The Freedom March

As the country celebrates 66 years of Independence,Talk takes a walk with two city-based artistes to the monuments that they associate with freedom fighters

Published:August 15, 2013 3:24 am

Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar

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Swatantraveer Savarkar Smarak lies neglected and dusty; abandoned much like the freedom fighter it commemorates — Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,popularly known as Veer Savarkar. City-based singer Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar looks at the bronze-painted sculptures at the spot,which depict freedom fighters burning imported clothes in a bonfire,and says,“He never cared for others’ opinions and did what he had to do. He had come to Pune to study at Fergusson College. Even as a student,he took part in the freedom struggle. It was at this spot that he and other freedom fighters collected foreign clothes and burned them,” she says.

During the British Raj,the East India Company would take bales of raw cotton from India,and return with cheap,machine-made clothes to sell them here. Soon,India’s own textile industry began to dwindle. It was deprived of superior raw material that was sent to England,and could not hope to compete with the cheaper prices of the British cloth. “Savarkar went on to do so much more for the country,and was even imprisoned in the course. Today,if we are able to breathe easy in a free country,it’s because of people like him. We should remember their efforts and sacrifices with every breath,” says Ankalikar-Tikekar,who lives quite close to the Karve Nagar monument.

“Smarak hain smaran ke liye,aur sahi me smaran hota hai,jab bhi main yaha se guzarti hu (a monument is meant to be a memorial and truly I remember him every time I cross this place),” says the two-time National Award-winning artiste.

“The fact that I can devote my time to doing whatever I like — singing,performing,and winning awards for it — is possible because our country is in a good place now,owing to someone else’s sacrifice. After all,arts only flourish in a society that has peace. I owe my life to him as well,” says Ankalikar-Tikekar,an acclaimed classical with a career spanning 40 years.

“Savarkar was also a great artiste. This is also why I identify with him so much. He was a writer and poet,and I remember this one line by him that really affected me: Ne Majasi ne parata matrubhoomi la sagara prana tala malala. His love for his country was so strong that he tells the sea to take him to his motherland because his soul longs for it,” she says. Ankalikar-Tikekar adds,“Today,when people don’t even stop to help someone else when there is an accident on the road,it’s hard to imagine someone dying so that their countrymen would have better lives. This is what we should try and remember and preserve.”

Milind Mulick,

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I have a place in mind but it is not a happy place,per se,” says artist Milind Mulick about a structure in Pune that he relates to freedom. He leads the way through the ruthless traffic flow on Ganeshkhind Road near University of Pune,and stops near a nondescript monument dedicated to Chapekar brothers,the revolutionary freedom fighters. The small structure is situated ironically opposite a swanky mall and a cluster of slums.

The monument is built in a semi-circle,with a fence forming its diameter. A bust of eldest brother Damodar Hari Chapekar is placed on top of a short column. He stares down at the city that is gathering more pace each year,with impassive eyes,carved by some unknown sculptor in the early ’70s. There is a carving of the faces of the three brothers,with a brief history of how they killed two British Plague Commissioners in erstwhile Poona on June 22,1897.

Mulick points towards the information written on the granite slab. “It is sort of tragic,the anomaly that is created between idealism and reality. Here are three freedom fighters who did something revolutionary three decades before visionaries such as Bhagat Singh,Sukhdev and Rajguru. All of them imagined a different India; I wonder if is this how they pictured it,” he says.

The brothers shot dead British officer Walter Charles Rand who had used atrocious policies to evacuate people from the city during the plague epidemic in 1897. A meticulous plan had been drawn by the Chapekar brothers,who lived in Chinchwad,which was a village near Pune at that time. But because of a slight misunderstanding in their decided code words,police officer Charles Ayrest was mistakenly killed. However,the folly was quickly realised and Damodar shot Rand on Ganeshkhind Road. Eventually,Damodar,his brothers and their friend Mahadev Ranade were caught and hanged.

“It has been over six decades since India got independence. But I’m sure that our forefathers and the brave people who shed blood and sacrificed their lives did not want this sort of future. But who is to blame — the governing system or the people who elect them?” says Mulick.

Getting ready to leave,Mulick recalls a song from Jabbar Patel’s iconic Marathi film,Sinhasan (1979): Ushahkaal hota hota kaal ratra zhali (Just as dawn is about to break,darkness closes in again). “I think the song captures the state the Indian Independence very aptly,” he adds.

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