We often read that sedentary lifestyle, eating spicy and fried food, insufficient sleep and tension invite ailments. Sometimes we also come across people who, despite leading a healthy lifestyle, die of cardiac arrest or suffer from some heart ailment. Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave, who died today (May 18), falls in the latter category.
After learning about anyone’s death, the two questions one usually asks are “how” and “what was her/his age” before going into other details. Dave died of cardiac arrest at the age of 60. These two information would shock anyone who know that he was one of the most health conscious people one would have come across.
Trained in RSS’ way of life, Anil Madhav Dave led a spartan, low-profile and disciplined life. He would wake up much before sunrise every day and do yoga.
Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Dave’s emphasis on a healthy body and mind could be gauged from the fact that the mass Surya Namaskar programme held every year in the state was his brainchild.
The first mass Surya Namaskar was held jointly by his Jan Abhiyan Parishad and the state government on January 25, 2007 in which 66 lakh school students participated. From the next year onwards, it is held every year on January 12 on the birth anniversary of youth icon Vivekananda and crores of people take part in the event.
Tthe mass Surya Namaskar programme held every year in Madhya Pradesh was Dave's brainchild. (Credit: PTI photo)
Inspired by Dave’s initiative, MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced the state’s Yoga Policy in 2007. The International Yoga Day, observed every year on June 21, with the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was perhaps inspired by the MP Yoga Day celebrations.
I myself experienced Anil Madhav Dave’s penchant for keeping fit in 2014. I had visited MP to cover the Lok Sabha elections. While returning to Delhi, I bumped into him at the Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal. State commerce and industries minister Rajendra Shukla was with him.
No sooner had we got down to talking we heard about the flight getting delayed by 45 minutes. Dave immediately suggested that we should take a walk while continuing our chat. All three of us kept walking inside, up and down the lounge, till the announcement for check-in was made.
I was almost out of breath by the end of it.
Besides being healthy, Dave was a thorough gentleman. He was unlike the general impression which people have about politicians. He was polite, gentle, soft-spoken, suave, sensitive, well-read and accessible.
Not many know this, recently the MP government allotted a palatial B-type accommodation to him in Bhopal’s posh 74 Bungalows locality for being a central minister. The B-type houses are allotted to only senior Cabinet ministers and top officials of the state government.
There are only two A-type houses — one each for the governor and the chief minister.
A couple of days ago, Dave turned down the offer in writing, saying he did not need it. When the MP government officials intimated to him that it was mandatory for a central minister to have a house in the state capital, he reluctantly told them to allot an F-type house in Shivaji Nagar.
Being an RSS pracharak, Dave was a bachelor. He lived alone and had no private life. He always lived in houses provided to him by the Sangh or the BJP. When I first met him in 2002-03, he used to live in a simple room in the BJP headquarters, Bhopal.
Later, he shifted to RSS’ Narmada Samagra building in Shivaji Nagar. His love for rivers, environment and the Narmada was evident from the name, murals and painting in the building, "Nadi ka Ghar".
Dave was also a strange pracharak. He was a trained pilot, a sailor and an environmentalist. He had flown over the Narmada and rafted in the river from its origin in Amartkantak to Bharuch in the Arabian Sea as part of Narmada Yatra.
He had also launched the Narmada Chaupal where he would stop in villages during the course of his Narmada Yatra and interact with the local people to get first-hand knowledge of environment. He would also educate them about afforestation and the need to keep the rivers clean.
He also wrote poems and was an author, having written several books in Hindi and in English on various subjects, including environment. His books in Hindi include Srijan Se Visarjan Tak, Mahanayak Chandrashekhar Azad, Sambhal Ke Rehna Apne Ghar Mein Chhupe hue Gaddaro Se, Shatabdi Ke Paanch Kale Panne, Roti aur Kamal Ki Kahani, Samagra Gram Vikas and Shivaji and Suraj. In English, he authored Creation to Cremation, Beyond Copenhagen and Yes I Can, So We Can. He also wrote a travelogue on the Narmada, called Narmada Samagra.
The nation has lost a unique politician who was anything, but a politician — a quality so much desired in today’s politicians.