a fort.
“Now, Kambli, what is it you want to talk about?”
Kambli was obviously a Congress member—wearing khadi and sporting the oval cap popularly known as the ‘Gandhi topi,’ a Congress member uniform.
“Well, Babarao … well …,” he said, smoothing his clipped mustache nervously. Unlike Tatyarao, who was soft-spoken and in control, Babarao was known to be excitable. His grip on the stick looked a little ominous—not, of course, that there was ever a time when he had used it on anyone. But he wouldn’t like today to be the first time! How stern Babarao looked; those sharp, deep-set eyes and thick eyebrows—quite ferocious!
Babarao banged his stick in the sand. “Kambli! We don’t have all day! Get on with it!”
Kambli came to with a start. “Babarao … I don’t think it behooves you to call the Mahatma a traitor.”
Babarao’s eyebrows snapped together; a wave of anger rushed to his head. He strove to master it. It wasn’t the first time anyone had said this to him, and it won’t be the last! Kambli stepped back two paces.
“I don’t say it without proof, Kambli! You have read Karandikar’s articles on the Gandhi-Muslim conspiracy?”
“Yes, yes I have.”
“Oh, you are a doubter then, are you?”
Babarao jumped up, groped in his jacket pocket, and whipped out a piece of paper. “Here, read this. I keep it in my pocket just for people like you. You will at least believe the evidence of your eyes, won’t you?”
“We-e-ell,” Kambli opened his mouth to argue.
Babarao rustled the paper impatiently. Prudently, Kambli took it. That paper was a cutout of an article written by Swami Shraddhananda, a religious Hindu leader. In the months before he was murdered, he had written a spate of articles exposing the shenanigans of Congress. One of the articles was particularly noteworthy. The Swami had met Maulana Mohammad Ali, leader of the Khilafat Movement, Gandhi’s bosom buddy. Mohammad Ali mentioned to him a plan they had been hatching to get King Amanullah of Afghanistan to invade India and overthrow the British. That the Muslim hordes from the north should subjugate Hindustan would be the very worst fate. The Swami was horrified, but there was more. As proof, Mohammad Ali showed him a draft of the telegram that had been sent to the King. To the Swami’s horror, he recognized the writing to be the distinctive writing of Gandhi …!
Mahatma of the Indians secretly betraying India to the age-old enemy, Afghanistan …! The Mahatma, who swore against secrecy, publicly reviled the revolutionaries for their secret operations, himself plotting and scheming, not for the freedom of his country, but to deliver her into more monstrous hands than the British …!
Swami Shraddhananda saw fit to publicize this atrocity in an article.
“Ye-e-s,” Kambli was saying, still looking at the paper, “indeed, I have to believe my eyes”—he looked up straight into Babarao’s eyes—“even so, you are unwise to say such things about the Mahatma. He is the uncrowned King of India. Are you not afraid of being entrapped and thrown into jail, of being sent to the gallows?”
Babarao laughed sarcastically. “I have been down that road with the British—and without fear. All the might of the British didn’t divert me from my cause, from truth and justice—you think fear of the Mahatma will do the trick? Ha!”
This squashed Kambli; he and Mohite took their leave. Babarao took a deep breath to calm himself. The kids were getting a bit tired too.
“Who wants to hear the stories of our great kings?”
“Me!” cried everyone.
Little Chapala climbed on to his lap. His pristine clothes were all sandy now, but he didn’t mind. They spent a pleasant hour. The kids listened raptly. Babarao always had wonderful stories and never tired of recounting them. Stern taskmaster he undoubtedly was; everything had to be just so! But when it came to kids his heart was mush.
* * *
Read the first chapter here
Author, Burning for Freedom, a novel on Savarkar
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