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The noble mission of Ambedkarite movement is all about giving

The noble mission of Ambedkarite movement is all about giving

raju kamble20


Amol Ragade


[Round Table India pays tribute to the legacy of Raju Kamble sir on his 2nd death anniversary, and we are glad to share this interview with Amol Ragade, one of his close associates.]


raju kamble20


Anu: Jai Bhim. Amol, you are someone who is very familiar with Raju Kamble Sir’s work and his life. Can you talk to us about his legacy?


Amol: Jai Bhim! Thank you for giving me this opportunity to interview with you and Kuffir da, and thank you for everything that you’ve been doing. 


Talking about Raju Kamble ji, he is what I see as a missionary, and that’s what he used to even tell us, the way we need to operate, to network the society, to organize the society, to mobilize people. I think he was a great missionary, who went on a mission, an impossible mission, that no one would probably have thought about accomplishing. People would have thought about it, but actually being there, trying to do it, and accomplishing it. I think he is one of the stalwarts, when it comes to building an international society, and international Ambedkarite society. The way he functioned, as a pure missionary, with action, and less of talking or less of writing. A very well read man, exceptionally good in organizing people, leading people. Professionally as well, he was one of the most sought after professional engineers. He had a very good career that he carved out. He was a brilliant student, that’s what we hear from his college mates. Coming from a very humble background. I think he lost his mother at a very young age, I might be corrected here, but that’s what I think. I think he was a self made man. He did his engineering from NIT and his Master’s from IISc. That is when he became acquainted with BAMCEF, and that’s where his journey began, so far as I can recall.


Anu: He is mostly known for, or most people associate him with the Ambedkarite International Mission. Can you talk about what he shared with you or what you know about how he envisioned it and he went about building it?


Amol: Thanks for this question. I would not claim that I am the authority on Raju Kamble ji, but I will express whatever was shared by him, whatever I know about him, I spent almost 8-9 years working closely with him, as have many other people. Coming back to the question, AIM started with Malaysia. Raju Kamble ji was also a great story teller, he was charismatic, and he had a way to convey the stories. That’s what got more people organized, and he was a very genuine person. 


I recall him telling me how AIM started. He was in IISc in Bangalore when he became a BAMCEF cadre. That is also another very interesting story, about his training, that he shared about, that I will probably share a bit later. After that, he worked in various coveted positions in the central government. From there, he took off to Malaysia. That was his first country to go out and work. In Malaysia, to mobilize the people, what he used to do is firstly to understand what is out there in Malaysia, he used to go out with his roommate every weekend. He used to take him and go for a drive, just a car drive into the place where the laborers used to camp, there used to be many international laborers, and so Kamble saab used to go into such camps. Where the laborers away from their families in India, they used to be in camps like, all these laborers living in a ghetto kind of thing. Kamble saab used to go there every week and he used to try and find our people. It’s not just our people that were his focus, but he tried to study the labor history of Malaysia, what goes on with the labor, how our people came here. I think he probably had knowledge, but that was his way of getting information, first hand information. Not on any reading, not on any directive, just go out there. He said that in the beginning weeks even his roommate used to be fed up. ‘Man, come on man, I want to rest.’ He is like ‘No, come, let’s go. I will entertain you, I will tell you some stories.’ That’s how he used to make his roommate come with him. 


So he started documenting, he started maintaining a diary of that. He used to interview these laborers: ‘What part of India are you from? When did you come here?’ He used to collect all that information. What is their history? When did they get here? What happens to them now? Why are they living this life? Why do they not think of going back to India? What are the challenges? 


With that, another thought that crept into his mind was ‘Many of our people might have left India and they might have gone to so many countries, why not build a network of all our people? There will be people who are laborers, there will be people who are white collar. If we network all these people, we can create a very powerful base, a powerful institution that can help our brethren back home.’ Because, the people who are outside of the country, he felt that they are in a more powerful position than their brethren back home, and so, here they can probably do a little more to improve the situation back home, or do something for the Dalit cause. 


