Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering


Baba (Father). Today is his death anniversary. The 1992 appears to be yesterday. It was at about 10 a.m. in the morning. After a night out at hospital I came to our railway quarter (near Bara Maszid at Golebazar) for a quick snacks. On return to Railway hospital, my elder sister was found weeping in the stairs. A fighter who stood like a rock before us, sheltered many like a big eagle under the wings, called it a day. Around 2 p.m. the mortal frame was brought in our quarter. The playground in front of our quarter was almost mobbed - young and old, paying their homage to a person who was really larger than life. The playground still exists between Maszid and Cooperative Stores, our quarter was the middle one numbered MQ9/8. The block was popularly called adhai (2.5) number because it had one bedroom, one verandah which we converted to room by curtain, kitchen, store room, toilet - a total space of 2.5 bedroom.

The partition of India brought the family in a place called Bandel in Hooghly District of West bengal as a refugee. An otherwise good student Baba had to abandon study after secondary when his elder brother and then my grandfather died in quick succession. There was a large family to feed, used to be joint family those days. And Baba perhaps was found to be more capable, competent and he took up the responsibility. Tried a few self-employment ventures which didn't work out that well. Then could establish a shop which started generating some revenue. Together with a few fellow shopkeepers in the neighbourhood he used to bring materials from Kihdirpore dock of Kolkata in truck. That was a trying time for India as a nation with problems galore specially in states like Bengal with large number of refugees coming in.
Baba was the most educated in the family at that time! My other uncle (they were three brothers) was finding it difficult to adapt in new environment and so did cousin brothers who were a few years younger to Baba. They abandoned study much earlier. It was a bold but an important decision for Baba to introduce cousin brothers to that shop and open two more shops (small ones though) in two nearby places, one near Bandel station and the other next to then very famous Dunlop factory (tyre, tube). But it needed a steady cash flow at least in initial years. He tried and got a railway clerical job but at Kharagpur, almost 5 hour from Bandel. From 1960 to 1970 he stayed in a mess in a place called Kharida (parallel to Giri Maidan Halt station) and in the weekend visited Bandel and helped running those shops, maintaining accounts and teaching the youngsters and they got slowly established.

My mother side is from West Bengal. Those days there was lot of animosity between people of West Bengal and refugees coming from East Bengal. However, in a local temple my paternal grand mother and maternal grand mother got friendly and decided to tie the knot. Also one of my maternal uncle and my father played soccer together in a local club. That also helped in removing the difference. Ma (Mother) studied up to class VII. Ironically, she got double promotion in Class V. Those were the ages when in such a family study up to class VII used to be considered enough. If a girl studies a lot it might become difficult to get a suitable groom for her who has to be more educated. Even now can a groom accept a bride who is more qualified - the male ego or peer pressure will come in the way. The marriage took place in 1960 soon after Baba got the railway job.

I was born in 1968 in Bandel, Hooghly only. In 1970, my father got a railway quarter in a place called Nimpura. That is when we all came at Kharagpur - Ma, my two elder sisters and of course little me, one year old. We shifted to railway quarter MQ9/8 near Golebazar after a few years and was there till father died and we had to move out. I have a few faint images of Nimpura quarter but MQ9/8 is very much livid, perhaps I know every square inch of it - twenty prime years of life - schooling, IIT undergraduate days, first employment, more importantly the lovely childhood was associated with that.

The accommodation provided is a function of designation and seniority and not the need. However, the positivity my parents always carried with themselves never made us find fault with anyone or anything. We enjoyed every moment of our stay. Baba used to be philosopher, guide to many of our extended family (not only from Bandel) who came from East Pakistan. Almost every weekend we used to find Baba going to some of their places to solve some problem or they coming to our quarter. As a child I used to have a lot of fun with the visitors and invariably forced them to play chess with me, my favourite indoor sport. Else I was a kind of soccer addict, got into blood from Baba perhaps. In fact, one office colleague of Baba, Bhabananda uncle used to come to teach my two elder sisters. I eagerly waited when the tution ends and as soon as it was over used all the tricks to make him play chess with me. Remember playing chess with Baba in between two Class X board exams.

