The country of 1250 million Indians has only one Desh Ratna and he is no other than the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad who was also conferred Bharat Ratna in 1962.
On this day, 3rd December, Rajendra Prasad was born 130 years ago in a village named Jiradei in erstwhile Saran district of Bihar. His father Mahadev Sahai, a scholar of Sanskrit and Persian sent the five year old Rajendra to an accomplished Muslim scholar to study mathematics along with Hindi and Persian languages. Prasad’s mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a religious woman who used to tell him inspirational stories.
He joined the prestigious Presidency College, Calcutta, in the year 1902 and graduated with first division. He completed his masters in Economics with first division from Calcutta University in 1907. He was very simple and brilliant for whom the examiner wrote in his college answer paper that 'Examinee is better than examiner'.
After a short stint in teaching profession, Rajendra Prasad went again to Calcutta to study law and completed his Master of Law in 1915. He started practicing law in Patna High Court in the year 1916 and soon became a leading lawyer having roaring practice.
Although Prasad had many family liabilities to take care of, he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagrah Movement wholeheartedly without bothering for financial loss and then never looked back. His courage, conviction and dedication to the cause of freedom struggle was so profound that he asked his son to drop out of his school soon after Gandhiji’s call to boycott government educational institutions as part of non-cooperation movement of 1920.
However, in order to take care of the studies of such drop out students, Rajendra Prasad enrolled his son too, in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an educational institution established by Maulana Majharul Haque in 1921 based on our own tradition and culture. In 1921, Rajendra Babu also joined Haque very actively by residing in Bihar Vidyapeeth campus in a thatched-roof house and conducting all freedom struggle activities for 25 long years till 1946.
He was a one of the closest associate of Bapu. He became the President of Indian National Congress in 1934 Mumbai convention. On second occasion, he became Congress President in 1939 after the resignation of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. He again took over as Congress chief in November 1947.
Rajendra Babu was elected the President of Constituent Assembly on December,1947 and when on 26th January,1950 the constitution of independent India was finally accepted and ratified, he became the acting President of India to be finally elected in May 1952 to hold the office of President which he graced till 1962 - the end of his second term.
After relinquishing office of the President of India on 13th May, 1962, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, returned to Patna and started living in the same small and simple house like a common man, later to move in another small house constructed at the initiative of another great son of mother India, Loknayak Jai Prakash Narayan in the same campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth. He breathed his last there only after a few months on 28th February, 1963.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was very simple and down to earth person. All through his life he believed in and accordingly practised the principle of 'simple living and high thinking. He was a true Gandhian, a brilliant scholar, and a great statesman who lived like a common man and fought for the welfare of common man.
Milan K. Sinha is a freelance writer. He has worked in Banking and Insurance sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. Presently he is engaged in stress management, wellness and awareness activities besides freelance writing.