Antar Bharati Yuvak Sneh Meelan
Sane Guruji rightly felt that a united Indian People, united not only politically but by the deep sense of oneness, inspired by their common cultural heritage, could make a significant contribution towards the realisation. of Gurudeo's ideal of Vishwa Bharati:
For over two decades now Antar Bharati is trying to bring to life Sane Guruji's dream. It has arranged seminars and meet¬ings of different language groups, it cele¬brates the anniversaries of great men of India, it conducts classes for the study of Indian Languages and encourages visits of persons from one part of the country to another. Not so very long ago, a group of teachers, writers, poets, social workers and historians from Gujarat and Karnatak paid a visit to Poona and stayed with Maha¬rashtrian families. A batch of iyoung men from Poona who had learnt Tamil paid a visit to Tamil Nadu.
Encouraged by the success of these preli¬minary ventures, Antar Bharati launched a major project in the Summer of 1968. Itinvited students from all over the country to participate in an experiment in inter¬state living. Seventy-six students from ten different states responded to the call. They did not come to attend a political rally or study socialism, communism or any other 'ism'. They represented a broad cross section of our student population and the whole purpose of the project was to explain to them the aims and ideals of Antar Bharati and I show them how this vast country, in spite of its great diversity, had a basic unity of its own. This basic objective was never lost sight of. All important and ticklish problems facing the country were discussed objectively by experts, quite outside the heat of the political arena.
This get-together of the young people had some novel features which contributed not a little to its success. For one thing, the participants were not housed in a camp or a hostel but billeted with individual families. The experiment was an outstanding success. The guests had nothing but praise for the warm-hearted hospitality they re-ceived and neither language nor food came in the way! The lady of the house became the "mummy" and the visitor a son or daughter of the family. All formalities were forgotten. If the visitor felt hungry he went to "mummy" and asked for food. If the "mummy" did not approve of what the "son" or "daughter" did, she ticked them off.
The visitors bore no party labels. It was not a study group sponsored by any political party but an experiment in group life at a purely human level.
Thirdly, the basic objective, to search for unifying links in the diverse manifest¬ations of human activity throughout the land was in the forefront of the programme.
From that point of view, one of the more interesting items of the programme was the "Our India" discussions.A few students from each State told the others about their own state; its history and geography, its festivals, its great men, its literature, its industries, its social con¬ditions. We heard a lively description of a Punjabi wedding, of the Water Festival in Kerala. One boy from the Lace,adives studying in Triven.drum told us that there are no barbers in the Laccadives, that the only mode of transport is the bicycle and that unlike Punjab, marriages there cost very little. Everyone could see that in spite of the country's great diversity and size, people living in different parts and speaking different languages have the same festivals, the same beliefs, the same social problems, a remarkable unity in diversity, in fact a world in miniature, inviting every Indian to know it and build a mental attitude worthy of a great country.
The boys usually had a business session in the morning where they heard persons like Raosaheb and Achyut Patwardhan, N. G. Gorey, S. M. Joshi, Prof. V. M. Dandekar, Dr. P. L. Vaidya, Maj. General Paranjpe, Dr. S. M. Katre, Dr. H. D. Sankalia, Dr. R. N. Dandekar, M. M. D. V. Potdar. They talked about our past and our present problems. Our national hen-tap, attitudes and social change, challengeS before youth, planning, our language pro¬blem, our history from the British times onwards. In the discussions that followed the students participated with enthusiasm and intelligence.
It will thus be seen that the programme was not just a sight-seeing holiday but a social workshop where problems of our angry young men were freely discussed and where something intangible but also creative came to the surface.
The afternoons were mostly devoted to sight-seeing, visits to places of interest and entertainments. Lokamanya Tilak's house, the room where Gokhale worked, Maharashi Karve's Ashram, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, the Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal were places never to be forgotten once visited. Then the visiting students arranged an enter-tainment for their hosts. There were songs from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a magic show from Andhra, a combined skit in English, a dance recital from Gujarat.
It is hardly necessary to underline the urgent need of such an effort at the present time when the whole fabric of a peoples' life is subjected to numerous stresses and strains.
Why does a simple demonstration erupt into violence? Why do our young men destroy in their anger national property? What is wrong in acquiring familiarity with a number of languages. ? Why do people who ought to know better, labour under the misapprehension that English is an easy language and seek to push it up to the status of a national language, when barely two per cent. of our people understand it? Is there anything worthwhile in our recent and distant past which we all should cherish as our national heritage? Was the sacrifice of the great figures of our- freedom struggle in vain and the pursuit of an empty dream?
As against this, why do young men rush to Bihar bringing much needed relief to the famine-stricken people ? Why do people from all over the country rush aid to the earthquake victims of Koyna? Why do we stand up like one man against external aggression and rise in protest when we feel that our national honour is at stake?
There are no easy answers to these complex questions. Some one remarked that Indians can only unite against something but never among themselves ! They will die for honour rather than live with it. How far is this true? Is there a deep seated sick¬ness in our national psyche or are these the manifestations of a passing phase in the tremendous explosion of expectations which no developing country can satisfy in a hurry?
