Modi in Translation

Modi's biography of Golwalkar suggests RSS leader was vital influence

Aakar Patel translates an essay written by the prime minister of India.

Translator’s note: In 2008, after his second assembly election win in 2007, Narendra Modi wrote a book in Gujarati titled ‘Jyotipunj’ (Beams of Light) in which he retold the life stories of 16 men who inspired him. All 16 were members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and many of them mentored the young Modi in his time as a pracharak, or activist, in Ahmedabad in the mid- and late 1970s. 

The longest biography is of the RSS’s second sarsanghchalak, or paramount leader, MS Golwalkar, who expanded the organisation after he was given charge by its founder KB Hedgewar. Golwalkar died in 1973, when Modi was 23 and already in the RSS.

He does not refer to any personal contact with the RSS leader in this essay. Even so, the reverence with which Modi writes of Golwalkar in the essay, titled ‘Pujniya Shri Guruji,’ (Guru Worthy of Worship), suggests that Golwalkar is the second most important influence – Vivekanand is the first – on the life of the prime minister of India. The love of nation and of unity, the insistence on uniformity and suspicion of diversity, all of this Modi shares with Golwalkar.

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Glancing through our history, some qualities come up when we observe great men.
– References to the Shankaracharya bring to mind his advaita.
– The Buddha reminds us of compassion.
– Mahavir is associated with ahimsa.
– Rana Pratap with his determination.
– Shivaji Maharaj with his call for a free India.
– Guru Gobind with his Panj Pyare.
– Guru Tegh Bahadur with his beheading.
– Ramkrishna Paramhans with his witnessing of god.
– Swami Vivekanand with his message from the world stage.
– Tilak with his “swaraj is my birthright” call.
– Ambedkar is the modern Manu.
– Swami Shradhanand’s sacrifice.
– Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom.
– The Sardar’s determination.
– Gandhi’s mendicant ways.

One or the other virtue stands out in these souls, who lived to serve their nation. One such gem was Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar  Param Pujya Shri Guruji  the second sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He appeared to be a spiritual man. But unlike the usual manner of such men, he did not run away from the world. He lived among thousands and inspired nationalism in them.

He did not sit in some Himalayan idyll holding his nose in meditation. We think of him as many things  a leader, a scientist  and we wonder if he was ever spiritual. But then we realise he was different from these kinds of people. His one defining characteristic was that he was a swayamsevak. We are familiar with his other aspects, but cannot grasp them. And we realise that other than being a swayamsevak, he had no other desire.

A Communist Party leader once said of him:

“You know what is wrong with your Guruji?”
And the same person replied: “His unambiguousness.”

This meant that he was entirely free of want, the sign of a very great man. If he had one desire it was  “complete swayamsevak”. “Swayamsevak” means the surrender of the self, the devotion of one’s life to principles. Pa Pu Guruji’s life radiated as one who was a total and complete swayamsevak. He had given up all rest and recreation to achieve this.

He has written of this: “Once I was in search of god. When I looked for him, I was told: ‘Go clean the vessels; go sweep the floor; go clean the garden; go feed the cow.’” Guruji thought: “In my search for god, I went about these tasks without any expectation.”

After he joined the Sangh, he said: “I have Dr Hedgewar’s life and his principles before me.” This total devotion was the source of his life as a complete swayamsevak.

He had many ups and downs in his life. Of eight children, he was the only one to survive. Imagine the expectations his parents would have had of him! A mother such as his would nurture great dreams about her only son! But amid all of this, if the son chooses an entirely different sort of life, it is natural for them to be disappointed.

He was master of the sitar and flute and had the ability to move humanity. When such a man chooses to tune his life to the inward music of spiritualism instead, it is only expected that his parents would be disappointed.

He left his home so that he would not continually let his mother down. He roamed the Himalayas, and his agitated mind found stillness only when he reached Sargachi Ashram.

He had a master’s degree and knew the mysteries of science. His mind was a mix of science, religion and culture. He said once that the advance of humanity depended on the advancement of science.

