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I am going back in time. This is around the 1920’s when India was fighting for freedom from the British rule.
Mahatma Gandhi had returned from South Africa. He called out the youth to involve themselves not only in the political causes but also the social causes to empower India. He believed that only attaining freedom is not the need of the hour but also the upliftment of the backward classes, women are also required for India’s development.
My great grand – father Dhayabhai Naik was studying in his second year of college at that time. He thought that he had a bright future in front of him since he was going to get a degree in Arts soon and will have a good job to support his family. But something about Gandhiji’s call inspired him to leave his studies midway and join the freedom movement. He left his college and joined Gujarat Vidyapeeth in Ahmedabad. While he was at ‘Gujarat Vidyapeeth’ he felt that he should put in more efforts towards the upliftment of the socially backward class of the country. He joined social worker Amritlal Vithaldas Thakkar popularly known as ‘Thakkar Bapa’ in his endeavour to improve the life of the tribal and Harijan people of the country and moved to the Panchmahal district. He was married by then and he took my great grand- mother along with him to reside at a place which had absolutely no basic facilities.
He believed education and making them self sufficient will help in improving the lives of the tribal people. Without education and developing skills they will not be able to support themselves and fight for their rights. So he joined the ‘Bhil Seva Mandal’ founded by Thakkar Bapa and set up an ashram in Mirakhadi near Dahod to teach the tribal. He got the support of many like -minded people in his cause. He worked relentlessly until his death in 1994 for the social cause he firmly believed in.
The Government of India awarded him the ‘Padma Shri’ in the year 1959 for his 40 years of service for the upliftment of the tribal people in the Panchmahal district.
I was 14 years old when he passed away. This was when I inherited the pride of the family – his ‘Padma Shri’. There were many family members who could have claimed their right over it but since I was the only great grand- child who had the privilege to have stayed with him in the same house him for many years; I proudly demanded I should have it. I value it more than any other treasure I will ever inherit from my family. It is the treasure that I have and its difficult to describe in words the value it has for me.
My dad tells me that I used to be only 3 years when I used to imitate him while he read. I didnt know to read, and would hold his books upside down but sit like him one leg on top of other with a book besides him while he read. These memories are my treasure. The love for books and reading that I inherited from him are my treasure. The blessings he gave me are my treasure. The time I spent with him is my treasure. But above all the ‘Padma Shri’ which is safely lying in my bank locker which I will never share with anyone until my soul leaves my body is my treasure.
And I say this as I do not consider the ‘Padma Shri’ as a tangible asset. For me it’s importance lies in the values it signifies. It was awarded to my great grand-father for his belief that tribal people can be educated. They are entitled to a better life. He was awarded it as he worked relentlessly for the people who were ignored by others.
It is from him that I learnt to be more empathetic. I learnt to consider every human being as equal. I learnt that social work can give one immense satisfaction. I learnt working to empower others earns you immense love and respect. And since I learnt by watching him these learning are my treasure.
Today as a mother of 8 year old, I speak about the values I imbibed from him to my daughter and hope that when I pass on this treasure to her she will make it her way of life and strive to be a compassionate human being.
Thanks to Write Tribe for sharing this prompt for the challenge. By participating in The Write Tribe festival Of Words I rekindled my memories, remembered my ‘bapuji’, said a silent prayer for him and feel extremely proud to be his offspring.
This also gave me an opportunity to talk about people who are India’s treasure, who are not very well known or popular but have done so many great things for the upliftment of the people of India.