Book: ‘Dr. Ambedkar’s Love for Buddhism and his Love for Books’
Author: Dr. K. Veeramani
Publisher: Dravidar Kazhagam,
Periyar Thidal, Vepery, Chennai – 600 007.
Pages: 80 Price: Rs.50/-
Asiriyar K.Veeramani, has managed to pack tons of material into this deceptively brief looking Tamil book whose title can be translated into English as “Dr. Ambedkar’s Love for Buddhism and his Love for Books”. The first part of the book deals extensively with how Hinduism drove this illustrious son of India out of its fold and why he chose Buddhism. The fourfold graded hierarchy of varnasrama, the foundation on which Hinduism stands, scorches the very thinking process of its members, by which none of them enjoys freedom. Yet, those who are at the lowest stage are to carry the cross of untouchability which prevents them even from being in the neighbourhood of the so called caste Hindus. How can equality and self respect prevail among them, asks Ambedkar with considerable anguish. If one were to form a line of the cruellest people on the earth, the Hindus will be in the front, two feet ahead of the rest, he asserts.
He avowed that having been born a Hindu he would not die as a Hindu. He chooses Buddhism as his refuge after a lot of thinking and sifting of facts, because it is the only religion which is based on the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity as enunciated in the great Master’s teachings. Not being satisfied with that he took a vow of twenty two undertakings along with all those who embraced Buddhism with him.
Though there were no frequent meetings between Dr. Ambedkar and Thanthai Periyar there was a total understanding between them since they thought alike as far as Hinduism was concerned which both of them considered evil. Dr. Ambedkar has a great admiration for Periyar’s war against untouchability like the Vaikom Satyagraha.
Both the leaders were sure that untouchability cannot be removed by any medication but required surgery. The historic speech prepared by Dr. Ambedkar on ‘Annihilation of Caste’ in 1934 which he was not able to deliver, found the light of the day through Periyar’s ‘Kudi Arasu’ (in Tamil translation) and later was published as a look.
Periyar welcomed the former’s move to join the Buddhist fold; only he advised him to be the last to do so, after sending all his followers to the other side. Their togetherness during the World Buddhist Conference (1954) in Mianmar helped them exchanges ideas regarding this when Periyar welcomed the idea.
Once when his friend and disciple Namdeo Nimgade met Dr. Amedbkar, the doctor looked somewhat shocked. The reason was that the previous day his car was almost caught in a serious accident, but he had escaped owing to the care of his chauffeur. ‘Suppose I had died yesterday, I would have died a Hindu’, added Dr. Ambedkar. He was not worried about dying as such but did not want to die as a Hindu.
The second part of the book, by supplying a number of snippets, gives us an idea of Dr. Ambedkar’s insatiable love for books. We come to know, through statements made by those who were near him, that he had consumed almost entire libraries. That is why he could comment on any topic under the sun.
One U.R.Rao, who was editor in Thacker and Co. that published the doctor’s books, used to say that instead of receiving his royalty amounts he would buy a number of books instead, in spite of his being not so affluent. There has been an occasion when he purchased an entire library at the wholesale price.
Devi Dayal, who was his attendant, says that no one knew when he went to sleep each night. When he did, he slept with a few books near him so that he could lay his hands on anyone of them at any time. Did he not get tired of reading, making some rest necessary? Ambedkar’s reply was when he needed rest, he would not stop reading but take another book on another subject and start reading it. While narrating this incident, the author Dr.K.Veeramani says that has been his habit too, for long, and it has been rewarding in the sense that he could spend every minute of his time usefully, particularly when he was travelling long distance.
Once when Dr. Ambedkar needed a reference book, he could not locate it in any library in India. He contacted a student at Columbia University, US, his alma mater, and asked the young man to locate it for him. When the student, after searching for a while, could not locate it, Dr. Ambedkar was able to guide him, from India through telephone, to the corner where the book could be found.
Once when he complained of unbearable pains in his leg, he just took a book and lost himself in it, forgetting his pain altogether. There are ever so many instances which bear witness to Dr. Ambedkar’s phenomenal love for books.
In his preface, the author exhorts the young men to cultivate love for books and reading habit which would guide them in their life. He further quotes the Kural which enjoins people to read and learn with clarity and follow the path shown by them. The way in which he has presented facts in this work, will certainly allure the young readers towards the world of books.