Ma was detected to have a tumour when I was about 8-9 years. My maternal uncles used to come and take her to Bandel for treatment and she used to be there for weeks. Initially homeopathy was tried and finally it was operated in R.G. Kar Hospital at Kolkata. The whole exercise took more than a year. On every occasion Ma left Kharagpur I used to think perhaps that was the last time I would be able to see her and used to cry a lot. Was not in a position to understand the gravity of the disease and at that time the word 'operation' was fearsome to all. Baba not only provided all the support but also prepared food for us, did office work and helped us in study in the evening. His teaching was enough for me till Class VIII. In Class IX-X took one tution that too for Additional Math. In Class XI-XII too Baba helped in Bengali and English. In those two years took one private tutor who taught Math and Physics and the other Chemistry - in 2+2=4 slots in a week. The rest was available for self-study and soccer and reading storybooks.

It is not that Baba prevented me taking tution rather I didn't find the need. As I grew up a little I could realize the hardship behind maintaining the family from a lower division clerical job. It was not there was any complaint though. After getting monthly salary, to the tune of Rs. 100-120 (in seventies it was much more valued than today but not princely either) he used to write it in a notebook (saw these numbers there). Every expense thereof was to be noted there religiously and the balance was there always at bottom to show how much was left for the month. I used to get one set of dress from him during Durga Puja that used to be school uniform. But whenever we visited our extended family members, my mother used to collect the old but in good-condition dresses of elder cousin brothers. There was nothing like feeling insulted. The wealth, degree perhaps bring with it many a vices - foremost the ego, we feel humiliated/insulted for almost everything. Anyways, I could feel there was no point in putting financial burden on Baba unless absolutely required. As such Bhabananda uncle used to come to teach elder sisters who were a few classes ahead. I used to sit quietly by my sisters' side never disturbing them waiting for Chess play to begin and also absorbing what he was teaching. Later my sisters used to ask me repeat what they were taught and often they told that it became more comprehensible after I reran the entire stuff.

Then came the momentous decision of 1984. After Class X, Baba asked me to switch over to English medium so that I can appear for IIT-JEE. Having studied in Bengali medium throughout in Railway School (near flyover at the entry of Golebazar) I found the going very tough. He bought a book of Physics written by Dutta, Pal, Chowdhury. The first day it took almost 30-45 minutes to read a single page. Baba was beside me with a dictionary. Whenever I came across a new word, tossed it towards him and he would give me the meaning. This was the period between Class X board exam. and taking admission in Class XI. A part of this period was spent in a lodge in Vellore. One of our relative had kidney problem and was to be stationed there for treatment for more than a year. Other relatives took turn to be by his side and a roster was prepared. Our turn came after my Class X board exam. and we spent one month there in a lodge in Vellore, called 'Swami Lodge' near CMC hospital. I can remember the lodge charge of 1984. Single room Rs. 7 per day for two (cooking in corridor or inside that room) and for every extra person it was Rs. 2 per day per person. Even then that lodge and similar lodges were full with patients and their relatives. A different kind of community feelings existed among all bereaved waiting for a healing touch. The CMC hospital - staffs, ambiance were divine. We three - my father, my mother, me used to lie on the floor of the single room hired and our relatives - the patient and his brother used the cot. Became friendly with family members of other patients. I got very close to a north-Indian family where there were 4 members. The father in fifties had a problem in esophagus and could not swallow food and there was a pipe inserted in stomach. Time to time he was given liquid diet through that pipe and he moved around like that. There was always smile at his face. One seldom finds a positive frame of mind like him even in a healthy young person. With him came his son, wife and a monk (in red robes not saffron clad) who was the brother-in-law and came as a support to help sister. Like the son I used to call the monk 'Mamu'. We used to play marble in the long corridor of the lodge and Mamu was too good, always won may be due to his meditative mind. Mamu took my father's permission and I went to watch two movies in the local cinema hall with them during that period - one Telugu, one Hindi. Till that time my visit to cinema halls were way below double digit. Baba used to be very strict on that count. He always encouraged me in sports and games, reading story books but cinema was a strict 'No-No'.

