«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
Once I fell ill. We lived in Shantineketan then. Dada heard of my illness and he had my horoscope read by a Pundit and thereafter performed Puja for my speedy recovery and peace. This was followed by a special bead that was sent to me with instructions for wearing that.
Whatever I am today, it is because of Dada. After Babuji died (at a time when Dada was studying and there was no source of income), he decided that his brothers’ studies could be discontinued (temporarily, I assumed), but Bitti’s study must be continued. It was because of his bold decision that I was able to obtain a MA degree, and later served as a Lecturer at the Bhagalpur Women’s College (Sundarvati Mahila Vidyalaya) for 31 years; I have been receiving pension for the last 19 years. He was concerned about my every situation, every problem until his death. When we travelled abroad, he saw towards the arrangements and came to see us off at the Delhi airport after travelling by train from Allahabad. He was involved in my children’s life the same way. Here was a man who was approachable to everyone at all times—no apprehension of fear when a mistake was made and no feeling of shame when one acted silly.
On the one hand, Dada was very pleasant, jovial and had an impressive personality, but he also exhibited immense courage in the face of difficult situations, unbending patience and tolerance that could break God’s curse. Only such a person can serve as a pillar for his society and people around him.
There were innumerable instances when he proved his metal time and again. I remember the time when his forty-year old son Ranjan died in a car mishap. Dada alone kept everything going— Bhabhi, Poonam (Ranjan’s wife), who was in hospital, the two children plus the arrangements for all who had gathered at this sad occasion.
After a few days of this most difficult and saddest incident in his life, his former students honored him at Delhi University. People who had invited him were doubtful that he would come to the ceremony. But I was stunned to hear that he decided to attend. He felt that he could not disappoint the organizers, who had put in their valuable time and effort. At the appointed time, he left for Delhi from Lucknow. He picked up his briefcase and walked down the stairs—this image of his haunts me until today. I am convinced that the people present at this function must have felt that a special person was amongst their midst.
Dada possessed the perfect combination of intelligence and warmth of heart. I have talked only of his heart. I feel because love is so fluid, it settles easily on appropriate level. The love that I received from Dada trickled through Bhabhi’s heart and spread to all the children.
Bhabhi sent me a Sari every year after my wedding. Whenever I said that was enough, she would reply,” Whatever you give the girls is never enough”. She kept her promise till the end. She is no more with us now. A few days before the festival of Teej6, Bhabhi’s daughterin-law Madhu telephoned me, “Bua (aunty), Teej is here I won’t be able to fufill what Mummy did for you; nevertheless I am sending you something from here for Puja.” I had not imagined that Bhabhi would have passed on what was in her mind to Madhu. Such overpowering emotions engulfed me that I felt that I was cut off from all sides. Gradually a special realization came over me and I found myself flying high as if I was in the 7th heaven! I felt that both the earth and the sky belonged to me.
Undoubtedly, the subtle is more important and pervading than the physical. Both Laxmi7 and Kuber8 stand no chance before Love.
1. Translated freely from Hindi to English by Anju Okhandiar, my daughter who now lives in Scotland with her husband Ashok, and her 3 daughters. For original Hindi version see Part D of this book.
2. Bhai Dooj: Bhai (or Bhaiya) means brother, and Dooj is two days after the new moon; it is celebrated two days after Diwali (the festival of light). On Bhai Dooj, sisters perform Aarti for their brothers in a symbolic affirmation of their bond. On this day, sisters pray for their brothers and express the love that exists between brothers and sisters.
3. Sudarshan Chakra: It is a spinning disc like weapon with very sharp edge; it serves as an attribute of the Hindu God Vishnu, the maintainer;
the other two in the Trinity are Bramha (the creator), and Shiva (the destroyer of the evil).
4. Amma and Babuji: Our Life at Allahabad (Govindjee, Ed), Printed by PDQ Printing, Urbana, Illinois, 2007.
5. Shravan Kumar: He is from the time of King Dashratha. Shravan Kumar’s parents were poor and blind, but he took care of them to the end with sincere love and respect.
6. Teej: During the Teej festival, many Hindu women fast and celebrate for marital bliss, well-being of spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul; it lasts for 3 days and combines, interestingly, sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting.
7. Laxmi: In the Hindu mythology, Laxmi is the Goddess of Wealth and Fortune, and represents the beautiful and bountiful aspect of Nature.
8. Kuber: In the Hindu mythology, he is the God of Wealth and Gods’ Treasurer.
Dada1 Radha Krishna Sahay 704, Mahesh Apartment, B, Khanjarpur, Bhagalpur-812001, Bihar, India Telephone: (91) 641-2300718 H e was addressed as Dada by all at home, by friends and acquaintances at the University and elsewhere. This appeared odd to me at the beginning, but later it became clear that this salutation expressed more of an affection rather than a mere form of address.
He had spent his childhood in the Bengali neighborhood (in Allahabad) and that was a contributing factor as to why he was addressed as Dada by his younger brothers and sister. This is where they learnt to call him Dada (a term for elder brother in Bengali), not Bhaiya (a term for elder brother in Hindi).
Later, when Dada had his own children, they too following their Bua (Aunt) and Chachas (uncles) addressed him as Dada, not Babuji or Papa. This journey of being addressed as Dada did not end here because he was undeniably so dependable that people got emotionally attached to him. Everyone at home and outside (his home) would come to him with their problems and he would come up with solutions with speed and understanding. I remember I had asked him once, “Dada, how do you find solutions to problems so swiftly”? He promptly answered, “Every problem has a hidden solution, one only needs to look within.” He was cognizant and informed of the world around him On June 24, 1953, I was married to Malati (Dada’s younger sister) and became very close to Dada since that very day. There was an attraction in his personality that was fluid and sweet. I have a vivid recollection of my life since marriage, conjuring two distinct and everlasting images before my eyes. The very First ‘frame’ has Dada standing in front of Amma (his mother). Amma was very slender and also bedridden. She was as light as a feather and whenever Dada was home he gave her company. Amma was deeply religious; she worshiped Hanumanji (a saint/God from the epic Ramayan). I felt that Dada was like Hanuman in her presence. Many a times I also felt that he stood like the massive tree of Bargad [(Banyan tree, Ficus benghalensis) with its branches and shoots bowed down to the earth] before Amma.
The relationship between Dada and Amma was spiritual, ethereal;
such a relationship is exceptional.
When Dada went past the front gate of his house at 14 B-Bank (Ram Narain Lal) Road, in Allahabad, he stood erect. I never saw him bow before anyone or any situation. I have witnessed him in the company of the Vice Chancellor (of the Allahabad University) as well as with saints like Maharishi Mahesh (Yogi). His self-respect and dignity remained intact every minute before everyone and anyone.
I reminisce—1966. News of Amma’s death reached us and we traveled to Allahabad. On the train, I pondered how perturbed Dada would be when we meet him after this sad event in the family. He had turned down great job offers from India and abroad for Amma, and he was destined never to leave Allahabad permanently. When we arrived in Allahabad, I found him as solid as a rock. Chants of 12 pundits were echoing all around the house, while Dada was in conversation with the chief Pundit.
“Whatever one does on Earth is relevant only in this lifetime, anything one does after death is a mere custom, Punditji,’’ he spoke with a sober- minded clarity.
What will be the mode of the last rites”? asked the Pundit.
You know that better than me, Punditji”, replied Dada, although Babuji’s last rites were performed in Arya Samaji2 customs.
But Mataji (i.e. Amma) was Sanaatani3. Thus, her last rites should be performed in “Sanaatani customs”, insisted Punditji.
Dada accepted Punditji’s words. He performed Amma’s last rites, undeterred, following all the rituals for 13 days. He was not seen swaying away from the rituals even for a minute.
I am reminded of another sad and shocking event. When Dada’s youngest son Ranjan met with his untimely death in an accident, we rushed to Lucknow. I saw Dada as unconquerable and imperturbable.
Nevertheless, after performing three days of last rites for Ranjan, he traveled to Delhi, where his students had organized a special seminar to honor him. He took everyone by surprise by attending that function.
He participated with all sincerity in the seminar He seemed bound by the idea that the expense and effort of the organizers should not go in vain.
The image in my Second ‘frame’ is contrary to the First in quality and significance. We were returning to my home (in Bihar) after my wedding (with Malati) from Allahabad in 1953. The train was about to leave from the Rambagh station. We (Malati and I) were in different compartments. Dada was overseeing the arrangements of refreshments for our journey. He approached my father just before the train was to leave. Then he moved towards my compartment and stood in front of the window. As the train started to move, I saw huge tears roll down Dada’s cheeks. For the very first time, I was confronted with a sobriety and expression of sentiments that I had not witnessed before.
– His tears shone like jewels upon his rock- like personality.
– Those tears are still before me.
– Those tears have been an indispensable part of my graceful journey for fifty seven years of my married life.
– Those tears have evoked self- knowledge in me.
Every year when the summer vacation would arrive, we would head towards Allahabad to meet Amma. As long as she was alive we met Amma every year.
It so happened once that Amma did not want us to return to Bihar after only a brief stay at Allahabad. Our return tickets had been purchased and the day and time of our departure was confirmed. The train was to leave the Prayag station at 9 in the morning. We were ready to leave when my shoes ‘went missing’, nowhere to be found.
“Now you will have to get new shoes before you can leave. Let’s go and buy a new pair for you”, Dada said and kept smiling. He had planned it in such a way that we had no option but to stay back. My shoes were found right after the train time had lapsed. Such was Dada- kindhearted and characterized by tenderness.
Those were the days when Dada was engaged in research (in Physics) himself and was supervising research as well. He was unusually persevering, working diligently in the laboratory and with students. He was in the forefront of the study of microwave spectroscopy, not only at Allahabad University, but in whole India.
Juggilal Kamplat (J.K.) Institute of Applied Physics, which was part of Allahabad University, housed a newly built microwave laboratory.
Often Dada would take me along and I cherished his company. The laboratory was air- conditioned and I was sheltered from the intense heat of Allahabad.
Dada would snatch time off from his busy schedule and take me to the Plaza Cinema in the Civil Lines on some Sundays. I saw many science fiction movies in his company. There, I saw H.G. Wells’s, “The Brave New World” and other fantasy films. I witnessed this side of his personality: that of a scientist, a researcher. He would often say, “ Education is incomplete without the study of science”.
I remember a vivid account when he had accepted an invitation (of course with the imperative desire of meeting us in Bhagalpur) from Tej Narayan Jubilee College to act as an examiner for practical exams there. The departmental staff was keen for him to lecture as well. He gave two lectures. The first one was for the professors and students of the Physics Department, and the second one was for the general audience (held in the Main Hall). He delivered the first lecture in English and the second in Hindi. His command of both the languages was superb. During his lecture he had mentioned, “If ever there is a God anywhere, then science will search him out. Science will even build a ladder so high that it’ll take everyone to him”. Such a deep-rooted belief in Science was rare— at least I have not witnessed it anywhere in my life as yet.
Dada spoke uninterrupted; he was flawless. Generally at home it was often the case that family members would get tired of waiting for Dada to come to the dining table, while he would be engaged in discussion in the sitting (drawing) room. Only when Govindjee created a stir people would leave, although Dada would disapprove of Govindjee causing a fuss.
Similarly, his conversations on the phone would be incessant and unending. Truly speaking, he was so benevolent that he would listen to everyone with due consideration and search for solutions to their problems.
At heart, Dada was a scientist first; nonetheless, he was also a dreamer. I remember sitting on the bed in the courtyard while he imagined of a house that would have a complete room at the top made out of glass. Even the ceiling would be built out of glass, transparent. One would be able to enjoy all the seasons from this room come rain or shine. To add to this fun a ‘remote’ would operate to open and shut the roof. Remember that the concept of remote was not even thought of at that point in time, at least not in India, not that I am aware of.