Thursday 17 June 2021

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Thinking Freely

The Spring I Soaked In…..


Vasant Karapurkar, the freedom fighter, was not a nationalist in the narrow sense of the word. Neither did he hate the Portuguese nor was he proud of the so called Indian culture. His was a struggle to end the exploitation of one section of humanity by another.He was a rationalist to the core.

1971. Sunday morning. Indo-Pak war was on. I was three and a half years of age. My parents had taken me on their two wheeler – a red Lambretta – to show me the Montessori where Mahila Nutan English School stands today.

Vasant Karapurkar bab used to live in his old type house with a tiled roof on the slope adjacent to the school. As our scooter passed his home, the air raid siren fitted on the roof top of Margao municipal building started blaring. During the war, the citizens were told to run indoors if siren went off during daytime and to turn off the lights if it went off at night (Prakashbandi).

No sooner the siren went off, my dad stopped his scooter in front of Vasant kaka’s house and my mother told me to run to it. I ran and knocked on the door. There was a sound of footsteps. Then the iron latch of the wooden door was removed. Vasant kaka opened the door of his house to me…..

……The siren kept blaring. Then there was the sound of aircraft engines. A lone plane flew at a very high altitude. Out of the blue sprang four fighters, flying at low altitude – as if trying to scare off the lone plane…..

……and the door of his house that Vasant kaka opened for me that day remained open till today.

Through the years that followed, I had countless discussions with him. We talked on myriad issues as I grew up. From studies and personal issues to Darwinian evolution to religion to spirituality to science and scientific temper.

Our friendship grew so much that when I learnt my scooter, I asked my dad whether Vasant Kaka would come with me to Colva on my bike. My dad, probably knew him better or got scared of both of us falling off the bike, said “He will not come with you to Colva but you can go to him anytime and ask him anything.”

And true to my dad’s prediction, Vasant kaka was there for me. Each and every time the siren of circumstance blared in my life, this founder of Goa Liberation Army came with gentle steps and stood by my side. He shared my happy moments with his family. He shared my sad moments alone.

As I grew older, I realized that “vasant” not only meant the season of spring, it was a virtually inexhaustible spring of knowledge. Lack of formal, higher education did not prevent wisdom from writing its words on Vasant kaka’s brilliant mind. His grasp of world history, history of religion, history of evolution of humankind was perfect.

His existential philosophy was akin to the Buddhist materialism and Dyanamarga. God was to him a Jewish concept brought into India from Europe. God was pure myth. An invention of man, as defense against his insecurities and failures. He once told me that religion has nothing to do with spirituality. Religion is guided by rules and rituals. Spirituality has neither. Sounded so much like Jiddu Krishnamurti when he disbanded the Order of the Star in Holland in 1929 – “Truth is a pathless land”

Although he did not want any students or followers, he was an excellent teacher of social psychology and sociology. His way of teaching was unique. One could pick up from him if one sensed him at a level higher than verbal intellectual. I will narrate one instance of this. One morning, for some reason, I passed through Comba in my car. Just as I drove up the slope near the Mahila nutan school, I saw Vasant kaka descending from his flat onto the street. I stopped my car and opened the door from inside. I am almost certain he would not accept a lift from anyone, but in my case he sat into the car happily. I knew he was going to freedom fighters office. So I drove in that direction. When I reached Kamat Meghdoot turn, I realized that if I dropped him anywhere along that ascent, he would have to walk to the office. So I took an entire detour down the Minaxi Hotel lane and turned back so as to drop him right at the entrance of the Lohia Maidan Office. I helped him out of the car. Went with him to the office. Sat there with him and others. He looked at me straight and said, “Mukul, you gave me too much respect! Never give so much respect to me!” Everyone had a hearty laugh. But I could sense him. Too much respect creates social inequality. Where there is inequality, there is no social justice.

Such was his way of teaching.

To him, religion, as is practiced today, was nothing short of hypocrisy. It was a way of dividing humanity and creating inequality. He himself lived his thoughts. He had resigned from the Mahajan status of his temple.

He was a secular humanist. He was a happy man despite his physical ailments. He detested mixing of religion with politics and social affairs. By nature he was a rebel. He loved to rebel against hypocrisy of the society. He loved simplicity and truth. He once agreed with me when I said the final destiny of humankind is one world. He loved Ravindranath Tagore and his concept of one world.

On the economic front, he was for social justice through more equitable distribution of wealth. He was for the Mopa airport as it would help in ameliorating the economic disparity between North and South Goa.

Vasant Karapurkar, the freedom fighter, was not a nationalist in the narrow sense of the word. Neither did he hate the Portuguese nor was he proud of the so called Indian culture. His was a struggle to end the exploitation of one section of humanity by another. He was a rationalist to the core.

Such was the spring I soaked in. A spring that sprang to my side every time he thought I needed him. A spring that nourished me through happy and dull moments of my life. A spring that became a spring in my step and will continue to do so.

Truly, Vasant kaka was a man for all seasons!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

if Vivek G. Prabhudesai was a Muslim and put that comment, he would probably be in Tihar for sedition.

Rizvi.M.H. |

Mukul, your respect & regard for Vasant Karapurkar is noted & appreciated. But so is mine for those of the rest who didn't believe in the 'exploitation of one section of humanity by the other' theory & fought for our freedom because they couldn't withstand being dominated whether exploited or not.

A few doubts Mukul, if you could please explain, ---

I) did Karapurkar avail any of the freedom fighter benefits granted by the Government?,

2) would he have allowed an unknown, untested invader to use his home rent-free with all amenities provided if the infiltrator was ready to reside without exploiting any of the facilities?,

3) why is it that he accepted your offer of a lift if he was likely to turn it down for another (considering that he swore by social equality), & why is it that he waited the entire length of the detour before expressing himself?

Easier said than done, isn't it?

Certain actions are human in nature, & aren't preplanned & are with no malice.

Vivek G. Prabhudesai |

Touching article Dr. Mukul.

I could sense and feel your attachment to this great soul. I would

have loved talking to such great personality. His views about religion seem to be rebellious but true. I missed my chance of lifetime.

Let his clan grow.

Dr. Dattaram desai |

Excellent ! I can say only this. ( I wrote many words after this & back-spaced them several times. Then I decided I would say it with just one word).

Sandeep Phadke |

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.


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