Sharadrao Pawar was born on 12 December 1940 in a farmer’s family at Baramati, Pune. Govindrao and Sharadabai were his parents. His ancestors hailed from Nanaval, a village in Satara district, Maharashtra. Govindrao was tall, robust, well built and a little hot-tempered but a resolute person. He had a little schooling up to standard VII in those days. It was then identified as Vernacular Final. Nevertheless, his way of life was based on the principle: ‘Simple living and high thinking’. He served as an official in a co-operative society at Baramati along with farming. The job provided him with financial stability in life. Interest in reading had been developed since his school days. As a result, the principles of humanism and equality nourished his body and mind. His mindset was leaning towards leftist ideology and so he began to take interest in socialism. The ideology of Mahatma Phule’s Satya Shodhak Samaj had a deeper impact on him. He was a sincere and diligent activist; his consistent hard work made him a person of substance in the co-operative movement of his times.
As a result, he was soon identified as an ideal and major activist of the movement. Hard work, sincerity and his frugal temperament played an important role in improving his financial position. He purchased some farmland at Katewadi near Baramati, as he loved farming. Govindrao knew well the significance of education in human life as he was under impact of reformist and progressive ideology. He had an overwhelming feeling that education must be taken to the masses of Bahujan society. Karmveer Bhaurao Patil, the father of Rayat Shikshan Sanstha was working hard for the education of the masses and his work had assumed considerable momentum in those days. Bhaurao Patil would often visit Baramati for his holy mission of education. Since Govindrao respected Bhaurao’s work, Bhaurao preferred to stay at Govindrao’s residence in Baramati. Govindrao was under impact of Bhaurao’s work.
So, he suggested to him that he should start a school in Baramati. Shree Shahu High School thus came into existence as Bhaurao too respected Govindrao’s request. The contributions of Govindrao in the expansion of education in the Baramati region were remarkable and Govindrao took the initiative efforts. Sharadabai was also educated up to standard VII. Both Govindrao and Sharadabai worked hard and gave education to their children. Their efforts turned their children in growing as sensitive human beings. Govindrao not only looked after his children’s education but he had an overwhelming desire to provide educational opportunities to children from the Bahujan communities. The assumption that education can make individuals wiser inspired Govindrao to 38 participate in the missionary work of Rayat Shikshan Sanstha and his contributions in this direction were significant. Govindrao was a leader of progressive thoughts; he believed in women liberation and equality. He followed the principle of equality in his life like the maxim: ‘Practise what you preach’. He did not make discrimination between sons and daughters.
On the other hand, he provided them with equal opportunities of education and allowed them to choose their career as per their own interests. Govindrao’s implementation of equality-principle in his personal life was considerably profound in the Bahujan community considering the social situation of his times. He produced social ideals of women liberation and equality, set down new standards, and led to social change and transformation in the Bahujan community of his times. The impact of Satya Shodhak Samaj and companionship of Karmveer Bhaurao Patil while in participation of educational work made Govindrao allow his wife Sharadabai to work in varied fields of activity. He also took his wife to attend public programmes of social significance. Women were not given any freedom in a Maratha farming family in those days. But Govindrao was a man of progressive ideology, so he encouraged his wife to participate in social and political activities. Govindrao’s encouragement to his wife to participate in social, political and public life and his sons and daughters seeking higher education was not approved by the conservatives and orthodoxy. Nevertheless, Govindrao never came under the influence of what people might say about him. He was unaffected and followed his ideology resolutely. The great Marathi poet Tukaram says in one of his abhangas: sa%ya Asa%yaaXaI mana kolao gvaahI | maainayalao naahI bahumata || I am a witness to Truth and Falsehood| So I do not bother what majority says || Govindrao was firm in his ideological commitment all his life.
Sharadrao was fortunate enough to have a father who was modern and believed in progressive and constructive ideology. Sharadabai, Sharadrao Pawar’s mother was culturally an enriched person. She was a woman of progressive thoughts and idealism and she attempted to imbue modern culture in her children. She came from Kolhapur, the Bhosale family, her maternal home and settled down as a cultured daughter-in-law of the Pawar family at Katewadi in Baramati. As a cultured person, she not only enriched the Pawar family inculcating human values but she was responsible in nurturing these 39 values in the Baramati region. Sharadrao Pawar is held today at the highest position in several fields of life; the credit must be given to both of his father and mother. Govindrao stayed at Baramati because of his job and Sharadabai looked after the farming at Katewadi. The Pawar family was a joint family; the financial burden was obviously enormous. The income sources were meager and it was somehow possible to maintain the family expenses. It was difficult to hold the family expenses in Govindrao’s meager income and the farming.
However, the distinguishing difference between the Pawar family and the other farmers of the neighbouring region was obvious. The Pawars were known as an educated family, besides the cultural identity of the family, they were recognized for idealism. Sharadabai had a large share in changing the family identity of the Pawars in Baramati region. She knew well that education is the principal tool of human progress, so she was very cautious as far as her children’s education was concerned. She felt overwhelmingly that her children must become competent and must be able able to hold different responsibilities in their future life. She worked hard for it. She therefore took every possible care in this respect and provided everything for her children. Sharadabai’s hard work, motherly love, her virtuous kind nature and the children stories that she narrated to her son were enormously instrumental and useful in his future. Sharadabai was a modern woman; she believed in progressive ways of life. Govindrao was as well a man of progressive nature. So their marital life was obviously very happy.
The custom that women had to cover their faces with a piece of sari hanging around their shoulder was prevalent in the Maratha domestic culture. It was known as to take a Purda or Gunghat. Sharadabai refused to take such a Purda or Gunghat as she believed in reformist ideology. Both Sharadabai and Govindrao rejected such unnecessary social conventions that crushed freedom of women. This was a bold step and decision of the couple in those days. Sharadabai was bold and a woman of courage, so she did such things effortlessly and unhesitatingly. Govindrao too supported and encouraged her to follow a different path. The couple followed a revolutionary and ideological path, the idealism set down by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule. Sharadabai worked hard on the farm. She tilled the land, looked after every crop in the field and did the marketing of agricultural produce like an experienced and expert farmer. The farmers of the region admired Sharadabai for her contributions in the farming. She treated the workers on her field compassionately and looked after their every need. She would give them milk and buttermilk free of cost. She would make necessary arrangements when their children would fall ill or sick. Timely medical help provided for the needy and her helping nature made her a popular person in the region. She extended every possible help to the deprived. She was 40 like a motherly support especially to the needy women of the region. She was a frugal woman and was aware of the critical difficulties of financial situations she encountered in her life. Therefore, if one would waste anything, she would become angry and would not approve of such wastage. She would advise her children: }tU naka maatU naka | Gaotlaolaa maaNaUsakIca vasaa kiQahI TakU naka || Do not get ruined by lavish behaviour | And do not give up pledge of humanity || Her children followed this mantra of humanism all their life. Sharadabai was a different woman who believed in modernity and she would wish to do something new. She would work in equal capacity with Govindrao. In a local jaggery production event from sugarcane called gurhal, she would participate in every activity. She proved the better half of Govindrao and remained consistently with him in every situation of life. Sharadabai believed in the principle of equality; so she did not make any gender and caste discriminations. She would welcome every guest at home with respect and affection. A guest was like a godly figure to her. She had profound love for a landless labourer and farm worker. She was a practical woman. She had a keen sense of observation.
She was therefore able to resolve the family problems and difficulties with courage and confidence. Both Govindrao and Sharadabai did not believe in superstitions and stories of persons possessed and haunted by evil spirits and ghosts. They were rational and scientific by temperament. They showed people by staying at the so called ghost-haunted places that ghost-stories are mere heresy and profanation. They are fabricated stories spread among masses for several purposes. Thus, their own actions and behaviour provided their children with lessons of modernity and ideas of the new age. They convinced their children that education is the basis of progress and development in life. They gave them the message of struggle and conflict. The implication was that bad workmen blame their tools; such persons keep crying and shouting against others. However, they never imposed their views and opinions upon their children and they were given considerable freedom. Nevertheless, they advised the children: ‘Use your intellect untiringly. Struggle hard without getting frustrated to fulfill higher aims of life. Whatever achievements you attain in your life should be precious to you. This phase of your life is very important; it is a time when you need to lay down foundation of your life. See that you become wiser by accumulating knowledge from every sphere of life. Besides, you see that you bring your body, mind and intellect into use; that will enable to keep you fresh and vibrant. Moreover, it would help you to attain several 41 destinations of your life.’ These important tips carved a niche on their minds and they were extremely instrumental in their future lives. Sharadabai was a woman of discipline.
She took enormous efforts in disciplining her kids. She made her children attempt regularly their school-homework and physical exercises as well. They were given light farm work also. They were sent in surrounding region to sell vegetables; the purpose was to enable them to acquire practical wisdom of outside world. She taught them to live a life of contentment and self-help. She followed this principle: ‘Each according to his capacity and each according to his need.’ She wanted her children to carve their names in different fields of activities. She would say to her children: gaganaaprI jagaavao | maoGaaprI maravao | tIravarI nadIcyaa | gavatatUnaI ]ravao | Live like the sky, melt like cloud| And be tough like grass of a river bank|| Sharadabai was a skilled organizer. Her temperament was amicable and friendly. She was therefore capable of leading women of the region effortlessly. She liked reading books especially books on social themes; she also read the newspapers regularly. These personality traits of Sharadabai are reflected in her children. Sharadabai knew well that wealth and power could ruin man. It is true that accumulation of wealth often decays man but she believed that virtues like conscientiousness, rationality and self-control could save man from ruin. Sharadabai carved these ideas on the minds of her children. As an intelligent mother, she used different ways and techniques like love, anger, pampering etc. to inculcate values in her children. One knows that a wave struggles hard to reach the shore. A veteran Marathi writer, Sane Guruji writes: k$na maata Anauraga | ivakasaacaI baaL manaao ivaBaaga | fulao t$ saovaUnaI ]YNa XaIt | jagaI Asao hIca ivakasa rIt | k$Na ka$Nya kaop | k$naI kaop | ivakasaacaI jaIvana rmya raop | A mother nurtures her child’s mind by love and compassion Plants and flowers blossom drinking hot and cold waves This is the way of life A plant must yet grow gracefully In pathos and compassion. Sharadabai thus brought up her children in difficult situations. Govindrao was a staunch supporter of leftist ideology and Peasant and Workers’ Party in Maharashtra. His approach to politics was positive; his interest in politics was for constructive 42 and welfare work of society.
Govindrao therefore encouraged Sharadabai to participate in politics. She was elected member to the Pune District Local Board in 1938. She happened to be the first woman elected to such a body. The women of Pune district region were privileged to get a sensitive and knowledgeable woman-leader who was able to understand women’s questions and problems of the region. Sharadabai used this opportunity competently to resolve several problems of women. As the member of the Board, she participated in several issues and put them across in the Board meetings fearlessly in order to resolve them. She felt a sense of duty towards the farming women when she fought for them. She never thought that she was doing some favour to them. Her perceptions were very clear and transparent. She never allowed developing an ego-syndrome in her as a leader of women. She worked hard consistently as a member of the Pune District Local Board for fourteen years. She was given an opportunity to work as a chairperson of District School Board considering her past contributions and experiences of the Board. This opportunity offered her to work in a broader field of activity. Her concern was primary education. Hence, she put more emphasis on primary education. She therefore started new primary schools in several neglected and interior parts of the district. She was inspired by the work of Savitribai and Mahatma Phule. She implemented the educational policy of the Phule ideology. The encouragement and broader perception of the policy helped her to work in the field of education effectively. Like Govindrao, her attitude towards politics was positive and constructive. She defined ‘politics’ simply as a tool of doing whatever was required and necessary for welfare of people at large. As Sane Guruji writes: hao} p`BaUcao yaa~ok$ | jaga ho AanaMdanao Ba$ | Let us be a pilgrim of God and make the world happy. So, the political motive of leaders should be social commitment and this principle was implemented by Sharadabai in her public life. As a child, Sharadrao lived in a farmer’s home and obviously he had a natural exposure to farming cult. He was brought up in the discipline and progressive ambience of his mother. The child was born in the autumn season, (Autumn Season means Sharad Rutu), and so it was named after the season ‘Sharad’. This is a sheer coincidence. Sharad was a healthy and a little chubby but a dynamic child. He played among his cronies in his childhood wholeheartedly and with overwhelming passions. These companions came from different creeds, castes and religions. These childhood experiences made Sharadrao a tough boy. His participative nature was thus built up in his childhood. He was a bold, stubborn, fearless and willful child. So, his behaviour was 43 inartificial and playful. He would do whatever he would feel like doing and he would not consider its effects and aftermath. Once, following his elder brothers who were swimming in a local well, he jumped into it without knowing its dangerous implications. It was good that there were several people around and he was given timely help and was rescued from an accident. Sharadrao was a mischievous child. He would be hard on the cattle in cowshed, open coops of hens and let them out, put fingers into rat holes, stone dogs, confuse a donkey by tying a tin pot at its tail or sneak away a guest’s bicycle who is on a family visit. He would also steal away pieces of sugarcane from other farms. Sharadrao was however afraid of his father. The parental care and cultural ambience of the family turned Sharadrao into a cultured person. People from the depressed communities like Mahar, Mang, Chambar, Musalamaan, Dhanagar, Mali, Wadar would visit the home. The mother was a member of District Board, so there would be frequent visits of local leaders. The children would obviously listen to several debates on social, educational and political debates. Being a farmer’s son, Sharadrao was exposed to sufferings and agonies of farmers in his childhood. Sensitivity, organizational skill, and amicable temperament helped him in his future life, especially in the formative period of his leadership at state and national levels. Since he was coming from rural region and poverty-stricken background, he was profoundly sensitive about people hailing from such socio-cultural ambience. He had a confirmed feeling since his childhood that a true leader is one who has true compassion and sympathy towards common people. Sharadabai, Sharadrao’s mother produced a leader of great stature; she sowed seeds of leadership in her son intelligently in the childhood of her son. baalakacao saazI pMto hatI QarlaI paTI tOsao saMt jagaI ik`yaa k$naI daivatI AMgaI A teacher holds a slate for a child| So does a saint in the world|| Like the words from Tukaram’s abhang, Sharadabai made Sharadrao a virtuous child. Virtues like good-natured sensibility, philanthropic attitude, social commitment, modest and polite behaviour, the principle of equality, righteousness were imbibed in Sharad in his childhood and this was a reflection of Sharadabai’s motherly love.