Shivakantjha.org - PROFILE OF MY FATHER
PROFILE OF MY FATHER
Shri Gopikant Jha
Within the surface of Time's fleeting river
Its wrinkled image lies, as then it lay
Immovably unquiet, and for ever
It trembles, but it cannot pass away.
Shelley, Ode to Liberty.
The year 1942 was a watershed in the history of India. The
new mood of vibrant nationalism had dawned on the masses. Gandhi's call had
a charismatic effect. But the ideas of Tilak and Aurobindo too contributed to
the making of the spiritual climate of the time. There was hardly any section
of society which was indifferent to the rushing waves. Students and teachers
were astir with ideas forging their new roles. Education laid stress on moral
values. Love for the motherland was considered of supreme virtue.
My father, Gopikant Jha (March 1, 1898 to June 21, 1982) was
the Headmaster of Rosera High English School at Rosera. He taught mainly English,
Mathematics, and Geography. On August 8, 1942, the All India Congress Committee,
in its Bombay session, gave a clarion call for a mass movement against the British
Raj. Father's exposition in the Matriculation class of a poem in Sir Walter
Scott's ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel' had an electrifying effect on the young
minds of the students who were already surcharged with patriotic fervour. The
lines, which he turned into metaphors of intense patriotism, were these:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said?
This is my own, my native land.
His exposition inspired them. They could discover with extraordinary
verve their patriotic duties. They lived in great creative moments of our history.
Our struggle for freedom was fast reaching a decisive moment. Gandhi had touched
a chord in the common Indian masses The lines of action and thought in our national
life had met at a high point creating conditions for a great revolution. What
Macaulay had said in the course of his speech in the House of Commons on July
10, 1833 was coming true:
“ The destinies of our Indian Empire are covered with thick
darkness….It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system
till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our
subjects into a capacity for better government; that having become instructed
in European knowledge they may, in some future age, demand European institutions.
Whether such a day will ever come. I know not. But never will I attempt to avert
or retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history”.
The students resorted to direct actions. They left their classes,
and assembled in the campus of the school. They sang in chorus, Bharatmata ki
jai and Vande Mataram. As each was acting under an inner urge, it was impossible
to say who led the inspired crowd. They showed unity and empathy seldom seen
in the era after Independence. India, for them, was Bharatmata. Bankimchandra
had written an immortal novel Anandmath in which Bharatmata was portrayed as
mother-goddess Durga. He had composed a long poem Vande Mataram (‘Hail to the
Mother'). The students had an inner urge, and an indomitable will to do all
that could be done to free their land from foreign servitude. How could they
forget that their teachers had often quoted from classical poetry that one's
motherland is much greater than even heaven?
They sang Vande Mataram in chorus, and spread out in different
directions to work against the British Empire for the cause of our nation's
freedom. Their teachers, who had seen them with thrill from the precincts of
the School, must have felt that their efforts in training them had not gone
in vain. The students and the teachers had already fallen for Gandhi's ideas,
and were ready to respond to the call made by the All India Congress Committee
for starting on mass scale a struggle for freedom which was now in its final
phase. In the morning of August 9, the main leaders of the Congress were arrested.
The Congress organization was itself declared illegal. Never in the history
of any nation had an Idea itself taken over leadership of a national struggle
for liberation. The great ideas, developed and popularised by Swami Vivekanand,
Lokmanya Tilak, Maharshi Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Iqbal, Kazi Nazrul
Islam…..came flowering in the patriotic feats of action. The patriotic Indians
felt that as lines of thought and action had met at a high point in the nation's
life, the success was certain to come: they believed that the British Empire
in India was having only its last laugh. They got assurance in the immortal
words uttered by Samjaya in the Bhagavad-Gita :
yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanurdharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama
[Wherever there is Krishna, the lord of yoga, and Partha (Arjuna),
the archer, I think, there will surely be fortune, victory, welfare and morality.]
[Dr S. Radhakrishnan's translation in his the Bhagavad-Gita XVIII.78]
Some of them, by their spontaneous actions, sent tremors disturbing
the Pax Britannica by sporadic acts of disorder which included damaging the
railway tracks and stations, and cutting of the telegraph and telephone lines.
But father felt that what shocked the British Government most was the aggressive
mood of the young India. Vande Mataram resounded everywhere. It had acquired
the status of the Veda mantra. For certain days it appeared that even the birds
and the beasts, trees and flowers seemed humming this song in the Bhairavi rag.
Its impact was electrifying, something which, father felt, brought to mind the
gongs of thalli which were sounded in the homes of the common people of Bihar
during the JP Movement which was against the Emergency which Indira Gandhi had
imposed on us. What made them extraordinary was their sturdiness of purpose,
and their dedication to the cause of the nation. They, of curse, couldn't be
oblivious to the possibilities of brutal retaliation by the savage imperial
power. Yet they embarked on their venture believing that life has been given
on the condition that the kartavya karma (Duties) must be done.
