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Vaju Kotak: A Friend in Need

A young boy of 12-13, energetic as ever, met an educationist based in Bhavnagar. Confident and speaking in very chaste language, he introduced himself and handed over a recommendation letter he had brought with him to the gentleman. The boy was Vaju Kotak. Vajubhai was bestowed with a rare endearing and irresistible quality.

Born in a middle class family, Vajubhai had his own unique persona, his vision, style of writing, his overall personality and lifestyle. Essentially a self-made man, even music he had learnt on his own. He had also on his own worked on his physical as well as mental faculties. Rather than formal school education, what fascinated him was the beauty of Nature.

Those days, Prithvi Singh, a soldier of Gandhi's 'Struggle for Independence' movement lived in Bhavnagar incognito. He ran a gym to help young people work on their physical fitness. Vaju Kotak used to go to his gym and Akhada. Fearless as he was, he knew that only physical fitness would not do, unless it is complemented by mental toughness. When put to test, Vajubhai had risen to occasion by proving his fearlessness. Those who took him on just to test his grit were taken in by his composure and patience. Also, he led agitations against arbitrary decisions of the High School Principal. His decision to run away from the family to go to Gandhiji so that he could do something for the country too indicates his courage and a sense of adventure.

Those who witnessed him grow at Bhavnagar have certain memories engraved in their memory: that of Vaju sitting on a hillock and playing away his flute on a moonlit night. Those who heard him vouch for it that he was an amazing flutist. Sometimes, he would start playing it while walking on a street of Bhavnagar with a friend. He sustained his bond with the flute, besides pen of course. This instrument would never leave him, be it Chitralekha office or a film set, or a feast with friends or during a train journey.

One of his friends has noted that Vajubhai was a voracious reader. He was always seen reading. He would read very fast and would never forget a book that he would complete in hours. He would also recommend friends the books he had read. In his diary, he would jot down the flaws and positive aspects of the books he read. Sometimes, he would just memorize the whole book. In the school's annual exams, he would write down his favourite quotes. Once he wrote in the paper Pandit Sundarlal's observations on Gulam Bharat-'The Chained India' . As a matter of fact, this book was banned and its copies confiscated by government of India.

Vajubhai was quite helpful by nature. On a cold day, he would part with his woolen clothes to any poor shivering man on the street. Even he would give away his pen or wristwatch to friends. He also cooperated with writers who faced financial difficulties. In case he runs into any of them he would say, 'I was looking for you, please send a story for Chitralekha' and then give away a cheque towards advance.

There are examples galore of the help he extended to his colleagues, even to the needy students who could not complete their education for want of money. They were helped by Vajubhai.

Despite everything, this man kept smiling. Friends like poet Swapnasth called him Khushalchand, as he always exuded happiness. And this was perhaps one of the reasons for his success. This positive attitude of his invariably got reflected in his writings.