My father had many names, as it used to be in the rural landlord family of those days- Bachha, Sanmukh, and ShivPujan Rai. ‘Bachha’ was a very popular word used for kids by elders. I remember my grandmother telling me an incident of my birth. I was born around 10PM in the night. In villages, it is pretty late hour in remote rural area and was more so in good old days with no electricity. There was a meeting going on the ‘garh’ of our village. My grandfather was also attending the meeting. And the messenger came and announced, ‘bachha ho, bachha ka bachha bhaeel ba’. First bachha was for my grandfather, the second for my father and third one for me.
My father hardly talked to me ever in my early childhood. In those days in a joint family, the fathers never showed their love with their sons. It was the task and responsibility expected from the grandfathers, uncles and all the lady-folks of the family. I don’t remember any instance of my interaction with my father of those childhood days. I remember one such instance of a later date. For the marriage of Raj Kishore chacha, we were going to Taraon, another village about 20 kms from Pipra. I was in a bullock cart with late Dukhi as driver. Dukhi was one of our farm workers who used to work in our fields on annual contract basis. While crossing a river bed, the cart overturned. It was not a serious thing. My father was in another cart. I remember his enquiring Dukhi “Is my only son safe?” I would not have talked to my father even for few minutes in total before he came to live with my mother in Bodarhi.
I remember some of his some unique habits. He used to bath with at least 20 tumblers of water drawn from well, spend about an hour or more to put on dhoti, also used a lot of water in washing his hands after taking food. He loved to put on a number of black strings around his neck. I remember conniving once with my advocate maternal uncle and his brother-in-law to put a garland of bells and beads meant in those days for bullocks around his neck. He took it laughingly. But then we heard of a fire in one of the almirahs where we had our books. He said that it was only because we made fun of him.
My great grandfather died early. My grandfather had already started working in Calcutta. Jamuna baba, the younger brother of my grandfather took over the affairs of cultivation. My father started assisting him and living at the nearby village Rampur, when he was pretty young. Most of our land was nearer to Rampur and going up to the next village Pipri in north. We had a house also at Rampur. My father had expertise in riding too. When we got a horse, its overall care was his responsibility. He looked after all the cattle in the family, bullocks, buffaloes, and the horse. He also arranged manpower required for paddy transplantation or harvesting the ready crops.
My mother left for her village to take care of her father and uncle after the death of my grandmother, when I was perhaps a kid of two-three years. And later on my maternal grandfather got a cerebral attack and paralyzed. And my mother had to stay back as a unique thing in those days, perhaps to inherit and get the property of the family that didn’t have any male heir. Her father died but her uncle lived a long life. She stayed back perhaps to get the total landed property of the family for me, her only son. It was her supreme sacrifice for me. My father never liked her village. His father or uncle also didn’t insist for his going to my mother’s village. My father came to Bodarhi only after her uncle expired and my grandfather insisted that my father must go to Bodarhi and live with my mother who was left alone.
I started going to Bodarhi thereafter for my holidaying. But as soon as I would reach Bodarhi, my father would leave for our paternal village that was not possible otherwise. I have a photograph of my father with my father-in-law, Late Sitaram Misra who could visit and eat at our place after the birth of his grandsons with his daughter. There was one thing common with both- my father as well as my father0in-law. Both used to smoke that was one thing that I hated. During my father’s absence, I took care of the cow that my mother kept, hoping that her grandson would visit her. My father had a unique skill of getting his all types of work done by his acquaintances without annoying any. His charitable nature was also exemplary. He would give even his own belongings to any one in need. He had a strong will-power. He left smoking for ever when he started living with us.
It was in early part of 1980s that I had to bring my father to live with us in Hind Motor. He was terminally ill, as he had damaged his lungs and my mother couldn’t have taken care of him in village. My mother would visit and live with us in between for some time. It was so as she was not ready to leave her farmlands.
Living with us was socially difficult for him but he managed well. I managed to arrange some persons who were employees of HM and from similar rural background to keep him entertained. His grand sons, particularly Anand was very close to him. He was very humorous and even with not much formal schooling; he was very much knowledgeable and kept on asking questions to know more. I don’t know about his schooling. But Yamuna asked him jokingly a number of times. ‘Babuji, as I heard, you were brought to Birlapur for schooling. When babaji (my grandfather) insisted you to go to school, you said instead you would jump in River Hooghly. You went back to the village.’ Babuji would laugh heartily and said, ‘nahin beti, yah jhuthi baat hai’ (no daughter, that was wrong).
In 1989, my mother died of cerebral attack. It was difficult for him but he was very bold. He lived a normal life though with a lot of medication. Every time I used to go out of station on company’s assignments that were quite frequent in those days, my anxiety for him will trouble me all the time. I remember once when I was in Hannover for a week for attending the machine tools fair, I couldn’t sleep well any night. Any telephone for Rath, my colleague who was in the attached room would make me wake up and keep suspecting that it must be about some bad news about my father but Rath was concealing it to avoid my worries.
He lived for almost 12-13 years with us in Hind Motors. He never went outside the residence. But he remained content and happy. Every day on return from the work I would peep in his room and ask about him. He will smile and raise both the hands in blessing posture. Whenever, I went out of station, as Yamuna informed, he kept on enquiring about me.
His presence was fulfilling till he lived. He left the world on September 24, 1989.