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.