Touch of greatness

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Jun 2017 09:28:52

Vijay Phanshikar,

One adage that Dhantoli has proved rather wrong is: ‘No prophet is honoured in his own country’. Dhantoli was one area of Nagpur where many truly great personages lived almost simultaneously. The locality honoured all of them, 

treated them with utmost respect, adored them, and felt proud that they resided within its confines.
There he was, every evening, stepping out of his home in the second lane behind ‘The Hitavada’ office and go visiting various places where good thought, any good thought, was doing the rounds.

On countless occasions, he was the initiator of that thought -- through his lectures, expositions, statements and even writings. And he was one of the three spiritual heirs of Mahatma Gandhi. The whole Dhantoli called him ‘Dada’, and for the world, he was Acharya Dada Dharmadhikari. The other two spiritual heirs of Gandhiji were Acharya Kaka Kalelkar, and Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

Dada’s son Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari and his son Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari went on to become High Court judges. Near the Dharmadhikari residence still lives senior legal luminary Adv. K.H. Deshpande whose son Ravi is now a High Court Judge.

But then Dhantoli had many such personalities -- of immense virtue and value. There was also the very famous Justice Bhawani Shankar Niyogi who headed the enquiry commission into the activities of Christian missionaries and
produced a report that created some controversy. He lived with his daughter in the lane parallel to the Wardha Road. His persona had a very charming aura, very appealing, very radiant.

And not far from his home lived another truly great man -- Dr. Narayan Bhaskar Khare who was one of the towering personalities of Indian politics of his time. That he was a senior leader of the Congress party was only one part of the story. He later headed the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, became Prime Minister of C.P. and Berar, and also Prime Minister of the State of Alwar in Rajasthan. He was also a member of the Viceregal Council in charge of overseas Indians. His autobiography -- ‘My Political Memoirs’ -- was a bestseller in its times.

Across the street from the Khare home lived the Inspector General of Police Mr. Bambawale in a
sprawling one-storey house with Mangalore tiles and white walls. On that plot now stands the Vijayananda Society (where Member of Parliament Vilas Muttemwar once lived). A scion of the Bambawale family -- Gautam -- is a member of Indian Foreign Service and is now India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan.

Not far from the Khare home lived another pioneer -- H.J. Khandekar, a member of the Constituent Assembly and a close associate of Dr. B R Ambedkar and played a stellar role.

Among other greats was Barrister Abhyankar without whose mention India’s political history could not be written. Mavashi Kelkar who founded the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, had a beautiful and sober face that radiated awesome energy. She lived in a lane next to the Devi Ahilya Mandir of today. On the western rim, the Mount Carmel School, too, institutionalised education.

Dhantoli also hosted the Theosophical Society as well as Ramkrishna Mission, and the Hindu Dharma Sanskruti Mandir. And Dhantoli was also the birthplace of India’s first law journal -- the ‘All India Reporter’ -- launched by the famous Chitaley family. Other legal luminaries included Justice Mangalmurti and Justice N.L. Abyankar.

Maharashtra’s senior Minister Mrs. Sushila Balraj had her white house across the street from the south-west corner of Major Surendra Deo Park. Mr. Balraj also was a prominent figure in public life. Next to the Balraj home was the residence of the famed Sheorey family. In one of the lanes lived the very senior journalist, S.P. Banerjee ‘Dada’ who represented The Statesman of Calcutta for over fifty years. That lane is now Radhika Raman Banerjee Road.

Other great names the area hosted included famed litterateur and Vice Chancellor Dr.Vishnu Bhikaji Kolte, Justice A.P. Sen and Justice C.P. Sen whose bungalow still is near the AIR office in Congress Nagar which is an integral part of Dhantoli. The legendary playwright and theatre director Purshottam Darwhekar, too, made Dhantoli his home and created waves with his play ‘Varhadi Mansa’.
Among other legal luminaries who made Dhantoli their home were Justice P.K. Tare and the Manohar family with father V.R. ‘Babasaheb’ Manohar, sons Shashank and Sunil, and daughter Justice Vasanti Naik. Adv. Shashank Manohar is a big name in international cricket, and his brother Sunil became Maharashtra’s Advocate General (like father Babasaheb). Earlier, Manohar Maharaj, was a well known legal and spiritual personality in the region.

Not far from the Manohar residence also lived a bright young boy who rose to international fame -- Vikram Pandit who headed the City Bank later.
One more legendary name Dhantoli hosted was of poet Suresh Bhat, who still has countless ardent fans for the great poetry he produced, mesmerising generations of Marathi readers.

One more legendary person often came as a guest to Dhantoli, the great socialist leader Hari Vishnu Kamat who was personal guest in the home of the famous Mandpe family whose house was on the Humpyard Road, next to the Ajni Railway Station. Opposite the railway station is the famous Dhanwate National College and Shivaji Science College, and also the New English School.
‘Footloose’, of course, cannot be a Dhantoli Register.

This is only an attempt to give a representative picture of the area that was inhabited once upon a time by many truly great personalities almost at the same time. Very rarely would one come across many such areas anywhere. But as I chose to write on Dhantoli, many people called or sent messages about the names that I should not forget. Striking such a partnership was, of course, wonderful. It has been a rare connect.

I never lived in Dhantoli, but am working in Dhantoli for the past forty years, as part of ‘The Hitavada’ family. For me, Dhantoli is a second home.