Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dada- Murari Mohan Goswami

Dada was two years elder to me.

My memory retraces incidents and facts since I was some 5 or 6 year old-at Madaripur,in Faridpur District of what is Bangladesh today.My father,a doctor,was in charge of the sub divisional hospital at Madaripur.We used to live in the RMO’s quarter close to the hospital.

Dada was admitted to a primary school which was naturally co-educational.After attending school for acouple of days he refused to go to school and study with girls.My parents had a hard time convincing him .At that time I used to be taught by the postmaster as a tutor.I used to go to the post office with my books and as the postmaster got busy I packed my bag and proceeded home with ‘khiras’ which he often brought for me.

One fine morning Didi and Dada told me they saw Goddess Durga on her lion flitting across the sky.I was sad that they did not call me to see this.Thereafter for a long time I was looking at the sky hoping to get a glimpse of the goddess but could not.It was a big disappointment for me.

Dada and me used to loiter around and very often some patient would meet us outside the hospital and talk.We later came to know one of them was an ICS officer.

I remember that one night we shifted in a hurry to another house,probably a Nurses’ qr,as the river Aarial Khan,was going to engulf our house.we could not see the building next morning.The photograph of the family that I have possibly was taken at this place.

After Madaripur my father was transferred to Sardah Police Training college as the medical officer.He also taught First Aid to trainee police officers (IP).We lived in a big bungalow with flowerbeds,orchards etc. Here we two brothers used to pick peaches from the trees,loiter around a sandalwood tree where very often we would see a poisonous snake,play football with egg-fruits which grew in plenty and other pastimes.Once we took up a project to arrange piped water supply to the kitchen ,about 30 metre away from the main building.We thought if we could use the stalks of the leaves of papaya plants,which were hollow inside,it could from the pipeline and could carry water.The whole days labor came to nought as there ware leakages enough and the project came a failure.We had one domestic help named possibly Kalachand,who told us he had learnt magic at Kamakhya. So we urged him to show some magic.After a lot of persuasion he agreed and sat down under a big lemon tree with a circle drawn around him (Gandi) and with closed eyes went into meditation.After sometime he produces a couple of mice in a box which was empty earlier.We were thrilled.

At Sardah we sometimes played with John and Anthony,sons of the Principal.They sometimes gifted us chocolates and biscuits brought from England.Here at Sardah once the Lt Governor of Bengal visited .We could see the procession of cars,some forty in number,pass our gate.

Here our grandmother(kattama)used to live with us.She used to keep sort of laddos made of rice and boiled vegetables,her daily meal,for us.We used to eat those with relish.

Our father used to visit the club sometimes.Chinu,who was very small then,used to accompany him often.

While at Sardah we had the opportunity to visit Jharia during Ganeshda’s marriage.We travelled in a reserved compartment with the bride and the bridal party who entrained at Serampur.Little did I know that Serampur would occupy an important place in my life in future.We travelled in a car from Rly station.It belonged to our Uncle ,a mine manager and mine owner,Jyanendranath Bhattacharya.He was Ganeshda’s father’s eldest brother.

Here in Jharia lunch was served on a sort of plate made of Saal leaves stitched together.We were befooled as any vegetable curry or dal served would disappear in no time through the gaps.So,we declared we were not going to eat. Maa then arranged some thalis for us.

In early forties,either from Sardah or Calcutta we had visited Bogra,our mamabari(maternal uncles’ place a couple of times.The occasions were marriage of Badomama and then Mejomama.Bogra visit used to be of immense enjoyment to us.Apart from some relief from daily studies we got ways to entertain ourselves.Our Dadumoni,maternal grandfather,was a person we liked to be with.He told us interesting stories,some with high moral.we used to accompany him to the bazaar.Also he used to take us to Bogra Nawab’s palace where there was a black Cheetah and some other animals and birds.

Mejomama had a flock of pet pigeons,mostly white lakka pairas,We used to trap them by setting up traps and again released them.At that time our Chhotomama used to live in a room in the ‘Kutchari’ building(my grandfather was an advocate).The grill rods in his window were spaced wide enough for Dada and me force our heads inside and enter.It was almost a daily core.There was a big ‘rangan’ flower plant in front of the kitchen bloc.We two used to catch butterflies and dragonflies which used to come there for honey.Red dragonfly was a prize catch.Here,at Bogra,I remember,after Mejomama’s marriage we all went to see a cinema.I only remember seeing a newsreel showing Guru Rabindranath’s funeral,his body behind carried in a procession.

During that period we had been to Betila,our ancestral p lace, as Badokaka was getting married.Here the family used to live in house with a number of rooms in the outhouse too and only one room on the first floor,approached by a staircase from outside.No one used to go to this room.So Dada and me decided to find out what interesting things were there.It was filled with lots of knick knacks.After a lot of search we came across two small round shaped boxes with mirror top.These were our prized possession.

Here the adults often went to th river to take bath.We sometimes accompanied them.We would watch boats sailing by,dolphins surfacing and generally the beauty of river.I remember once we travelled by boat for long to reach a rail-head.It was thrilling to us.

At Betila very often we would partake of Bhog in the temple premises(temple of Mohan-Rai our ancestral deity.).We had to carry individual tumblers if we wished to have water with lunch.

After Sardah we shifted to DumDum Cantonment when father was posted at Calcutta Medical College.We were admitted to a school.Here once,after Kali Puja,we collected all the left over candles and wanted to melt those and make fresh candles.Not aware of dangers,we put all the material in a pot and set it to melt on a coal oven.It caught fire,and to quench it Dada poured water over it.It erupted and burnt us seriously but our eyes were safe.So when Bhai Phonta came and our maternal uncles came we were heavily bandaged but enjoyed Bhai Phonta gathering to the full.

At Dum Dum we were admitted to a school where some of our cousins also studied.Our stay at Dum Dum was short and we shifted to 73, Sikdar Bagan Street.This was a big house taken on lease by our uncle who was P.A to PMG Bengal-a very powerful post.He was a godly person and shared the house with my father.His two sons were in our age group and Dada and me used to fly kites,play carrom,go to Parsnath temple, Deshbandhu Park,on pandal hopping during Pujas and all such pastimes.At Deshbandhu Park we used to collect empty shells from all sizes of guns,those were spread out in plenty.We didn’t know why those were there.Some said that probably police had opened fire on Satyagrahis in the pre-independence period and these were the remnants.

While at Sikdar Bagan we also cultivated the hobby of collecting postage stamps.First we found that from the hose opposite ours lots of packages were thrown out with stamps of foreign countries on them,mostly of Italy.We collected a few and thus started ourstamp collection.We exchanged,we collected we bought a few too.Our Stamp album possibly was handed over to our nephews later.

We shifted from 73 Sikdar Bagan st to a rented house at Shankar Halder Lane in Ahiritola.We did not change school,used to walk down more than a mile and half to school.Here our Chhoto Kaka,father’s youngest brother,used to visit often and we all enjoyed his company.

In Jan 1946 Baba took us two brothers for admission in a school.Town school was the first preference as it was the nearest ,just across the Cornwallis st and our cousins used to study there.But the Headmaster told us that while there was a seat available for Dada in class v there was no seat in class iii for me.So we travelled to Saraswati Institution on Shyampukur St.I remember entering the Head Master’s room-the Head Master was Jyotirbikas Mitra,the legendary personality with thick glasses and sombre look.We were admitted.And both of us studied in the same school up to School Final;Dada up to 1952 and me upto 1954.

Dada used to do very well in studies and soon occupied the top position in his class year after year.I was faring so so, because mainly I suffered from frequent migraine and used to miss the school very often.Me and dada used to go to school and return together,except when I being in lower class had morning classes in summer.When I walked down to school in early morning I would watch Bhistis(carrying water in leather bag like containers) washing the streets.Occasionally a tram would pass(actually I have seen tramgari chapapara bang chapta more than once) and a few Buses too.Big cars,all foreign made,used to amble by.We could identify at least 70-80 car models from a distant.Morris,Austins,Fords,Humbers,Dodge,De Sotos,Packards,Studebakers,MG,Volkswagen,Rolls Royce …… al.Then the taxis also were big cars,mostly driven by Sikhs.

I remember Hidu-Muslim riots and the Partition of India.

Then came the pre-partition days of Hindu-Muslim riots,with us living under constant mental pressure when at night we could hear Shouts of “Allah ho Akbar” and ‘Har Har Mahadeb” ‘Jai Ma Kali” etc.Very often we were herded on the terrace where bricks etc were kept ready .for use in case of attack.I remember we were all confined to our houses for a month with Curfew imposed.

When India was partitioned and we got Independence myself,Dada,our cousins made flags and buntings to celebrate Independence Day.Our joy knew no bounds.

We used to fly kites.Used to get kites from NAZIR.On Bishwakarma day it was kites all over the sky.Myself and Dada found recipe for good MANJA-using arrowroot and sago paste as binder and ground electric bulb glass for sharpness.On that day we used to collect at least fifty kites which used to sail over our building……

Someday we would find enough time to empty the raw water tank(Gangajal) and catch the fingerlings .Those did not,however,live long when kept in bottles.But anyhow we could keep ourselves engaged for a while.

After the end of Second World War lot of War disposal materials were on sale on footpaths.Out of these we often bought pouches containing chocolates and lozenges meant for the military,at throaway price of two annas.Once I purchased a ARP whistle for two annas and Dada bought a pack of cards.Later someday when we had a quarrel I tore off his pack and he hammered to pieces my whistle.We made up not much later.

During summer vacations we did not know how to kill time.Often we used to visit Hathibagan bazaar and used to get books like GoomKhoon,BLA405……etc….Detective books and also books by Nihar Ranjan Roy.-detective stories,to pass time.We once got a book on ancient Egypt.It was very interesting.The story of Tutankhamen was a mystery for us .Often we would read a book together,turning pages when both have read it.

We shifted from 73 Sikdar Bagan st to a rented house at Shankar Halder Lane in Ahiritola.We did not change school,used to walk down more than a mile and half to school.Here our Chhoto Kaka,father’s youngest brother,used to visit often and we all enjoyed his company.

In the year 1951 or so our father,who was at that time the Asst Prof of Anatomy in the Medical College Calcutta,opted for Surgery Deptt and was transferred to the Sambhunath Pandit Hospital as the Resident Surgeon.We got a bungalow with lot of trees of Mangoes, litchi etc to live in.There were beautiful flower beds maintained by malis and also in the large vegetable garden all sorts of vegetables were grown.Here we got an opportunity to know Nature well.There was a badminton court and our Chhotomama,who was in merchant Navy then,would visit us when in Calcutta.He got us badminton rackets,net and shuttlecocks and used to play with us brothers to teach the game.He started his career in ‘Jala Usha’ of Scindia Steamship.In this ship the film ‘Chori Chori’ starring Nargis was shot.Later ,when we were living in mamabari in Chinsura,mama took me to see the film in Chinsura cinema hall.

At Sambhunath Pandit Dada and me decided to build a masonry house.Dada made the plan(perhaps he was growing up as a civil engineer from that time),we made small duly burnt bricks,arranged cement etc and made a small beautiful house with a pond in front.Everybody appreciated it.But to our misfortune when Holi arrived one of the revellers jumped down from the boundary wall on Elgin road and crushed the house.We felt so sad.

After Sambhunath Pandit Hosp we shifted to the quarter of the RS in Beninandan St when father was transferred to Nilratan Sarkar hospital.Here we had our Sacred thread ceremony(it was done at the Sodepur house of Badokaka where Kattama used to live).I remember getting ‘wearever’ pens as gift which we two brothers used for long.After our paite ceremony we lost our Kattama.

Once Dada was in class nine,the school teachers and our parents were hoping he would occupy a high rank in School Final and so Baba arranged private tuition for Dada in English,Maths,Sanskrit and Bengali.Sushilbabu,Bireshwarbabu and Rajenbabu used to impart private tuition.It was studies,studies and studies for him.I used to keep a distance from these teachers lest they ask me about studies.In the school Final Dada did rank amongst first ten but he deserved higher position.He overlooked answering one question in addl mathematics possibly and lost 16 marks.He should have been within the first two with letter marks in Maths(100),addl Maths,Sanskrit and Geography.He also obtained more than 70 percent in English-the highest in the Board.He would write flawless English.And in Maths he could make no mistake.

He studied Isc at the Presidency college.I was then in class nine and started paying more attention to studies as the Migraine subsided to a great extent.I,however ,did not have any private coaching and if required got problems solved by Dada,even stopping his studies.At this time too I did not agree to take a transfer to the Mitra Institution ,Bhowanipur,and continued at Sailendra Sircar,travelling by bus everyday from Elgin Road.Sometimes we used to stand on the staircase outside as it was too crowded.

After Isc Dada joined BE College,Sibpur,standing 4th in the entrace exam and getting a scholarship.From that time I made almost a vow to enter BECollege and study electrical engineering.So,I studied well in Isc course from the beginning in the Central Calcutta College.Often I used to go to Dada’s hostel in BECollege(Downing Hall)to reach books or clothings..etc visualising myself as a student of BECollege.

Around this time our father was transferred to the Calcutta Medical College Hospital as Resident Surgeon.And I joined Central Calcutta College for Isc.It was a good college where personal attention was paid to each student.Our practical classes used to be in the morning followed by lectures on different subjects.I used to walk down to the college.After Isc iappeared in the admsion test at BECollege and did well to be sure of a scholarship as well.But after I appeared in the admission test I had appeared in the All-India entrance exam for admission to the Mining Engineering course at the Indian school ofmines Dhanbad.There I did extremely well and that eventually led me to being a mining engineer.

Once I joined ISM Dhanbad Dada and me would meet during vacations or when there was a celebration in our house.Didi’s marriage was one such.

After graduation Dada,who received a gold medal and a silver in BE(civil Engg) joined Balmer Lawrie.Then he was selected for Border Roads Organisation and obtained valuable experience there before resigning and joing IIT Kharagpur as a lecturer.He did his Phd the same year our youngest sister got her B.Arch as the topper.

In between these years dada got married in 1964 and me in 1966.

Dada left IIT and joined TRF and settled at Jamshedpur.I was posted at Korea Colliery in Surguja Dist in MadhyaPradesh(Now in Chhattisgarh).Dada came a number of times to Korea colliery,at Newton Chikli in Parasia,in Korba where I was subsequently posted.We also visited Jamshedpur whenever oppurtunity arose.I have with us pictures of all of us including Mou,Piu and Babui at Rajgamar in Korba.

We,who were closest to him,know that Dada did not get his dues in his working life.As he was unable or unwilling to promote himself his big achievements never got the deserved recognition .Inspite of that people knew him as an expert in his field of work. I recall when I was the General Manager of a coalfield in Madhya P in 1984 there was a problem of vibration in the washery under construction.During discussions it was decided that an expert on ‘vibrations’ be consulted.The contractor concerned mentioned the name of Dada and he was surprised when I told him that he was my elder brother.In life beyond his engineering profession some people also came to know his interest and proficiency in languages and arts.A soft spoken and unassuming person,bereft of pride,he was liked by people who came in contact with him

Even after one month since Dada passed away I cannot still believe that he is not there or that I shall not see him again.True,Dada did enjoy life to the full and had many achievements in life, we did not visualise he would leave us now when life expectancy is much higher.He had some heart ailments but those were being treated properly by medical specialists and in these days people do live much longer with advanced medical attention which is available.Well,after a disaster we may try to find out if any lapses were there.But it has to be accepted that our life span cannot be predicted.

We two brothers lived together almost 24 hrs for some 16 years and therefore,shared common thinking and norms of behaviour.I learnt a lot from him.He was my inspiration,my example, during my student days.It is a hard shock to bear.

Whoever believes that soul is immortal it is a consolation that Dada has joined Baba in heaven.Our turn will come one by one, but we must do our duties and discharge responsibilities till then.
We only pray that the departed soul rests in peace.

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