A Barefoot Run

By Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar
03 August 2012 00:12 IST

It was a quiet Sunday morning. 6 am. Usually on Sundays I tend to run a medium distance to keep myself fit. I used to run while I was studying in Goa Medical College but had stopped for a couple of years due to knee joint pain. I resumed running last year and somehow managed to reach 15 or so kilometers. Half marathon is 21 kilometers. That is my goal at present. Somewhere along the way I chanced to know that two of my doctor friends, for privacy lets call them Dr A and Dr B, both well known specialist doctors from Margao were also running regularly. We renewed our friendships and started running together.

Last Saturday Dr A texted me asking whether we could run barefoot on Colva beach the next morning and I readily agreed. We called Dr B and soon the three of us began our barefoot run along the water line of Colva beach in the direction of Benaulim.

The sand was wet and firm. It had just drizzled. Some stretches of sand were clean and smooth while others were littered with sea shells probably brought in by the aggressive sea waves in the monsoon.

I ran in the middle – Dr A to my right and Dr B on my left. It was about 4 to 5 minutes into the run. “Jaanaa mhare Mukul, Gandhin yha deshachi vaat layali” said Dr B on my left all of a sudden.

We were running at a conversational pace as is advised while running longer distance. A gentle sea breeze was blowing – the sea wind.

I was stunned. All these months we were running we had never discussed anything other than sports, fitness and medicine. Why this topic all of a sudden? Perhaps he had read my blog on Goanews.com or my article in The Navhind Times, I thought.

“Tashe jalyar ami Nathuram Godsek Bharat Ratna divaya mhare?” I asked him with a chuckle. I saw from the corner of my eye. He looked a bit irritated.

“It was good that Gandhi was killed,” he said, “he allowed partition and would have given Muslims and Pakistan a lot of sops.”

Time to engage I said to myself. “If the RSS did not want partition why did they not kill Jinnah before the partition? Jinnah was the one who was insisting on partition. Why wait for partition and then kill Gandhi?” I asked. Although it could never be proved in court that RSS had conspired to kill Gandhi everyone in the world knew who was behind the assassination.

My friend looked a bit confused. Perhaps he was never exposed to this line of thinking. “RSS did a good thing by killing Gandhi,” he said. “Were it not for Nehru and the others we would have constituted a Hindu Rashtra then itself. Why are you against a Hindu Rashtra?” he asked.

“Why do you want a Hindu Rashtra?” I shot back. “And then if Catholics want Goa for themselves you and I will have to resettle in some remote corner of Maharashtra as refugees.”

“So what?” he asked indignantly. “There is not a single Hindu Rashtra in the world today. Isn’t that a shame?” “Gandhi is to blame for all this.”

Small waves were gently lapping against the wet sand & soaking our bare feet. Some stretches of sand along the water line were pretty soft and I had to adjust my balance & gait as I ran over them. By now we had crossed the coast guard observation post of Benaulim beach and were headed south.

My friend to my right, Dr A was silent all this time. Suddenly he said, “Mukul! You hate the RSS and Hindus! That is not right!”

I knew both my friends, experienced specialists, were RSS people and were also associated with the Sanatan Saustha. Ok! I thought, now I am sandwiched! Outnumbered two to one!

“You are partly correct!” I said. “The reason I hate the RSS is because it has not been able to control its own decadence. And I do not hate the Hindus. I am a Hindu. What I hate is the use of “Hindutva” for vote bank politics. For that matter I hate the fanning of minorities for vote bank politics also. Religion and politics should not be mixed,” I said.

“The RSS was founded by Dr Hedgewar with lofty ideals,” I continued. Dr Hedgewar was associated with India’s freedom struggle and was imprisoned for one year by the British. He actively participated in the Indian National Congress-led movements against the British rule. During Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to the RSS camp in 1934, he was impressed by the “discipline and absence of untouchability” in the RSS. From such lofty beginnings how did RSS become an organization that was banned thrice since Indian independence?” I asked. “The RSS has been censured for its involvement in communal riots in at least six reports by judges who presided over commissions of inquiry”.

Both Dr A and Dr B looked surprised. Probably they are not taught their own history in the RSS, I thought.

By now we were running on the clean Varca beach. The beachside five star hotels have done a good job of keeping the beach clean I thought. The sea was getting a little rough, though there was no drizzle.

“I have absolutely no problem with a Hindu Rashtra,” I added, “if you want one you can make it but not in India. May be you can acquire land like how Maldives has acquired in Australia anticipating a rise in sea level some fifty years from now. There you make a Hindu Rashtra and if it works, may be we will think of it here. But so long as you are in India you have to live by the Constitution of India. Otherwise it will hamper India’s progress”

There was silence on both sides. We continued to run. We had been running barefoot for almost forty minutes now and were feeling a little tired. We decided to turn back. A dark cloud was passing overhead. We expected a drizzle. We turned and started running towards Colva beach.

“Why don’t you see that what we are doing is to preserve our Hindu religion and to protect it from the invasion of Islam and Christianity? They are inducing our people to get converted.” Said Dr B.

“Yes.” I agreed. “There is the issue of forced conversions. But that does not justify communal militancy on the part of Hindu groups. Two negatives do not make a positive in society.” I said bluntly. “That happens only in Mathematics. Religion is inherently divisive if practiced at any level other than strictly personal.” I added, “Religion is the state of consciousness of an individual. It cannot be practiced on a podium and if that is done it will invariably spark a riot. Conversions are like corruption. They are like a clap that requires both hands. Unless a person is willing to leave his religion how can he be forced to do so? Not all Hindus got converted to Christianity during the Portuguese rule in Goa. What is the point of blaming other religions alone?”

A gentle drizzle had just begun.

“We both seem to want the same thing – a strong India” said Dr B.

“In that case” I said “I must point out that means and the ends are one and the same. There is no duality between them. If your means are good so are your ends. History stands testimony to the fact that those who live by sword die by sword. Because Gandhi’s means were correct he could liberate this nation. People like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad gave up their lives for the nation but could not manage to do what Gandhi did.”

“You read Nathuram Godse’s book.” Said Dr B. “You will realize why it was necessary to kill Gandhi.”

“Gandhi’s death brought shame on our nation” I said. “The hundred and forty four nations that brought their flags to half mast told us that we could not manage to keep such a great Indian alive.”

Thus we agreed to disagree and continued our run albeit a little faster. As our speed increased we had to concentrate more on the sand to avoid sharp objects. We reached Colva beach in the nick of time. The drizzle was just progressing to full blown rain.

It had been an eventful run. On the way back to Margao, in my car, with Dr A by my side I thought “if this much is the hold of Hindutva on experienced doctors, what would the position of an average Hindu Goan be? With so much corruption and communalism, what is the future of our nation? Are we headed for a civil war?

P.S.: This is NOT a work of fiction. This is a verbatim record of what took place one Sunday morning.

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.

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