The release of Pitaji’s new book, “Vinoba, Mein aur Tum” took place on 4th February which also happens to be his birthday. He started on his 85th year that day.
The two-hour long evening program was well attended by literary figures of Jamshedpur and relatives. I gave the welcome address, in Hindi of course! This was followed by a melodious recital of “Mangalacharan”. The book was released by Professor N.K. Singh who is a noted senior educationist and also a former colleague of Pitaji.
A wonderful reading of the 15th Chapter of Gita followed. More a recital than a reading; what a powerful and resonant voice Mr Patnaik had! This chapter, I am told, is one of the significant ones from the Gita. This short explanation, I quote from “bhagawad-gita.org”:
“In chapter fifteen Lord Krishna reveals the virtues, the glories and transcendental characteristics of God being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Also He explains the purpose and value of knowing about God and the means by which He can be realized. Thus this chapter is entitled: Realization of the Ultimate Truth.”
Then followed a galaxy of speakers. They had all been given advance copies of the book to prepare for the evening. Each one of them had unique points to make about the book and its writer.
The first speaker, a lady, discussed in detail the book and she also made an interesting point. She said that Pitaji’s letters to me were never directive in nature; like do this, or that is right. So true of Pitaji’s style. Never directive, never over-bearing on his children.
Another speaker referred to my welcome address where I had mentioned that greed (“laalach”) to know more about Vinoba made me insist on more letters which finally culminated into this book. The speaker’s laalach was that he wanted more and more books from Pitaji!
Pitaji was invited to speak and as usual he gave a short, crisp and warm talk. The origin of the series of letters, the origin of the book etc. etc. He also spoke about how he considered the audience as a part of his extended family and how he would like to retain and expand his extended family.
The chief guest, who released the book, had had an eye surgery just days before. He came in his dark glasses. Wonderful (and very brave) of him. He said at the outset that he had not read the book due to the eye surgery. But he knew about the concept and spoke about how important it is to have a dialogue between generations. He also shared a lot of personal memories of his long association with Pitaji.
Somewhere in the middle of it all, the compere for the evening informed the audience that 4th February is also the author’s birthday. Some attendees had remembered it and had come with flowers, shawls, gifts etc. which they presented on the stage to the “birthday boy” who was somewhat embarrassed by all this public attention!
My elder brother, Ashutosh, concluded the evening with his vote of thanks. That was a meticulously done and very well received speech. Ashutosh, or bhaiya as I call him, even remembered to add the Vinoba signature at the end of his talk: “Jai Bharat, Jai Jagat”.
The compere had also announced that the book was available for sale at the end of the function. And that all the proceedings from the sale would be sent to Vinoba’s Paunar Ashram as a donation. There was a deluge of buyers who all wanted to get their copies autographed by Pitaji.
The real fun was when we returned home after the function. Siblings from around India assembled together for Pitaji’s birthday.
I end this piece with the pic from the birthday celebration at home which we all love!
And the morning after we saw the coverage of the event in all the major newspapers of Jamshedpur. Here is a sampler from “Hindustan”: