After the Jodhpur camp was over, all of us from Sindh were sent to different parts of Rajasthan to continue the activities of the RSS. For the next decade, Rajasthan, beautiful yet forbidding, was to be my karmabhoomi (place of work), first only as a pracharak of the RSS but, mid way through, also as a whole-time party activist of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
I had a fascination for Rajasthan even before I set foot on its soil, rendered sacred by the martyrdom of hundreds of its patriotic people. The numerous forts of Rajasthan and their unsurpassed majesty is a testament to the valour of the kings who had built them.
I had read these inspiring tales during my years in Hyderabad and Karachi. And now that destiny had brought me to Rajasthan, I felt that the work of the RSS was, in many ways, a continuation of the state’s glorious tradition of patriotism and selfless service.
At the outset, I looked after the Sangh’s activities in Alwar city. Thereafter, my responsibility extended to the entire district. Later still, it was extended further to the neighbouring Bharatpur district. The process of integration of all the nineteen princely states into a single entity called Rajasthan was a cumbersome process, involving seven stages, over a period of eight years (1948-56). In the first stage in 1948, a provincial entity described as Matsya Raj was formed. This comprised the princely states of Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli and Dholpur. Informally, as a pracharak in the region, I was responsible for these four states.
My organisational work entailed two tasks: strengthening and expanding the activities in the existing shakhas and, also, opening new ones. It also necessitated constant travelling. Many places were accessible by bus, although the roads then were a far cry from what they are now. However, there were other places to where the only mode of transport was either a bicycle or a camel. I remember travelling often to a village called Narayanpur in the Alwar district. The bus from Alwar would go only up to Thana Gazi, from where Narayanpur was twelve miles away. The final destination could only be reached only on camel.
Travelling in Rajasthan was always an adventure. I remember an incident while returning from Bharatpur, which is home to India’s best-known bird sanctuary. One day I had to go to a small town called Sikri for a RSS programme. The journey required taking a bus from Bharatpur to Kama, and then another bus from Kama to Sikri. After reaching Kama, I was told that the bus to Sikri had been cancelled because of heavy rains. But since it was an important function which I could not skip, I decided to undertake the journey on foot, walking forty-fi ve kilometres to reach Sikri in time for the function. It took me ten hours or so, and was the longest of many such walkathons I undertook as a RSS pracharak.
Apart from organising routine activities at RSS shakhas, I used to take special interest in teaching young volunteers, thus continuing the pedagogic hobby that I had cultivated in Karachi. Most of the volunteers were keen on learning English, and other subjects taught in English. Even now, I sometimes receive visitors from Alwar, telling me that I had taught them a particular subject.
THE LESSONS IN HARDINESS AND DISCIPLINE
A RSS pracharak lives very simply. He is austere and hardworking. I regularly used to wash my own clothes besides cooking. If I returned late from work or was too tired to cook, I would just have a glass of hot milk, sometimes with a local sweet called gajak. I was never deterred by hardships on account of food, money, travel or the harsh climate of Rajasthan. However—and this may surprise readers—I was scared of one thing: tapeworm. After the ban on the RSS was lifted in July 1949, I was assigned work in the Hadoti region of the state, which comprised the three districts of Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar. Here I was intrigued by the daily sight of somebody or the other in the shakha sporting a bandage on his leg. I was told that they were victims of nerwa, a water-borne tapeworm disease.
In the entire area, only Kota had tap water supply. Everywhere else, people depended on ponds and wells for drinking and all other purposes. Since these were not well maintained and only infrequently purified, they had become sources of a peculiar disease with which I was completely unfamiliar. When the worm broke through the skin on the victim’s leg, the victim would dip his leg in water to ease the pain and itching. This immersion in water caused the worm to further protrude from the victim’s body. The victim then had to take a small wooden stick, spool the worm around, and slowly and patiently pull it out. However, if the worm broke in the process, it would quickly retreat and pop out from some other place on the leg. This was an extremely painful experience. Hence, for all the years I was working in this area, whenever I saw a swayamsevak with a bandage on his leg I would fearfully wonder—‘What if I too get nerwa?’
I remember another tormenting experience from my days in Rajasthan. I had to unexpectedly go to Delhi for some urgent work. It was already evening and I had to be there the following morning. Unfortunately, there was no bus or passenger train available at that time. There was, however, a slow-moving goods train that was scheduled to arrive soon. The only option for me was to somehow find a place on this freight train, with the permission of the guard. He was a kind person who said, half-jokingly, ‘Make yourself comfortable on one of these salt-beds.’ It happened to be a train carrying salt in uncovered carriages. It was December, one of the coldest months in North India. To make things even more ‘comfortable’ for me, the winter mist had spread a wet blanket over the heap of salt. With wet salt as my bed and the winter air as my blanket, I shivered the entire night.
It is experiences like these which toughened me during my ten years in Rajasthan. They made me aware of the harsh realities of life faced everyday by millions of my countrymen and also imparted a welcome discipline to my daily habits. I learnt to live frugally. Of course, I was, by no means, an exception in this regard. I had no personal expenses as such. The life of all RSS pracharaks was tough in terms of physical comfort, but extremely rewarding by way of psychological and spiritual satisfaction.