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When the British came calling to Ahmednagar

The Victoria Cross Association has donated Rs 37,500 towards an institute started by the grandsons of Namdeorao Jadhav in India.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:19 IST
Shashank Mhasawade
Shashank Mhasawade

Legends never die. One from the World War II lives on in a small village around 200 kms away from Pune. And this Independence Day, another chapter was added to the epic of Namdeorao Jadhav, winner of the highest award, the Victoria Cross from the British, in the presence of a top official from the British High Commission in India.

In a rare and invaluable gesture of appreciation of bravery and compassion for fellow soldiers on the battlefield, the Victoria Cross Association on Friday donated Rs 37,500 towards a computer education institute started by the grandsons of Jadhav.

The Om Sai Computer Institute to be run by the Namdeo Jadhav Seva Pratishthan was on Friday inaugurated by Brigadier Ian Rees, defence and military adviser with the British High Commission, who travelled all the way from New Delhi in appreciation of Jadhav's heroic deeds. The amount might be insignificant but the spirit behind the donation and concern for the family of the Victoria Cross winner on part of the British is priceless, as the both the state and central government have shown no interest in Jadhav's family.

Havaldar Namdeo Jadhav, while serving the British troops at the age of 23 on April 9, 1945 in Italy, had single-handedly wiped out enemy German attack and firing posts, thus converting an almost-lost battle into a spectacular victory for the British. Jadhav, then attached to Maratha Light Infantry, had carried two wounded soldiers through Senio River to a safe location. He returned to attack the three enemy machine gun posts, conquer them and ensure victory for his side.

Jadhav was awarded the highest Victoria Cross for his gallantry by the British Government. Jadhav passed away in 1984 and his widow, Draupadabai, her daughter and three grandsons continue to live in Virgaon village.

The Victoria Cross Association keeps in touch with the family of Jadhav like all other VC winners across the world. However, in the case of Jadhav's family, the Association and the British High Commission have been extremely compassionate and never lose a chance to honour the family members.

The family members and the villagers appreciate the gestures. No wonder then that there was a nicely decorated arch and banners put up to welcome Brigadier Rees to the Virgaon village that has a population of 3,500. A huge pandal was erected near the Jadhav family's house and a huge crowd waited patiently for Rees. Dinesh and Kishor Deshmukh, the two grandsons of Jadhav, welcomed the Brigadier, who went straight to meet Draupadabai on his arrival. Rees was given a warm welcome with an aarti and a tilak on his forehead.

After a brief chat with Draupadabai through a translator, Rees inaugurated the computer institute in true Indian style, breaking the coconut and cutting the ribbon. While curious children crowded the place, villagers, especially youth welcomed the beginning of a new era in their lives. Prof Vijay Sahastrabuddhe from nearby Akole town, managed to portray the emotions with eloquence. "It is a wonderful gesture on part of the Victoria Cross Association and the British High Commission to send a high ranking official here for the inauguration. It is an opportunity for the villagers to take inspiration from the heroic deeds of Jadhav. I am confident that the computer institute will provide the youth with an avenue to master various computer skills."

Brigadier Rees, in his short speech, said he was touched with the warm welcome extended to him. He said the Institute would help the youngsters to be a part of India's growing prowess in the Information Technology sector. "I am pleased that the Namdeo Jadhav Trust is doing good work here and we wish to support it. I am a soldier myself and honour the work of Jadhav and his family members. I would like to make a small donation to the institute," said Rees, evoking applause.

And within minutes of his speech and after having accepted several garlands and coconuts given to him in honour by the villagers, he handed over a cheque of Rs 37,500 to Draupadabai. "Make sure you buy another computer and load necessary software onto it," Rees told Kishor Deshmukh, who could not hide the tears in his eyes. The institute currently has two computers and enrolling students from the nearby areas.

Rees then had a chat with Draupadabai and her grandsons and the villagers, too. He gleefully accepted the water served to him and ate an apple offered to him without any hesitation. Rees clicked several photographs with the Jadhav family members and even gave autograph to a teenager in the family.

Draupadabai, 75, was more than delighted to tell Rees the tales of her husband that how she enjoyed travelling to various Army locations in India where Jadhav was posted. Rees was delighted when Draupadabai told the former that her third grandson Vijay is also serving the Indian Army and is attached to the same Maratha Light Infantry at Banglore. But the icing on the cake came when the Jadhav family extended a warm invitation to Rees, stressing that he must get his better half along the next time he visits Virgaon.

The Brits, clearly know how to take care of their own, even if they be Indians ignored by their own Government.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST