Tell us about the manuscript. How was it discovered?
This notebook had been with my father SP Gokhale, who was a social worker and had been a close associate of Savarkar’s for about 30 years. I’m not sure how it reached my father, but what we do know is that when Savarkar was leaving Cellular Jail, he handed the book over to Pyaremohanji, who was the second clerk in the jail office. After my father passed away, a friend and Pune-based historian Mr Bedekar pushed me to look for it. He insisted that he’d read Savarkar’s Urdu writings and made me hunt through the thousands of books my father had collected. Once I found it, I had to make sure it was Savarkar’s handwriting before I declared the discovery.
Was it known that Savarkar wrote in Urdu too?
In his autobiography, he mentions that he had learnt to read and write Urdu from one of the prisoners during his time in jail. But we did not know about his Urdu poems until we found the notebook, which contains one poem and two ghazals. He has penned the poem, which mentions Lokmanya Tilak, in both the Urdu as well as the Devanagri script. The first few pages of the handmade notebook, made using scraps of paper, has pictures of influential personalities such as Gautama Buddha, George Washington, and Mahatma Gandhi, cut out from the magazines he used to receive every month. Savarkar has carefully captioned each of the pictures. For instance, below an image of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion he writes, “Jesus Christ on the cross, 1921 years ago.” This tells us
that he was writing the notebook in 1921 -- his 10th year at Kaala Pani.
What do you think of Tauseef Akhtar’s rendition of Yeh Mera Hindustan?
Tauseef saab’s rendition is beautiful. Before I heard his recording, we had made plans to record all three poems. Talks are still on and it will take another fortnight or so before things are finalised. But we will certainly record all the poems.