When King Mahendra did not come

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 31 Aug 2017 07:13:42


Vijay Phanshikar

Ultimately, His Highness King Mahendra of Nepal did not come. It was a huge disappointment to all those thousands of people who had gathered to see him and listen to him – at the Reshimbagh Ground where the King had been invited to attend and address a programme of the Swayamsevaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), during the regime of Sarsanghachalak Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar Guruji. King Mahendra was the ruler of the world’s only Hindu kingdom and was invited by the world’s biggest Hindu organisation to address its members and also the world thereby. The rally did take place, of course, but without the royal guest. But a whisper went around that the then Government of India -- led by ‘secular’ Congress party -- had prevailed upon the Nepal King to withdraw at the last moment.

In his sublime serenity, Golwalkar Guruji took that setback in his stride, and made one of the finest speeches of his life highlighting issues of national importance. People returned from the historic Reshimbagh Ground satisfied – yet disappointed – having witnessed a great moment. Reshimbagh Ground has always been a great place for the Nagpurians. It is associated with the RSS and its activities. It is associated with so many religious and sporting activities. It is a symbolism of the city’s love for huge public meets and rallies. And most importantly, it has become a place of pilgrimage and tourist attraction for countless people because there is the Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar Smriti Mandir, a very finely designed and beautifully constructed memorial to the founder of the RSS. Next to it is a ‘samadhi’ of Golwalkar Guruji, too, adding much gravitas to the place. Of course, no matter what the Government of that day thought, subsequently the Reshimbagh Ground did assume its rightful importance.

Now, in the north-eastern corner of the massive ground has come up a brand-new and modern Suresh Bhat Auditorium that can house 2000 people at a time. Very soon, as the new auditorium opens for public use, the Reshimbagh Ground will assume a new importance, offering the city a great facility of historic importance. Nagpur is lucky that it has such massive grounds in almost all areas, at least until now. One does not know, however, for how long such facilities would continue to retain their place in the new scheme of things under planning by the civic authorities as well as Maharashtra Government.

It appears to many that the civic authorities do not seem to realise that any city requires grounds like the Reshimbagh Ground. Thanks to this ground, that part of East Nagpur still has fresh air to breathe, a lot of sunlight to bathe the area in golden hue.Reshimbagh Ground has always been all this to the people of East Nagpur. It has become a psycho-spiritual landmark of the city. In the past fifty years and more, this ground has seen history take shape in multiple facets. It has been a special attraction for sportspersons of almost all disciplines. I have gone there to play cricket, to play kabaddi and kho-kho and take part in rigorous athletics training. I have gone there – all the way from Nagpur’s western edge – to fly kite, taking part in the Sankranti kite festival.

More importantly, I have found myself gravitating to Reshimbagh Ground time and again to listen to speeches of great merit and tremendous importance. My thinking on public affairs has been shaped by some ideas I have heard there, though no political ideology could influence me. In fact, it was at the Reshimbagh Ground – just as it happened at a few other places in the city – that my independent thinking got nursed. I realised the importance of staying unaffected by any political ideology and keeping my own mind open only at places like the Reshimbagh Ground.

Back at home, I would discuss the speeches with parents who would encourage me to think independently and beyond any political ideology. That has helped me in my profession of journalism.But still more importantly, the Reshimbagh Ground also taught me the criticality of emotional engagement – not entanglement – in national affairs. “Without emotion, without your engagement in public affairs as an Indian, you would not understand many a fine print that the others would miss,” my Guru – to whose name only I am privy – had told me.

About 25 years ago the Ramjanmabhoomi issue came to fore, and the Reshimbagh Ground witnessed much security arrangement being made because of the massive and critical RSS establishment. Security personnel started manning some critical spots at the ground, screening the visitors to the Smriti Mandir and other parts of the RSS establishment.

Reshimbagh Ground is not all RSS. Many other activities take place on a regular basis. Yet, the name has got associated strongly with the organisation because of the national and international importance it has assumed over the past nine decades. For the Nagpurians, all these facets of the place are equal darlings.A lot of water has flowed in the nearby Nag River, of course, but memory refuses to allow dust of forgetfulness to settle over that huge disappointment one had felt even as a young lad when His Highness the King Mahendra of Nepal withdrew from the RSS invitation at the last minute.If he had honoured the invitation …! But then common man never understands the political games!