Kaka was True Freedom Fighter and Well-Wisher of his Country

Remembering my father on his birth centenary - Part 3

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Vasant Nagarkar lived for 66 years from November 2, 1922, to October 9, 1988. This year marks his birth centenary year. The piece is penned by his daughter, giving insights into his personal life and personality. The article is divided into three parts series. This is the third part...

Close to his retirement, he came back to Mumbai as the Inspector General of Police. But the wrath of political leaders continued. He was transferred and given the charge of Home Guards instead. He was not the only one who suffered. Others like him were treated unjustly by the establishment. Kaka used to listen to them, advise them, comfort them and help them in any way he could until the very end. Mr. K.V. Seshadri was a brilliant IAS officer and a very good friend of my father’s. He too had been subjected to the false departmental proceedings. My father was in Ruby hospital in the last stages of cancer. When Seshadri-kaka came to visit, Kaka took the time to listen to him and comfort him.  

In 1984, my father came to visit us in the US. At first, I was not sure how he felt about his kids living abroad, but he was amazingly open-minded and curious about how things worked here in the US. He enjoyed visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. He was fascinated by the Air and Space Museum. He was appreciative of not only the American work ethic and efficiency but marveled at how people do their own household chores like cleaning, cooking. He wrote an article, ‘Amerikechi adhyakshiya paddhat bharatat ye’eel ka?’ exploring whether it was possible to follow a presidential system of governing in India. I had a Sikh colleague at work who always talked in support of the Khalistan movement, which was at its peak at the time. My father was interested in talking to him, so I invited him home. 

Kaka listened to him at first. 

Later he asked him two questions. 

Do you really think you will be successful in getting an independent landlocked state? If you feel so strongly, why don’t you go to Punjab and join the struggle? Both questions were a bit unsettling to my colleague. Not only was he not willing to go to India, but he wanted to get his family members out of India on the grounds of the asylum.    

In 1987, Kaka was diagnosed with stomach cancer. For a while, after the surgery and treatment, he was improving. His progress didn’t last very long. Kaka passed away in October 1988. It has been almost 33 years, enough time for the world to have forgotten him. However, there are two people, who still remember him often. One is the highly decorated retired police officer Mr. Julio Ribeiro who at 93 still actively writes on various political and social issues. He mentions my father’s name very often in his writings and interviews, also as his mentor in the early days of his career. Mr. Ribeiro openly mentions one piece of advice from my father: Do not get influenced by political leaders on the internal police transfers and be ready to face consequences by keeping bags packed for your own transfer. A very prophetic advice, as the time would tell. One really feels Mr. Ribeiro’s anguish reading his recent article in Tribune ‘Lament for days gone by’. Kaka and Mr. Ribeiro had a very special connection that lasted forever.  

The second person who always remembered my father was Smt. Mehrunnisa Dalwai, wife of the social reformer late Hamid Dalwai. She used to visit my mother in Pune regularly despite the long travel. One could see the bond between the two of them mostly because of their husbands. 

Their talk was always about their late husbands and the closeness they shared. They would talk about how much Hamid would have achieved in life as a social reformer if only he had lived a few more years. My father was not only a close friend of Hamid Dalwai, but he also had very high regard for Dalwai’s work. 

Another one in their mix was A. B. Shah. 

All three were progressive thinkers and had a passion for the social progress of the Muslim community and the better integration of various faiths within the nation. My parents supported the efforts of ‘Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal’ in many ways until the very end. My mother passed away in 2017. Mehrunnisa passed away a few months after. If there is heaven, I am sure they are together talking up a storm. 

Some 40 years ago, when Kaka was going through difficult times due to the wrath of political leaders, all I could do was write letters to him. I was living far away from home. In one of the letters, he wrote to me, “You should write something. You will be good at it.” At the time I didn’t pay much attention to it. But I remembered his words a few days back when there was an opportunity to write about Kaka on his 100th birth anniversary year. Today, I am exactly at that age when my father’s life ended. It seems I have been given some grace period in life to improve myself. Recently quite by chance, I got re-connected with Sudhir Alekar (son of Kaka’s friend Vasant Alekar). He has been a source of inspiration and a great help in writing this article. I consider myself blessed to have had such an extraordinary father, family, and circle of friends. 

My father’s generation made extraordinary sacrifices for the freedom and building of India as a nation. His generation laid the foundation of modern India based on a consensus of core values. It pushed India towards finding its rightful place on the world stage. Because of them, our generation has had global opportunities and a better life. While our generation can never match their sacrifices, we can certainly help by remembering and passing on their stories and legacy to future generations. 

- Sucharita Tilak
suchatilak@gmail.com


Click here to read Part-1& Part-2. We are publishing the Marathi translation of this article in the December 4, 2021 issue of Sadhana Weekly.

 

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Comments:

Sunanda Datar

Sucha, you have done an amazing job at writing these articles about your father. Your loving memories of your father as a loving caring family man and your justified pride of being a daughter of a freedom fighter, a highly decorated police officer, a caring mentor and a friend, a man of principles are so beautifully expressed. Keep writing my friend. Articles like these will inspire young generations to come.

Ravi Sarpotdar

As said earlier, you have that Spark of Writing, also mentioned by your father. Keep on Writing, I would say. Glad to see this side of your Personality.

Atil prabhakar Koppikar

Excellent detailed biography of an unsung freedom fighter son of India very eloquently written by an equally proud daughter. Sorry could not meet your great father in his lifetime

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