Remembering an ascetic personality Shri Govind Bhagvan, popularly known as Dada Cholkar on his birth centenary beginning on June 10
The young Sangh swayamsevaks of today might not understand the kind of phenomenon that Dada was! But he was an incredible ideal for the swayamsevaks of the period from 1950 to 1980, living in Kalyan/Thane area of Maharashtra. He was the inspirational personality who reassured all of us. He invested years and years in finding—in a way—the stones (like us!) and then transforming us with his uncanny talent. And while doing this, he kept himself aloof like a Yogi.
Whatever I am about to share here about the late Dada Cholkar is not a date-month-year wise history; but just an account of the freely flowing memories that I have.
In those days, we used to stay at Tilak Chowk in Kalyan (West). We could hear his voice coming from the downstairs ‘Is Nanda at home?’ and then he would come up-stairs and use to warm us with his caring enquiries. I must have been in 9th or 10th standard then. The year must have been 1953-54. My summer vacations began and as advised by Dada, I went to Village of Gorha, near Waade to join as a “Vistarak” for the first time for 15 days. Dada himself dropped me there. It was a very new experience… I didn’t even realise when the 15 days parted away! Dada found many, many others like me and gave them this experience like mine.
A simple personality, as he was, little baldness on his head, always a pleasant smile on his face, wearing a clean white shirt, properly tucked in the Khakhi half-pant and the sleeves folded, wearing a simple footwear…sometimes wearing a dhoti and a grey coloured cap. I still remember what Shri Pralhadji Abhyankar, the then Prant Sanghachalak, said about Dada in Thane, on Dada’s 61st birth anniversary felicitation: “Neither he has a very attractive personality, nor he has superb oratory skills and not even a sweet voice…but the greatness of Dada is that he tolerated hundreds of swayamsevaks the way they were!”
He was silent, but his work spoke! This was noticed on a number of times during the District camps. He used to start working on the planning and execution of the district camps 8-10 days before and used to look after the management till the last stage of delivering the tents to the respective places.
Dada used to visit entire Thane District, village to village, walking and used no vehicle to travel. Thane District was vast for Sangh’s work at that time, stretched from Karjat to Kanjurmarg and Panvel to Palghar. When I reached back to Kalyan after doing my first year OTC, Dada himself came to receive me on the Railway Station. Indeed, he used to nurture the relations very delicately.
Dada was keenly paying attention not just towards daily Shakha but to the comprehensive growth of the Sangh, encouraging swayamsevaks to undertake and walk in different fields of society and ensuring that the Sangh work grows in every direction. The credit of starting and then smooth running of Kalian Janata Sahakari Bank goes to Dada! He also revived the Kalyan People’s Co-operative Bank that had run into insolvency and many people had lost their money.
Dada was born in Kalyan in 1917. He was the son of Shri Bhaurao Cholkar, who had been the Sanghachalak of Kalyan. Many don’t even know that he had a degree of “Textile Engineer” from Matunga’s V.J.T.I College. Dada even worked as a Textile Engineer in a Mill. In 1940, Dada got the Midas touch of Sangh work. He gave up his job as Textile Engineer and started working as a part-time teacher in a school, so that he could devote enough time for Sangh work. On August 1, 1947, Dada gave up this job also to become a fulltime Sangh Pracharak. During the first ban on RSS he was a Pracharak at Karjat Taluka. At that time he participated in satyagraha along with other swayamsevaks and also served as a prisoner in the jail of Visapur for four months.
After Sangh-bandi was revoked, once again the work started with the force of a turbulence. Dada served as Thane District Pracharak from 1952 till the end of 1972. During that time, he enthusiastically nurtured and grew the Sangh work in the areas of Karjat, Panvel, Javhar, Mokhada, Kalian, Bhivandi, Shahpur and Murbad. Dada also gave a deep thought to the complicated problems of tribals and a way out of them and also played his part in many tribal institutions.
It was in 1975 Emergency, when the Sangh faced second ban. Dada’s father, the late Shri Bhaurao was imprisoned at the age of 83. Dada, however, successfully kept escaping Police until the ban was finally lifted. Even during the ban, he continued propagating the Sangh work under cover. After that he looked after the management of Pune office very skillfully. He kept his focus on the tribal segment even after returning back to Kalyan after 1980 and was closely related to the Sanskar Kendra of Devbandh, through ‘Sahyadri Adivasi Bahuvidh Seva Sangh’ and many such activities.
His younger brother—Shri Balarao was also sincerely involved in the Sangh—work. He made a valuable contribution in resurrection of Pratap Pradosh Shakha of Kalyan and Ghosh (RSS Band) of Kalyan. There are innumerable memories of Dada which I have, however, more I narrate them, there would still be many more to go on with. I humbly and respectfully bow down to such a devout and dedicated life!
(The writer is former President, Sahajeevan Seva Mandal)