by Jyotsna Kamat
Ganesh Vishweshwar Burde (1906-2002) A centennial Tribute
My father, G. V. Burde would have turned 100, on June 6th of 2006. He was an uncommon man. He developed certain virtues which at times are very difficult for ordinary people to inculcate. I cannot help listing some of his traits, which were contradictory or seemed to be so.
He was a self-taught person. Sixth child among my grandparents' nine children, his formal education ended with matriculation (grade 10). A voracious reader, he learnt English, Kannada, Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali languages out of sheer love for languages. He read Tagore's works in original Bengali when he was past seventy!
He gave up smoking after forty years of hard smoking. The reason? He could not get his brand of cigarettes, when he was in Jaipur (Rajasthan) for a few months! He did not resume it after his return to his place.
He was almost an atheist. He did not wear the sacred thread which is considered mandatory for Brahmins and did not believe in any of the rituals, condemning many, logically. However, he was a proud Hindu and a founder member of Arya Samaj branch at Gadag. He helped some friends who willingly wanted to come back to Hindu fold after converting to Christianity.
He loved outdoor life. He was a scout-guard; he knew several body exercises, took long walks, and taught his wife and children swimming. This at a time when women were not supposed to be in wet clothes in public places!
He never thought of owning a house, though he spent thousands of Rupees (Indian currency) on books. Books were his passion. His lust for learning later turned into an obsession. He could ill-afford them with his meager income.
He was a dare-devil. Thick forests, river-currents and unknown tracks did not deter him in undertaking adventures. A nationalist to the core he sheltered underground revolutionaries at his residence during Quit India Movement (1942), when he was an official of the British government, a postmaster. He would have lost the job and landed in jail, if these activities came to light.
A mere matriculate or school graduate, he helped his two daughters in their doctoral theses in translating Sanskrit works and correcting English language.
He did not distinguish between his son and three daughters. This is rare in the patriarchal Indian society. He bestowed his care and affection equally and allowed us all the freedom to study, work and marry as we decided.
He was a great story-teller. He composed and narrated innumerable stories with Prakash (son) and Vikas (grandson) as heroes. Full of humor and misadventures, his stories were a source of entertainment for the whole family.
His colleagues respected him, friends adored him and we all loved him for his unconcealed love of life and quest. He was Baba (elder, father) to each and every body who knew him closely. He willingly taught to youngsters who approached him, English and other subjects. He was called "Burde Master" by several.
He kept active habits till the end, exercising regularly. He had no health problems and died of old age when limbs (faculties) fail one by one. He passed away at the ripe age of ninety-six on July 20th of 2002.
I am what I am today because of the encouragement, care and affection he gave me in no small measure. The love of reading which he imbued in us, has helped in all walks of our lives. I remember Baba everyday, before writing a new article for our website. He insisted on accuracy of spelling, contents and correct usage of English language.
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