Sunday, September 7, 2014

My idol, my grand-father: “I am working for the public and not for publicity”

My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers,

Amrita Haldipur, SIMC-2006, one of my most sincere & honest students, leads marketing for National Geographic Channel in India. On the 95th birth anniversary of her grand-father, the late Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992), she wrote his story.

By Amrita Haldipur

This is a story that I have been wanting to share since a long time now. It’s special, very close to my heart, something that makes my heart swell with pride and brings the widest smile. The hero of my story is my idol, my grandfather.

His name was Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992). We all fondly called him ‘Daddy’.

The ONLY person I have ever been scared of. And that fear came from the immense respect I had for him, for the school of discipline he belonged to.

Born in 1917, he joined the Bombay City Police in 1939 as Sub-Inspector, and retired in 1975, as the Deputy Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

He was forced to leave studies midway and join the police. But he went on to become a successful police officer of his time and won accolades for his achievements: he was awarded the President’s Police Medal in 1956 and the President’s Police & Fire Service Medal in 1975.

I was 10 when Daddy passed away in 1992, but the memories he left behind, as a result of his deep-rooted values and beliefs, charming personality; the aura he created, when he was with his family and friends; his tongue-in-cheek humour in the most difficult times, his last words to me – are nuggets that help me move on and lead a life in all its fullness.

Here is why he is special –

Thoroughly ‘clean and incorruptible’, he was known for his tireless and thorough investigations, and fearless drive against crime during his hectic career spanning 36 years in the police force. Whether working in the Crime Branch or Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), he remained a courageous, fearless crime-fighter, who led his men from the front.

My grand-mom has always had interesting tales to tell us about the way he worked. One of my favourite anecdotes is the way he nabbed two of Mahatma Gandhi’s killers – Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare in 1948. What set him apart in his investigation procedures was a set of sketches he drew during his chase and trial of the killers.

Sifting through the album, containing yellowish sheets of these sketches, my grand-mom would go on to say:

“Daddy was part of the special cell to trace Gandhiji’s assassins. A team set out to scour the country for the absconders soon after January 30th, 1948.

“And he was asked to track Apte and Karkare, two of the co-conspirators of Nathuram Godse in the assassination. He was posted in the Red Fort, Delhi, during the entire trial period. He drew images of whoever he met – be it the then DSP of Delhi, a sub-inspector at Gwalior, a Pune tailor or an IAF official, for the record.

“During the chase, for weeks, he did not come home, and we didn’t know where he was. (You’ll are lucky to live in the day and age of mobile phones. I wish I had some such help to avoid the sleepless nights, wondering where he is and how is he.) He survived on raw eggs and followed the two from Gwalior to Ahmednagar, their hometown.

“During the days, he would go hunting for both, with guns; and during the nights, he sketched those he met or interrogated, with pencils.

"The day Apte and Karkare checked into Pyrkes Apollo Hospital, near Regal Cinema in South Mumbai, under assumed names, Daddy finally nabbed them, after waiting there for them for seven hours."

Besides this major investigation, he was a key official in the Justice Kapur Commission, set up by the Govt. of India to investigate into various events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

During the completion of 150 years of the Mumbai Police Commissionerate, he was declared as one of the most important police officers from the Mumbai Police Division to have significantly contributed to the country in the immediate post-independence era.

And this wasn’t all. There was more to him.

A body builder; a pole-vault gold medallist at the National Olympics in 1940; a multi-linguist (he had passed three examinations in Urdu, while in service); started the annual Ganesh Chathurthi festival at Santa Cruz Police Station; one of the founders of the Senior Citizens’ Club of Bombay; a music and instrument buff.

A sincere friend; a loving husband, father and grandfather. Above all, a selfless and modest man. He never discussed his work at home or spoke about his achievements and never let anyone promote him either.

All he said was, “I am working for the public and not for publicity.”

He is the real cool dude, who won hearts at work and in life for his discipline, at a time when there was no media, no PROs, no unnecessary tamasha.

If I had a time machine, I would have had only one wish – more time with Daddy. But I’m glad I have no such privilege, because he would have only been disheartened to live and watch the country go to dogs today, as far as corruption and discipline are concerned.

We miss you, Daddy! 

Amrita describes herself as “a vagabond, a people-watcher, a dream chaser” on her blog ‘Being Footloosish’ (a diary of my favourite life experiences that have made me richer with each passing day). I have edited her story of her 'Daddy'. Click here for the original, written as an FB note on 26 August 2012 and posted on her blog on 29 August 2012.

