Pitaji, I, and Vinoba

 

vinoba-cover

My father, Pitaji, has been an ardent student of Acharya Vinoba Bhave over the last 50-60 years. He has read perhaps all that has been written by Vinoba Bhave, and he still regularly reads and re-reads Vinoba literature.

An introduction to Vinoba Bhave if you have not heard about him. Acharya Vinoba has been considered by many as the spiritual successor to Mahatma Gandhi. He was born in 1895. He was actively associated with the Indian freedom movement. However he is better known for some significant post independence movements; Sarvodaya and Bhoodan movements. He will also forever be remembered for his talks on the Gita which were published under the name “Geeta Pravachan”. This has been translated into many languages and is still popular even some 70 years or so after it was first published.

Pitaji, an ardent “Geeta Pravachan” fan, is known to gift copies of this book for many years now. He carries a few copies with him even on travel!

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It occurred to me a few months ago that I am not conversant with the works and teachings of Vinoba. Who, I thought, was better to guide me in this than Pitaji. Since we stay in different cities, he in Jamshedpur and I at Bangalore, I requested him to write to me a letter on his understanding of Vinoba’s works. This was sometime towards the end of 2007. One letter of course was not enough and I asked him to continue writing to me. Eventually this progressed into a series of sixteen letters, each discussing in detail different aspects of Vinoba’s works. Vinoba’s thoughts on the Geeta, Sanskrit language, Maharashtrian saints (e.g. Gyaneshwar, Tukaram, Naamdev), life and death, Hindi language etc.

Letters in Pitaji’s finely crafted handwriting, steady and even. I would get home in the evenings from office and my kids would inform, “Baba’s letter today!” Baba meaning grandfather. I would open the envelope and see photocopied sheets of Pitaji’s writing stationery. I had asked Pitaji to send me only copies of his letters lest the original was lost due to the vagaries of the Indian Postal System.

I would call him up after reading the letter, and he would respond enthusiastically with his queries.

“Did you like it?” (yes, always!)

“Did you figure out what I wrote about?”  (not all the time, sometimes I had to ask clarifactory questions)

“Was the handwriting clear?” (almost always!)

Sometimes I felt guilty subjecting this old man to some rigorous writing exercise. An 83 year man, otherwise healthy, but suffering from significantly severe eye damage. His writing and reading is limited to daylight hours and his detailed letters meant that he had to forgo reading which is his passion.

Pitaji would pull out Vinoba’s books from his collection to quote relevant portions. He also delved into notes he kept from his meeting with Vinoba in Jamshedpur four decades or so ago. I never knew that these notes existed.

Sometime in the middle of it all Pitaji had a writer’s block! “There is nothing else I can think of writing”, he said. It took some counseling from me- and suggestions of fresh topics- and the letters resumed.

I realized over time that this series of letters was something which would benefit others who may want to know something about Acharya Vinoba. I decided to get the letters published as a book.

xxxxxx

“But you never told me that these letters would come out as a book”. That was Pitaji’s reaction when I informed him about my plan.

“Don’t worry. I have enjoyed your letters and I am sure some others will too.”

“But these were meant as letters to you!” he was more alarmed.

“Pitaji! I have found your letters useful and I am sure that some others would like to read these too.”

Reluctantly, he agreed. But he said he would write one final letter in the series giving his version on the letters getting published as a book and a suitable preface as well.

“Of course, you must!” was my reaction.

xxxxxxx

Then followed a hunt for a printer. We found one in Jamshedpur. I was certain that no publisher would touch a book written about Vinoba, and that too written by an unknown 84 year old author!

The search for a name for the book proved to be a taxing exercise. Pitaji shorlisted a bunch of Sanskritized names which for some reason I was not comfortable with. (“Mahapurush Sanshrayah”-   was his pick). I posed this issue to my friend Anshu, in Lucknow, and he promptly came up with the name “Vinoba, Mein aur Tum” (Vinoba, I and you). I thought this was the perfect descriptor for a book of this nature. A father telling his son about Vinoba.

Lots of encouragement came from Narendra Kohli ji, a student of my father. Kohli ji is an eminent Hindi writer famous his novels on the Story of Rama, Mahabharata and Swami Vivekanand. He is based in Delhi. When I hesitatingly called him up, he not only encouraged me but also agreed to write an introduction to this book. What a delightful read his piece is!

A couple of gentlemen known to Pitaji in Jamshedpur offered to do the editing, proof reading and other logistics work.

So now the book of my imagination was indeed getting into a book shape!

xxxxxxx

The book is being released next on 4th February in Jamshedpur. All six of us brothers and sisters and other relatives from all parts of India are turning up on the 4th February to attend a public meeting for the book release. I reach there a day before along with my wife.

We all will also wish him a very happy birthday; Pitaji embarks on his 85th year on 4th February.

xxxxxx

PS: The picture you see above is the cover of the book. I do not feel guilty about sharing the cover picture before the book release as I know that those who read my posts may not attend the function and those who attend it may not read my blog. 

And, dear reader, if you want a copy of the book, do let me know.

24 Responses to Pitaji, I, and Vinoba

  1. Sanjeev Roy says:

    Santosh ji,

    Your father’s other book (Bhojpuri Kahawatein) is a milestone study in bhojpuri lifestyle and it adorns my book shelf and has been through many hands already in singapore and USA.

  2. Mary says:

    Santosh,
    Thanks for sharing the why and what for behind the book. Please tell your father I wish him the happiest of birthdays!
    :)-Mary

  3. Sudeep Kumar says:

    Santosh Jee ,

    This is letter writing and distance education at its best. Educating a son about a Saint through letters.
    I had heard about Pundit Nehru writing letters to his daughter and had read one letter in school “Pita ka patra putri ke naam” and now hearing another equally beautiful instance.
    I wish happy birthday to your father and covey my best regards.

  4. Manish says:

    Dear Santosh
    Well this post went straight into the hearts for sure. incredibly touching. The whole concept and of course that it has finally taken shape into a absolute reality… fantastic..congratulations to all of you for the effort and wish you dad a wonderful birthday, a cherished one for all of you in the family. and surely i would request for a book, infact i will buy it …..dont know if this is my kinda book or if i will even be able to read it through but would like to own it for the posterity itself….
    manish

  5. Binay Pandey says:

    Dear Santosh ji.

    Very touchy stuff. We must preserve the legacy of wisdom and spirituality of our elders for younger generations to show them that their forefathers were intellectually very advanced.

    I would like to buy one copy of this book and as well as “Bhojpuri Kahawatein”.

    Regards.

    Binay

  6. Amit Das says:

    Hi Santosh,

    Kindly convey my regards, best wishes and Happy Birthday to respected Pitaji..I am eager to read the book and I am sure Tina would be eager too..She is an avid reader of Hindi Sahitya..
    I am touched and inspired by the novel way of respecting great work.

    Amit

  7. Sandeep Lodha says:

    Hi Santosh,
    I reside in same apartment complex as you.I got to know about your blog from a common friend. Well there is more common between us then this. i am from the same state “Jharkhand” as you. I have read vinobaji’s “Geeta Pravachan” too and I sincerely believe it is the closest I could come to “Geeta” in understanding. Reading “Vinoba, Main aur Tum” should be exciteing. I will get in touch with you to have my copy of this book once you are back. Wish you all the best for the book launch and a advance birthday wishes to your father.

  8. santoshojha says:

    Sanjeev: Bhojpuri Kahavatein book has indeed proved to be popular among many. I remember you were one of the earliest readers!
    Mary: Thank you! Sure will convey your wishes to my father.
    Sudeep: Thanks a lot.
    Manish: Thank you so much. I shall reach you a copy soonest. We shall figure about the payment later!!
    Binay: Thank you. Do send me your address.
    Amit: Thanks. Will give you a copy on return. And convey your wishes to father.
    Sandeep: Thanks. And what a surprise! I wonder who our common friend is. Do write to me on my ID santoshojha at gmail.com Am back this Sunday, will catch up then.

    To all others who called me or wrote separate mails to me: Thank you all so much.

  9. nayantara says:

    Hi Santosh,

    This is a marvellous effort – to get your dad to write and then think of publishing it. Will the Hindi be too pure and shuddh for me to understand?
    You guys have a great get together at Jamshedpur and we wish your dad many more years of prolific writing and erudition.🙂

  10. RATNESH says:

    Dear Santosh,
    a very thought provoking article.I spoke to Pitaji about this & as usual he reciprocated by saying this is an excuse for get together.Realy it is a good begining & not the end.Pitaji has got many hidden treasures which we must unearth? Wish you very best in your endeavour.
    ratnesh

  11. Dr.Seema says:

    Santosh, went through this tonight…..Hope the book release and birthday went well…:-) May GOD bless you! Keep it up as always!

  12. Shrikant Joshi says:

    Dear Santosh

    Your writing is fantastic.What you are doing is even better .I am sure the book release was smooth .Wish your father a very happy bday and a healthy life.My compliments to Anshu too for the brilliant title .( it would do any copy writer proud )

    I do look forward to buy a copy of the same .

    All the best !

    Shrikant joshi

  13. Kavita says:

    Dear Santosh,

    Aha…now I know where you get you writing skills from! All the best to you…
    Take care.
    Kavita

  14. santoshojha says:

    Nayantara: Thanks! The Hindi is not as obscure as you envision it to be. And yes, we all had a great time in Jamshedpur!

    Jijajee (Cdr Ratnesh Kumar): I agree with you. And Pitaji has always been modest. We are slowly discovering Pitaji’s talents and treasures after he turned 80!

    Dr Seema: Thanks for your encouraging comment! And yes, everything went well. Thanks!

    Shrikant: Thanks a lot! Would write to you separately for your postal address to send you a copy. Anshu is thrilled about your comment about the name of the book!

    Kavita: At long last, now you know!

  15. Urbi says:

    Santosh,

    First and foremost a big congratulations to your Dad for doing this. It’s wonderful. Real letters to a real book. I am impressed.

    I do want a copy of the book if you can get me one. Would love to read it specially that I know it was a flow of a mere letter to a son that led to making of the book.

    Your explanation in parts makes it simpler to understand. Keep going! Do send some pix of the book release and birthday in Jamshedpur.

    Sorry for the delay in reading your post but you know best why!

  16. sunita nagarajan says:

    Its really nice to think and have the time and encourage your dad and make him feel special. Old people go through the, “empty nest syndrome”, and feel often neglected and useless. Good going wish more children thought of encouraging their parents. Moms too, in special ways like this. You get a very imaginable picture of your dad’s nature and his unsureness in the authenticity of publishing a book like this in this blog.

  17. Shobana says:

    This is such a nice post.. I happened to read this post just now. And,I am forced to write a small note. Kudos to pitaji for patiently writing these letters and for your wonderful idea to bring it out into a book.. A lot of people may write a letter or two and then feel it is a waste of time.. Good that your encouragement kept him going..

    Wish him many many happy birthdays!

    • santoshojha says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words! I am really touched that you took time out and read this post and even commented on the post.

  18. redbindi says:

    Gosh, what a great tribute. I found the blog searching for the meaning of the name, Vinoba!

    What a happy find.

  19. navrahi says:

    santosh ji
    maiN ye pustak padhna chata hooN.
    kya aap 1 copy ya iski photo copy karwa kar bhej
    sakte haiN. dhanyawaadi hou_ga.
    my cell no. & email is
    09815070059
    navrahi@gmail.com

  20. uzma hameed says:

    Dear Sir,

    Please send me a copy of this book, if possible.

    My postal address is:

    Uzma Hameed
    Flat No. 12107
    Prestige Shantiniketan,
    Near ITPL,Whitefield
    Bangalore-560048

    ph:7259186886

  21. bijay biswaal says:

    aww.. how i love that dad-son bonding over letters.. wish your book to be a great success.. congrats both of you .. and charan sparsh to your dad..

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