Nanaji Deshmukh-A Sage and An Ascetic !!
Around 15 years back at the Ruparel college foyer in Mumbai I was witness to a grand coincidence. It was a programme hosted by Chaturang Yuvak Prathisthan and Pu La Fan club. It was a premium get together of doyens of Marathi Litterature.There was Pu La himself regaling the audience with his explicit humor wrapped in reality bytes and brickbats.Then there were Prof Ram Shewalkar the erudite scholar and all time great exponent of Modern Marathi Poetry. Smt Shanta Shelke who with all her humility presented some of the finest contemporary verse written by her.And in this exclusive gathering of luminaries was the most melodious and the most revered music composer in marathi music which embodies the culture and art of maharashtra.That was shri sudhir Phadke who sang evergreen pieces from his Geet Ramayan.That day the organizers were very fortunate to get a very apt chairperson for such an auspicious gatherings of virtuosos. It was the unique and distinguished Nanaji Deshmukh dressed in Indian couture with white flowing beard .With his radiating countenance emanating the most satvik or purest essence of a sage he guided the audience with his wisdom, commenting on his life experiences and political philosophy.
That day I understood his stature and persona.Nanaji the ascetic has left an indelible mark with his footprints in time which are difficult to erase even if tried by some stubborn musclemen in future. And I say this with conviction when I read about him and his deeds towards the integration of the society in post independence
During our recent visit to Madhya Pardesh we included Chitrakoot in our itinerary .As we drive we pass through secluded forest area where the traffic thins out as you pass over hills thickly populated by trees with large leaves the forest of Panna from Bandhavgarh close to UP border unlike Aarkantak which was close to Chattis Gadh borderIn fact half of the hill where Lord Ram stayed falls in Madhya Pradesh and half in UP. After visiting Khajuraho with its erotic and mind boggling sculpture ,Chitrakoot was a right place of solace. We stayed in the government guest house called Yatri Niwas.This place is right inside the city in the bazaar area ,but it is simple and clean. Every room had frames depicting the events and caricatures in the great epic of Ramayana and I went on a clicking spree trying to document the freehand line drawing that brought out the subtlety of the spirit of the scripture. We went on a holy circumambulation of the holy hillock barefoot a walk of around 2 hours. Then we went to the Hanuman Dhara a climb of around 40 minutes and Seetha Gumpha and Seetas Rasoi or kitchen and then the temple of Devi Anusuya and of holy sage Atri on the bank of the beautiful Mandakini River.
Next day a guide from Nanajis ashram arrived and took us to a very exclusive exhibition of Rama and Ramayana and its influence on far and wide nations in Southeast Asia and Indochina. We realized that Ramayana has played a central role in establishment of civil society in ancient world. The huge paintings by an fine artist Shri Mhaiskar depicting events in the epic made us awestruck. Next he gave us the option of visiting Nanaji at his residence or visit his model school and college designed and constructed on the concept of Shaniniketan and the model Goshala where there is a collection of all types of cows from all over the country and where the visitor can learn their characteristics and agricultural performance in terms of output..There were rural workshops in neatly constructed sheds where perennial and seasonal trades are taught for local population to set up complimentary cottage industry for rural upliftment and self sufficiency. None of these were Hitech ,Polluting or Capital Intensive although very ironically the leftist label the rightist as the agents of Capitalists ..We opted first for his projects as we could see the actual work being done at these places. Education integrated with Agriculture, Veternary Science ,Herbalism and Development. But alas when we finished the tour and went to see him he was indisposed and we could not be given an audience by the great man. Now in retrospect we repent our decision and lament the fact that Nanaji left for his heavenly abode 3 months after we returned from out Madhya Pradesh tour.
Nanaji was born in Hingoli ,Vidarbh in eastern
Post Script : Now that Nanaji has left for his heavenly abode ,I am worried of his establishments.Hopefully the good work will continue and not interfered by “Gunda & Punda” Mafiosi.The Govt of MP should constitute a committee and get aid from centre to continue the Gramin Experiment.