I, Ramesh Varma, was born on December 31, 1901, in a village called Laxmipura, near Bhagalkot district in Karnataka. Words cannot express the beauty of my village. I enjoyed my childhood like any other child and I had many friends to play with. But my life was shattered when my parents went to heavenly abode. I was just14 years old then. Both my parents were freedom fighters and both of them fell victims to the cruel bullets of British army on the same day. The responsibility of taking care of two of my siblings fell on me. My brother, Varun, was 8 years old and sister, Gayatri, 5 years old, was blind. There were none to take care of us. I had a slight desire to join the British army but the love that I had for my country and the seeds of patriotism that my parents had sown in me, prevented me from joining the army. I was employed by the “Zhamindar” of my village. He was a very good man. He was helping financially all the freedom fighters whom he knew. He was really proud of my parents. He helped me a lot financially as well as materially. He sent my brother to a village school, which had a poor infrastructure. There was only a teacher. He was called Shastriji. He was a strict disciplinarian. He encouraged all the students to develop a sense of belonging to our nation.
I joined my childhood friends Akshay Rao, Subas Reddy, Sangam, Abdul, Ibrahim and many others to fight for freedom. We were regular for all the movements. In 1927 I left for Bombay along with my friends to partake in the movements and to join the Indian army to fight against the British. I felt very difficult to leave my siblings behind, but the zeal to serve the country did not allow me to turn back. I left my sister under the care of Varun. I gave him all the money that I had, at that time he too was working and earning some money.
I was in Bombay and I was regular for all the freedom movements. I was beaten up by the British and I escaped many a time from the bullets of British. I was imprisoned several times. I was inspired by the many leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Neharuji, Lajpat Rai and many others. I was really privileged to see and meet Gandhi in two occasions. I had lost most of my friends, but I was proud of them. I had a great desire to die as a martyr.
With all this, I slowly began to forget my siblings. Though in the beginning, I had written some letters home, hardly I received any response. Later I completely forgot about writing letters to them. I remained a bachelor because I knew that I was leading a tough life and there were many like me who remained as bachelors or spinsters because all of them were leading a dangerous life. All of us had the same desire of getting freedom at any cost.
The youth of those days were very zealous to partake in the movements Gandhi’s waves were spreading rapidly. “The quit India movement” and “non-co-operation movement” were successful. After years of struggle on August 15, 1947 we received freedom and we could breathe the fresh air of freedom. I was then 48 years old. There was a great satisfaction and joy. I was ready to breathe my last peacefully. I had hardly a few friends remained.
A month after getting freedom I travelled back to my village. I was eager to see my beloved siblings. When I reached my home town, I found that everything had been changed. There were new houses and new families. There was a new building for the village school. Shastriji, the teacher and the Zhamindar had passed away. I had to struggle much to find my home. I found a wrecked old house. I soon realized that it was my house. It was very dark inside, no lamp was lit. Cob-webs were not removed. The portico was full of dry leaves. I could hear the soft rustling of leaves. I did not find my siblings there. There were many thoughts ran through my mind. I was afraid. I felt that I was a completely failure. There was no hope of meeting them again. With a desolated heart I left my home. Slowly began to walk towards the village temple. I wanted to pay a visit and pray for my siblings. After praying in the temple, I sat outside the temple. There came a blind woman, who was asking for alms from everyone around the temple. She came to me, but I had nothing to give her. She touched my hand and all of a sudden exclaimed “Anna”, and then I realized that it was my beloved sister Gayatri. I hugged her. My eyes were filled with tears. I began to enquire about Varun. From her I came to know that he was jailed by the British army, when he had gone for the freedom movement with his friends.
I took her back home and rest of the day I spent in cleaning the house. Later in the evening I went to meet Zhamindar’s son, whom I knew very well. When I was working in his house he liked to play with me. He had loved me a lot. Even he was very much affected by my departure for Bombay .I was very keen to see him after a gap of twenty years. Zhamindar’s son was very happy to see me and he assured me of financial help.
On the following day I woke up just before dawn and I went to the central jail, which was in the very heart of Bhagalkot district and released my brother and brought him back home. Once again the sun had risen and there was a ray of hope. We began to lead a happy new life in the free country with my siblings. The sun set had taught me sufficiently to loosen all the knots of life.
By Sch. Marvin Apose S.J.