January 26, 2013
On January 26, 2013 India is celebrating its 64th Republic day, a day to feel proud of our freedom, nationality, heritage and culture. It is a day to gratefully remember the sacrifices made by the great men and women to give us freedom. What we enjoy today is the fruit of the hard work of freedom fighters many of whom paid with their lives, shed their blood, lost their near and dear ones, went to the prison and had to endure innumerable difficulties. Today, only a handful of the real freedom fighters are left with us and there is hardly an endeavor to remember their sacrifices and selfless service which brought us the priceless gift of independence.
B Namdeva Shenoy is one such senior Gandhian, freedom fighter and sarvodaya activist from Perdala in Badiadka, who is sure to put any youngster into shame with an array of social service activities and untiring endurance levels. For many he is known as “Badiyadka Gandhi” and young children take great pride in calling him “Gandhi Ajja”. At 90 he goes about his task of visiting schools, colleges and institutions preaching Gandhian philosophy and Sarvodaya ideology, a work dearer to his heart. He has been carrying out this task for the 70 years with the undulating avidity and dynamism.
He is a familiar figure on the streets with his Khadi jubba and mundu and a cotton bag dangling from his shoulders as he prefers walking to reach his destination. He has a mobile which he uses only to receive calls so that he is traceable. “I just receive calls on the mobile. I can’t make calls or make any other use of it”, he says with a child-like innocence.
His exuberance belies his age and he has been a source of inspiration for today’s high school and college-going students. Namdeva goes about his task without any support or without anyone accompanying him and he is free from any old-age related ills and discomforts which many of us these days go through in our 50’s .
“Every day I wake up at 3 and do yoga mudra for about 3 hours. I consume very less food and that is the secret of my energy”, says this nonagenarian. Namdev is a man of few needs and meager food habits, just what the body needs for him to sustain. He attributes his robust health to the disciplined life he has followed. It was Gandhi’s discipline that attracted him endearing him to Acharya Vinobha Bhave , one of the most intimate followers of Gandhi.
Namdeva is a bachelor and naturally money, wealth, possessions, property and other worldly attractions holds no appeal for him. His only objective is to do social service and to spread the message of Gandhi and Vinobha Bhave. Though he is sickened by the current present political scenario, rampant corruption and overall depravation in our country he is sure that the country is getting ripened for accepting Gandhi and Vinobha Bhave’s ideals. “I am sure their ideals have great relevance for our country. As a country we can prosper only we practice Sarvodaya Movment in spirit and action”, he declares.
He was born at Perdala in Badiyadka on May 15, 1924 in a well to do family which later on shifted to Bellare in Sullia. Namdev had his education in Bellare and was greatly influenced by Gandhian Ideology. It was Laxman Dev Vidyarthy, a Arya Samaj activist who kindled the patriotic feeling in a young Namdev Shenoy. Laxman Dev was visiting different corners of the state giving Harikatha programmes and spreading Gandhi’s message of swaraj and sarvodaya. His paternal uncle Ramraj Shenoy was also active in India’s freedom struggle in Kasaragod, which was then part of Karnataka and his activities were also instrumental in Namdev Shenoy taking a plunge in the social service field.
Namdev spent nearly two years in Sevagrama Ashram in Nagpur, which was Mahatma Gandhi’s headquarters. Responding to Gandhiji’s call for ‘do or die’ in the 1942 Quit India Movement he took part in it and was jailed and he spent 2 ½ years in Bellary Jail. He was asked to give a written declaration that he would not participate in such illegal activities in lieu of his release. But a young Namdev chose to remain in jail rather than yielding to such cowardly acts. Once out of jail he got active helping those who were active in various underground activities of freedom struggle.
Namdev was greatly influenced by the Bhoodan movement of Vinobha Bhave. He vividly remembers Vinobha’s visit to Pochampalli village of Andhra Pradesh in 1951 where Vinobha succeeded in getting 100 acre of land donation. “The Pochampalli incident was like trigger point and the bhoodan movement got a great fillip from here and it continued in the entire coastal belt of Karnataka”, he recalls.
Namdeva has a penchant for singing patriotic and songs that promote harmony. He is the only one who sings the original Vaishnava Janato Bhajan which is in Gujarathi, in Kannada language. Vaishnava Janato was included in Gandhiji’s daily prayer. The clarity of his singing and the vitality of his singing is enough to give goose bumps to anyone.
Namdev spends most of his time on touring different parts of the state. For nearly 10 years he served as the General Secretary of Gandhi Peace Foundation in Mangalore, looking after the activities of Bharat Seva Dal.
Having no desire for any possessions he has used the 1½ acres of his inherited land to set up a small ashram “Vishwa Maithri Trust” in Badiyadka 12 years ago. The Ashram is helping poor and hapless women, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, rebuild their lives. The ashram helps these women to grow flower plants and sell them for their sustenance.
Namdeva Shenoy is confident that Indian society is ripening to make way for realizing Gandhi, Vinobha and Loksevak Jayaprakash Narayan’s dream of swaraj and sarvodaya.
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