Moodindigo: A life well lived

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On his death, Anil Madhav Dave received the non-partisan salutations that would be the envy of politicians. And it wasn’t just the political heavyweights expressing their condolences at the passing of a colleague; it was also the partisans on social media who responded to his passing with genuine emotion. The one page will of a man with few possessions, who had spent the greater part of his life as an RSS pracharak made its way to social media (via the prime minister’s twitter feed) and nudged people out of their partisan corners.

His will titled — “My wish and will,” a short document that seemed almost hurried, with blank spaces filled out in his handwriting had only four points, but stirred emotions in a multitude of people. The first asked with the simplicity that marked his persona and his chosen life as a bachelor, that if “time permitted” his last rites should be carried out at the site of his choosing, at Badrabhan on the banks of the Narmada where the river festival he founded takes place.

Little did the Union minister of environment know at the time of signing this will that he would be in office and the government of Madhya Pradesh, his home state, would declare a two-day period of mourning on his passing. The remaining points expressed concern for the statements of grandeur that follow the death of a person known for decades spent in public service. He requested that there was to be no memorial, those who wished to enshrine his memory must do so by planting a tree.

His last words that spoke of his modest suggestions for the remembrances that might follow his death were an embrace for the lakhs who increasingly look at politicians with skepticism and reject the entitlement that has become “the way”. With his passing, the public was introduced belatedly to one of the good guys. And because of that one-page document, it will be impossible to remember him just as a minister who died while still in office.

Anil Madhav Dave was born on July 6, 1956 at Barnagar near Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. As a young boy, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in what was to be a lifelong association, following his decision to be a pracharak or a full timer after graduating from college. Although he moved to the BJP in 2003 and was credited with the masterful triumph of the party in an election that placed Uma Bharti in the chief minister’s chair, his life remained simple and unfettered by the trappings of political office. As a two-term Rajya Sabha MP, he chose to ride his bicycle to work and most recently turned down the allotment of a bungalow he was entitled to in Bhopal on becoming Union minister, by simply stating that he had no use for it. A former pracharak, his life remained austere, but there was a dash of the explorer that marked his personality.

A trained pilot, who chose to ride a bicycle to work, he surveyed his beloved river, the Narmada on an aerial trip that lasted 18 hours from bank to bank, following it up with a trip on a raft across the river for 19 days. A travelogue – Narmada Samagra–Rafting through Civilization, was one of the many books he had written. The adventurous pursuits of a man in a hurry and driven by passion, who died at 60 and had at least a decade or more of public service ahead of him, leave many stories untold and adventures yet to be taken.

The spirit of activism and adventure percolated beneath the soft-spoken and sensitive exterior. A master strategist, writer and environmental activist who became the environment minister. But it was the Narmada that brought out the passion in him; he founded the Narmada Samagra, an organisation dedicated to the preservation and upkeep of the river and its catchment area.

As I write this he is being bid farewell on the banks of his beloved river, soon to be a part of its eternal current. In its eternal life and power to sustain the living, Anil Madhav Dave will continue his mission in the afterlife, with a love and devotion undiluted by the corruptions and pollutants of the present and buoyed by the promise of a better future. He will join the Narmada on its illimitable journey, a lifeline that flows exclusively within Bharat, the country he loved and served.

(Advaita Kala is a screenwriter and a columnist)

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