That was Malgund village in Chiplun Taluka of Ratnagiri district. The entire area filled with mango, coconut, and areca nut trees was coated by the thick fog of January 1948. Satish using his battery torch paved his way home after meeting the client in the factory which was close to his house.
Satish kept the keys of the factory in its proper place and after cleaning himself joined the other members of the family for dinner.
His father, Shri Ganesh Pant Gogte said, ”Listen, Satish, you get more involved and take charge of our business activity. Since our country has now got independence, our people will decide the policy for the growth of the industry. The road map will be announced and we have to be prepared to take benefit of the schemes. Ramesh and Suresh are still studying in high schools. You have passed B.Sc. and you will be my spokesperson henceforth. The small-scale unit which I have established ten years ago is now stable. We need finance to take a leap forward. And I am sure our government will announce some plans to help the small-scale industry to come up. We have to achieve something big in the coming 5-7 years. So Satish, you have to share my responsibilities and we have to expand. Soon Ramesh and Suresh will get ready to take some roles. Next year only we should see our industry covering a wider area. I am very optimistic.” Mr. Gogte had dreams in his eyes. He was looking for the opportunity to prove his capability. He had expectations from his brilliant sons. They had proven themselves in schools. He wanted them to sparkle in his industry which he had set up with a lot of hardship.
Mr. Ganesh Pant Gogte’s father had spent a major period of his life in jail due to his participation in the freedom movement. His elder brother had also joined the movement. Ganesh Pant had taken up the responsibility of running the family. Despite the turmoil of the freedom movement, he worked hard and set up a small-scale unit producing parts required for making electric fans. Slowly he established his credibility as a dependable source of parts. A unit started in the backyard of his house, slowly grew to provide employment for 25-30 workers of Malgund village.
After a frantic struggle by a large number of freedom fighters following different methods to pressurize the British rulers, some following the non-violence and others following the roads of violent methods, finally, Britishers handed over the reins in the hands of Indians on 15th August 1947. But it had a dark side of genocide as the country was partitioned into two countries based on religion. It was one of the deadliest bloodsheds of the world.
But Gogte family was far away from the borders of the partitioned nation, and so was not affected directly by the carnage. Getting freedom for the country was celebrated with fervor in this area. Every individual was happily breathing the air of freedom.
Mr. Ganesh Pant Gogte who had put his sweat and blood in bringing up his unit to present level was looking forward to expanding his unit to cover all of India. He was grooming his sons to contribute to further development of his unit.
After dinner, everyone retired to bed.
At around midnight, there was a desperate knock on the door. Ganesh Pant got up, switched on the light, and opened the door. On that foggy night, the sarpanch of the village, wrapped in a blanket was at the door with a couple of senior members of the village.
“Yes Patil, what is the matter?”
“Gogte Sir, have you heard that Gandhiji is assassinated?”
“Oh my God! Who was that idiot?”
“We do not know all that but he shot Gandhiji point-blank. Gandhiji collapsed on the spot. And there is a spurt of violence all over India. We have heard that in Maharashtra state, big mobs are moving from village to village causing a lot of destruction. We request your entire family to collect all your important documents and valuables and come with us to our house. Quick. We don’t have much time.”
“But Patil, when the mob comes to our village, we all will have to face the same danger. Whether here in my house or your farmhouse.”
“No. Gogte sir, it is not the same. The murderer of Gandhiji was a Brahmin. And the mob is destroying the properties of only Brahmins. They have the complete list of Brahmin houses. The mob just pours petrol on the houses of the Brahmins whether anyone is inside or not. They burn the entire property. There are many instances of families burnt alive. Please let us not waste time anymore. Every moment is important. Please take important documents with you and let us run to my farmhouse. I have my bullock cart ready for you. Please hurry up. We do not want you take your car with you. That will disclose your presence instantly. ”
By this time the entire Gogte family was aware of the lurking danger. They picked up all their important material and started out. In no time, the Gogte family was in Patil’s farmhouse. Everyone was extremely worried. Totally helpless.
Soon they heard a big mob carrying burning torches running euphorically towards their bungalow. A lot of shouting and noise was heard. A flash of big fire could be sensed by the Gogte family hiding in the darkroom.
After an hour’s commotion, the mob moved to another village. One could see the property set ablaze.
Patil came to the farmhouse. “The inexorable idiots did not listen to us. They tied our hands and legs. Some 7-8 of us who were trying stopping them from doing this horrendous act.” Patil could not control his sobs.
In utter despair, the Gogte family waited until it dawned. After the sun appeared, the Gogte family rushed to their house.
There was nothing left. The entire house and the complete factory were turned into ashes. The half-burnt axle was the only proof left of the car. The half-burnt furniture was generating a lot of smoke. Ganesh Pant Gogte could not control the tears flowing away with his dreams.
The freedom of the country brought with it, the disaster for the families of the Brahmin community in Maharashtra.
Gogte’s family took some time to come out of desolation.
After considering all the options, they decided to move to Ratnagiri. Without talking to anyone, they took some public transport and reached Ratnagiri. Rented a room in a chawl, and Mr.Ganesh Pant Gogte started a new life from scratch. He had to wipe off his early struggle. He searched for a small part that can be made in the house.Ganesh Pant and his wife took the responsibility of making the part at home and the delivery was handled by the two younger school-going children. Satish looked for a job. And the family forgot the holocaust and took over the challenge of re-establishing themselves. Ramesh and Suresh sparkled in the school. Earned scholarship and continued their brilliant career. Suresh, the youngest of them was maintaining his rank consistently and was getting popular in the area. After S.S.C., Ramesh got his Bachelor of Science and specialized in forestry. He took up Conservation of forests as his career and strongly moved up in his profession. Very soon Ramesh was the Chief Conservator of the state of Maharashtra. Suresh chose medicines as his occupation. After MBBS, he got his Gold medal in Master’s degree, MD. He shifted to Mumbai. He became the medical advisor of the State Government.
Ten years passed. All the three sons of Ganesh Pant Gogte got married and had children. They built a big bungalow in Ratnagiri named “AMELIORATION”
Once in February, the entire family assembled in Chiplun and visited the village Malgund. The entire family went to the spot of their house and the factory. A placard displayed there read the following message,
“This place belongs to Shri Ganesh Pant Gogte and his family.
We are ashamed that this property and his factory were destroyed by the mob frenzy. The person who had struggled and set up the industry, which had provided an opportunity to earn bread to 30 families of the village, had to face this ill-treatment. We could not trace him after the disaster. We do not know their whereabouts. If anyone has any information, please contact the Sarpanch.”
Ganesh Pant Gogte was moved. They went to Sarpanch’s office. A young man was in charge.
Ganesh Pant told his identity. The young man immediately rose, came forward bent down, and touched Ganesh Pant’s feet.
“Sir, please pardon us. Our society had done injustice to you, Sir. We are ashamed of all that. Please come back to this place and start your factory. We are ready to bear all the expenses to rebuild your house. We want your presence here.
Sir, I was a small boy then. I did not understand anything about what happened that day. But my father and our earlier Sarpanch, Patil tell us about you every time we pass the place of your house and your factory.
Sir, my father is not keeping well. But he always says, he has to see you and seek forgiveness before he leaves this world. Mr. Patil is also in distress. He says, when we hear the atrocities on Jews by Hitler, we feel sympathetic about them. When we come across some Indians who were pulled out of their own houses during partition and had to come to India to take shelter, our hearts cry. But here in our own village, innocent persons were attacked by the unruly mobs in 1948, we could not do anything to save the people from atrocities inflicted on them. Mr.Patil is very upset about his failure to stop the act of brutality.”
“Where is he? I too want to see him.”
“I will take you there. Please come.”
The man took the entire family to Patil’s house. Patil was relaxing in an arm-chair. As soon as he saw Ganesh Pant Gogte, he got up. Bent down and held his feet. Started sobbing. His tears wet Ganesh Pant’s feet.
“Sorry sir, please pardon me. I seek forgiveness. I could not stop the mob. I could not prevent the disaster. I am deeply ashamed. Sir, we are ready for any punishment you give us. But Sir, please come back. I tried whatever I could to get in touch with you. But failed miserably. Now Sir, please take charge of your land and please come back to stay here. There were many proposals to purchase the place. But we refused all of them. We wanted to hand over the place to you.”
Then Mr.Patil looked at the sons. “Satish, Ramesh, and Suresh. Children, please forgive this old uncle. I was not able to stop the mob from destroying your property. I am guilty. I need to be punished. Please tell your father, to come and stay here. We will build the house for you. You do not have to do anything. We only need your presence here.”
“Patil, these children have become a big entity. Satish has become the Principal of a college. Ramesh has become the chief conservator of our state. And Suresh has become the chief medical advisor for the state. He keeps visiting various countries. All of them are very busy.”
“Oh my God! I am so happy to know this. Bandya.” Patil called the young Sarpanch.
“Bandya Sawant, This is the great sir, in whose factory your father worked. “
“I recognized them as soon as they came. Come on Sir, you will meet another person who is on death bed but keeps seeking pardon often. Yes, my father is waiting to see you, sir.”
“Sir, please go and see his father. He is holding on to his life just to apologize to you. After you see him, we will have lunch together. Children, are you ready to share our meal? It won’t be like your five-star meal. ” Patil said.
“Surely, we will come back and have lunch with you all.”
All of them went to the other house. The old person could not get up. Ganesh Pant held his hand and with tearful eyes said,” Now I have come here. I have forgotten everything that had happened. Don’t feel guilty. Get well soon.”
Tears poured out of Sawant’s eyes. He could not say a word. The young Sarpanch, Bandya, his son brought a few cut mangoes and offered them.
“Mr.Patil is waiting for the meal to share with you. We will go back to him. “
Ganesh Pant rose with a heavy heart. Again, held the hand of bedridden Mr.Sawant. He could see Sawant’s face brightening up.
Sawant in his choked voice said, ”Sir, that night when we came to your house with Patil to warn you about the anticipated danger, you were reluctant to consider yourself as separate from the entire village. Unaware that the agitation was against a particular community, you were ready to face the calamity with the entire village. You considered the whole village as your own family. ” Sawant could not utter any word further. He took a deep breath and whispered, ” And these impotent family members from the village could not protect you.” Sawant was bawling all the way through.
Ganesh Pant also could not stop his tears. He somehow controlled himself and said,
“Sawant, I told you I have forgotten everything that happened that day. Please don’t feel remorse. It was not the fault of anyone from the village. The outsiders came and burnt our property. They were so many of them. How could you have controlled them?
Please, for my sake, drop this guilt. I am settled in Ratnagiri. My children are doing very well in their lives. Please do not worry. Now, if you want to make me happy, take your medicines and get well soon. I am going to come back only if you yourself will come to receive me at the temple.”
“Promise, Sir?” Sawant said with freshness on his face. “ I will definitely be there to receive my God back to my village.” Sawant again bawled intensely.
Ganesh Pant patting on the Sawant’s back, said, “Now, no more weeping. Let me see you smiling.”
Sawant forced a smile.
Ganesh Pant and his family left the house heavy-hearted.
They had meals with Patil’s family.
Ganesh Pant and his wife assured the Malgundkars, the villagers from Malgund, that they would shift and would be an integral part of the village.
The Gogte family left Malgund on a happy note.