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Monday, November 28, 2022

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Lesser-Known Stories Of His Life (Part 2)

On the occasion of his birthday, it will be fascinating to look at some lesser-known details about his life struggles and accomplishments

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Niloy Chattaraj
Niloy Chattaraj
COO of Transcontinental Times, A double gold medalist engineer who covers social issues, science, and Indian history.

INDIA: The entire globe is commemorating the 131st birthday of Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, who does not require any introduction. 

He was a great educator, an economist who established the Indian economy, a social reformer who fought social untouchability, a jurist, India’s first Law Minister, the Chief Architect of the Preamble and the Constitution, and a great political leader.

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He is well-known in both India and the rest of the world. However, there are other facts that are less well-known around the world. 

On the occasion of his birthday, it will be fascinating to look at some lesser-known details about his life struggles and accomplishments.

A voracious and ardent reader

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We all know that Dr. Ambedkar acquired a variety of degrees both in India and abroad. However, he had a strong desire to study books that were not related to his textbook studies. Dr.Ambedkar had an insatiable hunger for information since he was a child. He yearned to read each essential book he came across at a bookstore or library.

His father didn’t like the idea of his son studying any book other than his coursebooks. But young Bhim was adamant and his father had to bow before him. His father, then, used to borrow money from his daughter and bought books for Bhimrao. Sometimes, his father mortgaged his daughter’s jewelry for purchasing books for his son. Later Babasaheb learned to save money for purchasing books by cutting his daily meal. 

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In London, he used to eat two pieces of bread for breakfast and hence saved money for buying books. To save more money, he used to walk and sometimes ran from his paying guest house to the library. On average, he used to read for 18 hours daily. His frugality and simple living standard cost him only eight pounds in a month which was extraordinary even in those days in London.  

There was a casteist college teacher in Elphinstone College who told him that the Mahars (the ‘untouchable’ caste to which Dr. Ambedkar belonged) had no business seeking higher education. Within fifteen years of that early confrontation, Dr. Ambedkar emerged as the most highly educated Indian in pre-Independence history, eventually earning advanced degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics.

Babasaheb and Cricket  

Young Bhimrao developed a sudden interest in cricket during his school days. After school, he used to participate in cricket matches. His understanding of the game was exceptional. One of his biographer, Dhananjay Keer, wrote, “If Bhim’s team lose the match, the cricket game suddenly turned into a wrestling match. A scuffle developed and friends fought each other but they always protected Bhim.” He later used cricket as a tool to break the monopoly of the upper caste in society. 

Palwankar Baloo was an Indian cricketer and was also a political activist. He along with his brother, Shivram, played for the Hindu Gymkhana in Bombay ( now Mumbai). P. Baloo was an outstanding bowler. Throughout his cricket career, Baloo was not perceived as equal due to his lower caste background. He faced much discrimination because of this.

Indian cricketer Palwankar Baloo. Photo Credit: Multiple sources

He played in the all-Indian team led by the Maharaja of Patiala during their tour of England in 1911 where Baloo’s outstanding performance was praised. On returning from the tour, The Palwankar brothers received the guests of honour at a public ceremony organized by representatives of the ‘Depressed Classes’ in Bombay headed by Dr. Ambedkar. Due to Babasaheb’s criticism of discrimination against the players based on their castes, P.Baloo was finally appointed as Vice-captain of The All-India Team.

Jai Bhim

In August 1936, Dr. Ambedkar established the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which was based not on caste but on classHe was the champion of labors rights at a time when the concept of rights of the workers didn’t exist in India.

Around that period, in 1937, the cry of ‘Jai Bhim!’ was heard for the first time. It was coined by an ILP MLA from Kamptee (Nagpur), Babu L.N. Hardas. The expression remains a mainstay salutation amongst the Mahar community specifically and can be heard on the lips of Dalits and non-Dalits globally now.

Also Read: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Lesser-Known Stories Of His Life (Part 1)

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