The first time I met Shri Laxmanraoji Bhide was in 1975. I left my job as Head of the dept. of mathematics, N.B.K.R.College, Nellore Dt.(A.P.) and went to Kenya as an expatriate teacher in October 1974. I was posted in Mombasa. I stayed with my family as a tenant in the house of Shri Premchandbhai Shah (present Sanghachalak of Mombasa). One fine morning Shri Bhideji came to my house, calling me by name from outside the house. Probably he must have been informed by Sangh Adhikaries in Nairobi that I had been a Sangh Karyakarta in Bharat and had been taking active part in BSS activities since my arrival in Kenya. We had a hearty talk for a long time. Even though I have been a swayamsevak since 1943, a pracharak for two years (1951-1953), I did not have the opportunity to meet Shri Bhideji before, because all my Sangh activity was confined to coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh only.
After reaching Kenya I had the good fortune of being a colleague of Shri Jagdish Mitra Sood, who was working in the same Agakhan Highschool, Mombasa, for about nine months, until he left for UK to organise the Friends of India Society International during the infamous emergency days. Jagdishji advised me to give a rebirth to 'Amar Bharati' which had ceased to be published since 1966. Before that, it used to be published off and on, on occasions, since 1956 or so. I readily and happily agreed and the first issue came out in January 1975 from Mombasa and since then it has never looked back. The issues during the early period used to consist of two or three sheets of cyclo-styled sheets of paper, published monthly. Shri Surendra Punja Shah (present UK Sahkaryavaha) used to cut the stencil and also duplicate, for the material supplied by me. Shri Bhideji appreciated the rebirth of Amar Bharati and also its contents. Especially , in a number of earlier issues, the meaning and relevant explanation was given to all the shlokas of 'Pratah Smaranam'. He advised me to shape the Amar Bharati making it more informative and inspiring especially to Sangh Karyakartas.***
All through my stay in Mombasa (Kenya), I used to get valuable advice in discharging my duties as Mukhya Shikshak /Karyavaha / Sanghachalak of Mombasa Shahkha of BSS. In August 1985, I left Kenya with the intention of settling down in Bharat. My eldest son, Shri Balendu Sekhar Agasthyaraju, continued to stay alone in Mombasa even after I left Kenya. He retained the flat under him, where our family used to stay. When Shri Bhideji visited Mombasa, some times he used to stay in that house during daytime, when my son went out for work.
Shri Bhideji by nature is very soft spoken. He used to encourage young karyakartas with his sweet talk or through correspondence when the concerned person was away. He used to guide and advise them properly.***
After returning to Bharat, I became the principal of Sri Vijnana Vihara English Medium School, Enikepadu (suburb of Vijayawada, A.P.), affiliated to Vidya Bharati. Shri Bhideji used to keep me in contact, even though I left Kenya for good (as I thought then). [A copy of the letter written by Shri Bhideji on 14-6-1987 is enclosed.]
In March 1990, Shri Bhideji came on a tour of Andhra Pradesh. Our school had the good fortune of welcoming Shri Bhideji. Sri Vijnana Vihara has two branches one in Enikepadu and the other in Satyanaryanapuram (a part of Vijayawada), both being English medium. Shri Bhideji addressed the students and the staff of both the schools, which was attended by all the members of the managing committee also. [A group photo of the members of the managing committee and the staff with Shri Bhideji is enclosed.]***
In September 1991 I returned to Kenya, this time as a dependent of my son, Sekhar, and stayed with him in Mombasa. In February 1 993, a three day 'Delegates Conference' of managing committee members of Hindu organisations from all over Kenya was organised by Hindu Council of Kenya (Mombasa branch), of which I was the secretary at that time.
Shri Bhideji, Shri Jayantibhai Chheda and a good team of National HCK from Nairobi, attended that conference. Shri Bhideji addressed the delegates inspiring them to work hard. The conference having completed on 28th February, the Nairobi team boarded the plane to return to Nairobi, when all of a sudden Shri Jayantibhai collapsed and died in the plane itself.
Shri Bhideji was by his side and it was a great shock to him. Shri Jayantibhai (Kenya karyavaha) was the moving spirit to see that HCK run on sound lines. He was unique and unassuming and his loss could not be made good easily.
In June 1993, my wife expired and I decided to lead a life of Vanaprastha and to devote my time to the study of Sanskrit, Sangh or any activity of Hindu sanghatan.
In December 1993, my son shifted to Nairobi and I too shifted to Nairobi along with him. The publication of 'Amar Bharati' has continued from Nairobi since 1980. It has settled down as a printed quarterly in book-form of forty pages.
Shri Chaganbhai Visaria with the help of Shri Bhupat Shah (presently in Sydney, Australia) and Shri Rasikbhai Bhat, used to bring it out. In January 1994, Shri Bhideji asked me to be the editor of 'Amar Bharati' and shape it better.
He also asked me to help smt. Vasudha Dharmadhikari in producing text books for Hindu Religious Education in Kenyan schools. I agreed to do both. The April 1994 issue of Amar Bharati came out under my editorship. Since then I have been discharging that responsibility till today.***
Smt. Vasudha Dharmadhaikari was a lecturer for Hindu religion in KIE (Kenya Institute of Education). She was having a lot of material collected in seminars and workshops on HRE. The material has to be edited, sifted, discarded or rewritten before accepting to put in textbooks, which are to be written according to syllabus.
I did it as editor while contributing on certain topics. Presently text books for standards 6,7 and 8 and Teachers' Guide for standards 1,2,3 and 4 have been printed with the monetary help of Hindu Council of Kenya and published by KIE. The text book for standard 5 is in the process of getting printed.***
Shri Bhideji has a nice way of provoking people to think and go deep into the matter. In 1994, I was also in-charge of the Sangh library. One day I was doing some work in the library and Shri Bhideji was writing something sitting at the table. He put me one question. "In Bhagawad Geeta, Shri Krishna said to Arjuna, 'Being pleased with you, I have shown you the Vishwa Roopa, which none else had seen before.' But Sanjaya also saw that and informed to Dhritarashtra. How can it be explained?" I answered, "Perhaps it might be that Arjuna had seen and realised the full import, whereas Sanjaya had just seen it, I think."***
Shri Bhideji used to remember and expect others to remember and recognise the contribution of our workers who had passed away. On the first death anniversary of Shri Jayantibhai Chheda, he wrote an article on him captioned "This was Shri Jayantibhai Chheda - Let us remember him", which was published in April 1994 issue of Amar Bharati.
He had very cordial relationship not only with karyakartas but also with all the members of the families of karyakartas. Every family used to feel that Bhideji was the respected elder of that family. Whenever he was in Nairobi, and if there is an auspicious occasion in a family, he used to visit and bless the members of the family. If any sad event occurred, he would invariably go there to comfort and console the affected members of the family. Shri Bhideji can be rightly described as Ajatashatru. *** Article by A E Purshottam Rao