These passages from the Khairmode biography of Dr. Ambedkar have been translated from the Marathi by Rohini Shridhar Shukla, and slightly edited for brevity and clarity by FWP.

More information on Changdeo Bhavanrao Khairmode, who devoted his life to this monumental multi-volume work.



Rohini Shukla is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Religion, Columbia University. Her task for this website is to translate select excerpts from Khairmode’s Marathi biography into English. Since Ambedkar’s multifaceted career is well-documented--on this timeline and otherwise--her aim is to give the reader a sense of who Ambedkar was as a person. What were Ambedkar’s daily routines like, what were his habits, favorite things to do, idiosyncrasies, general likes and dislikes, who was he as a son, adolescent, husband, student, and friend? Khairmode’s unparalleled biography provides a detailed picture.


For clarity, nicknames, kinship terms, and titles of respect have sometimes been replaced by proper names.



Volume I (below); Volume 2;



I:42-43, 61
[In Satara,] the children would play kho-kho, viti-dandu, chendu-lagorya, football [=soccer], cricket, etc. Bhimrao's specialty was never admitting defeat in the game.... The children would make a ruckus while playing; in that, Bhimrao was number one.... Because of his naughty behavior, Bhiva [=Bhimrao's childhood nickname] would get beatings from his family and outsiders. When this happened, his place of refuge was his aunt Mira. Many times, she would hide him behind her and help him dodge the beatings....

[Later, in Bombay,] Bhiva used to get the neighborhood children together to play hockey, football [=soccer], and cricket. He made his own team, became the captain, and played matches against teams of other castes from other Bombay neighborhoods.... Bhiva liked cricket much more than hockey and football, and used to know an unusual amount about the game. He batted very well himself, and would explain the special features of batting to his team members.




I:49, 52-53

[Ambedkar told his biographer:]
We had a Brahmin master by the name 'Ambedkar'. He would not teach us much. But he loved me a lot. During our lunch break, to eat, I used to have to go to my house which was far away from school. This, Ambedkar master did not like. But just for that time, because I would be free to roam around outside, I used to have a lot of fun going home during lunch break to get some bread. But our master came up with an idea. He would pack and bring some bread and vegetables, and every day, without fail, during lunch break, he would call me and give me some bread and vegetables from his own assorted meal. Of course, so that there would be no physical contact, he would drop the bread and vegetables into my hands from above. I feel proud when I say that the sweetness of that bread and vegetables of love is unfading....
When in Camp School Satara, Bhiva did not have the slightest clue about what it meant to study. Whatever was taught in school, that is all he would study.... But what did they study in school? On this matter Ambedkar has told his memory in the following way:
Our Ambedkar Master was something else. When the school bell would ring, he would come to class, and would hand over the entire class to one older boy from our class named Rahimtulla ,and would carelessly just leave class. Ambedkar Sir would not teach much in school. That is why students would not have much homework….
That Ambedkar sir did not impart proper discipline to study at the right age, this was not a complaint that BabaSaheb made at all. Much to the contrary, this teacher would treat him with great care and affection--this he has admitted, this I have already mentioned. Ambedkar master was his first teacher. About him, Ambedkar has said words of great respect. He said, "When I left to go abroad for a round-table conference, at that time he had sent me a very loving letter. I have it in my collection. In the future, if it ever comes to mind to write an autobiography, I will publish it in that." (Navayuga, 13-4-1947).

This teacher had come to meet Babasaheb in 1927. At the time, Babasaheb’s office was on the ground floor of a school building behind Damodar Hall. As soon as the teacher entered the office Babasaheb immediately got up and stood, and in an emotionally moved tone uttered the word "Master" and bent down in veneration. Wiping his eyes, the teacher said to his eminent student, "May you live forever, son," giving him this blessing. This incident I have seen with my own eyes. Looking closely at Babasaheb’s great library, master was nodding his head.  Babasaheb got a suit of clothes made for Ambedkar master, and gave him 25 paise as gurudakshina [the gift owed to a teacher].

After finishing up his schooling in Marathi under master Ambedkar’s guidance, Bhiva was enrolled in the English medium first grade of Satara high school on 7th November 1900. Before that, in 1898, Anandarao had entered this high school. 




I:66-67, 69
After the high school day was over, Bhiva would go and sit in the garden on Charni Road to do some miscellaneous reading. At that time, Wilson School's headmaster P. V. Krushnaji Arjun Keluskar, a scholar and author, a non-Brahmin [actually he seems to have been a Brahmin], would come to the garden at 5:00 PM to sit in a specific spot to read. After seeing Bhiva several times, Keluskar came over and spoke to him, and was very happy to hear his story. Keluskar explained to Bhiva how to read methodically, and provided him with books.... From then on, Bhiva began reading extensively and grew very close to Keluskar.

[Later Keluskar also arranged for Bhiva to meet Sayaji Maharaj, the Gaikwad of Baroda.] Maharaj asked Bhimrao a few questions. He gave well-rounded answers to them. At this the Maharaj was pleased, and promised him a scholarship of Rs.25 a month to go to college for higher education. On January 3rd, 1908, Bhiva's name was enrolled in Elphinstone College.... [He later told his biographer:] "In our Elphinstone College, at the time, Professor Oswald Muller, Principal Covernton, Professor George Anderson, such good professors were there…"
 



I:68
Anandrao was very fond of the tabla. He would play the tabla very well. Bhiva acquired the skill of playing the tabla during this time [at Elphinstone]. He would play the tabla during performances. The festival of Gokulashtami used to be celebrated in a big way; at that time, children would act in the Sharada play. Bhiva produced this play.

Based on Shakespeare's play 'King Lear', Bhiva had written a play entitled 'The Good Girl', and when he had the kids act in it and present it in front of people, it was greatly applauded. If a sannyasi or a kirtan-kar came, then in order to get them to do a program of bhajans and kirtans Bhiva would collect money from the people around him, and put up performances, and pay the performers. If the kirtan-kar gave the wrong information about Puranic episodes, then Bhiva would make fun of the performer in front of everyone.




I:78-80
When Bhimrao got the opportunity to go abroad, he decided that he would study very hard. But when he went to New York he forgot about this resolve. When he was in Satara and Bombay, he could not mingle with upper-caste students; he could not even join in games with them. In New York, he was able to live and dine with other students. Indian and American students got along very well, and lived on friendly terms. Without any hesitation, Bhimrao participated in many pastimes. The students danced together, and played tennis and badminton. Sledding was an especially favored game. Girls would sit in front, and boys would wrap their arms around their waists as they slid down the hill.

In this and many other entertaining activities Bhimrao spent the first four or five months. He thought that the M.A. and the Ph.D. could be achieved while also enjoying life, so why should he trouble himself too much with study? Accordingly, he would stay up till 2:00 AM talking and amusing himself with friends.

But one night, after wrapping up all the chit-chat around 3:00 AM, he lay down in bed and began to ask himself, "What am I doing? I left the loving members of my family thousands of miles away and came here to study--and I am just sidelining my studies and amusing myself--and that too, on the Government's money! If I make good use of the opportunity given to me, then I will be able to achieve a greater name and fame for myself. Just getting degrees is of no use in itself.".... At 5:00 AM he sat up in bed and made a strong resolve that henceforth he would dedicate his life only to study, not to amusements.... His friends teased him, but he stuck to his resolve. At night, when students in the room next door laughed loudly and made a ruckus, Bhimrao would shut the door and windows of his room and put balls of cotton in his ears, so he could sit and study.




I:82
In New York, there were many institutions and clubs of Indian students. Bhimrao would be present for their gatherings, but he would not actually participate in them. Bhimrao was a member of New York's Maharashtra club. Dr. Hardikar was the main organizer/activist of this club....

In November of 1914, when Lala Lajpat Rai came to New York, he met the organizers/activists of America's Ghadar Party (*site*). With their help and encouragement, to carry on India's struggle for political independence in America, he established the Indian Homerule League of America (*site*) ....

Lalaji made several attempts to get Bhimrao involved in this struggle; by having debates and discussions with Bhimrao, he tried to steer Bhimrao toward himself. Bhimrao would say, "You have enslaved untouchables in your struggle--and you are looking to do away with your own political enslavement!" .... In the council of Indian students in America organized by Lalaji in September 1916, Ambedkar remained absent.




