Freedom fighter from Assam speaks of his hunger for learning

Freedom fighter Bholaram Das marked his 100th birthday this weekend, announcing he was going back to school.

Mr. Das has enrolled for a PhD programme in Gauhati University, perhaps the oldest university student in the country.

“In my 100 years, I have done many things in the sphere of society, politics, governance and religion,” said Mr. Das, dressed in a suit, tie and Gandhi cap at his birthday celebrations on Saturday. “I thought I must work towards a PhD that could satisfy my hunger for learning.”

Mr. Das was 19 when he was jailed for participating in a 1930 protest against British rule. He spent two months doing hard labour and went on to study commerce and law. In 1945, he joined the Congress that led India's drive for independence.

Mr. Das worked as teacher, lawyer, magistrate and district court judge before retiring in 1971.

For his doctorate, Mr. Das plans to study a subject close to his heart — how his Bohori village helped in the spread of neo-Vaishnavism, a liberal and monotheistic stream of the Hindu religion credited with breaking down social divisions in Assam.

The centenarian said he wanted to pursue his interest and belief in the religion's philosophy of one God and humanism.

“It is indeed rare to find a student who is 100 years old,” said Vice-Chancellor, O. K. Medhi.

“We are thrilled because Das can be an inspiration for the youth with his formidable spirit and dedication to public service.”

Mr. Das is being advised in his studies by one of his 10 grandchildren, a university professor herself, and other family members. “It amazes me that 40 years after retiring from service, my grandfather is still mentally strong and wants to do new things,” said grandson Abhinab Das, an engineer. “This is indeed inspiring for all of us in the family.”

The freedom fighter has five sons and a daughter.

His wife, Mandakini, died in 1988.


From pencil to penOctober 20, 2010