An extraversion. When father narrated what had happened on
that fateful day, he exuded cheerful serenity. But while writing about it I
feel anguished at what I see happening around us. The young of our days are
living for pelf and power alone. Now money alone matters. Higher values are
at their vanishing point. Consumerism has already taken its toll. Our cultural
tradition, and the achievements which distinguished our land from others, are
being forgotten. Now everything has a price tag. Even values have become mere
trading wares. There is a trend towards a repulsive commoditization of human
beings. It is shocking to see the slave's syndrome manifesting itself. A slave,
even on acquiring freedom, loves putting fetters on himself as a matter of own
choice. I write with an iron in my soul that this overweening lust for material
comforts at the cost of all other values has made the rich of our society a
spiritual wasteland. Swami Vivekanand was right in saying that India could expect
only from the common people as the higher sections of the society are dead from
the ethical point of view.
The British Government ashamed humanity by inflicting most
morbid repression on our patriotic society. Nothing is disliked by the imperialists
more than the sense of patriotism on the part of those under servitude. Patriotism
is an impregnable rampart of liberty. It is a most potent creative force in
an independent society. The Government registered its presence everywhere by
the police patrolling squad with bayonets directed to everyone in sight. Thousands
were arrested without cause. Lakhs of people suffered tribulations but now no
longer with tongue-tied patience. They were not unaware of the fact that the
cruel government could enact the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre when the troops had
fired 1,600 rounds of ammunition into the unarmed crowd of people at an enclosed
place assembled to voice their feelings against the Rowlatt Act. But even such
apprehension could not dim the people's ardour. The sweep of their pursuits
widened even to include the School, an amazing feat on the part of the students
who had been so obedient otherwise.
For a few days even after August 9, things at the school were
peaceful. But the undercurrents were strong. It reached a flash point on August
13. What happened at the School can be gathered from my father's letter to the
Sub-Divisional Officer, Samastipur who was the President and Secretary of the
School. I quote from the letter:
“I have the honour to state that yesterday some of the students
took the bunch of keys from Sonelal Sahu, school peon forcibly and locked the
class-rooms and got two locks of their own with which they locked the Headmaster's
room and the clerk's office and Teacher's Common Room. Since yesterday I have
been asking them to open the doors but they have been deferring the matter.
This day also they went on picketing and preventing the teachers and a few boys
from entering the school premises. The teachers, however, came in time and stayed
in some parts of the school premises and went back to their respective lodgings
after a few hours. I am at a loss to find what should I do in such circumstances.
This day I have found that some of the outsider also had gathered near about
the school compound”.
The revolutionaries had succeeded in disturbing the Pax Britannica.
The Sub-Divisional Officer of Samastipur was R. N. Lines I.C.S. He was tough
and had planned to strike a terror in the heart of the people. The school was
closed “for indefinite period” from Monday the August 17, 1942
Father came to know that the authorities had decided to inflict
a cruel tyranny on our people even in the villages to unnerve the common folk
drumming into their ears fear that any attempt to embarrass the British Government
would be ruinous for them. Father decided to leave for our village, Kurson.
We travelled about 50 kilometres in a bullock-cart. While travelling to our
village we ran an obvious risk of being arrested, even frayed with bullets by
the government forces.
But it was too much for the British Administration that in
the mighty British Raj an academic institution stood closed on account of the
activities of the nationalists. The District Magistrate ordered the school to
reopen with effect from August 19. Shri Rameshwar Prasad, an assistant teacher
of the School, sent a messenger to my village with a letter informing father
that the School had been reopened on the 19 th in obedience to District Magistrate's
peremptory order. Father received this letter at 9.30 a.m on August 29. He immediately
started for Rosera. What worried him most was the news that the authorities
had decided to get the ring leaders amongst the students identified so that
cruelest punishment could be inflicted on them to teach the natives lessons
never to be forgotten by them. On reaching Rosera he found the tyranny of the
British Raj at its worst. On September 5, 1942 he was summoned at the Rosera
Railway station by Najmul Huda who had been the Sub Inspector of Police. After
droning on sundries, the Police Officer shouted in hoarse and discourteous voice:
“Specify the ring leaders amongst the students”.
Father told him:
“Everyone was leading himself. It was impossible to specify
Father had no temptation for a reward. He could have suggested
some names to please the British Administration in order to curry favours. He
could have easily obtained the title of Rai Saheb or Rai Bahadur. It was so
easy for him to do so as he had earlier received high some appreciation from
the District Magistrate of Darbhanga who in his D.O Letter No.7928 dated June
28, 1937 had written to him:
“It has been brought to my notice that you rendered valuable
assistance in making the Last Coronation Celebration of Their Majesties a
success in your locality, and I have great pleasure in offering you my sincere
thanks for this loyal assistance and co-operation rendered by you”.
But at this time the cause of the nation was supreme. Father
stood firm. The Mephistopheles had failed. No persuasion or allurement could
“So Sir you won't come out with their names. The Gandhians
come out only under the lash of distress”, said the Sub-Inspector of Police.
“Am I under arrest?” Father asked him.
The Sub-Inspector shouted, “Yes, you are. You have earned it”.
Listening this Father shouted: Vande Matram. And the Sub-Inspector
clamped hand-cuffs around his wrists. The crowd that had congregated at the
Rosera railway station shouted in chorus Vande Mataram.
Father was arrested under the Defence of India Rules, and
was produced before the Sub-Divisional Officer, Samastipur “to take his trials”.
He was admitted to the Central Jail, Patna on 13.10.42. In the chronological
Register of Convicts he was allotted number 2086. Now he became just a number!
We have read in history how the tyrants and the dictators reduced human beings
just to numbers, fitfully pullulating some concentration camps.
Father was tried under Rule 56 (I) of the Defence of India
Rules. Father was produced before an Indian most loyal to the British Government.
He was N. Huda, the Special Magistrate at Samastipur. He was known a tough man,
and was wisely feared. Tutored witnesses were produced as the witnesses for
the prosecution. They concocted stories to prove to the hilt a case against
Father. The British Government in India was panicky, and did everything to turn
the scales of justice in their favour even by hook or by crook. Father was charged
with having contravened the order of the District Magistrate under rule 56(1)
of the Defence of India Rules by holding meetings, and by taking part in processions
and thereby committed an offence punishable under rule 56(4) of the Defence
of India Rules. He pleaded not guilty to the charge. The trial was short and
swift. The judgment was on the known lines. This brings back to mind how a trial
was portrayed in Louis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland:
“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about
the twentieth time that day.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first - verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having
the sentence first!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
The judgment of the Special Magistrate deserves to be quoted
in extenso so that the reader can have a hang of trial and punishment that a
nationalist faced when our nation's struggle for freedom was most vibrant. The
Magistrate's judgment and verdict ran thus:
“The prosecution story is that the accused who was the Head
Master of Rosera H.E.School convened Congress meetings in his school on 13 th
, 14 th and 15 th of August 1942 in contravention of the District Magistrate's
order under rule 56(1) of the Defence of India Rules. He also took active part
in Congress processions in Rosera and used and shouted “Enquilab Zindabad” “Sarkari
Raj Nash Ho” Hindustan Azad” etc. The order of the District Magistrate prohibiting
all processions and meetings under rule 56(1) of the Defence of India Rules
was duly promulgated in Rosera previously. The accused version is that he has
been all along peaceful citizen and has been discharging the duties of Head
Master to the entire satisfaction of immediate authorities and that he could
not assign any reason as to why he has been prosecuted. In support of this version,
the accused has examined Babu Harbans Narain Sinha a Zamindar of Thathia P.S
Rosera and Vice President of Rosera H.E.School. Babu Harban Narain Sinha says
“To my knowledge the accused did not take part in any meeting or procession
in the school premises”. The school was closed on 17-8-42 for indefinite period
under the advice of the Local members of the Managing Committee”. This is the
statement in his evidence in-chief. In cross examination, he says, “My house
is about two miles from Rosera. I always remained at my house during the movement.
I did not even come to Rosera”. From his statement this witness does not appear
to be quite competent to say whether the accused took part in meetings or processions
in Rosera or not, since he never went to Rosera during this movement.
I happen to be the President and Secretary of the School and
I am sure that I was not consulted even regarding the closing of School for
any period (definite or indefinite) in consequence of the student's movement.
Obviously the evidence of Babu Harbans Narain Sinha is not
of much avail to the accused. In support of his denial to have taken part in
meetings and processions D.W.2 is the teacher of Rosera H.E.School. This teacher
in one breadth stated that there was no meeting in the School compound and in
another he had to change and says that one day there was a meeting in School
compound. I am not prepared to put reliance on his statement.
Adverting to the prosecution case I find that there is the
evidence of the Sub-Inspector of Police Rosera P.S and a Havaldar of the same
P.S which clearly goes to show beyond all reasonable doubts that the accused
convened Congress meetings in School on 13 th , 14 th and 15 th of August, 1942
and also took active part in congress processions in Rosera Town shouting slogans
like “ Angrezi Raj Nas Ho, Hindustan Azad ” etc. and thus it is clear
that he contravened the order of the District Magistrate passed under rule 56(1)
of the Defence of India Rules prohibiting all meetings and processions which
was duly promulgated in Rosera Town. I therefore convict him and sentence him
to undergo R.I. for two years and to pay fine of Rs.250/- in default to undergo
R.I. for six months under rule 56(4) of the Defence of India Rules.”
No appeal had been provided against a summary conviction under
the Defence of India Rules. The Rules had been made by the government totally
panic-stricken. The World War II had cast a gloom on the British power. The
panic was so great that even their highest judiciary, the House of Lords, had
become more executive-minded than the executive in Liversidge vs. Anderson
(1942) AC. 206. The judgment by the Magistrate was shocking, more so as
no appeal had been allowed against it. Repression was so strong that we apprehended
the jail to become a concentration camp, of the sort which provided stuff to
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn in writing his Gulag Archipelago. But something for
good happened. The Calcutta High Court held that by depriving the accused of
any right to appeal the Governor-General had gone beyond his powers. Hence a
right to appeal was granted.
Father's appeal came up before J.I Blackburn, a member of the
Indian Civil Service. He was the Sessions Judge at Darbhanga. He marked most
appeals to the Indian judges who had the track-record of dismissing appeals.
But when he saw my father's Memorandum of Appeal he decided to hear it himself.
Father's advocate, Babu Chaturvuja N Chaudhary, was worried as he expected something
sinister to happen to his client as a firangi had chosen himself to decide the
case. Everyone in our village apprehended an enhancement of the sentence. It
was rumoured that most revolutionaries would face death, slow or fast, in the
prisons. But, with God's grace, a fresh breeze blew.
J.I.Blackburn had known my father when he was the S. D.O at
Samastipur. He had granted a Certificate of Appreciation to him on December
19, 1937. He asked the Public Prosecutor for the production of that certificate
which he had himself granted more than a decade back. Rejecting the plea against
the admissibility of the certificate put forth by Shri Baroda Charan, the Public
Prosecutor, the certificate was admitted on the record under the direction of
Court. J.I.Blackburn, per his judgement dated August 4, 1943 allowed the appeal
setting aside conviction and sentence of the Lower Court. This was done on the
ground that the order of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate suffered from an error
going to the jurisdiction. The findings on facts were not considered. Allowing
this appeal J.I.Blackburn said:
“It appears unnecessary to enter into the merits of the case
as there is a legal defect in the trial, in as much as the general order of
the District Magistrate constituting Courts of Special Magistrate for the
trial of particular offences was not issued until 4.10.42, whereas the learned
Magistrate in this case took up the hearing on 28.9.42 and tried the case
as a Special Magistrate and passed his orders in that capacity. The conviction
and sentence are therefore liable to be set aside. The only question however
is as to whether the case should be remanded for retrial. The accused has
already suffered R.I. for about 9 months, and in my opinion this sentence
is in any case sufficient to meet the ends of justice, especially in consideration
of the previous good character held by him.”
I often wondered how father could sustain himself through
his trials and tribulations which were enough to wrench any heart to the core.
He must have had a lot of apprehensions about the fate of his wife, and an infant
ailing son. But he was always unruffled as he believed that nothing could distract
him from what the duty to the nation demanded. He, like other revolutionaries,
never calculated gains and losses. They devoted themselves to achieve their
mission, to perform their kartavy-karma . I could gather later through
ample reflections that he was inspired and strengthened by the Bhagavad-Gita
as interpreted by Tilak. It had been written from November 2, 1910 to
March 30, 1911 while Tilak was undergoing sentence in the Mandalay jail in Burma
(now Myanmar). The Gita had become the very grammar of conduct of the revolutionaries.
Whether it was Tilak, Gandhi, Vinoba, Savarkar, or others not so well-known,
they all derived light and strength from the Gita. What they felt about the
Gita was well stated by Vinobaji in course of his exposition of the Gita in
the Dhulia jail in 1932:
“…My relationship with Shrimadbhagavadgita is beyond logic.
Its milk has enriched my heart and mind far more than what mother's milk had
done to my body. Reason has no play where the relationship is from the heart.
After abandoning pedestrian reasoning I keep on taking my flights, in accordance
with my capacities, in the space of the Gita. In effect I remaine in the environment
of the Gita itself. The Gita is the fundamental element of my life.” [Vinoba,
The Gita-Pravachan , First Lecture on Feb. 11, 1932]
In our society some felt erroneously that the Gita taught
Sanyasa, and whosoever read it, would become good for nothing in this world.
Perhaps, this notion developed on account of the several commentaries on the
Gita written in the medieval India by the leaders of certain sects, the main
being Samkar's (A.D. 788-820) doctrine of pure monism (advaita) holding that
the world is unreal, and wisdom and action do not go together; Ramanuja's (11
th century A.D.) Visistadvaita or qualified monism stressing exclusively on
bhakti; Madhva's (A.D. 1199-1276) dualistic (dvaita) philosophy stressing that
the prime and central path is the path of devotion; Nimbarka's (A.D. 1162) theory
of dvaitadvaita (dual-non-dual doctrine) holding the world, the soul and God
not the same though the soul and the world always dependent on God; and Vallabha's
(A.D. 1479) philosophy of suddhadvaita or pure non-dualism. They stressed on
sanyasa and bhakti, and discounted karma. Mithila drew the Gita's import from
its language itself keeping Krishna's activism, and Janak's dedication to kartavya-karma
in mind. The world-view under which such commentaries had been written had changed
in the phase our country was struggling for her freedom. This new ethos coloured
Tilak's views in writing his Gita Rahashya. The book had great influence on
father. He felt that the Gita deserved to be studied by persons of all ages,
but more so by the young people whose duty is to act. He used to refer with
delight what Tilak had himself written in the Introduction to his book: to quote
“Without acting nothing happens. You have just to go on
doing your duties with detachment. The Gita had not been said for those fatigued
by running their affairs with crash selfishness reading the Gita merely while
away their moments. The Gita was not said for those preparing to retire from
[Translated by me.]
The great commentators failed to consider the fact that the
Gita is a sound grammar of revolution. Lord Krishna was Himself a great revolutionary
who stood against all injustice and arbitrariness. He inspired the revolutionaries
as Christ had inspired the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed
by Martin Luther King, which conducted non-violent revolution in America to
achieve civil rights.
Many of the nationalists enjoyed their prison terms, long
or short, with sublime fortitude. They had sufficient time for an inner odyssey
absorbed in the rainbow of their inner space. They had learnt from their tradition
an idea that even when one is driven on own self in acute loneliness, one is
not without the company of God.
Father had great admiration for the V.D. Sawarkar. When I was
writing a paper on 1857 to mark the centenary celebration of that great event,
father advised me to read Sawarkar's History of the War of Indian Independence.
Sawarkar was of the view that the great event of 1857 was, in effect, the First
War of Indian Independence. It had been powered by the conjoint forces of Swadharm
and Swarajya . The book impressed me most. I was glad that my
essay was adjudged the best by the Committee of Evaluators consisting of Dr
Sital Prasad Sinha, Pundit Nageshwar Mishra, and Dr Sachhinath Mishra.
It was a unique experience to stand gazing at Sawarkar's portrait
in the cell on the second floor of the National Memorial Cellular Jail at Andaman.
In 1998 I visited this cell in which the great man had spent his confinement
for than a decade from July 4, 1911 undergoing imprisonment for fifty years!
I stood spell-bound before his portrait. I read the beautiful prayer that he
had composed. While in the jail his day began at 5 a.m. chopping trees with
a heavy wooden mallet. Often he was yoked to the oil mill. I was told by my
guide that he had to hear the last wailings at the gallows which were just down
his cell. It was amazing that he kept his mental balance despite his years of
acute drudgery. Only great faith in himself, and in Lord Krishna's dictum -
Na me bhaktah pranasyati my devotee never perishes)-- must have saved him from
being withered in such excruciating of circumstances. Whilst leaving that cell
I was struck by the sight of a luxuriant ancient Peepal tree inside the campus
coming within the full view from the cell. He must have spent much of his time
observing the tree. The Gita says that amongst the trees Krishna is this tree.
He must have read the Gita on the leaves of the tree, he must have heard Krishna's
flute in the flutter of the twigs, in the twitters of the birds with which the
tree abounded. Sawarkar and those like him could not have done what they did
without believing in what the Gita says:
Uddhared atmana ‘ tmanam
na ‘ tmanam avasadayet
atmai ‘ va hy atmano bandhur
atmai ‘ va ripur atmanah
[Let a man lift himself by himself and let him not degrade
himself. For thy Soul alone can be thy friend, and thy Soul can be thine enemy.]
Father was in the Bankipore jail while undergoing his sentence.
He bore with fortitude the troubles he faced without grumbling or repentance.
He, like others of his sort, believed in what Richard Lovelace had said in the
Stones walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
How difficult it is for many of us to understand these great
men as now live in a society in which Bharatmata is painted naked, when Gandhi
is sketched on sandals, when Prophet Muhammad is turned into a ‘cartoon'. Sometime
back there was a furore raised by fakers about the propriety of the presence
of Swarkar's painting in the cell. Our much-vaunted civilization is shaping
systems which run on the craft of deception, and the strategy of corruption.
The sensibility to be thrilled by the ideas of swadharma and swaraj
is waning fast.
Savarkar's photograph in a cell in the
cellular jail, Andamans
On being released from the jail he came straight to his village.
His homecoming was sudden. We did not know anything about it. We saw his silhouette
in the moonlit night on the road that bypassed the cremation ground where we
had gone, at midnight, to cremate my grandfather who had died in his nineties.
He was proud of his son. At that time I was only of 5. I saw my grandfather's
last smile before his death. He slowly hummed Shri Krishna Govind Hare Murare,
He Nath Narayan Vasudeva, and then was no more. Father could reach in time.
He could offer on the funeral pyre five dried mango twigs as his obeisance.
For us joy and sorrow were yoked together. It was a chiaroscuro in the cremation
Father was essentially an educationist. He began his career
as a substitute teacher in December 1924 at C.M.S. High School, Bhagalpur. Immediately
thereafter he went to Rosera to establish a High School at the request of the
people of that place. But after a short period there, he shifted to Barh to
become an Assistant Teacher at Bailey School and later its Assistant Headmaster
till sometime in 1929. He again went back to Rosera where he worked as the Headmaster
of the High English School from 1929 to his arrest in 1942. After his release
from jail on June 22, 1943 he joined the post of the Headmaster of M.C.H.E School,
Kadirabad at Darbhanga where he worked till May 31, 1965 when he retired. In
the post-retirement phase he remained associated with the Darbhanga Public School
till my mother's death on December 9, 1973 on which date he entered the phase
As he was essentially an academician, it is worthwhile to focus
on his ideas which conditioned his teaching over more than fifty years. He had
a coherent and integrated philosophy of education. The scope of this chapter
does not permit discussion its in detail. But some core ideas deserve to be
highlighted. His ideas about the objectives of education were the same as stated
by Lin Yutang in The Importance of Living:
‘The aim of education or culture is merely the development
of good taste in knowledge and good form in conduct. The cultured man or the
ideal educated man is not necessarily one who is well-read or learned, but
one who likes and dislikes the right things. To know what to love and what
to hate is to have taste in knowledge. Nothing is more exasperating than to
meet a person at a party whose mind is crammed full with historical dates
and figures and who is extremely well posted in current affairs in Russia
or Czechoslovakia, but whose attitude to point of view is all wrong.'
