«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
Birth of a girl child is considered a good omen as within Padarpan-entry of Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth. Dada got his confirmed permanent position at the university, along with a decent raise in his salary. I, a few months later, became an earning member in the house. Dada was busy as usual in his research projects, developing his team of students and scholars. He had the finest asset of turning normal students into great researchers like a sculptor chiseling raw stones into beautiful figures, and then blowing a part of his soul into them. And then he would give blessings to them so that they could pursue their own dreams. (See Part A of tributes to Dada.) Independence from the British in 1947 The year of Nineteen Hundred and Forty Seven (1947) placed us all in a different channel. The shroud of pessimism was replaced by optimism. On August 15, we were a free people: India was finally Independent. Dada declared to us “You all are on your way up –Take pride in your family character and not on material gains (if any left by “them”). Depend solely on your intellect, diligence and faith in the goodness of human being. Rest, leave to the Almighty”. What he preached he practiced. Our home was now the hub for our relatives, friends and the community to which we belonged. It was an Open House all the time. People walked in and out and stayed for long periods without hesitation.
The next 50 years of Dada were like joining a juggernaut, sacrificing for all, caring and giving- first among those were Amma’s sibling’s relatives and friends. He had decided not to move out of Allahabad as Amma did not like to leave Allahabad (Prayag was the holy city). Dada lost many outside opportunities, but he never regretted. Dada’s time management was perfect. He could find time for everyone and earned a good living as well for us all, till we were on our way out one after another- first Bitti, next Govindjee and the last was my turn.
Bitti likened Dada to the legendary figure of Shravan Kumar because of his devotion and care for Amma2 and I totally agree with her. Shravan Kumar, as the story goes, was a man, whose parents were blind and aged but wanted to visit all the holy places before leaving this world. They were poor – so Shravan Kumar put them in two baskets and carried the basket on his shoulders. When he reached near Ayodhya, the Kingdom of Dashrath, father of Lord Rama, it is said that the King accidently shot Shravan Kumar with his arrow, while he was filling water from the river, mistaking him in the darkness for an animal drinking water. When Dashrath discovered his folly, he went to the blind parents for forgiveness –he was cursed to die with the pain of parting from his own son. Thus the epic Ramayana goes on. I have taken the opportunity to elaborate one of the characteristics of Dada’s soul of caring for the elderly. I am sure that whosoever came near him was affected by the purity of his soul.
I have a strong feeling that Rita, my daughter, who stayed with Dada while studying in the middle school in her impressionable age, received Dada’s radiations and absorbed them as she has this inbuilt capacity to be good. She is now sometimes teased as Shravan Kumari for the extreme care she bestows on us, surely in tandem with her wonderful husband Shekhar, and children Nandini and Nitin. God bless them.
Dada was way ahead of his times. He had possibly visualized the forthcoming setup of nuclear family systems; so, he desired to set example as to how to provide solace to the aged, disabled and feeble persons in the normal families; as such, senior citizens needing primarily emotional, physical and sometimes economic support in the inflationary economy of the world. The developed nations of the world have created social security laws plus physical care services but emotional support is atrociously daunting to organize. Let us hope that as mankind evolves, Dada’s dreams will be fulfilled.
A few things about the marriages of Dada’s siblings A few incidents, connected with the marriages of us three younger to him, need to be told for the sake of his cool cucumber like temperament. First, comes Bitti’s wedding. In our days of fairly conservative old traditional families, it was odd to find that the girl selects and decides to marry a guy whom she has started loving while studying together. When this was revealed, the elders got a shock but not Dada. He quietly possibly talked about pros and cons of the decision but later agreed to go ahead with her liking of the young man–Radha Krishna Sahay of Chhapra, Bihar. Dada made it look like more of an arranged marriage. He went to Chhapra with the usual all necessary incumbent requirements of a traditional marriage proposal and on its acceptance, he came back to fix an auspicious day and start preparations to receive a Barat. I do not know if horoscopes were tallied, but the marriage was performed, and the two are happily living together in Bhagalpur, Bihar.
A talk of my marriage was also simultaneously going on. Bitti, Bhabhi and Amma were keen to fix my marriage as early as possible to bring in a “substitute” (for lack of a better word) of Bitti in the house. I was in no hurry as I wanted to study further and get settled down a bit later. In view of Dada’s insistence as well as of the rest of the gang, I acquiesced to the pressure from the combined force.
(Obviously, everyone had liked the selected bride-to-be.) I recall only one little embarrassing occasion when Dada was put to test for his cool temper. At the “Barat Ghar” in Nathnagar (my in-laws’ place), when I was getting ready for the Barat, I heard someone mentioning a certain ceremony where the son-in-law of the family of the bride has to put the head gear on the bridegroom (me), and he has to be ceremonially given some gift in kind and cash. Dada was not around;
some people referred to it as if it was his duty to take care of this ceremony, and they indicated as if he was avoiding it. I quickly went over and told Dada; he felt sad about these comments, but with his natural calmness called up graciously the two sons- in- law of the bride’s family to perform the ceremony and presented them the gifts in kind and cash as per tradition. My marriage had been performed after tallying the horoscopes and we have been living happily thereafter for the last 57 years.
Govindjee was married to Rajni, in 1957, when they were in Urbana, Illinois, USA. Since they were graduate students, finishing their PhDs at the University of Illinois, they could not come to India until 1961. Dada was very happy that he married Rajni, who was also from Allahabad. He was very fond of their children Anita and Sanjay; he visited them when the children were young, and much later, he (and Bhabhi) attended Sanjay’s marriage, with Marilyn, in Stanford, California. I pray to God for a long life for Govindjee and Rajni and the well being of their children (Anita and Sanjay), spouses of their children (Morten; and Marilyn) and grand children (Sunita, daughter of Anita & Morten; Arjun and Rajiv, sons of Sanjay & Marilyn). (See Part C for photographs of the families.) Ram Kishan, someone to remember In the context of the life story of Dada, one more individual ‘Ram Kishan’ played a significant role. We saw him for the first time when we went to Banares (now Varanasi), during the funeral of our uncle Sri S.P. Asthana; he had died pretty young under mysterious circumstances. Ram Kishan was of our age group, but no one knew his date of birth, including himself. He was the errand boy of our great uncle (Baba) Munshi Bhagwan Prasad (Asthana) and Dadi (our great aunt), and called by them as Kishna. He was treated as part of their family; Baba and Dadi had no children of their own. The devotion with which Ram Kishan served them throughout their life was unparalleled. Baba also reciprocated in equal terms. Whenever he bought new clothes for himself, he always did it for Ram Kishan also. During their annual travel to the hometown of Dadi, Kishna accompanied them and was treated with respect by the family members. Thus their lives were intertwined. The first shock came to Kishna when Dadi passed away. Dadi was the one who had arranged and taken care of his marriage. Kishna’s wife would meet him only when he went to his village on holidays. His family in the village was taken care of by Baba. We would meet Ram Kishan whenever Baba and Dadi visited Allahabad. They had a pet dog ‘Moti’ who always traveled with them. Dadi would feed “Moti’ with the best of the sweets, ‘Motichoor Laddoo’. Ram Kishan was a very affectionate person, who had grown up in this wonderful environment.
When Baba became incapable of managing his property in Banares, as well as himself, he decided to sell the Banares houses, one by one and came to live with his nearest relative, our uncle (Chacha) Sri Har Prasad (an English teacher at the K.P. Inter College, and a practicing Theosophist); there Baba, along with Ram Kishan, was provided a room. I do not recall the reason why and when the two enquired from Dada, if they could come to live with us; it is said that Ram Kishan told Dada “ Babuji (Bhagwan Prasad) has no children of his own and you (Dada- Prof. Krishnaji) are the only one who can look after him”. This statement was enough for Dada to make all the arrangements for Baba to live with us till his death; he accepted them both, with open arms, and took care of them. At our home, 14 B Bank Road, Ram Kishan worked not only for Baba but our entire family. My daughters (Manju, Rita and Ila) were born during the same period. He looked after them, just as a grand parent. Everyone called him Kaka (uncle). The Bahu Ranis (Dada’ wife; as well as my wife) of the house gave him respect by calling him Kaka. One may say that all this was our culture and “Sanskar” inculcated by the aura of Dada.
When I left Allahabad for Delhi, Ram Kishan opted to come with me, his Chhoti Dulhin (my wife) and our 3 daughters. Ram Kishan lived with us for almost 30 years. Recalling his memorable services, I remember his love, affection and honesty. Dada always reminded me that Ram Kishan was not just an extraordinary person, but he has some soulful relations with our family. The rest is history.(See Part C, Figure 55, p. 190.) Amma was no more Days and nights passed, dusk and dawn followed each other, dusk swallowed the Sun and the dawn pushed it to spread light for a new day with the hope for a better future for all. Dada was invited for a year to be a Professor at Jodhpur University to establish the Physics Department as the University was then recently created. He accepted the job reluctantly as it implied maintaining a second establishment, leaving the family (Bhabhi, children and Amma) at 14 B Bank (Ram Narain Lal) Road, Allahabad. It was one morning in the month of February, 1966, that I arrived in Allahabad on a business tour. As I entered the house Bhabhi came and said “Babu- look at Amma: she does not seem to be normal.” I straight away went to her side and tried to feel the pulse: it was completely missing; I kept my palm on Amma’s chest: there was no movement; I put my fingers near her nostrils – no breathing. I knew then that she must have passed away quietly in her sleep. I was stunned as none of her immediate direct progeny (Dada; myself; Bitti; and Govindjee) were near her when she left this world. Dada, who had dedicated his life to her, was stationed far away. I told Bhabhi about the ‘Will of God’. She remained composed because all her four children (Meenu, Deepak, Ranjan and Chitra) were around. The servants and the maids started crying which upset the kids. I immediately booked a ‘lightning telephone’ call to Dada at Jodhpur. The communication system was poor and I could get him only at 10 in the morning. In the meantime, I informed Nirmala, my wife, at Delhi so that she, along with our three daughters (Manju, Rita and Ila), could come to Allahabad by the first possible train. They reached late in the evening. Friends, students of Dada and our relatives flocked the house. The only way to keep the body of Amma was to keep it on a slab of ice till Dada arrived.
Jodhpur was not very well connected with Allahabad by Air or by Train. At the earliest, Dada could reach after a delay of one day. A very close friend of Dada had gone to bring him home. It was a tormenting scene for anyone with a little heart when Dada arrived, and the car door was opened. Dada was crying loudly and sobbing like a child complaining of his fate as to why he had to leave Amma.
To be honest I had never seen Dada crying in my life with such anguish. He rushed to the quiet lean body of Amma and cried his heart out. No one in the house had the courage to go near him and hold him. I, too, crying found some strength to clasp him and bring some calm in the torturous environment. Dada, although sobbing, took control of the situation and asked for the Pundit to start the procedures and prepare for the funeral. There were many people to bring Dada’s luggage from the car. Soon, thereafter, the frail body of Amma was consigned to flames. That was the close of an era and the curtains were drawn for the new dawn. Anyway Dada always cursed himself whenever Amma was remembered in any context and that remained his lifetime repentance.
Life never stops and the show goes on. Thus, after our married lives, our families’ growth had begun. Most of the names of our children have been mentioned above. To put them all together: Dada had four children—two daughters (Meenu and Chitra) and two sons (Deepak and Ranjan); I had three daughters (Manju, Rita and Ila);
Bitti (Malati) had one daughter (Anju) and two sons (Anshu and Anat); and Govindjee had one daughter (Anita) and one son (Sanjay).