A Man who clapped with one hand - Late Bhayabhai Ratiya
Article by Krunal Odedra (New Delhi)
In the 2nd decade of the 19th century, on 06/09/1921, Late Bhaya Bhai Ratiya was born in a small village called Maal Gaam in the Kutiyana District of Gujarat State. He left us all on 15/04/2015 at the age of 94 for good leaving great memories. He was fondly called “Bapu” and “Ratiya Saheb” by everyone. I would like to take this opportunity and share a few stories about him.
Today we have lost such a great human being in Bapu, who not only served and worked tirelessly for our Maher Community but helped the poor and everyone with all his physical, mental and material resources. Under his guidance, he showed everyone the correct path to follow in life. He motivated all with his positive and powerful thoughts all the time.
A renowned lawyer, a hard-working farmer, an intellectual businessman, a social executive but above all, he was a very simple human being with his own main beliefs. His main concern was to help the poor.
Born to a local farmer Late Maldevbhai and Late Valiben Ratiya in Maal Gaam, Bapu had four other siblings in the family. An elder brother Late Karshan bhai, An elder sister Late Veji ben, younger sister Puri Aai and Jivi Aai who reside in Junagadh city today.
Bapu was only 6-7 years old, when while playing with his fellow mates, sat on a horse and started riding it. For some reason, the horse started running at a very fast pace. Bapu lost his balance and fell off the horse fracturing his left hand. This must’ve been a terrible disaster for him and his family then. The villagers treated him with some local treatment which again turned out to be a nightmare for him. He somehow managed to show the wounded hand to a doctor and he advised that Bapu’s hand be cut from the elbow and therefore they cut it. Imagine this incident took place 89-90 years back, imagine one’s life without a hand throughout his life, imagine how painful that local treatment would’ve been in those days and imagine those sudden upsetting events that occurred to the family and Bapu himself. Thinking about this disturbing even, anyone would get Goosebumps.
To lose a hand forever, at this young age is like losing a precious asset forever. But his nature was such that without losing patience or temper, he must’ve accepted the reality with an innocent smile. Coming back to the family situation then, his father was a farmer and Bhaya aata (Bapu) had lost a precious hand and without it, one cannot work in the field. Thus after a long discussion, his father agreed and told him to study further and a young Bapu got admitted to an English medium school in the neighboring city of Kutiyana. He once told me that he had seen days when there was no electricity he would roam around the town and look for some light so that he could revise what was taught in school earlier that day. Imagine and put yourself in that situation. Imagine the hardships he faced then. He had only one hand, he had no money, he couldn’t work in the field with his father, he couldn’t play like a normal child with his friends, he didn’t know what to do further in life but without losing hope, he looked for opportunities then.
I myself had met with a terrible accident while driving from my village Visavada to Porbandar and rammed head-on against a truck thus landing up on a bed-rest for 2 months breaking my right knee-cap. I went to Junagadh for a better treatment compared to what I got at Porbandar. Bapu used to come visit me every day and motivate me. I looked at his one hand and thought, for my broken leg, I have a huge family support, I am resting in an A/c room, I have good medical treatment and good food here. My Bapu had none of the above and this itself gave me a lot of strength to stay in that bed for the coming 2-3 months.
While speaking to him about his early life, he told me that he got in touch with the Father of our community, Pujya Maldev Rana Keshwala and he thought that this lad with one hand can do miracles if we help him somehow. Bhaya aata was allowed to stay at Maher Samaj to study further and after passing his school with flying colors, he decided to study Law. In the year 1944, when he was going to Amdavad for his university, Pujya Maldev Bapu personally went to drop him at Porbandar Railway Station. Many in our community are unaware of this historical moment. Bhaya aata then finished studying Law with first class distinction.
Mahant Vijaydas ji was a renowned politician from our community then called Bapu to Junagadh city and he thus started his career as an income-tax advisor. Growing up in a village and being a farmer’s son, Bapu bought an agricultural land and took deep interest in farming. This is how he became a lawyer, a farmer and a businessman simultaneously.
(Bapu when he became a Lawyer)
One thing he was very proud of and that was that Bhaya aata was one of the few men who travelled along with Pujya Maldev Bapu to Bhopal in 1955 to attend the Maher Sammelan where Maher brothers and sisters had gathered from the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
To call Bapu an old man would be something very inappropriate. This is because the way he lived and led his life. A young individual like me would never be able to live the way he did. His energy and strength to do work under a systematic time-schedule he managed for over 7 decades is itself a motivation for us. He would wake up at 5am and go for an early morning walk. He would then perform yoga followed by reading newspapers, have nutritious breakfast and get ready (he wore a suit everyday) and leave for office at 10am. He would then come home and be on the table at 1:30 sharp for lunch. In the afternoon, he would read and sleep for a while and then spend time with the family and again leave for the farm and check the livestock. He was a pure vegetarian, never touched alcohol, never smoked a cigarette but did smoke the local hookah for a few years but having a strong mind, he left that too. Mount Girnar is the tallest mountain in Gujarat with around 10,000 steps to reach the main temple at its peak. Bapu climbed it several times and used to go and stay there for weeks. He was very fond of reading books and one can find hundreds of them in his Junagadh and Baroda houses.