His great teacher was his guru, Swami Akhandanandji. Of Ramkrishnadev Paramhansdev’s eleven disciples, one was Swami Vivekanand and  another was Swami Akhandanand. He lived in Sargachi Ashram. Once, when Swami Akhandanand was stroking Guruji’s head, he said: “Madhav, this hair of yours and this beard and moustache, they become you. They bring out your spiritualism. Never cut them.”

And so he never did. Till the end, he wore his hair long. This is why he retained his character as a spiritual man.

It sounds easy. If you and I were told, “Brother, you look quite good. Wear your hair long,” we would think of not cutting it. But with Guruji, it didn’t stop there. The ease with which Akhandanandji told him to wear his hair long, with that same ease Guruji followed this advice for the rest of his life.

Once, Dr Keshvrao Baliram Hedgewarji said to him: “Madhavrao, handle the Sangh’s work.” Dr Hedgewar was on his deathbed; his passing was certain. He had formed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925. By 1940, it had spread across India. He decided to now hand over this organisation to a man aged only 34. But he said only very simply to Pa Pu Guruji: “Madhav, handle the Sangh’s work.” This was the only sentence he spoke in 1940.

Dr Hedgewar’s trust
Dr Hedgewar did not stay up all night to tell Guruji what the nation’s condition was, how many bad things had entered Hindu culture after 1000 years of slavery. He did not speak of this. He taught him no songs of patriotism. He said simply: “Madhavrao, you handle this work.”

Let us try and imagine what that moment must have been like. In giving Guruji this responsibility, what would Dr Hedgewarji have thought? How much information had he sought?

Sometimes I wonder if Doctorji had sat Guruji down and instructed him in Hindutva overnight. Had he told him the minor details of the ruin of Hindu society? To get him to serve society instead of devoting himself to moksha and seeking god, what words would have been used?

In 1940, the Sangh’s shapeform, its influence, was still formative. What would be its future after the founder was gone? Thousands of such questions would arise in ordinary minds. What bridge had joined Doctorji and Guruji? Doctorji would havehad total faith and trust in this young man. It shows what ability Doctorji had to recognise character and to see that a man who was searching for spiritualism would instead devote the rest of his life to society.

And so Guruji gave up his every moment to the responsibility Doctorji had given him. What an amazing event! What an astonishing recognition of character, what faith! Yes, this was what was special about Guruji. The ease with which Swami Akhandanandji had said “Don’t cut this hair,” with that same ease, till the end of his life, from 1940 to 1973, travelling all over India constantly, Guruji threw himself into his work of expanding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Guruji was inclined towards spiritualism. How did such a man take up the work of the Sangh? Why did he give up his entire life for the saffron flag? He has shed some light on this. The daily Tarun Bharat’s editor Madkhoelkar Bhausaheb had spoken to respected Guruji at length. Doctorsaheb was also present.

When they finished discussing the book at hand, Bhausaheb asked Guruji for permission to ask some personal questions. After Guruji’s passing, Tarun Bharat, in its edition of 16 June 1973, carried a piece headlined “Trikonisangam”. This had the contents of the exchange Bhausaheb had with Guruji. One question was: “I’ve heard that you left the Sangh midway to go to Bengal’s Ramkrishna Ashram. There you took deeksha under Swami Vivekanand’s gurubandhu [fellow disciple]. Then how did you return again to the Sangh?”

Guruji was stunned by the question. He thought it over with half-open eyes. After a while he began to speak, slowly. He said: "You’ve asked an unexpected question. Whether or not there is a difference between the role of the ashram and the Sangh; that Doctorji will be able to answer more authoritatively. I was always inclined to spiritualism along with the task of nation building. That I would be better able to do this in the Sangh I learned from my visits to Banaras, Nagpur and Calcutta. And so I have devoted myself to the Sangh. I think this is in line with Swami Vivekanand’s message. I’m more influenced by him than anyone else. I think I can only take forward his goals by remaining in the Sangh."

The twinkle of self-confidence in Guruji’s eyes was something to be seen, wrote Bhausaheb, and even Doctorji had turned sombre.

This, then, was the thinking behind Guruji’s decision to devote his life to the Sangh. For 33 years, he did so. it.

His faith never wavered. He used to say: "Doctorji’s speeches didn’t really enter my mind. Over time, they seeped into my being. He seized all of me. Whenever I’m in difficulty, his life inspires me and a road opens up."
He would always instruct swayamsevaks to study Doctorji’s life.

Tireless travels
To do what he did for 33 years is not easy. Do you think he was never unwell? That his car never broke down? That his flight wasn't ever delayed? Did cold and heat and rain never upset his plans? Of course they did!

But he went on and on without expectation. For 33 years, every drop of blood, every moment of life, was given to the motherland. That her millions would find pride of place on the world stage, this was the goal that motivated his work with the Sangh as its sarsanghachalak.

Once someone asked Guruji, “Where do you live?” He replied: “In the train compartment.” He travelled continuously for 33 years. Even when he was struck with cancer, the travelling remained.

This is a story from 1943. Some karyakartas had gathered for a meeting in Pune. Guruji was present, and he had been going across the country on his mission after becoming sarsanghachalak. Karyakartas would affectionately ask him to rest. In his speech, he addressed these requests, saying: “Rest? What rest for us now? Rest is only possible now when the task at hand is done or we are on the pyre.”

The swayamsevak
Once, the sanghshikshavarg [third year training] for central India was in progress in Gwalior. Guruji was in the dining tent. An announcement was made that guests would leave after their meal but swayamsevaks would have to remain. Along with Guruji, there were Rajmata Scindia, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and others. When the announcement was made, the others left. Guruji remained. When he was requested by the organisers to leave, he said: “You announced that swayamsevaks had to remain, only the guests had to go. How could I leave?” He remained till all the swayamsevaks had dined. He was always alert to such things.

The affectionate man
Once Guruji was on a train from Ajmer to Indore. The train was meant to halt for a couple of hours in Ratlam. In that city, a swayamsevak named Gopalrao had invited Guruji to lunch. Unfortunately the train arrived late and a programme for two hours had been scheduled, including a chat with local swayamsevaks and then lunch.

When the train arrived, Guruji was urged to eat. He said “No. First I’ll meet the swayamsevaks. If there is time, I shall eat.” Once he began such talks, he would immerse himself in them. Soon it was time to go. Gopalrao came to him with tears in his eyes: “Guruji, you’re leaving my home hungry?”

Guruji said: “Brother, I’m a swayamsevak. I know your heart. When I return to Ajmer from Indore, I’ll pass by again and will have dinner with you.” Guruji usually only had one meal: lunch. In Indore, he instructed that he wanted his lunch cancelled because he had to dine with Gopalrao. This is how affectionate he was with swayamsevaks, however small they may have been.

Once a swayamsevak named Pravinchandra Doshi came from Rangoon for the 1956 sanghshikshavarg in Nagpur. That city is a holy place for all swayamsevaks because the RSS was founded there. When Pravinchandra arrived, Guruji was sitting with 15–20 swayamsevaks. One of them, a doctor, asked, “Who are your relatives and loved ones here? Where in Nagpur are you staying?”

Pravinchandra was in a fix about what to say. Guruji then spoke: “He’s a relative and loved one of mine. And he’s staying with me.” Pravinchandra was in tears on hearing this. Such love! When a swayamsevak meets another, it is as if two brothers are meeting.

Many would have found Guruji intimidating and unapproachable at first, but on experiencing him, their concerns would immediately vanish. And when you were close to him, all differences would vanish.

Once, Guruji was at a cow-protection meeting in Nagpur. After the prayer, he headed towards his car. As he reached it, a child swayamsevak asked him: “Oye, is this your car?” [the text cites the child addressing Golwalkar in the familiar ‘tu’ form.]

This began a humorous exchange.
“Yes, it is mine.”
“You drive it?”
“Yes, I drive it.”
“You still remember how to drive?”
“Yes, I still remember.”
“Wow, you're amazing,” the child said with surprise to Guruji, and indeed he was amazing.

Every Hindu is my brother
In Nagpur’s Hedgewar Bhavan there was a cook named Mangalprasad. Once he was away in his village to attend his brother’s funeral. Pa Pu Guruji wrote him a condolence letter which began with, “My dear friend Mangalprasad.” The man who hadn’t wept for his brother broke down on reading these words.
Mangalprasad took great care of Guruji. When Guruji was afflicted with cancer, he administered the doses of medicine. Once Guruji refused, saying “What use are medicines now?”

The next day, Mangalprasad brought a spoonful. Guruji said: “Looks like Dr Abaji has sent this. Tell him I’m not taking it.”

Mangalprasad said “No Guruji, I’ve made this myself.”

Guruji immediately swallowed it. He was just a cook, but Mangalprasad was a part of Hindu society. A son of Bharat Mata. “Every Hindu is my brother. His pain his mine. His hardship is mine.” This sentiment was forever in Guruji's heart. Whether it was a swayamsevak in difficulty or an ordinary man, a coolie or a mill worker, Guruji did not differentiate and felt from his heart for all of them.

Once, Guruji was depressed on hearing a piece of news. On returning from a trip, he learnt that an old beggar who lived near his house had died. At a meeting of pracharaks later, he spoke of this with pain. At this age, who would have cared for him? Who put some water on his parched lips? In this huge Hindu society, there would be so many of our brothers in a similar position. Who would wipe their tears?

Not you, us
Guruji was always focused on the formative aspects of swayamsevaks.
Once a poet had composed a song. It began: “Tum karo rashtra-aradhana [You must do nation worship].” On listening to this opening line, Guruji stopped him. “Brother, wait. Not ‘Tum karo rashtra-aradhana,’ but ‘Hum karein rashtra-aradhana [We must do nation worship].’”

The poet had written fine words but hadn’t cast a thought to what message these sent out. What was being communicated was “You need to do this,” and “the government needs to do this.” What was required was “I need to do this.”

Sense of duty
How alert he was to duty! In Satara, the government ban on meetings in maidans meant the swayamsevaks did their gurudakshina utsav [the annual rite of donating money to the RSS] in a karyakarta’s house during a Satyanarayana Puja. The pandit presiding was informed that the money donated would be given to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh gurudakshina. The pandit was overjoyed and made a contribution himself.

Soon after, Guruji visited the area. He was informed of the manner in which the Gurudakshina utsav was done. He said, “Whatever money was collected by swayamsevaks under the saffron flag, only that should be donated. The money collected during the puja should immediately be sent to the pandit. Have this done and inform me.”

Such attention to detail went into the making of the Sangh.

Once in Kanpur’s sanghshikshavarg, there was a parade in which swayamsevaks were meant to be in full dress. At dinner, there was an informal gathering. Guruji asked, “One of you was not wearing his cap. Who was it?”

A man stood up. “Where was your cap?” Guruji asked “The gathering was meant to be in full dress.”

The man replied “I gave it to a man from our region.”

“What happened to his,” Guruji asked. “He didn’t have it,” the man replied.

“I see,” said Guruji. “So you bribed him with yours to bring him along.” He added, “Swayamsevaks are not made in this way.”

Once in Madurai, there was a two-day gathering of swayamsevaks. Guruji was meant to end the event with a speech that was to conclude at 5 pm. While he was speaking, a swayamsevak who had to catch the 5.30 pm bus got up and left. After the event, Guruji inquired about him and was told about the bus. He was astonished. “I had a word with him before I began and told him I would end at 5.00. He would not be late in catching his bus.” Saying this, Guruji showed the swayamsevaks his watch, which read 5.00 pm. Such attention to the needs of individual swayamsevaks!

At another gathering, Guruji asked how things were going. One man replied “We’re not able to expand our work.” Why not, he was asked. “My karyakartas don’t work,” the man said. “This approach is wrong,” Guruji said. “Not my karyakartas, you should say instead my comrades, my fellow workers.”

He was opposed to the very idea of a leader and followers in the Sangh. In his mind, the work of the Sangh was as lighting one lamp with another. This was the same principle as in the Shankaracharya’s advaita. Aham brahmasmi—tatvamasi. What I am, you are.

