Dotor Jalmi: The real Munnabhai MBBS!

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
06 August 2012 00:06 IST

My first meeting with Dotor Jalmi was a heated verbal fight. The official language agitation was just taking shape in late 80s. I was in the students’ movement and was not at all familiar with the Secretariat culture of Panaji. Ulhas Naik, my colleague in the students’ union, had taken me to the Secretariat. That was the first time I met Dr Kashinath Jalmi, while walking in the corridors.

“This is my friend Sandesh Prabhudesai. He is a staunch Konkaniwadi”, Ulhas introduced me, leaving me in front of the Marathiwadi canon.

We argued, standing in the corridor, almost for half an hour. Finally it ended like this:

Dr Jalmi: Ok, Sandesh, you say Konkani is not a dialect of Marathi but an independent language. Let us carry out one exercise. I will supply the papers. Write down names of all the animals, trees, flowers, fruits etc, first in Marathi and then in Konkani. Then let’s decide whether Konkani is a dialect of Marathi or an independent language.

Me: Ok, Dotor, agreed. But let me supply the papers to you. We’ll extend the whole exercise a bit more. Let’s first write all these names in Urdu, Persian, Arabic and then Marathi and Konkani. But then don’t deny the fact if I prove it that Marathi is a dialect of Urdu or Persian or Arabic.

We parted, to meet again, obviously to argue and fight. But then the agitation started, dividing people, friends, relatives, colleagues – almost the whole state of Goa. By the time agitation was over making Konkani the official language, I joined journalism in 1987.

While I was working for Tarun Bharat from Margao, controversy over then speaker Dayanand Narvekar molesting a girl employee started. The opposition parties came together, making it a political issue as fresh Assembly election was not too far. Fed up with politicization of the issue, Prashanti Talpankar suddenly decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike, demanding Narvekar’s resignation. The opposition political front was panic. They started pressurizing Prashanti not to go ahead with her hunger strike as they predicted that the issue would get over much before election. Prashanti, however, was adamant.

The last attempt was made by Dr Jalmi, one day prior to the beginning of her hunger strike, at a public meeting in Aldona. The speakers on microphone were giving fiery speeches on one side while Prashanti, on the other hand, was literally firing Dr Jalmi left, right and centre, for politicizing the issue. In spite of all abuses, he didn’t give up till the public meeting was over, but didn’t succeed.

Next day, while the hunger strike started, the political front met at Hotel Mandovi, changed their whole strategy and went to gherao then chief minister Pratapsing Rane in Valpoi. Dr Jalmi came back from Valpoi straight to Azad Maidan at night, to tell Prashanti that they will not keep quiet until Narvekar resigns. Unfortunately, more than half of the Konkaniwadi leaders were on the other side as the KPA had joined the Congress. Narvekar, incidentally, had supported the Konkani cause. The Marathiwadis were on the forefront of the issue, with Dr Jalmi literally becoming the street fighter.

He was basically an activist, having a strong ideological base of socialist movement through the Rashtra Seva Dal. He was equally proud of his caste – Gawada, though he was neither casteist nor a religious fanatic. I still wondered how such kind of secular-minded man could be on the forefront of the Marathi movement, which spread all kind of communal venom during the whole language agitation. And still, he remained our friend, where friendship mattered more than our differences of opinion.

He was a good medical practitioner, I was told, charging hardly any money to the patients. He worked hard to bring back the past glory to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, by personally visiting all the hard-core ‘lions’ all over Goa, when party stalwarts were joining the Congress one after another. He was perhaps the only leader who was not prepared to accept the proposal of having pre-poll alliance with the BJP, believing that such a communal party would be a nightmare if it enters Goa’s political arena. Obviously, even the BJP never trusted him, due to his open views.

Dotor Jalmi was not a double standard person. When the whole state was opposing the Nylon 6,6 project, he was perhaps the sole legislator to come out openly in support of 6,6 technology, after studying it, stating that it was not pollutant. (What happened when Nylon 6,6 was shifted to Chennai?) It cost him politically, though he managed to win the election against Mohan Verenkar, his own party colleague fighting as a joint independent candidate.

Similarly, he fought with us – the Goa Union of Journalists and Editors’ Guild – defending the clause in the Right to Information Act that provided penal action against the media for ‘misusing’ the information. Me as the GUJ secretary and Prakash Kamat as the president wrote series of articles in Tarun Bharat, countering his articles appearing every alternate day. So muchy true he was to himself that he never bothered that the whole media was against him, including the editors and the media managements. Not like other politicians, who compromise if media unitedly goes tough. A real fighter indeed!

He failed on both counts – Nylon 6,6 and Right to Information. But every time we met, it was not less than a tight hug (jadu ki jhappi?) by him that melted all the differences and kept the friendship intact. The selfless ideological opposition he not only admired, but respected and simply loved it. He always saw a real friend in an opponent.

I still remember an incident in 1992. It was Dr Jalmi on one side and Radharao Gracias, who was called Jalmi of South Goa, on the other side, though both were in the opposition. Radharao exposed him on the issue of high court for Goa. Dr Jalmi lost his patience and hurled a pin box at him. It hit Radharao little above his eye and he started bleeding. The House was adjourned and the then opposition leader Ramakant Khalap rushed Radharao to his cabin. Came running to him was none other than Dr Jalmi, literally crying and hugging Radharao while apologizing to him repeatedly.  In fact it was Radharao who was consoling him while he was bleeding.  Dotor later also apologized for his act in the House. Radharao still says: “Dr Jalmi was my best friend in the MGP and remained my friend till he breathed his last. The best lawyer who was a doctor.”

Shenoi Goembab, the founder of Konkani movement, was equally a great historian. He had great regards for the original Goans – the Gawada community. There are instances where he has gathered most of his authentic information from this community. But, unfortunately, this community remained illiterate for generations while the Brahmins, with their literacy and shrewdness, dominated Goan society – economically, socially and culturally. Shenoi Goembab had a dream of Golden Goa, where Gawada would be made Pandit.

Dr Jalmi, though didn’t agree with Shenoi Goembab’s stand on Konkani language, was actually Shenoi’s dream come true. He was the real Pandit. The Pandit of medicine, the Pandit of law, the Pandit of Parliamentary proceedings, the Pandit of Indian democracy, the Pandit of literature. And above all, without any malice, a transparent human being. A true, loving friend.

He was just not a politician. He was a scholar. An ardent reader. A studious boy always. A researcher to the core. An analyst. Also the typical argumentative Indian. Having keen interest in literature; just not non-fiction, but fiction too –including the most delicate literary form - poetry. In fact he named his son – Kurund – after Narhar Kurundkar – a great scholar and thinker in Marathi literature.

Dr Jalmi looked tough; but was actually a soft sensitive human being. He argued, shouted, yelled and even abused the opponent with bad words at times; but never considered his opponent his enemy. Sad to say, but very difficult to find such a knowledgeable scholar holding authority but no malice, in today’s Goa Legislative Assembly or even any political party.

One of the rare human beings he was, knowing very well the difference between the Opponent and the Enemy. That’s the reason Dr Jalmi was great among all. A real MBBS  Munnabhai, who actually believed in ‘Jaadu ki Jhappi,’ that connects!!!

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

Drop a comment

Enter The Code Displayed hereRefresh Image


Related Blogs