One night, Dr. Ambedkar held a meeting in his office with Sambhaji Tukaram Gaikwar, Subedar Savadkar, Adekar, Ramachandra Babaji More, etc., and hundreds of other people. He made a speech before them [and pointed out that] in Mumbai, millions of people who had migrated from Konkan were untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar said that first we must spread the winds of the movement amongst them, and then immediately start the struggle for equality in Konkan itself. What exactly this struggle would look like, Dr. Ambedkar did not further elaborate. But as he spoke, he became teary-eyed, his lips quivered and his voice trembled.
Dr. Ambedkar’s mind always fluttered when he heard the name of Konkan. Earlier, his eyes would shine brighter while talking about how to do good for the untouchables there…. Under the title "Kulaba District Outcaste Conference, Session One," a meeting was announced to be held on the 19th and 20th of March (Saturday-Sunday), 1927, at a theater in Mahad…. People used to gather in Dr. Ambedkar’s office every morning and evening to work for his meeting. While talking to them, he used to recite his presidential speech to me [Khairmode] and I used to write it down. Because of the crowd, it took Dr. Ambedkar one week to prepare this speech. I prepared a fresh and clean copy of the speech for him around March 10. Dr. Ambedkar added some things to the picture, and removed some too. I had to create another fresh copy again. On Wednesday, the morning of the 16th, he went to Mahad by boat with his colleagues. Over 3000 people attended the conference….
When the reform movement was going on in Mahad, letters threatening and insulting Dr. Ambedkar were sent from Mumbai and outside. Due to the summer heat, Dr. Ambedkar used to sleep on the front verandah to his library, by arranging two benches and laying either a blanket or a mat on them. His friends and colleagues feared that some upper-caste Hindu would attack Dr. Ambedkar at night. Sahasrabuddhe, Ghodiram Narayan Gaikwad, Fase, etc., ten or twelve people, started sleeping in the field with Dr. Ambedkar, and because all of them came to sleep, Dr. Ambedkar could sleep for the first hour-hour and a half, go to the library and read and write, prepare cases, complete such work, and then return to the mat to sleep.
Sometimes Dr. Ambedkar would chat with these people for a long
time (until midnight or 1:00 a.m.). In the flow of one such
chat, Dr. Ambedkar addressed everyone and said, in a somewhat
humorous and derisive tone, "Now that we people sleep here,
it’s all fine. Let’s think of this as a union of married
celibates, and keep it that way, [and see] how many members
pass the test." All of the group went cold, but they all
joined in and said in a humorous tone, "We understand well the
importance of celibacy, and we will keep an eye on whether or
not we practice it." Within two weeks, each of them cited a
domestic issue or some other reason, and took their bedding
back home. Dr. Ambedkar would make fun of these people for a
long time after that. Dr. Ambedkar’s union of married
celibates came to an end. But the main goal for which they
came to sleep around Dr. Ambedkar was successful.
Because of the incidents in Mahad, Dr. Amebdkar’s fame spread to the many countries of Europe and America. The scholars, institutions, universities that studied social and religious issues paid attention to the movement as led by Dr. Ambedkar. Sometimes in Mumbai, Christian missionaries (American and European) would come to meet Dr. Ambedkar. Some among them would be sociologists. While talking to them Dr. Ambedkar said in a tone of complaint, “Our community is poor, our movement does not have much money. If we get that, we will be able to take our movement to the top and win our rights.” A scholar suggested, “There are about seven or eight foundations in America that have billions of dollars and they use it to improve human happiness. Note down the names of their executives.”
Dr. Ambedkar understood the suggestion. He prepared an invitation letter using beautiful language…but no financial help came their way. However, sympathetic responses came.
While Motiram Talpade and Dr. Ambedkar were chatting at the High Court library, Mr. Talpade said, “Doctor Sir! Earlier you used to be busy reading and taking notes in the library, not talking to anyone, not mingling much. Of late you seem to be sitting anxiously on the side.” Dr. Ambedkar sighed and said, “What is the use of telling you? No matter how educated you get, your murderous Hinduness will never disappear from your life. I want to raise up to Rs. 2000 for the Mahad Satyagraha. I do not have much hope of help from Hindus in this.” Talpade replied, “Let’s meet a friend of mine [Ramachandra Kashinath Tatanis]….” Some refused to help. Some agreed, but did not give the money in actual transactions.
Tatanis turned their search to theater companies, Mr. Bapurao
(Vyankatesh Balwant) Pendharkar (1892-1937) of Lalit
expressed his willingness to discuss the matter with Dr.
Ambedkar. When Dr. Ambedkar went to the company’s lodging in
the morning, Pendharkar was doing his daily practice with a tambura in his hands. Dr. Ambedkar had to sit in a chair
till that was over. Dr. Ambedkar liked his melodious voice and
style of singing, Dr. Ambedkar told him that. When it came to
talking about the main point, Mr. Pendharkar said, “The
situation of the company is not good. But I want to help you.
But there is a condition. Do not advertise that the funds are
for the Satyagraha, but as funds for schools or student
Dr. Ambedkar accepted this and announced that the company had made a play called ‘Vidyaharan’ to raise money toward the Bahishkrut Hitakarini Sabha’s student-hostels. The play happened at 3 p.m .at Play House (Grant Road), Elphinstone Theater…. Mr. Sakharam Narayan Kajrolkar learnt and copied the lesson from the Lalit Kala Darsh. He met Dr. Ambedkar and offered a play composed by his company, ‘Bhaktimargapradarshan,’ to the Bahishkrut Hitakarini Sabha….
The news of all this help spread in all four directions. Satara district’s famous tamasha artist, Patthe Bapurao, heard about it. At the time, his tamashas used to be performed at the Bombay Theater (Play House)…. Namchanda Pavlabai of Hivargav (near Sangamner), daughter of Tabaji Mahar, used to dance and sing at Patthe Bapurao’s tamashas. Patthe Bapu was helped tremendously by Mahar tamasha artists, and his company therefore rose in fame….
He decided to meet Dr. Ambedkar to offer financial support for his movement, and for that he came to meet Dr. Ambedkar on Sept. 10, 1927. With him came two tall and huge women…on both sides with Patthe Bapurao in the middle, pump shoes in his feet, dhotar draped in a Brahmani fashion, black coat of Parsi fashion…. in such pomp when he came and stood in front of Dr. Ambedkar’s office… He was given permission to enter. Dr. Ambedkar got angry on seeing his pomp. Patthe Bapu said, “Barrister Sir, I will give you all the returns for four tamasha performances for your movement.” Dr. Ambedkar said, “I do not want the help of your money!”…
The people who had gathered asked Dr. Ambedkar, “Why did you decline the help that simply walked towards you?” Dr. Ambedkar said with anger, “Don’t you feel ashamed? This Brahman man makes money by making Mahar women dance in a tamasha, and you tell me to take that money! You have no idea what this thing called self-respect is!” The crowd was stunned.
Dr. Ambedkar was unable to carry out his daily affairs smoothly because of his focus on the spread of satyagraha. He used to spend all of his time in extensive discussions with visitors, at committee programs, considering suggestions made by religious preachers, having discussions with opponents, intense discussions with caste Hindus through the perspectives of theology, justice, ethics, humanity, etc., and answering letters that people wrote to him. Sometimes, when the discussions would start in the morning or the evening, Dr. Ambedkar would get so engrossed in convincing the audience of his position and thought-process that he would have to eliminate eating and bathing. Such incidents would happen three or four times a week. Because his daily time from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or even midnight would be spent like this, attention could not be given to things like reading, writing, practice, etc. He would feel uneasy about this, and he would express it from time to time in private meetings.
Dr. Ambedkar’s food used to be brought by someone in the morning and evening from his home, packed in a box. Sometimes that box would remain lying in a corner… Sometimes the box that came from home had to be taken back home full. In such times, Ramabai would sit at home crying: "My husband does not like the food I cook"--that was her understanding. When she would send a message saying come home to eat, Dr. Ambedkar would say yes but would sometimes come home and sometimes not. But on every full-moon day, to do puja and rituals, a tradition started by his father, he would go. After the rituals were done, he would eat at home and go back to the office. Sometimes he would go back without eating. That would happen when he either had some urgent work, some important reading to do, or some important writing to do.
After deciding on the exact day to go to Mahad, Dr. Ambedkar came home in the afternoon, ate, and slept there. He had not rested well because of the hustle and bustle of the last two months. When he went to sleep that day, he woke up the next evening at six. The effects of the rest he had by sleeping were clearly seen on his face. When he would work too much, his face would get dehydrated. He would talk to people in a pained manner. Sometimes he would even use abusive language. But one great quality of his personality was that he would recognize the person’s position and behave with him accordingly.
If someone who always spent time with Dr. Ambedkar, but was from a mental, intellectual, and cultural perspective at a lesser position, made any mistake, then Dr. Ambedkar would lash out at him with obscene insults. To a person of a somewhat high position, he would use harsh words that would prick and sting till that person went cold. If an important person happened to have encountered Dr. Ambedkar while he showered rage and insults at someone, or if a colleague came by for some important work, Dr. Ambedkar would begin behaving and speaking so soberly that had anyone mentioned that he was in an enraged state just a moment ago, it would seem impossible to believe.
When Dr. Ambedkar was fully rested, his sense of humor would come alive. At that time, he would make fun of someone, imitate someone, or annoy someone into accepting something he wanted. At such times, his laughter would reach its zenith and his face would glow with enthusiasm. That is when he looked so charming that he could attract the evil eye.
Having slept and rested well, Dr. Ambedkar went to chat with his neighboring folk, and the flow of conversation turned towards satyagraha: women too were going to participate in the satyagraha--and that too, those from the villages of Konkan! When the women of the neighboring family heard the news that many women of their own community in Mumbai were going to come to Mahad, they were very surprised. They came to Ramabai, and they discussed things amongst themselves. Ramabai broached the topic of satyagraha when Dr. Ambedkar sat down to eat in the evening.
The desire to make fun of Ramabai overcame Dr. Ambedkar. He said, “Yes, many women are going to come from Mumbai. You should become their leader.” Then Ramabai made a serious face and said, “This task belongs to men. We women will come, but to make food arrangements for you men.” Dr. Ambedkar said, “See, there will be about three or four thousand people. Will you be able to make all the arrangements?” Ramabai answered, “No matter how many people are there, I will keep cooking for days and nights.” Dr. Ambedkar was indeed familiar with his wife’s naïve and humane personality. On listening to these courageous words of his wife, he first and foremost decided to stop making fun of her and instead both of them sat chatting about their life together.
Ramabai told Dr. Ambedkar’s brother’s wife Lakshmibai that Dr. Ambedkar was going to take them to Mahad and that they would have to cook. Both of them discussed it, and decided that when Dr. Ambedkar told them to come, they must be ready, otherwise he would get very angry. And they packed their clothes in a trunk, and kept two trunks and rolled up mats ready. Both of them were surprised when they learnt that Dr. Ambedkar had gone to Mahad on a morning boat on December 24, 1927. He did not take them to Mahad, and did not even tell them that he was going alone. “Such is Dr. Ambedkar’s personality,” Lakshmibai said. Ramabai was already crying rivers of tears by then.
the conference session, the locals and people of Mumbai went
home. But Dr. Ambedkar, Shivtarkar, and a group of ten or
twelve people from Mumbai stayed back with the intention of
came back at 10 a.m. after seeing the carved
of Mahad…. In
the afternoon, after lunch, they left for Raigarh around 5
p.m….Singing songs like ‘Shivaji Maharaj ki jai’ in the
woods, they left happily trailing through the dark…. The next
day at 7 a.m. they started climbing to the fort from the Khubaldha
reached the fort by 9 a.m. [After seeing the fort, they spent
the night there.] Around 10 p.m., when everyone was fast
asleep, someone outside threw water at the people sleeping
inside, through a window. It happened to fall on Dr. Ambedkar
and R. Sahasrabuddhe’s bodies. Cold water fell, and the two
came to the window to see who had thrown the water. The person
standing outside said in a hushed voice, “Attention! Fifty or
sixty Maratha people have climbed up the fort.”…
After the inquiry was done, it was found that there was an element of truth at the root of the rumor that Dr. Ambedkar was going to get murdered that night. The Mahar people of a local village said, “The Maratha people of our village set out at six p.m. with guns, etc.” Suspecting that they had set out for this purpose, some Mahar people of that village kept an eye on the Marathas’ movements. Since they did not return by eight, the Mahars were certain that something was wrong. That is when they sent their people from village to village to order everyone to go to the fort immediately. But those who sought to murder Dr. Ambedkar never came to the fort. Some strong [Mahar] people obstructed them. Hearing all this, everyone was very happy….
The news of the incident at Raigarh fort spread in all four directions. When the news reached Mumbai, it reached in a deformed state: that Dr. Ambedkar was nearly killed by the Marathas and was in a critical condition in the hospital. Because of this rumor, a thick shadow of anger and sadness spread over the untouchable community in Mumbai. When Ramabai heard this rumor, she threw herself down on the floor and gave a loud cry; beating her chest and hitting her head, she kept crying….
The next day, when the group from Mahad came to Mumbai, they made a point of going to the chawl and told Ramabai the true story. After hearing that Dr. Ambedkar was unharmed, she was happy…. Ramabai was eager to see Dr. Ambedkar, upon his return to Mumbai on January 2, 1928. A friend of Dr. Ambedkar’s from the chawl told him about what Ramabai’s condition had been for the last three days: “Sir! Go home. Spend some time there and then come back. Ramabai will feel better.” Dr. Ambedkar said angrily, “Ah, these women are just like this! If we sit catering to all of their wishes, petty wants, and aspirations, we will not be able to achieve anything. I want to go to Kolhapur for a case tonight…”
When Ramabai came to know the news, she placed a photo of Dr. Ambedkar in a corner of the room, adorned it with flowers, and did a puja. Ramabai started this ritual on January 2, 1928, and it continued till May 1936--that is, till the day she died. She would feel satisfied because of it. But Ramabai’s mind was troubled by constant thoughts of how her husband’s life was in danger, how she could not take care of him in person, how he was not paying attention to their household and children. Hence, her health deteriorated between 1928 and 1936. Upon returning from Kolhapur, Dr. Ambedkar went and talked to Ramabai guiltily, like a criminal.
After chitchatting about this and that [with Ramabai], he came to the office very happily and started talking to the people gathered around about the institution of marriage, the relationship between husband and wife, and so on. Sahasrabuddhe interjected and said, “But Sir, you are too careless about your wife. It is not good.” Dr. Ambedkar became very serious and said, “All the people levy this accusation against me. I love my wife, children, and library with all my heart. I express that love in my own way, not like you. That is why you think I am merciless. I have reached this position because of my wife’s selflessness.” And then Dr. Ambedkar mentioned the behavior of men in his family towards their wives.
Finally, the topic of discussion came to spirituality. Dr. Ambedkar said, "This is what I saw and heard growing up in my family [he amchya kutumbatil balakadu hoy]. It has had somewhat of an impact on us men. Perhaps this is why I behave like this." After pausing for a bit, Dr. Ambedkar smiled naughtily and said. “Ah, someone’s wife and someone’s son! We came alone and we will die alone, Bapu! As Shankaracharya said [in Sanskrit], 'Who is your child and who your lover? The world is strange'.” And in the happiness [of this pleasantry] Dr. Ambedkar laughed for a long time with his right thumb placed on his right nostril, and Bapu and the others laughed with him.
The Franchise Committee’s tour started in India to interview representatives of various organizations and people about which educated men and women should be given the right to vote. While the Committee was staying at Lucknow, Dr. Ambedkar wrote a letter to Gaikwar Maharaj informing him that the real start of the Committee’s work was at Patna .... The main thing he wanted to convey in that letter was that Miss Cumming, an American lady, was coming to Mumbai on January 5 on a mail steamer. She was a London-based representative of an American newspaper called Springfield Republican. She used to send reports of the Round Table Conferences to our newspaper [Bahishkrut Bharat?]. Springfield Republican is a liberal newspaper. It supported the movement of the Negro people in America. That newspaper looks at the movement of untouchable people in India sympathetically….
When Dr. Ambedkar told her about the Nashik satyagraha, she had the desire to see it in person, and since she was coming to Mumbai anyway, Dr. Ambedkar requested Gaikwar Maharaj to take her to Nashik from Mumbai and show her the satyagraha and then the Verula Caves.