A ‘Marathi’ teacher of Majuli island, Assam

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Source: Ishanya Vaarta, December 2012      Date: 05 Jan 2013 11:34:50

$img_titleMajuli is the largest river island in the world formed in the midst of mighty river Brahmaputra. Located in Jorhat district of Assam, this island presents a picturesque panorama of nature and natural beauty. Its wide blue sky, the holy river floating across the banks of the river and beautiful landscape is the best example of God’s creation. 
Apart from its scenic beauty, Majuli is also known for Assam’s cultural celebrations. The famous Vaishnava Satra of Assam is located in this island. Plantations of coconut and betel nut trees, bamboo groves and eye catching orchids, the vast paddy fields and houses build on raised platforms to save from the flood waters of the river attract the attention of the visitor at once.
The new visitor is welcomed in any house here. And once you introduce you as a Maharashtrian, immediately there comes a question: “How is Ravi Sir?” This question keeps hounding you everywhere you go forcing you to think “who is this Ravi Sir?” “Why everyone in Majuli is enquiring about him?” and “Why do they expect of every Maharashtrian to know about him?”  
Ravindranath Devendranath Savdekar belongs to Chandwad in Nasik district. He happens to be the only son of Devendranath Savdekar who is a teacher by profession. Inspired by the philosophjy of Swami Vivekananda, Ravindranath participated in Vivekananda Bhareat Parikrama. He completed the ‘Acharya’ training at Vivekananda Kendra at Kanyakumari, after which he was asked to report at Doyang in Nagaland as a teacher. His mother was naturally worried at the very thought of her only son going so far away from her in a very disturbed area. But he assured her saying that he would go there for a month and see the things for himself. Ravindranath Savdekar finally left Chandvad in 2000.
He served as a teacher at Doyang school not for a month or two, but full two years. He was appointed as Principal of the school to be opened at Majuli island. He reached at Nimat Ghat in Jorhat to catch a ferry for Majuli and reached Kamalabari in the evening. He was awestruck at the natural beauty of the place.
His school began with 53 students and two teachers in a rented house. The major difficulty he confronted was that of language and then to seek cooperation of the local people to resolve a number of problems. He was not conversant with Assamese language.
Then he started learning Assamese. The similarity of words in Marathi and Assamese helped him adopt the language with speed and at ease. Now he was capable of communicating with the local people in their language. The locals were astonished to see him speak their language! He used to take a round of the village everyday to talk to the people and slowly became popular as ‘Ravi Sir” amongst them.
Ravi Sir obtained a plot of land on the outskirts of Kamalabari but this place was swampy and covered with bamboo groves and other shrubs and vegetation. He got it cleaned with the participation of the local people. Constructing a concrete building there was a challenge because of the land texture, absence of boulders and difficulty in ferrying cement there. But Ravi Sir was determined and he formed an organization called “Majuli Hitaishi Bandhu” (Friends of Majuli) and started the work. He ferried in 15 truckload boulders and engaged local people to break them. He brought goggles so that they could provide security to their eyes. Cement was brought in from Jorhat. The building was finally constructed braving against the incessant rains, unfriendly climate and watery surrounding.
In 2004 Ravi Sir entered into wedlock with Poorva from Ahmednagar. Poorva was ready to live on this Brahmaputra island. She also started teaching in the school following her spouse. She has since adjusted herself to the situation in Majuli.
During the rainy season the contact of Majuli island with rest of the country gets severed. The 15-odd villages located on this island also remain out of contact with each other during the floods. At this time Ravi Sir moves around in a boat assuring the local people and helping them. In 2008 he had a great difficulty to locate the villages as they were nearly submerged in the flood waters of the mighty Brahmaputra.
Who will venture to be a teacher in a very difficult Majuli island school? “Had I served in Maharashtra”, Ravi Sir says, “I would have become a good teacher but then we could not do what we are doing here to bring these people in to the mainstream of Indian culture”.
Today Ravi Sir is Principal of Vivekananda Kendra School at Dibrugarh. If you happen to visit Assam do not forget to meet Ravi Sir and Poorva Didi. The work they are doing makes every Marathi Manoos feel proud of.  It has been two years since Sir has left Majuli island but each one on the island asks with emotion-choked voice, “How is Ravi Sir?”    

(Source: Ishanya Vaarta, December 2012)