Lokmanya

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Kesari Wada – Hidden Gems In Pune

Published October 17, 2017 by vishalvkale

I was on my way to a business meeting, when I chanced upon something that looked a lot like it as related historically to someone I hold very dear to me heart – Lokmanya Tilak; so, on a lark and with an attitude of “wont hurt to see what this is”, I walked in. It was rather late, around 7-ish, so the place was closed – but there was enough present in terms of indication and signboards to tell me that I had indeed hit on a hidden gem, a vintage place of historical significance in my hunt for the origins of the Indian Independence Struggle, documented regularly on my blog for the past several years. 


The next day, I walked in on the next leg of my pilgrimage – a visit to Kesari. As I have noted before, there was a complete absence of people there, which was immensely saddening and tragic to my eyes & heart, which was sold to the Independence Struggle and the people who achieved the impossible. To be fair, the people present there did state that there were visitors to came – but on my visit, the silence was total, and the presence of visitors a grand total of zero. This is near-par for the course, and what I have seen in my previous experiences, with limited or zero attendance at some other places.


  
To be doubly fair – these are out-of-the-way places, and are out of the public consciousness. Though I am an ardent admirer of The Mahatma, I frankly admit that there is a dire need to highlight the other leaders who gave their all in the quest for independence. This isn’t just about The Mahatma; we place emphasis on Panditji, The Sardar, Bhagat Singh, Netaji – these are all key players. Each played a major role, and each deserves our undying gratitude for their sacrifices. But there were many, many others, some vital – like The Lokmanya, and some unknown, like Vasudeo Balwant Phadke. Why we cant have organized tours of these places, well marketed & backed up – and highlighted properly in public? Why should we not have proper systematic importance in visibility given to these vital places as well?


The Lokmanya was by no means a small figure; he stands as one of the most important figures of our Independence Movement; that is why, the zero attendance in the Kesari Museum was stunning. I will of course visit again – it is too mesmerizing a place to visit but once. I noted the same lackadaisical presence in The Aga Khan Palace – another landmark in our struggle, and another places that merits multiple visits. This was the same scenario in Wardha, also documented on my blog. Each of these are exceedingly well preserved, maintained – yet were near empty to empty on my visits.


Why should we not visit these places? I know, gathering from heated, not-so-heated, calm as well as reasoned discussions on social media, our organized media articles as well as my personal interactions with people that the entities in whose honour these memorials are made and preserved have a following and a sense of gratitude among us.  It isn’t as though we have forgotten. Why should we not have it in our hearts to, at the very least, spend some time at their memorials, if for no other reason – then just to bow our heads, have a tear in our eyes, and say thank you? Is that too much to expect?


Speaking of myself, I was immensely saddened and disheartened by the emptiness of the place; the caretaking managers assurance that people do visit was small solace. Having seen the emptiness in other vital places before, I was not assured. To my readers – rest assured, if I do find people visiting – I will also document that faithfully. As for now, basis my previous experiences, I am slightly disheartened. Even at the Army Memorial the attendance wasn’t upto the mark, though visitors were present. Again – next time if I find the situation better – I will certainly document it.


I know for sure only one thing – as I wandered around in that museum, I felt I was in a temple, almost: this was the place where The Lokmanya sat, discussed in nightlong discussions with eminent leaders of that time; launched his newspapers, planned for Indian Independence, and more. You can find more details about it here. As for me – I felt blessed; I felt “dhanya” – like I was lucky, and chosen to be here in that moment, in that holy place. My heart was heavy, yet proud… it was a moment I shall carry to the funeral pyre with me; it was one of the most special moments of my life… 



Independence : Why The Shameful Controversy?

