Is Death Distancing: Boropishi

Today 18th June is my Boropishi’s birthday. I am writing on the basis of communication happening on family WhatsApp group; recollection mainly between Kakamoni, my paternal uncle, Shri Robi Dasgupta and my sister whom I call Moona, Boropishi’s younger daughter Smt. Shipra Sen. But first what another sister, Dr. Neela Mukherjee, had to say about Boropishi, ‘Dearest Boropishi, Smt. Kuntola Sen, first child of Smt. Nonibala and Shri Shoshanko Dasgupta, was blessed with rarest virtues.’ The more we spoke about her more the collection of her ‘rarest virtues’ spilled over the communication. She was among the first women who got job with the Railways probably in 1948.

Moona says, ‘It was called Great Indian Peninsular Railways those days when these 4 ladies got employed in Ration office (she sent photo of four of them including Boropishi).

The Great Indian Peninsula Railway (reporting mark GIPR) was a predecessor of the Central Railway (and by extension, the current state-owned Indian Railways), whose headquarters was at the Boree Bunder in Mumbai (later, the Victoria Terminus and presently the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus). The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company was incorporated on 1 August 1849 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company Act 1849’.

Kakamoni pitches in, ‘Our Didi(elder sister), first to arrive in the family and was most lovable. In due course of time she took the responsibility of eldest and Ma’s duties too. I still remember she used to give us food in one thali (plate) to five brothers and sisters and in night in bed applied Vaseline to all of us. She was born in 1922 and today is her birthday. Happy Birthday didi and miss you and love always.’ He was representing all the brothers and sisters past and present. Only he and one other aunt remains living.

I have the need to state here for all of us, our family does not die. Boropishi is as alive within us as she was while she was living. Kakamoni is the only person whom I have immense faith for remembering as they have amazing memory but he gets tired using the contraption called mobile. Otherwise I am sure if we were physically with him he would share much more than physically possible. Writing in this small space with the smaller space of keypad it is tiring to him. He makes us believe that he has forgotten things and maybe he has, so his following communication,

‘Some reservation about Didi, she joined Red Cross that had some name that time and was awarded by railways. There was special dress for this service. Perhaps Tinku (Moona) has a photo of Didi in that dress. Other three were her colleagues from different division of Railways. I was a regular visitor to Didi’s office. She used to take me railway canteen near her office where items were sold on subsidized cost. Many events around Didi are coming to my mind. I have never seen tears in her eyes. Her early life in Dacca was another pages of history but pleasant.’

Moona sent photographs in the special white sari and specially designed blouse with St John and C.Rly. stitched to flaps on the blouse sleeve and stars on both shoulders. Moona quipped, ‘St. John’s Ambulance, she was Ambulance officer. Her parade, her acting skills and singing ability all got recognition in St John’s ambulance programmes.’ She further continued, ‘I have learnt all shlokas, jatiybaad songs, got my reading habit from her. She never used to let us sit doing nothing , dictionary padho, was her favourite dialogue, multi tasking was ingrained by her in me.’

Kakamoni recollected, ‘I attended that parade in railway ground. Didi was looking great and many other qualities. She had good name in office. Since I was studying in Kalaniketan school very near to Didi’s office, I used to go her very frequently, to eat or for other work, whenever I get time. When she was in Kolkata I never missed going to her flat. She used to love me very much.’ I can vouch that everyone who was in touch with her had this feeling as she made everyone feel eternally loved.

Moona shared, ‘She got an award of 100 /-cash prize (those days it was a big amt) for working in Hindi inspite of being from non Hindi speaking community.’ Kakamoni reassured, ‘I remember that and the award money was big amount that time.’

Moona continued, Yes, Mejo Mama (Kakamoni is Moona’s Mejomama), me, Bul(that is me) and Didibhai used to go for lunch from Christ Church School. She used to bring our lunch in pink colour 3 tier tiffin box, the biggest one for Didibhai, middle one for Bul and smallest one for me, She knew I was scanty eater. She would eat Bul’s tiffin, which Boro mami(my mother) gave for her.’ Needless to say Boropishi loved my mother a lot, the same way she loved everyone.

Moona further related, ‘Every 18th June she used to sit near the phone with her diary, who called and when, she used to note down, other day I was reading ,”aaj eibaar o Tinku shobchey aage ph korlo, Bular chithi peyechhi, Geeta, Bhaiya, Robi, shokoler phone eshechhe” (This time too Tinku called first, received Bula’s letter, Geeta, Bhaiya, Robi everyone called).’

Kakamoni remembered, ‘Didi’s eyes was a problem and had chasma (glasses) from young age and later on reached the maximum power of her glass.’ Moona quipped, ‘Yes, but it was never an excuse for her for not reading. When she went with me to Puttaparthy, she asked Baba, please give me vision to read my spiritual kothamrit (Ramkrishna Thakur’s Gospel) every day, and she was granted that boon.’

Moona went into flashback, ‘Maa used to teach Nepal Naresh’s (King’s) children and they used to call her ‘Thuli Nani’ meaning ‘Elder Didi’, and Rajas servants used to escort Maa and while coming back home Raja used to send lot of fruits and grocery, she used to wear the typical dress of Nepal, I am not remembering the name now.’

Moona was answering my query, ‘She joined Railway before marriage, and Chhoto mamu was born in Nepal. Maa learnt cycling at late age and Maa used to double ride Mashi, as mashi could not double ride, and from DRM office mashi used to cycle to her Telegraph office.

They had just 2 pairs of sarees, imagine and cycled wearing saree!’

Kakamoni even though thoroughly tired pitched to sort a few issues, ‘Bhaiyya (Moona’s Chhoto mamu) was not born in Nepal he was born in Dacca. One sister born in Nepal died soon after delivery. No Raja’s servant used to escort Didi, everyday I used to go with her and come back with her. Didi used to teach Sita devi, daughter of Madhav Shamsher Jang Bhadur Rana, Governor of Dhankuta. We used to get good food after coaching or after classes. Dried mutton of wild boar and other animals was served. I had signed photo of Sita Devi. Didi also speak Nepali. I am sorry cannot participate further due to physical difficulties, eye sight and concentration flickering, fingers placement are not proper. Moreover feel upset in rewinding the past family life.’ No communication in the family is complete without mentioning food. I must end for the night though.

Moona’s comment ‘Her patriotism was so part of her that she breathed her last after seeing Kshitij’s (Her grandson) Rajpath parade on 26 Jan 2013’ is just a notification as Boropishi continues to breathe in all of us.