Since I wrote a five-part memoir of my mother on this blog in 2009, I have encouraged my family, friends, colleagues and students to write about the persons who enriched their lives.

Amrita Haldipur’s story of her grand-father is one in this series. I hope others will feel motivated to send me their stories of people who mattered to them - for publication on my blog.

Your support is my strength.Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Sunday, 7 September 2014.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Taher Shaikh, editor and a guru to reporters in Pune, is no more

The late Taher Shaikh (1941-2004) was one of the three senior-most reporters, along with Harry David and Y.V. Krishnamurthy, who personified Maharashtra Herald (MH), the local daily English newspaper, published in Pune during 1963-2003.

Taher passed away in Pune on 21 May 2014. He leaves behind his wife Saeeda, daughter Farheen and son Suhail and four grand-children. With my colleagues at MH and other papers in Pune, I share in the grief of his family.

When I joined MH in 1983 as a sub-editor, Taher was at the peak of his reporting career. One of my gurus, Taher held my hand as I learned editing.

In the piece that follows, Babu Kalyanpur, my colleague at the MH Desk, pays tribute to Taher, the story-teller.


By Babu Kalyanpur

A great journalist and a thorough gentleman has passed into the Blue Yonder, now sharing his vast repertoire of tales with the gods.

Taher was endearing. No airs, despite his decades-old experience as a newsman. Young or old, you could count on him, any time.

So many young cubs, ensnared by the glamour and the glitter, were taught the grim realities of, what they thought was, a romantic profession. Taher gave it straight as it comes: a story here and an anecdote there. If you were quick on the draw you picked it up.

No egos involved; no “I am better than you” attitude. Taher understood that every budding scribe needs help, not sniggering comments.

It wasn't just the young hopefuls. He was also the man to go to, whenever there was a crisis. And there were many during the old days. Nothing illustrates his attitude better than the Tale of the Power Cut.

Back in the 1980s, a major grid failure caused darkness in many parts of Maharashtra. Pune city was almost in total darkness. Most newspapers gave up hope and scrapped their editions. There was no option but for MH to follow suit.

This writer, on duty, was still waiting, eternally hopeful. And Taher, as was his wont, was among the last man standing at work. It was getting to nearly 1am. Time was running out.

Just a casual question, about whether there was any hope at all, turned into action. A few phone calls and Taher had information that there was only one newspaper, which had electricity and was printing. There was no stopping after that. Taher called the owners and within minutes we went there and got the issue out.

The point here is that Taher knew everybody. Like a good journalist, he made his contacts and kept in touch with them regularly. It could be an office clerk or a minister, Taher knew them.

He was literally 'King' when it came to the Pune Municipal Corporation. He had inside stories which nobody would get.

That extended to court cases too. He was thorough and accurate when reporting these. His easy style and economy of wordage made the job easier for us, at the desk. Like good journalists, he wrote simple and to the point.

MH was lucky to have such top-shot pioneers – Harry David, Y.V. Krishnamurthy and Taher Shaikh – at the same time: a combined experience of more than 100 years.

Taher was a great fan of cricket and, in his middle-age, even played the game for MH. His only drawback in later life was the “Yes, no, maybe” while running between the wickets, which once earned the ire of this writer. But then …

Back on 15 March this year, a get-together was arranged, for which Taher also came. It was heart-breaking to hold this frail man by the hand and help him to the Food Court at Dorabjee's. Age and disease had their say on this fit and sprightly man. However, his spirit, slightly dimmed, was still there.

This was the last time this writer saw him. And was honoured to give him a helping hand. Must put that picture away now.

And remember Taher Shaikh, smoking incessantly, holding court with tales of yore at the MH office!


Please add your tribute to Taher in the comments.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dark days ahead – be prepared to resist!

My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers, 

Democrats and freedom-fighters in India are prepared for the dark days, now ahead of us.

Life goes on ... Such dark days have ended; they have prepared us for today:
  • The Emergency of 1975-77, imposed by Indira of the Indian National Congress (INC).
  • The anti-Sikh riots of 1984, following the assassination of Indira, when the INC was in power.
  • The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) / Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The riots, following the terrorist attack in Mumbai, in 1992.
  • The privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation (LPG) of the Indian economy since 1992, begun by Manmohan Singh of the INC and continued by the BJP/NDA.
  • The anti-Muslim riots of March 2002, when Modi of the RSS/BJP was CM in Gujarat.

The sad fact, which democrats have to understand and accept, is that the forces of darkness can be elected by a majority.

Such forces of darkness have been elected in earlier times:
  • Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.
  • Reagan in USA and Thatcher in Britain.
So, India in 2014 is not the first time.

How do ordinary people resist the forces of darkness?

From personal experience and lessons learned from resistance movements, I suggest:
  • Listen to your inner voice, ie, conscience. Be sincere & honest. No indoctrination or intimidation can silence the inner voice.
  • Trust working people 100%: work patiently and learn from them.
  • Do not submit to the dictates of authority. Resist the personality cult; do not glorify the rights of the individual, especially the rich.
  • Resist temptation.
  • Question constantly till U are satisfied.
  • Our earth belongs to the citizens of the world. 
  • Democracy and freedom are for ALL: the poor need them the most.

Your support is my strength. 

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Friday, 16 May 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

AAP raises sincere & honest hope in me

My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers,

The Aam Aadmi Party, with its strong & forthright anti-corruption plank, has raised hope in me and all of us – sincere & honest human beings and Indians – for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Many social activists, like Medha Patkar, who have worked “against the tide” for decades in mass organisations and taken up social causes for the working poor in cities and villages, have been nominated as AAP candidates.

I share a past – “against the tide” – too with such social activists, of having taken active part in mass organisations and social work at the grass-roots, during the decade 1973-83:
·        ‘Alleviating distress’ in the drought-prone villages of Pathardi taluka, Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, during 1973-77;
·        Working to build the Centre for Education & Documentation (CED), Mumbai, during 1977-80;
·        Taking science to the working masses, with the Science Education Group, Mumbai, and Lok Vidnyan Sanghatana, Maharashtra, since 1977;
·        Working with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) at Kaju Tekdi, Bhandup, Mumbai, with the late Comrade Prabhakar Sanzgiri,
·        And many other such activities.

Having joined newspaper journalism full-time, firstly at Maharashtra Herald, Pune, during 1983-96 and then Gomantak Times, Panaji, Goa, during 2003-04; and teaching print journalism, as a regular visiting faculty at University of Pune, since 1987, and SIMC, since 1990; I have kept in regular touch with social and political causes.

Claude Alvares, one of my close & dear friends, since St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, in the late 1960s, is a founder of the Goa Foundation and Other India Bookstore in Goa.

Below Claude writes about two such AAP candidates, who are standing for the two Lok Sabha seats from Goa. His profiles of Dattaram Desai and Swati Kerkar, posted on FB on 31 March and 5 April respectively, have been slightly edited by me.


“Dr Dattaram Desai, the AAP candidate from North Goa, did something that few Goans ever thought possible: get rid of Du Pont, America’s largest chemical multinational. Even now when one looks at his frail frame, it strains the imagination how this slim individual (with his village folk) could pit himself against such unimaginable corporate power and win!

Dattaram is everything that one longs for in an election that sends people to India's highest law making body – Parliament. He is committed to social issues: I have rarely found him absent from meetings called to discuss social campaigns or problems. Like Dr Oscar Rebello, he is a medical doctor very well known in Ponda, Kerim and Savio Verem.

“He is so well respected that, when SP Gautam arrested him at the height of the anti-Du Pont campaign, took him to the Ponda police station, and stripped him of his clothes in order to humiliate him, the whole of Ponda went into a rage. After that, it was downhill all the way for Du Pont. All the King's Horses and All the King's Men could not put Humpty Duponty together again.

The villagers of Querim and Savio Verem taught us Goans courage of extraordinary quality. They crashed into the Du Pont property and demolished an entire building. In order to prevent access by the police, they dug up a one metre segment of the tarred road that led to the Du Pont plot. They prevented Du Pont's helicopter from landing thereafter. After Nilesh Naik, one of Dr Desai's close agitators was shot dead by police, Du Pont staff and security were escorted out of the town by Dr Desai's men and told to run, run, run and get out before any further harm came to them. Then the people invaded the offices of DuPont in Ponda and reduced everything to ashes, including batches of 500 rupee notes used to bribe officials.

(For details see articles in “Corporate Watch” and “Do or Die" – Voices from the Eco Resistance.)

After that, Du Pont not only dismantled its plans to set up in Goa or India, it stayed out of Asia. It is yet to return! My god, anyone will ask in awe, what sort of man is this?

That's why I like this guy: difficult to hug him because he is too thin. We got some idea of his determination when Du Pont came calling, despite being told to stay away. 

