Pu La had once said that the three most loved personalities in Maharashtra are Shivaji Maharaj, Lokmanya Tilak and Balgandharva. I will add Pu La to that list.
Many of his great classics are available in audio/video formats, and two generations of Marathi Speakers got introduced to him and fell in love with him because of the audio/video media. My first introduction to Pu La was listening to ‘Mhais’, when I was 7-8 years old…many years before I got to the ‘Vyakti Ani Valli’ book.
Recently, I came across a recording set of some of his speeches from 1970s and 80s. Till date, these are the best Pu La recordings I have listened to! The reason why I say this is that, these speeches give a great insight into Pu La as a person. Glimpses of his thoughts are available throughout his famous works, but his speeches convey his ideas, his beliefs, his passion, in a much sharper and clearer fashion.
His respect and intense love of music and arts, his views on blind faith and religion, his love for all languages (not just Marathi), his genuine appreciation of new talent, his irreverent views on politics, his mentoring, his flexibility in moving on with new times and technologies, his views on philanthropy…it is a long list.
I will highly recommend all Pu La fans to listen to these speeches. Some of them are available in a CD Collection (‘Bahu Rupi Pu La Deshpande’)..available in book stores and online. This set includes 7-8 speeches: Brihan Maharashtra Mandal New Jersey 1987 Keynote, Felicitating the Cast & Crew of the Play ‘Vastraharan’ on the occasion of their 175th performance, His talk at the publication of the translation of some of his works in Kannada, and some others.
I was also able find one of his speeches on YouTube (see link above). It is an amazing speech that he delivered at the 74th birthday of renowned music teacher Prof B.R. Deodhar. (Note, Prof Deodhar studied under Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, and his disciples included Kumar Gandharva).
Let me leave you with one of Pu La’s great quotes:
“आयुष्यात मला भावलेलं एक गुज सांगतो. उपजिविकेसाठी आवश्यक असणाऱ्या विषयाचं शिक्षण जरुर घ्या. पोटापाण्याचा उद्योग जिद्दीनं करा, पण एवढ्यावरच थांबू नका. साहित्य, चित्र, संगीत, नाट्य, शिल्प, खेळ ह्यांतल्या एखाद्या तरी कलेशी मैत्री जमवा. पोटापाण्याचा उद्योग तुम्हाला जगवील, पण कलेशी जमलेली मैत्री तुम्ही का जगायचं हे सांगून जाईल. – पु. ल. ”
The 138th edition of ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series) starts this Saturday April 21 and will go on for a month at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Pune. I had written an article of this great tradition last year and I am reproducing a version of that here. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series, at the end of this article. Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! This year’s speakers include Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, Dr. Abhay Bang, Union Agri Minister Sharad Pawar, Journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, National Award Winning Singer Anand Bhate and many others. I attended nearly half of the around 30 lectures last year and they were all great.
In recent years, TED and TEDx events are getting quite popular. They do a great job of presenting ideas from various experts and thought leaders. The first TED India event was very well received and many TEDx events have been held in various cities in India over the past year.
But did you know that an event similar in concept, but covering a broader range of topics, has been going on in Pune for 136 years! The great tradition of the ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (translation: ‘Spring Lecture Series’) was started by Justice M.G. Ranade in 1875. The idea was to present a variety of lectures, across various topics to the people. In those days, newspapers were in their infancy (Kesari had not yet started) and live lectures were the most effective medium for knowledge transfer.
Since the 18th century Peshwa era, Pune has always been a center of knowledge and education. Post the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818, Pune city witnessed a tough period lasting for a few decades. The city’s economy was in shambles. Many scholars and learned experts left the city. Things started to improve towards the later half of the 19th century, under visionary leaders such as Justice Ranade (and later on Lokmanya Tilak).
Ranade, Tilak and other leaders of that period clearly saw the value of ‘Information’. The citizens had to be educated and informed. The Vasant Vyankhyanmala initiative was born out of the need to disseminate information and create awareness. Justice Ranade delivered the first lecture in 1875 in English. Over the years though, most lectures have been delivered in Marathi. Through its rich 137 year history, there have been very rare occasions, where the series had to be cancelled. For many years, the Vasant Vyankhyanmala was held at Hirabag and Belbag. It has been held at its present venue – Tilak Smarak Mandir, for many decades. Today, this series covers wide ranging topics such as Culture, Arts, Economics, Science, Health, Governance, History, etc.
While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it. The event format and the organization was very good. The only negative in my view was the number of attendees (probably less than 500). In the pre-independence era, 1000s attended these lectures. Today, there are many other media sources for getting information, but an informative and thought-provoking live lecture is still a very powerful source. If you are in Pune, you should definitely try and attend at least some of these lectures, over the next 3 weeks. The lectures are virtually free to attend (Single lecture ticket costs Rs 5 and the season ticket is Rs 100).
There is a need to get the word out regarding Vasant Vyakhyanmala. More media publicity and social media presence will definitely help. I do hope that in the next few years, this great tradition that started in 1875 will continue to thrive, and reach much bigger audiences.