Mohandas Gandhi had rightfully mused in his autobiography, “What barrier is there that love cannot break?” Empathy and love are capable of doing wonders and breaking any limits. Darkness and negativity can be dealt with a positive attitude, and that is exactly what Laxman Gole has been doing for the last twelve years.
Gole has seen the seamy side of life in the prisons of Mumbai. But his one inspiration has been the words of the Father of the Nation which changed his way of thinking and looking at life.
In an exclusive interview with The Logical Indian, Laxman Gole has shared his myriad experiences and explains what steered him to an entirely different path of life.
A childhood filled with darkness
Gole grew up in a neighbourhood in Kurla, Mumbai where anti-social activities were the order of the day. “Even before I could realise I was sucked into the whirlpool of these activities. They were sources of easy money for teenagers, and I could not stop myself from getting involved in all of this,” he said.
He explained, “The only things we discussed between us friends was how to use a weapon, how to disguise a 100 rupee note into a ‘capsule’ so that no one recognises it. This is what I grew up surrounded by, and my gullible self could only grasp this.”
However, humanity had not completely eroded from his mind. “One day I saw a group of my friends harassing a woman on the road, she was asking for help, but no one came forward. I tried to stop them but in vain,” Gole said.
It was then that the fateful event took place. “Suddenly, the woman shrieked asking if the onlookers would have behaved in the same way if she was related to them. Something came over me – I knew I had to do something for her,” he said.
“I went into a saloon on the road, took up the razor and did not think twice before shoving the blade into one of the ruffians,” Gole added. It was from here that Gole’s life turned upside down. There were previous cases of extortion against him, this added a severe blow, and he went in for around 19 crimes in 2004. He was sent to the Mumbai Central Prison for four years.
A life-changing experience inside the prison
Going behind bars was the start of a different journey for Laxman Gole who was only a teenager then. The horrors of the prison had a lasting impact on the impressionable mind of young Gole. “The prison is such a place where I have seen good people turning bad because of the company they kept, and I have also seen criminals transform into better people,” he said.
However, it was during this time that the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal introduced Gole to M.K. Gandhi’s autobiography, “My Experiments With Truth”.
The Mandal is a public charitable trust that aims at spreading awareness about Gandhian principles among the common man. It takes up different activities, like maintaining a book centre with books about Gandhi and his philosophy, conducting personality development camps, and holding seminars and workshops to discuss Gandhian teachings.
After reading the book, a massive change came over Gole. “I started experimenting with the truth as the book had directed me. Lying, after this, was never an option for me. I became quieter and begun to channelise all my energies towards positive things,” he explained.
He accepted the charges that were levelled against him, the most important of them being that of extortion. His good behaviour and honesty resulted in his sentence getting reduced to him getting released by 2008. He got married to Nanda in 2010 and had two daughters named Satya and Sowmya.
Gandhi’s autobiography had such a lasting impact on him that he sent out apology letters to all those he had hurt in some or the other way – he even went to meet them and sought their forgiveness. “The feeling was truly satisfying,” Gole admitted.
A transformed person at heart
Gole has been working in tandem with the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal to bring about positive changes into the lives of the individuals who have once gone through a lot of hurdles. His principal aim to is to rehabilitate prisoners who have now reformed and want to do good in their lives.
“When I go for lectures and sessions in schools and colleges, I often meet people who want to do something for the prisoners. I tell them, the best thing they can do is to employ someone who has had a criminal past and has now served their sentence,” he remarked.
Gole said that the society is still very conservative about people who have served jail sentences. “Even if they want to come back into the mainstream society, the task is uphill for them,” he explained.
Through his talks, Gole has been trying to make people understand the importance of positive attitude to brave the battles of life.
This was not an easy task for him. “The stigma of a convict stays with a person till he proves himself. People did not believe in me or my efforts, but I trudged along.”
“If you ask about my achievement, I would say that it is the fact that I have touched the lives of so many who have wanted to change. This gives me immense happiness,” Gole smiled and added.
His experiences inside the prison have made him realise the importance of this life and how we should not be vile away our valuable time in something insignificant and harmful. “I am in touch with around 1500 students from my last 12 years of work, they seek my help even now when they are in some troubles,” he said.
“I try my best to rehabilitate the prisoners after they have given the Gandhi Peace Exam organised by the Mandal. This exam helps them understand the importance of Gandhian values in everyday lives,” Gole explained.
The Logical Indian community salutes Laxman Gole for the excellent work he is carrying out with everyone, especially the prisoners. He is working extensively in Maharashtra and also in Karnataka trying to make people understand how to ‘live life to the lees’. Gandhian principles, though revered in this country, are hardly put to practical use. Gole is a living example of someone who has rebuilt his life along the teachings of Gandhi. We wish him all the very best in his future endeavours and hope that his efforts transform many more lives.
A documentary has been made by filmmaker Madhavi Tangella on the life and struggles of Laxman Gole; it can be viewed here: