Passages from the Khairmode biography of Dr. Ambedkar. These 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.



*Translator's introduction*, by Rohini Shukla



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:52-53
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....
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 at once rose and stood, and in an emotionally moved tone uttered the word "Master" and bent down in veneration.... I have seen this happen with my own eyes.




I:66-67
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, the headmaster and librarian of Wilson School, a non-Brahmin [actually he seems to have been a Brahmin], P. V. Krushnaji Arjun Keluskar, 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.



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
While he worked at the Sydenham College as a professor, Ambedkar's social and familial life, as described earlier, was distressed.... 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....

She had not even seen the face of a school. Bhimrao tried very hard to educate her, after their marriage. To refrain from appearing before elderly relatives [that is, to keep a form of pardah], to wholeheartedly follow their wishes, to worship and serve her husband--this was Ramabai's manner of thinking. She would say to her husband, "What will come from educating women?"....

Because of her husband's encouragement, by 1920 she had progressed enough to be able to express her own thoughts in letters. When Bhimrao was in the USA, she would have her letters written by [her brother-in-law] Anandrao. But when Bhimrao went to London in the year 1920, he would send his letters directly to Ramabai.

The distance between the intellectual and thinking levels of the wife and the husband was as much as that between earth and sky, but the 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 salutation in letters just as lovingly: "Dearest Ramu! Namaskar."....

Compared to how he felt about his university study, he did not have any sense of obligation toward his family life, and this was not acceptable-- such thoughts would bother Ramabai.... That is why once in a while should ask Bhimrao to put aside his books and pay attention to his family life. At such times he would just laugh it off, or sometimes would get into a quarrel and say hurtful, condescending things; and he would go so far as to raise a hand against her.... Nothing else would lead to such dire quarrels between husband and wife. Whenever they happened, such quarrels were about the husband's studies....

Additionally, however, she would make sure that no kind of obstacle emerged in her husband's studies. Seven or eight people in one room-- and Bhimrao's study in the other room.