He was worried by the growing indifference of the students
towards the finer creations of mind. Education is meant to develop the students'
courage, and their faculty of imagination as without these good character cannot
be built. The worst problem which humanity is facing now is what is known as
the Wallace paradox (stressed by the great Alfred Russel Warren) which refers
to our present plight illustrated by the exponential growth of technology matched
by the stagnant morality. There are good reasons to believe that without moral
imagination man and science would perish together. Character is destiny. He
would often refer to what Herbert Spencer said about education; ‘Education has
for its objects the formation of character”. History shows itself more and more
a race between education and catastrophe. But the Gandhian message has been
overlooked in our Free India which is now imperilled by crash egocentricity
and rabid corruption.
He derived his technique of imparting education from the Bhagavadgita
itself. He suggested to the students that a difficult subject is studied best
when it is studied with concentration again and again. This is the abhyasayoga
of the Gita. His technique was participative; the students felt at home to put
questions to grasp the issues better. He could distil out what was the best
in his students. Didn't Shakespeare say: There is some soul of goodness in things
evil, Would men observingly distil it out.
He was a perfectionist. He would never condone linguistic
lapses. Like H.W. Fowler, whose Dictionary of Modern English Usage he frequently
consulted, he was an instinctive grammatical moralizer. He had purchased a battery
set of Phillips radio in 1954 so that I could regularly hear the BBC broadcast
for acquiring a better sense of English language, and for improving general
knowledge. He had a special liking for the Times Literary Supplement which he
was getting direct from the United Kingdom. The editorial note of August 2,
1957 had commented on Fowler:
“A moralizer no doubt he was; but he has no categorical imperatives.
His morality is purely teleological, and the end to which it is directed can
be reduced to a single idea : lucidity.”
Same could be said of my father.
His educational philosophy was wholly Gandhian. He emphasised
on moral instruction, and vocational training as the essential ingredients of
education. Once he had explained the symbolic relevance of the Spinning Wheel
on which we worked every day those days. Gandhi felt that the Spinning Wheel
would create centres of creativity in every household. This would enable our
society to develop creativity and discipline in every household. A Spinning
Wheel would have become a symbol of creative growth. Working on the spinning
wheel could develop power of concentration, and provide moments to tranquilise
one's system so that nobler values could be pursued. If the model of Gandhian
education would have been implemented, every household would have become centres
of creativity. Of course, if this would have happened, our degenerate politicians
of our days wouldn't have obtained the herds of the slogan shouting hoodlums
to promote their interests. Father shared the concern which had been voiced
by the great scientist Alfred Russel Wallace in Bad Times as far back as 1885:
“We thus see that the evils under which we have suffered,
and are still suffering, are due to no recondite causes, to no laws of inevitable
fluctuation of trade, but wholly to our own acts and to those of other civilised
nations. Whenever we depart from the great principles of truth and honesty,
of equal freedom and justice to all men whether in our relations with other
states, or in our dealings with our fellow-men, the evil that we do surely
comes back to us, and the suffering and poverty and crime of which we are
the direct or indirect causes, help to impoverish ourselves. It is, then,
by applying the teachings of a higher morality to our commerce and manufactures,
to our laws and customs, and to our dealings with all other nationalities,
that we shall find the only effective and permanent remedy for Depression
He always believed that the culture of Guru Shishaya parampara
should be cultivated in our educational system. As a teacher he maintained
very close contact with students. He took a lot of interest in the welfare of
his students. His students could come to him for learning, and for receiving
good counselling whenever they needed that. He was a loving teacher. No barrier
of formality separated him from his students.
Like most of the Indians my father was astik. An astik believes
in the Vedas, and reposes faith in God. One who believes in positive values
of existence is an astik. The etymology of astik (from Asti) is suggestive:
it refers to existence itself. He did not consider Bertrand Russell an atheist
as he had not ceased to have an indomitable quest for knowledge, and had had
profound interest to improve the conditions of human beings in these locust-eaten
years of ours. Father was syncretic in his religious ideas. He bore on his forehead
a bright vermilion mark. Over it three flourishing lines of the holy paste of
ash were drawn. These subdued grey coloured lines, so exquisitely drawn with
the finger-waves, indicated faith in Shiva. The vermilion mark expressed faith
in Shakti. The lines flanking closely the red mark and moving upwards vertically
on the forehead expressed his faith in Vishnu. Father strictly followed the
norms of the ashrams. His infinite trust in God helped him to get over life's
ennui; and enabled him to receive death as his final prostration on Lord Krishna's
lotus-feet. Life, he believed, is a mere sparrow's flight from the unknown to
the unknown with a temporary perching on the wooden beam of a room with windows
open, and the doors ajar.
