Glimpses of Childhood in
As the fourth child of Nirmala Devi and Dinkar Thakur (Sharma) Vaidya, I was born on
August 1, 1955
at Forbesganj in the district of Purnea (now Araria) in Bihar.
The small township named after an English Saheb is the heart-centre of
the north-eastern part of the state and is only 12 km away from Indo-Nepal
border. The adjoining territory of the two countries is well reflected in the
famous novel Maila Anchal written by the illustrious novelist Phanishwar
Nath ‘Renu’, who surrendered the Padmashree, the coveted national award
in the historic 1974-Students’ movement in Bihar which led to the ultimate
removal of Indira Gandhi from the national power and status when elections were
held after the Emergency.
The novel Maila Anchal was published only some months before I was born. The main character therein is a social-minded doctor who preferred to serve fellow countrymen of Purnea district rather than go abroad, then a fact, which was much appreciated by the teachers of his medical college and similar were my feelings when I abandoned the idea of going abroad.
Purnea district itself was called Kalapani (Andamans) of the state of
Bihar for the members of the state government services
The country had a socialistic mood in 1955 when the Indian National Congress adopted a resolution at its Avadi session for a socialistic pattern of society. 1st August had been an auspicious day not only from the numerological point of view but also historically. On this date in 1498, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus set foot on the American mainland for the first time and in 1793,
France became the first country to
adopt the metric system of weights, a by-product of the french Revolution.
1st August 1920, Lokmanya Tilak died and
Mahatma Gandhi formally started
non-cooperation movement by surrendering the title of Kaisare-e-Hind
conferred on him by the Viceroy in 1915. Herman Melville, an American novelist
was also born on August 1 in 1819; Purushottam Das Tandon, known for his
Sanskritised Hindi as the National Language (as that of my view), was also born
on 1st August, 1882*.
The dates may have some significance in the houses of high-ups, but for my house of traditional Maithil Brahmins, I was significant as I was born after two consecutive sisters. My auntie (sister of my father) later told me this — a mere reflection of a still continuing taboo that sons are better than daughters. It is said, that on my birth, my father had distributed halwa in huge quantity, which is my favourite dish but I had not witnessed any birthday celebration and my parents had also forgotten the date of my birth like most of the middle class Indians. I had to find it out from the diary of my father and my horoscope, out of inquisitiveness, though officially, in the school certificate I was 112 days older and I had thought at that time that I might miss a session for admission to an engineering college by not attaining the minimum age required.
Since the socialistic goal set forth by Nehru demanded industrialization, every student used to dream to be an engineer in the mid-sixties when I was admitted to class VI in 1964. Medicine became the choice of students when time came to opt for Biology or Mathematics (for me in 1968) and today I see, unfortunately, the craze is for IAS, for the mere lust of power and pride. It is said that in
the best students opt for politics, in the USA
for business and in Germany
for science. Today in my opinion, in India, it should be the quest
of ‘I’ and Indology, since it has been
the land of spirituality and the world needs it the most at this critical
juncture of apprehended annihilation.
Being a son of an erudite scholar of Sanskrit and Ayurveda, it was no wonder that I was taught to chant the famous shloka (even before I started speaking my mother-tongue, Maithili well) : ckyks·ga txnkuan% u es ckyk ljLorhA viw.ksZ iapes o"ksZ o.kZ;kfe tx=;e~AA (O! the Lord of the World! My learning is not young. Though I am yet to complete my five years, I can describe three Lokas - Akash, Prithvi and Patal). My earliest memory is (my mother also confirms it) that by the age of 6-7, I was reciting the mantra, Å¡ ueks Hkxors oklqnsok;% and was saying that there is ‘no one, no mother or father of anyone in this world’ (according to a story in the scriptures I was told by someone).
My ancestral village is Samaul (7 km south-west of the district headquarters, Madhubani), which is famous as the place of the legendary Hindu karmkandi, lawgiver and philosopher Vachaspati Mishra II. My grandfather and great-grandfathers were farmers. My father had gone to Bikaner, the desert capital of Rajasthan (which I prefer to call Sand City) in his early childhood to a brahmcharyashram, named after Shardul Martand and returned after becoming a Snataka and an Acharya of Ayurveda and assumed the title ‘Sharma’ as was customary among the Brahmins there. In 1989, I had the occasion to visit the ashram and I found even then students getting up at and performing daily rituals including yajna.
My father came to Forbesganj in 1945 to work in a charitable dispensary of a Marwari seth. When my grandfather fell ill, my father wanted to go home and he asked for leave. The son of the Seth asked my father to write down the formulations, indications, contra-indications, etc. of all the drugs and the stocks and accounts. My father humbly submitted, “It is not even possible by any old Vaidya, not to talk of a young one like me, and that too in such a hurry, when I am to catch the evening train.” The young seth was furious. My father said, “If you are a Laxmiputra, I am a Saraswatiputra, the life-cycle is circling like a cart - wheel and henceforth I will not work in your dispensary.” Though, on his return from home, he started his own clinic, our relations with Seth’s family remained good, including with that of the young seth, now a multi-millionaire.
My father later helped Seth at a moment of some legal crisis. Seth spread out his turban at the feet of my father and Janardan Tiwari (ex-MP & ex-leader of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, in the Legislative Assembly of Bihar) who was at that time a young pracharak of the RSS, residing in my house, saying, “Both of you, are like Nar and Narayan who have saved many Marwari houses of the town.” The personality of my father is like that of an Ajatshatru in the locality of Forbesganj.
A man of character, sober and gentle, the description of my father can only be complete with his association with the RSS of which he was the head, known as Sanghchalak in the town for more than three decades. He had been in jail for nearly one year in 1948 when the government banned the RSS on the charge relating to Gandhi’s assassination, a charge that proved to be only politically motivated by the powers that be. And at that time my mother was having her first child barely a few months old in her arms.
My father says, no one told him to join the RSS. He was impressed by the Sanskrit commands and prayer in the shakha of the RSS in the library ground. Some other boys were also playing volleyball there — one of the 22 players of their team was a Muslim and he instigated others to oppose the shakha boys and there was a protest against holding of the shakha on that ground. It was the talk of the town. Those were the days of
partition. My father was aggrieved to note that a single Muslim could muster
other volleyball players all of whom were Hindus. And, then my father came in
the support of shakha and also joined it. The library ground has still a
continuously running shakha and I also happened to be trained in that
after being reared in the lap of many Sangh workers.
Some of them had towering personalities and my father’s dispensary being the nerve-centre of the RSS in the town, I had the privilege to know them well. My father’s friend Yogendra Jha, a farmer of a nearby village used to come on his ramshackle bicycle. An unknown scholar he is. He has many unpublished articles. His speech, language, thinking, etc. impressed me much. He was very regular in shakha.
In 1977, as I recall, I had gone to Forbesganj and Kailashpati Mishra, the then finance minister of
had addressed a meeting there. Since Kailashpati Mishra was a pracharak of the RSS in Purnea district
before joining the BJS, the workers of the Sangh had gone to attend his
meeting. Yogendra Jha had also gone with me. While we were returning, he
exclaimed in sorrow, that it was for the first time that he missed the shakha
after coming to town from his village. I’ve heard from someone that once
Deendayal Upadhyay had chided a Sangh worker who had come to attend his meeting
at the time of shakha.
The other person attached to Sangh who influenced my thought in the true sense, was also my first tutor, Pandit Ramchandra Jha. He used to teach me more about religion and politics of the nation than the books prescribed for a primary class. He also taught me Sanskrit — Saraswata Vyakaran, Amarkosh, etc. He encouraged me to study Panini’s Ashtadhyayi but I could not get it. In 1964, my father had gone to our village and in my school admission form, father’s signature was essential and the closing date for admission was approaching. Had my father been a few days late, I would have been admitted to a Sanskrit school.
