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The Award: A Short Story

Vanita is an engineer-researcher-consultant-artist: a gifted singer-poetess; & writes in English-Hindi-Gujarati on her diverse experiences

The Award : A Short Story

Vipraa came to know that Dr. Yashwant Patel – the well-known, veteran Gujarati writer-thinker-philosopher had received one of the highest Civilian Awards of the country. Wow !! Great !! Vipraa was acquainted to Dr. Patel. She had attended one of his lectures, more than three decades back and later got the opportunity to meet him. He was a renowned orator as well and Vipraa – a second year college student then, was impressed by his ability to hold the attention of his audience. How she had wished her professors would have at least a few percentage of that ability !! ….

The trail of other memories followed and she recalled her interactions with the renowned, as also controversial personality …. Yashwantbhai (that is what Dr. Yashwant Patel was addressed as) spoke with jesting nonchalance, with traces of pride in it – on all the opposition he was facing – all the letters that he was receiving against his writings ….

A Queer Comment ....

“Chhaayaa looks like a shelly cow ….” Yashwantbhai had commented about a common acquaintance, hearing which Vipraa was taken a back. The phrase “shelly cow” (called “vasuki gayeli gaay” in Gujarati) was new to Vipraa, but she could grasp the feel of what it meant. Later, she found out that it apparently means an old cow, usually in poor condition and found “useless” as she cannot be milked …. What Yashwantbhai said about Chhaayaa did not sound good at all. Not that Vipraa and Chhaayaa were great friends. Perhaps Yashwantbhai could know that they are too different to be friends. However, for some time, Vipraa and Chhaayaa were friends – if not good friends. At least that is what Vipraa thought. Chhaayaa was a professional and Vipraa was a college student then – more than three decades ago. They knew each other and had worked together for a couple of months, in a Youth Organization, to which Yashwantbhai was the mentor. Yashwantbhai, in his fifties then, enjoyed good influence on the founder of the Youth Organization, Rajiv, though behind his back, Rajiv openly and clearly expressed his reservations on Yashwantbhai’s “limitations” that Vipraa found difficult to understand. Rajiv was under some stress, perhaps, to maintain his hold on his group members. There were questions being raised on the vision and objectives as well as on the ways of functioning of the organization. Vipraa, a teenager at that time, could sense that there was something wrong somewhere and tried to see if there could be a change for good …. It couldn’t work. Perhaps she was too small, too simple, too naive …. Whatever !! Vipraa was sure of what she thought was right and good for herself. She distanced herself from the organization and its hassles, wishing and praying for the good of All …. Chhaayaa was close to Rajiv and perhaps had gone closer than what could be expected of a decent relationship …. Vipraa wondered as to how that was possible ??!! And if they are so close, why do they not get married ??!! ….

I am an anti-marriage person ….

And Yashwantbhai – he is known for his views against marriage. He himself told Vipraa that he is against marriage – “I am an anti-marriage person ….” Much later, Vipraa came to know that he had even initiated a campaign against marriage … !! ?? What for ? He himself is happily married !! His kids also got married later !! And as far as can be known – they are quite happy !! Still he spoke with such confidence and pride that he is anti-marriage – against marriage !! Why ??!! This is where Vipraa could not agree with Yashwantbhai. She never spoke to him about it directly. She treated Yashwantbhai with great respect – as a good writer and orator and an elderly renowned personality ….

How and why does such a great thinker and writer take pride in speaking against, even running a campaign against marriage – a relationship that is the basis of a healthy family life in a healthy, strong society …. !!??

Did he not give a thought to the option of understanding and talking about the essence of, the importance of, the dignity of that relationship …. Does he not owe anything of his achievements to his parents and their relationship; to his family life, to his marriage and to his wife …. ??!! ….

Before turning against any tradition, especially publicly, is it not wise to understand what it stands for, what are the misconceptions prevailing about it and how they can be overcome, to ensure that the essential auspicious thought and conviction behind its evolution are upheld …. ??!!

In a lighter vein, Vipraa observed that the fashion of running away from marriage and blaming marriage has never got old among men for ages !!

Feminism .... ??!!

Some other aspects of Yashwantbhai’s views also puzzled Vipraa. While speaking to Vipraa during their telephonic conversations on the Raamaayana and his own writings on the great scripture, Yashwantbhai more than once emphasized on focusing on the characters of Taadakaa and Shoorpanakhaa – the two Rakshashis or demonesses – saying they turned bad due to the atrocities they faced and due to curses of sages …. Vipraa felt puzzled when she heard that for the first time and more so on its repetition for the second time …. Then, the next time, she gave her reply to the advice – “It is better to focus on Shabari.” (In Raamaayana, Shabari is a tribal lady, an ardent devotee of Lord Raama and a disciple of the great Sage Matanga, who tells Lord Raama about Hanumanji and where he can be located).

Yashwantbhai had written in one of his articles that Shoorpanakhaa had done nothing wrong by flirting with Raama and Laxamana and that she should not have been punished for doing so …. was she punished for “flirting” with Raama and Lakshamana or for trying to harm Sitaa ? Vipraa had asked about this, but she did not get any reply ….

Well, is such a stance – of favouring vamp-like characters – called feminism ? Or is that being kind to ladies ? What type of feminism is it – women have the right to be wrong and bad ??!! ….


Vipraa found Yashwantbhai cautioning her against various evils prevailing in the society, especially against women, many of which were undoubtedly genuine – but he never talked of solutions, or efforts / attempts being made towards seeking the right solutions or attempts being made towards overcoming them. He sounded neither optimistic nor solution-oriented, in spite of his known associations with social works and social reforms. Was he so much taken to the awe of magnitude and complexities of the problems that he had lost sight and track of solutions …. ?

In a couple of bouts of credulity that Vipraa had witnessed during his lecture sessions, Yashwantbhai showed tendencies of trusting and committing on behalf of those who were not true enough to him – from what they spoke of him behind his back. And perhaps, as a lame excuse to the consequences of such blunders, he sometimes posed off that he enjoys being misunderstood …. Vipraa wondered if Yashwantbhai could see that his gracious servings of hot and sour spicy grey stuff to fans suffering from hyper acidity could be harmful to their health as well as his reputation.

In view of all this, Vipraa had her own doubts and concerns about how much and what type of justice Yashwantbhai was doing to all the appreciation, the respect and name he was commending in the society ….

Life takes its own course and amidst challenges of striking a balance between circumstances and priorities, acquaintance with Yashwantbhai turned into memories of appreciation and lessons from his lectures and writings and some interactions with him.

And of course, there can be no denying to the fact that Yashwantbhai speaks and writes well on a good range of topics – that include philosophy, religion, politics, nature and so on, with some traces of spiritualism …. and is much appreciated ….

A beautiful quote from Khalil Gibran brought Vipraa back to her present :

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”

With prayers in her heart, Vipraa got back to her work.

- Vanita Thakkar

© 2020 Vanita Thakkar