Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pralhad Narayanrao Deshpande

Pralhad Narayanrao Deshpande, wasn't an ordinary man. At 5 feet 11 inches and very broad shoulders, fair and spotless skin and all of 250 pounds, he towered over others in more than one ways.

He was born in a remote nondescript village called "Mardi" in Yeotmal district of Maharashtra somewhere in early 1900s. During those days keeping a birth certificate was not in fashion and PND couldn't care less for all these certificates. So nobody really knows what year he was born. There are only guesses.

Whenever he was asked his official age, he was nonchalant and simply replied - "How does it matter to you?".

He carried that endearing arrogance of being a "zamindar" even when he visited places like Mumbai or Nagpur. His lion like walk with a stick or an umbrella with a black RSS cap and a white Pathani type kurta with white spotless matching dhoti gave him a very royal yet villagi look.

He was a true son of the soil and even though he was a farmer with tons of land at his disposal, he got interested in Indian freedom struggle at a very early age. He traveled across the country to conduct meetings with his parallel movement. He was a non-Gandhian, though not necessarily anti-Gandhi. Even though he belonged to a village where British Raj had not really affected in any way, he had associated himself to movements removing the Raj from India.

He was a true Swayamsevak to the last ounce of his blood and as his grandson i could not have been prouder of him.

He remained fit and healthy till his last day on the earth. He kept to himself and never preached anything to anyone. For him Hindutava was a matter of faith but he never imposed his views on anyone. As far as i remember he did not even discuss these issues with anyone in the family. He kept family and his personal views separate.

As grand kids we looked upon him as our Grandfather who was just lovable. He did not speak much but when in good mood would joke with us, play cards and even ask us our test marks. He was particularly interested in knowing how we were doing in Maths. He was happy when we scored good marks in school.

His relationships with his own sons and daughters was very typical of the old era. My father and uncle and aunts would usually avoid making an eye contact with him directly. There was a lot of respect and awe for him. They had seen his temper and would generally keep safe distance.

For me Mr. Pralhad Deshpande was simply a grandpa. My grandpa was strong and had a very wrestler like build. I remember i once measured his biceps with a measuring tape and he laughed and allowed me to measure it. I was in such awe of his personality.

As a kid i was very influenced by Amitabh Bachchan movies. And once i asked my Grandpa if he could beat Amitabh on a one on one combat.
I still remember his awesome response - "Amitabh? Who's this Amitabh Bachchan?"

It was body blow for me.I was like "what, you don't know Amitabh Bacchan?" In my mind as a kid, Amitabh Bacchan was KNOWN to everyone and that hit me hard. So i brought a filmi magazine showed my grandpa Mr. Bachchan's photo. PND had a hearty laugh and said - "Arrey ashe chappan anshil tari harvin tyanna?" (Even if you get 56 Amitabh Bachchans like him, i will still beat them)

In hind site i cannot blame him. His claim was not far fetched. He would have easily kicked the tall and lanky Bachchan's ass.
My mom was witness to this hilarious conversation between me and my grandpa and often recounts it.

After India won it's freedom , after many years post 1947 the Government of India suddenly became very benevolent and offered a free apartment to my Grandpa for his contribution to India's freedom struggle.
He went to see the apartment. It was in Bajajnagar area of Nagpur. It was an upcoming and decent area then.

PND had never lived in cramped places. His own house in Mardi, even though not made of modern day bricks and concrete was a huge place by any standards. The front yard was about 3000 sq feet itself not counting all the sheds of domestic animals.
For PND, the concept of an "apartment" was a little alien. He just refused the offer point blank. His statement was something of this order - "My house should be such that , from sky to the ground, i should own it."

Again we can either discount this as pure arrogance or simply irrational thought. But that's the way he was. In Nagpur's lingo he was what we would call a "Shahi" person.
For me this is still hilarious.

For him money, material etc was not important. They were coincidental to humanity. Even a casual dinner at his house would have half the village as guests. No wonder my grandmother always looked pissed. :)

But such was that era. Men were simply men. That's the only way i can put it.

By the time he was in his late 70s he had become sad inside looking at what the country had turned into. He was even sent to jail during the emergency in India. Mrs Gandhi's goons had rounded up all RSS workers and put them in jail. I still have a photo of his after he was released from the jail. His beard is all grown and he looks like a swami. He looks slightly weak. But it still does not make any significant dent on his awesome personality. He is still very healthy in that snap. I look like a small peanut besides him in the photo.

My grandpa died in 1986 in Mumbai. He died of a massive heart attack. In one stroke he was gone. But that was very symbolic of his life. He was never dependent on anyone. Even in his death he was never bed ridden and neither did he require any medical attention. He simply switched himself off from this world without needing any kind of assistance.

When i look back at his death i always feel, that's the only way this royal man could have expired. He never visited a doctor in life. He hardly took any ayurvedic medicine. Even at 70+ his skin was glowing and fair. The only artificial thing he used were his glasses to read. Modern day medicine was an anathema for him.

People in Anushkati nagar,Mumbai where he spent his last days still remember Mr. Pralhad Narayanrao Deshpande. They remember his royal, lion like walk, his broad and straight shoulders, his magnetic personality. Yet they did not know him in many ways.

In fact no one knew him in all the ways. We just had glimpse of parts of his life.

He was never judgmental of anyone, he never questioned any of his kid's decisions - once they were on their own, they were on their own; he never made a fuss of anything. He kept himself aloof from the mundane. He was just a little distressed by the way things had turned out to be in his beloved country. But he never discussed this, we could only feel this.

In the end he got lonely after my grandmother's death in 1985. That's the only time i saw his eyes moist. Within one year he too left us.

I guess he just wanted to make sure my grandma was not alone up there.


paritosh said...

Well written Amrish....Although we all feel the same way about Aajoba, I don't think anyone of us could have put it the way you have. It was a really a nice reading.


Ashutosh said...

I second Dada's comment. Excellent writing Amrish.

The time spent around Aajoba is unforgettable. He left a lasting impression on anyone who came in contact with him, such was his personality.

Ashesh said...

Amrish I have never seen this side of yours,all the time i thought only Didi could translate her feelings through words,
......... honestly i have no words.I did not have the previledge to meet Ajoba but mummy use to many times mention about him with a spark in her eyes revealing his personality.Now I know why !

Dilip said...

Well written. You have potrayed a person with a very strong character who believed in himself, had his priorities & goals well defined & worked towards acheving them in his own style.A person who must have lived a very satisfying life. U r very fortunate to have had such a person as ur grandfather.Its nice to learn that u cherish his memories