My father, despite being a Hindu activist, had very good relations with neighbouring Muslims. The piece of land on which stands our home in Forbesganj, was a part of Muslim mohalla, very densely populated consisting of poor inhabitants and naturally very dirty and further soiled by the presence of hens, as I still recall. My immediate neighbour was a tailor Diljan Mian with whom we were very close. He used to come even to our home for tona (exorcism) when someone of us was seriously ill.
Tona/Jharana is a form of occult or faith healing, prevalent even now in the interiors of the country. One could exclaim that my family had faith in it, in spite of being a house of medicine. No wonder in earlier editions of Park’s Preventive Medicine, it was described that there happened to be Chandipath when the son of a professor of Pathology contracted smallpox.
Yes, I’ve seen the endemic phase of this dreaded disease too and I remember how miserable I was on contracting chicken-pox and little Jawahar having small pox, whom I had coached for 21 days while my father was away, in order to earn something for the first time and I was then in class IX. When my father returned, he became angry as I did not need money but the father of Jawahar was always praising the standard of my coaching.
My mother was a pious, noble lady to whom goes the credit of handling the large family of ours. We are four brothers and five sisters. It is surprising from the medical point of view that there was no untoward happening in any of the nine home deliveries conducted by chamains (traditionally trained birth attendants), whether it was due to God’s grace, or to the acumen of chamains, better than that of today’s trained midwifery personnel?
Though none of us is like Tagore or Ambedkar who were the 14th children, we are all intellectually sound. Three of my brothers are MSc in Chemistry. The eldest brother, Shivakar Thakur, is also a PhD, a professor at
Gwalior and the youngest, Suman, is a scientist in the
prestigious Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay. The third brother, Shubhakar, a
chemist in railways, is most devoted to family affairs.
My two elder sisters know 3 R’s from the education imparted in schools, but they did not appear for matriculation, as they were married early. Younger ones completed even post-graduation. Considering mother’s primary education in an intellectual
— Koilakh, my
sisters are less qualified than brothers. It was inevitable in a middle class
family like ours where social criterion unfortunately permits sons’ education
out of limited resources and the daughters’ marriage in good families. village
I do not think education can ever be compensated by good marriage. If the happiness of married life is any yardstick, probably my sisters are better off than their married brothers. I think the important thing is to learn the art of living rather than getting modern education in pseudo-western model. Anyway, we could try for equal educational opportunity only for our youngest sister.
Now with the small family norm, this distinction is quickly disappearing, and so is, sadly, the art of ‘wife-craft’ and mother-craft. Whether in the olden days there used to be a general wish to have five sons or my father was wishing so because three of his brothers had five sons each, I cannot say but in spite of such a big family that my parents could achieve for their children with their limited resources, probably it would be difficult for us. Possibly it was due to the austerity and simplicity in their lives.
It is enlightening to appreciate that my mother turned into a farmer in the true sense from a town dweller housewife and opted to stay in the ancestral village, Samaul, 300 km away by a circuitous rail route, and that too only after some years of my birth, in order to save the property after partition in the large family of my father. My father is one amongst six brothers.
It is equally difficult to appreciate whether our family gained or lost in saving this property of mere seven acres of land. We all became emotionally deprived which ultimately resulted in many angularities in our individual personalities. Father cannot play a mother’s role. Mother was away to the village eight months in a year. Once we attained the age of 6 or 7 years, we stayed with father at Forbesganj for studies.
So, we all had to learn more from the discipline of father than from the love of mother. Naturally, we learnt to shoulder the responsibilities but lost the artistic finer aspects of life.
Had my mother not gone to the village, we might not have known the problems of a villager or in the other sense, of the country, as
lives in villages. Our journey from the Maila Anchal to another Anchal
of ‘Mithilanchal’ by rail was a source of enjoyment. It is amusing to recall
that seeing black-coated TTEs of the train,
I used to say, “I will become a TT Babu” and tease my mother,
“But I will check your ticket too.” In the same childlike way, whenever I
talked to my mother-in-law on the matters of certain public morality, she
failed to appreciate me.
My mother wanted that I should be a doctor. Her friend Bhalo Sneha had named me Shyam after the nickname of Dr. Bhava Nath Mishra of her village, Koilakh, whom I saw later as the Head of the Department of Medicine at the
My mother also wished that I should be a specialist dealing with some organs
above the neck since Dr. Shreemohan Mishra of my locality was an eye-specialist.
Though, I have no super specialist degree of the human head, on the basis of my
training under a
neurologist, Dr. K. K. Sinha, I may claim that to a great extent I did fulfill her desires, the brain being
the most important organ and is also above the neck. Darbhanga
A journey from Forbesganj to village Samaul used to be an ordeal for us. Interestingly, my first unaccompanied journey was when I was only 10 years old. I had gone to Jagdish Rice Mill to give a copy of the Organiser to which the proprietor of the mill was a subscriber. I caught the evening train at Forbesganj for Barauni without any preparation and the next afternoon I reached Pandaul station changing trains at Barauni and Samastipur. It was a summer . My nasal mucosa was dry and when I told my uncle, a freedom-fighter, that someone had put a handkerchief having some smell on my face and in the morning when I was awake and I saw someone buying a ticket for
for me, I slipped away from him and caught the train for Samastipur. He thanked
The next day my elder brother came from Darbhanga where he was a student of BSc after receiving a wire from Babuji. My bluff was soon called because I could not reply to his intelligent query as to why I did not catch the train for Forbesganj instead?
I do not recall whether I had a quarrel with my elder sister, Tarini, on preceding days as once I had run away to Purnea by a bus after flashing a penknife, which cut her nose, and seeing the blood I was afraid of father. Though the conductor did not charge the fare, someone knowing my father guessed that something had gone wrong with me. He told the conductor to take me back on the return trip.
My third uncle, Shreekar Thakur, used to taunt me for good many years by waving hands like a handkerchief and saying, “Shyamji Papa, Dudh Bhat Khakha” which my first aunt (father’s sister) also used to say since my infancy. I do not know whether it was my choice dish or not but certainly after marriage, in the ceremony of mauhak when the groom sulks I asked my mother-in-law, Vidya Jha, to feed me a spoonful of kheer as a token of love which cannot be purchased by money. I also recall telling someone, “I will prepare a quantity of halwa that will need a well-full of water and several sacks of sugar.”
My mother gradually grew to be a competent farmer. I also learnt in due course many things of farming. Swimming in the village pond was my hobby though my cousins who lived in the village used to harass me. How silly are the minds of even elders that once my youngest uncle suggested to his son that he instead of attempting to sink me in the pond should have merely blinded me in order to prevent me from becoming an officer. Today I laugh over it.
I did not opt to be an officer but the lot of blinds has improved much. Who can say Surdas or Milton was inferior to any other known personality? Of course, a blind person cannot become a doctor in spite of the considerations made for the physically handicapped*. But the question remains — you can prohibit a physically blind person from taking admission to a medical college but not a mentally or emotionally blind one, devoid of the aptitude for service. Possibly, the tona of Dilzan Mian or songs of Surdas are better healers than the treatment by many having good vision, whose eyes only see the purse of the patients.
Though little educated, my mother had composed a good number of melodies in Maithili and father has scores of unpublished Sanskrit verses. The younger sister Indu has also inherited poetic quality. She writes poems describing nature. When I was a child, I was also composing verses; I vividly recall, after climbing on a tree full of thorns called panialla on the bank of Sultani pond, dedicated to the memory of a sati, equally revered by Hindus and Muslims.
It is said; this town-deity was a Brahmin girl whom a sultan tried to marry. She became sati and then onwards everybody worships the spot where she died. The priest is a Muslim. There is a tomb but worshippers are mostly Hindus and you will find on any visit that the tomb is having several red lines of sindur (vermilion) offered by the devotees in typical Hindu tradition (Picture on second cover page).
I exclaimed on seeing His Excellency Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma on TV offering tributes near the tomb of Dr. Zakir Hussain, spreading his hands in the style of a Muslim seeking dua. I think one should pray to God in his or her own style wherever he or she is. The red sindur on the tomb of Sultani mata therefore, brings promises of begetting sons to expecting devotees. When the son is actually born, then they also come for mundan sanskar. A Hindu’s outstretched hands in Islamic style may be only to show a secular image on TV?
I have also composed some verses, mostly in the moments of deep sorrow, but I could not learn how to appreciate music. At times, I thought that it was useless and probably a fanatic like Aurangazeb had this one good quality. When I grew up, someone told me that a man who hates music could kill a person. Whether it was the cause of Aurangzeb’s brutality? I think, after that I noticed movements of my legs on distant melodious tunes. Yet, I remained aloof.
Once, I was at
and happened to attend Tansen Samaroh. I could appreciate only the
peanut crushing sound in the audience in the open sky. I had also listened to
Bismillah Khan’s shahnai, at Varanasi.
I developed reverence for the Indian music and dance but more powerfully, it was the melodious voice of my wife that created in me serious appreciation for good music. As I felt, I lacked something and later on I found myself in the IIT,
auditorium listening to Bhimsen Joshi, canceling other engagements.
Still, I have some reservations — female beauty or voice should not be exploited in the sexual senses. Neurologists say the right hemisphere of human brain contains musical abilities, which are more pronounced among males, so Tagore and Ravi Shankar became good musicians. Females have left side of the brain more pronounced which governs speech, though socially deprived through millennia; they look to be otherwise opposite. In the battlefield of homes, males still surrender. Before concluding on the art of music and songs, etc. let me confess that the prize won by me in any competition of poems, I had only contested in the school days, the verses were not mine but one of Gulab Chand Mall, a Sindhi, a friend of my elder brother (the song entitled, Tulsi Ke Ram Aao).
I was, however, a good orator. In the same Tulsi Jayanti competition, I bagged the first prize in oration and the second prize in the essay competition, when I was in class VIII. But the first speech, I made in my life was earlier in a Sangh shakha, when I was 11 years old, on ‘cow slaughter’. I vividly recall the road abutting my home leading to the then East Pakistan, hardly 100 kilometers away, had herds of cows passing in the early mornings. We were told that they would be butchered there. I feel one can learn humanity by loving all creatures. So the cowherd boy
Krishna or the
shepherd boy Christ had sparks of love for humanity.
This poses the important issue of vegetarianism. From the point of view of health or even otherwise, the westerners have realized it. It may be worthwhile to note that Gandhi’s first campaign was for vegetarianism. Though he was a vegetarian since birth, it was in
England that he thought and worked
extensively on why one should be a vegetarian. None can compare it with the
aversion for music in Aurangazeb. It is said that if Hitler and Gandhi were on
the same table they would have similarity in one aspect only that they were
Maithil Brahmins are usually non-vegetarians but our family is an exception. It is because my father was educated in Rajasthan where vegetarianism is practiced even today. My wife was a non-vegetarian but I had happily accepted her and she had also initially accepted my hereditary vegetarianism. Still I feel, vegetarianism in thought is more essential than in food habits; of course, our scriptures say that the type of food consumed also governs the mind.
The development of my art of oration deserves a few comments. When I was in class VIII or IX, I had gone to a meeting connected with Vivekananda. I also asked for permission to speak. I was the youngest chap. Concluding the meeting, president Dr. Mantu Thakur remarked about me as ‘Vivekananda’ of the evening. But it was not that I was always praised.
When I was in class X, we had a speech contest on Gandhi Centenary Celebrations. A big portrait of Gandhi was waiting for the winner. While elaborating on the role of Gandhi in the freedom struggle, I could not resist pointing out Gandhi’s blunder of Muslim appeasement policy, which finally led to the partition of the motherland. I was apprehensive that I might be stopped any moment not to talk of getting a prize. Though the chair maintained the dignity by not interrupting me, I was not awarded any prize simply for the reason that they were not ready to listen to such criticism, though on the merits of style, thoughts and points, I had deserved the portrait which my friend bagged whose speech was hardly audible even to the front row of the audience.
The surroundings of my home were natural and beautiful. There were large mounds of clay surrounding the Sultani pokhra (pond). The clay was deposited during digging of the pond. It was covered with thick vegetation, all green, but darkness used to set in early afternoon. I had no concept of jungle at that time and so we children were calling it ‘jungle’; of course, there were big mango trees, tamarinds, etc; creepers included ‘peepul’ — a condiment. It was full of the herbs used by my father as were described in Ayurveda, some of which I can recognise even today.
There was a bungalow on the western side of the large pond, a small overhead water tank and many vats, approximately of the dimensions of 50' x 30' x 4'. The vats were unused and had many shrubs and creepers in them. For us these were playing spots. It was much later that I could know that those were indigo vats and that the lifting system was used to collect water from the pond.
The bungalow was for the nilha saheb — Forbes Saheb on whom the town was named or someone else. There was a move to change the name of the town from Forbesganj to ‘Dwijadeni Nagar’. Similarly why my school,
is not renamed after the first or the longest lived Indian headmaster? Lee Academy
I do not like to rename things only and always-on politicians. Same is the tragedy with the
Chennai and the Lady Hardinge Medical College of Delhi and many buildings and towns spread
across the country. Stanley
Therefore, I am of the opinion that Forbesganj should be renamed as Sitaganj, based on the old river therein named as Sitadhar. And similarly, I strongly feel that instead of
Academy (estd. 1926) where I underwent
my schooling should be renamed as the ,
probably the longest-lived headmaster of the school. Ganga Prasad
Had the nilha sahebs — be it Forbes or somebody else been here for the benefit of the countrymen, Gandhi would not have staged his first movement against them at Champaran after coming from South Africa, which made Gandhi a name in the Indian political scene.
Ultra-blue marine — a chemical replaced the indigo. Indigo - pools got abandoned but the story of the exploitation by indigo-planters will remain in memory as long as the name of Gandhi is alive.
Growing population has destroyed the natural beauty of my town. Buildings have taken the place of the pools and ‘jungle’, even the graves of sahebs have been engulfed. Interestingly, I recall the grave of a dog whose stone statue was on the tombstone. I think it is still there. Only a few convert Christians of 4th or 5th generation now attend the dilapidated church — they are all poor. I cannot imagine what prompted the English sahebs to convert their dependent servants who are still hardly literates, not to talk of the days of their embracing Christianity without knowing anything.
The country now has a new class of sahebs who spend more on their dogs than on their domestic servants. One need not visit my town to see the tombstone of the dog, it is apparent everywhere in the society.
I do not recall when I started going to a RSS shakha. I wished to join a football team but a regular fee was required which I dared not ask from my father and also the players were older and there was a risk of getting hurt. I remember I had once gone to see a match probably between Mohun Bagan and the town team. There was a great rush. I had not heard much of cricket or hockey, etc.
However, there was a PT instructor in the school but for us PT or drill class meant cleaning of playground only, the pollen grains of grass usually stuck to our pants, if we were allowed to sit. I think, it would have been better if we had been allowed only to run or play at our will than the senseless act of removing the weeds. Probably our playing or running would have made the fields cleaner and us healthier.
I also feel, the enthusiasm for football has shifted to cricket, notoriously after the TV-era began. These costlier games can never be made universal in the poor set-up of our country and so we can see ourselves continuously low in the medal tallies in the world competitions. Athletic activities are probably the only remedial solution even if we wish to bag the cup for cricket. Of course, our PT or the NCC teachers should not award certificates without proper verification. I never played in the school team but I was given a certificate on demand simply because I was a brilliant student. I may be a good physician but how can I claim for a proficiency in Surgery, above the level of graduation.
I was a cadet in the NCC, but I had joined it only for an attractive dress and breakfast after parade. Nobody tried to infuse the spirit of nationalism in me though the very name was national. Probably it was because the staff was salaried.
No allurement can infuse in anyone the spirit of nationalism. The height was the certificate examination in which boys were asked to deposit money for a suitable presentation to the examiner. It was probably a table-clock. However, I did not appear for the examination.
Even in the
I joined and left it, as the story was not much different. Second rate officers
from the army join the NCC. Of course, once I found a grand Oriya officer who
was delighted to receive a copy of the Oriya song of the Sangh — ,bZ
Hkkjr tUeHkwfe] deZHkwfe eksjs js - - (This Bharat is my motherland and land of all karmas...)
which I had noted when I had an occasion to visit a RSS shakha at Puri in 1973,
just after competing for the PMT. I had already impressed that NCC officer as I
had once found a paper in knee-deep stagnant water in the medical campus, which
was a cheque for the salary of all staff for that month from the Army. By that
time I had left the NCC, but I gave it to one of my friends to deposit it at
the NCC office. Darbhanga
Before the NCC, there was the ACC of which my elder brother was a cadet. I do not know what happened to it but gradually I found the NSS replacing the NCC. I think it will also not succeed like many government plans since they being fund-based, are unable to stimulate the inner sentiments of the youth.
As already stated above, I joined the shakha finding myself unfit for more attractive boyhood activities. Later, my father was also particular whether I was attending the shakha. There were three big portraits hanging in my father’s clinic. These were of — Dr. Hedgewar, founder of the RSS; Guruji, the then Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, having black beard looking like a rishi and Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the BJS, whose photograph for a long time I believed to be that of my father on account of the bald head. The captions underneath the portraits were — Sacrifice is our watch word; Men of character are the need of the day and Victim of Nehru-supported Abdullahshahi.
In those days, the members of the RSS had hardly any activity other than the shakha and to some extent the BJS. Dr. Mookerjee was a great scholar and really it is to his credit that we can today go to
Kashmir without a passport but I was thinking his
portrait to be of my father’s and so my attention was centred on the other two
An office - bearer of the RSS cannot be an office - bearer of any political party, so my father had to resign from the post of sanghchalak of the RSS when he was asked to be the president of the BJS of that area. He had also fought unsuccessfully the election for the post of municipal councillor, polling for which was held at the time when I had absconded to my village as described earlier.
The younger brother of my father had also joined the BJS in Rajasthan as one of the founding members and though a paraplegic, he got elected to the Sardarshahar municipal election as a councillor with a thumping majority in 1952. My uncle Shankar, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Sundar Singh Bhandari and Lal Kirshna Advani were co-workers.
Though as a child, I was aware of national politics, I was not attracted to it. I remember the death of Nehru, and also his arrival for the inauguration of Bhimnagar barrage on the river Kosi. I remember the death of Dr. Lohia and the murder of Deendayal Upadhyay.
I have also an interesting comment on Atal Behari Vajpayee. In 1969, after his speech, next morning he came for breakfast at the residence of Rekhchand Samdaria, a friend of my father. He was offered traditional Brahminical bidai with dhoti, chadar, etc. which he hesitatingly accepted only after I quipped making my fingers as a purse, “You have already received a good dakshina (purse presentation in the meeting for party fund).” It evoked laughter. In this group photograph of that occasion I am a child difficult to recognize now, probably standing boy left of the person wearing cap ( left to Yamuna Rai), who is just behind Vajpayeeji; my father is the tallest figure, behind Kailashpati Mishra who is sitting right to Vajpayeeji sitting in the centre.
But when I try to recall, I find, the RSS at that time was not adequate for my political mission. I was a regular reader of the third cover page of the Panchjanya weekly, at that time in square size. It was the page devoted to the revolutionaries who had sacrificed their lives for the nation and it was this, which appealed to me. As a child of 10, in an attempted imitation of Chandrashekar Azad, I founded an organization named after the historical Indian Republican Army.
I had four friends or followers — Kasturchand Sethia, Brahmanand Pande, Dhirendra Jaysawal, Rajkumar Jain. I do not know where Brahmanand is; the others are in business in the town. Lately, a friend Rajnarayan came whose interest was in tantra. He has written many novels for children. The aim of our Army was to achieve full swarajya of the country and our young brains were under the impression that this independence and that too of the divided country — was not the cherished dream of the revolutionaries. We had the impression that the park where Chandrashekar Azad martyred himself was not named after him though people call it ‘
’. Our ambition was to go to Azad Park Allahabad and remove the signboard if any and replace it
by another declaring it as ‘ ’. We planned to go
by Jogbani-Allahabad Fast Passenger and to train ourselves as ticketless
travellers; we went to Jogabani many times with that intention. We even thought
to travel as fake vendors selling groundnut. Azad
The mound borders of Sultani pond and adjoining ‘jungle’ were our training centers. I used to steal money from my father’s pocket and later on from the cash-box of the house with the key taken from the pocket of father’s long khadi kurta, taking advantage of his utter simplicity. Later, Rajkumar Jain also contributed by giving me money from the cash-box of his flourmill, still existing near my home. I remember he was giving me handful of coins of rupee, 50 or 25 paise. My father was so simple that at times I was exchanging notes for it or even depositing it with father saying that Raju wanted his money to be deposited and father under the severe financial crisis could not guess the actual source of that money but the money was to be used with every caution for our Army. We needed revolvers and guns to train ourselves. Our tender minds were fascinated to see the advertisements in cinema songs’ booklets ‘purchase arms for self-defense’. We ordered for it. The V.P.P. was received but we were sorry to find that those were not live revolvers but toy-guns. Yet, we practiced with them. The mound was to us our Chittagong Hills where revolutionaries like Masterda had fought.
In the ‘jungle’, there was a huge tamarind tree. We used to climb its lower branches and a ruler (i.e. a stick) used to be in the hand of one of the members. When the ruler was dropped on the ground, the member on the tree had to jump down immediately. It used to be the test of the member’s strength of will. That beautiful ruler, made of deodar, brought by my elder brother, became a symbol of the leader of the Army. Once, a mukhya shikshak of the shakha, Ashok (now a C. A. in
Calcutta) threw it away in anger in the thick
growth of cactus (nagphani) shrubs saying, “You have violated the
The shrubs are still there but my ‘ruling ruler’ must have merged its panchtatwa with the mother earth. Non-living things cannot procreate. Procreation is probably a virtue for finding a way for the things you could not achieve in your lifetime and your progeny may do so. I do not know whether the worldly problems are due to the accidental births.... nagaphani shrubs are still between the limits of the boundary of the railways... they will not violate the norms and invade as China did in 1962 across the Himalayan borders.
On the railways, there were other types of test of strength of will in our activ
It was a test of strength of will and one of us could have been killed if the whistle would have failed (and also if reflex action of self-defense). Thanks,
it was a slow
moving meter gauge train.
