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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 13, March 21, 2015

Remembering Narayan Bhai Desai

Sunday 22 March 2015, by Devaki Jain



Narayan Bhai was one of the most persistent Bhais from the Gandhian biradari that I have ever met—I dallied a great deal with Gandhians and Gandhian institutions starting way back in the fifties when I joined Vinoba Bhave in his padayatra. Then the whole world of the Patwardhans, including visiting Achyutji in Varanasi, travelling on a train with JP and Prabhaben—all were part of my journey: in and out of the Gandhian biradari. We could not meet Narayan Bhai without a mention of the Shanti Sena which was his passion at the time I met him. He had a way of making one feel ashamed of oneself for not doing what was the “most important thing”, namely, enabling the young people to learn to live non-violently.

One of his experiences which left a huge impression on Lakshmi and me was the way he survived after the plane crash. According to the news, he was completely ‘finished’. Then, according to Narayan Bhai himself, he followed Morarji’s advice and undertook self-adminis-tered urine therapy and continued to use that system of medicine to the very end. When Lakshmi was ill with cancer, I wrote to him for help, and he sent one of his people in Mumbai who were also skilled in that therapy to help us. Of course, it was too late.

In the last few years I have been overwhelmed by the way he has done the Gandhi katha—I used to go to Gandhi Smriti to hear him, spellbound. What amazed me was that in 2011 when I was in the United States, I was told by universities where I was speaking that Narayan Bhai was coming to give his katha series! He was that strong in body, not only in mind.

A giant of a man with the spirit and heart of similar gigantic proportions. A friend who was always there at the end of a phone call. Narayan Bhai, you lived the best kind of good life possible. I wish you infinite peace and rest.

The author, a noted development economist, is a former Member of the South Commission.

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