‘Aamcha Baap ani Aamhi’ is an autobiographical sketch of four generations of a Dalit family which embodies the ‘upward mobility’ from the lowest strata of society to the highest circles of power. The USP of this story is the positive attitude which sets it apart from all other Dalit narratives where the focus is mostly upon the hardships & sufferings of the protagonists. Though hardships & sufferings do constitute the major chunk of life for the main characters—acute & obvious for the first two generations while subtle but not lesser for the next two—it is not the listing of those incidents but the listing of various steps which led from lowest to highest rung of the social ladder.
The title of the book is very significant as it foregrounds the supportive & inspirational relationship between father & children which is the main driving force behind their later success in life. The colloquial word ‘Baap’ instead of ‘Wadil’ lends it authenticity of experience & emotional proximity. (In Marathi the word ‘Wadil’ requires plural lexicon to denote respect while ‘Baap’ takes up singular lexicon to denote closeness.) The‘Baap’ in the title also refers to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who is the father figure for the Dalits in Maharashtra.
The book is divided into biographical/semi-biographical/auto-biographical chapters on various members of Jadhav family. Its shifting perspective gives the panoramic view of around 100 years of social change in Maharashtra with special reference to the city of dreams, Mumbai. In the following paper, we would discuss various features of this outstanding story.
Autobiographical Sketch of Four Generations
The Jadhav family originates at Ozar, Taluka Niphad, Dist. Nasik in Maharashtra. There are details of ancestors living in the area but the main story begins with the migration of Rahibai (author’s grandmother) with her children to Mumbai. There are details of her struggle for survival along with the details of her son’s (author’s father) tough learning in the school of life. Both mother & son had to try their hands at several jobs just to meet their hands & mouth unless & until, he gets a steady job at Port Trust of India. It’s the stability of job & steady income (though not sufficient enough) that triggered off the ‘upward mobility’ of the Jadhav family on Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchy of needs & self-actualization.
It is said that nothing succeeds like success & the first success came in 1962 when the eldest son of the family J. D. Jadhav passes IAS. The author narrates the funny incident at that time when the telegram arrived from Delhi to Mumbai stating ‘J. D. Jadhav passes IAS’ which was mistakenly read as ‘J. D. Jadhav passes away’ & resulted in a lot of commotion before turning into celebration. Another memorable but disturbing incident took place in 1970 in Parbhani where J. D. Jadhav was posted as District Collector, yet his wife Pushpa was subtly denied entry into Kataneshwar Temple. Frustrated with the experience, he applied for transfer to Mumbai. Later on in 1981, he became the Chief Secretary, the highest beaurocratic officer to the Govt. of Maharashtra.
The second brother Sudhakar, tried his luck in the private sector, went to Dubai & despite hardships succeeded in his field. The third one, Dinesh first joined Income Tax department as the inspector & then became officer in the Shipping Corporation. His two jobs acquainted him with disparity in the two sides of India—extreme richness of top businessmen, politicians & landlords on one hand & acute poverty & hardships of seamen on the other. As far as possible he tried to ease the problems of the seamen.
Then comes iconic Dr. Narendra Jadhav who started his career in State Bank of India (October 1974 to September 1977), then moved to Reserve Bank of India as Research Officer & left his golden imprint on whatever he did. His important achievements are his research on criteria to decide relative quota of developed & developing countries in International Monetary Fund (1988), Financial Advisor to Govt. of Ethiopia (1988), Director of Economic Department of RBI (1990), research on Hawala Market (December 1991) which gave him the nickname ‘James Bond of RBI’, Financial Advisor to Govt. of Afghanistan, member of the Planning Commission, Vice Chancellor to University of Pune & Financial Advisor to RBI among others.
The children of all the four brothers are well-educated & doing well in their respective fields.
Rationalism: Agent of Change
The quality that brought about this drastic social transformation is rationalism, the belief that one’s life should be based on reason & logic rather than emotions or religious beliefs. Dr. Ambedkar was a hardcore rationalist & as his disciple Dr. Jadhav’s father strictly adhered to it. He was an atheist who believed in hard work & strongly opposed superstitions. He inculcated the same values in his children. He had the positive attitude, knew the importance of education, gave full freedom to his children to choose their own career as well as life partner & in the process rose above all the in-built prejudices of caste system. He never glorified poverty but taught his children the importance of money & how to use it constructively.
Importance of Education
The most famous teaching of Dr. Ambedkar not only to Dalits but to all the people was ‘educate, unite & agitate’. It is the education, first & foremost, which is the vehicle of rationalism & social change. Education frees the mind from all types of prejudices & superstitions & gives it the strength to face the challenges of life. However educational system is still laden with these evils. Dr. Narendra Jadhav shows how he had to face them at four distinct stages of his education.
His primary education took place at Wadala school where majority of the students came from same socio-economic background. Their heroes were the local goons & criminals. It taught him the toughest lesson which helped him throughout in life i.e. ‘survival of the fittest’.