Our Army had regular classes. We used to read and speak about the revolutionaries only. We had huge collections of that third cover page of Panchjanya and other such books as Manmathnath Gupta’s Bharat Ke Krantikari, Shachindra Sanyal’s Bandi Jivan that was said to be the G
ita for the
revolutionaries. Bismil’s Sarfarosi Ki Tamanna was our favour ite song. We used to prefer Bande (Vande) Mataram
to Jan-Gan-Man. Such study classes and field training made us adherent
to our ideals and hardly anyone was expected to be a mukhbir (approver).
We were celebrating the important occasions. I remember, in the summer of 1965, we 5-6 members staged out a procession through the main road of the town, on the martyrdom day of Mangal Pandey. Our slogans were like 1857 Amar Rahe, Mangal Pandey Amar Rahe. After the procession, we assembled on the roof of my house and there we had our lectures on 1857.
We were fond of Savarkar and Subhas, a song published in the Panchajanya — Bolo Subash, Bolo Savarkar was my favour
ite song and also Chalis Karoron Ko Himalya Ne
Pukara, Ganga Ke Kinaron Ko Shivalaya Ne
Pukara and Prabal Jhanjhawat Me Tu Ban Achal Himvan Re Man.
In those days, I had a hobby for framing portra
its in glasses; I framed a number of portra its like those of Savarkar, Purushottam Das Tandan,
Dr. Hedgewar, etc. Some are still hanging in my home. I acquired a diamond -
pointed knife from someone to cut the glass.
In those days my tutor was Tirthanand Babu (Pand
Ramchandra Jha had gone back to his home). He was a librarian of the Sarvajanic
Pustakalaya (in itially named as the
Singheshwar Public Inst itute after
the name of Singheshwar, the Circle Officer who took in itiative
for it). It was finally renamed as
the Sarvajanic Renu Pustakalaya as
Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’ had once been
there a librarian on a meager salary. We were calling Tirthanand Babu as
Pand itji (Pand it is not related to Brahmins only — he was a
Kshatriya). It was also a bora-basta school. I was a b it above the average and so I used to help Pand itji by teaching pahara (counting) and
Mathematics to younger students. Pand itji
in lieu gave me liberty to read any book I liked from the library, which was
I vividly remember, section Ka, having biographies, was my favour
ite and I
read hundreds of those small booklets, published by Chhatra H itkari Pustak Mala, Daraganj, Prayag. Almost all the
I knew of, all over the world, including H itler,
Mussolini, Lincoln, Mazzini, etc. Nasser, Nehru, T ito
were in current news, including Kennedy whose assassination, I remember. At
that time, I knew the genesis of the World Wars, Axis and Allied countries,
etc. My impression was that after the First World War, the Germans should have
been forgiven. As the treaty of Versailles
heavily dealt them w ith, the German
youths were disappointed, seeing no future for them and so H itler could emerge. Netaji Subhash was a friend of H itler and hence, I was not opposed to H itler though I could not appreciate his killing of
I also tried to read books from the section on Pol
itics and History, mostly dealing w ith the part ition
of the country, but it was beyond
the comprehension of a 10-year-old child. At that time, I read some books of
the Sangh like Jagadguru Shakaracharya, wr itten
by Deendayalji. I saw a book India Divided by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, but it was in English, similarly the Goebbels Diaries. However, I
read almost the complete Mahabharat of the G ita
Even today my knowledge of the Mahabharata is largely based on it.I have not read the Ramayana or the Ramchar itmanas so far but my knowledge of it is based only on the description of Ramakatha
in the Van Parva of the Mahabharata. I could not appreciate the Shantiparva.I
had read the G ita separately
when Ramchandra Jha coached me. I can still recollect most of the verses of the
first chapter though at that time I had memorised most of the verses of the
second chapter as well. The Shrimad Bhagawata was one of the earliest
books I read. These books were in my home in an almirah.
Also there were hardbound volumes of the Saraswati magazine — very old volumes, preserved by my father, ed
by Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi. There used to be a beautiful photograph of goddess
Saraswati on the front cover of each issue. I read most of them though I could
appreciate only some and can recall very few things like use of pigeons in the
Second World War as postmen (till recently it
was practiced in Cuttack) and about Dinosaurs, etc. There were many books like
the Manusmr iti, the Uttar
Ramachar it, etc. but those were
beyond my comprehension.
Though my knowledge had increased much in later years, I owe my knowledge of the human
ities mostly to the background knowledge of those
I also feel strongly that the children should be provided w
ith all sorts of knowledge giving
things. That they can appreciate only Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse serials of
TV is an underestimation of the child’s brain — Probably, I could read those
things of the highest standard only because there was no guardian or teacher w ith a cane to teach me, what he liked or the
text-books would have prescribed. I read what I liked. Give liberty to children
like Tagore had and he had also advocated this.
The background of these studies inspired in me the idea of a Republican Army. I knew Jugantar, a news-paper and also the revolutionaries like Aurobindo, Barin Ghosh, Batukeshwar Dutta, Rajendra Lahiri, Asfakulla, Lala Hardayal, Shyamji Krishna Verma, Shachindra Bakshi, Bhagawati Charan Vora, Durga Bhabhi, etc., etc. The chronology might have been beyond my comprehension but not their deeds. We also went to see a movie, Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Pratap and Shivaji were our heroes of Muslim period. I also appreciated Guru Gobind Singh and Chhatrasal. Rani Jhansi came in the list w
Durgawati — Durgawa it Jab Ran Me
Nikali Hathon Me Thi Talwaren Do. Khub Ladi Mardani was a favour ite song in the shakha also w ith many other choruses dedicated to the motherland.
A reader of these pages can doubt the truth of what I say but if one recalls that Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki joined revolutionary activ
ities while still in their
teens, it may be well understood.
We had 2-3 copybooks serving as registers — Elephant mark copybook of those days. We had wr
itten a list of articles in
our registers we needed for Army, those included a nakab (mask)
for disguising ourselves after any revolutionary activ ity.
We were planning to snatch guns from policemen.
happened that there was a gross difference in my father’s account. He is a
perfect man to wr ite accurately the
income and expend iture, even today.
He suspected theft by me and called my elder brother from Darbhanga for a
thorough checking. In the meantime, I had opened an account in the nearby post
office. When my brother came, I went out for toilet w ith
a lota (then we had only a service latrine and we, the males preferred
to go outside) and on return went out again to hide in the farm of Devendra
Babu, a teacher of the high school. I was there till afternoon near the pumping
set. After s itting for a few hours,
I thought I should return and face things bravely.
In the meantime my passbook had been seized but
it had a
balance of very few rupees. I had already dropped all books and registers in
the kothi meant for storing grains. All the books were stamped Keshava
Pustakalaya named after Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of the
RSS, who had been the icon for me. Though not convinced w ith
the shakha at that time, I was attending it
regularly. My age was so tender that reading his biography or hearing from
someone in the shakha that Doctorji in his childhood was digging a
tunnel for removing the Union Jack flag from the fort of S itabuldi at Nagpur, I was thinking on emulating him,
‘why not go to Delhi and replace tricolour by saffron to declare the
independence as wanted by the revolutionaries?’ When I grew older, I could know
why the Flag Comm ittee of the Indian
National Congress accepted tricolour, ignoring the saffron coloured flag of the
nation since time immemorial. Doctorji’s biography is probably the first l iterature of the Sangh and I read it at that time. I was more impressed by his
dedicated life than the lifetime work of his. His picture was very impressive
to me. In my later life, I followed much of the organisational techniques
practiced by him.
The Keshav library had over one hundred books. Most of the books were of national interest. Much of the money, Raju and I had filched from our parents’ cash-box was utilized in purchasing the books. Chhatra H
Pustakmala’s biographical series we purchased
through the V.P.P.
