Intro: At a time when the young Indians are increasingly looking for a role model they can look up to; the need to make people aware about inspiring personalities like Eknathji become all the more important.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the inaugural function of birth centenary celebration of Eknath Ramkrishna Ranade, popularly referred to as Eknathji (a social activist and leader), where he mentioned about his association with this great man inspired me to write a narration of my family’s association with Eknathji, especially my father, late Nripati Ranjan Choudhury. My father was a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha from Assam (1972-78). My idea of sharing this story is to let the world know about Eknathji and his personality and how, he could transform the mind of one of his biggest critique to turn into his admirer.
My father's association with Eknathji began in 1973 after his marriage with my mother Lopamudra, who was daughter of Rajkumar Bhattacharjee, correspondent of the Organiser in Shillong and a friend of Eknathji.
Eknathji used to visit my grandfather’s house during his assignment in Purvanchal (that included Assam, West Bengal). He was extremely affectionate to my mother and her other siblings. My mother and my aunt actively worked in Shillong to collect donations for the Vivekananda Memorial for which Eknathji gave his heart and soul and in which India takes pride in.
After marriage my mother moved to New Delhi with my father, who was a young MP then. Eknathji out of his affection for my mother started visiting our house at North Avenue in New Delhi. As a Congressman my father had reservations about RSS. Initially, he hardly used to talk to Eknathji, but gradually his persona slowly attracted my father to him and they started talking to him about RSS and its activities. Eknathji with his usual calm used to counter all the arguments of my father with great tenderness. Slowly my father started to develop a liking for him, and then he started visiting our house more frequently and my father also would seek his opinion on various issues which he would raise in the Parliament.
During the harsh days of emergency when many activists of RSS were arrested including my grandfather, Eknathji continued visiting our house. My mother though used to get anxious about his safety, but my father would always solace her by saying that nothing would happen to him – he is above all party line and if government take such step it will be a big blunder, he used to say.
My father's fondness for the social activist grew so much that he not only opened his house but also gave him space in his office. Our house then became an important point for Eknathji to liaison with incumbent Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
My father’s association with Eknathji gradually changed his perception about RSS, and in later years when my mother started taking part in various activities of Rastriya Sevika Samity, he always supported her inspite of being an active member of the Congress party. When the news of passing away of Eknathji came to my father, he became completely silent and there was a pall of sadness in our house. In those days of obscure connectivity, he could not meet the social activist in his last days but always nurtured the desire of going to Vivekanda Puram to pay his homage.
Unfortunately, my father could not fulfill his desire in this life time. But he did ensure that both I and my brother visit the memorial. In 1989, during our brief visit, which was only for a day, we spent the whole afternoon by the side of Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.
Unfortunately, there is very little literature available about this great son of mother India as he always disliked publicity. But in today's time, there is a need to inform people about personalities like Eknathji.
Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (The writer is a Research Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and the views expressed by her are personnel)