(August 16, 1934–November 29, 2014)
I first met Ashok in Patna where he had moved to start Samayik Varta after the emergency was over. He came to meet me because I used to bring out Filhaal with Vir Bharat Talwar from Patna and he wanted to share our experience. One of the issues we discussed was about asking deposits from subscribers. I said that we never bothered about it. We sent the magazine and sent the bill on a post card and the subscribers would send the money orders. At which he ruefully commented, 'But our subscribers are not communists!' I was impressed by his honesty, because after all, given the history of antagonism between communists and socialists (and Ashok fully shared this history) it was quite something to admit it to a communist.
We became good friends and I learned a lot about Socialists and Hindi literature from him. Ashok always admitted if he was wrong. Once I told him that the 'Autobiography' of Rajendra Prasad was written by Shiv Pujan Sahay. He was very upset and said that it was an insult to both of them. Later he came to me and admitted that what I said was true.
When he moved back to Calcutta I used to meet him every time I visited Calcutta and once in a while stayed at his place also. I also learned a lot about Marwaris too, particularly after reading the two volumes of his father's diaries which Ashok had edited. Till then the image of Marwari Gandhians in my mind was that of Ghanshyam Das Birla and Jamna Lal Bajaj. For me both of them carried negative connotations. But Ashok's father was not ultra rich like these. He was an ordinary Marwari businessman who was a patriot and was impressed by Gandhi. But when he visited Gandhian village industry establishment he dismissed them as impractical and wrote that it won't work. Then he settled his family's business and devoted rest of his life to Marwari women's education in Calcutta. This account removed a lot of prejudices from my mind and I began to think of Marwaris also as a community of Indian people like any other. I think Ashok did a singular service to his community by this work.
Ashok was always ready to appreciate others and I received a lot of positive feedback from him about my writings as I am sure countless others did. Ashok did an enormous amount of editing, translating and helping younger authors without ever taking credit for it. In that sense he reminds me of Lu Hsun of China. Like him, he was a true Sahitya Karmi (literary Activist)!
January 13, 2015
‘‘Atithi Deva Bhava’’
It has been suggested that the military-industrial complex of the USA has sent its leading functionary to look at what India shows in the display of military hardware known as the Republic Day parade so as better to make tempting offers of goodies of mass murder that India does not have (and, as some infidels say, does not need). Should India buy any of these weapons, all will talk of "atithi devo bhava" and no one will stop to think that the Global Bully may have twisted India's arm.
Mukul Dube, Delhi
‘No’ to Normal Practice
Controversies apart, it was highly improper to bypass normal protocol by not inviting a former Chief Minister of Delhi in functions organised by Union government in respect of Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Even the main Opposition Party Congress has also, and rightly so, criticised such a political input into Republic Day functions with such political reflection visible in events organised even by Union Defence Ministry.
Such a politically biased decision can even bounce back politically for ruling party in forthcoming elections to Delhi state-assembly. Rather it would have given positive points to BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate for Delhi who was seen seated in front row during Republic Day parade at Rajpath.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
Vol. 47, No. 32, Feb 15 -21, 2015