I think that was the beginning, and there were people around … because he was such a great networker, he already had a lot of network established in various countries, and he knew for a fact that our white collar people were there, based in so many countries. If we could build a network, then we could leverage our strength abroad, because we are in a powerful situation, we are in a more powerful situation than our people back home. This is how we might be able to sensitize the rest of the world, what is the Dalit problem, what is caste discrimination, how we are faring. He wanted to highlight the caste problems in India to the world, with the intention that there will be some day when we will make it so strong and our people will be so strong and our population will grow so strong that we would be able to do something very constructive and something compelling for the governments to take action against the caste discrimination.


Kuffir: He was in oil technologies, am I right? 


Amol: That is right, that is right.


Kuffir: He worked in Malaysia, then in the Gulf also, Middle East?


Amol: Yes, he worked in the Middle East. From Malaysia, he went to Italy, he worked in Italy for a couple of years. Then, from Italy, he went to Brunei, Then from Brunei I think he went to Oman. He mobilized in the Middle East, he created the Ambedkar International Mission there, and he also went to Japan I think. And then, he came to the US, then went to Canada, then came back to the US. I think he served in a lot of countries. In Europe, he worked in Italy I know for sure and one more country I think, but I’m not sure.


Kuffir: Since he left India, he never came back to work here?


Amol: No, but from what I hear from close aides, his next venture was to actively work in India.


Kuffir: So, how long since he left India? When did he first go to Malaysia? 80s? 90s?


Amol: I think he might have gone to Malaysia in the 80s.


Kuffir: There was this International Dalit Conference in Kuala Lumpur?


Amol: Yes, yes. He arranged the first ever international conference, in which Kanshiram was also invited and he also came.


Kuffir: Yes, he spoke and his speech there is very important.


Amol: Right, right.


Kuffir: He was organizing big even in his earliest days, he must have been in his 30s-40s. How did he attract so many people? Everywhere he went, he seems to have gathered people and gave them a certain sense of a mission. He was a charismatic personality, as you said.


Amol: Two important things, I feel. The number one thing was compassion. He was a compassionate man. No matter what the behavior or nature of a person, if he interacts with Raju Kamble … if you put a person of immense anger, and you lock him with Raju Kamble ji for one hour, that person will come out with compassion, love for everyone. There used to be instances when I used to counter him, when I used to question him. And this is like a child, questioning a person of high authority, why are you doing this? This sounds insane! Even to those questions, he used to give his ears, he used to listen carefully and he used to give his inputs just like he was talking to a very mature person. He will never disregard anyone, even if a child would question him, hey Raju Kamble ji, what you are doing is not correct, he would still interact with him as if this person is a mature person and talk to him accordingly in a very loving and compassionate way. 


Second quality is charisma. He had that charisma! The way he interacted, the way he talked, you listened to his speeches, the weight, his voice had weight, density, and warmth. The way he used to talk, it used to capture the audience. And the other thing is, he was down to earth. He never advertised what he did, he never advertised. He was all about listening, you tell me, I want to know about you, he was that kind of person. I recall when I met him for the first time, it was all about me. He was like, I am so glad that we are meeting, I have heard about you, thank you very much for making time, and then he started to listen. What do you do? What are your interests? When did you get here? He used to take interest in people. That’s why he was a people’s man. 


I remember the first time I met him … my memory is a little problematic here. Either I met him at Milind Avsarmole’s house in New Jersey or I met him in a sabha. Most likely I met him in a sabha, where I was at the very back …at that time, probably Bojja Tharakam was there, he was the chief guest I think, and some other dignitaries. And I was in the very last row. After the first round, it was a full day event, I think around 11:15 or so, we had our first break, and that’s when he came all the way to the back, where I was sitting. I never expected that to happen, I thought that maybe I will have to go and introduce myself. He came to me and introduced himself to me, “I am Raju Kamble. I am so glad to see all you students, what is your name?” 


I said “I am Amol Ragade… ” 


And he was like “Yes, I heard about you, I heard a lot about you.”