I told Baba that it was not possible for me to switch over to English medium with that pace of study. One subject book of Class XI itself is 5 times the size of Class X English text book that I managed somehow. Then there was Class XII part and other subjects too. But Baba encouraged and perhaps did the greatest of the underwriting job one could imagine in that situation. Underwriting means risk-taking which the bank does acting as a guarantor taking risk of a business for a premium. But they bet on X no. and even if 0.1X fails they are on the profit due to premiums collected from all X and there too it is done on public money as public limited company with limited liability. Here it is his own son, only son. Needs tremendous courage, foresight. I saw Baba's diary after his death. Though irregular and cryptic he used to maintain diary in his beautiful handwriting (any day he beats me a dozen to nil only on handwriting itself). In one place he writes about me when I am five years old, "... will go a long way if cared well." He had faith in me. I had not in myself. Therefore, I said, "If you force me, I shall take English medium but I am sure to fail." He said, "You try then let us see how you can fail." To this I said, "I don't care if I fail. Hope you will not be embarrassed if neighbours/relatives say that Sahababu's son who did well in Class X has failed in Class XII." He said unhesitatingly, "Not at all. Go ahead." This courage, this straight talking, this taking life as it comes I learnt from him and also from studying Vivekananda. When I was in Class III, a few young college students started a small organization near our place patronized by Baba and a few of his colleagues. Every afternoon we used to assemble in a nearby playground called B.N.R ground (comes from Bengal Nagpur Railway, the earlier name of South Eastern Railway) backside of Maszid. There was prayer followed by a few quotes of Vivekananda which we had to memorize and speak in turn, followed by P.T., Soccer, then final assembly, prayer and return to home. Once a week we used to have study circles. Occasionally we used to have camps which usually was housed in one of the Ramakrishna Mission Centres. When I grew up, I used to take care of children similar to the care we received in our childhood.

So, continued with the English medium. As said, took two tution teachers who taught in 2+2 slots. Baba repeatedly asked if I needed more teachers as there was none to take care of Biology, English, Bengali the other three subjects. The Math. too was taught by the Physics teacher who clearly said that he was not a Math. teacher per se but can help a little if we wanted. The tution fee of Physics+Math teacher was Rs. 60 per month. The fee of the Chemistry teacher was Rs. 75 per month. He gave a Rs. 25 discount once visiting our quarter and asked me not to disclose that to other students. I found self-study suited me more and kept my slots free so that there was no clash with soccer practice and the organization related work. To change medium to English, I got admitted to then famous Hijli High School, inside IIT campus. We were not aware that there was a change in leadership in the school from that year and a section of the teachers who had personal ambitions were trying to humiliate the new Headmaster by disrupting the school activities. A section of the local guardians also contributed who found that their wards might get better and personal care if these set of otherwise competent teachers were used. It was shocking to see some of the school teachers giving private tution during class hours to a few school students just outside school campus. We 7-8 from Golebazar, railway area, previously in Railway school, only used to be there in the class. And some of the serious teachers who used to be present in the school lost interest and we were left to fend for ourselves. Up to Class X, I had seen teachers who were good or not-so-good in teaching. But there never was any attempt to ruin the lives of the students. One very competent and very renowned in Kharagpur was our English teacher at Hijli school. In two years he took only one English class that too in first week or so. He taught the poem 'Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead' so well in the only class he took. Next week he surprised us by coming to Bengali class and asked the Bengali teacher to make room from him. The teacher was quite surprised by his colleague's behaviour but to avoid a scene before students and knowing that he was less powerful left the class. The English teacher taught 'Naisha Abhiyan', a piece of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and it was an excellent presentation. But he never taught any class thereafter in school and in school hours used to give private tution. Later somebody educated me that those two classes were promo to show how good he was in both the subjects and students should join his pvt. tution. I knew that Baba would be disturbed if I said all these and as such he might have a feeling that he could do more than those two tutions. In Hijli school, I started spending hours in library and attended the school full-time to tell Baba "Ell is well" while most of the students attended only practical and a few classes of some 'strict' teachers. The Class XI half-yearly exam. result was out. I averaged 60 percent. The change in medium had its effect but I was slowly getting adapted to.

