Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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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.


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