Like you, Modiji, my Sanskrit and Hindi tutor was a member of the RSS. He would put on his khaki shorts and go for lathi practice. He would also turn up, unfailingly, for Id dinners at our place, pointing out that he only ate at the houses of old Muslim families as they knew the value of cleanliness and hospitality. He would add that he could hardly eat with most Hindu families either, because “people have forgotten the old ways and only picked up the worst of the new ones”.
He was, unlike you, a Brahmin, but, like you, he did not believe in untouchability—I gradually learnt to admire his struggle against it and his inherited prejudices. He believed in a larger thing that he called mostly ‘Bharat’, but sometimes also ‘Hindustan’ or ‘India’. We knew him by his pen-name, for he wrote poetry in Hindi: Sainikji.
Sainikji did take care not to let our vessels touch his lips, pouring water down his gullet from a slight distance, and tossing mutton shami-kababs into his mouth with unerring accuracy. As long as he was alive, I visited him during my vacations at Gaya, just as I visited the other two teachers—both unsparingly dismissive of RSS ideology—who had left an impression on me. As long as I was in Gaya, my brother and I would go to Sainikji’s place for Diwali and Holi. Much of the Kalidas, Surdas, Meerabai and, above all, Kabir that I have, I owe to him.