Insistence on discipline
In Barabanki, Guruji was once speaking at a session. A swayamsevak was sketching Guruji while this was happening. After the session, the man went to Rajju Bhaiiya [Rajendra Singh, the fourth sarsanghachalak] to get it autographed by Guruji. Rajju Bhaiyya took him to Guruji, who glanced at it and asked: “Are you an artist or also a swayamsevak?” The man said he was a swayamsevak who regularly attended the shakha. Guruji said, “While I was focussing all of my energy on telling you something, you were busy doing this. What sort of swayamsevak are you? I’m not autographing this.”

Once, Guruji was on a tour to Andhra Pradesh. His train was to arrive at about 4.30 am. There was a halt there of about 45 minutes and swayamsevaks planned for Guruji to use the train latrine in that period. They would carry some tea in a thermos to prepare him for the 100-mile trip onward, and thus reach the scheduled meeting on time.

At night, Guruji asked a senior swayamsevak, Bapurao Moghe, for the following day’s programme. He noticed the arrangements and said, “In train toilets have you ever seen a small notice?” Bapurao said he had. Guruji said: “It reads, ‘Don’t use the latrine when the train has halted at a station.’ I always follow this rule.”

Just imagine how many millions travel and read this notice. How many actually follow it?

Faith in shakhas
Before independence, after Hedgewarji’s passing, Pa Pu Guruji took charge of the Sangh, even though he was not its senior-most member.

Once a karyakarta came to Guruji and said: “This shakha-shakha business doesn’t help India. We should try some new things. Else we will lose both Sangh and nation.”

He said that everything would go to pieces and struck a note of despondency. Guruji heard him patiently and calmly. He was only 35 or 36 at the time. He said in English: “If it will collapse, I will begin it from the beginning.”
That it to say, if everything failed, he would go back to Nagpur’s Mohite Wada and gather people again, just as Dr Hedgewarji had done.

This story is from the time that the Shankaracharya of Sharda Peeth passed away. The Dwarka Peeth Shankaracharya, Shri Abhinav Sachidanandji, sent word to Pa Pu Guruji: “Guruji, the Shankaracharya’s seat is vacant and nobody is more suitable for it than you.” For any other person, this would have been something to jump at. Guruji instead sent word with politeness: “Jagadguru! Your wish is my command. But I’ve already accepted a great task. The shakha is my faith. I can serve society better through the shakha than as Shankaracharya. So please keep me out of your plans.”

Such was his confidence in the shakha, even in the infant stages of the Sangh. Service to India was his only goal.

Spiritual excellence
Once Guruji was in Madras. He wished to see Kanchi Kamkoti Peeth’s Shankaracharya Shri Chandrashekharendra Saraswatiji, who was sent a message. He replied: “Guruji can come whenever he is free.” Guruji arrived. At that time, the Shankaracharyaji had finished his ablutions, worn the sacred cloth and gone into the sanctum sanctorum to pray. There is a rule there that once this happens, nobody else must enter. But when he was informed that Guruji had arrived, he told his assistants to send him in. Guruji washed his hands and feet and went in, and the two prayed together. Later the Shankaracharya’s students asked him: “Swamiji, you never let anyone enter when you’re praying inside, so how did you let Guruji come?”

Shankaracharyaji said: “That rule is for ordinary people.”

When Pu Guruji went to Mysore’s Ramkrishna Mission, he sought to see its Vidyamandir. Swami Amitabh Maharaj was present to welcome him and he said: “Shri Guruji showed extreme effort and patience in his time at the Sargachi. On the evidence of those days alone I can say that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has a ‘Narendra’ [Lord of men] as its leader.”

When he was to come to Gujarat, at the same time that Pu Shri Rang Avdhoot Maharaj was in Vadodara. He sought to meet Guruji. The swayamsevaks said that it wasis not proper that he come to see Guruji. And so Guruji said he would go, but the Guru Maharaj insisted. In the end, Guruji relented before Guru Maharaj’s desire and they met. What a sight that was! In the house of Himmatbhai Thakkar in Bajwa, the leader of one of the world’s largest organisations ran down like a child and opened the car’s door.
Guru Maharaj got down and Guruji prostrated before him. They hugged and exchanged a line. Only those who are truly spiritual will understand it. Guruji said: “We have often met, but our bodies are meeting for the first time.” They were silent and yet in constant communication.

