It was an honour knowing you, Dada Vaswani

Shashwat Gupta Ray
Saturday, 14 July 2018

The best part of Dada Vaswani was that he was a very simple, humble and approachable person. He always spoke about the need for peace and love in the society.

Dada JP Vaswani, a spiritual leader of the Sindhi community, died on Thursday. Born on August 2, 1918, Dada Vaswani, as he was popularly known, was the head of the Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission.

Although, he belonged to the Sindhi community, his most important facet was that the spiritual sermons that in public on various occasions actually were not community specific. This was in contrast to spiritual gurus from other communities who tend to address their own respective communities and generally don’t widen the scope of their sermons.

The best part of Dada Vaswani was that he was a very simple, humble and approachable person. He always spoke about the need for peace and love in the society. This was again very unique considering that many religious leaders tend to spit venom on other faiths and trend to instigate people.

As a journalist, I had the opportunity to report on events of Sadhu Vaswani Mission and Dada’s sermons many times. It has always been a pleasure to hear him. In fact, he had a distinct style of public speaking, which used to resemble the style of our country’s founding fathers like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and others.

Although, I covered his events numerous times, I got a first-hand experience of his affection way back in 2004, 14 years ago. Being a Sindhi, former Deputy Prime Minister and veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani used to visit Dada Vaswani to seek his blessings whenever he came to Pune.

Soon after the NDA government led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had lost the 2004 Lok Sabha general elections, in mid-2004 Advani paid a visit to Pune. He had multiple programmes scheduled that day. This included a public rally and visit to Sadhu Vaswani mission.

Those days I was working as a reporter with Pune-based English daily The Maharashtra Herald, which was just acquired by Sakal Media Group. My Chief Reporter (now News Editor of Sakal) Madhav Gokhale specially deputed me to cover Advani’s visit to Sadhu Vaswani Mission and strictly instructed me not to ask any political questions as he was already scheduled to speak in a public rally.

I left for the mission wondering what will I ask Advani and how, because he had Z+ security cover. I knew it was going to be a daunting task for me to break the security cordon of National Security Guard (NSG) commandos. I arrived at the location and as expected, I saw the entire premises surrounded by NSG personnel. Advani and Dada were inside having deliberations.

Being from the armed forces background, I started befriending the security personnel by sharing my little knowledge about their Israel-made weapon system. Initially, they played ball with me. 

But once Advani came out, they literally dumped me and surrounded the former Deputy PM. I knew this was coming. My plan A did not work. So, I used Plan B, which was approaching Dada himself to get me introduced to Advani because the NSG men won’t dare to touch him.

With this intention, I approached Dada Vaswani for help. Initially I asked what conversation both of them had. His response was, “I sought Lal’s blessings because he is a great man”. Now I was in a fix because there was no way I could write this in my report. My chief reporter would have had me for dinner.

So I told him sheepishly, “Dada if I write this my boss will throw me out.” He then replied, “Why don’t you personally ask him?” Pointing towards the NSG cover, I told him there was no way I could breach this security cover. Then what happened next pleasantly surprised me.

Dada Vaswani personally led me to Advani and introduced me to him. Without losing a single moment, I did a quick ‘non-political’ interview with Advani and got my story. It was a happy moment for me that I managed to do what I was told. 

But more than that, I began respecting Dada more than before for his kind gesture. I had always heard about his benevolent nature but I experienced it on that day.

Although 14 years have passed since this incident but the memory has remained etched in my mind and will remain forever. Rest in Peace Dada Vaswani. It was an honour knowing you.

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