On the day HV Sheth of Daya passed away, we publish a special memoir about his father, Shantilal Sheth, a Jain scholar and Gandhian, who worked with the leading stalwarts of the Indian National Congress.
HV Sheth, owner of Sheth Printograph, says, “Shantilal Sheth (HV Sheth’s father) studied under Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan for three years, for a comparative study of the doctrines of Jainism and Buddhism. A religious follower of the Jain dharma and a true Gandhian, Shantilal Sheth, always wanted to be associated with the welfare of society at large through education. As HV Sheth says, “Commercial activities were never my father’s forte; he wanted to do selfless service for the manufacture of something meaningful for the benefit of the nation.”
In order to publish his own literary work, he started a printing press in Beawar, Rajasthan under Gurukul School, of which he was an administrator. This is where HV Sheth mastered the art of manual composing. Then when we came to Delhi, he started a press at Kingsway Camp, with three letterpress cylinders and three treadle printing machines.
A reputed name among the Jains, Shantilal Sheth represented Jainism in the World Peace Congress in Tokyo, Russia, and the edition in Chicago. HV Sheth says, “My father was associated with the Harijan Sevak Sangh under Mahatma Gandhi. My parents always patronised hand-spinning and weaving khadi for their own clothes.” He adds, “For them, the message of the spinning-wheel was of simplicity, service to mankind, living so as not to hurt others, and creating an indissoluble bond between the rich and the poor, capital and labour, the prince and the peasant. It was more for economic, cultural and social reasons and not merely political. He always professed an ideology of self-reliance and self-government”, Sheth adds.
HV Sheth practises the credo: ‘Be Indian. Buy Indian.’ He says, “My concern is, why can’t we manufacture what we need. If the Europeans and Americans and for that matter Chinese can do it, we are technically capable of producing advanced products.”
Shantilal Sheth had joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and was appointed by Mahatma Gandhi. He was also the secretary of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi at Rajghat. “All of us lived with Kakasaheb Kelkar and Rehana Tayyeb. She and father had many philosophical debates. It was fascinating because she was a Muslim but believed in Krishna. She was a palmist. Many times Indira Gandhi came to our home to show her palm to Rehana. This was usually after midnight. Rehana used to see palms from the opposite side of hand and not the way traditional palmists do it,” Sheth recounts.
Sheth adds, “Most of the Jain scholars were guided by my father because he knew the Pali and Prakrit languages; and most of the Jain literature is in those languages. He was a pioneer in using the tools of Pali and Prakrit to analyse things that are frequently thought to be outside the realm of Jainism.”
Shantilal Sheth had good relations with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A true renaissance man.
HV Sheth traded in letterpress alongwith treadle machines in 1963 with his elder brother. Today, he owns Daya Sheth Printograph, which manufactures finishing kit.
Rest in Peace - HV Sheth, founder member and president of IPAMA and chairman of Daya Sheth Printograph