Stealing is no doubt wrong but even Swami Vivekananda had said, ‘If you steal books and read them, there is nothing wrong.’ Maybe keeping this in my mind, I had further comm
itted a mistake in my
adult life. At Darbhanga, while I was working as an assistant of Dr. B. N. Das
Gupta, my real guru in Medicine, his big personal
library was open to me for studies. Not only I read extensively, once I was so
much fascinated by a book Auscultation, that seeing two copies of it, I kept one w ith
me. I did not tell him because I was afraid of his anger but certainly it was a breach of trust. There was another occasion
when I stole electic bulbs from the hostel of the
to give Ranchi College it to some one related to
me. At that time I was 15 years old and I consider, I was possibly a juvenile
delinquent. But, why my elder relative did not stop me is a point to
consider—perhaps the society had started losing norms in post-independence era.
My father was very angry. He beat me w
ith a prickly date- palm stick and after some days
my back was covered w ith numerous
small abscesses. But, as was wont of a revolutionary, there was no question of
revealing the secrets. My brother too had beaten me up in Raju’s mill
mercilessly since Raju had told his parents that he had given money to me,
though he mentioned fewer amounts than he could have given me. But there was no
effect on me. In the night, my brother beat me w ith
the long firewood kept for fuel. But I was still not ready to confess. He did
not stop. Actually they had an impression that I might have even touched
mother’s jewellery. But, this I had not done. Finally, I told him why I was
stealing. I told him the amounts arb itrarily
since I was not able to remember the amounts stolen accurately. I told him it was some 200-300 rupees, though the actual figure
might have been anything.
It was not only out of fear that I divulged the secrets. He had seized some of the pa
copybooks mentioning Indian Republican Army and so he was intrigued as
to what the matter was. He went on elaborating that this could not be the way
of the patriots in free India.
I knew the country was free but the notion of freedom in my mind according to
the books I had already read was qu ite
different. My brother himself was a good orator and thinker and some of the
books I read were his. He had received Tilak’s the G ita
Rahasya as a prize in a debate but I could not understand that book.
To become a mukhbir (approver) is a sin in any revolutionary party. I knew how Kanailal Dutta had shot dead a mukhbir in the prison.
A Marwari boy, Vijay, became anxious to know our plans of revolution. He disclosed
it to some
of the elders. Our Army had a special meeting in the full-moonl it night of the autumn days in the library ground. We
resolved unanimously that the mukhbir be killed. I proposed that I would bring sankhiya
(arsenic) from my father’s clinic, though he had kept it
under lock and key in the almirah. Many a times I had stolen money from the
cash-box kept in it. This plan again
leaked out. That boy was afraid of me for long. And later I knew, even if as
per plans the sankhiya would have been mixed in peda, it could not have resulted in death as the sankhiya
was already purified and was f it for
medicinal use only.
Another day, a day after I was beaten, my brother took me to the RSS office, then s
a dharmshala. It had a life size portra it
of Shivaji and the other big size picture of Swami Vivekananda, captioned the
Hindu monk of .
There was also a map of the cultural Bharat. India
Brother was weeping while carrying me on the bicycle for having beaten me mercilessly. His tears were more forceful than the force applied by the firewood. I also realized that there had to be some other way of nation-building, so I would have to equip myself w
the knowledge of text-books and the good academic results.
Still many people remember my revolutionary acts I did, when I was not even 10 years old. Narsingh Dwivedi, a scholar and a whole-timer (pracharak) of the Sangh used to taunt me lovingly by showing his hands, finger clicking the revolver. Of course,
was a toy, not a mauzar Azad had, but
for long it was kept for sale, in
the Raman Store, a shop of my father’s friend. My father thought its sale might fetch some money. I do not know what
happened to it as after sometime the
course of my life changed in the high school.
Apart from History and Pol
one major area of my interest was Geography. I would keep on
turning over pages of the Himalaya Atlas as I was fond of searching
the place asked by any friend or my sister, Tarini. But I had not gone to many
places. In a lower middle class family like ours w ith
father having a stationed practice, it
was not unusual.
The earliest journey, I remember, was on a bullock-cart to Koilakh in Madhubani district to my maternal grandparents’ home. They were also rather poor. Later, my elder maternal uncle became a doctor who comm
suicide by burning himself as a fall-out of mismatched marriage. This tra it of suicidal tendency is also inher ited in my mother and I am also not immune to it, particularly at the time of utter despair* in sp ite of grand protest from wisdom. The other maternal
uncle is working in Bokaro.
I also remember my journey to Deoghar. Pilgrimage is the only way of s
ite seeing for poor
fellows. Thanks to rishis for the four Dhamas in four directions
of the motherland and particularly the great Shankara, the greatest integrator
known in the history of Bharat by creating four Peethas in the four
corners of the country.
My mother says, when I was a toddler, once in Koilakh, I was banging my head over a lota. All were anxious, as I was ill. The doctor came and said intelligently that the child was thirsty.
I used to go to the nearby villages of Forbesganj. There was a canal for irrigation from the Koshi, a devastating river compared to Hwang-Ho of
It is said that the Koshi has changed its
course 110 km towards west in 225 years. Same is the history of the Kamla-Balan
district. Though my village is
not flood affected, the district suffers a lot. So is the district of Purnea.
Yet, the people of M river of Madhubani ithilanchal have
developed a peace loving shade of Hindu culture as any other any other culture
developed along sides of the rivers.
My father was fond of cow- service and for some months the cow was sent to a far off village to the farm of our family friend. I used to go there. There was an airstrip on the way. Nearby the trees of nagkeshar (Messya ferrea) were making the air fragrant. Since
was a medicinal flower, we were
plucking it, which after preparation
was sent to far off places.
The disclosure of the revolutionary activ
was in the summer of 1965. My brother started preparing me for the ensuing
middle board examination to be held for the first time in our memories.
I was poor in English as
was the fourth language (after Ma ithili,
Sanskr it and Hindi) known to my
tongue and the atmosphere at home was fully ‘easternised’, so there was no question
of learning English from the environment. My brother gave attention to it. During the time of examination at Araria, then
our sub-divisional headquarters, near the examination centre, I had gone to the
evening shakha of the Sangh, but got a serious cut injury on the left
eye - brow which had to be st itched.
My brother was not hopeful of my good results but contrary to his expectations
of ‘anyhow II division’, I passed w ith
69 per cent having 84 per cent marks in English alone which was also surprising
I knew very well that my English was poor since
it was only in class VI that I had learnt the
alphabets and that too not so well. Even today, out of haste or hab it, I cannot wr ite
small z (in wr itten form). I wr ite it in
cap ital and many cap itals I do not know. I think fault lies more w ith the language than w ith
the students of English. English were royal but it
does not mean that they should have small and cap ital
forms for wr iting and printing their
alphabet, in add ition the
calligraphers have to learn many old printing types for wr iting diploma sheets, etc. which I knew later.
ite later, I
read in The Times of India in an article on English that if a boy is
taught, ‘I go’, ‘we go’, you go, and is asked what after he?’ and if he says,
‘He go’, the child should be rated intelligent because it
is cramming only which will make him say ‘goes’. In sp ite
of scoring 84 per cent, I correctly remember that while filling the blank I had
wr itten Jawaharlal Nehru was Primer
Minister of India.
Possibly being a student of Sanskr
I would have thought that w ith Minister
there should be Primer. It reminds me of a study of Max Muller’s work on
the Vedas at Oxford.
While the Rig-Veda was being printed, Max Muller used to get proofs from
the Oxford Press. He was surprised to find that at many places, the compos itor himself had made the correction. Max Mueller
thought that he might know Sanskr it.
So he asked him whether he knew Sanskr it.