This was the time when I was in Class XI, Baba once came to Patel Hall of IITkgp campus. I accompanied. There was a son of Railway employee studying Chemical Engineering there. He studied in Purulia Ramakrishna Mission and then Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission - Mecca of Secondary and Higher Secondary education in West Bengal. We met him. Baba asked how to prepare for IIT-JEE. Given our situation he advised a one-year correspondence course called 'Agrawal Classes'. As we were about to return there was a smile in his face. Baba inquired. He said, "Uncle, many have asked me this before and I have given this suggestion. But my experience is - everyone begins but few ends." After that Baba ensured that I finish Agrawal Lessons, tasks in time and if there is a clash with school exam. I give priority to the former. I remember that I was busy in finishing these lessons when there was Test Exam. (considered very important before Class XII Board Exam.) and studied only in the morning for the day exam. and did not score a great average. I was and am still grateful to two of my class mates who helped me at that time. The fee for this correspondence course was Rs. 800. We decided to share the lessons, booklets and each of us had to pay only one-third. And there never was any conflict in sharing the resources at any point of time. Baba, too appreciated their and their guardians' kind gesture.

Then came the D-Days. Publication of results of various exam.s IIT-JEE, 10+2 Board, WB-JEE engineering and medical. Appeared in these three. I had the habit of not looking at how much have been answered, what could be the probable marks. Used to get rid of whole of it when an exam.is over and it was time to hit the soccer field. Baba, unlike many other guardians, encouraged this. He used to ask us to work hard and not to worry about result - to be prepared for whatever comes. I find a correlation in Vivekananda quote - "Spit out your action, good or bad and be Azad (free)." Accordingly, I inquired into local Kharagpur College (on way to NH-6 from Inda, left hand side) and was preparing myself what to do next in General stream if result was not good. None in the family including Baba seemed worried at all and it were days as usual. First IIT-JEE result was published, it was a Sunday. That evening we returned from Bandel. Could have returned in the morning. But the feeling was - "What's the hurry, result will be there in the IIT notice board next day too and it is not going to change. Let's maximize our stay in Bandel and spend time with relatives, cousin brothers and sisters and have fun."

Next day at about 9 a.m. Baba asked me to go to IIT and check the result. From Golebazar it is about 5+5 = 10 KM of cycling. So I first decided to check with one class-mate who too appeared in IIT-JEE and stayed within 1 KM at a different side of railway area. He may be able to give an overview at least who from Kharagpur town got chance. If my name did not figure it would save my energy of cycling all the way to IIT and I could be back to my other business - organization (http://abvym.org) related work, reading fictions etc quickly. There was no television at our residence. There was a 1960 model valve operated (no semiconductor) radio which my mother got as a gift during marriage. My friend was standing at the door of their quarter and there were 3-4 more batch-mates there. There was a pal of gloom around. Joined the conversation. Felt it awkward to ask my result when they themselves did not figure in the list. But again is it worth cycling all the distance? After sometime asked, "How did KGP town fared as a whole in IIT-JEE?" The answer came, "A few - you, ...., ..." "Any idea on my rank?" "Not sure, may be towards the end 1300 or so." That time number of seats were less and 1300 was used to be considered as bottom. Anyways, I found reason enough to cycle to IIT. The notice was there in the Main Building in front of F-127 notice boards. The place has not changed much from 1986 to 2010. I was sweetly surprised to see an AIR of 224. The first thought that came to my mind was that Baba will no more caution me if I give more time to play or organization related work. With an IIT stamp I'll get at least a decent number of private tutions (if not anything better) and now I can have a carefree life. Though I spent a great amount of time in EAA (Extra Academic Activity) there was always a fear. When I was about 13-14, Baba one day called me and said, "I want to tell you something very frankly. You perhaps understand our financial condition. I am confident that I'd save enough to get your two elder sisters married. From my provident fund (PF) I expect to build a small house. Myself and your mother will be able to maintain ourselves from whatever railway pension we shall get. I shall not leave you any burden of the family. But I shall not be able to leave any wealth for you. I shall try the hardest to make you study as much as you want but that's the most that I can do for you." I kept quiet. All that I understood at that tender age was that I must study well and this is the only path.

