By Haider Abbas

The celebration of Amrit Mahotsav of our 75th independence-day has to be rightly complimented, by a reflection on the cause expounded  by Jagdish Gandhi Ji ( born November 10, 1936) in terms of the education-revolution he brought to Lucknow, the capital to the state which gave more than half a dozen Prime Ministers,  through his democratization of ‘English’ education which otherwise,  was before then, a monopoly of the elite. His life of more than 86 years is a living embodiment of what India has always stood for-the world peace, by virtue of his ingrained Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb (culture) which he never wore on his sleeve.

It was on August 23, 2020 when COVID-19 ‘raged and ravaged’ throughout the landscape, I called upon him to seek for his wellness, and he sounded weak and told me that he had been stranded by Corona-Virus. I just could not hold back, and despite the proverbial ‘curfew-in-the-city’ drove to Rajdhani Corona Hospital, opposite SGPGI, around 20 kms from my place, to see to him. I was stopped at the gates and could not go-past the cordoned area. Why did I do that in all my spontaneity? I could have contended myself by the phone-call, but why would I then suffice? As the concerned gentleman, has always deserved my heartiest salutes for all what he has done towards the society-at-large.
I am not writing this piece by google-browsing his ‘name and his feats’ but out of my own perception and understanding of a man, who by no means of any exaggeration, has been an ‘angel who walked down the earth’ by truly living an example ‘set-up’ by his own standards. In fact he is the ‘standard unto thyself’.

Lucknow had begun to swell-up at a rapid pace, due to the mass influx of migration since by 1970s, and it is here that he rose-up to the occasion to cater to the ever expanding educational needs of Lucknow by launching his chain of City Montessori Schools (since 1959), and which, has rightly acclaimed a place in the coveted Guinness Book of World Records by having around 56,000 students in its over a dozen branches in Lucknow. In fact, he was a ‘centurion in the making’ ever since he took to being the President of the Student Union of Lucknow University more than half a century back. He held a place as MLA in UP Assembly too (1969-74)

When I was in my office ( 2014-19) I could relish the energy he exuberated, at an age of around 80 years, while he commandeered the CMS tableau every January 26th -the Republic Day,  and by same  evening, his face ‘beaming with charm’ to every guest present at the high-tea organized by the Hon’ble UP Governor.  I sometime also would see him inside Vidhan Sabha, with only the purposeful motive to perpetuate his longing, for making better the educational-standards inside Lucknow. He never betrayed any ‘signs of fatigue’, often carrying files ‘all by himself’ in ‘lifts  and corridors’ of Jawahar/Indira Bhawan, while displaying utmost humility, as he would navigate his missionary zeal, day-in and day-out, through our prevalent system, marked by the hallmark of red-tapism.

I never could meet or sit with him, sometime I did hear to some of his speeches. I once also put myself as a ‘Judge’ at a speech competition on the relevance of William Shakespeare at CMS, and as always, found him in his own stride, to be solidly behind by whatever he spoke at the conclave. His verve that ‘every child is potentially the light of the world’ stems from his own persona as he has always practiced what he has preached. Never in my life I could hear any controversy around him or from any of CMS branches, speaks volumes of the managerial skills he has instilled in his organization. If given a chance to make a list of the ten most influential personalities from Lucknow, in the last one century, he would certainly qualify hands-down into it.

He is never ostentatious and single-handedly could put Lucknow on the international radar, as he could organize international judges conferences on Article 51 of our Constitution, on numerous occasions, to perpetuate the legacy of ‘World Peace’ which is also his ultimate motivation-Jai Jagat i.e. Glory be to the world! But, what often diminishes me, owing to his huge yeoman services, is to seek as to why he hasn’t been awarded his due? He should have been awarded at least with Padma Vibhushan, for never has anyone in UP, or perhaps in India as a whole, has given the best possible education to recurring-millions, and also in-its-way, provided livelihood to millions , in our otherwise squeezing space for any  jobs opportunities. Lucknow is the place which has been represented by PM AB Vajpayee and Ex. HM and right now by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, but this shining star of Lucknow is still to find his rightful honour. If Lucknow pays its obeisance, to her son, whose only armour had been his love, equality and welfare for all, it is here right now.

I however, will always remain spellbound by all what he stood for. I have not been an alumni of CMS but generations of India will remember the soul who once graced Lucknow. I will forever wish his wellness in my prayers.
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The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner based in Lucknow.

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