Jun 29, 2021

10 min read

Unconditional Love: Baba Again

Happy Birthday Ajit Dasgupta

I was coming back from Adipur to Jabalpur. I had been there to collect migration certificates of my sons as we had moved to Jabalpur. Admissions I had got for them in my childhood schools, for Punu in class six in Christ Church Boy’s (I studied in Girls so what I owned Christ Church!) and Tunu in Montessori. Urmil didi was Principal and she was my didi when I studied in pre-school. As it was mid-session she said, ‘Bula, tumne mujhe dharm sankat me daal diyaa’ (Bula, you have put me in a dicey situation, a matter almost of her integrity) but to the Head of Training Institute she said we have to admit Bula’s son, she and all her sisters have studied from here. Oh well had to maintain the norms so the migration certificates had to be submitted to confirm admission. It was a long journey from Gandhidhan (The rail station for Adipur), Kutch via Bombay Maharasthra to Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. I learnt on the way that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards and it was mayhem. When I got down at Jabalpur station a young man asked me if I was Dasgupta Sir’s daughter. When I said yes, he said that Sir had sent vehicle to take me home. Baba had never taken Office vehicle service. There were others the guy was taking back. I was so stunned with that that I forgot to ask the young man how he recognized me. On the way I suddenly remembered and asked him. He coolly replied that, Saab had said that the fairest woman getting down from the train would be his daughter. I was flabbergasted the second time that day. Baba had never ever mentioned appearance. In fact he would say one should not be able to look below your eyes and you should look into the eyes of a person you are speaking with. He and appearance did not seem to gel. But obviously it worked. The guy had come directly to me and asked. The need for asking the office vehicle was because there was curfew in Jabalpur and the vehicle was coming to the station with pass. Remembering today as I had to remind someone who I am and I said that I am the woman with short gray hair! Thanks to my Baba’s tuning (and of course my grandmother who did not let us look in the mirror) I did not remember that I am fairest!

I had no plans to write for Baba’s birthday this year but certain issues keep asking for attention connecting with the present. I requested a few persons to write about him so I may share in the blog how he was perceived.

Bani didi was one of Baba’s favourites. He loved her like he loved us, children born to him. There was no difference in his attitude towards Bani didi, Tutu did or Gautam dada. They were Sushil Jethu and Jethima’s children. They lived behind the home in Sahakar Nagar. They were among the few who took double plot. There was endless transaction of various kinds verbal, non verbal, things, cooked food, etc. across the wall. We could of course jump across the wall and that home was as much ours as Bani didi’s. If I start on it I will end up writing a blog on Bani didi. So let me stick to my Baba.

For Ajit Kaku

When people are no more in this world, where is the proof of their existence? Otherwise their very life is lived by us…their photos albums and a lot of near and dear ones who filled up the dear departed with care. For me it is their loving memory that will continue to give shape and form.

When I remember Ajit Kaku, I don’t simply see an elderly person with a loving or must I say the most affectionate face I have ever seen. There was no pretence or affected behaviour in him. A person full of humour and he could turn a serious situation into laughter.

I see the growing-up years, the nurturing, the discipline, the laughter. I had a habit of biting my nails. Kaku gave a break by telling me, “Don’t bite your nails”. We knew that behind the strict front there was a softness which made Kaku a person of love and respect.

Ajit Kaku loved reading books and he used to encourage us all to read books. Really those were days of wonder, of joy, of frolic and childish behaviour.

He was so proud of me when an article of mine was printed in our college magazine. Education was a must for us kids and when I passed, completed my M A, he gifted me with a Gitanjali. The value of the book is imperishable and I treasure it with all my heart.

I remember the pride, the love I felt when he applauded my success.

His blessings, his smile and his affection are assets for us always immemorial.

Banani Sammoddar

Had Bani didi not written her name I would have to ask her as she will remain Bani didi for me always.

Shipra Sen (Moona to me) is Baba’s eldest sister’s youngest daughter. Baba is her Boro Mama (eldest maternal uncle). I am accommodating a few persons in the blog space this time. These are representative of many who have seen the unconditional love aspect of Baba. When he was not allowed to take transport after a motorbike accident as he injured his head, he would walk from Rampur to Ridge Road with ten year old me trying to keep with his long strides. Come Sunday he had to visit his Didi. Moona has described their love beautifully.

Boro Mama

Handsome towering personality, a persona whom I adored as he was so different, had deep introspective mind, always meaningful and years ahead than his time line contemporary world.

I was very young, probably four, every Sunday by 10.00 a.m. my eyes waited for him to come to Ridge Road with my sisters, and soon Chhoto mamu and Bunua mashi would join and day was filled with celebrations, we could laugh and talk loudly and my father would not scold us for being so loud.

Boro mama was a walking talking encyclopedia, and our grammar and phonetic guru. He would bring crackers for us after diwali, I had kept them for so many years, could not burn them as my father would never allow us to burn them as it caused distress to my grandmother.

Boro mama and my mother, his Didi had close soul connection, he had so much of unconditional love one can’t imagine.

An incident of Armanitola (Dacca) days has to be shared with you all. Boro mama and Maa were in class 9th those days. Mama suggested to my mother, ‘Didi what if we did not have eye lashes???’ My mother was perplexed, then he said, ‘let me trim your eye lashes and see how you look, then you can do the same with my lashes.’ Lo! behold! The heroic deed was completed but the deadly appearance made him run away with fright. My mother had to remain quarantined for 20 days to let the lashes grow back again.

My Boro mama always used to say to my mother, “Didi we have studied in that university, where everyone praises one and all and love all”.