The family was very happy. After a few weeks WB-JEE result was out. Engineering rank was 141 and Medical 208. Baba wanted me to join Medical. Ma wanted Engineering. It was left to me. As soon as secondary (class X) exam. was over Baba asked me to go to Bandel alone, my first in life. He asked, "Now you start handling things yourself." The admission in Hijli School etc. was all done by me. Baba never came. So the wish of Baba and Ma were subtle. I decided IIT because it was close to home and the EAA activities could be continued with. After a few weeks of class at IIT the date of publication of Class XII Board exam. was announced. I started feeling nervous. What if I get back in one subject! The sense of security in me, in the family will all be vanished. Somebody told that once upon a time even after admission in IIT one got back in English and he had to discontinue.

At that time 10+2 West Bengal Board result used to come in what was called "Gazette". This was a printed booklet. Local youths used to collect it from Kolkata after a lot of effort (there used to be tremendous rush and long queue) and brought to their locals. All students/guardians used to flock him and there was differential fee - highest for 1st division, 2nd highest for 2nd division and so on. People often used to cross-check in another gazette in a nearby locality where another youth were offering the service at a similar fee. The mark sheet used to come in schools much later. Finally, the result was published. The local senior who brought the gazette put me on his shoulder and took me around and there was a big crowd in front of our quarter. My name appeared in the daily newspaper as 14th ranker in 10+2 Board Exam. Baba took me to Kolkata to receive award from then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. I attended two more functions and after that Baba turned down all the requests. One of the function was for being first in Midnapore District (then East and West Midnapore were combined), the other one was at Hijli High School. The Hijli School function was hilarious and I'll narrate that on some other occasion. Baba even requested his office colleagues to abandon the idea of felicitating me. He said, "Too many of these will make him (i.e. me) forget that miles to go and he will start thinking that he has become something (he was pointing to ego)" and they agreed but came to our quarter and gave many prizes. I remember Baba's office colleagues - Pradhan Jyethu, Bera Mama, Mukherjee Kaku, Haldar Kaku, Datta Mama, Anjan Kaku, Goswami Kaku and many such names. When I came first in Class I exam. Pradhan Jyethu told me, "Now that you came first, you cannot be second anymore." His wish (by virtue of blessings from all) were true in school life. Up to XII, I stood first in school exam.s, surprisingly in Hijli School too even after scoring low marks after medium change came first as the other toppers focussed mostly on IIT-JEE and other JEEs and did not stress on WB Board exam./syllabi. In IITkgp, ECE Dept. there were the likes of Ranjit Gharpurey, K Srikanth, Sridhar and I was honoured to end BTech program joint third with Sridhar behind former two. All my batchmates were great. Somehow I managed to do sufficiently well in Exam.s in spite of being one of the least interactive student. The problem was that my knowledge of English medium was limited to written English and I could not speak English and Hindi was not at all allowed. Preferred to be backbencher hiding face avoiding interaction so that I didn't need to speak. In the class too didn't interact much with 'toppers' who used to speak in English and was closer to those few who had communication problem like me. Goswami Kaku always supplied me story books, children's magazine 'Anandamela' from my early years. The newspaper uncle too was very kind. He knew that I liked to read story books but it was difficult for Baba to subscribe to children's magazines. Whenever a new issue of another popular children's magazine 'Shuktara' was published he delivered one copy first in our quarter and next day he used to collect that and give it to original subscriber. A few hours used to be enough for me to finish a magazine. Yes, such requirements, boundary conditions perhaps made me a fast reader. I used to take approx. half the time or even less to read a single page compared to an ordinary reader. Perhaps this is one example how weakness can be turned to one's strength.