It was said that Guru Maharaj never got himself photographed with another person. But on that day he said to the photographer: “Come and takeshoot one of me with Guruji.” They embraced and that photo is still around.

Shakha as life mantra
In February 1946, Guruji was in Calcutta. Some eminent citizens invited him to tea. At the event, one of them, a doctor, said to Guruji: “I agree with what the Sangh aims to achieve. I have a problem with the means. What’s the point of all this physical stuff—playing kabaddi and the like? How can they ever assist in achieving those lofty goals?”

Guruji laughingly asked him: “Doctor saheb! What's your master drug in allopathy?”

The doctor replied: “Penicillin.” Guruji asked: “What is penicillin made from?” The doctor said: “Everyone knows that it’s made from foodstuff so rotten that nobody can stand its smell.” Pa Pu Guruji said [text in English in the original]: “Does it mean that even the worst thing can yield the best results in the hands of experts?”

Doctor saheb said: “Yes.”

Guruji said: “And here we are the experts in the science of organisation.”

Once, all the pracharaks had gathered in Sindi near Wardha. It was so arranged that all the senior pracharaks had to serve at mealtimes and the turn came of Pu Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. He was given charge of the basket of chapatis. As he approached Guruji, the basket fell out of his hand and he was flustered. Guruji laughed and said: “Have you stopped attending the shakha?” He always believed that the shakha provided the energy and spirit for life’s challenges.

The sangh is a family
No distinction such as ordinary swayamsevak and officer-bearer, differences of language or of region or caste or small and big was acceptable to Guruji. Once at a sanghshikshavarg in Nagpur, a man introduced himself as coming from Belgaum.

Guruji asked him: “The same place that people are fighting over?” The man said yes.

Which side are you on, Guruji asked. He replied: “I favour it going to Maharashtra.” Pa Pu Guruji said: “Brother, swayamsevaks are always on one side alone, and that is the nationalist side. We don’t permit any other side here. Please pack your stuff and return. I'll make the arrangements.”

The kind, great man
People thought of Guruji as excellent and gentle. But even while he lived, a few intellectuals were not able to recognise him for what he was. This was the result of the Sangh’s traditions of working outside the spotlight for the motherland.

Such myths were spread about him that he was like Hitler, Lenin and Mussolini. Without knowing him, without ever having met him, they found nothing wrong in writing about him. They were prejudiced about him and saw nothing in his great qualities.

Towards the end of his life, he wrote three letters which are inspirational for all swayamsevaks and those who want to see India become great. In one, Guruji wrote: “In the last 33 years, working with me, encountering my peculiarities and my faults of character, it is possible that I may have insulted you or hurt you in some way or humiliated you. If so, my beloved brother swayamsevaks, please forgive me from the kindness of your heart. I fold my hands to you and ask for pardon.”

Imagine that the man who controlled lakhs of swayamsevaks, on whose word they would sacrifice their lives, such a man was asking of them, and of India's citizens, forgiveness!

He was famously modest and did not allow his photograph to be taken. At one occasion to take up cow protection in Prayaag, many great men had gathered, including saints and sadhus. When Pa Pu Guruji reached, the cry went up: “Pa Pu Guruji zindabad” and “Pa Pu Guruji amar raho” and “Pa Pu Guruji ki jai.” On hearing these, it was as if a current had passed through him. He turned around, went to his car and told the driver to return.

Prabhudutt Brahmachari saw this and ran down from the stage. He urged Guruji to return. He was told: “Where instead of cries of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and where instead of a discussion on India’s progress, one man is being glorified, I have no intention of staying.”

They asked for forgiveness and said they had been wrong. Everyone cried out “Bharat mata ki jai” and Guruji stayed back. Guruji was so particular about this that if he noticed a photograph of himself in a house he was visiting, he would have it taken down.

Not me, only you
Once the editor of Dharmayug wrote to India’s famous people asking them for their motto in life. Many wrote back, some two pages and others five. Pa Pu Guruji was requested many times but he did not send it. In the end, the editor met Pu Guruji himself and pleaded with him. Guruji relented and offered these four words: “Not me, only you.”

