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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, July 14, 2004

Story of the Famous Stick of Gandhi

One small para of six lines in the biography of M. Govind Pai, inspired me to write this entry.

Gandhiji carried Govind (Pai's) stick

Rashtrakavi Govind Pai (1883-1963) was a versatile writer and polyglot. Like all intellectuals of Gandhi’s time, he was also caught in the web of freedom movement. He wrote essays on the theme of Indian independence and patriotic poems. He went to Navasari (Gujarat) to study Gandhism first hand, and also to learn Marathi and Gujarati languages from Kaka Kalelkar. Kalelkar was a teacher at National School of Navasari.

Kaka Kalelkar (Dattatreya Balakrishna Kalelkar) was from Karwar (Karnataka), and his mother tongue was Konkani. But, he was in Gujarat for several years and was a well known writer in Gujarati. Close friendship was formed between Kaka and Govind Pai. The word Kaka, stands for uncle (as Bapu stands for father) and to everybody he was Kaka. At Gandhi's ashram, Kaka Kalelkar was to Gandhi like Bharat to Shri Ram, in the propagation of swadeshi and Hindi as national language. He was editor of 'Sarvodaya' periodical.

Govind Pai had to leave early for Manjeshwar because of his wife's serious illness. However, Kalelkar visited Mangalore in 1920 and specially went to Manjeshwar to meet his dear friend. In his own words, "It was during one of my whirlwind journeys throughout the country in the cause of the national language that I visited Govind Pai in his home in Manjeshwar. It was only a day, that we spent together. But into these few hours, we crowded the reminiscences of a life-time. Oh! the intensity of his affection! And the depth of his devotion to literature!".

Govind Pai gave a gift to Kaka Kalelkar, at the time of parting, one of his prized possessions. It was a light but very strong walking stick. An uncommon, closely knotted cane-stick called snake-stick (naga-betta), wherein every knot had a natural blackspot.

The year 1930 arrived. Gandhi started Salt Satyagraha and the historical Dandi March. To cover the long distance conveniently on foot, Kaka Kalelkar gave the walking stick to Gandhi, which he had received as a present from his friend. The walking stick prominently figured in the pictures of Gandhi on Dandi March.

In India, usually a guru (teacher) gives 'taste' of stick to erring shishya (student). It must have given immense delight to the poet of Manjeshwar to see his stick in the hand of his spiritual Guru!

Recommended Reading: Making of Indian Literature: Govind Pai by Thirumaleswara Bhat. A Sahitya Academy New Delhi Publication 1993.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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