Every thing was going fine like a fairy tale story and it could have ended with "they lived happily thereafter." It was not to be. I was completing 2nd year at Dept. of E&ECE & Patel Hall at IIT Kharagpur. It was 1988. Baba was feeling some health related problem - mostly high blood pressure and a pain that used to start from the heel and moved upward. With a strong physique and stronger frame of mind he initially ignored them - then tried homeopathy, local alopathy and yoga in that order. He always made us feel that he was relatively better in each treatment while the ground reality was different. It could be so that entire life he solved others' problems and now he does not want others to feel troubled because of him. Could be so that the problem existed for long and he hid it so that I remain focussed to academics in those crucial years. In our railway quarter there used to be acute shortage of water supply. It was a routine affair that we used to stand, often in a long queue, before the nearest well which was 150m away inside the Maszid. The Maszid authority was magnanimous and never felt irritated or turned us away. I remember Halim uncle and others. We never had any trouble in that area even after Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Maszid episode. While myself and Baba used to fetch water on ordinary days, it used to be sole responsibility of Baba when I used to have academic deadlines. After that operation of Ma, Baba increased his share of responsibility in household work and tried to assist her as much as possible. Every morning he used to chop vegetables or fish and at times used to cook a few items. He was a great cook specially chicken preparations were too delicious. Whenever there was any visitor in our house we used to have chicken dishes and it was Baba's responsibility. Now if he raised his own health issue then the equilibrium would have been lost and the system, he was painstakingly building since his refugee days, reaching some sort of stability, would have been out of gear. I mentioned the kind of help he used to be to one and all. It perhaps was unbecoming of him to send a distress call, otherwise too, people around in our lower middle class family, themselves were quite unstable.

My Ma finally persuaded him to go to Vellore, CMC. A maternal uncle accompanied. On their return we were lightning struck to hear that both the kidneys were at late stage of failure. Then and before too he never looked like a patient. He scoffed off his disease. He never believed in too much of talking or democracy at least in his own matters. He spared only a few sentences when we confronted him. He said that he obtained all necessary info. from CMC physicians and did adequate research. He continued, "Post 50 years the kidney transplantation is risky, maximum survival years is 9-10. And there were cases that people died in operation table. Average survival year is 4. The physicians said that if I take medicines and control food-water, lifestyle then I shall survive for 3-4 years. Therefore, I opt for the second and shall be taking medicine, food as prescribed. All of you get busy with our respective work. Nothing to discuss, debate or worry about me." We all understood that behind his research he concealed the effort required for kidney transplantation - money, time, energy, involvement of people. But in our family he always had the last word, none could ever rise above his personality. He could have been just a clerk in a railway office, it was common for us to often see railway staffs in Howrah station saluting him when we changed platform from South Eastern Railway (Kharagpur trains) to Eastern Railway (Bandel trains). The physique, the look, the long strides, there was always an aura around him. The last time he got admitted into hospital (three weeks before he left us) was 14th August, 1992. It was emergency of Railway Main Hospital at Kharagpur. Myself and two of my friends accompanied him. The doctor at emergency thought one of my friend to be patient. A terminally ill kidney patient with abysmally low haemoglobin level never looked like one. Baba intervened and told "I am the patient. Please admit me. Dr. Dora (senior doctor) knows my case. Please inform him." The junior doctor was surprised. The next day was the Independence Day. The night in the hospital emergency was different from other years. That time and otherwise too when Baba was in hospital we faced one difficulty. Either me or one of my friend used to be there at night to take care of his needs, to take him to toilet etc.. He used to make all effort so that we feel comfortable, lie down somewhere, take sleep and unless we were awake he would go to toilet alone without calling us.

