Mahatma Gandhi would have been a happy man. This is a story of salvation we hardly get to hear or see in our profligate times. What chance would you give a hardened criminal with 18 cases of extortion and assault registered against him? It would seem none. But Laxman Gole gave himself one chance when his 19th arrest came calling. A Class 7th dropout from school it's an all too familiar story. He took to the streets and to crime at the young age of 16. It started with a razor assault on a drunkard and soon his reputation preceded him. He rapidly established himself as a slum lord of a locality participating and abetting extortion and other severe form of gangland crime. The prick of conscience can be very powerful it seems. On his 19th case, Laxman Gole confessed his crimes. He was convicted for two years and emerged from the experience as a changed man. His transformation from a gangster to reformed citizen came about through a copy of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography gifted to him during one of his stints in jail. He immersed himself in the works of Mahatma Gandhi, learnt to read and write in Hindi, English and Urdu. He also started teaching his fellow inmates, who now write letters of gratitude.
Today, Laxman Gole is a free man. He has been hired as a full-fledged volunteer with Bombay Sarvoday Mandal, a 50-year-old charitable trust which promotes Gandhian values. T R K Somaiya, Sarvoday veteran manages the foundation. He has played a significant part in Laxman's changeover. He regularly sent him Gandhian literature when Laxman was in jail. His mentor today hopes to channel that same spirit which changed a self into work that can change others. He plans to send Laxman to all the prisons of Maharashtra, India as living proof of what a person can become.
"In all these years I have worked for this organization, I have never seen a more positive change taking place," said T R K Somaiya, who manages the organization. "I think we must support him. We are now ready to bear all his expenses and fund his further education too."
The story does not end here. Today, Laxman Gole is preparing to appear for the Class 12th exams from the Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi. His journey has started and he hopes to inspire others along its way.
Also published by me in Digitaljournal.com