Book Review

Inspiring Memories:
Biographical Tribute to Comrade Homi Daji

Ram Puniyani

Yadon ki Roshni mein (Hindi) by Perin Daji (Editor: Vineet Tiwari, Published by Central Unit of All India Women’s Federation and Progressive Writers Association, Indore Unit,,, 2011, pages 137, Rs 60).

Indian progressive movement has seen many a heights during the last several decades. Various aspects of this movement: workers, peasants, and other sections of society have contributed to the rich history of the path of this movement for human rights and struggle for progressive values in our society. There are various individuals who have led this movement, through massive sacrifices, courage and dedication. They are the embodiment of finest human values whose compassion for the poor and deprived sections of society has motivated them to face all the odds with courage and conviction. Comrade Homi Daji, the one-time MP from Indore, has been such an inspiring figure who led the movement with extreme courage and sacrifice combined with a simple life. This biography of the late Comrade is a touching tribute to his life and work. Written by his wife, his companion of six decades, a comrade herself, Perin Daji’s is a sincere and moving account of the life of struggle and passion for social change of Comrade Daji.

The account of Daji’s life not only gives the details of his upbringing, the difficult childhood and the dedication but also it reflects upon the life of Perin Daji, who had been such an ideal companion matching the sacrifice of Com Daji, in every conceivable way. The book is a remarkable contribution to the history of Indian Communist movement  and the personality of Comrade Daji. The book under review gives an insight into the making of a Communist of the stature of Homi Daji on one hand and also reflects on the contributions of Perin Daji herself and her own struggles to keep afloat the torch of struggles for human dignity. This book at the same time is a reflection of Daji and Perin Daji’s life, written in a sincere style, while being honest to the events under discussion. The remarkable part of the book is that, written by someone who is scared of writing in Hindi, sounds do flow in an imitable style due to the efforts of Editor, Vineet Tiwari, who keeps himself in the background permitting the thoughts and ideas of the writer to flow in an extremely lucid manner. This might have become possible due to the deep understanding of Vineet Tiwari, who in a way has been the part of Daji family as a close comrade.

The narration of the book is so gripping and powerful that at times one gets inspired by the book, at other times the reader’s eyes get moist due to the incidents under narration. Sometimes the eyes get moist due to inspiration and other times due to the joy of a humane aspect of the incident being described. Daji came from a very struggling family, victim of the great depression of the 1930s. The childhood and early youth was a mix of deprivation and struggle for survival. When Daji is unable to pay the fees for his education, rather than making it a personal matter and give up he thinks of the injustices prevalent in the society. In the single incident that when his name is struck off from the school due to inability to pay the school fees, he thinks of the society at large tells a lot about the man. Rather than brooding over it he seizes the next opportunity of sitting in the school verandah and learning the syllabus of the class. All these prod him to broaden his scope of understanding and rather than limiting it to his personal tragedy he takes it upon himself to struggle against the system which breeds inequalities of the worst order.

It is this compassion for poor in the society, combined with his hunger for knowledge which prods him towards Communist ideology and Communist party in due course of time. There are infinite interesting episodes from his life, his hunger for education and knowledge takes him to the book depot, to bring orders for the books for the shop so that he is permitted to sit in the shop and quench his thirst for knowledge, not just the one’s of educational syllabus but of the knowledge and ideas of the World. He already had been borrowing books from his classmates during nights and outdoing them in scoring in the exams. His life seems to be one rooted in deeper trust in himself and the betterment of society, that is why when the police are waiting to arrest him, he can write his exam paper in a cool manner and be the second topper in the whole University.

His commitment to the workers' struggle makes him the major leader of workers in the area, upright and honest. It is this honesty which makes him win the elections of MLA or MP time and over again. Despite the industrialists opening their coffers to defeat him in the elections, his commitment to workers’ cause makes him win elections repeatedly. Later in his constituency his opponents start buying the voters with gifts and money, and one can see the genesis of corruption in the electoral system, brought in by the industrialists and money bags, which unashamedly corrupted the system through money power. In the days of the Anna movement, one is struck by learning the root of corruption, the economic inequality and the might of money bags. One wishes the so called Team Anna could ever learn few lessons from this book and attack the corruption as a disease created by the unequal society, rather than treating it as a mere symptom.

Daji's own personal fortunes, were not too good. Both his loving son and daughter died at early age, but his spirits for struggle for better society remained high nevertheless. Undeterred by personal tragedy he continued his social and political interventions. Not only was he a brilliant parliamentarian, he also was a comrade concerned about the well being of his fellow comrades. Once when he was jailed Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister had to ask to release him for the misuse of the act by local authorities. The authorities were instructed to immediately release him and report back. When the jailor came to take him out of jail, he flatly refused to be released till all other Comrades who were imprisoned along with him were also released. For him going to jail and undertaking hunger strike for the cause of workers' struggle was a genuine exercise. No mass spectacle of one’s hunger strike under the glare of cameras, like the ones being undertaken currently by Babas and Annas. No escaping  from police arrest by running away in disguise. One will miss this genuine form of struggle and honest approach to public life.

This is one book, which has been truly un-put-downable for this reviewer. So much to learn and so much to take inspiration from! The easy presentation by Vineet Tiwari is appreciable, the pain of Perin Daji whose tears did not deter her from writing this, overcoming a personal loss, is remarkable. What a couple, Homi and Perin, lived together for six decades and no single fight! The corporate advertising world can coin the term, ‘made for each other’ in this case in all the sense of the word and World. One hopes this brilliant contribution is also accessible to readers of other languages, one hopes it is translated in as many Indian languages as possible. It will be a true torch light for generations to come. One has just to thank the writer, the editor and the publishers for giving the society an unforgettable gem of the books.

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