He replied, “No, but while composing the text my fingers get a particulars sense of picking up the letters
from the case. So, when I find the rhythm is changed, I stop and try to
In English, q is always followed by u; I fail to understand the use of wr
iting u when in phonation it
is already in q.
has been found, as the best language to be used in computers and no computer is
superior to the human brain. I had probably this advantage otherwise it seemed difficult even to secure pass marks in
English, if I did not know the word Prime Minister. The child of the
later days had no such difficulty at least for Prime Minister (Rajiv
Gandhi) whom they saw on TV daily w ithout
fail, even in an advertisement of agni
before seeing the Mahabharata.
Class VIII was good for me. I remember, a teacher exclaimed that he had awarded 45 marks in Hindi II, the highest. He said that to get such high marks from his pen was impossible w
cheating in the examination. He was in fact a teacher of PT, and I had p ity on him because I had attempted cheating for the
first time in my life unsuccessfully due to anxiety-related sympatho-adrenal
discharge resulting in trembling, so I threw the answers wr itten on a piece of paper to be copied (called purja) which was in English, not in
Hindi. This I had told some of my friends who might have told him and so he
related it to his ‘most difficult’
I was awarded 99 marks in Mathematics, in the half-yearly examination. The answer-books were shown to all students. I could find my own mistake. Very honestly, I showed
to that teacher (later a professor of Chemistry at ). He smiled and
deducted full 10 marks allotted to the question (still I was the first). I
know, Bhagalpur Univers ity it was done out of love for
me, Similarly, in 1975 at Darbhanga, in the first terminal examination of
Medicine, the tutor had given me 75 marks. Prof. N.P. Mishra whom I also
considered as my guardian, on scrutiny, told in his house, “Dhanakar has done
well, but it is better if I deduct
one mark each in two questions, where he was awarded 25/25, so that he does not
have pride.” And, he made the total 73 — yet another affectionate reduction.
I was happy in class VIII that now there would be no drawing period and I would not have to run away through the open window, every Tuesday afternoon to avoid beating by duster on the back of the wrist, a fancy of Maulavi Saheb (Md. Shirazuddin), the teacher of drawing.
it does not mean that I was not
caned? In class IX, once in a fiery debate, I told my friend Fasi-Huz-Zamma (we
were calling him Fasi-Huz-Pyzama), “You should speak for the country
whose salt you do eat? “He told me,” Salt is in Pakistan
and it is imported from there and so
he would plead for Pakistan.”
We came to blows and the matter was reported to the vice-principal, Mustaque Saheb.
He was a saintly soul and a good friend of my father but he caned me vigorously
and transferred me from section A to section C, a wholly unjust punishment, the
other boy should have been transferred.
I was also the librarian of my class library, which I enriched, much w
ith the books of
Tagore, etc. By this time my taste for pol itics
had shifted to novels. I read many of Gurudatt’s novels and also some detective
stories. The boys were contributing two annas (12 paise) per month for the library on every
15th, the fee day. If a boy gave me a coin of 25 paise and I could return him
only 12 paise, I had at the end a saving of say annas. I used it
for eating bhuja (fried grains). It was wrong, I acknowledge. But I was working hard for the distribution of
books on each Saturday and everybody was happy w ith
I was heartily welcomed by the class-teacher of section C as I was the best student but the love of the library was still attracting me and when after some days my transfer order was w
ithdrawn, I rejoined section A.
A well-built Bengali boy, Raku (later a Police Inspector somewhere in Assam)
helped me a lot in those days of my exile from the section.
My school was good. Teachers were mostly sober and competent. I remember, particularly Agamlal Babu, who used to teach the theorems of Geometry w
ith the help
of two handkerchiefs — showing the symmetry of triangles in theorems 4, 7, 17
and 18 of Hall and Stevens. He created in me such an interest for Mathematics
that I was repeating the theorems of Geometry s itting
on the guava tree in front of my house. I used to complete the home task of
Algebra as soon as I returned home. He
was equally brilliant in Geography. Explaining the reasons of population growth
he used to say, “ Arariya Court - Court = a big barren land, as it was the court which attracted people to settle
Dhaniklal Babu, who later became the principal, was very affectionate to me and so was Jagdish Babu. I was going to their houses for free tu
My science teachers could not stimulate me as did the teachers of arts stream, may be my own intu
ition was the factor.
But I feel they were not of the same caliber as those of the teachers of human ities.
We had options to choose science/arts and Biology/Mathematics after passing class IX. I think the practice of common syllabus for all in vogue, is correct though the weight of books requires to be much reduced for proper growth of
We are now producing bookworms who are in health like earthworms and in mental
ity like hookworms —
future bloodsuckers of the mother society.
Our principal, Ganga Babu was a strict disciplinarian. He loved me much. Though, not at all related to the Sangh, he used to subscribe to the Organiser. Once he asked me the meaning of ‘Dhanakar’ which
I could not tell him. He opened a dictionary and (probably not finding
there) told me that it was like ‘Ratnakar’
(treasure of wealth).
I know my name was given so for f
itting it into ‘kar’ of all possible words. It is
like other elder brothers and also my father and my five uncles were named w ith suffix kar, under my grandfather’s
presumption of it for being
industrious. So far I have not met any person
of my name in the country.
Name is the most precious possession of a
and it is the last to be forgotten,
so it is said, ‘when testing for
memory, do not ask for the patient’s name.’
Once the Principal Saheb was angry that I, though being a good student was surprisingly absent in his poetry period in the afternoon. In fact, his teaching was beyond my comprehension as my English was poor.
During the days of my medical studentship, I used to go to meet him. He was active, even after his retirement. I might not have learnt many things from him directly but his towering
personal ity had a lasting impact on me.
I also remember our school peon, Moti, who was a devotee of my father. We used to go to his house in tiffin breaks where he used to serve us tasteful bhuja.
The school had a big ground, good building, staff-room and a library for them, big hostel, adequate water to drink and good toilets.
The Republic and Independence Day celebrations meant great fun for us. We were interested more in jalebis than in the parade and long march to the
, three km away
from my school. In those days national days meant total freedom and ticket less
traveling in the train, which was a good fun, resulting in overcrowding in the
trains and even on the rooftops. National
Saraswati Puja was a pleasant occasion. The practice of holding puja by small groups and begging for donations became the practice of the day. I also once organised such a puja and truly speaking ate some bundia, which was to be used as prasad next morning.
Durga Puja was solemnised joyfully, more so because of the Bengali population there. Chhath ceremony at the Sultani pond was well known on account of Bhojpuris in the local
Deepawali and colourful Holi were observed on a grand scale due
to Marwaris. I was not interested in colours and restrained myself usually
locked up in my room till the year 1989 when after my marriage, I enjoyed
colourful Holi w ith my
sister-in-laws; later I knew my wife was angry when she could not resist my
reflex protest on applying colours. The protest was in fact like a clasp knife,
which her sister Sudha could open w ith
in itial thrust but not she.
The ordeal of school days was almost fixed. Getting up early in the morning, then study and school after cooking for ourselves, taking two annas for tiffin from father while going through his clinic and after returning home, going to attend the shakha. Then helping father in the clinic and on returning home, assisting one or another sister in cooking and then reading in the light of a kerosene lantern. Though an electric pole was in front, I never aspired to be Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (to read in street-light like him).
The routine made us confident and self-dependent besides acquiring versatil
ity in the
knowledge of Ayurvedic preparations and methods of treatment. This
acquis ition had given me a bonus
point in the BPSC interview and also to my youngest brother in the Netarhat
School Entrance Test interview. My father was very eager that at least one of
his sons should become a vaidya but none of us agreed w ith him.
I was not a dedicated student; of course, I used to plan in the first month of the new class each year to be so. My Physics was poor as I was a student of Biology and particularly Mechanics part was neglected. I would have topped in the Bihar PMT later in 1973, but I missed
by merely 9.5 marks as questions in Mechanics of 12 marks were left almost
unanswered. The book of Physics (in Hindi) was a poor translation and this was
the major factor of my lack of interest.
I was good in Chemistry and Biology but still better in languages and Social Studies. I scored good marks in Elementary Mathematics. I feel, the abstract knowledge of Mathematics and the sums were as if beyond my capac
ity and as such in Mechanics I
could not progress beyond S = ut + ½ft2.
When I was studying Sanskr
my teacher used to say about Bhaskaracharya’s Lilawati. Later I
consulted and I found it was more
interesting than the books prescribed for us. I could not read that book too.
But I remember the sums of height and distance, exemplified by a monkey on the
treetop and his shadow on the water when Lilawati was asked the height of the
good books nor teachers could have been the factor; I also think, ‘if human
brain has not separate areas for the comprehension of Mathematics* other than
for the human ities?’ We hear about
mathematical wizards and human computers and also about Shankara, Vivekananda
and Raman Maharshi.
I passed SSC (Matriculation) w
69 per cent marks. Those were the days of Mahamaya Babu’s Mere Jigar Ke
Tukare but for all practical purposes, I did not attempt to cheat in the
In my school days when my age was between 10-15 years, I was probably relatively quiet in my activ
ities. Yet, I had in me something other than my
peers. I was praised in the town for my question which appeared in the Panchjanya
and that was the occasion of my first appearance by name in the press.
I collected some money by selling stamps of Swami Vivekananda (Fig.1) for the Rock Memorial, Kanyakumari, when I was below 10 years of age but I was not given folders to sell, as those were costly.
But I remember the occasion of
inauguration by the President of India.
I was allowed to collect signatures in support of banning cow-slaughter. The peaceful march in
protesting against cow-slaughter stopped by police
firing was hot news. The town was pol
itically sens itive and shutters used to be down whenever any
leader died. Speeches were common ranging from Ramchandra Sharma ‘Veer’(who did
prolonged fasting along w ith
Shankaracharya of Puri for cow protection) advising not to wear leather-shoes
and or taking tea, to the addresses by the Jain saints on Anuvrata. I
happened to be a participant in one of the debates organised by Anuvrata.
My hab it was to speak for the weak
point and in the contest I pleaded successfully for ‘Dharma can be
preserved by wealth’ (Dhanat Dharmam Tatah Sukham).
Those were the days of Lohiaji who led anti-Congress movement. Corruption was showing
head. I recall Kairon and about the Iyer Commission.
My father, subscribed to a leading Hindi newspaper, The Aryavarta, and I used to read
Chutakulananda’s humor column. In the library, I used to read the Kadambini,
the Navneet and the Sar ita
more than the Chandamama or Tilasmi Kisse.
Even when I was in my village during vacations, I used to go to listen to the leaders. I remember soft-spoken Nath Pai’s praise for the sweetness of Ma
ithili at Madhubani.
I went to Darbhanga to listen to Vajpayee, Dange (Hindi translation of whose
speech was also incomprehensible) and Indira (there was more of crowd but less of words in her speech).
Forbesganj is only 15 km from Biratnagar of Nepal and I had gone there a few times when I had
purchased some foreign goods
like terylene clothes, torch, pen and even a Dabonair camera w ith which I
had snapped the first photograph. It took me l ittle
time to learn that I should not use
foreign goods and thus I had decided to do so even before my matriculation and
at times I had even refused to use any foreign fountain pen.
I developed a strong sense of national integration. I used to go to the nearby south Indian (Keral
Custom Collector’s bungalow singing a Malyalam song, memorised from the Nagari
transl iteration published in
the Kadambini. Gradually, I made contact w ith
his wife through her infant daughter, Madhu, whom the constables used to
fondle. An inspector and a constable in the customs department were my tenants
and so it was easy but the young
lady, the wife of the Customs Collector did not give much attention to me and I
stopped going there.
A few young Christian boys and girls had camped there in the campus near that bungalow to distribute their religious l
iterature. Though they were very cordial, I could
not appreciate why they had come to propagate their religion. Therefore, I
threw their pa pers, on the road w ithin their full gaze while they were riding on
bicycles. If they were for tours and or to know our country, I would have been
w ith them and been their best friend
(as I experienced later w ith many
French people in Sarnath and Varanasi, Australians in Goa, German vis itors on the way to Khajuraho and Russian fellows at
Tipong in Assam).
In those days our elders, particularly service-holders, did not like to hear the cr
of the Government, Congress and or Nehru. Once, as I was going alone to
Forbesganj from my village, I remember, at Khagaria, I was having some
discussion (as is usual in trains) w ith
fellow-passengers and I was pleading for Subhash and Patel while cr iticizing Nehru and the Congress.
Many of the semi-l
passengers were appreciating me but a mil itary
man (may be a Subedar or JCO) who was not at all in the discussion w ith us was furious and warned me that if I cr iticized
those persons governing us, he would
throw me out at the next station. I told him that ours was a democracy but my
supporters were rural people and I was a child, and hence, I kept mum.
In those days in my home at Forbesganj, my father had brought an elderly man, Satto Babu, from our village. He was for us like an uncle who used to cook and assist in father’s clinic and in preparation of medicines. We had the hab
cleaning used utensils ourselves and not spilling-over the food or leftovers.
Such good hab its, I still have and I
largely owe these to my father. Also, the concept that a domestic servant is
only an assistant is still in my mind otherwise it
creates complexes amongst children of the well to do.
Another feature of Forbesganj was the Kartik Mela. Though a source of recreation, in fact,
was a source of explo itation of
rural people during the post-plantation period. We generally enjoyed it. Though my father on some occasions allowed us to
go to watch cinema, largely, he was against it
from the character-building point of view. Yet, he was in favour of circus. I
remember on some occasions, I had seen movies w ithout
my father’s permission in III Class. (Himalya Ke Gode Me, Love in , etc.) And Tokyo it is interesting to recall that once I had entered
the hall w ithout a ticket by raising
tirpal (water-proof tents) of the temporary hall of the circus in the Mela
(I ascended the galleries from below) and also in a movie, Jauhar Mehmood in
In Darbhanga, for the first time I saw a medical college. The occasion was when my father had gone there to consult a dentist, Dr. V. D. Sood. Later I saw medicos in aprons there first when I was of the age of 12 or 13 years. I had a dog-b
ite and the doctor prescribed 12 ARVs, (more than 10
days after the b ite though the dog
was alive!). This incident and my regular vis its
for 14 days to the medical college ultimately became a source of inspiration to
me to be a doctor.
I have dealt in some details of my childhood as Wordsworth has also rightly wr
itten — The child is the father of the man.
Many of my latter days' activ ities
are undoubtedly a product of this early period. On looking back, I feel, in sp ite of the unusual hardship that I faced, I gained
more than I lost. Yet, deprivation is not to be advocated. I stood deprived, no
doubt because God was planning successive deprivation in future. Thanks to my
parents, teachers and relations who could bring me up about for the big future.
Fig. 2 - My revered parents — Dinkar Sharma Vaidya and Nirmala Devi.
“It is difficult to find a parallel to a victory won so cheaply. At Plassey, the Br
losses were 7 Europeans and 16 sepoys killed and 13 Europeans and 36 sepoys
wounded. The gain was dominion over the richest
— a vast terr province of India itory yielding a
revenue of over twenty-five and a half million rupees a year and inhab ited by nearly thirty million people”. History of
The Publication Division, Ministry of I & B, GOI, India 26.1.1961: pg. 260. New Delhi