Sunday, 7 October 2007


I have always been influenced by elders. Elders have always blinded me with their achievements, their struggle for existence and success in it, and their advices. Now that may not be much of a thing what a “Kool” dude would have wanted to do. But I did.

I will talk about my grand parents today… well don’t have that much time to talk about all of them but let me talk about at least one of them here.

He is my mother’s father- Rabindra Nath Halder. He was the one who probably had the biggest influence on me. From my childhood I have heard people saying this is the guy who fits in perfectly in his grand father’s shoes. Well truly I wish I could.

He was a great personality. I have never managed to see him young, quite obviously as he is my grand dad. But I can imagine his youthful glory days. He was tall and stout. His eyes were intelligent and expressive. And he had a memory which I have never seen in anyone else.

When I look back into my life, I try to recollect my earliest encounters with his wit, intelligence and thoughts, I go back to a day of summer when I came to Kolkata to spend sometime at our always so beloved didabari (although the house was owned by Dadu, as we called him, it was named after our much loved dida, grandmother).

Dadu used to call me and start with 4 liners of a poem. Most of them I have never read nor have I heard anywhere. And in some cases lines of poems which I should be knowing but forgot because of my usual lack of concentration, and after reciting those lines, Dadu used to ask me tell me dear, who has written these famous lines?

I, as should be the case, lost the duel of intellect most of the time. I was no match to his memory. But those losses those questions and answers those battles of intellect made me determined next time I will not forget this. And I will prepare more. I wonder at the age of 70 how he remembered all those poems which he last read probably during his college days. And mind it, later on when I have seen his health breaking down, when I have seen his bent structure, when seeing him I have been afraid and thought about my own future, still he was spot on with his poems and those 4 liners.

Sometimes I wanted to run away, and play with my cousins. Sometimes I didn’t want to talk to Dadu about literature and I found some ways to avoid him. Just what the youth does…I guess. But now I feel guilty that by doing so, so many enlightening sessions I have lost. So many inspirations never reached me. Probably I would have been a different person had I been a bit more enthusiastic.

Dadu apart from all his literary abilities was a man of great abilities also. He was a civil servant, working as a magistrate for Govt of West Bengal. He was a proud Govt Official and wanted me to be one. He had always wanted me to go the same route and even higher. When I resisted saying that there is nothing but corruption in govt officials he never believed me. He talked about high ideals and people like Mahatma and Bidhan Chandra Roy.

When I started going to college which was quite near to Kolkata, I started to look at Dadu from a bit different angle. I wanted to analyse him. I wanted to know him as a distant person would have known him.

But I never really could actually. Whenever I looked at him, my respectful eyes and my love for him never let me look at him like a distant person. I was close to Dadu, much closer than his own son could ever get, and much closer than anyone else I got to know.

I used to come for every weekend to Dida bari. Our childhood fantasyland had already lost its charm immensely by that time. I will tell that story some other time. But those weekends was a sense of responsibility that grew inside me. Those two old people who despite their difficulties of survival (as they were living on their own at the age of 84 and 74 respectively my Dadu and dida) expected me to come home every weekend.

Every time my train got delayed, Dadu would stand on the nook of the road, expecting me on one of the numerous autos that passed by. I would take Dadu on those Saturdays to Bank when he needed to pick up his pension. A meagre amount for a magistrate though. And he was growing old, his hand used to shake quite a lot while signing.

One day the bank manager denied him his pension as his sign was not matching. What an irony. A life long devotee of honesty, a brilliant scholar, an honest govt official, a judicial magistrate is begging for a peanut amount (3000 rs)!!! The bank manager confidently asked me to prove that he is RN Halder who holds this pension account.

I fortunately by that time had come out of my small time naivety. I called my uncle and (Dadu’s son) who was a big manager of the same bank and only then the matter got resolved. And when it did, I told the manager, this is what happens to honest people in India. Why bother being one?

Dadu was in pain. He was humiliated, trembling. And I was in pain too.

My Dadu left me left all of us 3 months ago. On his bed while asleep. He faced much pain during his last few days. But his death was peaceful. I, who claimed to be the closest one to him, was sitting in UK in a restaurant having a glass of wine. I have never felt guiltier of my existence since then.

I am crying now. But surely he didn’t want me to. When I talked to him last over a phone and he was on his deathbed, Dadu just had one wish that time. He wanted to see me. Which I could not. I am crying now and I can hear his rhythmic voice chanting lines from Rabi Thakur and then sudden question “bolo to Ankan, er porer line ta ki?”