Saturday, October 10, 2015

The taint of Vajapeya

धर्मनिरपेक्षता का नाटक ना रच, उसका पालन करने वाले पहले वाजपेयी की कुलज्योति हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।
जो वाजपेय यज्ञ कर समाज से बहिष्कृत हुए, वह वाजपेयी हैं हम।
रीवां के राज कुल को शिक्षा देने वाले राजगुरु के वंशज हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।
रानी लक्ष्मी बाई की सेना में जो शामिल हुए उनकी कुलज्योति हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।
शून्य से अपना साम्राज्य खड़ा करने का दम रखते हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।
महामारी की मार से बच कर जी लेते हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।
भाषा के पाणिनि हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।

परिश्रमी हैं हम, पराक्रमी हैं हम - वाजपेयी हैं हम।
कुर्क हुए पर डटे रहे, फ़िरंगियों से लड़ते रहे, वह साहसी हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम 
कलम और कटार अपने ख़ून में ले कर विजयी होते हैं हम, वाजपेयी हैं हम।

Vajpeyi? Who are Vajpeyis? This is the question I have often been subjected to, although in stereotypical Indian context what they mean to know is, which part of the caste structure they belong. And I, more often than not, cringe when they say, “Vajpeyi to Pandit hote hain na?

I cringe, not because I am ashamed of the Vajpeyi lineage but because we have been more than that, much more. Through different generations we have excelled in various occupations. Each generation outshone the previous one with their excellence and the path they chose.

From being priests of the highest order to being teachers to entrepreneurs to warriors to bankers to grammarians to journalists to banker again to journalist again, the Vajpeyi clan has seen it all.
The legend goes, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, religious frantic as he was, happened to order the killing of several Brahmins. This led to a situation of immense disturbance in the state and at one point even posed a threat to his position as the ruler. Several experts were consulted to resolve the matters and astrologers also happened to be a part of this team.

These astrologers recommended Vajapeya Yagya in order to restore peace and harmony in the territory. Due to the immense violence that Aurangzeb has authorized, all Brahmins of the state boycotted him and refused to perform the yagya. At that point, one Brahmin came forward and offered to perform the ritual. While the rest of the clan disowned this person and his family, and his family disowned him, he and his successors were christened as the first of Vajpeyis.

Several generations later, in 1857 when the Indian warriors started uniting in order to fight the British out of the country, a young Vajpeyi called Kanhaiya Lal joined the army of Rani Laxmi Bai. Jhansi at that point used to be a part of Rewa state, now a small town in Madhya Pradesh while Jhansi remains in Uttar Pradesh. Kanhaiya Lal was the grandson of Rewa kingdom’s Rajguru, while his father was a Zamindaar.

While the entire army fought and lost the first war of Indian independence, Kanhaiya Lal like many others ran for his life as the British troops set out on a headhunt. Crossing several towns and cities, Kanhaiya Lal finally paused and settled in Ram Nagar district of UP with his family. He never gave up on his passion for liberation of the nation. He used to go out for a walk sometimes and did not return for several months, his family meanwhile did not ask questions. The times were dark, and not being aware was the best way to safeguard a secret. And so they kept up with his prolonged and unpredictable absences at regular intervals.

Kahaiya Lal’s son, Sati Deen Vajpeyi although had a different calling all together. Sati Deen was a banker at heart and he happened to become the first entrepreneur of the bloodline. He became a financier in his village and expanded to several villages thereafter and kept expanding till the plague of 1896-98, when he and his wife succumbed to the epidemic. They left behind two sons, an 8 year old and a 2.5 year old, who were orphaned and homeless, who were not taken in by their step-brother and so they set out on their journey for survival.

The elder one being a child that he was, he could not take care of the younger sibling and lost him, too. But he did not give up his instinct for survival and his quest for knowledge. He took up a day-laborer’s job in Kanpur under the care of an uncle from extended family who showed up every month on the day on wage pay-out only take his earnings away. The boy, realizing in a few months’ time that this will be a never-ending cycle of oppression fled from Kanpur and tagged along a group of ascetics heading towards Lahore.

On reaching Lahore, now 17, the boy took up several jobs of manual labour to afford the cost of his education and at the age of 30, he came back to Kanpur with a degree of Acharya (post-graduation) and set-off his writing career.

This 8 year old grew up to be known as Acharya Kishoridas Vajpeyi, the Panini of Hindi Grammar. Hindi, till that point of time, was not organized enough to be given the status of a language. It comprised of several dialects and people spoke as they pleased. Kishoridas along with two of his associates created and catalogued the grammar of Hindi as we know and practice today.

All through these generations, right from Kanhaiya Lal, while the occupation of progeny changed with their skill and expertise, the flame of passion remained to be Independence. Kishoridas, set up his own printing press against the Vernacular Press Act of 1878 and started publishing anti-British literature leading up to confiscation, not once, not twice, but thrice!

Upon each confiscation, Kishoridas proudly marched to the jail while his wife hid herself, their two daughters and a son in woods for the fear of British. Kishoridas’ son, Madhusudan Vajpeyi, took the legacy of language forward and became a journalist. Those were still the times of British and walking on the footsteps of his father, he relished in publishing articles reflecting his fiery anti-British opinion.

Madhusudan Vajpeyi or Madhav, as he was fondly addressed by those close to him, was succeeded by his son Raj Krishna Vajpeyi, my father. Raj Krishna, was born with the gift of language, an analytical eye of a mathematician and a philosophical vision of life. At the age of 17, he completed his B.Sc. and joined IIT Kanpur to study Mathematics. He became a banker on completion of his education and pursued his profession as his passion.

It is his battle for free expression, against giving in to the life’s battles that we, his two daughters, have taken on. It is this battle against the so-called society that we shall win.

Am I proud of being a Vajpeyi? Of course, I am! I am proud of the quality of education that runs into our bloodline. I am proud of the survival instinct in our DNA. I am proud that each Vajpeyi has left a mark in his line of occupation, in his own way. And I hope that I will, in my lifetime, make my ancestors proud.

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