Hitler's guest from Pune dies at 103
- Shailendra Paranjpe, DNA
- Nov 13, 2010, 11:48 AM IST
Pune: A Puneite, who was guest of German leader Adolf Hitler, is no more. The 103-year-old Mahadeo Kashinath Gokhale, popularly known as Baburao, passed away at his Sahakarnagar residence of old age on Thursday.
Baburao enjoyed Hitler's hospitality as a special guest in Berlin for four months after the dictator was impressed by his barefoot marathon in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, an opportunity given by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda.
Born in Konkan, he had an Indian rat snake, a python and a leopard as pets during his teenage years in Karjat. Pune became his home for the last 90 years.
A fitness freak, he used to cycle to Delhi and Kailash Mansarovar, besides running from Pune to Lonavla every day. He won many competitions, including the 27-mile marathon of Pune Deccan Gymkhana Club in 1937-38, 1938-39 and 1939-40 and was also the Mumbai province champion.
Between 1927-33, he visited Karachi to teach Balgandharva's songs to Jaddanbai (mother of late Bollywood actress Nargis), Begumbara and Husna Bano. A tabla player himself, he changed the songs' composition to prevent these singers from copying the legendary vocalist's style.
Impressed by his ability to do 5,000 push-ups, 60-km running and cycling, the Go-Rakshan Sanstha used to give him one container of milk and 1 kg ghee every day, which Gokhale used to consume along with his regular diet of 20 chapatis and vegetables during lunch and dinner.
For teaching Marathi, Hindi and cross-country sport to the British governor between 1938 and 1941, Baburao used to take 1 kg pedha and burfi (Indian sweets) as fees. At 98, he used to consume 1.25 kg of shrikhand (yogurt cream dessert) and 90 jalebis (Indian sweet) if challenged at any wedding ceremony.
Baburao worked with Eknath Murthy's circus before taking to book binding. Later he started Vaibhav Wartalay, a newspaper stall, at Pavan Maruti Mandir Chowk near Bharat Natya Mandir, which he managed till his death. Noted writer NM Joshi had penned a biographical book on Baburao, Marathon Mahadeo, when he entered the 100th year in August 2006.