Love in the time of want

Linked with Baba Amte – India (1914 – 2008).

Published on Indian Express, by Neena Sharma, 18 January 1998.

Her life is indeed stranger than fiction. Sadhanatai Amte, wife, confidante and companion of Baba Amte, is a frail, unassuming woman. But when she says that she has lived many lives in her lifetime, you realise her resilience. It is little wonder then that the formidable Baba Amte fell in love with her some 52 years ago, despite his vow of celibacy. He first appeared at her home in Nagpur in a hermit’s robe. The purpose of the visit was to finalise the marriage of her elder sister to a friend of his. During those two weeks he spent at her home, she felt herself – then just 19 – inexorably drawn to this non-conformist.

But what caused Baba Amte to change his mind on matrimony? What made him feel that he would find happiness in the company of an ordinary-looking, conservative girl?

An excerpt from a letter he wrote to her at that juncture explains all: …

… Immediately after marriage Baba decided to give up legal practice and stay in the Dalit People’s Sewashram, a colony of outcastes in Warora, where there was a common kitchen catering to 20 people — the very dregs of society. For Sadhanatai, who had grown up in an orthodox Brahmin home, this came as a shock. The first people to welcome the newly-wed couple was a Dalit family. Soon their relatives stopped visiting the couple for hobnobbing with untouchables … (full text).

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