Published October 22, 2015 by vishalvkale

Today is Dussehra : The day we commemorate the victory of good over bad, of good over evil; in keeping with the spirit of this Holy Day, let me revisit that period when we Indians won over the Evil Raj; our own modern Victory of Good over Evil. Let me try once again to deal with the rising anti-Gandhi diatribe on social media, and place before my readers a record of why The Mahatma has primacy over most others; at the same time, let me acknowledge that it is not my contention that The Mahatma is the only reason, as will be evident from my article below.
It  is sad to see such questions; this is more a reflection of the abysmal state of history education in our schools than a comment on the people at large. While But this is one question that requires a proper, informed and relatively unbiased answer, based not on internet  articles or opinion, but on solid verifiable historical evidence taken from standard and pedigreed books. This article  is basis some 28+ books on Indian History that I have studied as a hobby, some of which  have not been reviewed – like Sengupta’s Bengal Divided, as they are on my t0-review list; some will not see a review, for the reasons of content being religious in nature; and some others, like Jinnah, or India’s Struggle for Independence or The Discovery of India are frankly hard to review properly, so vast is their scope.
THE BACKDROP :
Read this post : The Massacres of 1857…
This is what I call The Genocide of Indians in 1857 – 59 : This took place in 2 waves – and was planned at the topmost levels of the British Hierarchy. Village after village were targeted in a cold-blooded manner, and emptied of its citizens through murder – planned, brutal and cold-blooded murder. This was not an impassioned outrage {albeit fanned by vested interests}, nor was it done as a result of a conquerers victory in war.
What makes it mind-numbingly shocking and stunning is the simple fact that this was planned, and perpetrated as a vicious punishment, as a war strategy to take the war to civilian non-combatants with an intention of defeating the enemy – against a people who were fighting for independence, in their own country – and it was done by a people who had no business being here in the first place
For a fuller understanding, I recommend a full reading of the entire history from 1757 right till the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, a saga of unremitting bloodshed on a scale that stands as one of the most brutal in World History. This bloodshed is exceedingly well documented in a series of authentic books replete with period evidence
Why is this important? Because it helps us in understanding the world as it existed in the days of The Mahatma, the days when his views were being formed, as well the views of other Indians. It is easy to comment in hindsight; the most vital thing is to ask – what decisions and steps were doable in the environment as it then existed?
What fears, forces and realities were to confronted? For this reason, one has no option but to understand the world as it then existed. One cannot and should not comment in light of the modern world; the world of the 1800s and early 1900s was a very different place

It is in this light we need to examine two divergent but unimportant and yet rising tendencies : firstly, the concept of India; and secondly, the role of the more strident freedom fighters, like The Lokmanya, or Amar Shaheed. My reference to these legends by title rather than by name is proof of the high regard I have for them; but the rising tendency to downplay The Mahatma and push up the role of the others is sad, to say the least.


THE PATH TO TAKE
Fact of the matter is that Freedom required all players; and the aggressive methods of these players were an important and integral part of the Freedom Struggle; the fact is also plain and clear that independence was virtually impossible by their violent methods. Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream. Not everyone is moved by the same message; and that is why every method adopted has it own importance.
But we need to meet this rising tide of support for violent measures, and ask ourselves was independence possible by their methods? Was it possible to mount a large enough uprising to uproot the British? Was it possible for everyone to take such a decision? The answer to all of these is an unequivocal no. The reasons are underlined hereon :
First, 1857 was a fresh memory in the late 1890s and the first half of the 1900s. 1857 was never a mutiny, as period evidence and records prove beyond a shade of doubt; it was a massive popular armed uprising. And it was crushed with complete and remorseless brutality, with a genocide that is in all probability unmatched in World History. The details are enough to make you cry, so horrifying was the brutality. These would be in public memory. 1919 was also too recent, when even a mistaken hint of an uprising on a local scale led to wanton murder in Jallianwallah Bagh, wherein a peaceful gathering was butchered. Chances are that armed uprisings were certain to be crushed.
And do not forget that Indians were also helping the Raj; and that is a fact! Study detailed history.
This was to be proven in 1942 yet again, when Quit India was crushed in hours, and even before it started. Read this : Was The Quit India Movement A Failure?. There was an all-India underground leadership – Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia. Biju Patnaik, RP Goenka, JP Narayan etc. There was a vast and coordinated attack cycle by the people. The movement got support from a vast variety of people; it was a national uprising. Students, teachers, labourers, business people, villagers, government officials, policemen, ladies – all took part in it.  And it failed. Reason? First, it did not account for British Brutality; and Second – Treason. Documented fact. Indians were helping The Raj. Rather than blame The Mahatma, I choose to look in a mirror; not with pride, but with abject shame.
Thus, there was no alternative to the path adopted by The Mahatma.
As I observed earlier, Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream.. And for that, all India should be grateful to these – The Lokmanya and Amar Shaheed. But my point is different; why these alone? The full list of people who were murdered by the British in their quest to quell the rising tide of freedom is massive. Why do we moan over just these two or three names, why do we moan over just The Mahatma and The Sardar? Read this post : Do We Really Care? 
“”
Well done, India.  This is how you value your freedom fighters, Keep it up. You cannot even spare a few minutes to visit such monuments {I have written another such memoir about a monument in Juhu Beach, Mumbai about a police officer}, even when you pass by it. How long does it take to stroll through such a building? These are the people who gave their lives, and their freedom so that we can have ours. And they lie forgotten.
Take a look at these photographs, at least… spare that much time for your saviours, people who gave their all for you!
{View snaps on the blog}
“”
On one side, we pine for The Lokmanya, and Amar Shaheed, and The Sardar and more- and on the other, our monuments to them lie unvisited, in a shambles, forgotten and buried. {I tried to hunt for the residence of The Lokmanya in Pune on a visit, but couldnt find it. Took me a while to do so! Me, I would much rather pay homage at such holy sites as above than go to the beach or the mall of whatever – or argue on relative importance of each sacrifice} We dont even walk in when it would take us less than 2 minutes – like in Mahal, Nagpur – I saw this with my own eyes, not just there, but in many other places.
How would the names you value, whichever side of the debate you are on -The Mahatma, or The Lokmanya / The Sardar – feel if they could see such callousness? How would they feel if they could see us like this? You can logically say that visiting a monument is no stamp of approval; and you would be right. But does that mean that such monuments be forgotten? That local heroes and names be ignored? That such monuments which give a peek into history never be visited, especially since we can devote hours on other pointless pursuits?  I for one, believe that our forefathers and freedom fighters wouldn’t care whether or not we visited their monuments and places, and would rather we be good honest citizens, but that is another story…