Then for his secondary education, he was admitted to Chhabildas High School, Dadar where he was first introduced to middle class values, high caste culture & standard language. The hegemony of these three tactically instilled Inferiority Complex in him which on one hand frightened him but on the other hand pushed him towards the pursuit of excellence. It was the same value ‘pursuit of excellence’ that his father always upheld for his children & for which his teachers motivated him. The incident foregrounding this paradox was Dr. Jadhav’s winning of Jagannath Shankarsheth Scholarship for topping in Sanskrit at matriculation. The reaction of his Sanskrit teacher Joshi sir is self-explanatory. He curiously enquired, “Who is that student? Sane? Bapat? Sule?” When he came to know about Dr. Jadhav he couldn’t recollect him & wished to meet him. But Dr. Jadhav dared not face him thanks to casteism.
The turning point in his life came in the form of Ruia College. Though he first philandered with a couple of colleges & a few science subjects, it was at Ruia that he got the right direction. He chose the combination of Economics & Statistics for his B.Sc. & graduated with distinction. Various curricular, co-curricular & extra-curricular activities at Ruia like elocutions, debates, NSS etc. not only contributed to his all round development but also gave him the much needed self-confidence to take on further challenges in life.
The next milestone in his educational career was his pursuit of Ph.D. (Economics) at Indiana University, USA. For this he was awarded National Scholarship by Govt. of India & three years leave by RBI. The pressure to finish his Ph.D. at the earliest was paramount & along with it was his enthusiasm at his best. There too he participated in many co-curricular activities & in 1983 bagged the award for the Best International Student. However grass was not always green. Till now he had experienced casteism in India but now he had to taste bitterness of racism in USA. His guide Prof. Fursterberg who boasted of German royal blood & was drenched in racist ideology of Nazi Germany (though living in USA) played cat & mousse with Dr. Jadhav. He turned every stone to frustrate Dr. Jadhav & made scornful remarks about his lineage. Finally Dr. Jadhav had to take firm stand & only then could he finish his Ph.D. successfully.
When it comes to any type of inborn superiority related to caste, class, religion or race; its underlining principle is so-called ‘pure blood’. Though genetic science & anthropology have proven without doubt that entire human race is one (According to Human Genome Program, there is only 0.01% difference in the genes of various races, let alone other outward labels of caste, class or religion.) the same sciences are used to justify pseudo-scientific claims of purity of blood. Obviously this ghost of purity & superiority of ‘blood’ forbids mingling of blood i.e. inter-caste, inter-class, inter-religious or inter-racial marriages & strictly enforces the code of endogamy.
However when a person imbibes rationality, he accepts that no superior quality is inborn but rather learnt & developed through one’s experiences & efforts. As a result, all are born equal & can achieve excellence. Consequently the very basis of enforced endogamy collapses & frees a person to choose one’s life partner not on the basis of his/her caste, religion, race or any such label but his/her earned qualities.
In case of Dr. Jadhav it is significant that his father accepted his inter-caste marriage to Vasundhara Kulkarni saying, “One has to choose one’s life partner very consciously. If partner is not right, the life can’t proceed properly. I’ll tell only one thing & that is whichever girl you may choose as your partner, don’t bother about her caste at all.” However Vasundhara’s mother was against the marriage as she had seen many alcoholic Dalit husbands beating up their wives & she feared that same fate awaited her daughter. But as the time passed by, her fears were proven false & on the contrary the caste prejudiced diluted & led to flowering of healthy friendship between her & Dr. Jadhav’s mother.
Role of Mumbai City in Social Engineering
While discussing various facets of this outstanding story, we cannot underestimate the importance of locale, the Mumbai city. Mumbai is fundamentally different from other cities in India not just in the size of population but also in its cosmopolitan culture. Originally belonging to fisher folk, this small island became the megacity by incorporating within it people coming from all parts of India, belonging to different castes, class, religions, languages & races. Under the alien British rule & at the forefront of economic & technological development, Mumbai became the melting pot where diverse people mingled together more harmoniously than anywhere else. The sheer crowd of the city along with its variety made it impossible to strictly follow age-old caste restrictions. Majority of people who came to Mumbai came here in the search of better future & hope & were more willing to co-operate (unless & until communalism took roots). The city of Mumbai was also the hot spot of many socio-political-cultural movements. It also provided the much needed daily bread & butter to its residents. As a result, here one got every opportunity to develop oneself. Rationalism, education, inter-caste marriage, the various steps in the ‘upward mobility’ would have been simply impossible without the city of Mumbai. On the whole, what Mumbai brought about in case of not just Dr. Jadhav & his family but in case of hundreds of other such cases, is nothing short of social engineering.
So to conclude, we would like to say that ‘Aamcha Baap ani Aamhi’ is indeed a saga of modern India & an important milestone in the history of Marathi literature as well.
Dr. Manisha Patil,
Asst. Professor (English),
Gurunanak College of Arts, Science & Commerce,
GTB Nagar, Mumbai.
Dr. Manish Kumar Mishra,
Associate IIAS, Shimla & Asst. Professor (Hindi),
K.M.Agrawal College of Arts, Science & Commerce,
 The significance of title ‘Our Father & Us’ is lost in the title of its English translation ‘Untouchable’ which can be easily confused with Mulk Raj Anand’s masterpiece by the same name.
 From 1910, the tentative year of birth of Dr. Narendra Jadhav’s father ‘Baap’ in the title, till 2010 the year of latest edition of the book.