Sunday, August 24, 2014


Vidya, the five year old came to the campus on Wednesday evening with her parents. It was drizzling when they were to return. Vidya was having fun while parents were arranging rain cover for the scooter ride. Interestingly, they did not look worried about what would happen if it starts raining heavily. They had to travel to a place called Subhaspally, 6-7 KM from IIT Kharagpur campus. The father works in Govt. service in Karnataka, the mother is a homemaker.

Today afternoon our family went to meet and greet Medha, the six months old in her first rice ceremony. Vidya had some issue on why all gifts from guests were meant for the sister. The whole family of Vidya and Medha - parents, uncle, aunt, grand parents were full of joy. Medha too obliged all guests and did not treat them as strangers, was comfortable in our lap too. In a lighter mood we told the parents that we may ask when we make a telephone call, "Connect to Vidya" or "Connect to Medha" whenever we have any disconnect with our own Vidya or Medha! The gathering had old pals with whom I spent my younger days of Sanga Chhadhhang, Sang baddwadhang and weekly study-circles. My daughter was caught off-guarded once in this gathering on her Math. lessons. This is when one came to us and after exchange of greetings told my daughter that he scored poorly in Math. in Class VIII and then joined the 'Free Coaching Centre' that we used to run and learnt Math. from me.

Had fun! Environment was excellent! Second daughter - but it is not an issue for the family unlike what we hear elsewhere so much so that the Prime Minister of India needs to refer to it in his Independence Day speech. "Have we seen our sex ratio? Who is creating this imbalance? Not God. I appeal to the doctors not to kill the girl child in the mother's womb. I request the parents not to kill daughters because they want a son. Don't kill daughters in the womb, it is a blot on 21st century India. I have seen families where one daughter serves parents more than five sons(Link)"  The names Medha and Vidya show how much the parents value education themselves and for their daughters.

Some days before one student asked me to forward a letter to be given to security section where the persons named in the letter can issue key to work on weekends. What came as sweet surprise and was somewhat unusual in this letter brought by her, is that girls were in majority in the list. In last two years, girls outdid the boys in joining as research students in our lab. The trend is there in other research lab.s too and in the institute as a whole. This increase put a challenge to our infrastructure and major steps have been taken to increase the number of accommodation for girl students.

General to more specific. Got one mail from a PhD aspirant months back. She could not be shortlisted in our Dept. due to some reason at her end but was shortlisted in another Dept. She was coming for interview and wanted to talk to me. It was educative for me to know her life's struggle. Father died early. She studied hard and did well to earn free studentship that includes engineering and completed MTech. Now she wants to pursue PhD but the mother wants her to join a high paying PSU job she got from campus and get married. Her brother is still studying. She requested another six months from the mother. And if she does not get admission in a PhD program of her choice in an IIT within that time she would take up job. The determination I saw in her made me see what was in store and I encouraged that day and later through email reply. She did well in test and joined as a PhD scholar. I was not surprised when there was a 'Thank You' visit some weeks back.

Facebook brought some distant relatives closer. She is one of our very distant relative and the relationship is so hierachical and family-tree based that I am 'Grandfather' of her who is about 20 years younger to me. Once a year we used to meet in our family function of worship of goddess 'Kali - the Mother' in our ancestral place. Kali worship used to take whole night. On the sideline, I used to conduct quiz, mental Math. for all children gathered. We used to have about 250 family members gathered in one place in this annual function. And this 'granddaughter' of mine used to be very prompt in answering.

Elsewhere I have mentioned that how our family had to struggle to get settled here at the partition of India during Independence (Link). The larger family took different number of generations to come to terms where basic needs could be addressed easily. This granddaughter belonged to such a branch of the tree who are yet to come out of the worry of 'what and how'. She completed graduation and prepared for banking service examination. She did very well in exam. for Probationary Officer (P.O.) selection and there came the time when results were to be published. She was so confident that she did not join another Govt. job of lower position that she got few months back.

But appointment letter was not coming! Did she make a mistake not to accept the other job? Is it going back to the days of despair after the ray of hope that could change their lot? She used to write occasionally, worried - some from their batch got appointment letter while she had not etc. Once she wrote that it is not Postman, she is looking at appearance of God with appoinment letter in hand in the doorway. I asked her to study Vivekananda and not to give up. Used to share how we overcame challenging times.

And then came the time. After joining as P.O. she wrote after few weeks that she wants to devote a part of her for the society and social cause and asked suggestion. The desire in her message "Ami kicchu korte chai (I want to do something)" showed the same strong determination. The attached "God has a bigger plan for me than I have for myself" is from her facebook wall.

And, may I say that I have heard the voice of  Independence?

Endnote: Vivekananda said, "Freedom is the song of the soul." To listen to the song of the soul or voice of independence, there may require a no-abandoning voice of care. One such voice was picked up on Saturday in NSS, IIT Kharagpur conducted medical camp (Link). Please listen to it. The conversation may be in Bengali, but the language of love is always understood.

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