The students' get together in May discussed some of these problems. There are no easy solutions but a close and dispassionate look at a problem does help in understanding it a little better.
How far will Antar Bharati succeed in its effort? It is a question which has no easy answer. After all, the entire concept of Antar Bharati is an act of faith; its ideals and aims, by their very nature, cannot show quick results, for the mind of man is a diffi¬cult thing to know and its waywardness proverbial. But equally wayward and difficult to understand is the entity known as Bharat which has the amazing capacity of doing the unpredictable and falsifying the prophets.
The three weeks were busy, exciting and indeed heart-warming. It was exciting to watch strangers from ten different States getting to know each other as days lengthen¬ed into weeks till in •the end they all became members of a single family, guests, hosts, volunteers, members of the organising com¬mittee, all laughing and talking together, getting into a huddle in corners, rehearsing for the entertainment programme and the AIR broadcast, taking pictures, signing autograph books, shouting at one another over a cup of coffee and finally at the endsaying good-bye in voices heavy with emotion.
But it was not all plain sailing. Commu-nication was a difficult problem! It proved once again how entirely necessary it was for Indians to be multilingual. What was amazing was the way everyone managed to get over this difficulty. Everybody learnt a little something from the other, established a rapport, made friends.
If Antar Bharati was the dream of a man of vision and the present experiement an act of faith, it ended on a note of hope for better things to come. Tamil Nadu wants us with them next year, so does Andhra and Kerala and Orissa and Gujarat. As the Secretary said in his final summing up, our young friends gathered together were our islands of hope who will in their lives realise our dreams of a country strong, prosperous and united, practising tolerance and generosity and pursuing the path of peace and plenty and joy—joy in the widest commonalty spread.
As a part of the programme an elocution competition was arranged for the partici¬pants. The subject was "Indian Unity': a Myth or a Reality". The following students participated. They spoke in different langu¬ages as indicated:
1. Kusum Kohli, Bombay English
2. B. Parvathi, Tamil Nadu English
3. Mohammad Basheer C. M. Kerala English
4. K. Mohankumar, Andhra Pradesh English
5. M. Selvarasan, Tamil Nadu
6. M. Navneetha Krishnan,Tamil Nadu
7, Mathunny 0., Kerala English
8. Ashok Mathur, MadhyaPradesh English
9 Nasim Dad Khan, U. P. English
10. Desai Rajanikant, Gujarat Hindi
11. M. Vappan, Kerala English
12. Periaswamy, Tamil Nadu Tamil
The competition was held on 20-5-1968. Acharya S. R. Bhise, Chairman of Antar Bharati Trust, Prof. C. R. Sankaran of the Deccan College Poona, and Jana]) M. Harris, M.L.C. Member, Antar Bharati Trust acted as judges. The performance of most parti¬cipants was fairly good. One significant fact was that the participants from Tamil Nadu who all spoke in Tamil maintained that Indian Unity was a myth ! The rest were overwhelmingly and unhesitatingly on the side of unity. Another interesting fact was the number of students who spoke in English.
The following three candidates were ad-judged the best in order of merit.
1. Shri Mohan Kumar Andhra
2. Smt Kusum Kohli Bombay
3. Shri M. Selvarasan Tamil Nadu
Shri V. R. Kulkarni, Regional Officer of the Directorate of Field Publicity, was kind enough to sanction the amount for the prizes given to the three successful candidates.
Shri V. R. Kulkarni also helped the programme by setting up the "Our India" exhibition based on the various Five Year Plans. His department also organized adaily film show, showing the progress of the country on all fronts since independence. Apart from the participants, a large number of citizens visited the exhibition which was tastefully and intelligently arranged.
The programme ended with a farewell function arranged in the spacious hall of the State Institute of Education. No farewell could have been more touching or the parting more sad ! After the distribution of prizes and certificates, the participants vied with each other in showering praise on Antar Bharati and loading organisers with presents. Many spoke with a quivering voice. Shri Selvarasan of Tamil Nadu recited a poem praising his host and hostess and their children, Vidya and Prat-nod. Rajkumari Bhandari's com¬pliments brought tears to the eyes of some of the organisers and just before the proceed¬ings ended, Shri Selvarasan rushed to the platform and garlanded the Secretary in a typical South Indian fashion, with a vastram-handloom woven in Tamil Nadu.
And then the children gathered round their hosts and hostesses in a real get to-gether. 'Good-bye Mummy' they would say and linger a while longer as if parting were an ordeal to be put off as long as possible.
About Shri Pandurang Sadashiv Sane
vasudevimgSane Guruji, the founder of Antar Bharti did cast a bridge across the cultures, catching the range and movement of the world.
Lifespan:- 24December,1899-11June,1950
About Antar Bharati Trust
ANTAR BHARTI was the dream of that great patriot, scholar and writer of Maharastra, the late Shri Padurang Sadashiv Sane, known throughtout Maharastra as Sane Guruji. In a number of articles from 15th August 1948 onwards he explained to his countrymen the dream of Antar Bharti...
Antar Bharati (Monthly)