google-site-verification: google3f2d5585af42f112.html

Friday, January 1, 2010

A golden voice, a golden man and his not-so-golden twilight

Tushar Bhatt

The years roll by easily as the chariot of time presses on relent-lessly. But some time-spots remain green in memory. This tête-à-tête took place way back in 1994 but it seems like it was yesterday.

This would, perhaps, be more difficult of the questions in any music quiz programme: Name a singer, who lived for a while in Ahmeda-bad, for whom the revolutionary Bengali poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, specially wrote a song to make a debut as a recording artist ?
Even more difficult would be the poser: What was the first line of the song ?
No prizes are offered for the right answer, but the countless who might fail to answer correctly may also not feel so embarrassed. Very few as such are aware that it was Jagmohan Sursagar for whom the Kazi wrote the song in Bengali and its first line ran thus: Saono Ratey Jadi Smaraney Ashey Morey. And, what is more Jag-mohan has been a resident of Ahmedabad for sometime, living at D-8,Rajdeep Park Society, Baliakaka Road, Bhairavnath Road, Ahmedabad.
At 77 then, Jagmohan defied the customary description of being old. His face did not have the dull skin of the aged. It had a glow, reflecting the good health of the stocky body on which it sat. The balding head was held high, the friendly smile he flashed still showed teeth, and there were virtually no wrinkles on his familiar face, the familiarity springing from the fact that it has been seen on record albums and cassettes by lovers of the non-film light classi-cal music all over the sub-continent, both for his Bengali and Hindi compositions.
The drawing room in the ground floor apartment that Jagmohan occupies was rather spartan. There was a sofa set with a tea-table in front. A window at the back of the sofa set even did not have cur-tains.There were no trophies or other memorabilia adorning the room; none of the trappings through which the celebrities re-emphasise their celebrity status to their visitors. Dressed in a deep cream colour achkan and surwal,the singer-composer obviously was not a man who depends on external embellishments to under-line his towering music personality. Since 1958,he has not cut a single record. In 1950,he came to Bombay to become a playback singer in the films but the trends in music composition even at that time in India's Bollywood put him off so badly that he never sang in films. And,yet,the music-maker,the poet,the singer in Jagmohan stood the test of time; his non-film songs of yesteryear are still a big draw.More pertinently,the chosen path he took away from the filmdom did not push him into oblivion.
A dignified individual,Jagmohan never turned bitter,became more of an introvert,paying heed to the calls of none but his inner voice.After the deaths of his mother and his wife in 1981,feeling lonely,he had moved residence thrice-- from Bombay to Delhi for two years while he was a member of Censor Board,then to Cal-cutta and to Ahmedabad.
He did not seem to regard his moving from one city to another as something of great importance. He declared :"I crave for affec-tion ,respect and human warmth and go wherever my inner-self tells me to. I have followed the dictates of my inner-self only all my life."
"I can go away from a city,but I cannot go away from music",he said.Then,no place has really been alien to him. "I have been com-ing to Gujarat for nearly half a century,to cities and towns like Porbandar ,Gondal, Rajkot, Surendranagar,and ,of course, for countless times to Ahmedabad."
He would not talk much about the inner landscape of his heart. But it would appear that an event in 1991,when he was on a brief visit to Ahmedabad,moved him deeply.In April that year,says Mr Rajnikumar Pandya, a noted Gujarati writer ,who looked upon the singer as a father-figure,Jagmohan was at his house when news came that an aged fan of the singer,Mr Manubhai Trivedi in Isanpur suburb was critically ill, and was pining to hear a Jagmohan song. All through the years, Manubhai,whose son Niranjan Trivedi is a humour writer of note in Gujarati, had developed a habit of listening to Jagmohan before going to bed. He had one wish to see the singer personally and hear him sing,before he went into the eternal sleep.
Jagmohan took his harmonium and went to see the ailing fan.At the sick-bed,he rendered a Bhajan by Kabir Saheb,Ab tum kab sumiroge Ram,Jeevan do din ka mehman...and it seemed to many that the very air ,the ambience in the room echoed his deep,melodious voice,soothing the dying.They said Manubhai,who had been unconscious,briefly regained partial, flickering con-sciousness during the bhajan, and slipped back into a coma,perhaps with the satisfaction of having fulfilled his last wish. Everybody was stunned even as Jagmohan wept after completing the bhajan.
But,if Jagmohan was capable of melancholy,he was capable of recovering fast as well.Remembers Pandya:"He was again deeply moved when the same day,my daughter ,Tarjani,showed him her collection of dolls that included a doll bride.In the next visit,the singer had brought a bridegroom doll to celebrate the doll wedding.
That Jagmohan was a cut above the normal run of singers was an established fact even in the hey days of the stalwarts like Pankaj Mullick and Kundan Lal Saigal.But what is not generally known is that the singer is a deeply philosophical person as well.He did not sing in films after 1950 in Bombay was an act of conviction,but he has not run away from the battle. "There is so much of moral degradation everywhere,including in music.Music should not elevate you momentarily as the modern ones-- derived from rock-and-roll variety-- does. It should uplift the body as well the soul.I have always worked in my own way to propagate the music that would lead to the total uplift of human beings rather than providing thrills of transitional nature", he says,referring to the fast beat music that is the craze today.
"There is no reason to despair. This is a passinge phase -- or,craze and again the real music will take hold,"he asserts with confidence. As proof he cites a recent concert of light music he gave in Ahmedabad; not only the large half was full, they had to set up close-circuit television sets outsides to enable the crowds out-side to enjoy it all. "I get letters aplenty ,telling me how they love my songs and these are not old timers. A lot of youngsters also write to me."
Apart from the heavy dependence on ever quickening rhythm ,Jagmohan finds another major drawback in the modern day music. "It lacks poetry". He says that "poetry is at the core of music; first came the poetry,then the ras and then the music. It happens some-times that you have a tune,but unless proper words can be penned to fit it,it will never catch on for any lasting popularity."
His most precious gift, the lilting,soft and yet booming and deep voice that Jagmohan has,according to the singer,"is a gift of God". But he also admits to having tended it properly through riyaz or sadhna; he has an impressive array oof Gurus-- Dilip Kumar Roy, Bhishmadeb Chatterjee,Shambhu Maharaj,Ustad Zamiruddin Khan and master Gama.
Born on September 6,1918,Jagmohan whose real name is Ja-ganmoy Mitra coomes from a conservative family of land-lords.Sometime before he was born,his father died of a stomach ailment, while his mother was still in her teens. Though Jagmohan had no problems in childhood,he was to grow up an ardent devotee of his mother.When she died in 1981,and was followed by the singer's wife,in a few months time,Jagmohan felt a terrible void in his life,something that he appears to have been unable to fill ever.There was an atmosphere of music in his maternal grandfa-ther's house where they went to live after Jagmohan's father died.He literally grew up listening to dhrupad,khayal,thumri and tappa,surreptiously learning from his uncle's ustads ragas and raginis as also the tabla.It all paid off when after passing his ma-triculation examination, Jagmohan took part in all Bengal music competition ,topping the list in dhrupad,tappa,thumri,kritan and baul,religious folk music of Bengal.The year was 1937.In the same year,his professional singing career began at All India Radio.The next year,he stood first in khayal singing in an all India competition at Allahabad.A music recording company, HMV,grabbed him for recording.Says Jagmohan: " I had a tune and had been trying to compose a song to suit it.But,an acquaintance, Hembabu asked me to see Kazi Nazrul Islam,the great poet.Hembabu took me to him and left me with the poet.The poet was a very kindly man and my diffidence vanished after a while. I sang the few lines I had composed.He praised my tune and music but offered to write a song for me to fit them.I sang the tune several times as the Kazi sat writing stanza after stanza;his words, as if poured after,and there nary was a change or scratching out of a word here or there.That was the song Saaon Ratey Jadi.... on which my re-cording was made." It was a great hit.Then,in 1940,came two songs of Rabindranath Tagore,both approved by the Nobel prize winning poet.Tagore permitted him to record two more of his songs.
In 1945,Jagmoohan was given the award of Sursagar (ocean of music) in Bengal.The award has not since been given to anyone else,and the singer was only the second recepient of the honour.In fact, most people have forgotten that Mitra is Jagmohan's real sur-name; it has just become Jagmohan Sursagar, a name under which he also wrote an auto-biography in Bengali. It has recently been translated into Gujarati and brought out under the title of one his more famoous songs, Dil Dekar Dard Liya Hai Maine...
Gandhiji too had appreciated Jagmohan's singing and the singer recorded Sapt Kand Ramayana in six minutes at the Mahatma's suggestion.Another national leader fond of his singing was Jay Prakash Narayan.
Jagmohan toured abroad also extensive and has been to among other countries East Africa,the U.K.,the U.S.A.and Can-ada,earning vast fan following everywhere. Speaking at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto,Jagmohan held his audience spell-bound,claiming there essentially was no barrier to music.He sang a Bengali composition in Bhairavi and followed up with an English song ,rendered in the same raga.
Jagmohan has never regretted that he did what he did in abjur-ing film singing.In 1965, Mouni Baba initiated him into meditation, but Jagmohan has been rather clinically detached from the mad mad world of filmdom even before that time."Essentially,I sing for myself" he confesses. The involvement has been so total that any-time he starts playing on the harmonium and begins singing, a visible thrill runs through his body. He asked photographer,Kalpit Bhachech, who was clicking away as the singer talked to me,to bring the harmonium box to him. For,once he gets keyed up,he cannot but sing. And,he launched into a poetic description of Krishna and Gopi,the effects of music became visible on the tiny,grey hair on his hands. There is no English equivalent for it; but he experiences romaharsh when he sings.And, it was just two line that took him into the trance like situation.He was talking of the wonderment at Krishna playing ras with so many gopis and said there is a question in the first line."When you write or speak, the way you do makes it amply clear that there is a question mark at the end of the line. But how do you convey the impression in sign-ing without resorting to anything else."
He says: "This is how it is done",and launches into raising the question is it possible to play ras or have premlila even with one in a night? " The composition, obviously, his own, began with the ac-companiment of the harmonium,then the harmonium receded and his voice became a whisper,almost conspiratorial,with the notes of harmonium faintly echoing in the background.The listener would have no doubt there was a question mark at the end.
Innumerable songs have been composed and sung by Jagmo-han and he ,and his solitary discipline,go on bringing out diary after diary,full of notations written down in Bengali. In between ,he talks about his life now. How they presented him with a purse of Rs.five lakhs and how it has been made into a trust to help the penniless artistes in their twilight years and to promote music. He is not even a member of the trustee board. "My attraction to be in Gujarat is partly owing to my ambition to raise as much as Rs.50 lakhs for the benefit of aged artistes." He also went for performing concerts oc-casionally. "No I do not get tired even after singing for three or four hourse.I do not have blood pressure,my systems are normal. I do not consume alcohol,do not eat onions and garlic.My meal consists of two chapatis twice a day. I take milk, as also tea but without sugar. I have no chillies in my food,but would have raw green chilly, which contains vitamins."
Apart from this regimen,there is a stricter one in his lifestyle. He gets up att 3 a m and goes to bed at 11 p m.After getting up,he does meditation for three hours in the morning,and then some riyaz whenever there is mood.He derives immense satisfaction from the fact that his hit songs such as Mujhe na sapnose behlavo,Meri ankhen bani diwanee,Ye chand nahin teri arasi hai, Dil dekar dard liya.... The list is seemingly endless. But the curious detachment also shows up:he tells you he recorded his last song,titled Antim Gaan in 1958 and it goes something like this...My time to go has come,and while taking my leave I bow my head to everyone..
Yet,in the same moment he believes in doing whatever he thinks as his primary task till the last breath. One song he has never re-corded and which has been rendered by innumerable others ,ranging from K L Saigal to Bhimsen Joshi to Kishori Amonkar to Faiyaz Khan is Nawab Wajid Ali's compsition... Babul mora naiyar chhuto jaaye.. "Do you want to hear it?" He picks up the diary,leafs through the pages to come to the notation and begins. This man of 77 sang without any effort or strain,maintaining the breath for more than a minute in one particular line.His entire being seemed to sing -- not just his vocal chords.The effects are almost electric as the notes fill the room, travel out of the half-opened window,into the evening sky.Everything else stands motionless, rapt in listening.
After what appears like ages,he concludes,by which time his lis-teners are on the verge of tears. He feels at home in Gujarat where ,he says, there are innumerable fans of his.He recounts the experi-ence on his birthday a few days ago in Gandhinagar. He was at the Aurobido centre and got up as usual at 3 a m, going into the medi-tation room to find Happy Birthday written in large letters. At the vedi,there were 77 roses,marking his 77th birthday. They want to put 78 roses next years and one more there after and one more thereafter,and yet another,and on and on.Thirsting for affec-tion,Jagmohan appears to find it in abundance,an eloquent repu-diation of the myth that Gujarat is synonymous with money.
Jagmohan left Ahmedabad when he felt he should. He went away.never to come and died.

A prodigal who will never return; Adil Mansuri

Tushar Bhatt

He had been a rebel,but did not look to be one even an inch.In his younger days,he had heaped ridicule on anybody and every-body connected with the literary establishment.But his mellifluent talking,carried on in a low key voice, did not betray an iota of the fire that remained buried,and yet smouldering in the depths of his heart.
Poet and playwright Adil Mansuri, even in his 60s,remained as enigmatic as ever.It did not matter if he had been living for many years as an NRI (Non-resident Indian).
On a brief visit to Ahmedabad ,which he adored for all its dust,its dirt and discomforts,Adil never came across as a man who went away to the El Dorado of all Gujaratis,the United States of America.
He had ,in spirit,always been here,and Gujarat and Gujarati lit-erature had always dwelled his mind.It is as if,he was on a leave of absence; he had never gone away, cannot go away,and will not go away even on the day of salvation.
Time,meanwhile,had been whitewashing his beard,his hair,making him even more look like a Gujarati Ghalib.He himself was not unaware of the comparison;years ago he wrote some lines about it:
Apna Ghar bhi Milata Jhulta hai Ghalib ke ghar se,
Do ghanta barasat jo barse, chhe ghanta chhat barse.
As he walked in,there was nothing NRI-ish about Adil.Clad in sherwani,zabbha and a jacket,he appeared exactly the way he dressed when he was working in an advertising firm in Ahmeda-bad.He smiled easily,chatted amiably and spoke effortlessly about life abroad.
Said Adil:"I went to the U.S.A. a little late. I was already 48 when I left India.The prime thought behind the move was to ensure a bet-ter life for my children, especially my three daughters. I did not want them to have a life of domestic drudgery,without exercising any personal choice in their lifestyle,something that I had no oppor-tunity to get when I was young."
It was a difficult choice because for a quarter century Adil had taken deep roots in Ahmedabad and Gujarat,and suddenly he was transplanting his life in an alien environment. "In the beginning it was very tough.My writing came to an almost full stop. Nobody knew me there and I did not know anyone. I had to do odd jobs in the initial stages before I landed a good job at an insurance firm.You see, in a way, I was not equipped for the demands of the life there. I had in Ahmedabad my friends, my poetry,mushairas,the familiar situation all around,the bitter-sweetness of a culturally sat-isfying life which was otherwise not very satisfying for my children's future. So, I took an adventurous decision to go to the U.S.A. I am satisfied that things have panned out all right. My two daughters are happily married and settled there.My literary output has also been increasing.”
After a blockage of some time, Adil began to write in magazines brought out by Gujaratis in America and Europe. He wrote ghazals and plays about his American experience."In the course of time, my literary output really went up. I must have written some 60 po-ems in 60 days once.” A collection of his work abroad was in the pipeline,expected to be published in two or three months,called New York Name Ek Gaam(A village called New York). He said dur-ing a visit when we met
Adil warmly spoke of a tiny organisation of Gujarati-speaking people with a literary bent of mind,named 60 Din (Sixty Days). We are about 25 couples, who meet once every two months to ex-change notes, read new writings by members together,to enjoy and make merry."
The only change visible in him was the addition of countless thank yous to his courteous mannerism. He will thank you for tele-phoning him, for inviting him, for offering him a chair,a cup of tea,a handshake,anything.
It was so much of politeness,of exaggerated formality,that after a while one began to wonder if it should be Adil who should thanking us. Or should it we who should thank him for remembering home, for returning ever so briefly,for continuing to pen poetry in Gujarati even as he battled with the key-board of a computer at an Ameri-can firm in New York.
In his long literary journey Adil had written a lot of ghazals,but can now that those creations left unpublished would be brought out as a tribute to his memory. Five publications to his credit—earlier --Wank,Pagrav and Satat,all collections of poetry,and two collections of plays, had stamped Gujarati literary register with his name force-fully.
Born on May 18, 1936,in Ahmedabad Adil came from a family of traders of Ahmedabad.Dr Chinu Modi,another rebel in Gujarati lit-erature,who prodded Adil to write in Gujarati,remembered that the poet,then writing mainly in Urdu, had first come in his contact nearly half-a-century ago."I think he was working in a cloth shop at that time,but later shifted to advertising."

Adil was a self-made man; he had mastered computers later, but at one point of time,his friends recalled,he used to describe his edu-cational background as something more than an M.A. -- M.A.B.F.,an arbitrary abbreviation of Matric Appeared But Failed. That was not strrictly true,but Adil just did not care about append-ages to establish his own credentials as a man of letters,or even as a human being.
Said Dr Modi:"Adil read a lot,not just in Gujarati or Urdu,but also in English.He wrote spontaneously and exceedingly well,a man capable of expressing his feelings in the most appropriate words and a man who was able to feel intensely." In fact, he seemed to have written only when he felt intensely about something.
Add to that intensity,an endless,never-to-be-satiated curiosity about everything around him,most of all people.This led him to a very successful career as an advertising copy writing in Guja-rati.Many remember Adil as a copy writer at a national advertising agency located in Ahmedabad some three decades ago.For years,the custom at such agencies had been to translate into Guja-rati advertising copy created originally in English or Hindi.Adil changed the rules.Remembered a friend:"His original copy in Guja-rati used to be so good that often copy writers in English would be asked to take a look at it and translate it into English,if possible."
But,it was as a poet that the rebelliousness of Adil,along with Dr Modi and Manhar Modi,earned him a reputation-- some would say a dubious reputation.The trio was all for experimentation,a lot of which they did in company of Labhsankar Thaker,another noted poet.They scoffed at the literati of the day,campaigned against them,and started an organisation,and a magazine,called "Re Math”,whose address deliberately,with the intent of causing out-rage,carried the mention it was situated opposite a public uri-nal.What did it mean,nobody knows for sure.Even the English spelling of the now-defunct set-up is unsual.According to Dr Chinu Modi, Re was spelt in English as Zreyagh.It did a lot of good to the development of literature in Gujarati;to begin with,by declaring that the only rule worth following was that there was no rule worth fol-lowing.They would heap ridicule on the leading literary figures of the day,resort to pranks and gimmicks,and made themselves and their work taken notice of.
Though the mists of time have covered many things,Adil re-membered vividly those days,which again revealed the complexity of his personality. In literature,he had been known as a rebel,a man who did a lot of experiments of form in penning his output, a sort of iconoclast.But that appeared to be only one facet of his personality as was underlined by his career in copy writing; in advertising one needs to abide by what the client wants and still add flashes of imagination and colour of concept to make it all attractive to look at and read.Adil did that effortlessly,his literary image of a rebel not-withstanding.And what was more, he did not seem to consider his days in advertising as a by-product of the necessity to make a liv-ing.As he talked fondly about "those days", Adil spoke of warmly colleagues such as Sharad Suchde, who died later.
Dr.Modi said that Adil had always been a complex personality; a rebel in letters,a traditionalist in person.There was no frenzy in his dissent;there was fire."He was like an ocean,outwardly so calm and yet running so deep.He was like a dormant volcano.He wore a shy smile,spok in a sweet manner,was meticulously dressed,and was polite to the limit of making others feel uneasy."
Adil once described himself succinctly in one of his ghazals thus:" dharm,dhandho,janm ne jati:Ghazal"(By relig-ion,profession,birth and community,he is of ghazal).About his po-etry,said Dr.Modi, one could easily do a doctoral thesis."If you do not submit the thesis for a Ph.D. any university would bestow an honorary D.Lit.on you for the work.Such is the sweep,depth and appeal of his poetry." His language could be deceptively sim-ple,and still full of depth, a depth that can be perceived by readers easily.He had done ghazals in the traditional style, and then had-broken the mould and ventured out in different directions."Before going against the traditions, Adil mastered the naunces of the tradi-tions,tried his hand, and when found them inadequate to be his proper vehicle,struck out in newer areas",Dr.Modi said.
About ghazal,he sang:
Jyare pranayni jagman sharuat thai hashe,
Tyare pratham ghazalni rajuat thai hashe.
When love first made its appearance in the world,the first ghazal was presented.
And,then, he could switch easily to modern ways:
Ena patanne billina kudakaman joine,
Maro vikas thay chhe sherina shwanman.
Seeing his downfall in the cat's jump,my own growth takes the form of the street dog.
Or, he could cry out thus:
Makanoman loko purai gaya chhe,
ke manasne manasno dar hoy jane.
People have shut themselves up in houses, as if man was afraid of man.
The same Adil could be sentimental about his city,Ahmedabad.He himself had rated his piece on the city as the one liked the best.Why? "I find that it creates echoes in the heart of the readers and listeners exactly in the same way as it did in mine when it was first created", said Adil.

Wherever,away from home, it has been rendered,it has been known to bring tears to innumerable eyes.Reflecting the yearning of a man going away from his home town, Adil said in the piece:
Nadini retman ramatun nagar male na male,
fari aa drashya smrutipat upar male na male.
Bhari lo shwasman eni sugandhno dariyo,
pachhi aa matini bhini asar male na male.
Parichitone dharaine joi leva do,
aa hasta chehra,aa mithi najar male na male.
Bhari lo aankhman rastao,baario,bhinto,
pachhi aa shaher,aa galio,aa ghar male na male.
Radi lo aaj sambadhone vintalai ahin,
pachhi koi ne koini kabar male na male.
Valava aavya chhe e chehara farashe aankhoman,
bhale safarman koi hamsafar male na male.
Vatanni dhulthi mathun bhari laun Adil,
Arey aa dhul pachhi umrabhar male na male.
[ Maybe this city,playing in the sands,will not be seen again by these eyes,
Fill the nostrils with the ocean of its smells,maybe it will not be available to smell again.
Drink in the sights of the acquaintances to the content of the heart,maybe these smiling face will not be seen again.
Fill the eyes with the images of these roads,these win-dows,these walls,maybe this city, these bylanes,this house may not be available again.
Cry,embracing the kins of the place,maybe some one or other's even grave will not be seen again.
Faces saying goodbye will live for ever in the eyes as perma-ment companions, maybe in the life's journey hereafter not even one companion will be there.
Adil, put the dust of the city on the head,maybe this dust will not grace the hair in this lifetime again.]
Although successful in America too,Adil yearned to be back home again. "I had gone for the good of my children.I will come back once that objective is accomplished." Already,he had decided that he should come to Ahmedabad more often.If in the past ten years he came twice only,he now planned to come for four months every two years."Those will be the months when I will spend time nursing my roots, deriving sustenance for myself,enhancing my joy of living.My roots are here."
The experience in every brief sojourn had been invigorating for Adil. He would go to a gathering of poets and recite some of his latest. The crowd would be so happy with what he had to say that the programme which began at 10.30 p m may end around 3.30 a m."People just would not leave",recalled Dr Modi.Adil found that there now was better appreciation of arts and culture,and men and women of letters in Gujarat than was there earlier. He found Guja-rat more prosperous,but also more crowded,and with apalling pub-lic health conditions.But,more important than everything else,he found that Ahmedabad and Gujarat responded to him,and he re-sponded to them magnificently.No one is more welcome anywhere in the world than in his own home,and even if one has been a prodigal son.
This son was not a prodigal in with bagful of grievance.He was so intense sentimental that he would treat stay elsewhere as tem-porary. Adil’s birthday slipped by unnoticed in his beloved city on May 18.Not many remembered this literary badshah who wanted as his crown nothing but the dust of Ahmedabad. No city can hope for a better tribute. But then, Adil was Adil was Adil.
On the day of kyamat, the city will owe him much and he will owe nothing. Yet, charactistically he will offer to pay up on behalf of his beloved Ahmedabad.

A Forgotten Gujarati Gem: Krishnalal Shridharani


Tushar Bhatt
                                                                                                               sketch:Nirmish Thakar                                                                                          

    Some people are like an iceberg; only one-tenth of their personality would be visible. Krishnalal Shridharani, who would have been only two years short now of centenary, had he been alive, is a prime example.
    Known to Gujarat mostly as a very sensitive poet of the freedom struggle vintage, he is also vaguely recalled as having been a journalist. Even in the city of Bhavnagar that boasts of him as one of its own, most think of him as Kavi Shridharani, a poet in Gujarati. Yet, this was only one part of his warm, vibrant, radiant and multifaceted totality.
    Though little remembered today, Krishnalal's lasting contribution in the world beyond the boundaries of Gujarat, was in his pioneering efforts at explaining Gandhi and his tactics of fighting the British Empire, to the world at large in English, through writing and books. He was a follower of the Mahatma in strangely contrary ways. He did not believe in aping the Mahatma in his outward appearance and style; he loved pipe-smoking, was always nattily dressed and could easily pass off as a pucca Brown Sahib. But he was not. At heart, he was an Indian, who understood Gandhi and opted to tell the world about the Mahatma through words, rather than through clothes. In the process, he acquired the Western idiom, but remained a staunch Indian in values.
    It is perhaps ironical, as also symbolic of his home state, Gujarat, hardly anyone seemed to think of Shridharani, the youngest participant in the epoch-making Dandi March in 1930, save in Bhavnagar.
    The city Bhavnagar appears to particularly revel in nostalgia in a general way, and in remembering those who made a name for themselves in arts, literature and culture. It boldly takes pride, pleasure and initiative in reminding itself and others of the greats it had produced.Shridharani's alma mater, Dakshinamurti, the Bhavnagar Sahitya Sabha, his friends and admirers unfailingly think of the man, with gratitude and affection, on his birthday in September, something the rest of the State too ought to do, at least to erase the stigma that it is a land of the forgetful and the ungrateful.
    Although he studied at Dakshinamurti and Gujarat Vidyapeeth,Shridharani was apparently not cut out to be a conventional khadi-clad.He struck his own path and went to Shantiniketan.Rabindranath Tagore was highly impressed by the sensitive Gujarati and urged him to travel to the West. It was to be a momentous journey; it changed the course of his life.Gujarati literature was perhaps the only loser.
    Late Harindra Dave, another sensitive soul, poet and journalist, once introduced Shridharani as a man who would swim against not just the current but also the flood. Anybody can make speed with the current, but only those with a rare force of soul could do so against the flow. At Karadi, just before reaching Dandi for the salt satyagrah, Krishnalal wrote a piece, Saput, and earned Gandhiji's affectionate rebuke for spinning yarn instead of the wheel.
    His lifelong passion was writing. He was a journalist par excellence and an equally perceptive radio commentator, and in those days one of the rare breed of those who would wield their pens with facility both in Gujarati and English.
    His books in English, including his auto-biography, My India My America, became best-sellers in the early 1940s.Long before he went abroad and began writing in English; Shridharani had won recognition as a poet and dramatist in Gujarati.
    Born on September 16, 1911, at Umrala, Krishnalal's childhood passed mostly in Umrala, Bhavnagar and Junagadh. He lost his father, Jethalal, a lawyer with a roaring practice, when Shridharani was barely eight. The man that grew up did not remember much about his father, but a lot about his mother, Laheriben.
    Krishnalal wrote about his mother in a poem, Maari Baa

                 Aradhanaman smarun roop Baanu,
                Ne Baane smarine Prabhuroop pamun.
    In 1957,in the revised edition of Kodiyan, Krishnalal noted that the first thing he would see while doing dhyan, just before getting up and when retiring for the day, was that instead of Om,his mind will show him the image of his mother.
    His early days carried vivid memories of Girnar, the Gir, its flora and fauna. He joined an innovative educational institution, Dakshinamurti in Bhavnagar. The schooling, full of experiments, proved beneficial for Krishnalal. He would not only take interest in poetry, but also took a hand at painting. When he was hardly 12,he wrote a raasdo, a folk song ,Halya Talakchand Sasare Lo.He penned innumerable such things while in school, but his critical faculty was so sharp that he never included many of these in his collections published later, rejecting them as containing little of poetic elements. But some were really brilliant, such as when he wrote about Gandhi, Daahbhari aankhon Matani,tenu tun aansu tapakyun. His love for painting reflected in his poems too.
    Way back in 1941, Balwantray Thakore thought that Krishnalal's poetry was markedly different from that of either Umashankar Joshi or Sundaram, both tall poets. How and in what specific way,Thakore could not pinpoint but he underlined the language and art as having achieved a fusion in Krishnalal's poems.His diction, other critics judged , was superb and the sensuousness of his poetry reminded a reader of Keats.
    Poetry was not all. Shridharani also did considerable work in drama.
    He joined Gujarat Vidyapeeth and was with Mahatma Gandhi during the Dandi March. For his part in the freedom struggle, Krishnalal served a term in jail. He also spent a couple of years at Shantiniketan and was one of the Gurudev's favourite pupils. He then went to the U.S. for studies ,and during his 12 years there took  PhD in Sociology and Political Theory at Columbia University.
    He continued writing at a breakneck speed in America, and the outcome was spectacular. In 1939, he gave a book in English, War Without Violence, explaining to the materialist West,the spiritual onslaught of the satyagrah, a non-violent and yet deadly weapon against repression and injustice. In 1946, he returned to India and made Delhi his home, joined the External Affairs Ministry, then under Jawahar Lal Nehru as an officer on special duty. But the poet did not fit in with the Babu culture of government and left the job to become a journalist, writing for the  Amrita Bazar Patrika, travelling all over the country and world. In those days Delhi was not as crowded as it is today, and certainly not the madhouse of busybodies that it has become in the past three decades. He used to pen a column for the Gujarati daily, Sandesh too.
    He married Sundari, artist daughter of noted Sindhi writer,philosopher and nationalist,Dayaram Didumal,in March,1950.He had wide ranging contacts and was very friendly with a lot of leaders including Nehru, Mrs Indira Gandhi, her husband, Phiroze Gandhi,and Dr S.Radhakrishnan,as also a host of foreign dignitaries.
    When in Delhi and not doing anything else, he would potter around his flower-beds and lilly-ponds and read stories to children.
    His contribution to the Gujarati literature was immense, mainly as a poet and dramatist. Yet, he was recognised rather belatedly only. Even Gujarat did nothing. It was only in 1958, Krishnalal was suddenly discovered by the literary establishment. He was named for the Ranjitram gold medal for services to literature.

      Krihsnalal died  unexpectedly on July 23,1960,when he was hardly 49. It was not an age to go and considering what he had already written, much more was yet to come. That was not to be.
    Among the noteworthy literary creations of Krishnalal, besides Kodiyan, are Punarpi, Vadlo, Sonapari and three plays, Piyo Gori, Morna Inda and Padmini. His English books include My India,My America, War Without Violence, Warning to the West, The Big Four of India, The Adventures of the Upside-Down, The Journalist in India, Smiles From Kashmir and the Mahatma and the World.
    All his works in both languages have a common thread; all reveal him to be a highly sensitive and equally perceptive person. My India,My America won Shridharani ecstatic reviews in the American Press. Thomas Sigrue writing in the New York Herald Tribune hailed it as a "fascinating mixture of autobiography, biography, political analysis,philosophical exposition and fine writing." The 646-page book's writer was described by others as a young man who has the wisdom of the ages of his people.
    On his return to India, he kept on writing. His four portraits in words of Nehru,Rajendra Prasad,Rajaji and Sardar Patel,as also his monograph on journalism show him as a journalist far ahead of his time,in his style of wrting, his assessment of people and events and his perception of the future.He wrote of India's first prime minister,Nehru , as a man who seldom had intimate friends who was most of the time,"mangificently and dangerously aloof.The passing away of the Mahatma and Patel had removed from the Indian scene the last men who could admonish Nehu."Every individual,in order to keep his sanity, must have some people who can tell him when the occasion arises that ' you are making a fool of yourself'. The man who occupies too high a pedestal for anybody to stand on equal level with him,runs the risk of losing his sense of proportion", Krishnalal observed.Of Sardar Patel whom he called a practical man,Krishnalal said: "The death of Patel marked a sharper turning point in the infant career of independent India than did the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi....Gandhi left a universal void; the void created by Patel's passing away is purely national, and so it is felt more intensely...Patel was a strong man, and now India is without a strong man.The passing away of a strong man always creates a serious situation.For,when a strong man dies, he not only creates a void,but he also removes the lid. Pent-up, seething forces begin to find expression." These portraits were illustrated by caricatures drawn by late cartoonist, Shankar, who later started the celebrated, and now defunct Shankar’s Weekly, a world class cartoon journal.
    Most of Shridharani’s English books are not available now. Those few copies that are there are the possessions of pride for their owners.That Krishnalal Shridharani should have passed away so early in his life was a tragic loss not only to literature but also to journalism.The best way to commemorate his memory would be to republish some of his unavailable literature and scan the family archives to see if there was anything unpublished left behind.
(The End)