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Sunday, December 13, 2009

An unforgettable episode

An unforgettable episode

Tushar Bhatt


Darshak is gone from this earth but the memory of one particular remains evergreen. The dust of time has failed to dim its impact.

It was a unique classroom and a unique celebration. One of the tallest Gujarati authors and winner of the many a national award for literature, Manubhai Pancholi,who wrote in the penname of Darshak, celebrated his 84th birthday on October 15 in this sleepy district town ,by delivering public lectures on history of democracy. Hardly a soul in the audience apparently remembered it was his birthday.

The audience did not consist of youngsters as has been customary for Darshak, a lifelong teacher. Under the merciless glare of halogen lamps, relieved only a bit by fans, there sat the elite of so-ciety, doctors and lawyers, teachers and housewives, social work-ers and folk singers, politicians and plebeians, listening for more than an hour and a quarter in each of the three sessions, about how democracy blossomed in Greece; what kind of democrats the Athenians were, what the Romans did and what they did not, brought forward with smart linkages to modern day.
Darshak had been for years thinking, talking and writing about Socrates and Plato, interpreting their thoughts in the modern con-text. His most famous novel carries in its title, Zer To Pidhan Chhe Jani Jani, a subconscious awareness of Socrates' hemlock. That he compulsively talked about Greek philosophers and history was because Darshak, which means an observer, was a writer by hobby only and a teacher by mission.
He said: "It is well-nigh impossible for me to live as Darshak all the 365 days of a year, although I would love to do it. With great difficulty I can manage to live as Darshak for some five to 25 hours a year." The teacher in him cannot be subjugated by the writer in him.
The remaining period of his existence,Manubhai Pancholi remained an untiring and unretiring teacher and not even the frailty of health could deter him.
He was in Surendranagar, away from his home base of Sanosara in Bhavnagar district, on October 14 and 15 as part of an un-usual educational experiment that a handful of imaginative public workers and educatonists had just begun. The three lectures by Darshak, spread of over two days, were video-taped and cassettes of these would,hopefully, be soon made available to schools and colleges in the area to enable a wider audience to learn from what the veteran educationist and writer has to say about history and its lessons.
Said Mr Sanat Mehta, former M.P. from Surednranagar who was instrumental in devising the experiment: " What is needed among our youngsters as well as adults already in the thick of the life's battle, is to look at history of democracy with a new perspective that Darshak provides."
Shabdlok, a voluntary organisation that runs a library and cultural centre, Uttam Prakashan, a co-operative publishing ven-ture,and a Gandhian basic education institution, Maitri, headed by Mr Nagjibhai Desai,joined hands to organise the lecture series.
Although a highly creative person, Manubhai Pancholi blended in his thinking and attitudes a high awareness of reality.To a ques-tion from the audience at the end of the lectures whether it was necessary to rewrite India's constitution to make democracy per-form better in the country, he said: Nothing written on a piece of paper can make democracy work anywhere. What can make it click is what its citizens were prepared to undertake for them-selves."
An enlightened citizenry required people to imbibe a scientific temper and inquiry, a compassion in the heart for the plight of their fellow human beings and a staunch belief in the rule of law. All this in turn needed education, not just in schools and colleges, but throughout life.
Manubhai kept the listeners spell-bound with his insights into history of democracy, laced with Greek and Roman examples, how these states flourished and how they perished.
His voice was often cracking. Once or twice the electricity and the public address system played truant,
the weather was unbearably sultry.But nothing seemed to bother the elderly speaker, or the audience that included Swami Akshay Vivek Bharati, Mr Ramesh Shah, president of the Surendranagar municipality, Prof. Dinesh Shukla, political commentator, Mr Indub-hai Jani and Mr Hasmukh Patel, both social workers, and Mr Mad-husudan Mistry, a leader of the Congress.
The teacher had made it clear in the beginning he did not have all the answers, adding that there never could be all the answers. What could be there was a relentless examination of what is going on around us, compassion in the heart to rise above mere reason-ing and an ability to stick to unpalatable stance if that was what the situation demanded. It was a sure-fire recipe to make an aware citizenry.
Though a Gandhian,Darshak was never hesitant to voice a dis-sent.He believed that Acharya Vinoba Bhave erred in persuading many seasoned Congress not join politics,go to parliament or be-come minister.The country badly needed them to push the admini-stration towards the Mahatma’s goal of Swaraj.Swaraj could be reached more speedily by first providing Surajya, or better govern-ance.

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