"I think, if I want this place called Goa to be protected from corporates and other thieves of the public spaces and resources that are ours; if I want a decent, honest bloke to represent me and my family and neighbours with consummate intelligence, from all sorts of public perfidy, manipulation, self-interest and greed; if I want to make one decision that I will not regret even in the next generation, then I can only think of Dr Dattaram Desai.


"Do you know that there was one single person – and that too a very young Goan woman – who played key roles in the popular Goan agitations that got rid of 18 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in a single day; the agitation against the white elephant airport at Mopa; the Goa Bachao Andolan which revolutionized village level land use planning through the Regional Plan 2021; India Against Corruption, the Goenchea Xetcarancho Ekvott (Goan Farmer’s Union) and the Goenchea Ostoreacho Awaaz (Goan Women’s Voice)?

"Do you know that the same woman was also with the Vasco Khariawada protest against the attempt to displace fisher-folk from their traditional locations, and that she also helped organize the women vegetable vendors of Panaji market to form an association and secure their rightful space there?

"In your mind, you’re going to say, Wow! That’s the effect of Swati Kerkar on people. Swati is AAP's candidate for the south Goa Lok Sabha seat. I am doing the honours because I am convinced she is the country's political future.

"Swati sometimes shadows, sometimes over-shadows Dr Dattaram Desai’s activism in many ways. Both are jewels in the Goan crown. We Goans can be well and truly proud that we have come up with these two amazing, blemish-free, activist-candidates for Parliament who have shown in the past that they are capable of changing things.

"One cooked Du Pont’s goose. The other knocked the shit out of SEZ.

While the entire country in fact is still trying to get rid of SEZs, imagine conking 18 SEZs in a single day!

"Swati’s the only woman candidate nominated in this Lok Sabha election. Of course, she’s with AAP. And yes, none of the other candidates can match her record in organizing those significant political battles either. Or the coherence, clarity and passion of her speeches.

I saw her ramrod straight, at the AAP meeting in Panaji. She has not an inch of extra flab. She is spartan in her ways. She doesn’t go abroad (she doesn’t have the money). Many of her supporters have pooled in funds to make it possible for her to pay the security deposit which was needed to file her nomination: typical AAM ADMI heritage. She is not seen at socializing parties or fashionable malls.

"She did not ask for the South Goa Lok Sabha ticket. She was simply asked to take the challenge by all the activists, men and women, of South Goa because she represented the best this country can offer as a woman, as a speaker, as an activist, as someone who cares about injustice and simply can’t sleep if she sees it around.

"She has taken up the cases of a number of young victims of rape and molestation, including the investigation of a rape case involving a schoolteacher in which the victim committed suicide due to harassment. Nothing appears to faze her.

"This deadliness about social injustice issues, this fearlessness against odds, she has inherited from Shridhar Kerkar, one of our better known freedom fighters. But good news, she can smile as well.


Claude concludes his two FB profiles:

I hope hundreds of you who think like me will vote for Dattaram and Swati. We want corruption-free men and women. We want elimination of corruption. We want a corruption-free society and republic.

“So why would we, from North Goa, bypass Dr Dattaram Desai -- who has never been associated with corruption all his life -- and vote for candidates and parties whose very soul is corruption? So fellow-Goans from South Goa, also be good to Swati on the 12th of April.

“If you send these two sincere & honest human beings to Delhi, they'll join Kejriwal and put this country on the right track, out of the sewer, into which the conventional parties have taken it.

“If you agree with what I am saying, send this message around to everyone who will count on April 12. If you can translate it, that would be even better.”

“Thanks!” – Claude Alvares.


Hundreds of AAP candidates, like Dattaram Desai and Swati Kerkar from Goa, deserve our precious vote in the Lok Sabha constituency to which we belong. I say, "Seek them out and vote for them!" 

Here in Pune, I vote for Subhash Ware of the AAP.

This blog-post is dedicated to all my justice-loving, sincere & honest Goan friends -- in Goa, India and across the only Earth, we share. Claude’s clarion call must move us out of our complacent chairs and into the polling booths when Goa goes to vote.

One year (2003-04) in Goa, as editor of Gomantak Times, demonstrated to me the corruption of both the Parrikar-led BJP and numerous Congress governments.

Like my favourite song by John Lennon "Give Peace a Chance", I say, "Give AAP a Chance" in Goa.

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Monday, 7 April 2014.