His is truly a case of landing up where his heart wanted him to be. And so, while we may want to imagine that to be Chairman of Gujarat Rajya Sangeet Natak Academy, Yogesh Gadhvi’s life would have been all about song and play, and quite literally, it wasn’t so. At 47, he won’t say he spent his life recite poetry to an audience, sing daayro or perform in plays until he took charge as Chairman of this coveted post. Ironically, when he took over the seat, it had been lying vacant for 13 long years. “I was given charge by Shri Narendra Modi,” he tells me, elaborating on how fit the post has been for him and vice versa.
For one to be born in a family where daayro and varied forms of poetry are written, recited and celebrated, Gadhvi was always an inclined and involved learner. And, the one whose poetry he has recited the maximum number of times, has been his grandfather Shivdanji Gadhvi’s, “but I never saw him since he passed away before my birth”. Nonetheless, in the course of our talk, I gather he has had maximum impact from verses his grandfather wrote. His thought process is moulded by the words he penned. And his reasoning and oratory skills, too, come from having read, many times over, and recited lines written by him. Lines that were fated to reach the masses, one day, by the grandson he never saw.
Hailing from Surendranagar, Shivdanji was Muli State poet. “We were known as raaj kavi…kaavya, gaana, yeh sab maine dekha tha bachpan se…,” says Gadhvi, who lived in Surendranagar till he completed high school. Thereafter, life pushed him into opposite direction. “I went to pursue Diploma in Civil Engineering from Adipur, Kutch, because my father wanted me to be an engineer. I was good in science, in drawing, but more than studies I was inclined towards arts and culture,” he says, recalling how as a four-year-old, he sang on the very first day of school. No stage fear even then? “From the time I remember my existence, I was never shy. I have always been fearless. Poetry, public speaking, debates, these are part of my life. However, I am the first in seven generations who never wrote poetry. But, I was convinced I’d take what is already written by my elders, to the masses. My father and grandfather wrote on causes – social, academic and religious. Like, I remember my father wrote a poetry ‘Bharat na veer rann ae chadhya’…I often recite it on public occasions or when I need to talk about our country. I recited it for the first time when I was 10. Come to think of it, I grew up hearing about my grandfather and that has had a great impact in the way I shaped up. His writing shaped me, his thoughts I absorbed,” says Gadhvi.
“Ek chaaran kavit hai,” he says, after a thoughtful pause, “it’s a poetry about life skills, about the fine qualities a human being must possess, about characteristics one must have if desirous of God’s presence and grace in one’s life. I was 11 when I read and absorbed the poem and its central idea within.”
As he passionately talks about literature, philosophy and poetry, I wonder what made him take up engineering, and later, a fire brigade officer course. I ask that point blank and excusing his serious demeanour, he says, “I joined engineering only for my father but two years hence gave it up and headed for National Fire Service College in Nagpur! Life there was another contrast – rules, regulations, uniform, salutations. I secured 75 per cent marks and thought I’d become a fire brigade officer in a big city but landed up in Vapi GIDC as a fire officer in 1991. I ruffled many a feather during my tenure but stuck to what was right. I also continued to read a lot and listen to music. I would participate in competitions and win. I would write my thoughts in a daily diary – who I met, what I felt, etc. Around four years hence when I was fire officer in Ukai, I left it all and decided to come to Ahmedabad. My father again asked me what I would do and all I knew was I would now do only what I genuinely felt like. That was somewhere a start to what lay in store for me,” says Gadhvi, who remained fearless and decisive about following his heart, “at least this time around”.
…to be continued. Part 2 to be published on July 15, 2016.
Photographs : Aneri Nihalani
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