“Anna [Hazare] doesn’t belong only to our family anymore. He belongs to the entire nation now. How can we expect him to do anything for us? It’s our duty to stand behind him,” said Anna’s younger brother, Maruti, as he waited in Ralegan Siddhi village for the social activist’s return from Delhi.
Hours before Anna was scheduled to arrive, Anna’s relatives, spread across Pune and Ahmednagar districts, started pouring into Maruti’s home.
As relatives crowded around him, Maruti said Anna has never stepped into any blood relative’s house. “Anna has not visited us in the past 35 years. He has devoted himself to social service. We meet him only at Yadavbaba temple. Whenever he wants to see us, he sends us a message and we meet at the temple. But he never comes home,” said Maruti.
Anna, however, attends family functions. “Whenever we have a family problem, we seek his advice and he plays his role,” said Maruti. Anna has three brothers and two sisters. His sisters — one of them resides in Sangamner and the other in Mumbai — have accepted that their brother will not visit them even for Bhau Beej. Instead, both of them visit the Yadavbaba temple on that day during Diwali.
Anna’s cousin, Draupadabai Kalap, who stays at Wadegavan, a few kilometres away from Ralegan Siddhi, recalled that Anna politely refused to visit her house when he was in her village for some public work. “He visit my village, but never comes home,” she said.
Anna’s family has come to terms with this. “He was always different. Since childhood, he preferred being alone whenever he was on leave or on vacation. In the Army, his colleagues called him ‘Shastriji’,” said Maruti.
Anna’s relatives are treated like other villagers in Ralegan Siddhi — no special treatment or privileges. “Villagers know me as Anna’s brother. Outsiders do not believe it, but it’s not important. Blood relations are important and I am proud of my brother,” said Maruti.