Shirale Mama scores a century, yet a long way to go

 I have lived a peaceful 100 years in contentment, says Gopalkrishna Ramarao Shirale who celebrated his centenary birthday on October 22 this year at Rama Shakthi Mission in Shaktinagar.

'Shirale Mama,' as he is lovingly known as, is that cute and cheerful grandpa all may love to have.

Born in a pious Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin family in Shirale on October 22, 1912, Shirale Mama studied in a small school in Kundapur and completed his College education in Wilson College in Mumbai. At the age of 19, he was employed in the Lloyds Bank (Mumbai) which later became ANZ Grindlays Bank and now Standard Chartered Bank. He married Vatsala in 1937.

Looking back at his life, he tells Deccan Herald that he sincerely worked in the bank for 41 years. “I was the Inspector and had to travel to many places. I was always accompanied by my wife Vatsala. We both have traveled nearly all places of undivided India due to my work,” he says.

Shirale Mama was given the responsibilities of opening branches in Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh. He has also rendered his services to the bank in places such as Lahore, Rawalpindi which are now in Pakistan.

“I had a lot of friends in Pakistan. We never faced any differences due to our religion. The Muslims were very hospitable and were like family. However, I lost their contact after partition,” he goes down memory lane.

Shirale Mama has clear memories of the freedom movement. “I have met Mahatma Gandhi on several occasions and have listened to his talks. Once, I managed to get Gandhi's autograph on his photograph. That is one of my priced possessions,” he grins.

Speaking about his affiliation with the Rama Shakthi Mission, he tells that he met Divine Mother Rama Devi in Madras in 1971. “She extended her invitation to me and my wife to serve in the Rama Shakthi Mission which was to be opened in Mangalore in 1972. 

It was a divine call. I was also retiring from my Bank service in 1972. I grabbed this opportunity. I and Vatsala did not have children. We decided to spend rest of our life in social service and hence we moved to Mangalore,” he says and adds that it is over 40 years since he moved into the  Rama Shakthi Mission house in Shaktinagar.

“We both served for many years in the mission. Vatsala died in 1994 leaving me all alone. I miss her, but I am not lonely,” he says and adds that though he did not have any children of his own, he is visited by his many children who grew under his guidance during his service in the mission.

A wide grin spreads on his wrinkled face when asked about his birthday celebrations.
“So many people came to visit me, they donated food and clothes to poor in my name. Many felicitated me with flowers. Can you imagine that they celebrated my birthday for three days,” he exclaims.

“I am a simple man and I lived a simple life. I am very happy and have nothing to regret. I only pray that I have a peaceful death. I never want to be a burden on anybody,” he says.

Shirale Mama has a sharp memory and reads without spectacles. He has difficulty in hearing and walking since his recent fall. “I do not suffer from any illness. It is all due to the divine grace of Mother Rama Devi. In a matter of fact, I have never taken a sick leave. I don't remember falling ill. Isn't that strange,” he chuckles.

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