This captures his life’s message and philosophy. What or who is “you” in this? It is Sangh, society and god. He saw all three as the same thing. As he approached death, he wrote in those other two letters: “My instruction to swayamsevaks is that there should be no memorial to me.”

All sons of the motherland were obliged to serve her. It was irrelevant which of them actually did. His thinking was clear on this. Once, swayamsevaks presented him with a book on India’s security. It contained instances from the India–Pakistan war and detailed the services of swayamsevaks. Their sacrifices and bravery in Punjab were also touched upon. The swayamsevaks thought Guruji would be happy to see the book.

Instead, they were stunned by his reaction. He said: “I cannot accept such a book.” His reason was that he didn’t want publicity of swayamsevaks’ sacrifice and service in this instance. “Brother, if someone serves his mother, does he think it worthy of publicity?”

All for the motherland
After Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the Sangh was banned. It was later found to be not guilty. Guruji was released from jail. This man, who spoke of loving all humanity, was to be felicitated in Delhi. He was a young man of only 40. Lakhs of swayamsevaks were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. Lakhs of ears were eager to listen to him in Delhi. Journalists from all over the world were at hand. Everyone was eager to know what instruction Guruji would send out. Would he urge them to bring down Pandit Nehru’s government violently? To spread anarchy across India? Instead, after 19 months in jail, this great man said: “Forget all that happened. Those who did it are our people. If the tongue is caught between the teeth, we don’t break the teeth to punish them because the teeth are also ours. Forget it.”

Think about that. Such balance and restraint at the age of 40. There are many such examples in 33 years of unbroken sacrifice.

On that day, when everyone was praising Guruji, he was sitting on the stage scribbling on a piece of paper. People assumed he was writing a response to what was being said about him. But he was not impressed by that. He was writing the lyrics to ‘Vande Mataram’ so that the singer could refer to it at the programme’s end. His insistence was that the song should be sung in entirety always.

Striving till the end
In 1969, he was diagnosed with cancer. Life was now uncertain, death was near. He did not lose his patience. The sky is blood red both at dusk and at dawn. There was nothing to rejoice or mourn over.

It was decided to operate on him and a delay would hasten him towards death. But he was clear that it would have to wait. The sanghshikshavarg programmes of the summer vacations had been already scheduled. It wasn’t right to operate before that.

He was in great pain, but he chose Sangh over self. For two and a half months, he went on an intense tour and did not allow himself to be operated on till he had met with swayamsevaks from all corners of India.

He even turned the hospital into a temple of social service. After a gruelling four-hour surgery, he was off to ask about the wellbeing of other patients.
During his final days he went to Kottakkal in Kerala. Bathing in oil was considered a cure over there. Dr Madhav Paradkar was then looking after Guruji. One day a local physician came. He lit some lamps and said to Guruji: “Pray to god that you are healed soon.” Guruji said to him: “You are free to do what you wish. But why pray for this weak body to survive longer? Whatever work He wants out of it, He will take. When He thinks the work is done, He will summon me. I’m not going to pray just to live longer.”

During that time, Shri Bahurao Deoras and Rajju Bhaiyya came to Allahabad. They came to a famous pundit there . When they reached his door he said to them: “I know the reason you’re here. You come for the well-being of a wise and great man. However, I don’t see him living after 6 June. He’s a Mahatma. There is no reincarnation for him. He is deserving of moksha. He has reached the stage of being a Paramhans.”

On the morning of 5 June 1973, Dr Abaji said: “The bell has rung...” We might think that was a strange thing to have said. But it signifies a spiritual life. The bell is connected to the temple and the idol. The message to go to god and the Allahabad pundit’s prophecy came together.

2006 was Pa Pu Guruji's centenary year. We are not capable to know or analyse Guruji’s life. This is a humble attempt to recount those beautiful moments of his life and I hope it makes your moments joyous.

Le chalein hum rashtra nauka ko, bhanwar se paar kar.
Let us take the ship of state, away from the whirlpools that threaten it.

 
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.