Sunday, August 26, 2012

Memories of Lokmanya

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
The title is, I admit, a little misleading. I am generations away from having any memories of the person, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. But some historical figures hold sway generations after they have physically perished. And Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak definitely is one such figure.

My maternal grandparents lived in Pune. Their modest residence was bang opposite Kesari Wada, home of the legendary newspaper started by Lokmanya Tilak. My grandparents' house was our favourite destination during the summer vacations. My grandmother's brother, B.D. Kher, an accomplished author, had once been the executive editor of  Kesari. So, it was only obvious that Lokmanya Tilak was the first name that I heard among freedom fighters.

When I was in the first grade in school, an elocution competition was held in our school. The topic was Your Favourite Freedom Fighter. Would I have chosen anyone else but Tilak? My father wrote out that speech for me and the sentence, "Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it!" stuck with me.

My father, S.N. Inamdar, is an eminent lawyer. When I was ten, he took me to the Bombay High Court to see the inside of a real courtroom. If you feel that the presence of History is a contradiction in terms you ought to walk inside the gates of the High Court building! Echoing voices in the thick-walled corridors remind you of the echoes of the past. But I was in for yet another fantastic experience. My father took me to the very courtroom where Lokmanya was tried for sedition. In that courtroom now stands a portrait of Tilak with a plaque of his quotation - which was his statement soon after the verdict of his conviction was announced:

"In spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations and it may be the will of Providence that the cause that I represent may prosper more by my suffering than by my remaining free."

Lokmaya Tilak's words, even today, startle me out of my lethargy. Men of wisdom come not just with passion, but their passion is led by their vision. It is a well-known fact that it was Lokmanya Tilak who started the Ganeshotsav (Ganesh Festival) and the Shiva Jayanti Festival to create an atmosphere of National fervour. Not even a visionary like Tilak could have imagined how the people of his own country would puncture his vision and make a mockery out of both these festivities. The Ganeshotsav in Kesari Wada however, remained sober and dignified model of what the Lokmanya had envisioned. Every year Kesari Wada sees the festival with a series of cultural programmes which are extremely rich in content.


As I grew up in a household that was fond of music and literature, I started dabbling in music, albeit on a very amateur level. My grandparents looked at my antics with great affection. If I was ever there in Pune at Ganesh Festival time, my grandmother took me to these cultural programmes in the Kesari Wada.

"It is my dream,"my grandmother used to say, "that you perform in the Kesari Wada Ganeshotsav.." The Kesari Wada Ganeshotsav was among the most reputed festivals in not just Pune, but in entire Maharashtra. I got into music professionally only after my grandmother expired and hence could not fulfill her wish of performing there in her lifetime.

It was this year that I got a call from my brother's good friend Sujay Natu, who asked me if I would be available to perform Kaushal Katta, my new programme, at the Kesari Wada Ganeshotsav. For me, it was an emotional moment. It had taken me 32 years to cross that street from my maternal grandparents' house to the Kesari Wada.

When on 22nd August, 2012 I performed my 5th show of Kaushal Katta in Kesari Wada, it was a moment of great emotional fulfillment for me. I was given the honour to lead the Aarti and offer my prayers to Lord Ganesh. When the programme ended with the Marathi Abhimaangeet, I could sense that all those people who came to meet me came with moist eyes. I could see that in spite of my own eyes being moist. There was something else that I could sense. I could sense the presence of my grandmother. I sensed that she was watching me with a satisfied look in her eyes. The Presence of History may not be such a contradiction after all!

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2012