Those days most students had a dharmic bent of mind in pursuing
their studies. This helped them improve their power of concentration, and made
them more focussed. It was customary to register a reverential bow to the book
or the pen when picked up from the ground if it ever fell down. When our feet
unwittingly touched a book we considered it a sacrilege. Every year Sraswati
was worshipped at most schools. She is the goddess of learning. The worship
of Saraswati is celebrated even now, perhaps more, but the bent of mind in doing
so is no longer that. It has become more a fun. The culture of our fast growing
acquisitive society has taken its toll. For father deeds are important but what
is more important is the state mind in doing things.
He believed that the greatest hazard to our technology-led
society is the stagnant morality and overweening hubris. He shared the ideas
of Alfred Russel Wallace whose The Wonderful Century: Its Successes and
Failures came out 1898, the year of his birth. Our great scientific advancements
constitute the beginning of a new era in human progress. But is only one side
of the shield. ‘Along with these marvellous Successes --- perhaps in consequence
of them ---there have been equally striking Failures, some intellectual, but
for the most part moral and social.' Corrective measures must be taken before
it is too late. Our society needs values which can lead to general welfare of
people, and create better capacity for reasonable prognostication. Life is not
to decay: ‘Like corpses in a charnel'. These words of Shelley in Adonais come
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heave'ns light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life like a dome of many coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments.
Father practiced the precept of ‘simple living and high thinking'
all through his life. He was all against the consumerist culture under which
the vested interests generate even non-essential needs. If one wants to maintain
dignity, the best way is to control one's needs. He provided us a talisman which
can stand in good stead while moving through the markets. This talisman is most
essential in our consumerist society. Whenever a desire springs up for things
on sale, it is prudent to ask oneself: ‘Is it essential for me? Can't I do without
it?' He believed that our resources are limited, and, hence, they must be used
without profligacy. He always stressed on the quality of his life. Joys didn't
elate him. He bore sufferings with tongue-tied patience. He was always happy
with whatever his life brought to him as his share. He lived in moments available
to him; he never fretted about unborn to-morrow or the dead yesterday. He followed
Gandhiji's instructions in the matter of food habits. When I visited Gandhi's
Wardha Ashram I found similar norms written on the board on display in the campus.
He was sad at the governmental indifference to Gandhi's ideas despite the fact
that they alone can save us from our present-day jeopardy. For him life provides
an opportunity to live with delight. One should make one's life a virtual festival
of colours. Kabir expresses in these famous lines:
Jeevan ke dina chaar,
Holi khel mana re
[Life's spring last not long O mind ! Enjoy the colours of
In the ups and downs of his life my mother was his great companion
and an unfailing source of inspiration. I have written about her in a separate
chapter. Every devotee of Shakti prays to the Deity;
Grant me this wish, O Mother Supreme, That I may be blessed with
a wife whose ways accord well with my heart, And who can enchant my mind,
And can help crossing the most difficult ocean of life
And one who comes from a good family.
--(Translation mine from Argalastrotram).
Goddess surely fulfilled my father's wish. Theirs was a rarest
of rare cases when the husband and the wife were so truly made for each other.
After his release from jail, he enjoyed for some time a cathartic
experience in his village. But his heart's desire was still education. It was
difficult for him to get a job. Who would employ one who had gone against the
British Empire? It was just a chance that he met a band of patriotic persons
who needed him to function as the Head Master of the M.C.H.E School situated
in a backward area of Darbhanga. Teaching again became his dominant concern
and chief delight. He had never been a politician; he never intended to dabble
into politics. He was a through patriotic person who was wholly at peace with
himself by imparting education to the young children of the poor. Michelangelo
sculpted the Pieta for St Peter's from marble: he drew out from the stone the
sublime beauty which lay in the stone. A teacher's job resembles the sculptor's
craft as he too discovers things of value in his students, and helps them to
manifest their inner worth. For a good teacher his students form his vidysvamsa,
become members of a family.
In appreciation of my father's contribution to the struggle
for India's freedom, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi presented to him, on
August 15, 1972, a Tamrapatra on behalf of the Nation on the occasion of the
Twenty fifth year of India's Independence. He considered this appreciation his
greatest asset. For me it is the most valuable heirloom. Our nation granted
him a pension of Rupees 200/- a month from August 15, 1972. He never needed
anybody's financial help till his death in 1982.
Father was disturbed by the Declaration of Emergency made by
Mrs. Indira Gandhi on June 26, 1975. He was shocked to find that the Emergency
was declared on flimsy grounds; and the Constitution which our people had given
to themselves was subverted purely for personal reasons. He agreed with many
who considered the ignominious Emergency a darkest chapter in the democratic
history of India. He expressed himself against the Emergency though his failing
health did not permit him to take up an active role in opposing it effectively.
He was certain that her dictatorship was bound to end as the grain of our society
did not permit any tyranny for long. The greatest assurance against a tyranny
is the world-view of the common people. He was amazed that she missed the wisdom
born of history. Her father had done so much to tell her about history, both
of India and the World, but, perhaps, it went all in vain. This bears out Georg
Wilhelm Hegel who said:
“What experience and history teach is this --- that people and government
never have learnt anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from
He was glad when the sordid phase of the Emergency came to an end. No less
shocking was the decision of our Supreme Court upholding the morbid Emergency.
