I consider myself as very lucky to be a guest of an elderly woman, who used to prepare excellent sea food in perfect ethnic cuisine, despite being a strict vegetarian all her life. That was when I was studying in St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, way back in the earlier part of 1960's and I used to visit the house quite often whenever I wanted to relish fish, as I was living in a vegetarian boys' hostel and this loving, affectionate lady happened to be a close relative though marriage of my elder sister.
There is an interesting story behind this old woman, who passed away back in the latter part of 60's.
Being the wife of of a highly motivated Freedom Struggle, this woman was imprisoned some 3 or 4 times during India's fight for freedom, along with her girl child of just 3 years while her husband was imprisoned many times.
Late Dr. Ganesh Pai was a personal physician of Mahatma Gandhi, and naturally became freedom fighter himself. After the split between the Mahatma and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose with Jaya Prakash Narayan, on the principles to be followed in freedom struggle, Dr. Pai along with many leaders moved over to JP-Bose faction. Dr. Pai being a highly principled man, his influence on general public and the then British police was immense.
On one dark night the head of the local police knocked the doors of Dr. Pai. Since he was in JP-Bose camp, he was involved in a number of disruptive activities such as cutting telephone lines and railway tracks and hence was under constant vigil by the British Government. That night, to Dr. Pai's utter surprise, the police officer informed the doctor that there was an arrest warrant against him and if he did not go underground, he was going to arrest him the first thing in the morning! The officer had come along with two trucks to transport the Doctor's household goods and to shift him along with his family in the night itself to Hubli, where the doctor's cousin lived. The doctor was a resident of Siddapur. Can you see the calibre and depth of goodwill and clout the freedom fighter had created in the locality? A police officer wantonly helping him to jump arrest risking his own job and perhaps arrest too? The motivation to fight for freedom was such and the influence of leaders like Jaya Prakash Narayan and Subhash Chandra Bose was so great.
The unfortunate doctor did not live to enjoy freedom. His motivation to fight for freedom was so powerful that he totally neglected threats to his life both by the British and nature. As a result of street demonstration, picketing and underground movements in relentless monsoon rains despite knowing it too well as a practicing doctor, of the consequences of continuously getting drenched, his motivation to fight the British, made him fall victim to Pneumonia, a dreaded disease for which medicine (Penicillin, the first antibiotic) was not yet discovered then. Pneumonia was practically a death sentence in those days. The woman I mentioned earlier, was the widow of this freedom fighter, left to mend herself in free India with young children, eldest daughter just married, son ten years of age and another daughter seven years.
This woman started life afresh in free India after the death of her husband followed by Independence to the country. Unskilled and uneducated, but well principled like her late husband, this woman fought life valiantly in a very dignified way without stretching her palms for help. But the late doctor's goodwill was so great, now with the veneer of martyrdom, added with her own nature of selfless love and affection, members of family and friends thronged to help her. Except her son in law and a nephew, she smoothly rejected help from all others with a smiling face. All she wanted and craved for was educating her son and daughter. Dr. T. M.A. Pai, an elite social man and a Gandhian came forward to bear all educational expenses of the son offering a medical seat in the institute he was heading. But no!, this gritty woman flatly rejected free monetary help. The son did graduation, joined job and did a couple of Indian and German Metallurgical Engineering courses, part time, along with his job. He, now retired, went on to become an authority on Iron Furnace.
One fine day the woman received a Govt. order granting her 10 acres of land for free in recognition of the martyrdom of her husband in freedom struggle. The land located on riverside, was virgin and fertile, not far away from Puttur town. A close relative of the woman approached her and told her that the timber alone in the lands would fetch a few lakhs. Just imagine the value of that kind of money in those early days of 1950's! But this great woman simply told everybody who advised and urged her to accept the Government grant, that her husband did not fight for freedom in anticipation of a reward! Nobody could convince the lady to take the land and live happily. She said it, to accept the reward was to blatantly insult the ideals of her husband. Each and every relative and well wisher tried vainly to convince the lady to accept the Govt. offer. Can you imagine the ethical standards of this lady? The high emotional levels of our freedom fighters?
Now, contrast this great soul with the incumbent president of the ruling party today - a party of Mahatma Gandhi, enjoying all the credit of bringing independence to India . She is sitting in the chair of a party which once occupied by great motivators of freedom struggle like Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Moulana Abul Kalam 'Azad' and Dr. Annie Besant. A woman of Italian origin, after marrying the Indian political heir prince and staying with him here in this country not even caring to become a citizen of this country for long fourteen years, becoming the president by default after the assassination of her husband, through sheer sycophancy and the sycophants likening her to that great lady Annie Besant, who despite being a British woman motivated Indians to fight for freedom. This woman became the President of the Congress Party for a third tenure continuously against all conventions and the sycophants in reply to public criticism are shouting hoarse that she will be elected president of the party a thousand times!
There is an abject need for a powerful motivation like the ones our freedom fighters had, to re-establish the values and root out sycophancy and corruption in this country and bring back the illustrious glory of the past. Perhaps we need a second Mahatma Gandhi or a lady of the stature of Annie Besant, or a steel man like Subhash Chandra Bose or Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, he who knows how hard it is to invoke and motivate the sleeping Indian conscience. Will this stupid dream of mine come true in my lifetime?
"Being my mother, she never told me to do this or not to do that. That is the greatest tribute I can give to the lady..." - Jiddu Krishnamurti on Dr. Annie Besant, who picked him from wilderness and groomed him to become world (spiritual) leader. See her sense of freedom.