Behind the risk of life and limb stood the woman by his man. Running from sick quarters to banks and schools, buying groceries riding cycles or by walk, receiving and seeing off loved relatives all by themselves, while her loved man was away is a quality taken for granted and an unwritten part of the wife’s job description. Cooking late meals without notice with nothing in store for an unannounced number of gatecrashers, the free-flowing rum and groggy men being the proverbial last straw. Do not get it wrong here! These were still early days for the women to enjoy much less taste the tabooed liquor. It took a while before the docile and submissive Nari came into her own. In her Sunday best, she soldiered on with a smile. Tears there must have been and many at that but these were to be borne and shared by each husband in the dark corners of the bedroom.
When most were busy cramming copied notes,buying or stealing comics,enjoying goodies only the fortunate were blessed with, there used to be a young child dark and gangly. Did he wear spectacles then? I do not quite, remember. He,on his own, worked away with quirky tools like the nails , hammer, a broken screw driver, wood and bamboo,glue and paper, grease and grime making crazy-shaped kites for others to fly and bric-a-brac to adorn certain dark and mildewed corners of chalky walls.While English and only English was the legal tender,his stern but far sighted father, endearingly known as “Masterji”,along with his caring mother got him to master his Hindi through the government sponsored certifications : Prabodh, Pragya( I’m not sure of the names really). No one took notice ever.Much less bothered.
Sweating away too on a contraption ,popularly known as a bicycle or on spindly legs he made a habit of reporting late to school to catch the not-so-friendly eyes of superiors and colleagues alike..Actually he was busy getting milk or much needed groceries for the modest home to which he was born to. Making the school on time, therefore was a very difficult chore and unsung two- wheeled rickety ride.Forever the left square pocket of his washed but not crisp enough, blue-school shirt had the signature stamp of a leaking fountain pen which he used perhaps, earlier than most.His conduct was a mistaken matter of censure and gloating glee for the many at school: teachers and students alike.He was the proverbial back -bencher or ‘Chokra boy’ as the Anglo-Indians ‘chi-chied’ in snooty disdain. The naughty and not so wicked,I dare say, had mistakenly befriended, thinking him to be one of their kind. In the monthly exams he never got marks enough.(under his breath he still curses the teachers of his day).In all outdoor games he was the royal reserve.And always outstanding ! But, never one to be put down ,a special gift made him see much more than most to snap away with the Agfa Click III of yore, for photos,like the one below : (that all my marriage photos were a wash out is still being sorted out with him, is another story).
And then that weird kite caught wind , and soared up and above the world so high .The wheel of fortune seemed to be turning, for once. Come the ICSE Exams,he beat most and to their disbelief got a thumping first division.Friends shook hands while the nay-sayers were still shrugging their shoulders in contempt or disbelief. Just when the knives were being sharpened, yet again, as he flunked the Graduation exams from Ravenshaw he had cracked the unthinkable;the SCB Medical College Entrance Exam.The sagging thread had finally shed its slack.An MBBS was soon to be followed up with an MD and then a DM in Gastroenterology from Vellore,to HOD, SCB.And many such puzzlingly rearranged alphabets in two’s and three’s making impressive credentials to add fat to his otherwise, slender frame.There has been no looking back ever since.While all this was happening, he got married to a very companionable Sudha, sired two equally beautiful daughters,Haley,not a comet actually ( who is also a doc married to another doc ) and Lalli,the architect designing the foundations for future governance.
Daktar Babu had finally arrived.Dr Shivaram Prasad Singh,he had become. Friends and family stand by cheering with their hands together, for the “late bloom,” which they always knew, was to and would happen.We are all very happy ,and not a bit embarrassed that you exceeded our expectations .
It was along time ago when life was but a game of snakes and ladders ;being bullied by the cowards, sermonized by the not-so-holy,taught by the unkind, forgotten in the dusty rear benches and to become the victim of the “Conduct Marks”conspiracy. We believe: you to have found those legs to keep running and running as only one in a marathon can ;strong in the knowledge of one’s own ability and spirit, faith in the love and compassion of family and friends and to resolutely consider, no distance is impossible to complete and no difficulty is daunting enough !
You have found your love and vocation. Your sport and spikes.Keep running. From a Bihari to Borborygmi has been some travel…
A Very Happy Birthday ! Friend
Much abused. Much misunderstood. Much revered.
Someone said, it is, yet, too early to understand the lessons of the French revolution. So I think is also true about Netaji.His United Front Tactics of having joined hands with Nazi Germany and Japan much like Mao and Chang Kai Shek,Stalin and Hitler and many others to believe : my enemy’s enemy is my Friend was very tactically sound and also radical. He correctly assessed colonial India’s weakness and saw in the Second Great War an immense opportunity and not as a threat as most incorrectly judged . The Communists, got confused, kowtowed the Soviet Line of joining the Allies and supporting them while the Indian National Congress, on its part, followed a policy of appeasement.RSS, the backbone of the present day BJP was quite happy abusing and spoiling with the Muslim brothers while cosying up to the British.
Please do not liken the present day mad rush for shaking hands and political alignments in a similar vein.At best it would be a disservice and at worst blasphemy-which it shall be !Netaji loved his India, his people and died fighting.Not many would know ( it is being grumblingly conceded, today, by historians) that the sacrificial role of the Indian National Army and the Royal Indian Navy Rating’s Mutiny of 1946 hastened the handing over and transfer of power to India by the English.
That Gandhi and Nehru were not quite his friends is little matter.Netaji’s daughter Ms Anita Pfaff remembers and very fondly, that both he and Nehru , were secular and non-communal and extremely tolerant.She ventures however, to suggest, if not anything else, India and Pakistan would have been friendlier;had he been alive.
I shall ,however,always, in a very silly way feel proud to have studied in the same school as he did.And I am not in a bit embarrassed for trying to bask or steal some of that blazing bright !
May you inspire all for justice, freedom and dignity forever !
Happy Birthday !
“Netaji” Subash Chandra Bose and Stewart School, Cuttack
Easily the most illustrious alumni of Stewart School, Cuttack, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose was admitted to the school on 8th January 1902, when he was about 5 years old. As per authentic records in possession of school, he was born on 23rd January 1897. Stewart School was the place where Netaji began his elementary education and spent his early formative childhood.
Netaji received six years of elementary education in this institution, which was, then, known as the Protestant European School. Interestingly, the school, which started as an Orphanage School in November 1882, came to be known as Protestant European School in 1891 and in the same year, it opened its doors to Indian students. It was re-christened Stewart School, in 1919, after its founder, civil surgeon William Day Stewart.
Besides Netaji, his brother Sailesh Chandra Bose, other brothers and sisters also attended the school.
The school records indicate that “he had attended no other school” and in his case “exemption from religious instruction” was “not claimed”. He continued his education till he was promoted to Class VII.
When Netaji left the school after completing the academic session in Class VI on 31st December 1908, his character was certified as “very good”, as per authentic school records. Mr. J. Young was the principal of the school when he was undergoing his stint at Stewart School.