19th February is the Birthday of Sri. Dharampal, the late Gandhian Historian who re-defined the purpose of historical research in India from mere academic discourse to that of a strengthening tool, strengthening the self-image and understanding by Indians of their own past, from their own sources, with their own interpretation; without being intimidated nor defensive about their values and ethos.
He practiced and taught us the need for immense faith in the belief and values practiced by the ordinary Indians, often preferred to listen to the local cowherd, village lady and farmer with far more respect than he would listen the 'learned' professors and politicians who visited him whenever they were in the vicinity of his humble kuti at the sevagram ashram. He maintained that the uniqueness of Gandhiji was that he had trust in the wisdom of the ordinary Indians and gave examples of how Gandhiji embarked on salt satyagraha or chose charkha because these were issues that were brought to his notice by the ordinary Indians rather than the Congress-men who were pre-occupied with the issues of the 'governance' as defined by the colonizers.
Dharampalji was vary meticulous in his work, spartan and simple in personal life and quite particular about the quality of people and thought he kept company with in the last 8 years of his life when we knew him closely and worked with him. Often he would shoo away people who he didn't want to keep company much, while visiting others in their houses and spending extra time and care towards them. He probably knew the histories of the families and communities of most of the people he liked to work and associate with.
It was a privilege and thanks to 6-8 hours of power cuts we had at the Ashram, we could often have long conversations about colonization, Indian, Indian condition, polity, society, religion, caste, etc., He would often say, 'we need to read what people are writing about themselves in their own languages in India', he was convinced particularly in the last years of his life, that the English dominated social science writing in India has to end.
He would weigh his words very carefully and was always aware of his position in history as much as he was aware of the history of the land. He would ensure that for every written sentence he had ample evidence to convince himself, perhaps being aware of the fact that in times to come there will be several people who will quote him without having to validate further. His responsibility towards what he wrote was very high.
He had a great personal warmth and care excessively and would fuss about the kitchen getting a filter coffee ready for my visit, or ensure that people had enough warm clothing during winter. Just this morning looking at the calender and remembering him, listening to Lakshmi Shankar, a singer whose voice he described as something that is 'truly Indian' and a style of singing thumris that he enormously enjoyed and would play again and again in the small tape recorder kept in his table side...sharing this thoughts today as a mark of remembrance and respect. - ram, chief, samanvaya, 19th Feb 2015
image: the kuti in which Dharampalji lived at the Sevagram ashram, as it was on the day of his demise...