When he had decided he would donate his organs and body after death, he came to take my mother’s consent. My mother screamed, cried and locked herself in the bathroom, saying she would not sign. I was so intrigued with the mere thought of it, and was so proud to see Dadhichi Rishi in this age in my Mama’s form. I tried convincing my mother to which finally she relented reluctantly.

Happy birthday Boro mama you are alive in someone’s eyes, in some person’s organs, and till date people respect Mr. Ajit Dasgupta, the honest Accounts Officer of MPEB Jabalpur.

Proud of you Boro Mama, Tinku

Shipra Sen

My mother’s family was mostly in awe of my Baba. Long after he passed away whenever I would visit my mashis they used to look at me and keep saying that just like Ajit da moshai. That is how they addressed him. Dana, my eldest Mama’s daughter, is an artist, makes beautiful batik saris. She had shared a photo of a book with Baba’s writing so I asked her to write about him. She sent a few lines sincerely penned about how she saw him.

I’ve met with the most handsome man in my childhood, at least when I’ve started understanding what a good look is. My pishomoshai (uncle) from Jabalpur used to visit our house at least twice in a year. In a family gathering he was obviously the centre of attraction, as a garrulous talker and charming appearance. He could mould any stubborn person to his term as he had amazing personality. Today as many pieces of memories just flying around me I wish to see this tall, beautiful, grey eyed super smart Bengali man as supermodel with super brain.

Dana Ghosh

Last here for this time I asked my sister Gut (Bheela Wadehra) who has taken to writing blog of Oshin, to share a few incidents. She has a way of putting incidents in a perspective which is acceptable to all.

Remembering Baba on his birthday — Unknown unusual aspects of his personality

It was the summer of 1981. I had given an interview at Larsen & Toubro, while I was in my final year. I was quite unsure if I would be selected or not. My final exams were almost over I think, one last paper was remaining, which had a gap of over 10 days. I was quite free to be lazy!

We had a club near our house called Jyoti club; I used to go there with my friend Prabha to play table tennis. It was around 5 in the evening and I was engrossed in playing TT. Suddenly I saw our youngest sister Shim (Her formal name was Seema), entering the club, she rode the bicycle from home to the club as fast as she could! She had an envelope in her hands and she was panting!!

Barely able to speak, she showed us a telegram, it said that I have been selected as Graduate Engineer Trainee at L&T!! All of us danced with joy.

As it was around 5, our father would be coming home after work so we decided to give him the news on his way home. Shim rode the bike to Baba’s office. On the way, Dusaj uncle’s (Baba’s colleagues) dog started chasing her. Dusaj uncle, his son, and his daughter were walking the dog. I was frightened. Then I saw Baba and Chauhan uncle in the jeep. Baba then gave Dusaj uncle left and right on the street itself. OMG! Shim didn’t know if she should be afraid of the dog or our father yelling at the senior officer of MPEB on the street. She learned something that day! We should not correct anyone on the street. It was not correct. We noticed a lot that day. Baba wanted to and deserved to be a big officer, way better than a lot of them. But he did not. With his background of growing up in British India and humiliating the Indians under them, he probably fulfilled his desire to have an upper hand.

Nevertheless, we also got to learn that no matter what, when it came to our safety, he could fight the world!!

We go back to 1980, I forgot the month. I was in fourth year. My childhood friend Prabha, came to me and declared, ‘Bheela, we are going to stadium tomorrow at 6 am. Parents should not know; we have to do this discretely.’ I used to trust and follow her 100% without questioning. I just told mother that I will be going to stadium for practice. My elder sister, Neela Di and of course, Shim, knew all about our schemes. So, before parents woke up next day, Prabha and I were in the stadium. On the way I learnt that an instructor has arrived in Jabalpur who is teaching bunch of students all about racing cycle! Okay, we were almost born with cycling all our lives. My eldest sister taught me to ride my father’s bicycle when I was 6!! What is so special about racing cycle?

Well, the instructor gave us the racing cycle after the warm up session. These were fixed wheel cycles which we had never tried. You have to continuously peddle or the cycle will stop! We started practicing every morning. We assumed that parents did not know! At that age, we considered ourselves smarter than the parents, much to the huge troubles which followed!

Prabha and I clocked the fastest timing among the students in Jabalpur and the two of us got selected for the inter-city timing-test the next week. Those selected in this test would then represent our state, MP, at the formal tournament at the Yamuna Velodrome in Delhi, which was then the only city in India having a velodrome (track for racing cycle competitions).

Prabha and I reached stadium early, ahead of time. We were waiting for our coach to reach. Some cyclists from other cities (our competitors) had arrived too; we chose to ignore them. We sat at the viewing stairs, closest to the tracks. We saw a man coming towards us walking straight briskly. He was wearing a bright coloured shirt. From a distance, he looked tall and fair. Prabha exclaimed, look at the boy who is coming, I would rather have a boyfriend who is upright and walks like him. She was vocal sometimes. As a norm such topics were prohibited, even when we were alone!

We got up surprised to find the man walking straight towards us. And then, we could see him, to our horror, he was Baba! Both of us started shaking with fear. Prabha whispered ‘ram-nam-satya’ (means we are dead today)!

Baba came close and said ‘good morning’ in a very pleasant tone! Prabha and I did attention like NCC cadets and replied ‘good morning’ in unison. Baba said, ‘I learnt, today was the final selection day, so I have come to watch you race these special cycles and cheer you for your competition.’

God knows who informed him of our adventures of cycling! Somehow, it was one of those rare moments that I was truly grateful to him. Prabha and I clocked fastest again in the State meet too.

Till date I cannot accept what happened with us on that day. I realize that a person does not have singular personality, but there are so many shades of colours in a man’s character!

Shri Ajit Dasgupta born 30 June 1924, his body was donated on 1 February 1987 and he continues to live in our hearts.