Among the many attributes for which Paramadarniya Krishna Ballabh Prasad Narayan Singhji will be forever remembered is the manner in which he always remained ?Babuaji?, the term of endearment he answered to till the moment he breathed his last on December 18 at the age of 93 and left his legion of admirers with a sense of void that may never be filled.
The man who founded and nursed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Bihar was a intellectual giant, as comfortable in speaking about the finer aspects of Sangh ideology as with the more mundane details of crop raising. Yet, from the day I came in contact with him over 50 years ago till our last meeting on his hospital bed in Patna, I could never stop marveling at his inborn goodness.
Babuaji was just that: A pillar of the society gifted with a childlike simplicity that bordered on innocence. He was cast in the mould of a classical Sangh icon, invisible to the public eye as he went about the task of building the organisation in vast parts of eastern India over many a decade. He surfaced only when the Sangh was hounded, to take the rap on its behalf.
In the best tradition of the Sangh, Babuaji never hankered after publicity. Anonymity could have been his second name had not his deeds for the organisation and the society at large spoken up for him. He was as loved as he was respected, not the least for the brave front he put up in the face of persecution of the Sangh leadership during the dark days of Emergency.
Every time I met him during the 50-odd years of our association, I could spy an altogether new facet to his personality. Affection came naturally to him but his greatest quality was, perhaps, his consistent ability to call a spade for what it was. He was impartial and transparent in his disposition and public conduct. In this sense, politics of any sort remained an anathema to him all through his life.
Babuaji'sother great gift was the firmness with which he was always prepared to rally on the side of truth. Polite to a fault as he always was, the great man never felt shy of speaking his mind. Yet, it was his warmth that remains the most enduring takeaway for all those who enjoyed the privilege of knowing him personally and intimately.
I say this on personal authority. Just a few days before his death, I went to see him at Patna'sIndira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences. It was a painful sight. Babuaji was strapped with pipes that linked him to life support devises. His eyes became moist on seeing me. But they lit up when Chote Babu, his son, informed him that I had been blessed with a grand-daughter.
Babuaji raised his hand to bless me and to gesticulated to indicate he did not expect to miss out on the laddoos of celebration. Just a few days later, he was gone. His passing away will be widely mourned, not the least because it has left the world at large poorer and his many followers well and truly devastated.