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Dhirubhai's village prays for peace
Joydeep Ray in Kukaswada | November 30, 2004 08:29 IST
Kukaswada, a tiny village in Gujarat's Junagadh district, has been holding an unusual prayer meeting for the last couple of weeks.
Every evening, the Masrani family and their neighbours pray for the Ambani brothers in their one-room house. It isn't Gujarati pride alone that's prompting the prayers. The reason lies in history -- it is the house where Dhirubhai Ambani was born.
"May God give better sense to the two brothers and end their conflict," says Shantilal Masrani, whose father Natwarlal bought the house from Heerachand Ambani, Dhirubhai's father, in 1935 -- for Rs 50.
Heerachand shifted to a rented house in nearby Chorwad village when Dhirubhai was only three. Though the Masranis do not have any photo of the Ambani family members, Shantilal possesses the sale document.
The deed, signed on a Re 1 stamp paper, bearing the seal of Nawab Sir Mahabat Khan of Junagadh, is almost torn and the Masranis recently had it laminated.
Shantilal Masrani and his wife Jaswantiben are childless and consider Mukesh and Anil Ambani their children. "We believe in Lord Krishna and Goddess Khodiyarmata. We are sure God will listen to us and end this sibling rivalry," Shantilal says.
The prayer meeting is attended spontaneously by neighbours, some of whom had seen Heerachand struggling to make both ends meet as a school teacher in Veravel, a coastal town around 40 km from here.
"We are too old to go to Mumbai and meet Kokilaben and her two sons and so we pray everyday better sense will prevail in the family. Dhirubhai could never dream his children will one day fight over the empire. Mukesh and Anil should stop fighting to fulfil their father's dream," says Jaswantiben.
Shantilal, who has been running a Reliance LPG agency from his house, is quick to add that the agency is not a favour bestowed by the Ambanis.
Aswin Joshi, a local cab driver, says Dhirubhai had come to the village with his entire family in January, 1996. "I remember Mukesh and Anil take a tour of the village, walking down the dusty roads," he says. Joshi has been attending the prayer meeting at the Masrani house religiously.
Around 11 km from here is Chorwad village. The house where Dhirubhai spent over 20 years as a tenant along with his father, now houses the Chorwad branch of Dena Bank. Rajabhai Surabhai Bharada, another tenant, who was witness to the growth of Dhirubhai, is also upset by the ongoing conflict."Dhirubhai used to stress on a unified family. I also attend the prayer meet at Kukaswada, expecting that things will turn for the better," he says, wiping out the dust on a black and white photograph of Dhirubhai with Rajabhai's father, Surabhai. "This smile on Dhirubhai's face is missing in his two sons nowadays," he says.