POLITICS, it is said, is the art of the possible. The life of a nation builder is to make the impossible possible. Shri Dattopant Thengadi was a nation builder. Like many other great Sangh leaders, Thengadiji worked in the most inhospitable areas, taking the message of Hindu unity and nationalism, for the total rejuvenation of the country's social life.
In a famous speech at Deendayal Research Institute New Delhi, many years ago, Thengadiji made a distinction between a politician, a statesman and a nation builder. The politician, he said, thinks of the next election, the statesman of the next generation and the nation builder of many future generations. For a nation builder, he said, there is nothing called compulsion. He does not make compromises, deals are not struck at the altar of principles, he chooses the difficult path.
A book Karyakartha that Thengadiji wrote a few years ago, is a must read for any man in public life.
It is an understatement to say that Thengadiji was great. Once I asked Shri P. Parameshwaran, Director of the Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, Kerala, if he could describe a jeevanmukta, as in the Gita. He said Thengadiji is a living example.
Thengadiji had a long and intimate association with Kerala. It was he who practically took the Sangh work to Kerala and nursed it into an organized force there. He could even speak Malayalam. He used to be very fond of the Kerala food. Hundreds of families there consider him a member, their own. Elders used to call him by his first name—he had inspired thousands of karyakartas.
He worked in West Bengal also. There too, he laid the foundation for the Sangh work. He could fluently speak Bengali. Here he came in touch with Radical Humanism and M.N. Roy. Later, he went to work in the labour field. He built the Number One labour movement in the country. Working in the labour front he saw to it that the trade unions did not become a tail of political parties. He did not mix either politics or religion in the trade union field.
This was one of the uniqueness of Thengadiji. He never mixed things. All his life he worked for the Hindu social renaissance. But I have not seen him ever visiting a temple, or doing any pooja, other than the Vishwakarma pooja.
He always remembered his mother. Next to Guruji Golwalkar, she was his philosopher and spiritual guide. He used to say, "my mother is always with me. She guides me. She inspired me to join the Sangh. She asked me to follow Guruji and help complete his mission." I have a feeling that Thengadiji used to meditate on Shiva.
His knowledge was phenomenal. His reading was so wide, there was no area of information that did not interest him. His memory, if one may say was elephantine. He could quote verses and stanzas from anywhere and everywhere. He was equally at ease in English, y Hindi and Marathi. His command over English literature and thought made it easy for him to relate thing and contexts in a world perspective.
Any moment with him was an intellectual feast.
Every time he would recommend new books, which he had read and enjoyed.
Here I thought he was a little partial to English, may be knowing my inadequacy. Foundations of Indian Culture and Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo he recommended. He was much interested in biographies, especially those of Napoleon, Henry the Great and Bismarck by Emil Ludwig.
Few years ago he asked me to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, New Realities and Lincoln on Leadership.
Thengadiji was both a romantic and a practical idealist. He had an irresistible charm about him. He was so free, unaffected and simple. He could develop easy friendship with a person of any category and status, age and gender. I have seen him spending hours listening to stories from toddlers. In a barber shop in South Avenue, New Delhi, there is a photograph of Thengadiji with his barber. The only other photo on the wall is that of the barber Raju with former Prime
Minister Chandrashekhar. Raju says he hdd taken the picture of Thengadiji 30 years ago, when he was a Rajya Sabha member and used to live in the area. In the South Avenue taxi stand, every taxiwalla knew him and he was familiar with their names, and their families.
He could really walk with kings and never lose the common touch, as Rudyard Kipling would say. Thengadiji was in the Rajya Sabha for 12 years. During this period, he developed such friendship with the Communist leaders that he was chiefly responsible for the building of the National Campaign Committee of Central Trade Unions, which became a very effective
instrument in collective trade union actions, during the hey years of Congress.
His interactions went beyond party lines. There used to be regular exchange of ideas with Communist leaders like S A Dange, Hirenda, Chaturanan Mishra, P. Ramamurti, Bhupesh Gupta, Jyotirmoy Basu, Beni and Roza Deshpande and CITU leader Dr M.K. Pandhe. He appreciated the idealism of A.K.Gopalan, E.M.S. Namboo- dripad and Pramod Dasgupta. One of the early builders of Communism in Kerala K. Damodaran was a regular visitor to Thengadiji. Damodaran had almost become his follower. Thengadiji was happy that outside the Sangh also there were people committed to social causes.
Thengadiji played a major role in the formation of Janata Party during Emergency. He was one of the few
BMS too, Thengadiji underwent a similar drill with the INTUC. Here he came close to people like D.P. Mishra and Ravishankar Shukla. In Congress also Thengadiji had many personal friends.
Thengadiji was closely associated with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He was very keen to present Ambedkar in true light, from his own personal experience. He was pained by Arun Shourie's book on Ambedkar, for, Thengadiji knew from his intimate contact with the great Dalit leader, how much he loved India and Hinduism. A book on Ambedkar was for long maturing in his mind. The spark came when, according to him, Sarsanghachalak Sudarshanji asked him to complete the work, fully concentrating on it. Inspite of his failing health, for over two years he worked on it. The writing was completed in July 2004. He was keen to make it an authoritative magnum opus.
Thengadiji could never say 'no' to people who showed their love for him with food. He would say that they would feel hurt. Once he went to Shri Arif Beig's house in Prasad Nagar, few days after the wedding of his daughter. Beig, being a very generous host kept on ordering many glasses of sherbet. After two glasses I could take no more. Later Thengadiji chided me, 'why are you so fussy about food.
It is not because they are afraid of you, but because of their love, this is the way they express their affection. Never say no to food."
The lessons in Loksangraha (networking with people) one has to learn from Thengadiji. He by-hearted all the lessons from Dr. Hedgewar. Whenever he was in Delhi after a long gap, he would make it a point to visit all the families in the city he personally knew. He would take a taxi and make a complete round of the city till late in the night. Once, the BMS decided to buy an Ambassador car for him. He refused and asked them to deposit the money in the trade union fund, saying, I am a worker. If I start traveling by car others will also start doing the same. He was always cautious. He would say an individual and a political organization should never take goodwill for granted.
Anybody could go to him. And for hours cry on his shoulders. People used to repeat their stories, the same stories, he was a patient listener. One could never see him in haste. He would take long walks, miles together, sharing his views, narrating incidents, listening to other's pathos. He was a man of action and thought. It was a very fulfilling life, as Sarsanghachalak observed. He never complained. I have never seen him in anger, irritated, annoyed, impatient, desperate or frustrated. He was a positive man, who possessed a large heart and a bottomless wealth of love. The beauty is that lakhs of families knew him personally, intimately, much more than each one of us who believed to be close to him. And that was the mark of the man.
A line he used to quote comes to mind. Nature would stand up and say, Here was a Man.
Yours sincerely, R. Balashankar