“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.
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.
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