We never saw any worry in the period 1988-1992 in his face or any fear of death. It was business as usual for him - visiting office, shops, taking morning walk and of course what he always did best, guiding people. Many of my friends depended more on Baba's advice than their own guardians. I remember how Baba encouraged one of my school friend who did not do too well in academics to open a book shop and now in Kharagpur town he perhaps is the most famous and he has chain of shops not only in Khargpur, in other places too. He used to brings books and copies from Kolkata by train and kept in our quarter in the evening. Their own residence was far and in upper floor and the books and copies used to be quite heavy. Next morning he used to take them to his shop. Often I accompanied him to various nearby schools promoting his enterprise and talked to school teachers. There were many other examples. I remember three of my distant relatives who got railway job in Kharagpur stayed in our small quarter for weeks and months. Two of them were male and shifted after 3-4 weeks when Baba could find a good acco. for them as a local guardian. For the third it was difficult to get a mess for her and D.... Masi stayed in our quarter longer. There never was any complaint from any of my parents and they were happy to play their part of the role. D... Masi, her husband S... Meso, their daughters maintain such a cordial relation with us even today which is seldom found even in near relatives. The bond that is built on share, care and love are the greatest. I used to get a lot of affection from many for simply being son of 'Sahababu', admired by one and all.

All that I could do in this period is to stay close to Baba and he appeared to be proud of that. The CGPA was good (9.68), there were 'good' offers from India and abroad. Didn't look at any of them. The nearest 'good' offer was from Tata Steel, Jamshedpur that had relatively easy 18 months of G.T. Training akin to IAS training with adventure sports, one month of Management Training at XLRI, Jamshedpur etc. Opted for that. Used to come to KGP in the weekend and also on holidays. Found a novel way to maximize stay at KGP. Every three months, on FRIday morning used to go to Jamshedpur Blood Bank, donate blood, get rest for that day and next day off. Soon after blood donation used to rush to Tatanagar Station and took Bombay-Howrah Express (now Shalimar-KurlaT Express) to come to KGP. Once training period was over, met General Manager (Works) and by his advice Executive Director of Tata Steel and pleaded for my posting at Tata Bearings, Kharagpur. They tried to make me understand that my career will bloom in their main plants and not in a small division like Tata Bearings and in the past none of Jamshedpur G.T. had come here. Also that they took over this plant from a company called 'Metal Box' and there was no Tata culture yet there. Still I persuaded them and they reluctantly posted me here at KGP. In between I tried for a Kolkata position in ANZ Grindlays Bank (now merged with Standard Charter Bank); KGP always is better connected with Kolkata than Tatanagar. I did well in a written exam. so much so that the big shot in the interview asked me to join their Head Office at Bombay, foreign training after a few months and almost double the salary from what I was getting from Tata Steel and said that Kolkata job is too low key and did not fit my profile. I said that I could not go to Bombay for personal reason. The big boss thought that I was bargaining. He offered me free accommodation, his deputies echoed that boss does not provide acco. to a new incumbent and it was a rare gesture and I should accept the offer. Then I told them that my father was terminally ill and I want to stay close. They rightly said that there were better medical facilities at Mumbai. I replied that Baba periodically visits CMC, Vellore and he insisted to spend the remaining period amongst friends and families and he was not the kind to listen to others. To this the boss said, "We value your sentiment. But sometimes you have to take hard decision in life." I replied, "I am taking one in rejecting your generous offer." Then the boss said, "I was to return to Bombay by evening flight. I am postponing that to tomorrow. Please go back home. Discuss our offer with your father. I am sure he will guide you to join us. Please meet us tomorrow at 10 a.m. and confirm our offer." I returned home. Baba asked how was the test. I said, "It was okay but they prefer some other people for the post advertized." (Only the Kolkata post was advertized) and did not discuss any other point with father and let the offer collapse.

