Music and Humor in Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Life


Babasaheb Ambedkar appreciated music and humor and he encouraged others to appreciate music and humor. We know Babasaheb Ambedkar through his intellectual abilities to mobilise and marshal thoughts. His intellectual power was well cultivated. He challenged ideas and developed the plethora of ideas to counter ideas harmful to the society and individuals.

We have access to his intellectual side and its development. We do not have much access to his artistic side and his humorous side. A few years back, in Marathi, a book titled “Humorous Ambedkar” was published. We have not seen a book “Wit and humor of Babasaheb Ambedkar” in English as yet. One can compile such a book digging into his writings and speeches.

He was the master of humor. He used to laugh wholeheartedly and love humor. He was carrying on the most difficult tasks, but in some sense, he has a spacious mind that did not contrived. There was always scope in his thinking to look at everything from all possible directions. Humor was the part and parcel of his life.

One can also imagine the way he would have narrated those anecdotes, stories, and ironies. As a speaker, his speeches were not just filled with logical explanations, but they include stories, parables, and metaphors. Not much is available on his “methods of persuasion”: the skill that he wanted to impart to his people urgently.

Babasaheb Ambedkar was fond of arts and he was an artist himself. For him thinking was not just a way to explore the object of inquiry with dry terms of thoughts, but the way he arranged the terms of thoughts and trains of thoughts was artistic to the core. One can experience that brilliant artistic thinker in many of his books. He was learning to play the violin, the best among the melodic instrument, which takes countless hours to practice.

But despite his very busy schedule, he found time to learn violin and took meticulous notes to play the note brilliantly, we have only records of the people who listened to his violin. He attempted painting. He visualised the Buddha differently, he visualised the Buddha with open eyes, and he wanted to share his visualisation with the people. He learnt drawing and painting. He sculpted many Buddha statues. He was the best cook, and we have many stories of his getting immersed in the cooking. In the Zen tradition, cooking is given importance as the practice towards freeing one’s mind.

We do not have his poems available, but he must have attempted poems, because though the high stature philosopher he was who gave birth to new thoughts and thinking, he was also was finding ways to express his thinking, and poetic expression of his understanding of the world around him, must be his calling. I heard of his poems but never found any.

Even one specimen of his poetic expression will give a key to unlock his poetic consciousness. The human mind is a modular mind. In a surprising way, all these different modules interact with each other in a creative and expansive way. Thinking about Babasaheb Ambedkar, his quest was to cultivate his mind in all possible human modes of arts and science, slow and fast thinking, long term and short term expression, analytical and poetic, spiritual and material. His life and mind were harmonised and therefore his mind was not biased and skewed mind, it was open and flexible and ever ready to engage with the ideas and world around him. He took great interest in the world. That was the mind which could engage with the world around with its highest sophistications.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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