He was a simple man; a khadi clad Gandhian whom all would love. Since my very childhood I had been experiencing a part of his life and his magnificent personality until his departure in the year 2002. I can't remember well the remote childhood days yet few things of past are imprinted in mind to never forget. One such childhood memory is associated with my nursery days. Then in my childhood the concept of kindergarten was different in a small pilgrimage like Puri. I am talking about a period in between 1980 to 85 when we kids were going to our preschool which was called "Chahali" (literally transformed from the word Chatashali a place of leaning for kids). My chahali was a Hindu monastery where the Guruji would be one of the priests with a neck wear made of Tulsi beads. The first thing we kids would notice while entering into our "Chahali" was the big sized man (Guruji) with a large smooth stick in his hand; the stick obviously was meant to control the cow herd(we children).lol.. and an image of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra hanging near the blackboard. There were few really naughty kids (mostly boys) on whom our Guruji would apply his weapon regularly. What all we were taught was letters from (a-kshya) in odia, numerical tables from 1-20 in Odia and recitation of the chabila barnobodha (containing a lot of moral education) written by bhakta kabi madhusudana Rao. I was a timid and wondering kid. My eyes would always be fixed on Guruji's long stick. Yet I was prompt in remembering tables from 1- 13 very well. So always I was in his good books though I didn't knew further. My grand father (Aja)would come to take me from chahali. He would hold my bag containing a tiny slate, a little chamanbar tin storing chalks of different sizes and shapes (those were meant to be kept in Chamanbar box only because it imparted a beautiful smell to all the chalks) and the book of Barnabodha.
I discovered a sense of bondage between Aja and his little possessions- A Gandhian watch, a tiny trunk containing few papers carrying the memories of his struggling past including his Khadi wears, few papers, some money and a little comb in the pockets and his reading glasses. Those were systematically placed at their respective places everyday. The only thing not coming within his bonding was his pair of slippers. He never remembered the size and shape of his pair of slippers. So when visited a meeting or ceremony would certainly come home with someone other's slipper. His simple life was a glaring example of high moralities in him. His simple living was associated with high thinking that is true spirit of a Gadhian. I have seen all the good qualities of a human being in him since very childhood. To talk about cleanliness he was an icon. He used to clean the drains by himself, used to wash the bathing place everyday; even he had cleaned the public drain when the sweeper was absent. He never would listen to anyone so far his Gandhian principles were concerned. He would wash his Dhoti and Kurta to perfect dazzling white. And I have never seen him using any bathing shop. Everyday he would massage til oil all over his body and would take bath in cold water and his skin dazzled like glowing moon. He used to wake up, morning walk, bath and take breakfast in perfect time. Anybody would tell the accurate time just looking at Aja's activities. Everyday he visited few relatives place including my aunt(Tunimausi), Kachery (the court the meeting place of his old friends), Patitapabana and Bharati Bhaban (a book store near the temple). That was part of his regular routine and he never missed the time. He was like the thread of relationship among all the relatives present in Puri. He gave regular visit to all of them by walking only. Rarely he hired a rickshaw.
By nature a soft spoken man he would listen to everyone's problems and happiness. He never left a chance to help others if within his capacity or else would silently give a compassionate glance as if he was taking inwardly others' sufferings. He guided both of us (my brother and me) regarding punctuality, discipline, obedience and truthfulness. I was amazed with his truthfulness backed by simplicity. Sometimes he forgot where and when he was telling the truth. I have seen him being bitterly criticized or greatly praised. But his simplicity was like lotus leaf which would accept neither mud nor water! When he was sad or angry it was for few seconds. He was having a perfect child like pure heart. He neither criticised anyone nor did he participate in any such type of discussion. For him finding faults in others was a real sin. He used to say, "Don't ever criticise, let your actions help others rectifying their faults."
Time passed on. Ayee(GM) with her indomitable will power and with Uncles' support was able to construct the Duttatota house where Aja and Ayee stayed for rest of their lives. Their whole aim was to remain bonded with Lord Jagannath. So scarcely they would visit anywhere outside Puri, other than village Baliput and both the uncle's houses. The house was wonderful. A holy abode, every inch of which was displaying a positive aura of two noble souls and their imperishable love for each other. And I was a part of their lives since the year 1991 to 2001. They would never let me spare from their eyes. I too didn't miss my parents and younger brother who were staying just 2 kms away from grandma's home. I completed my graduation staying with them. That was an unforgettable period of my life when I was starting my day with the chants of morning prayers of Ayee and " Jagabandhu Pari Jane Samanta Nahin Nahin ta "- (their is no other king like Lord Jagannath) prayer of Aja. After regular morning walk and ablution Aja used to recite the above line of the song with folded hands. That was all his prayer for the day long. I was wondering how deep this line is! All the truth immersed therein.. For that simple man what best could be a prayer than that! Due to some reasons he didn't go inside temple (perhaps it has some history linked to his past as a Karmi), only everyday he gave a visit to the Patitapabana. (the effigy of Jagannath meant for Patitas or fallens- it was established during the reign of Bhoi king Ramachandra Dev who married a then Muslim rulers sister to save Lord Jagannath temple from their evil eye.)
