Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Khare Master - A book review

I honestly do not know why I picked this book at the library. It had a rather eerie cover. The pages were yellow and the text in small print.

I found it rather difficult at first to proceed. But as the book progressed it held my interest. Originally written in Marathi, it is set in the early 1900. A story of a middle class Maharashtrian family. It covers the relationship between parents and their children, with spouse, with friends. Aspects of the national movement, conversions ( yes, even then!), conflicts and loneliness.

The book written by Malati Bedekar under the pen name Vibhavari Shirurkar, when she was 88, is a semibiographical account of her father, Anantrao Khare. A man from a small village of Guhargar, who was so forward thinking for one of his time or perhaps even today.

Kharemaster left his village when he was 14 and came to Bombay, as it was known then, to study art. Here he came in contact with Raosaheb Rege, who realised that this young boy was not like any ordinary village lad . Raosaheb also taught his daughter at home, because he believed that women must expand their role beyond the rolling pin and sharpen their intellectual skills. This seemed to have a lasting effect on the young Khare.

When there was a plague epidemic in Bombay, he left for Godnadi where he was an art teacher at a local missionary school. His first two children were daughters, but this did not bother Kharemaster at all, and on the other hand - he vowed to educate them.

There were times of inner conflict for Kharemaster. He supported the cause of independence but at the same time had to work for a school run by the British. He had several mouths to feed and realised he had no alternative but to continue his job and earn to support the family He felt he was a coward in many ways, but his friend Deshpandemaster said that he should stop thinking on those lines, ‘We are all a little scared inside. Even a wrestler has to start exercising slowly and build his muscles up gradually. It’s the same thing with courage. Slowly one faces more and more difficult situations and bravery becomes second nature. Without your knowing it, that’s exactly what you‟ve been doing. When you’re convinced something is right, haven’t you been following the dictates of your conscience without worrying about what anyone says or feels?’

He ultimately decided to limit the reform to his house and strenghtened his resolve to educate his children. When he felt the teachers at the girls school were not competent, he sent his daughters to a boys school… something that was not done. During famine, he got into milk business, which was unheard of …considering that they belonged to the Brahmin community. But it atleast ensured that there was milk at home and excess was sold to the villagers.

As he sent the children away from home for further education, the author writes .. that her father did not realize then, that he had planted the seeds of his future loneliness.

The children were engrossed in their own lives, and though they acknowledged his presence and perhaps, loved and respected him, he felt communication had been lost . It was ironical that he had educated his children, and yet felt inadequate and believed he was a source of embarassment for them and their friends as he was not educated! He was also disillusioned when his son, who had become an engineer, had to bribe to earn a contract. He was very disturbed. Why had values changed?

It is an engrossing book. And each one will relate to it in their own way. It will remind you, perhaps of real-life stories narrated by parents and grandparents. I found some kind soul had uploaded the book and if the review has interested you, read it here.


  1. Good review. Story sounds interesting - perhaps a little sad and forlorn. I'll look out for it. I do so love translations of regional literature.

  2. Radha,

    That was a wonderful review post. I have read the original in Marathi, and enjoyed it a lot. Malatibai was my mothers contemporary, and I have heard my folks talk about her when I was young....

  3. Excellent review. Khare Master may have felt lonely and disturbed at his old age. But he is a real pioneer. His children and grand children should be proud of him.

  4. Nice review Radha. Hadn't heard of this book but Marathi literature and drama are very rich and it is good that they are being translated. I have read a few books but even though it is my mother tongue, reading it does not come easy to me. Another great one is Mritunjaya based on Karna's life. I have read a Hindi version of it and it is still great.

  5. Seems interesting ! Perhaps will look it up soon.

    Thanks for the review

  6. Deepa - It is a sad book at parts, but it could be any typical middle class family. It was really a book I would not have normally read, but eventually was glad I did.
    @Ugich - Thank you. I guess
    your mother was also quite 'modern' in her outlook, atleast that is the impression I get from some of your posts.
    SG - Thank you. Yes,he was quite a pioneer.
    Jaya - Thank you. Indian literature is rich, but in most cases, they do not do a good job of the translation. Either the flavour is lost or it is a literal translation and the book may not be appreciated.

  7. Great review, Radha! I'll be sure to read this book.

    I have read 'Bali' (in Marathi) by the same author. It is a very moving story about the lives of so-called 'criminal' tribes/ castes.

  8. Looks like very interesting book, to keep one engrossed.

  9. Wonderful review and the book seems to be interesting, Radha.

    'her father did not realize then, that he had planted the seeds of his future loneliness.' This is so true.

    I too feel that the stories should be read in their original form. I have read some Tamil stories in English and I was not able to digest them.

  10. Nice review. You made me want to read this book.

  11. Thanks for the review. What caught my attention is the resolve of the author who wrote a book @ 88. :)

  12. A heart touching review of a man who could seen beyond the veil of his present circumstances. I do not know that I could have been so brave and sacrifice so well and so much. I would like to think so... As you wrote the words, I could see much of his experience reflected in my mother's...and how it is her granddaughters who are living a life of blessing because of who she is and what she gave and continues to give. How can they ever truly know or understand because that is not their experience.

  13. The excellent review bringing out what purports to be the soulf othe book kindles a great interest to read it.It was pioneers like Kharemaster who hve sowed the seeds of women's education.
    Radha, you write extremely well in impeccable English.Keep sharing the books you read through such masterly reviews.

  14. Interesting, Radha!
    Tempts me to pick up the book.

  15. I love Indian authors; my favorites. I read a lot of Indian novels and non fiction, and love it....

  16. Like someone once said to Never judge a book by its cover :-)

    Most interesting.

    It's telling how much middle-class Brahmin families in those days set store by education and were prepared to step outside the realm of what was acceptable and what wasn't.

    It reminded me of a visit to a similarly enlightened brahmin doctor's century old place in Goa for traces of a magazine, the equivalent of Femina today, that he brought out for women somewhere in 1905, to offer help and guidance with health issues. It was a pathbreaking effort so to speak.

    I've been mulling on running a series on some of these early pioneers who thought well ahead of their times.

  17. Manju, Subu, KP - Thank you.
    Rajesh - Yes, it is engrossing.
    Sandhya - If it was not translated, I would not been able to read the book. And in this case, the translator has done a good job.
    Nona - Yes , great to be so active and alert at 88
    Katy - Nice to know that even though the story was set in India, you could relate to it.
    Indrani - read the online version if you can.
    Braja - You relate to so many things Indian, you must read this one too.
    Anil - Would like to read your series of pioneers.


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