Baba never believed in astrology, stones etc. We have our family deity Ma Raksha Kali. Once a year we have big Puja at Bandel with all family members converging in. Baba used to say "as Ma Kali wishes". In my 2nd Year of IIT UG days a black and white Uptron TV was bought. Baba preferred comedy movies. Among serious movies he was moved by 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' of Ritwik Ghatak. It portrays the difficulties faced by a refugee family of East Pakistan and how the eldest member of the family sacrificed her life to stabilize the ship. He saw it a number of times. He used to read newspaper thoroughly and had a strong understanding of contemporary world. He did not have much fascination of fictions (my mother had and still has). He liked reading 'Ramakrishna Kathamrita' in hospital days. He was to retire from job in 1994. By 1988, before the disease was detected he prepared a plan for a small 2 bedroom house in the small plot of land we had in Bandel. He planned to stay there after retirement among other relatives. But could not proceed further due to onset of disease and did not see retirement either. A few days before he died, he asked me to come close when I was alone in hospital and others were away. He had difficulty in talking at that time. Whispered to me, "Please get married. Take care of yourself. In this world, none takes care of others. One has to take care of himself" I understood the first part, its origin. I used to be busy with our organization related work of Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal and at times used to be in company of monks. But the second part of the advice whether was specific to me, that I trusted people easily or were too innocent for this complex world or the ideology I believed in originated from divine nature of people or something to do with his vast long struggle in life that asks son who till date had been protected by him to be aware of realities on ground, was not very clear. May be he was indicating that the sacrifice one makes often is not reciprocated and one should be strong enough to accept that and be prepared for that or it may be something more subtle, to come from him who always believed in taking care of others and never bothering to take care of himself - may be that we are all one, the idea of taking care of others is incorrect, we take care of ourselves only else it is no care if we do not feel the oneness; at the same time it is not necessary that everyone will have the same feelings and the gesture will be reciprocated as we all are at different stages of evolution. The fulfillment of the wish and the house at Bandel according to his design - both happened in 1998. I continued to believe in the ideology that human being are essentially divine, the animal nature is just an aberration but tried to fortify myself by expecting the unexpected. I still trust people easily. At the same time I learnt to become independent. If somebody does some good to me I feel grateful, if acts differently I don't feel surprised because life's struggle of Baba has left behind a lesson - absorb all negatives, be always positive, make others feel positive, don't look for return, stand on your own feet and own the responsibility.

Baba, accept my pranam. Make me a worthy son of thee.

"
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Goutam Buddha

Concluded(Draft)...

7 comments:

Saraswati Chandra said...

This is so inspiring sir. Couldn't resist reading it till the end for all I visited this page was to take a glance on all the articles.Truly inspiring ! :)

Ashok Mondal said...

Sir, you incurred admission in Engineering course based on your Mother's advice. This is a Great decision for us because we have got an Opportunity to work under the Guidance of a Real HERO.

gs said...

@SC : Thanks. We have a job at hand. There is a lot of scope for us...not just working in bits and pieces...integrating all the forces ...iitians can do that, they are the most capable...looking for that blend of hand-head-heart...truly inspired by the effort you and your team is making.

@AM : Vivekananda says, "More and more the true greatness seems to me that of the worm doing its duty silently, steadily, from moment to moment and from hour to hour." The millions before us are the great ones who keep the giant wheel running, they are the real heroes, ...wish they get their due, the right place in history and don't simply end in melancholy of poet as the ones 'unwept, unhonoured, unsung'! ... proud to have team members like you and we do contribute to medical domain, don't we? ... wishes, blessings have its effect :-)

Chintan said...

I cannot describe in words how great and unsung a hero your father was. May his brave soul be with you, always.

gs said...

Thanks Chintan. Wish that I become a worthy son. Still far below if I look at the quotient (responsibility taken)/(capacity possessed) ...

gs said...

I was going through recording of NSS Day function held on 24th Sept. at Netaji Auditorium.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/12216947/NSS%20Day/NSS%20Day%2040%20min.wmv

It is still there, the communication problem - speaking in English. Lucky that people around me have been kind and I'll definitely try to improve further.

Started a new post on NSS Day.

friends said...

Its very inspiring, I hope everybody having such a encouraging and courageous father you have. May your father blessings always with you....
:)