"I am deeply influenced by his advice that your behaviour should be righteous and try to see in others what you expect of yourself"
Namadev Shenoy is one of the rare breed of freedom fighters who are committed to spreading Gandhian ideals. On any given day, you could find this khadi-wearing nonagenarian in one of the schools or colleges around the district speaking about Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave and singing patriotic songs. On several occasions, he had heard the Father of the Nation at his Sevagram Ashram near Nagpur – the second ashram of the Mahatma after the famous Sabarmati Ashram. Excerpts from an interview:
What took you to the Sevagram?
I was convinced that we have to contribute to strengthening the Congress – the only real political party during the Quit India movement. Hence, I joined the movement and was put in Bellary jail.
After my release, I came under the influence of people like Siddavanahalli Krishna Sharma and Goruru Ramaswamy Iyengar who were already there in the Ashram and so I went there to lead a life of discipline and dedicated to khadi.
What is the one thing that you remember of the talks?
I am deeply influenced by his advice that your behaviour should be righteous and try to see in others what you expect of yourself. I have learnt three things from him: one, be aware and vigilant all the time, be active all the while and be a student ever. That was exactly what he was.
Today, in a world replete with vices where do you place Gandhi?
Whenever I ask students in schools ‘Who got Swaraj (self-rule) to us’ pat comes the reply ‘Gandhi.’ But I ask them whether the kind of swaraj that the Mahatma visualised is prevalent. I tell them gram swaraj (self-rule with village as a self-sustaining unit) is yet to be realised.
So gram swaraj will remain a pipedream?
No not at all. We will surely have the gram swaraj of Mahatma Gandhi’s dream where village industries – carpentry, pottery, weaving – will thrive and sustain our economy. Show me if there is any alternative? We should not lose hope. We have to keep on building the momentum. It could happen overnight in the end. Look at the way the crowd responded to the 13-day fast undertaken by Anna Hazare recently.
How will we get gram swaraj?
Through an effective Sarvodaya movement. It is not easy. It will take time. Recently, we set up a Sarvodaya Mandala (club) at a school in Udupi. More such mandalas should be set up.