Bal Kudtarkar

Bal Kaka was a frequent visitor in our home; so I don’t really remember a time when I first met him as such. Throughout my growing years, he always looked the same – a shock of black hair, black rimmed spectacles and a perennial smile! He was always jovial – no matter what the situation – he would always find something ho feel happy about. He was great friends with my father – although I didn’t much care for their conversations then, today as I recall they must have been higly intellectual. Bal Kaka was constantly on TV and radio, interview celebrities from all walks of life and presenting various programs. He was always on top of thing whether political, social or cultural.

To me Bal Kaka will always remain extremely special – I owe my confidence as a stage performer – solely to him. The story is as follows.

I was in the 5th standard when my teacher announced that we had a Marathi story telling competition and that I had to take part. As a child I was a very shy person – for days together I kept quiet about it at home, thinking if I don’t say anything, it would go away! Well it didn’t. As the day approached, I panicked and finally ran crying to my father. I told my father that the animal story that I had in mind was not nice at all – and that I didn’t want to go to school the next day! My father just hugged me and said he would help – I really don’t know if my father invited Bal kaka home especially for me, or if Bal kaka just hap opened to drop in as usual; but he coached me to tell with actions, “Panipatchi ladhai”! I was thrilled – it was suddenly easy because Bal Kaka became my friend and a child with me. He made me laugh with the story and then taught me how to tell the story to others with a straight face! I practiced it with my mother and sisters a couple of times and the next day won the inter-school competition!

I was felicitated in the school assembly! In my building too I was lauded, since I had beaten a ‘smartie’ from my building too, who studied in a famous Marathi school! I was on top of the world – and I don’t think I have ever doubted my ability to connect with an audience, since then.

I didn’t know it then, but I was really lucky to have had the greatest teacher. The story didn’t end there – after nearly 30 years, my son won a story telling competition, with the same humorous account of the battle of Panipat! I am hoping this legacy will carry on, in my family.