All the grandchildren were the pearl of his eyes. But I was very special both to Aja and Ayee. He would never deny anything what I ever asked him. Until my stepping into college I never had visited anywhere by train. That was my long cherished dream to go somewhere only by train. So I requested Ayee to fulfill my desire. But she was reluctant as she held that bus journey was pretty comfortable and less time consuming to visit nearby places like Bhubaneswar. Then I started crying. Aja soothed me and promised to take me to Bhubaneswar by train using his freedom fighter train pass. The specific date was fixed. Our destination was elder uncle Bijumamu's house near Acharyabihar at Unit-9 Bhubaneswar where one day stay was fixed and the train decided to take us to and fro was Nilachala Fxpress. That day I woke up pretty early at 4 o'clock before Aja's time of morning walk. We took morning breakfast together after Ayees Puja(worshiping). My Tunimausi(Aunt), and Mausa(Uncle) were accompanying us to station. They made us seated comfortably in our bogey. We started at 7.30A.M. The train started with usual speed. That was a matter of pride for me to travel by train for the first time that too without any ticket. I felt myself like king being with Aja. Constantly I was observing the speed of train and was talking incessantly worthless things to make his head reel. But my talking ceased when the train stopped and didn't move an inch near Biraharekrushnapur. It stopped for several hours making both of us tired and hungry. At last the train started to move and made us reach at the land of Bhubaneswar at sharp 1P.M. when the Sun was waiting for us to consume all our remaining energy as well as body fluid. All were worried for us and waiting. Finally we reached home comfortably and took our lunch to soul's satisfaction. Mayeein had prepared delicious recipes for us. The day passed in sheer happiness and we were to return home as was earlier decided. In spite of uncle's repeated denial Aja was firm at fulfilling his promise to me. And both of us were pretty confident on train's attitude towards us. So uncle dropped us at station well before. We waited for Nilachal Express which was supposed to reach Bhubaneswar platform at 4.30 or so. But the train didn't come. Time passed. I had faith on my Aja more than the train. One by one trains went. But Aja would not enter any other train. In the platform few of his known faces interacted with him and greeted me. Finally I was losing my patience when it was going to be 6P.M.. I requested Aja to go back home. But he soothed me to keep patience. He was a man of perseverance who never was disheartened by the shortcomings and irregularities in the system in which he was working. He was holding to see selflessness, compassion, patriotism, dutifulness and love all around in the society. He had patience until the last breath of his determination. When it was 8P.M both of us were surrounded by suspicious looking people, few beggars and few mentally ill worn outs. I was quizzing Aja with fear. His face was looking like being defeated from life. He began to cry like a child holding me firm- "Dear I couldn't keep my promise to you." I was fluxed out by Aja's innocent love for me. I pampered him and guided him to Bijumamu's house . Bijumamu was very sorry with the event and at last accompanied both of us to Puri the next day. Like the abashment of his innocent faith at the Bhubaneswar station, his faith was also abashed by the political system which he believed to be the weapon of service to mankind to establish Ram Rajya of His political Guru- Gandhiji. So willingly he retired from his determination and also from political life.
When he went to see me at Ravenshaw for the first time, was overwhelmed with joy looking at his own college where he dreamt Independent India. He flashed back several memories of past including the memories of great poets, man of letters, and freedom fighters from this college. But every time he accompanied with me to bus stand to say a good-bye, would cry like a child as if he was sending me to my in-laws place! He would request other passengers (irrespective of gender) to take proper care of his grand daughter. Sometimes Aja's too much concern made me awkward but always I yielded to his innocence and purity. When my marriage was held excepting Aja everyone was there. Aja was alone home... he didn't come... because then I was not going to hostel, I was really going to my in-laws.
When I am missing him today, I feel I was living with an Angel.
Due to the presence of Aja and Ayee all the relatives often congregated at Duttatota home. Often Ayee would organise grand feasts for all when relatives including people from nearby places would be invited. Aja talked less yet was always highly concerned for everyone. He forced all to take dinner and sleep in right time. He never deviated from his own words. What he suggested others to do was his own practice and experiences. He was compassionate and kind every possible way. He was an example for all. When in leisure I asked Aja to narrate something interesting to me, he would narrate the events of his meetings with rebel Satendranath Guha, his walk from Puri to Pipili with his school mates to see and invite Mahatma Gandhi, his stay in Brahmapur jail, meetings with Acharya Harihara and stories of his friends' and his struggling life. Then I was listening those like stories meant for me(his grand daughter only) but never thought that those were not stories but facts and was not only for me but for the society as a whole.
Let the blog http://khadadiagandhi.blogspot.in/ be my humble homage to that noble soul.
Pictures of Baliput Village via jodaling