I:273-276

In the period from November 11, 1918, to March 11, 1920, while he was working at the Sydenham College as a professor, Ambedkar’s social and familial life, as described earlier, was distressed. The flame of his ambition to finish his university education that had been left incomplete at London University was kept steadily burning before the eyes of his mind. To meet the expenses that would be necessary to achieve it, he had collected the money remaining from his salary and saved it. He would give Rs. 100 monthly for household expenditure. He would be very meticulous to assure that household expenses were tightly managed. So much so that two match-boxes had to last an entire month, a third match-box should not be bought--this strict injunction he had given to Ramabai. That saintly woman would conduct household expenses in accordance with this command.


Ramabai’s life had been spent in a good Maratha household. She had not even seen the face of a school. Bhimrao had tried very hard to educate her, after t
hey got married. Not standing in front of elderly/senior people, wholeheartedly following their wishes, worshiping and serving the husband--this was Ramabai’s manner of thinking. She would say to her husband, "What will come from educating women?!" That is why, even after Bhimrao made a lot of efforts to educate her, for many days Ramabai did not progress beyond just learning how to write. "My husband is highly educated"--this she was very proud of. She would consider herself her husband’s shadow and behave accordingly

Because of her husband’s encouragement, by 1920 she progressed enough to be able to properly express her own thoughts in letters. When Bhimrao was in the USA, she would write her letters in the name of Anandarao. But when Bhimrao went to London in the year 1920, he would send his letters addressing Ramabai. The distance between the intellectual and thinking levels of the wife and husband was as much as that between the earth and the skies, but that married couple loved one another with the love of two close friends. Bhimrao would call Ramabai by the loving nickname of Ramu. He would write the first salutation in the letter just as lovingly--"Dearest Ramu! Namaskar." In the postal address on the letter, however, he would write "Smt. Ramabai Ambedkar."....


Their first son Yashwanta was unwell from rheumatism from his very young days. The two children after him died early on. Compared to his university study, her husband did not have any moral sentiment/care for his family, and that was not proper--this idea would bother Ramabai. She would feel that just as the women around her were happy in their married lives, she should similarly be happy. That is why once in a while she would request Bhimrao to put his books aside and pay attention to his family life. At that time he would just laugh it off. Or sometimes he would get into a quarrel and say hurtful, condescending things, and would not stop short of raising his hand to her. When such fights escalated, Ramabai would silently do her chores like a machine. Sometimes her silence would last for four months. At such times Bhimrao would have to surrender. He would make excuses to first begin a conversation with Ramabai.


There was nothing else that would lead to such dire loggerheads between the husband and wife. Whenever it happened, it was on the topic of the husband’s study. Sometimes when Ramabai would be adamant, her husband would take out the final arrow in his quiver. He would say, "If you keep bringing such hurdles into my university study, I will marry a second woman. An illiterate woman like you, what do you know about the value of that [education]!" At that time Ramabai would say with great pride, "Go ahead, marry as many women as you like. But I will not let any one of them set foot in my house!" Most of the time, such fights would take a humorous form and in the end she would be content....


Ramabai made a firm re
solve in her mind, and  gave him unconditional permission to go to London to complete his hitherto incomplete university study. Moreover, she would make sure that no kind of obstacle emerged in her husband’s study. Seven or eight people in one room, and Bhimrao’s study in the other room. Of the people in the house, their suffering, shortage of money, hard work, etc.--all these things, she would make sure that her husband did not have an inkling of. She would make careful arrangements so that the children in the house ,and those of her neighbors, would not make a ruckus in front of her husband’s room. The husband would remain engrossed in reading and taking notes from his big fat books of economics. Having locked the door from inside, he would be completely engrossed in the trance-like state [samadhi] of studying. Ramabai would get tired of calling him again and again from outside when it was time to eat, and yet the husband would not get out of the trance of studying. Sometimes, without eating, he would be in this trance all day and all night. Ramabai would have to [as a religious duty] abstain from eating, along with him!