CONCLUSION
This was what the Indian Freedom Struggle created; a feat that remains unparalleled in World History. No one has till date crafted a political union from a cultural union encompassing so many different sub-cultures, and so many divergent viewpoints. Bringing them together is a feat not matched in the History Of Planet Earth: high time we Indians learnt to accept the enormity of what our forefathers have achieved. Every single international commenter predicted that Pakistan would stay but India, with its divisions, would collapse. We have proved all of them wrong… a matter of considerable pride! And for that, The Mahatma was the driving force { The Concept Of India} ; although Independence required everyone from Lal Bal Pal to Gokhale, From Lokmanya to The Sardar, and from the unnamed to the Amar Shaheed. Everyone is to be thanked;
And it is for us to feel the shame of treason that Indians consistently have done during the Raj. Rather than argue on the relative contributions of each Freedom Fighter, I would rather look back with shame at how Indians cooperated willingly with The Raj, I would rather thank each freedom fighter, and not get embroiled in needless controversy; I would rather visit the haloed and holy shrines made in their names than wonder just what percent contribution is made by whom. A sacrifice is a sacrifice, and I would much rather pay homage to the sacrifices of all our Freedom Fighters… they gave their today for my today. Thank you, all of you…

Movie Review : Lokmanya Ek Yugpurush

Published August 13, 2015 by vishalvkale


There are two ways to tell the story of an important individual : you can tell his lifestory chronologically, picking and focusing on important events to take the story forward smoothly; or you can do what Om Raut and Kaustubh Savarkar have pulled off in the one-of-a-kind “Lokmanya Ek Yugpurush”, treading new ground, and making a movie that belongs right up there in one of the hardest hitting, and yet deeply engrossing & entertaining movies to emerge out of India, a movie that strikes boldly out on its own into uncharted territory, giving a strong message and invoking deep thoughts in the bargain…

Lokmanya – Ek Yugpurush is not the story of Lokmanya Tilak; it is the story of his ideology, his thoughts, and his love his country. It is the story of a thought process, ek vichaardhaaraa; it is far beyond the story of just one mortal man. And, in doing so, it has left a deep impression on the viewer, and created a powerful medium for an impact on the human mind. It is the story of deep belief in ones’ culture and heritage; it is the story of pride and joy in just being Indian; it is the story of the rise & journey of one man from the ordinary Balwant Gangadhar Tilak… to the title of “Lokmanya”, by which all of Modern India remembers him till this day…

Where the narrative scores is the relative new method adopted : that of interleaving two stories, one the story of Lokmanya, and the other the modern day story of a young journalist. The journalist’s angle has been skillfully woven in & interleaved with the main theme, and focuses on what is wrong in Modern Indians, implying that we as a people have forgotten about the lessons of the independence struggle and the past. The twin themes in the modern story are the increasing penchant of Indians wanting to leave India and settle abroad, and the agrarian situation of farmer suicides.

The hardest hit is when the scenes of Lokmanya and his patriotism, his ideology come just after the modern scenes, leaving open the question : have we forgotten their sacrifices, and are we taking things for granted, are we creating the India they dreamt of? On one side, you have the freedom fighters who gave their all, as shown in the sacrifices of Lokmanya; and on the other, you have the modern educated Indian wanting to leave India or not focusing on real development of the rural majority among other things;  the same India they shed blood, sweat and tears for. On the one side, you have Lokmanya using education as a means of uplifting society and people,  leading to overall improvement in the people; and on the other, you have the modern Indian, chucking India for the West, or busy in his own self.
Subodh Bhave has delivered a stunner, an awesome performance, dominating the entire scene and movie with his stellar portrayal of Lokmanya. It had to be good to do justice to the individual : he was portraying a man who virtually every Indian can identify with, a man who is known just by one title : Lokmanya – throughout the length and breadth of India; a man known as the founder freedom fighter, the man called as the leader of the Independence struggle that eventually led to freedom. And Subodh has lived upto the role, the individual; so powerful is his portrayal, so brilliant, that it will be a long time before you forget this one.