 So that is how he was. It was not only me, there were other students also. He talked to them, just like that. 

And his quality was, for any sabha, we used to have sessions from, say, starting at 9am .. he used to be the first person to reach the venue, with suitcases in his hands, full of books. When you visualize Raju Kamble, you can only visualize him with suitcases in his hands, big suitcases. 

People always used to say to him say jokingly, “You are a banjara, a wanderer.”

 And he used to say: “Well, I am a wanderer but I know where to go. And these are all books, Babasaheb’s books  … I only have the clothes on my body, these are all Babasaheb’s books.”

So, he used to bring those huge bags and empty them, distribute those books and go back and again next time you would see that …. 7:30 or 8 o’ clock he will arrive at the venue, no matter whoever comes or not, he will be there. And he will start doing things. He never used to  say anything to someone, like “hey, you take this thing there” or “you do this thing …” Because people used to see him in action, like this guy is putting chairs, table, the cloth, people used to go and join him. He never said “you do this, you do that.” And he was the person who used to leave after everyone left the venue. The first person to come and the last person to leave. 

And many times it happened, he was so passionate, he used to forget food, forget water, forget his medicines. I myself witnessed a couple of times when where there was no food for him and he was starved for the entire day, he did not even bother to get food. And in the night, a couple of instances where one, my friend, Siddharth Masde, took him around in the night hours in New York city, to find something to eat. Now, that program had so much delicious food, but this man is wandering in the night to have a  piece of something. Another incident is with me, again the same thing happened, there was no food, and we roamed around, there was nothing open. He said, “Well, you know what, I got an idea. My wife must have packed some biscuits in my bag, she knows how I am.” So he opened a bag, and there was a biscuit pack! He said, “Ok, my dinner is fixed.”

Anu: Amazing! But as Kuffir mentioned, he was an oil technologist holding high positions, these jobs would’ve been highly demanding. How did he balance that with this level of coordination and logistics of building the mission? How did he manage both?

Amol: I asked him this question. I asked him, how do you do it? Is it because you’re all into the mission … we were discussing Prof. Arun Kamble once, me and him, and I jumped on to him and asked.

He said: “Amol, I know where you’re going. Try to understand. I keep a balance, balance is very important. If you want to be a missionary, you have to be balanced, because, when you give everything into one thing, there are chances sometimes that you will be dejected, you will be depressed, people will do crazy things behind your back. And then if you’re depressed and if you have nothing to put your hands on, then you feel like you’re a lost cause. That situation should never happen. So always keep a balance.”


I used to ask him: “How do you do it? Keeping track of so many things, do all these events and then also do jobs?”


He said: ”I’m just able to do it. When I’m into something, I put my whole dedication into it. If 9-5 I’m working, I’m totally into that work, I’m very honest with my work. And after 5, I’m very honest with my mission. He said that, because now I’m now in a senior position, so even during my work hours, I’m able to do these things. I’m in a senior position, that gives me some leeway.” 


I recall, I used to call him even in office hours, if there were some arrangements to be made or I had some questions. I used to call him and ask him, and it was during business hours, sometimes he used to pick up and sometimes not, and then he would call me back in the next one hour or so, and would ask what I needed.


Anu: He never spoke a lot about his work, what he was doing, what kind of excellent contributions he was making to his professional field.


Amol:  He never bragged about it. But from what I’ve heard, and what I know, because he is in my LinkedIn profile, he had a very coveted post. And I think, even the money was extraordinary. But he never bragged about it. I know people who like to … there’s nothing wrong in it, but he never did.


Kuffir: As you said, he wanted to balance everything, never get angry, always listen to people. That seems a very Buddhist quality he learnt. It is not available to everyone. Everyone calls themselves Buddhist, but we don’t know how much they have imbibed these values, a very humane approach, to listen to someone. There is also this question of his quality of compassion. Everyone talks about it, not just you, other people also, that he used to help anyone, that he used to help a lot of people, with fees and all. Can you speak a little about how he used to help, especially the young?


Amol: His house was always open for anyone. He was in Richmond, Texas. You can stay there. He had a very big house which he bought and the first floor was all a library, just like Babasaheb, inspired by Babasaheb. If you see the library photos, it was a very big library, very big … you have to walk around to see those books. All the volumes and what not. He always said, my house is always open, anyone can come in any time. When it came to helping students, he was always giving man. If anyone needs something, then he would help the person. 


He always said, your help to your relatives is your personal thing. He used say,


“I know, we are from humble beginnings, humble backgrounds and our relatives are still in the darkness. So helping them out is your personal thing. It is your responsibility to help them. Plus you have to help your society, the people who you don’t know.”


I remember an incident when we had this pooling of money, so that some activities can be done in India. Once someone came with a proposal. He had a mechanism put in place, to do verification. What is that project, like offering micro loans to farmers or small businesses, or be it students. There should be a verification check, background check and follow ups. I recall one time someone came with a proposal, it was a very genuine proposal, only thing was that the person proposing happened to be related to it, which he came to know.


That’s when he told me, because I asked him personally, why didn’t we finance that thing? He told me very compassionately, “Amol, it so happened that that thing is related to someone. I feel that it is the responsibility of that person to support that initiative and not pool our organizations’ resources for that.” 


Kuffir: So the person who was asking for finance was related to someone in the committee? 


Amol: Yeah, those people were poor people. But, his principle was, we have to help our relatives, period. Our money, which we are collecting yearly, monthly, that is purely for someone who we don’t know, our Bahujan lot, our Dalit people, who we don’t know. And particularly those people who do not have anyone. They have no one to hold, they have no inspiration, no one to attribute to. Those are the people who we need to give this money to. That was his thing. When it came to even helping the students, that was one of the criteria he used to check. Is this student related to any of the people in the diaspora? Is the person’s relative in a good, coveted position? If so, why is he not helping? If he is not helping, OK, he probably would then make an exception, but some parameters he used to check.


The only thing is, accountability. He used to say that we have few resources, so we want to make optimal use of it, so It should only go to the people who are in dire need of it. He also stressed on accountability, so that anyone who is being helped with resources and money, that person should be able to pay back that money once he’s on his feet. So, that money can be used to help another deserving and needy student.


Kuffir: When did this actual program start, with AIM? It is mostly talked about in America, we know a little about the Middle East. But, how many years ago? In the 90s?


Amol: The Middle East I think it must have happened in the 90s. I don’t know much about the Middle East, but he used to talk about Brunei. We have Ambedkar International Mission in Brunei. We have in UAE, we have in Dubai, Oman also I think we have. His own brother is in Brunei, he is the President of AIM Brunei. That is all I know.


His style of working was, every unit was autonomous. So he used to create AIM and hand it over to the local population – Come on, now it is your thing, you have to handle it. People used to always check with him, if they needed any suggestions, but that never meant that people asked him before doing any activities. But there were some principles, he made sure that those things were not violated.


One thing I want to bring up, so I don’t forget … as a student when he was getting trained as a cadre in BAMCEF, his trainer or his mentor, I don’t remember his name… asked him and his friend this question:

“Listen, you’re on a very noble mission of the Ambedkarite movement. In the movement, it is all about giving. You’re not going to get anything. So, you have to clear up your mind on that front – you are not going to get anything, it is only about giving. That is number one. Second, when you give, you cannot expect anything. Unconditional. Now, you will say, I gave my entire life to the movement and now I have no recognition. People are not recognizing me, my efforts. This will also happen, you will not be recognized. When you’re alive, there is more chance that you’ll not be recognized. Maybe after your death, maybe people will give you some recognition, out of sympathy or whatnot. That is also not guaranteed. You will have to give time, you will have to give money, and you will have to sacrifice. So it is all about giving. You’re not going to be recognized in your lifetime. And after death, maybe, you will get some recognition. Are you still willing to get on this mission?” 


And Kamble Sir, “Without thinking for a minute or two, my friend and I looked at each other, we laughed a little, and said ‘Sir, we are in. We want to go on this mission.’”


That was probably back when they were young, college students and now when we’re talking about … Kamble saab, I think he passed away at 64. From the moment I worked with him till his demise, I have seen that thing in every day of his life. No expectation. No receiving, only giving. And he used to say  “If I’m receiving something then I get alerted, man, we need to respect something.”


Anu: It’s very inspiring and so true. I can relate to this, very closely.


Amol: And the good thing is, he used to tell this laughing and … no dramatics, in a humorous way …


Kuffir: I had occasions to discuss similar things with few friends in the movement… when will we get money, when will we get rich? We will never get rich! That’s the way it’s going to be. Kamble sir gave more than what he got in life.


I have another question about how many organizations he helped grow. There are a lot of organizations, even if they are not formal organizations. Many discussion groups plus scholarship groups, other groups which help Dalit students there. And many instances of him helping students in India, Mumbai, TISS, everywhere … can you think of specific initiatives and their names?


Anu: I’d like to add to that question – the organizational scope and scale of what he has done at a global level, and that whole legacy how he created it, if we have time, I’d also like you to talk about that whole legacy, where it is now. If you could walk us through the range and depth of the mission as it came about.


Amol: I think ANA (Ambedkar Association of North America), Boston Study Group, Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas. These are a few organizations that he inspired. Globally, AIM is in operation in around 20 plus.


Anu: 20 different countries?


Amol: Yeah, yeah. That too he was never dramatic in saying all this. I used to asked him, Kamble sahab, the people in different countries, they don’t even acknowledge that they are Dalit, how do you even expect that they will work for AIM and they will open AIM centers there and start functioning?” He used to laugh and say “You’re right, there are people who don’t take me seriously. Before meeting, if I tell them, they will probably be like “Who is he?” and whatnot.” So, he said, when he used to go and meet them, he first used to always listen to them, and he used to say that ”Then somewhere I used to add, there is this Ambedkar International Mission, we are organizing these activities, helping students … People used to question like, “What is going to happen with this? Who is going to take you seriously?” He used to laughingly say that “That’s a good question. So far I have been able to do it in so many countries.”


KuffirI’ve got a little bit of information from an article in Round Table India, this is written by someone from Rourkela. He [Raju Kamble] helped run a free educational coaching center there, in Odisha. Ambedkar Shiksha Vihar, in the year 1998-2000. He helped a lot of poor ST students and they are acknowledging him now, when he passed away. Ambedkar Shiksha Vihar, somewhere in Rourkela, Odisha, there are other organizations that are also named, which are in the US. Of course, Naga Loka is mentioned, Ambedkar Educational Center, Friends For India’s Education, International Convention on Dalit Human Rights, India Solidarity, Boston Study Group, Federation of Ambedkarite Buddhist Organizations. He had of course, started Ambedkar Memorial Lecture, in Colombia University.


Amol: even the unfinished legacy … what Brandeis University started, the early seeds were laid by Raju Kamble … the initial communication and all that. That is what he told me. Yes, all these organizations, I don’t remember all of them from the top of my head.


Kuffir: These are big, small, very informal, all of it, all of them constituted of volunteers. This Odisha student from 1998-2000, now they must be employed in some mid-level position. They are thinking of it and they must have also got the seed of helping, paying back. This is the effect of a true leader, in some ways, who effaces himself to create more leaders.


Amol: He was always about creating leaders. He used to give opportunities to new people in very big events. Young people, any newcomer, he used to give them the stage. I think that was the leader making quality that he had. He always used to say, be and act like a missionary. 


I recall he used to ask me to call people for some events. The very first Dhamma Chakra Parivartan Din in Boston, that happened in my house, because Raju Kamble asked me. He called just 2 days ahead, it was a working day, around 2pm he called me on my cell and ..


“Amol, what is happening?”


“Nothing, I am at work.”


He said “Ok, we want to do Dhamma Chakra Parivartan Din.”


I was like “Ok, fine, we’ll do.”


He said “Yeah, but we are doing it in Boston.”


“Fantastic!” I said.


He said, “We are doing it at your place!”


I was a bachelor then, and I used to live with a brahmin roommate. I told him, Kamble sahab, 

“OK, I don’t know how? How can I do it?”


He’s like, “You don’t worry. Can we do it or not?”


“That’s what I’m asking, how can I do it?”


He said “OK, how many people can sit in your apartment?”


I said “There can be 10-15 people.”


“Oh then yeah, that works.”


“I can arrange for a bigger room. There is a community center in my apartment. We can use that.”


“Fantastic!” he said.


“How are we going to go about the logistics?”


He’s like, “See, we’ll order some pizza and cold drinks, that’s it. I will arrange for some speakers, I have a list of people, we can call them and ask them to come.”


I said, “Kamble saab, within 2 days time, who will come?”


‘OK, if not two days, then maybe next week, at least let’s get started.’


My parents were there, fortunately, and my mom was able to cook for them. When I told my parents that we’re celebrating the first Buddha Pournima in Boston and that it is going to happen here. They said, OK, then we’ll have to arrange for food. I said we’ll get pizzas. But mom said no, I will cook. I said, we don’t know how many people will turn up. My mom has arthritis. She cannot stand for long in the kitchen. That same evening, on my way home, I spoke to 4-5 people and they said they can come. I told her at least 4-5 people are coming. My mom said let there be 100 people, I will cook! Kamble saab also reached out to people. We had around 15-18 people. 


So, this was the mode of operation he had. He used to say, “If you want to network people, you have to call them, you have to check with them, you have to follow up with them, how they’re doing. If you want people to mobilize and if you want them to turn out to our events, we have to take interest in them. That is how missionaries do, and that is how we have to do. Call people, say hi, hello, and try to find out what they are up to. Sometimes, you might get a sense of whether they would turn up or no or what’s going on with them, but always be in touch.”


I used to tell him “Kamble sahab, sometimes people don’t even pick up the call! I kept on trying.” 


He said “Amol, keep trying. They will pick up your call, they will pick up.”


I am like “Come on man, I don’t want to just irritate someone.”


He said “No no, you don’t have to do it every day. If there is an event, call them, email them, that’s it, write 2-3 lines, that’s fine. They will revert back.” 


And I’ve experienced that. People revert. I’ve had people reverting after 7 years! But they did revert. I consistently kept on emailing them. After 7 years they reverted back, he said ‘Amol, this is where I am, this is my new number, let’s speak.’ So this is how he invested in people. He said, never lose hope. No matter what, never lose hope, always work with people. If you want people to participate, to network, this is how we have to do it, it is a long process. Some people will come sooner, some will come later, we need everyone of them, we need everyone. And of course, we don’t want to bother people. Sometimes people need their own space, sometimes tehy want to be away from everything. That’s fine, give them their space. Let them come when they are ready. That’s what he used to say.


Kuffir: I am seeing the first Ambedkar Convention was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998. And then in 2011. In Paris in 2014. There was a conference scheduled in Japan in 2018.


Amol: Yes, which he could not attend because he passed away. But he worked tirelessly with Buraku people. From what I know from interactions with him, he spent, I think, 6-7 years with Buraku people. For people it might look like, OK, the Buraku people also participated. But for that to happen, it took him 6-7 years, he was constantly in touch with them. He said that, my biggest challenge was that these people did not speak English, only Japanese. So I had to seek an intermediary who was acceptable to them. And they will only speak to him, they will not speak to anyone else. Now, working with that intermediary and him working with the Buraku, there used to be a lot of time gaps. But he said, I kept working consistently, and that is how it took him 6-7 years, for a very free flow communication. And there came a time when Buraku had their own person who could speak English and then they communicated directly. Because Buraku were not ready for engaging. I feel they work a little discreetly, I don;t know for what reasons. But yeah, Raju Kamble won their confidence.


So, that is another example. He used to invest, short term, mid term, long term, and keep on doing, keep on doing. And that’s not just with the Buraku, he used to work with Black community here, the Black churches here, and work with them to find the Black-Dalit solidarity. With the Black thinkers, like Prof. Cornel West and people like that. 


That is what his mission was. One I day just asked him … as I was saying earlier, even if a kid asked him anything stupid, he would still answer compassionately. So, that was one of my stupid questions:

“Kamble sahab, I don’t see a mission. Where is the mission? What is the mission? OK, we are organizing these events and everything, but what is the mission?”


So he said, “This international network and sensitizing the rest of the world to the Dalit cause, that is the mission. That is the mission that I’ve begun with. That is also one of the many fronts that needs to be built and worked on.”


Kuffir: He helped in building chapters of AIM in US, Canada, Japan, Middle East, all across which you already mentioned, but also seems to have networked with the universities there. Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture started in 2009 in Columbia. How did he manage that, because he was not anywhere, during his work or otherwise, connected with academia. How did he convince them to organize this lecture every year?


Amol: He used to continuously write to people, he used to email professors and activists. He used to always be in touch with them. His work on the ground, that added credibility for these people to engage with him. That is how he did it.


He was like a genie! You scrub the lamp and the genie appears! He will appear anywhere. When someone is even thinking, how do I plan this trip to Texas, how to plan? The next moment you will see, Kamble sahab is in front of you. That’s why this analogy, you scrub it and he will be there.


In 2009 you mentioned the Ambedkar Memorial lecture, he was in Vancouver, Canada. The way he used to fly, let’s say, tomorrow is the event. If he sits on the plane today … Of course, he used to buy plane tickets that were economical … but if at all there is emergency, he would hesitate to pour money to buy first class, to just be on time. What happens when you try to economize, you end up, sometimes, on longer routes, where the journey has too many hops. I remember many times … one of the incidents I remember clearly, he reached one of our activist’s house at around 2:30am in the morning, and he might have started around, I think, 2:30pm. That is like 12 hours of travel for him. 2:30am he reaches, and he is as fresh, as fresh as someone who woke up from a good sleep, took a shower, he is ready and ready to deliver the lecture. As fresh as that! Always excited, enthusiastic! 


Someone brought him home, and he knocks on the door: “Jai Bhim!!!”


We were done for the day, thinking, come man, let’s go to sleep. So, he came, and I was myself thinking that he will probably get refreshed, change his clothes and go to sleep. Because we have to go to the venue at 8am in the morning. 


Kamble sahab is like, “Come on, discussion karna hai?” 


We were looking at each other like, “Abhi discussion karna hai?”


Someone said, Kamble sahab, maybe we can talk for half hour, 1 hour. We also need sleep because the event is going to start in few hours, and you also need sleep. 


He said, “Oh yeah, yeah, if someone needs sleep, we can sleep, but don’t worry about me. I am fresh, I’ve had enough sleep on the plane, I am fresh”


That discussion went on and we slept at like 5:30am. 


We were still sleeping and Kamble sahab is ready, showered and ready, at 7am sharp he is ready to go. When I woke up and saw him, he said, “No, no, no, sleep, sleep. I am going ahead. We have two more hours, you can come later.”


Kamble sahab went with 2-3 people and he did all the setup. We were sleeping till 8:30am or so and went later. That was the first encounter, when that happened, it was new to me … What is this man?! … but then later, it was a regular thing.


He had wheels in his feet. I remember one of the events, when Gurinder was here. I think he had 5 days of continuous programs, and then he arrived here in Boston. I picked him up at the airport, we came home at 10:30pm, till morning 3:30am we were discussing. And that day we had the unfinished legacy lecture and he had to make the opening remarks. That was at 8:30am, and he gets ready at 7am, all in suit and everything. 


He said to me, “Amol, you can drop me. You can come back and rest, you can come whenever you feel like. But I’ll have to go, because it won’t look good.”


Anu: Simply amazing! We’ll stop for now. I think we need to do several of these. 


Amol: Yes, there are many more things to share.



This interview was transcribed by Sundeep Pattem


Photo courtesy: AIM facebook page.