(Bapu at the Taj Mahal, Agra in his 30’s)
Bapu was very fond of travelling. From the Scenic coast of Porbandar in the west of India to the lovely hill station of Darjeeling in the eastern side of India, from the temple town of Rameshwaram in the south of India to the beautiful state of Kashmir in the North, Bapu travelled everywhere. He also went to East Africa to see family in the year 1984 and to England, Scotland, Switzerland and other countries to name a few.
(Bapu at Madam Tussauds, London in 1984)
Bapu never asked for any kind of help even at the age of 95. He would do all his work himself and that he would want to do it also his way. He therefore lived his life in true sense. I must say, these people from the villages are very strong physically and mentally. Bhaya aata is one of the examples.
Everyone in India knew about Bapu’s social work, his immense interest to take the Maher community further in the field of education. An idea struck his mind many years back that there should be a Maher Samaj Bhawan in Junagadh. With the help of many Maher brothers then, a trust was formed and under the leadership and hardwork of Bapu as the president for more than 40 years, Junagadh Maher Community saw many developments and in the recent years, one more Maher Samaj with modern facilities was formed. This was also Bhaya aata’s dream.
Bapu was always worried about the quality of education given in the villages then and his main concern was that a girl child should be equally educated and taken care of as a boy child. He then built a boarding school where young girls from remote villages get good quality education with minimal fees. Bapu gave and donated money for the betterment of the society not to gain name or fame in the society but because he had immense trust in his own positive work towards the welfare of our community.
Hard to believe but Bapu had no health issues even at the age of 95. If he thought of doing something, he would definitely do it without a thought. Once Bhaya aata was standing on the famous Harki Pauri pool in the holy town of Haridwar, a thought to jump over the fast flowing ganges struck his mind and so he did. After swimming in the river for more than 3-4 kilometers, Bapu reached the other side of the river safely. Likewise during his trip to Mombasa, Kenya, he was swimming in the Indian Ocean and the local Africans thought that a dead body of someone is floating there but Bhaya aata was actually floating still.
(Bapu at Mombasa, Kenya on 10/07/1980)
Now in Kadachh village, there was a very big issue of drinking water. Bapu reached the village and with his knowledge and interest got the support of the villagers and the then government, stayed in the village for months so that a lake could be built where rain water can be collected and used for drinking and cooking purposes. Today that lake gives water to the local people throughout the year.
Bapu’s life story is an inspiration altogether. He never spoke against anyone but inspired and gave good positive thoughts. He never thought of competing with anyone, was never insecure about anyone or anything in life. He always inspired everyone to do good things in life. He always said that the biggest strength is to live in a big family. One’s attitude and intention should always be clear and of a positive mind and thus anything can be conquered.
Whoever worked with Bapu, they were always with him for years. Shri Anandbhai is one of them. He drove Bapu’s car for 49years and is still with the Ratiya family even today. He vowed that he will serve this family till his last breathe.
Shri Anand Bhai
Today I would like to thank two living beings on behalf of my huge family. One is that horse from which my beloved Bapu fell and broke his left hand. Had he not fallen off it then, he would’ve never thought of studying further nor would his family support him to go to school. Second is Pujya Maldev Rana Keshwala who gave full support to educate Bhaya aata. If these two historical incidents didn’t happen then, Bhaya aata would’ve never been known as “Bapu” or “Ratiya Saheb”.
(Bapu riding a horse at his farm in the year 1970)
Bapu used to ride a horse even after losing one hand while riding it when he was 6 years old. He had 2 mares and a filly at his farm in Junagadh and was very fond of them.
Sometimes we are all unable to pass one full day. Either we are lazy, bored or something or the other is happening. Our Bapu with one hand, a smile on his face passed 34,450 days without cribbing, crying or wasting any time to whatever life gave him.
(Bapu during Diwali at his house Junagadh in 2012)
As Bhaya aata went to Bhopal with Pujya Maldev Bapu for a Maher Sammelan 60 years back, I was lucky and am proud to say that I along with Bhaya aata, my elder brother and uncles, went to Bhopal to attend Pujya Maldev Bapu’s 128th birth anniversary program on 04/08/2012.
(Bapu on the 49th death anniversary of Pujya Maldev Rana Keshwala on 01/01/2015 at Porbandar)
(Rina Sida with Bapu on 04/08/2012 at Bhopal)
Any individual can clap with both hands. Our Bapu, through his life achievements I consider clapped with one hand and left us all with great memories. Bapu wherever you are today, please give us all the strength and positive thoughts to move further in life. Please motivate us. Please show us the correct path. Please bless us all.
Today I bow infront of you Bapu and fold my hands in due respect. Your life story is definitely a Rags to Riches one. An example of self-discipline, you inspired many, lived and worked tirelessly for the poor. You saw 9.5 decades in your lifetime which is truly motivational. We are all proud of you. I am going to miss you forever Bapu. I salute you for your achievements and am extremely proud to be your grandson Bapu. Rest In Peace.
Late Bhaya Bhai Maldev Bhai Ratiya
On behalf of the entire Ratiya family, Odedra family, Sutreja family, Ranavaya family, Bhutiya family, Godhaniya family, Khunti family, I pay tributes to a great soul. Bapu and Baa has a huge family with 3 Sons and 3 Daughters, 3 Son-in-laws along with their loving grandchildren and great-grand children.
(Bapu and Baa’s big family on 26/03/2012)
Krunal Odedra (New Delhi)