Image result for subodh bhave
Image result for lokmanya ek yugpurush

Most important events of his life have been covered; that said – the focus is on the telling of his ideology, and juxtaposing Modern India and its manifest flaws vis-à-vis what Lokmanya represented. The film has many powerful secondary messages, like the one told through the child marriage issue. Lokmanya was opposed to any law on raising marriage age; and was insisting that true reform can only happen from within a society & religion through contact, discourse, discussion and education. You cannot legislate on these matters – especially if you do not understand the underlying social factors and precepts and the repercussions of intervention on the people.

Sadly, the movie also exposes brutally and bluntly the reality, the sad spectacle of Indian betraying Indian; a sorry story of how Indians cooperated willingly, fully and completely with the Raj; this is also evident in another Marathi Classic : Vasudev Balwant Phadke {the story of a revolutionary who attacked the British Raj, and was sold to them by treachery of Indians, with Ajinkya Deo also giving a blinder of a performance in the title role}. This exposes the social fractures and problem areas, as well as the penchant of treachery and placing oneself over the nation



The songs are classic,  both in the music and the lyrics, including one song based on the verses from Geeta : Karmanye Vaadhikaaraste Maaphaleshu Kadaachana, unique blend of a musical rendition of the verse interspersed with the commentary or interpretation, a deeply moving, educational and engrossing experience, an effort which is the stuff of legend. Add to that the class He Jeevan Aaple Saarth Karaa Re, and you have an ensemble of songs that are a collectors’ edition, moving, and powerful. Fully in keeping with the theme of the movie as well as doing justice to the memory of Lokmanya, as per me.  





All in all, this is a movie that is a hard-hitting, brutally blunt and yet entertaining movie that belongs right up there among the best movies ever made in any language in India; an effort of sheer class that is simultaneously educational as well as thought-provoking. Some comparisons the movie makes in the Modern settings may be an exaggeration, or even objectionable as it seems to equate the British with the corrupt modern people; but the inference and the implied message – that we might just be drifting far away from the ideals of our freedom fighters is an assumption well-founded in the current reality.

This is best summed up in the inference drawn by the Modern hero-heroine of the movie, that the stories of our freedom fighters as well as their ideology, their dreams and their passion needs to be translated and communicated in  the modern Indian; that there is a strong and felt need for telling, educating and convincing the people of Modern India and provoking their thoughts, kindling the same ideas within them and letting them understand what people like Lokmanya stood for, and how their ideas hold contemporary lessons for us. This is best told through the movement of one person from admiring the people moving to the USA – and moving her to an active contributor in making Modern India a better place, and striving to create a better India, rather than leave. Rated 5 stars; in closing, let me just place the stunning lyrics of the song He Jeevan Aaple Saarth Karaa Re : {S: Geetmanjusha.com – http://geetmanjusha.com/lyrics/12350-ya-jeevan-aaple-sarth-kara-re-या-जीवन-आपले-सार्थ-करा-रे} feel them! 


या जीवन आपले सार्थ करा रे 
राष्ट्रभक्ती निःस्वार्थ करा रे 
एकजुटीने कार्य करा या देशाचे 
या साथी बना अन सार्थ करा रे, मातृभूमी ही आज पुकारे 
जागृत होऊन कंकण बांधू दिवसरात्र जगण्याचे
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे 


भीती न आम्हा ह्या वज्र मुठींनी कातळ भेदू 
सीमा न कुठली हुंकार असा गगनाला छेदू 
ठाम निश्चय हा दुर्दम्य आमुची इच्छाशक्ती
हृदय पोलादी ना सोडी कधी राष्ट्रभक्ती
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे 


जन्म हा माझा होई सार्थ साचा, मुक्त माता होता 
हे एकची माझे ध्येय आता राष्ट्र असे घडवावे
हे भारतभू तुजसाठी आता जीवन अर्पावे


ज्योत ज्ञानाची स्फुल्लिंग मनाचे पेटून उठले 
स्वाभिमानाचे हे कुंड मनाचे मग धगधगले 
शृंखला तोडी हे दास्य आता ना साही कोणा
देश हा अमुचा स्वातंत्र्याचा अमुचा बाणा
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे