Saturday, May 28, 2022

P L Deshpande in Andaman Cell

(Shri PL Deshpande was in Andaman Island on 20th May 1983, to celebrate 100th birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar)

By Prem Vaidya

Shree Prem Vidya worked for the Films Division of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of Government of India from 1954 to 1985. He rose from being a Cameraman to the position of Producer/Director. His greatest contribution was production of the documentary on Veer Savarkar, released in 1983. While shooting for the documentary on Savarkar on the Andaman Island he heard a speech by well-known Maratha, Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, popularly called P.L. Deshpande was a man of many talents; actor, writer, orator, film director and musician. He acutely observed peculiarities of human behaviour. He was awarded the title Padma Bhushana by Government of India. In 1974 he was elected President of Marathi Sahitya Sammelan and also President of Marathi

Natya Sammelan in the same year. Deshpande and his talented wife Sau Sunita donated hundreds of thousands of rupees to charities without seeking any publicity.

In 1983, on the occasion of the birth centenary of Savarkar, Pu La Deshpande visited the Cellular Jail in the Andamans. He gave an eloquent speech on Savarkar. The following is an English translation of Prem Vaidya’s narration of the episode -

P L Deshpande in Andaman Cell

A true story of the last century.

In life, one always experiences the extreme difficulties in pursuing a good cause. However, when faced with darkness from all sides, one also experiences some wonderful unforgettable moments.

In November 1977, I was asked to prepare an outline for a documentary film on Veer Savarkar. Unfortunately the work never got started. Then came Mrs Gandhi back in power in January 1980 and surprisingly on 15 August 1982, I was asked to start producing a documentary on Savarkar at the earliest. I covered the part of Savarkar’s life in Bhagur, Nasik, Pune, Ratnagiri, Shirgao in Maharashtra. I started shooting on the Andaman Islands some 2,000 miles away from Mumbai on 25 February 1983. On 26th, Shree Harshe, a retired prison officer who has settled on the islands said to me, “Today is the anniversary of death of Savarkar. By sheer coincidence, a famous Marathi writer Purushottam Laxman Deshpande is here on the islands. I have invited him to address the members of Maratha Mandal, Andaman. Marathas serving in the Indian Navy and stationed on the island will also be present. I therefore suggest that you suspend your shooting today.” It was a rare occasion indeed. I gladly suspended my shooting. In the evening P.L was welcomed by Marathas.

Savarkar was brought to the prison here 72 years earlier. P.L was taken along the same route. P L climbed the three storeys and after walking along a long and narrow corridor came to the cell where Savarkar was once kept. He went inside and in a choking voice said, “Our Tatya (pet name given to Savarkar by his family) was kept here?” He could not say another world. P.L always used to make people laugh. This was the unusual face of P.L that we were seeing. We never saw him so sombre before.

The cell barely measured 13 by 7 foot. With greatest respect, P L put a garland on the picture of Savarkar hung on the wall. For a moment or two, there was dead silence. Then someone said with great emotion, “Vande Mataram …. Bharat Mata Ki jai …..Long live Veer Savarkar. “

P L walked down to the ground level. This was the place where prisoners were once flogged during the British Raj. P.L then gave the most thrilling speech in memory of Veer Savarkar. He said –

“Friends, I consider today as a day of great fortune. I do not believe in re-birth, so I cannot say that I must have done something good in my previous birth as a result of which I have been given this opportunity. I say that I have done something somewhere in this life and as a result, I have this opportunity today.”

“We have just garlanded Savarkar’s picture. We always refer to that room as “A cell in Andaman”. But when a radiant person like Savarkar is kept there it becomes like a sacrosanct part of a temple. Before we take our meals we say Tejaswinaa vadhee tamastu. We say those words without realising their meaning. But if we have to search for a person in modern Indian History, who in his body, mind and soul was illustrious, we have to point out to Veer Savarkar. His life teaches us that we should utilise every second of our life to remain ever glowing. He was an enemy of darkness, whether that was in the form of ignorance, blind faith or slavery imposed by a foreign rule, he always fought against it.

Have faith in Science

A man has to struggle against three forces namely, Man and Nature, Man and another man, Man and himself. These battles are constantly going on. Maratha Saint Tukaram says,” We have to fight day and night.” In any war, you must believe that you are going to win. Any one, who thinks he would lose, would never win. Savarkar had emphasised time and again, “At least die fighting.” He said, ”fight wherever you see ignorance.” We need to show great respect for him for preaching faith in Science to resolve our problems. He asked us to be Science-oriented. He spent all his life for that. No other leader has preached that we should follow Science as Savarkar has done. Unfortunately we do not even read what he had preached. If I were to ask you, how many of you have read

the writings of Savarkar, I am sure very few would raise hands. The more we read his thoughts in depth, the more we realise what prophesies he had made. On what basis was he saying, “ A day will come when people will erect statues of us here?” He knew that once you start a fight with determination nothing can stop you. We have to follow Science in today’s times. There is no alternative to this or else we would become simpletons.

Be fearless

We say that 26 February is a day of Savarkar’s atmarparna (Self-immolation)* but that is in the words of mortals. His every day was a day of self-immolation.

Savarkar was a tremendous force in this cellular jail in Andaman. We feel terrified even when we just visit his cell. Can you imagine what he must have felt at the thought of spending 50 years in this place and that too in the company of those vicious scoundrels who would not hesitate to kill for a penny? And yet, he believed that one day the shackles would be broken up and be removed. He

once told his fellow political prisoners “A day will come when our statues will be erected on this ground.” What a self-confidence!! He was convinced that he would cause changes to take place. Hindu Dharma tells us that we are the sons of nectar (Amrutasya Putrah); we are here not just to die one day but live with dignity. Savarkar knew that God never favours the weak. He always denounced feebleness.


* Note - There is no equivalent word for atmarpana in English.

In 1966, at the age of 83, Savarkar decided that his life’s mission was accomplished and decided to say good-bye to the world. He fasted for 20 days and left this world on 26 February 1966. You have probably read what punishments he suffered in Andaman, from his book My Transportation for Life. However I am certain that, in this book, he has not described even 10 % of what he actually suffered, because he did not want pity or sympathy from us, neither did he want people to react and merely say, “My God, what horrors Savarkar suffered.” He wanted youngsters to react and say, “I too am prepared to suffer like Savarkar for our nation.” In his old days he did not meet many people. It is my conviction that he did not want anyone to see him as a tired old man with little energy. Just as a lion would not like to be seen weak in his old days but would prefer the spectre of being seen as a roaring animal in jungle. Similarly, Savarkar did not see many people in his old age. And it was because of this that he fearlessly met his death by atmarpana (self-immolation).

Savarkar always despised the weak, feeble, incapacitated, and those devoid of backbone. This is apparent in his writings, dramas, and speeches. He always told us, “You are descended from the divine (tejasya putraha).” At the same time, he did not want arrogance. Like Lincoln he too would have said, “As I shall not be a slave, so I shall not be a master.” In his book My Transportation for Life we find that he had a vision of a nation state encompassing ALL human race. (And yet today many Indian leftists brand him as a stooge of the British) How could he have tolerated the British Empire? All his life he fought against all forms of exploitations.

Excellent orator

Shree Harshe has requested me that I should tell you some of my personal Reminiscences of Savarkar. To tell you the truth I never dared go near him. He was like the Sun. We see Sun only from a distance for we fear that if we go any nearer we will be burnt. I met Savarkar through his books. I heard him speak on the occasion of his 75th birthday. What a thrilling experience it was. I heard his speeches as a young boy. They were like flow of the river Ganga.

Great linguist

Savarkar has made our language rich. Today we use many words once coined by him. But we know very little how he had to fight for introducing their use and how he was ridiculed by scholars of those days. Ah, those words were created by a sage and not by a Government Department. For ‘Reporter’ he suggested ‘Vartahar’, one who carries away the news. Today we say Mahapaur and not

Mayor. Same goes for Sampadak (Editor) and the titles of others in the newspaper industry. In the Film industry, the words we use freely were all gifted by Savarkar. But at the time he suggested those words he was laughed at and ridiculed.

If you feel that youngsters should be able to speak fluent Marathi, then make them read Savarkar’s essays loudly every day. They will become great Scholars of language as well as of thoughts.

True Rationalist

I give just one example of his Rationalism. In his will, he had stated that his body should be cremated in an electrical furnace, meaning that a dead body has no further function of any kind. But many a so-called Secularists insisted that his ashes should be immersed in the waters of Ganga, Yamuna or some such river. Savarkar also had stated that after his death no prayers should be said for his soul. Today we just can’t imagine how much people were angry with him when he propagated that the Cow is just a useful animal and nothing more.

Legacy of Savarkar

Persons like Savarkar never die, nor ever say Goodbye. They are eternal. Even one line or one word of from them gives us inspiration. In one of his poems Savarkar said – Kshana to Kshanat Gela. Sakhihatacha sutonee.

“Moment was lost within a moment. My friend, it was gone for ever.” What a wonderful idea! For this one line, he should have been given the Noble prize. He has become eternal because of his creations as this. We only have to see if out of his own light of wisdom, a ray from his light can produce a spark in our mind. When we offered flowers in his cell in memory of him we experienced something unique, we were emotionally moved. If we retain that sensation, it would make us a bit more fearless if circumstances demand. Our Bharatiya culture asks us to become fearless. Why did Savarkar suffer such hardships in this place? It was for our better future. Today we have come here as free men and women, which was made possible because of the hardships suffered by Savarkar and others. We revere him and want to participate in his Punya. If a man dies we merely observe his death anniversary and perform Shraaddha. But death anniversaries of persons like Savarkar are called Punyathithi, which are a day of remembrance as well as an auspicious day. That is the difference between the two. On the days of Punyathithis we are lucky that we share some

Punya of such great persons. We have inherited Freedom and Fearlessness from Savarkar.

One of the most inspiring poems for freedom was composed by Savarkar. Jayostute Shree Mahanmangale Shivapsade Shubhade …. What a wonderful poem! Let me tell you the thrilling experience I recently had. During his internment in Ratnagiri (1924 to 1937) Savarkar worked hard for the emancipation of the untouchables. He organised get together of people of all castes, social functions in which untouchables would be admitted, the famous Patit Pavan Mandir which was the first temple open to all Hindus including the untouchables. Savarkar wanted them to give up caste differences among themselves; and get educated. Recently I went to a village Mhaisal near Sangli. My friend Mr Madhukar-rao Deval runs a co-operative project for the Dalits. These people used to be so poor that their women had only one set of clothes and therefore were ashamed to come out of houses. But today, the circumstances have changed. They came out in expensive clothes. I was told that they were going to sing a song. From my recent experiences I naturally assumed that it must be a film song. It would be harsh to start with and these women would sing even more harshly and make me miserable. But surprise! Surprise!! They sang Savarkar’s famous song Jayostute shree Mahanmangale Shivapsade Shubhade …

I was thrilled. I thought to myself, “It is not I who should be listening to this, it should have been Savarkar being present here to listen to this song. He would have then appreciated what seeds he sowed and where it had borne fruit. He should have experienced at least one moment of this singing.” The seeds sown by him have been so deep rooted. Persons like him can never die by any vicious attacks, or neglect or propaganda against them. They are self-made. They live like the great Banyan trees providing comforts to others in their hour of need.

There is a difference between ordinary drinking water and holy water dispensed by a priest in a temple. There is difference between normal tap water which we use for bathing and the water of holy river Ganga. A place where we merely wash our bodies is called a bathroom. But a place where water cleanses mind as well as body is called a Tirtha. Our holy river Ganga does both; therefore it has become a Tirtha. Today, we have gathered at such a Tirtha. Andaman has become a place of pilgrimage.

Really, so much has happened here in this place that every Indian should come here and bow to the memory of our freedom fighters like Savarkar. We need to think how his thoughts could be spread in all the Indian languages. I have expressed this wish to Balarao Savarkar who was Veer Savarkar’s personal secretary for 14 years. He has devoted all his life for this mission. I am sure we all will support him in his endeavour.

Observe a day of remembrance

Once again I bow to the memory of our freedom fighters, who were imprisoned here. To remind our people every year, there should be a day of celebrations, right here in the Cellular Jail on national level. And it should be presided by the highest authority of the country.

Notes –

* Balarao Savarkar died in Mumbai in November 1997. P L Deshpande died in Pune in June 2000.

* On 3 May 2003 Entire Works of Savarkar in Hindi was published in 10 volumes by Prabhat Prakashan of New Delhi, under the auspices of Indian Prime Minister A B Vajpayee.

Original article by Prem Vaidya published in Tumhi Ahmi Apan Saglech a Marathi bi-monthly of the period 21 February to 6 March 2000, edited by Avinash Dharmadhikari of Pune.

Translated by Dr V S Godbole in November/ December 2004

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

पुलंनी श्रीकांत मोघे यांच्यावर केलेली कविता

वाऱ्यावरची वरात यात काम करणाऱ्या सगळ्या परिवाराला २५ डिसेंबर १९७० ला भाईकाकांनी (पुलं) त्यांच्या सांताक्रूझ येथील ‘मुक्तांगण’ घरात भोजनाचे आमंत्रण दिले. कारण जानेवारी १९७१ मध्ये भाईकाका पुण्याला प्रस्थान हलवणार होते. जेवायला वाढेपर्यंत सगळ्यांच्या गप्पा रंगल्या होत्या. त्याच वेळी भाईकाकांनी वरातीमधील अठरा कलावंतांवर लिहिलेल्या विनोदी कविता सगळ्यांना वाचून दाखवल्या. डॉ. भाईकाकांनी (श्रद्धानंद ठाकूर) त्या रेकॉर्ड केल्या होत्या. त्या पैकी श्रीकांत मोघे यांच्यावर केलेली कविता....

'वाऱ्यावरची वरात' मधील श्रीकांत मोघेंचे ‘दिल देके देखो’ हे गाणे आणि नृत्य दोन्ही गाजले.  त्यावेळी त्यांचे लग्न व्हायचे होते आणि वधूच्या शोधात होते.
हाच तो श्रीकांत मोघे, सतत पहिल्या ओळीत बघे
पहिल्या ओळीत तिसरी खुर्ची, तिच्यात होती लवंग मिर्ची
अटकर बांधा चिकना फेस, भुरुभुरु उडत होते केस
नाटक संपता श्रीकांत मोघे, भरभर मेकप पुसून निघे
गर्दी म्हणते तो बघ तो बघ, श्रीकांत मोघे धावला लगबग
दिसली पुनरपि गुप्त जाहली, मनात त्याच्या ओळ उमटली
गर्दीमध्ये दिसली पोर, ढगातून चंद्राची कोर
युगायुगांचा चातक मोघे, पुनः धावला वेगेवेगे
काय जाहले कुणास न कळे, चटकन भिडले दोन्ही डोळे
आणि उमटला मुखात अय्या, माशाल्ला क्या कहने भैय्या
श्रीकांतही मग अंतर कापित, ठेवणीतले हसू दाबित
जवळ पोहोचला दोन हातांवर, गळ्यातला सावरीत मफलर
माफ करा हं मिस्टर मोघे, अभिनय पाहून आम्ही दोघे
खूश जहालो, फारच सुंदर; आपण म्हणजे दाहावे वंडर
जरा बावरून जाती मोघे, शब्द ऐकता आम्ही दोघे
कोण दुजा हा हलकट साला, श्रीकांत मनी म्हणता झाला
देते तुमची ओळख करूनी, दुःखावरती एक डागणी
बरं का हे प्रिय डॅडी माझे, मेघ्यांच्या मनी सतार वाजे
वावा, वावा मिस्टर मोघे; तुमच्या पुढे फिक्के अवघे
तुमचा घ्यावा टिपून पत्ता; कुठली पेठ, कुठला रस्ता
ही माझी कन्या जयमाला, नुकताच हिचा विवाह ठरला
अवश्य यावे कुटुंब घेऊन, आत्ता देतो तुम्हां निमंत्रण
वर आणखी बसला बुक्का, वहिनींनाही आणा बरं का
प्रपंच झाला होती लेकरे, वाऱ्यावर का उडति पाखरे
फुलांतुनी जर होणे अश्रू, नित्य कशाला करणे स्मश्रू
रोज कशाला तयार होणे, भेटणार जर केवळ मोने
‘श्रीं’ची काही उणीव नसता, कांता नच का मिळे श्रीकांता.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

रेल्वे स्टेशन आणि फलाट -- वंगचित्रे

पुल वयाच्या ५०व्या वर्षी बंगली भाषा शिकण्यासाठी पश्चिम बंगालला पोचले शांतिनिकेतनमध्ये राहून त्यांनी या मधाळ भाषेचे धडे गिरवले. त्याचदरम्यान आलेले अनुभव, तेथील आनंदाचा ठेवा त्यांनी वंग-चित्रे मधून शब्दबद्ध केला आहे. हे केवळ प्रवासवर्णन नसून, तेथे त्यांना घडलेल्या 'आमार सोनार बांगला'चे दर्शन यात घडते. खास पुलं टचमुळे वंग प्रांताची ही शब्दसैर रंजक, प्रसन्न झाली आहे. ह्या पुस्तकातील हा छोटासा भाग. पुस्तक बाजारात उपलब्ध आहे.

...आणि आम्ही बंगालच्या दिशेने निघालो. अलाहाबादमार्गे बरद्वानला जाणारी गाडीधरायची होती. रिझर्वेशन वगैरे सर्व काही यथासांग होते, तरीही आजवरच्या शिरस्त्याला धरून गाडी सुटायच्या दीड तास आधी येऊन बोरीबंदरला पोहोचलो. फलाटावर त्यावेळी फक्त काही हमाल, पोर्टर, मी, माझी पत्नी आणि आमच्याचबरोबर आलेले आमचे दोन तीन स्नेही यांखेरीज कोणी नव्हते. गाडी फलाटाला लागत होती. त्याअर्थी ड्रायव्हर आला असावा. काही वेळाने स्टेशन आळोखे पिळोखे देऊन उठू लागले. हळूहळू जागे होणारे थिएटर, रेल्वे स्टेशन किंवा मोठे शहर वगैरे पाहायला फार मजा येते. रेल्वे फलाटाचे तर, एरवी गरीब गाईसारख्या दिसणार्‍या बाया अंगात देवीबिवीचा संचार होऊन घुमू लागल्यावर जशा हांहां म्हणता थयथयाट करतात तसे असते. अजगरासारखे शांतपणाने आडवे पडलेले फलाट गाडी सुटायचा मुहूर्त अतिसमीप आला की घुमायला लागतात. निळ्या कपड्यांतले पोर्टर, लाल डगलेवाले हमाल, खाकी कपड्यांतले रेल्वे कर्मचारी, सफेद कपड्यांतले एस्‌.एम्‌., ए.एस्‌.एम्‌. असा हा भगतगण ह्या टोकापासून त्या टोकापर्यंत चकरा मारायला लागतो. डब्याच्या टपावर चढून पाणी भरायला सुरुवात होते. 

डब्यातले पंखे, बत्त्या ह्यांची डागडुजी सुरू होते. प्रवासी मंडळी आणि हमाल यांचा लपंडाव, मग हमालीच्या पैशावरून हुतूतू, असे खेळ सुरू होतात. ऐटबाज पॅसेंजर गावठी पाशिंजराकडे तुच्छतेने पाहू लागतात. आईबापांची बोटे सोडून वांड कारटी आइस्क्रीम-चॉकलेटवाल्यांच्या ढकलगाड्यांमागे धावू लागतात. रिझर्वेशनची यादी बाळगणार्‍या कंडक्टरचा पाठलाग सुरू असतो... गाडी सुटायच्या वेळेला तर ही लय इतकी बेहद्द वाढते की, सुनेच्या जाचाला वैतागून सासूने बोचके बांधून पाय आपटीत घर सोडून काशीयात्रेला जावे तशी ती आगगाडी शिट्ट्यांचा आक्रोश करीत फलाट सोडून धुसफुस धुस्‌ूफुस्‌ करीत निघते. आपल्या देशाची संस्कृती, देशबांधवांचा स्वभाव वगैरे काय दर्जाचा आहे याचे खरे दर्शन भारतीय रेल्वेच्या फलाटावर होते. भारतीय नेत्यांप्रमाणे फलाटावरच्या अनुयायांचा स्थायीभावदेखील “भांबावून हैराण होणे' हाच आहे. जो बघावा तो हैराण. कुणी हमाल हरवला म्हणून, कुणी तिकीट हरवले म्हणून, कुणी पाकीट मारले म्हणून, कुणी आपल्या रिझर्व जागेवर दुसराच माणूस तळ ठोकून बसलाय म्हणून, कुणी कंडक्टर सापडत नाही म्हणून, कुणी गाडी सुटायची वेळ झाली तरी निरोप देणारी माणसे आली पण जाणारी माणसे आली नाहीत म्हणून, कुणी डब्यातला पंखा चालत नाही म्हणून, कुणी संडासाच्या नळाला पाणी नाही म्हणून - नाना कारणांनी हैराण झालेल्या आपल्या देशाचे रेल्वे फलाट हे आदर्श मॉडेल आहे ! 

मला तर गाडी वेळेवर सुटली नाही तर बहुधा गार्डाच्या कार्ट्याने बापाच्या खिशातली शिट्टी पळवल्यामुळे तो देखील हैराण झाला असेल अशी शंका येते. बोरीबंदरच्या फलाटावरचा हा देखावा पाहात होतो, तेवढ्यात सिग्रलाचे तांबारलेले डोळे हिरवे पडले, गार्डाच्या शिट्टीला इंजिनाच्या शिट्टीचा जबाब मिळाला आणि गाडी हलली.

पु. ल. देशपांडे

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

पुलं म्हणजे माणुसकीने लगडलेला सहज-साधा मोठेपणा -- भीमराव पांचाळे

अनाकलनीय ,अविश्वसनीय गोष्टी आयुष्यात घडू शकतात याची मिसाल म्हणजे भाईंचा लाभलेला स्नेह .अकोल्यात किशोरदादांमुळे अल्पशी भेट घडली. मुंबईला आल्यावर त्या भेटीचे स्नेहात रूपांतर कधी झाले ते कळलेच नाही.."गज़ल" हाच एकमेव दुवा. माझी पेशकश त्यांना आवडायची. मी त्यांच्या भेटीला माझ्या ऑफिस पासून जवळच असलेल्या एनसीपीए मध्ये जायला लागलो.कधी गीता पण सोबत यायची. गीता सारस्वत आहे आणि गोवन पद्धतीने मासे छान बनवते याचे त्यांना केवढे कौतुक..तिच्या हातचे तिसऱ्यांचे हुमण आवडीने खायचे. मी मासे खात नाही म्हणून त्यांची बोलणी खायचो.

खूप गप्पा मारायचो त्यांच्याशी आणि नंतर चकित व्हायचो की , असे कसे हे लोभस मोठेपण जे माझ्यासारख्या लहानशा कलावंताला इंप्रेस करून बुजवत नाही, संकोचही वाटू देत नाही. किती सहजपणे बोलू शकतो मी या एवढ्या मोठ्या माणसाशी..! माणुसकीने लगडलेला असा सहज साधा मोठेपणा मला कधी येईल ? आपल्या अंगी त्याचा अंश जरी आला तरी जिंदगी निहाल होऊन जाईल .
भाईंचा कृपालोभ आणि परिसस्पर्श लाभला हे मला स्वप्नवतच वाटते... एनसीपीए मध्ये माझी विशेष मैफिल घडवून आणणे..., 'एक जखम सुगंधी' या माझ्या पहिल्या गज़ल कॅसेटचे विमोचन.., चंद्रपूरच्या दलित साहित्य संमेलनात (भाई उदघाटक होते) , आग्रहाने मैफिलीचे आयोजन आणि विशेष म्हणजे मैफिलीचे प्रास्ताविक निवेदन स्वतः करून नंतर ऑडियन्स मध्ये बसून भरभरून दाद.., आमच्या संसाराला त्यांचे प्रेमळ आशीर्वाद... आणि असे खूप काही काळजाच्या अगदी जवळचे...! आता हसू येतं आणि माझ्याच हिमतीची मला दाद द्यावीशी वाटते ...

श्रीलाल शुक्ल यांची 'राग दरबारी' ही कादंबरी तुम्ही वाचली का भाई ? असा आगाऊ प्रश्न केल्यावर त्यांनी काय करावं ?, कानांच्या पाळ्याना हात लावत त्या अफलातुन कलाकृतीची तारीफ केली आणि एखाद्या कादंबरीचा नायक एक गाव असू शकतं यावर खूप बोलले.असाच आगाऊपणा अजून एकदा केला होता..तेव्हां तर मजाच आली.. गुईयानी गुरेश्चि हा एक अजब व्यंगकार व कार्टुनिस्ट , त्याबद्दल विचारल्यावर ते उडालेच. 'अरे ,तुला कसा काय हा लेखक माहीत , तू कसा आणि कधी वाचतोस हे ? ' ..मग मी त्यांना किशोर दादांनी मला वाचनाची लावलेली आवड , मराठी ,हिंदी आणि इंग्रजी पुस्तकांचा पाडलेला फडशा ,गुईयानीचं अपघातानेच हाती लागलेलं "The House that Nino Built" हे मस्तं पुस्तक , मग मुंबईला आल्यावर फूटपाथवरील पुस्तक विक्रेत्यांकडून जिद्दीने मिळवलेली सगळी पुस्तकं वगैरे सर्व सांगितले. भाईंनी यावर काय म्हणावे ?..ते एखाद्या लहान मुलासारखं म्हणाले - , मी फक्त एकच वाचले रे , मला देशील का सगळी वाचायला ?..मी १५ दिवसांत तुला परत करीन.
खूप आठवणी मनात रुंजी घालत आहेत . ही अजून एक...

युरोपात मैफिलींचा दौरा होता..नेदरलँड्स , जर्मनी , फ्रान्स..इ... अठरा दिवसांचा मुक्काम (गीता आणि भाग्यश्री सह) आमर्सफोर्ट येथे.. मित्र आणि चाहते गिरीश ठाकूर व सौ.वृंदा वहिनी यांचे घरी. पु लं चे हे सख्खे भाचे. गप्पांमध्ये 'भाई ' म्हणजे आपुलकीचा विषय. एक किस्सा त्यांनी सांगितला . भाई त्यांना एकदा म्हणाले की, " तुमची मुलं इथे डच भाषेत शिकली , वाढली तरी घरात मराठी बोलतात याचा आनंद आहेच. पण ती भांडतातही मराठीत याचा मला अभिमान वाटतो.."

दुःखाला हसरं करणारे- असे हे पु लं... जणू माणसा-माणसातील संवादाचा पूल !

भाईंना जाऊन खूप वर्षे झालीत पण त्यांची याद कधीच गेली नाही... जाणारही नाही... कारण- अनगिनत आठवणींमध्ये ते महफूज आहेत.. असेही नाही की, कधी लिहावेसे वाटले नाही... पण आपले हे असाहित्यिक मनोगत कुणाला आवडेल का ?... असे वाटून नाही कधी लिहिले... आज लिहावेसे वाटले... कोरोना काळातील आष्टगावच्या या प्रदीर्घ आणि निवांत मुक्कामात ति. भाईंच्या स्मृती तीव्रतेने जागल्या आणि-

मन भरून आले...

यादोंका एक हुजूम मेरे साथ-साथ है
तुझसे बिछडके मै कभी तनहा नही रहा..

भीमराव पांचाळे
१२ जून २०२०
महाराष्ट्र टाईम्स

Thursday, May 12, 2022

पुलंची शाबासकी एक मानाचं पान - (सौ. जयश्री देशपांडे)

आपले सर्वांचे लाडके पु. ल. देशपांडे “हसवणूक या पुस्तकातल्या खाद्यजीवन मध्ये लिहितात, “माणसाचा सारा इतिहास म्हणजे त्याच्या खाण्याचा इतिहास आहे." मला हे वाक्य अगदी मनापासून पटतं. मी गेली अनेक वर्षे केटरिंगच्या व्यवसायात असल्यामुळे चवीनं खाणाऱ्या लोकांना चवीपरीनं खाऊ घालण्यातील आनंद मी पुरेपुर अनुभवला आहे. केटरिंगच्या व्यवसायानिमित्त माझी पु. लं. या अष्टपैलू व्यक्तिमत्वाशी ओळख झाली आणि एवढंच नाही तर त्यांच्याकडून शाबासकीची थाप मिळविण्याचं भाग्यही मला लाभलं. लहानपणापासूनच लेखक म्हणून पु. लं. मला आवडत होते पण, प्रत्यक्ष भेटीचा योग मात्र आला नव्हता. तो योग पुण्यात माझ्या व्यवसायाने घडवून आणला.

एकदा प्रभात रस्ता येथे राहणाऱ्या मधू गानू यांच्याकडून मला काही व्यक्तींसाठी केटरिंगची ऑर्डर होती. ती पोहोचवणारा माणूस ऐनवेळी आला नाही. माल वेळेत पोहोचवणं हे माझ्यासाठी महत्त्वाचं होतं. हाताशी कुणीच नव्हतं म्हणून मीच डबा उचलला आणि त्यांच्या घरी गेले. घरात प्रवेश केला तर समोरच पुलंचा फोटो. कुतूहलानं मी त्यांच्याबाबत चौकशी केली तेव्हा मधूजी म्हणाले, "अहो पु. लं. आमच्याकडे अनेकदा जेवायला येतात, तेव्हा तुमच्याकडून मागवलेलं जेवण आम्ही त्यांना देतो आणि ते त्यांना खूप आवडतं ह!"

हे मधू गानू म्हणजे पु. ल॑. चे परममित्र. मी केलेला स्वयंपाक पु. लं. ना आवडतो हीच माझ्यासाठी खूप मोठी गोष्ट होती. मग पुढे एकदा स्वतः सुनीताबाईचाच मला फोन आला. त्यांनी आवर्जून माझ्या हातचे पदार्थ आवडतात असं सांगून काही पदार्थ बनवून द्याल का, असं विचारलं. मी ती ऑर्डर आनंदाने घेतली. असं पुढे दोन-चार वेळेस झालं, मग एके दिवशी सुनीताबाईच मला म्हणाल्या, “या ना आमच्याकडे एकदा. आम्हाला तुमच्या हातचा स्वयंपाक खूप आवडतो. भाईला कुतूहल आहे तुमच्याबद्दल. सार आणि बिरड्या तुम्ही ज्याप्रकारे करता त्यावरून तुम्ही कोकणस्थ वाटता, पण चिकनच्या पद्धतीवरून तुम्ही सारस्वत वाटता.” मग मी गेले तेव्हा पु. लं. चा पहिला प्रश्न होता, “तुम्ही नक्की कोण आहात?" मला हा संदर्भ लगेचच कळला. मी म्हटलं, 'मी देशपांडे म्हणजे आता देशस्थ, पण माहेरकडून कोकणस्थ!” पु. ल॑. ना माझ्या हातची मटण बिर्याणी, टोमॅटो सार, दहीवडा, वालाची उसळ,छोटे बटाटे घातलेली भरली वांगी आणि उपवासाची बटाट्याची भाजी हे पदार्थ खूप आवडायचे.

मी अशीच एकदा काही पदार्थ पोहोचवायला गेले होते, तर त्या दिवशी त्यांच्याकडे खरवस होता. पु. लं. नी मला विचारलं, खरवस आवडतो तुम्हाला? मी हो म्हटल्यावर मला त्यादिवशी आग्रहानं तो खाऊ घातलाच, पण माझी आवड लक्षात ठेवली. परत कधीतरी एकदा त्यांच्या घरी खरवस होता, तर 'अगं, यांना खरवस आवडतो हं! दे यांना” असं म्हणून अगत्यानं दिला.
सुनीताबाईंनी पुलंच्या पंचाहत्तराव्या वाढदिवसानिमित्त काही पदार्थ बनवून द्याल काय? असं विचारायला फोन केला तेव्हा तर मला खूपच आनंद झाला, त्यांना चारशे माणसांसाठी हाताने पटकन उचलून खाण्याजोगे पदार्थ पाहिजे होते. खरंतर तेव्हा माझा एवढा आवाका नव्हता. पण मी ही ऑर्डर स्वीकारायचं ठरवलं. त्याप्रमाणे सामोसे आणि इतर बरेच पदार्थ केले आणि त्यांच्यासाठी पुस्तकाच्या आकाराचा स्पेशल केकसुद्धा केला. त्यांना सर्व पदार्थ केक आवडला की नाही, याची मला खूप उत्सुकता होती. पण त्यादिवशी त्यांचा फोन आला नाही. शेवटी दुसऱ्या दिवशी सकाळी त्यांचा फोन आणि म्हणाले, 'जयश्रीबाई सर्व पदार्थ नेहमीसारखे अगदी उत्तम झाले केकचं विचाराल तर एवढं सुंदर पुस्तक कापायचा काल काही माझा नाही. शेवटी आता केक कापला आणि तुम्हाला दाद देण्यासाठी केला.” खरोखर 'पु. लं. आणि सुनीताबाईसारख्या आपुलकी निर्माण करणाऱ्या व्यक्तिमत्त्वांना माझ्या हातचे पदार्थ आवडायचे हेच मी माझे भाग्य मानते.

अजून एक अतिशय संस्मरणीय प्रसंग मला आठवतो. पु. लं. च्या अखेरीच्या काळात आजारपणामुळे त्यांची स्मृती मंदावली होती. काही महिने ते अमेरिकेलाही जाऊन आले होते. माझाही अनेक दिवसात त्यांच्याशी संपर्क झाला नव्हता. अचानक सुनीताबाईंचा फोन आला आणि म्हणाल्या, “जयश्रीताई, काल तुम्ही आमच्या स्नेह्यांकडची जेवणाची ऑर्डर घेतली होती ना! काल आम्ही त्यांच्याकडे जेवायला गेलो होतो. त्यांच्याकडच्या बिर्याणीचा नुसता वास येताच भाई म्हणाला, “सुनीता आतल्या पातेल्यांवरचं नाव बघून ये. ही नक्की जयश्रीताईच्याच हातची बिर्याणी आहे. “सुनीताबाईंकडून हा प्रसंग ऐकून मी खरंच भरून पावले.

अशाच एका भेटीत पु. लं. नी विचारलं होतं,"सध्या काय करताय?*' मी म्हटलं, ''"पाककलेवरचं एक पुस्तक लिहिते आहे' आणि लगेचच पुढे म्हटलं, ''त्यासाठी तुम्ही काही करू शकाल?” पु. लं. म्हणाले,"सध्या मी पुस्तकांना प्रस्तावना लिहिणं बंद केलंय, पण तरीपण बघूया काय करता येईल ते.'' मग एक दिवस पु. लं. कडून अचानक एक सुंदर पत्र मला मिळालं. पु. लं. च्या सांगण्यावरून स्वतः सुनीताबाईंनी ते लिहिलं होतं. हे पत्र म्हणजे माझ्या पाककलेला मिळालेली सवोच्च दाद असं मी समजते. या उत्तुंग व्यक्तिमत्वांकडून मिळालेली ही दाद माझ्या या 'हमखास पाकसिद्धी' मध्ये नेहमीच एक मानाचं पान” बनून राहणार आहे.

सौ. जयश्री देशपांडे

पु. ल. देशपांडे यांच्या आवडत्या पाककृती
* मटण बिर्याणी
* टोमॅटो सार
* दहीवडा
* वालाची उसळ
* भरली वांगी
* उपवासाची बटाटयाची भाजी 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

जाने क्यूँ आज तेरे नाम पे रोना आया..

P L Deshpande on Begum Akhtar
Translatation by Abhay Phadnis
Oct 31, 2001

[For those who have not heard of P L Deshpande: he was a man of many parts: writer, humourist, musician, music composer, connoisseur extraordinaire of music and the literary arts, actor, director of films and plays, political activist. Till his death a few years ago, he was a cultural icon in Maharashtra. He had written this article on the occasion of Begum Akhtar's fifth death anniversary in 1979.In translating this article from Marathi, I have been as faithful to the original as possible, with two caveats. One, I have chopped lines that sounded too flowery in English and did not really add value. Two, wherever a literal translation would be awkward, I have freely re-phrased the words/lines concerned.

jaane kyu.N aaj tere naam pe ronaa aayaa

It often happens - especially on cloudy mornings - that I awaken from sleep with a line from some song playing in my head. It can take any form: a "cheez" from some raag, a line from some poem, or just syllables from a "taraanaa". At times, it goes on in my mind all day long, acting as a  constant backdrop as I go about the business of living. A raag fills my body and soul like the fragrance of incense fills a room. Even as I play out my role in the world, someone inside me lives in a time and space of his own, cocooned in the melody and the rhythm of that unceasing song.

In this state, one gets from unexpected sources sensory inputs that light up hidden corners of the mind and bring up an endless replay of memories.

Today, a line resonating in my mind woke me up even before my consciousness had registered the clouds in the sky. Waking should happen as falling asleep does, as the baby in the cradle falls asleep, lulled by the sound of her own anklets. Today, after a long time, I so woke up. I have of course long outgrown the anklets, but generous nature has many other instruments that soothe the mind just as effectively. Such an instrument sounded in the recesses of my mind this morning, and a song flowed from it: "ai muhabbat tere a.njaam pe ronaa aayaa.."

And the song did not come alone - it brought with it the voice of Begum Akhtar. And I found my pillow damp with the tears left over from that night five years ago when Begum Akhtar died.

Following her death, there had been a radio programme where many of her
admirers and fellow-performers paid tribute to her memory. It was difficult
for them to find words to describe what was welling up in their hearts. What _did_ get said left so much unsaid. Her music that had made its way into the hearts of innumerable people; her voice that infused new life into the words of a Behzad or Shakeel; the notes that she seemed to draw from some musical cornucopia and scatter around as manna from heaven - how could they be described? And then, suddenly, a ghazal by the Begum herself came wafting over the waves -

ai muhabbat tere a.njaam pe ronaa aayaa
jaane kyu.n aaj tere naam pe ronaa aayaa

Till then, I had held back the flow of tears. There was no apparent reason for a man like me, well over fifty years of age, to sob uncontrollably on listening to this ghazal. The tears were a riddle to me then. Along with the song, I asked the Begum, "jaane kyu.N aaj tere naam pe ronaa aayaa?"(Why did I cry today on hearing your name?)

Shakeel, who wrote this ghazal, and Begum Akhtar, who drenched each line of it in tears as she sang it, are both no more. But the tears that cloud the mind often appear in the eyes unbidden. Gadakari has written a beautiful line in his play "Raajasanyaas": "swargaatale dev kaa re tumachyaa manii-maanasii vastiilaa utaralele asataat?" (Do the gods from the heavens themselves reside in your mind, your soul?) When one listens to Begum Akhtar, each note that emanates from her being seems to come from the world of the gods. Just as one cannot conceive of the Taj Mahal being made of any stone but marble, so also some ghazals seems unacceptable in any voice other than hers. Unless the notes have taken up residence in the very being of the singer, they cannot move the listener. To experience the music of such a singer is fortune's gift indeed.

My introduction to Begum Akhtar's music was indeed fortuitous. In 1937,  Mumbai's radio station was at Ballard Pier. The recording studio consisted of a huge hall and an adjoining announcer's room. Just outside the hall was a waiting room for visitors. I used to be occasionally called to record some bhajans or to take part in some skit. The compensation used to be a crisp five-rupee note. But the real attraction of the place for me was the radio. In those days, hardly 4 or 5 houses in Parle (where I stayed) had radios. While the radio station had many "radio stars", even a five-rupee artiste like me had free access to the radio there!

One day I saw a crowd around the radio set. Right in front of the radio was  the Director of the radio station, Zulfiqar Khan Bukhari. The people surrounding him were musicians one and all. There was a beautiful ghazal playing on the radio. I learnt that the singer was one Akhtari Faizabadi. At the highest note, the voice would crack slightly and everyone from Bukari-saab downward would go "subhaanallaah!" Her next ghazal started "diiwaanaa banaanaa hai to diiwaanaa banaa de" - and the name Akhtari and her voice were imprinted on my consciousness for ever. The style of singing was totally new to me. the meaning of the words did not matter much. Behzad and Shakeel were famous poets, masters of the word. But this empress of music was giving their words the gift of immortality.

In the world of singers, I have met three singers who sang for the sake of singing. People who did not want to demonstrate their "gharaanaa", who did not want to show off their skills, who did not want to prove their superiority over someone else, who did not try to gain attention by extraneous elements beyond 'sur' and 'taal'. They were: Balgandharva, Barkat Ali, and Begum Akhtar. Their singing was always musical. They did not indulge in "layakari" (play of rhythm) at the expense of the song. It was as if the song welling up in their throats was just allowed free flow, unencumbered, unobstructed. No tradition to be carried forward. No pretensions of complex pieces to be presented. The footwork of "laya" was innate to each note that emerged. An arrogant tabalchi may be playing
complex rhythmic variations, but Begum Akhtar would come to the "sam"
effortlessly and gently like a bird coming to rest on a branch swaying in
the breeze. Words and notes that are as hypnotic as a bird's unexpected rush of notes, just as agile and always mellifluous, measured, controlled. As the soaring into the sky enchants, so too the coming down to rest.

Those were the days when the music of Begum Akhtar, Balgandharva, and Barkat Ali held us spellbound - to use Madgulkar's phrase, our ears would become honeybees ("kaanaa.nche madhukar"). I have been fortunate to hear in my lifetime the incandescent music of stalwarts: Manji Khan, Kesarbai, Vazebuwa, Faiyyaz Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali, Nissar Hussain Khan (in his prime) - singers who fulfilled Balkrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar's exhortation, "gaaNyaacha zaad ubha kela paahije" (you music must create a great tree). These singers indeed made a majestic tree out of each raag they sang. I would be astounded by the magnificence of their "tapasyaa"; I could feel the awe they generated from the minute they stepped into the "mehfil". I would deem it a privilege to even take the covers off their tanpuras. But all these great people appeared to me like Vishwamitra-s creating a world of music. Their immeasurable "saadhanaa" would leave me stunned. However, in the case of Begum Akhtar, Barkat Ali, and Balgandharva (performing in mehfils in half-pants and an open-necked cotton shirt), it was difficult to separate the singer from the song. These people would not just sing, they would _become_ the song.

I first heard Barkat Ali in 1939/40 in a Sunday afternoon concert at the
Santa Cruz Suburban Music Circle. Barkat Ali, dressed in a simple cotton
pyjama and kurta, was helping bring the harmonium and tables onto the small stage. In a few minutes, the tabla was set to the right pitch and, without any ado, Barkat Ali started singing. We were besotted in those days by his "baaGon me.n paDe jhuule". My subsequent efforts to get my throat to reproduce the beautiful garland of notes that followed "dil me.n tamannaa hai..." met with spectacular failure!

Narayanrao Balgandharva was another singer in the same mould. The minute the tabla blended with the 'sur' and the organ played the first notes, his singing would immediately flow - he would then live through the song. It mattered not whether anyone expressed appreciation, whether the listeners were erudite or uninformed - his mind, his being was focused just on the song.

So also with Begum Akhtar, although with some minor differences. If the
accompanying "saarangiyaa" showed great understanding of the notes she sang and caressingly reproduced them, she would always, with her innate Lucknowi "adab", express her gratitude either through words or by just a gentle nod. If connoisseurs in the audience expressed their "daad", a small "salaam" came forth with the cupped hand going towards the inclined head.

The devotee who cannot go to Pandharpur seeks to quench his desire by
meeting with the "waarakarii" (pilgrim) who returns from there. In my youth, I had no pull towards Delhi, but was attracted by Lucknow. But that being a time when the four-anna fare for going from Parle to Girgaon had to be carefully provided for, where could I even dream of going to Lucknow! And ghazals and thumris were not sung in the concerts that our suburban circles arranged - they would be sung in the private soirees of the rich. We had to be content with the gramophone records that came our way.

I had to come to Poona in search of the "anna-brahma" that was more critical then than "naada-brahma"! And in Poona I met Madhukar Golwalkar, who considered Lucknow his pilgrimage spot. He, Vasantrao Deshpande, and I would spend night after night listening to Begum Akhtar's records. I have lost count of the number of nights lit up by her records.

The notes of Madhu Golwalkar's sarangi knew but the by-lanes of Varanasi and the road in Lucknow leading to "Akhtar Manzil" (Begum Akhtar's residence). Vasantrao Deshpande had had the fortune of knowing Barkat Ali in Lahore. At a time when the Punjabi 'ang' of music was as far from Poona as Punjab itself, the only voices in Poona that could negotiate that difficult style were those of Vasantrao and Suresh-babu. Otherwise, Poona's music scene was under the influence of Balgandharva and Master Krishnarao. The language we friends spoke among ourselves was Hindi, a language that Madhu and Vasantrao spoke with true Lucknowi fluency. I too had some exposure to the language and to "sher-o-shaayarii" thanks to two years spent in Ismail College. In Lucknow, Madhu had accompanied Begum Akhtar on the sarangi and had worked on Lucknow Radio. Hailing from a rich family from Jabalpur, he had gone to the Benares Hindu University to become an engineer but, captivated by Begum Akhtar's singing, moved to Lucknow as her "saarangiyaa". This madness, this
passion cannot be explained.

"diwaanaa banaanaa hai to diwaanaa banaa de" - how can one explain to anyone what is being asked for? "muft huye badanaam tere liye" - who here is the "he" and who the "I"? "koyaliyaa mat kar pukaar" - the moment of silence that precedes this plaintive plea is not really quiet at all, it is a deep lake of limitless pain. But if one cannot _see_ the bedewed eyes that rise toward the singing "koyal" in supplication, how will one realise this? All
this is but part of the same madness, the same passion.

The slow build-up of notes before the song starts has to play the part of a
veil. The sad, alluring, enchanting, volatile beauty that is hidden behind
it has to be revealed by the singer slowly, tantalisingly, with precise
timing. The listener's expectation cannot be stretched too far, nor can
rushing to the destination work. It is a unique moment when the veil finally
slips, a moment of the blending of union and surrender. Indeed, the song
realises itself at that precise point; the seed of the note germinates
there. The knowledgeable singer and the true connoisseur both experience the totality of the song there. The moment of the first "aa" is the moment of truth. The sculpture that follows necessarily needs diversions, frills,
ornamentation. Unless the line bends, how can a picture be formed? But, as the "shaDja" of the harmonium and the tanpura resonates and fades, the singer's "shaDja" has to arrive at such a precise "muhurat" that that one moment robs the listener of the very sense of time.

I had never imagined that I would ever meet the Begum, that she would
lovingly sing for me. The prime of my life went by in "the desire of a moth
for the star and night for the morrow". However, I never allowed myself the
ridiculous emotion of frustration. My pride in my devotion to music was such that I felt that the great musicians were testing me just as the Lord Vithal is supposed to test his devotees! And, listening to Begum Akhtar's record of "wafaa_o.n ke badale jafaa kar rahe hai.n", the torn mats on the floor of my house used to turn into soft carpets, and the naked bulb on the ceiling into a many-layered chandelier! Believers do iterations of the "Bhagavat" and the "Dasbodh"; I, of Begum Akhtar's records! This "ishq" never made me "nikamma" [referring to Ghalib's couplet: "ishq ne hamako nikamma kar diyaa Gaalib, waranaa ham bhii aadamii the kaam ke".] Those to whom this world of music was alien never darkened our streets. This "parwaanaa" stayed in search of the "shamaa".

Whether or not that "shamaa" would ever really appear before us, her
devotees, was something I never considered: as far as I was concerned, I had her always with me. For me, Begum Akhtar was a musical experience. Of course, she had a corporeal body with its virtues and flaws; that did not
matter. And yet, the draw toward meeting this corporeal being was also
there! Out of the blue, I gained as a friend the great connoisseur
Ramubhayya Date. Like parents in days of yore putting their offspring at the feet of the great and the mighty, he took me one day to meet Begum Akhtar at her house in Lucknow.

(Only those who have known Ramubhayya and Begum Akhtar will ever appreciate the mystery of their relationship. Being introduced by him to Begum Akhtar was like Krishna taking me to Radha and saying, "Meet my friend". On the occasion of Ramubhayya's first death anniversary, Begum Akhtar came to Bombay and sang; that night, an uncontainable cry of anguish expressed itself in song.)

At Lucknow that day, Ramubhayya introduced me to her and, with Lucknowi floweriness, praised me sky-high. Also there were Kumar Gandharva, [his wife] Bhanumati, and Rambhau Gulawani. Ramubhayya pulled forward the harmonium in the drawing room and told me, "Play something."

I told him, "Play something here? What have you got me into, Ramubhayya?"

He said, "A true problem indeed! It is the hour for Bhimpalas and Multani.
How can we let that hour pass unheeded? We need to give it its due!"

I thought of "Circus-wale" Chhatre. It is said that "Bhugandharva" Rahamat
Khan never sang on request. Chhatre, who always used to be with him, would then start singing. His singing must have been designed to intimidate the lions and tigers of his circus; it was said he whipped the notes as he sang. Rahamat Khan would get angry and would then start singing himself. I wondered then - and still do - whether Ramubhayya meant my harmonium playing to serve the same function!

Kumar on one side, the Begum on the other, and the harmonium in front of me. I left my fate to the gods and started playing. My fingers turned to
Bhimpalas, and the Begum suddenly asked, "hamaare baalga.ndharvajii kaise hai.n?" (How is Balgandharva?) Those four notes of Bhimpalas had immediately reminded her of Balgandharva. The minute I heard that, all the formality of new acquaintance fell away. Bhimpalas belonged to Balgandharva as if by birthright; because of him, Marathi music-lovers fell in love with it. The minute I realised that the Begum-sahiba was fond of Balgandharva, she became part of my list of life-members! The strangeness of that unknown drawing room suddenly vanished.

In those days, I used to dress in a khadi kurta-pyjama and jacket, because
of which the Begum-sahiba immediately started calling me "leader-saab".
Kumar sang in that small mehfil that day. Kumar's first "shaDja" received
its first "daad" from the Begum's moist eyes. His singing ended, and there
was stillness.

As much as the music, I still remember the stillness and the silence that
followed. It is one of the paradoxes of art that the ultimate aim of evoking
of the essential sound ('naadabrahma') is to go beyond sound itself. Only
when the song reached that destination can one experience the meaning of "aalam hai tanhaa_ii kaa" - what the state of aloneness is all about. An
aloneness that cannot withstand the touch of even sound: such splendid,
complete silence.

Great ("pahuu.Nche huye") men have told us for centuries that one should
know oneself. In the context of music, Begum Akhtar "knew herself" at a very young age. At Faizabad, she had started rigorous training in classical
music. That music, that "gaayakii" was something she could have easily
mastered. But it would not give her the release, the reassurance she sought in music. It would not set her free. It came with its set of rules and
regulations. When their house in Faizabad was burnt to the ground, Akhtari
moved to Calcutta. She started singing in a Parsi theatre company and became quite a hit, getting encores for the first time in her life. And a divine moment saw her entering the corridors of Urdu poetry. In the poems of Ghalib, Meer, and Zauq, the young Akhtari found words to accompany her plaintive notes. Her innermost feelings found expression in the ghazals; she could now communicate what she wanted to. She also found that the new form brought her admirers who could relate to what she was seeking to communicate. Poets like Shakeel and Behzad felt delighted that their words found expression in Akhtari's voice. Ghazal singing got a new standard. As days went by, Akhtar Manzil in Lucknow became the new Mecca for the moths rushing to this flame. The news that Behzad had given the Begum a new ghazal would spread like fire and the Begum's mehfil room would be filled to bursting.

Ultimately, it is the live mehfil that is the mainstay of music: the singing; the singer; the accompanists who follow her with every part of their being and blend their art with hers; moment upon expectant, eager moment, each filled with the riches of 'sur' and 'laya'; the emotion that flashes in the singer's eyes when a particularly deadly 'taan' emerges from her throat; and the listeners who sit there as supplicants, imbibing every note and freely showing their appreciation. Truly, those who experienced these mehfils at Akhtar Manzil would ask of God only this: that the mehfil never end!

I do not know the secret of the magic the Begum had in her throat; I do
know, however, that whenever, wherever I heard her voice, I would drop any work, stop talking, and just listen, willing time itself to stop. Take an
incident that occurred just last year. I was at Mallikarjun Mansur's house
at Dharwad. Our conversation was in full flow, when his daughter put on the radio in the next room and we suddenly heard Begum Akhtar singing,
"sitaaro.n se aage jahaa.N aur bhii hai.n". All conversation stopped. When
the song was over, Mallikarjun-anna said: "This voice and Narayanrao's
[Balgandharva's] voice - these are immortal. The rest of us will all be
forgotten. Leave the argument of khyal versus semiclassical - why try to
divide the live torrent of music? Theirs are notes that the gods have

People who reach great heights in music seem to speak such simple truths at times. I feel that, in moments of pure joy, such truth is spoken by that
deity in their hearts whom they themselves seldom meet!

When listening to Begum Akhtar, I would be deeply moved by her singing even if I could not always get all the nuances of the words of the ghazals. The flow of her music would not tolerate unnecessary leaps. There was no rush, no great hurry. There was no room for gimmickry. Her ghazal tunes were never frivolous. The words would flow through simple, familiar raagas. They would pause at significant points, bringing home the meaning and the drama of the sher. But what appeared simple was in fact extremely difficult. Her singing would never countenance any breach of musical boundaries. And above all, the aim was to communicate with each listener sitting before her. Indeed, her singing was suited to the small mehfil, not to large theatres.

In Poona, the Begum would always stay at Ram Maharaj Pandit's "Aashiyaanaa"bungalow. His wife Vasundhara-bai was the Begum's disciple, and she showered on her "Ammi" the same love, respect, and attention she would have given her own mother. Ammi's residence at "Aashiyaanaa" was treat time for us. Vasantrao Deshpande and Ammi were very close friends. She would make him sing and would accompany him on the tanpura. She called him "Guruji".

Attending the Begum's mehfils at Akhtar Manzil was considered a great
privilege; here in Poona, this malika-e-ghazal would respect our desires and sing to our heart's content! All her wealth, her fame, and the devotion of her admirers had left her essential humility untouched: there was no
arrogance in her. There was no attempt to compete with anyone. She would just allow free flow to the notes that were welling up inside her. She never hesitated to acknowledge and appreciate talent wherever she saw it. Her praise was never miserly.

When HMV released an LP record of Balgandharva's stage songs in Mumbai, she cancelled her flight ticket to Lucknow to attend the function. I was to
speak at the ceremony. I stood up to speak, and there was Begum Akhtar in the audience! I remember how she had come to see [PL's play] "varyaavarachii varaat" even though she could not follow Marathi. After my speech at the function, she came up to me and said, "Leader-saab, today you spoke very well (aaj aap ne bahut dil-chasp takariir farmaayii)."

I asked her, "How did you follow what I said in Marathi?" She replied, "You
usually make people laugh a lot. Today, the 'daad' you were getting had a
very different quality."

At "Aashiyaanaa", there was once a marvellous mehfil. Singers can make out easily when the audience consists of true lovers of their music. The mehfil was going on hour after hour. Different forms like thumri, ghazal, dadra were being presented enchantingly. "daad" was flowing spontaneously and frequently. Vasantrao Deshpande was accompanying the Begum on the harmonium. In the intermission, we all came out on the lawn to have coffee under the moonlit sky. The Begum said to me, "khudaa kasam, I love singing in Poona!"

I said, "This is your Lucknowi 'tehziib' speaking. I too say at each city I
visit that the connoisseurs of that city are unique, that you cannot find
such 'rasika-s' anywhere else."

She told me, "I mean it. Do you know why I like singing here? It is because
my singing gets appreciated here. There, the 'shaayar' takes all the 'daad',
leaving the poor 'sur' 'sharmi.ndaa'! Here, the 'sur' finds love."

That mehfil was unforgettable. The Begum sang till 2.30 in the morning, but the mehfil still seemed to be going strong. It is given to few performers to keep the night young, night after night, and the Begum ranks with the best of them. At 2.30, she turned to Vasantrao Deshpande who was on the harmonium and said, "Guruji, won't you sing for us?" Then, till 5 a.m., Vasantrao sang ghazals and thumris with great élan. Watching Begum Akhtar as a listener, watching her give 'daad' to the performer, was a special experience in itself.

As the city lights were going off, the mehfil ended. The morning was as
enchanting as the night: the dawn, conceived in the womb of that musical
night, flowered in music.

That was the last proper mehfil of Begum Akhtar's that I heard. After that,
I only met her once at Delhi when she was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship. As the awardee, she sang at the Kamani Hall that day.

And then one day the news came: Begum Akhtar died in Ahmedabad. 30 October 1974. When her body was being sent for burial from Ahmedabad to Lucknow, the rules and regulations of the inhuman bureaucracy of the Indian statesubjected it to humiliation and trouble. Even when the songbird of life had inhabited it, that cage called Akhtari had suffered many blows. The ghazals that she so loved were written by poets who shared her pain of incompleteness and had strung the words together with their tears - Jigar, Behzad, Shaukat, Shakeel. The Begum's notes arose mainly from the pain of separation; hers was the singing of the "virahinii". As her music flowered, it reminded one that the destiny of the flower was to wilt and be put aside. Lotuses came floating on the river of her music, but they were the lotuses that the poet Grace called "wordless lonely lotuses (ni/:shabda ekaakii kamaLe)". From that throat that had its strings tuned to perfection at birth itself, the "swayambhuu" gandhaar would emerge, resplendent in melancholy. And when the intensity reached its peak, then - like a drop of water rolling along a wire and, unable to bear its own weight, bursting - the note would find its own intensity too much to bear and would split. The knowledgeable and compassionate connoisseur would find sublimation in that moment. In Balgandharva's singing, a word uttered at the boundary between prose and song would leave the listener bewitched; so also this experience.

Begum Akhtar would come, would sing, and would go off. Promising us that, "inshaallaah", we would meet again. 'Akhtar' means "star". This star it was that sang to us, "sitaaro.n se aage jahaa.N aur bhii hai" (there are many more worlds beyond the stars). When she sang to us of this world beyond the stars, we would find freedom - if momentary - from the bitter realities of this world. Begum Akhtar is gone, leaving behind her songs in records and tapes. But all this is like watching the march of the seasons in a painting. Those poor machines replay the recordings, but the eyes recall those mehfils. Those nights of years ago seem but a few days old. And a line of one of her ghazals keeps coming back to mind: "kabze me.n thii bahaar abhii kal kii baat hai" - it was but a day or two ago!

It is not that my life today is burdened by all the natural and manmade
troubles of the world; I have seen people bear limitless sorrows. I have my
blessings: birds known and unknown keep coming back to the tree outside my window and singing their "bhoopali-s". I can hear the chatter of children in the houses around. An itinerant breeze brings with it the news of the seasons turning another cycle. But when I see a sparrow alight gently on the creeper on the fence, when I hear the raindrops from a light shower fall from the jasmine leaves to the ground, when I see a cloudy morning - all these lead me to thirst for Begum Akhtar's songs. The bird's coming to rest, the raindrops dripping off the leaf, the sky suddenly covered with clouds - just as all these happen so naturally, so easily, and so drenched with life,so also Begum Akhtar's songs. Those notes that come flowing. The pauses in the 'laya'. I myself become a poem of the morning, a poem whose first line is always the same -

jaane kyu.N aaj tere naam pe ronaa aayaa! 

Monday, May 9, 2022

संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे

एखाद्या प्रसिध्दीप्राप्त व्यक्तीचे टोपणनाव मिळाले की त्या नावाचा धारक कोण? हे शोधण्यासाठी मी अनेक प्रयत्न करतो, प्रयत्नांना यश आले नाही तर दुसरा उपाय, युक्ती योजून पाठपुरावा करतच राहतो. यश न आल्यास नाऊमेद न होता प्रयत्नशील राहतो. आणि यश आले तर आनंदाला पारावार राहत नाही. टोपणनावे संग्रहित करण्याच्या छंदाने मला छंदमय बनवून ठेवले आहे. छंदामुळे मला दुःख, वेदना, यातना, निराशा यांचे भानदेखील राहत नाही.

एका टोपणनावाच्या शोधाबद्दलचा माझा एक लेख ललित- एप्रिल ८७ च्या अंकात 'टोपणनाव- आनंदी रमण' हा गंभीर आणि गमतीदार या सदरात प्रसिध्द झाला होता. त्या लेखाबरेबर माझा पत्ता दिल्यामुळे अनेकांची पत्रे मला येऊ लागली. कोणी आपले टोपणनाव सांगे तर कोणी अमुक टोपणनावधारक कोण? अशी चौकशी करू लागले.

एका पत्राने मला चांगलेच गोंधळून टाकले. ते पत्र मुंबईच्या एल्फिन्स्टन कॉलेजचे प्राचार्य नी. मा. डोंगरे यांचे होते. त्यांनी माझा लेख वाचून विचारले होते की तुकाराम शेंगदाणे व संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे ही टोपणनावे धारण करणाऱ्या लेखकांची नावे काय ते सांगू शकाल का? यातील तुकाराम शेंगदाणे हे टोपणनाव माझ्या संग्रही होते. ते प्रसिध्द साहित्यिक ज्ञानेश्वर नाडकर्णी यांनी धारण केले. होते. मी त्यांच्याशी पत्रव्यवहार करून हे व त्यांची इतर पण टोपणनावे मिळविली होतो. परंतु 'संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे' हे. टोपणनाव कोणाचे आहे हे ठाऊक नव्हते किंबहुना ऐकले पण नव्हते. मी बुचकळ्यात पडलो. परंतु प्राचार्य डोंगरे यांनी हे टोपणनाव कोठे वाचले होते याचा संदर्भ दिला होता आणि शोधाचा मार्ग सुलभ केला होता. संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे हे टोपणनाव ४० वर्षांपूर्वी पुण्याहून अमेरद्र गाडगीळ 'अनिल' नावाचे नियतकालिक संपादित करत होते, त्यात असायचे असे डोंगरे यांनी लिहिले होते. अमोरद्र गाडगीळ यांच्याशी यापूर्वी माझा दोन-तीन वेळा पत्रव्यवहार झाला होता. गाडगीळ, यांना फोनवरून माहिती सांगितली व विचारले की, 'आपण संपादित करत होता त्या अनिल नियतकालिकात संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे हे टोपणनाव असायचे ते कोणा लेखकाचे ते आपण सांगू शकाल का?' गाडगीळांनी क्षणाचाही विलंब न लावता ते पु. ल.देशपांडे यांचे आहे, असे सांगितले.
संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे हे टोपणनाव महाराष्ट्राचे लाडके व्यक्तिमत्व पु. ल, देशपांडे यांनी धारण केले होते, यावर माझा विश्वास बसेना; कारण यापूर्वी पु. ल॑. शी पत्रव्यवहार करून ते, मं. वि. राजाध्यक्ष व रा, वा. आलुरकर यांनी सामुदायिक टोपणनाव 'पुरुषराज आलुरपांडे मौजे पारलई', असे धारण केल्याचे पत्राने कळविले होते. पण या टोपणनावाचा उल्लेख नव्हता. त्यांनी एकट्याने पण टोपणनावाचा आश्रय घेतल्याचे सहसा कोणास ठाऊक नसेल. पु. ल॑. नी आपले नाव सांगणे का टाळले असावे? काहीच उलगडा होईना.

मी डिरेक्टरी घेतली पु ले.वा फोन नंबर शोधला अ/णि तेथूनच त्यांना फोन केला. फोनवरून एक स्त्रीचा आवाज येत होता.मी विचारले 'भाई' (पु. ल.) घरी आहेत का? त्यांच्याशी बोलायचे आहे.' फोनवरून थोडा वेळ थांबून सांगितले गेले की, 'ते (पु. ल.) घरी नाहीत आज सकाळीच मुंबईला गेले. १५/२० दिवस येणार नाहीत.'

एका मान्यवर व पु. लं. शी जवळीक असलेल्या साहित्यिकाने) सांगितले होते की *पु. ल॑.ना कधी फोन केला तर पु. ल. फोन उचलत नाहीत दुसरे कोणीतरी फोन घेतात, 'कोण बोलते आहे याची चौकशी करतात व पु. ल॑.ना सांगतात, पु. लं.ना बोलायचे नसल्यास ते घरी नाहीत म्हणून सांगितले जाते आणि पुन्हा लवकर फोनं,करू नये म्हणून 'दोन-तीन आठवडे परगावी गेले आहेत,' असे म्हणून फोन बंद 'होतो,

'मला या शब्दाची आठवण झाली. त्या 'साहित्यिकाचे म्हणणे खरे वाटले. तरी पण मला भाईकडून खात्री करून! घेणे आवश्यक होते. कारण अमोंद्र गाडगीळांनी सांगितले असले तरी तो पुरावा होऊ शकत नाही. कोणीतरी कोणाचे सांगितलेले टोपणनाव मी ग्राह्य मानत नाही. लेखी पुरावा नसतो. खोटे ठरण्याची जास्त शक्‍यता असते.

दोन-तीन आठवडे लोटल्यावर पुन्हा एकदा पुलंना फोन लावला. खात्री झाल्याखेरीज मला चैन पडत नव्हते. ते माझ्याशी बोलले व संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे हे टोपणनाव आपलेच. असल्याचे सांगितले. ४० वषांपूर्वी या टोपणनावाचा वापर केल्याचे त्यांनी काबुल केले.

ही सर्व खात्री झाल्यावर प्राचार्य नी. मा. डोंगरे यांना पत्र पाठवून संभा नामाजी 'कोतमिरे हे टोपणनाव पु. ल. देशपांडे यांनी धारण केले असल्याचे कळविले. त्यापूर्वी - तुकाराम शेंगदाणे हे टोपणनाव प्रसिद्ध लेखक ज्ञानेश्वर नाडकर्णी यांचे असल्याचे कळविले होते. संभा नामाजी कोतमिरे हे - टोपणनाव पु. ल. देशपांडे यांचे असल्याचे वाचून डोंगरे यांना आश्चर्य वाटले व माझ्या प्रयत्नांचे त्यांनी पत्र पाठवून कौतुक केले. त्यानंतर एकदा मी पु. लं.च्या घरी जाऊन भेटलो. ते बराच वेळ माझ्याशी गप्पा मारत बसले होते. एका थोर व्यक्तीचा सहवास लाभल्याचा आनंद अजूनही मला मोहरून टाकतो.

- स. बा. यशवंत

Friday, May 6, 2022

देव माझा विठू सावळा - (शोभा वागळे)

साधुसंत येती घरा, तोचि दिवाळी दसरा! अशीच काहीशी धामधूम त्या दिवशी अमेरिकेतल्या छोट्याशा अपार्टमेंटमध्ये चालू होती, खिडक्या-दारे लखलखीत करणे, कार्पेट साफसूफ करणे वगैरे जोरात सुरू होतं स्वयंपाकघरातही सुग्रास नैवैद्य बनविण्यासाठी आटापिटा चालू होता. आता 'गुळाच्या गणपती'साठी मखर बांधायचे तेवढे बाकी होते.

सूज्ञांच्या लक्षात आलेच असेल, अहो, मायदेशातून दूरदेशी आलेल्या या भक्तांच्या घरी त्यांची विठूमाऊली येणार होती. आमचे परम दैवत विठ्ठल रखुमाई म्हणजेच 'भाई आणि माई' येणार होते. आमचा दिवाळी-दसरा चक्क जूनमध्येच साजरा होणार होता.

'कुठल्याही गोष्टीचा आरंभ अगदी उगमापासूनच करावा' या आद्य नियमानुसार या 'विठ्ठलभेटीचा' खुलासा करते. 'पु. ल. देशपाडे' हे 'अव्यक्त' (जे कधी बघितले नव्हते) दैवत मी इयत्ता चौथीत असतानाच माझे 'आराध्य दैवत कसे बनले पहा! पु. ल॑.चे नाटक वाऱ्यावरची वरात त्यावेळी गाजत होते आणि माझ्या एका वर्गमैत्रिणीच्या दिग्दर्शनाखाली शाळेच्या मधल्या सुट्टीत आमचे 'वराती'चे अनेक प्रवेश दणक्यात चालायचे. पु. ल. देशपांडे काळे का गोरे(का सावळे) याचा थांगपत्ताही नव्हता. पण त्यांच्या शब्दांनीच आम्हाला वेड लावले होते. माझा परीक्षेत पहिला नंबर आला तेव्हा बाबांनी बक्षीस म्हणून पहिल्या रांगेतील तिकीट काढून मला 'वरात' घडवली, त्यावेळी पु.लं.चे पहिलेवहिले दर्शन आणि तेही इतक्या जवळून घडले. कटी न दिसणारी अंगकाठी,

डोक्यावर कुरळ्या केसांची दाटी, डोळ्यांवर जाडजूड चष्मा, चेहऱ्यावर भोळा भाव, बोलण्यात मिस्किल भाव असा हा सावळा माझा 'विठू' बनून गेला. आतापर्यंत केलेली निर्गुण अव्यक्ताची पूजा जणू सगुण रुपात साकारली. आणि मग ओढ लागली प्रत्यक्ष भेटीची!

त्यांची धम्माल पुस्तक अधाशासारखी फस्त करतानाच त्यांच्या मुंबईतल्या 'मुक्तांगण' बंगल्यावर माझी आणि माझ्या बहिणीची गस्त चालू असायची..कधीतरी ओझरते दर्शन' व्हावे म्हणून! पण पु. ल. 'पुण्यनगरी'ला स्थलांतरित झाले आणि आमच्या 'भेटीलागी जीवा' लागलेल्या 'आसे'वर पाणी पडले. पु. ल. आता संपूर्ण महाराष्ट्राचे 'भाई' बनले होते. हल्लीच्या 'भाई सारखा फसवण्याचा धंदा नव्हे, तर या "भार्हचा 'हसवण्याचा धंदा' तेजीत चालू होता. त्यांच्याभोवती चाहत्यांचा सदैव गराडा असायचा. त्या चिरेबंदीतून गाभाऱ्यापर्यंत शिरकाव होण्याची सुतराम शक्‍यता नव्हती.

अखेर भाईच्या साठीच्या वाढदिवसाच्या सोहळ्यात माझे भाग्य फळाला आले. मी त्यांना एक लंबेचौडे अभिनंदनपर पत्र पाठवले. असंख्य मित्रमंडळीत हरवलेला हा देव मला उत्तर पाठवेल अशी अपेक्षाच नव्हती. पण काय सांगू महाराजा...तब्बल तीन महिन्यांनी स्वतःच्या हस्ताक्षरात पत्र लिहून भाईंनी माझ्या शुभेच्छांची पोच दिली. माल्या आनंदाचा वेलू गगनावेरी' गेला. मी हा प्रेमळ धागा पकडून ठेवला.

आणि भाईना पत्रांवर पत्रे पाठवीत राहिले. त्या कनवाळू देवालाही माझी व्याकुळ भक्ती कुठेतरी भावली असावी माझी पाच पत्रे गेली की त्यांचे एक पत्र यायचे. पंढरपूराहून कुणी नातलगाने आठवणीने पाठवलेला चण्याफुटाण्याचा प्रसाद कसा अनमोल असतो, तसेच हे छोटेखानी पण चटपटीत हसते खेळते पत्र मनाला ओलावा देऊन जायचे.

आणि अचानक एके दिवशी "सोनियाचा दिवस' उजाडला. माझा हा देव चक्क माझ्या घरी येण्यास तयार झाला. भाईंच्या अमेरिकेच्या प्रवासाची सुवार्ता माझ्या कानी पडली. माझ्या कळकळीच्या विनंतीला मान देऊन माझा हा सावळा 'विठ्ठल तो आला. आला मला भेटण्याला' सोबत (रखु)माईईही होती. त्या संध्याकाळी आम्ही भाई व माईंच्या संगतीत गमतीजमती करत राहिलो. दिलदार भाई व प्रेमळ माई जुनीपुराणी ओळख असल्यासारखे आमच्याशी सुखसंवाद साधत राहिले. पियानोवर जादूई बोटे फिरवत भाईंनी 'जन गण मन' काय वाजवले, टीवीवरच्या माणसाची हुबेहूब नक्कल काय केली, वाडवडिलांची चौकशी केली. हसवता हसवता डोळ्यात टचकन पाणी आणणारा हा विदूषक असामी आम्हालाही 'हसा आणि हसवा' असा आशीर्वाद देऊन गेला.

नंतरही त्यांना भेटायचे काही योग आले. आता मात्र उरली आहे फक्त आठवणींची शिदोरी आणि कृतज्ञतेचे अश्रू! पण खरं सांगू? माझा हा देव कुठे वैंकुठी वगैरे गेलेला नाही, आपल्या सर्वांच्या हृदयमंदिरात तो विराजमान झालेला आहे.

- शोभा वागळे
बृहमहाराष्ट मंडळाचे ११वे अधिवेशन २०१९, डॅलस.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

हमीद : एक श्रेष्ठ प्रबोधनकार

पुलंच्या ‘मैत्र’ ह्या ‘मौज’ने प्रकाशित केलेल्या पुस्तकातल्या मूळ लेखाचा अगदीच थोडासा भाग संदर्भापुरता इथे दिला आहे, बाकी पुस्तक बाजारात मिळतं.

आगरकरांना ‘देव न मानणारा देवमाणूस’ म्हटले जाते. हमीद दलवाई हा ह्या महाराष्ट्रातला असाच देव न मानणारा देवमाणूस, पण ‘देव न मानणे’ हे हमीदला मात्र आगरकरांहून अधिक धोक्याचे होते. तो ज्या मुसलमान धर्मात जन्माला आला होता, त्यात हिंदूंसारखी उदारमतवादी परंपरा नाही. आगरकरांना सनातन्यांचा विरोधा झाला, तरी त्यांच्या मताना पाठिंबा देणारेही हिंदू होते. हमीदचा लढा हा मुसलमानी समाजात अभूतपूर्व होता. आजदेखील बॅरिस्टर छगलांसारखी हाताच्या बोटांवर मोजण्याइतकी सर्वार्थाने इहवादी आणि उदारमतवादी माणसे वगळली, तर हमीदच्याच शब्दांत सांगायचे म्हणजे तो बहुसंख्य मुसलमानांच्या हिशेबी ‘काफिर’ होता. त्याला काफिर मानत नव्हत्या फक्त धार्मिक रूढींच्या जाचाखाली रगडल्या जाणाऱ्या त्या दुर्दैवी मुसलमान भगिनी. ‘तलाक’ पद्धतीमुळे ज्यांच्या आयुष्याचा पालापाचोळा होत होता अशा भगिनींना त्यांची दुःखे जाणणारा एक भाऊ लाभला होता. त्या जाचातून मुक्त करण्यासाठी जिवाचे रान करणारा भ्राता उभा राहिला होता. माणुसकीचे प्राथमिक अधिकार ज्यांना घरातही नाहीत आणि घराबाहेरही नाहीत, अशा अवस्थेत जगण्याचे भोग ह्या देशातल्या मुसलमानच नव्हे, तर असंख्य स्त्रियांच्या नशिबाला लागलेले आहेत. खुद्द दलित समाजातील पुरुषदेखील त्यांच्या स्त्रियांना प्रतिष्ठेने वागवत असतात असे नाही. ह्या देशातल्या बहुतांश स्त्रियांचे जगणे म्हणजे नाना प्रकारच्या खस्ता काढीत पिचत पिचत एके दिवशी मरून जाणे एवढेच आहे. ते मरण तिला जितके लवकर येईल, ती स्त्री भाग्यवान. मृत्यूनेही उशीर लावला, तर त्या दुर्भाग्याला सीमा नाही.
‘धर्म’, ‘मजहब’ या नावाखाली अनेक अदृश्य लटकत्या तलवारी असंख्य अभागी जिवांच्या मस्तकांवर ते जीव केवळ स्त्रीदेहाने ह्या जगात आले म्हणून शतकानुशतके टांगलेल्या आहेत. दुर्भाग्याची प्रत निराळी, पण त्यातून कुठल्याही धर्मातली स्त्री सुटलेली नाही. हमीदला केवळ मुसलमान स्त्रीचेच दुःख जाणवले होते असे नाही. फक्त त्या स्त्रियांच्या यातनांची त्याला अधिक माहिती होती. त्या स्त्रियांच्या दुःखांना कुठे वाचाच फुटत नव्हती, ती फोडायला कुणी धजावत नाही ह्याची त्याला खंत होती. वयाच्या चौदाव्या वर्षापासून त्याला धर्म या नावाखाली चालणाऱ्या अज्ञानाच्या जोपासनेची आणि अन्यायांची जाण आली होती. हिंदू स्त्रीला निदान निसर्गाने बहाल केलेली मोकळी हवा आणि सूर्यप्रकाश तरी नाकारला जात नव्हता. मुसलमान स्त्रीला तोही नाकारलेला. अपवाद फक्त नियम सिद्ध करण्यापुरते. आणि ह्या साऱ्या रूढी पुरुषांची सोय व्हावी म्हणून.

... हमीदशी माझा स्नेह होता हे म्हणतानादेखील त्या म्हणण्यातून आत्मप्रौढीचा ध्वनी उमटेल की काय, अशी मनाला शंका यावी इतका तो मोठा होत गेलेला होता. ज्या जिद्दीने तो ह्या साऱ्या अन्यायांविरुद्ध लढत होता ते पाहिल्यावर त्याची भेट ही एखाद्या वीरपुरुषाच्या दर्शनासारखी वाटत होती, असे म्हणण्यात मला यत्किंचितही अतिशयोक्ती वाटत नाही. हमीदचा आणि माझा गेल्या वीस-पंचवीस वर्षांपासूनचा परिचय. ‘कफनचोर’सारखी विलक्षण परिणामकारक कथा लिहिणारा हमीद, ‘इंधन’सारखी सरळसूत शैलीतली पण प्रभावी कादंबरी लिहिणारा हमीद. मी रेडियोत नोकरी करत होतो त्यावेळी कोकणातल्या मुसलमान कुटुंबाच्या जीवनावर श्रुतिकांची एक मालिका मी त्याच्याकडून लिहून घेतली होती. सदैव हसतमुख, बोलताना गमतीने आपले ते घाऱ्या रंगाचे डोळे मिचकावण्याची सवय असलेला हमीद, हसताना लालबुंद होणारा, खट्याळ पोरासारखी जीभ काढणारा, बोलताना बऱ्याच कोकणी माणसांना सवय असते तशी, ‘आयकलं का?’ म्हणून वाक्याची सुरुवात करणारा – मराठी साहित्याच्या क्षेत्रात सरसर वर चाललेला हमीद. अशा ह्या उमद्या, खेळाडू आणि मैफिलीत हव्याहव्याशा वाटणाऱ्या तरुणाच्या अंतःकरणात एक ज्वाला पेटते आहे आणि पाहता पाहता ती एका बंडाची मशाल होणार आहे, याची त्या काळात फार थोड्या लोकांना कल्पना असेल, पण एक दिव्य क्षण त्याच्या जीवनात आला आणि ललित साहित्य, त्याचा आवडता समाजवादी पक्ष या सर्वांशी असलेले संबंध बाजूला करून त्याने एका भयंकर बिकट वाटेचा प्रवास सुरू केला. आणि पाहता पाहता एका अपूर्व अशा नव्या प्रबोधनाचा उद्गाता होऊन तो निराळ्याच तेजाने तळपायला लागला.

...यशापयशाची चिंता न करता आपल्या कार्यात रमून गेल्यासारखी त्याची वागण्याची वृत्ती पाहिल्यावर डोळ्यांपुढे दिसणारा हमीद कलावंतांच्या हातातल्या वाद्यासारखा वाटायचा. सतारीतून करूण स्वर निघावे आणि त्या कारुण्याचा सतारीवर परिणाम न दिसता ती आपल्या घडणीतल्या त्या पितळी ब्रिजेस, हस्तिदंती कलाकुसर, चमकदार भोपळे यांच्यामुळे ते देखणेपण जसेच्या तसे ठेवून असावी तसे काहीसे त्याचे ते आकर्षक व्यक्तिमत्त्व आणि बोलण्यातून जाणवणारी रूढिग्रस्तांची करूण कहाणी ह्यांच्यातल्या पृथकपणाने प्रत्ययाला यायचे.

एखाद्या कार्याशी संपूर्णपणाने लिप्त असूनही त्या लिप्ततेचे प्रदर्शन न करणारी अलिप्तता सत्यशोधक हमीदला त्याच्यातल्या कलावंत हमीदने दिली असावी. मनाला हादरून टाकणाऱ्या त्याच्या ‘इंधन’ ह्या कादंबरीचे निवेदनदेखील असल्या कलापूर्ण अलिप्ततेचाच प्रत्यय घडवते. इतके करूण प्रसंग आहेत पण कुठे भळभळ नाही. आपल्या न्याय्य हक्कांसाठी झगडू पाहणाऱ्या मुसलमान स्त्रियांचा मोर्चा ही एक अभूतपूर्व घटना होती. त्याची कथाही त्याने जणू त्यात आपण कोणीच नव्हतो अशा विलक्षण अलिप्ततेने सांगितली होती. त्या मोर्चातली महिला पुढे दिल्लीला पंतप्रधानांना भेटायला गेली. तिला भेट नाकारण्यात आली. हे सर्व सांगून त्याबद्दलची चीड व्यक्त न करता हमीद आपले डोळे मिचकावीत म्हणाला, ‘‘... आणि आयकलं का, ही भेट नाकारताना पंतप्रधान इंदिरा गांधी आपणही बाई आहोत हे विसरल्या.’’

…आपल्या मित्रांपैकी एक अशा सहजभावनेने हमीद भेटत होता. बोलत होता. थट्टामस्करी करीत होता. त्यामुळे एका व्यापक प्रबोधनाचा उद्गाता ह्या दृष्टीने त्याची असामान्य उंची जाणवत नव्हती. ती तो जाणवूही देत नव्हता. आता तो कायमचा चर्मचक्षूंच्या आड गेला. खूप दूर गेला. आणि दूर गेलेल्या पर्वतासारखी त्याची ती उंची आता जाणवायला लागली. त्याच्या त्या समर्पित जीवनाकडे पाहिल्यावर आता मात्र ज्योतिबा फुले, डॉ. बाबासाहेब आंबेडकर यांच्याप्रमाणे दीन-दलित, स्त्री-पुरुषांच्या उद्धाराच्या चळवळीचा प्रवाह आणून जोडणारा त्या मालिकेतला एक श्रेष्ठ प्रबोधनकार ह्याच दृष्टीने त्याच्याकडे पाहिले पाहिजे, हे समजले. महाराष्ट्रातल्या समाजप्रबोधनाच्या इतिहासकाराला महात्मा फुले, डॉ. आंबेडकर आणि हमीद दलवाई ही नावे अत्यंत आदराने उच्चारूनच ह्या प्रबोधनाचा विचार करावा लागेल. किंबहुना, महात्मा फुल्यांनी सुरू केलेल्या समाजप्रबोधनाच्या संपूर्ण इहवादी आणि ‘माणुसकी हाच धर्म मानायला हवा’ ह्या विचारवृक्षाला आलेले ‘हमीद दलवाई’ हे खरे रसरशीत फळ होते.

धर्म, रूढी, वंशवर्चस्व, राजकीय आणि आर्थिक सत्तालोभ यांची असहायांच्या शोषणासाठी राक्षसी चढाओढ चालत असलेल्या ह्या जगात शोषितांच्या अश्रुधारांना खंड नसतो. उणीव असते ती असले असहाय अश्रू पुसून तिथे हास्य फुलवायला निघालेल्या निर्भय आणि निःस्वार्थी हातांची.

हमीद गेला याचा अर्थ असले दुर्मिळ हात गेले.

- पु. ल. देशपांडे