During the Emergency our Supreme Court had buckled, but most of the High Courts
had stood erect protecting people's rights. The Calcutta High Court was one
of those which did not let our people down even in those darkest hours. When
I was enrolled as an Advocate by the Calcutta Bar Council, father was overjoyed:
he was proud of me. This High Court had declared in 1942 the Viceroy's order
under the Defence of India Rules ultra vires his power. The Viceroy had not
granted right to appeal to the accused. The quashing of this order facilitated
my father to prefer an appeal. About this I have already written. That judgment
of the Supreme Court shocked him. Even when the end of the British Empire appeared
just round the corner in 1942, the Calcutta High Court stood erect; but it was
quite amazing that a mere whirl of the Emergency swept our Supreme Court off
its path. But he was an optimist; he felt that even this dark hour would pass.
Of course, he had a tragic optimism.
In this chapter I have put some spotlights on my father's personality,
and have reflected on some of his ideas which appear to me valuable even now.
At the whirring loom of Time unawed
I work the living mantle of God.
I feel it apt to conclude this Chapter with lines variating
At the whirring loom of Time unawed
He worked the living mantle of God. [Goethe in his Faust (R. Anstell's
Translation quoted by Arnold J. Toynbee in A Study of History Pg.632)]
EXTRACTS FROM A DIARY OF A FREEDOM-FIGHTER
Father recorded a graphic account of his involvement in the
Quit India Movement and all that followed as its sequel. As this account comes
from the Freedom Fighter's pen it has a special sanctity and value. I quote
a portion of what he had written:
“August 9, 1942 was a great day. The news that the leaders
of the Congress Party were arrested by the then British Government en block
alarmed the Indians. On the proclamation of “Quit India Movement“ there was
a massive agitation throughout the country. My students at Rosera H.E.School,
whom I had ever taught the lesson of patriotism while teaching patriotic songs
in Matriculation Classes, could not check their patriotic impulse. They went
on strike and marched in a procession shouting “Inqulab Jindabad” and “Angrejon
Bharat Chhoro.” They were joined by the Bazar and village people. They all marched
to the Government offices to paralyse Government work. They held meetings where
slogans were shouted and speeches were made. The school had to be closed. Government
work everywhere got paralysed. There was wide-spread repression. Many persons
were arrested and some even shot at. Houses were burnt; properties were confiscated;
and many kinds of unheard-of tortures were inflicted on people. Such repressive
measures had never been imagined in civilised countries. Four teachers - namely
Ramakant Jha, Kuldeep Mishra, Janardhan Jha and Rameshwar Prasad - were arrested
on 2 nd September, 1942 and were sent to the Police Station and thence to Samastipur
Jail. Nazamul Hoda was the S.I. of Police Rosera. He arrested many innocent
persons and made huge amount of money as illegal gratification. It was not the
time of thinking how to save oneself from the police clutches.
I was also arrested on 5 th September, 1942 at the Rosera
Station by the Inspector and the S.I. of Police. I could not be freed even for
a moment. Fortunately my wife and my son, who was a child then, were at Kurson,
my village. On arrest I was sent to the Samastipur lock-up in Jail to stand
a trial in future on the submission of the police report. I was brought to Samastipur
Jail where my other companions were placed. After about a month the S.D.O tried
me convicted me and sentenced me to undergo R.I. for 2 years. I was to pay a
fine of Rs.250 in default R.I. for 6 months.”
Reflections on an ideal teacher by one of his students: “Remembering
Gopi Babu” by Prof. (Dr ) Bishwanath Prasad, M.A.,M.D.PA., Ph. D, M.P.A.
(USA), etc, former Vice-Chancellor of Magadh University & former Principal,
"Late Sri Gopi Kant Jha embodied the qualities of an ideal
teacher and of a successful administrator of a higher secondary school in a
backward district of North Bihar in the forties of the twentieth century. He
ranked high amongst good teachers of English literature. He was endowed with
competence of elevating the level of discourse from one of information to that
of knowledge, to that of wisdom as and when occasion so demanded. Equipped with
soft power of his noble ideas and values, he could forge a lasting relationship
with some of his acquaintances through working for a shared purpose and goal.
In exercising self-discipline of an authentic and compassionate guide, he made
values become consistent actions. Excellence in education was not an act for
him but a habit. He was a perfectionist, a doer always willing to put an extra
effort, and resources for his institutional strengthening endeavour. He was
a disciplinarian and upholder of moral integrity on the school campus. He well
looked after the institutional tasks, be they concerned with selection of faculty
staff, purchase of library books, or books meant to be awarded to rank holders
of the classes. His performance for an aggressive recruitment of faculty member
was directed at getting teachers of positive attitudes to teaching. His effort
stands corroborated by this writer’s perceptive observance …. He
succeeded in galvanizing a generation of youth during the freedom movement period
enjoying the reward of satisfaction of a job well done striking a balance between
the demands of career development and character building. His discernible contributions
to the consolidation of secondary educational system will surely endure, and
so also his memory."