After his schooling in Arrah and then Sasaram government schools, my grandfather left the village to explore the world outside and find means of earning away from the village. As the eldest son, he could have remained in the village and lived on the farming, but perhaps he wished to find the worth of his education. He left his younger brother to help his father in the management of landed property or zamindari as it was called in those days. As he used to tell me it was really difficult even in those days to find a job.
After unsuccessfully trying with some so-called ‘kings’ in Bihar such as Tekari and Hathua, he came to West Bengal where some close relatives were working. I had met some of them in Calcutta where he took me in my school days. After working at different places for different assignments including one for an orphanage near Batanagar, he came to Birlapur, where Birlas had set up the first Indian jute mills.
My grandfather was the pioneer in starting formal schooling in the industrial town of Birlapur. He started the primary school in labour quarters on the bank of Hooghly that we knew as ‘magazine line’. Later on the company, Birla Jute Mills built the high school inside the company boundary.
My grandfather, Lakshmi Prasad Ray was very popular among all classes of people from general manager to the sweepers in Birlapur. To many he was Ray Babu or Ray Saheb or more formally as LP Ray. He belonged to the era when a teacher was really respected in society. He had helped many senior executives in mills from Rajasthan or marwaris as we knew them to get privately educated, and even pass matriculation examination. Later on he taught their kids at home. But I saw his interest in educating some from the community of sweepers who had come from all the way from Rajasthan for that task that was considered very low in those days, and no local persons were available for that work. I remember one very smart person among them whose name was Babulal. He had taken the help of my grandfather to be literate. My grandfather did also believe and kept on talking of ‘simple living and high thinking’. He loved white and wore only white. And with his moustaches he looked really smart and impressive. He reminded many of Asutosh Mukherji, the great educationist of Bengal me.
I was the darling of my grandfather and I remember many sweet things of those days. I remember I used to lock the front door so that my grandfather would not leave the home without helping me in solving the home tasks from school. I do also remember how I used to go with him to some houses where he used to take tuition. I would fall asleep and he would carry me on his back in late night from the distant place. I used to sleep with him and even in sleep I kept on touching him to find if he was there. In case I didn’t find him, I used to make a lot of hue and cry even at late night. I do also remember how I went to bed very early. And then I would get up in late night and demand food, and my grandmother would give something.
My grandfather shared with me personal information about himself. In early years of the school, he was expected to teach even mathematics in higher classes. He was not proficient enough for that. On every Saturday he would go to Calcutta, sit with some teachers whom he knew and learn to solve the tough questions of mathematics to come back teach it to his students. Gradually, the school grew and became full- fledged up to class X during my days. He remained in the school but only as teacher in upper primary sections.
My grandfather always accompanied me be it the admission in Presidency College or IIT Kharagpur. He would regularly visit me in my hostel and keep on inspiring me. Many a times he helped me in taking right decision too. I have a group photograph for which my grandfather took us to a studio in Dharamtalla Street in my Presidency college days. My maternal uncle, Chandramani Tiwari and youngest uncle, Nand Kishore Rai are there in that.