«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
Although floating in imagination he would remain compassionate to his loved ones and never forgot them. Expressing his desire to accommodate everyone he would turn to me and say, “There will be a circular courtyard in the lower part of this enchanting house. There will be rooms built all around it— yours, Goplaji’s, Govindjee’s and my own.”.
Dada was equally adept in philosophy, just as he was in science;
in addition, he was accomplished in rendering social and family customs. After my wedding, he took us (i.e., Malati and me) to meet each and every relative not only in Allahabad but also in Lucknow, where his cousins lived.
He had a particular consideration for the weaker members of the extended family. Some members of his in-laws’ side were economically not well off. A visit to Allahabad, initiated by Dada, has left a deep memory. Some people were constant visitors at Dada’s place. They would dine at the house and when they left, Dada would pay for their return journey. His character radiated warmth in a (one) and every relationship; he never missed an occasion—wedding, for example— it may be my daughter’s or son’s or even a problem connected with them. He would truly bewilder me sometimes.
Sheer goodwill underlying family or social relationships was the main Mantra of Dada’s practical life. Here is an anecdote: At the closing ceremony of my daughter Anju’s marriage, which is the Vidai (when the girl leaves her parents’ house to go to her in-laws house), I quietly slipped away and hid in the extended garden. I don’t know how —but Dada sensed it and spotted my absence. He came looking for me, counseled me and escorted me to face Anju. He gave me strength.
After his retirement from Allahabad University, Dada left Allahabad to live in the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. He was instrumental in furthering a research project on Vedic Mathematics. I got an opportunity of visiting the Ashram myself and witnessed Maharishi’s open Sabha or meeting. I saw Maharishi offering a chair to Dada with great respect and suggested that he remain relaxed, and must do everything at a slow pace. Maharishi would then turn to Bhabhi (my sister-in-law) and say,” Mataji, please take anything from the kitchen, anything that you want. Eat and drink well—butter, milk anything. Live anyway you like”. The truth is that in those days, Bhabhi’s kitchen was overflowing with goodness and goodies that at least I had not seen earlier.
Nevertheless, situations constantly presented themselves adversely in Dada’s life. In those days he saw it fit to deposit the five thousand rupees, he received from the Ashram, in a Bank in order to support one of his sons. He received regular work from various institutions because of his academic expertise like that of a marksman.
He was a connoisseur of skilled knowledge.
It is to his credit that his life and his relationships were never compromised. I never saw a wrinkle on his face.
Dada had introduced us to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—deep in the night (or say very early morning) at around 2:30 a.m. No one knew when Maharishi retired at night. We arrived at 2:15 a.m. to see him. He was engaged in conversations with a Japanese delegation at that moment. We walked into the Hall quickly and saw Maharishi sitting surrounded amongst flowers. During our meeting he spoke only to me on one subject—The Origin of Language. We sat listening attentively for nearly two and a half hours. No sleep. Dada, Malati and I were awake as barn owls.
The truth is that I got the opportunity to meet the Maharishi solely due to Dada.
After a few days, Dada’s youngest son Ranjan died in a car crash.
A mere forty years of age! He was a Manager in a Computer Company in Lucknow,UP.
The intensity of this sad event prompted, rather forced, Dada to relinquish Maharishi’s ashram. He went back to Allahabad: his daughter-in-law and grand children were there. By now, a new house was purchased for them so that they could remain independent. He also negotiated and organized a steady flow of income from Ranjan’s company for the family.
By now both my wife and I had retired. I stayed in Allahabad with Dada for a month. Again, I never saw a wrinkle on his face.
Dada always came up with a thoughtful and positive solution for whatever situation he came up against. For sometime he had nurtured a noble thought of establishing a trust in the name of his mother and father that would be named, “ Vishveshwar Prasad and Savitri Devi Charitable Educational Trust”. Dada also desired to start a primary school where children would be free from the constraints of a prescribed curriculum, where learning would be driven by personal aptitude and natural ability. This last dream was like a bridge between family, society and nature. He desired this deeply. He requested that I take responsibility of the trust and settle in Allahabad.
Alas, this was not possible for me. My father was old and unwell and he wanted to move to Kashi (a religious place in North India; also known as Varanasi); in addition, I had other pressing problems of my extended family. I could not honor Dada’s word.
I remember that whenever Bhabhi withdrew in sadness worrying about Dada’s health, he would reassure her, “Why worry, Punditji has predicted from my horoscope that you will leave (this World) before me”. This prediction turned out to be wrong, and Dada left Bhabhi forever on August 14, 1997.
I look back and wonder whether Dada had a premonition of his death. He had never requested me about anything as vehemently as he did at that point in our lives when he requested me to take charge of the Trust. Could this be the reason why he wanted me to stay in Allahabad?
1. Translated, with minor modifications, from Hindi to English, by Anju Okhandiar, my daughter. For the original Hindi version see Part D of this book.
2. Arya Samaj is a Hindu reform movement founded by Swami Dayananda in 1875; the followers believe in the infallible authority of the Vedas; the doctrine of karma is followed; there is no Deity worship, but ‘Havan’ before ‘fire’ is performed.
3. Sanatan Dharma is the traditional Hinduism; the followers are expected to perform their own duties as individuals; they would be followers of various scriptures, although they may be different for each one. In practice, most worship deities.
My Dada, and Some Other Recollections Govindjee 2401, South Boudreau Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org I t is a difficult and daunting task for me to write about Dada—he was my Mentor, my Guiding Spirit, and the one who made me what I am today. (See Preface of this book.) My memories and recollections, however, are not coherent, and they appear in my mind as isolated incidents. Although the most recent events are fresher in my mind than the past ones, I shall follow a sort of chronological path wherever and whenever possible.
In this Tribute to Dada, I first present here some of the recollections of my own Early Life. I was about 10 year and 9 month younger than Dada: I was born on October 24, 1932 to Amma and Babuji1 in Allahabad. I have no memory of my childhood up to the age of 8 or so, especially about my parents, 2 older brothers (Krishnaji, our Dada; Gopalji, my elder brother, Bhaiya) and Malati (my elder sister, Didi). However, I do remember a tutor who was hired to teach me the three R’s (reading, (w)riting and (a)rtithmatics), I assume. I rebelled and did not want to be subjected to his lessons. I felt I knew more than what he would teach me. I made unusual excuses by constantly repeating to him that “I am busy”, no matter what he said.
I also have a vague recollection of living in a house in Madhvapur that faced the main street. There was a well on the side of the house and we had two dogs: Poppy (a male dog, with shaggy hair) and Pumpy (a female dog with smooth hair). I remember playing with them. I also vividly remember when Pumpy returned from a visit to the field on the other side of the street with a bone stuck in her mouth;
she was also bleeding.
I had skipped going to school from the Kindergarden to the 3rd class. I entered directly the 4th class of Colonelganj High School in July of 1941 when I was 8 year and 9 month old, although my date of birth was recorded, by mistake, as October 24, 1933 for reasons unknown to me. The memory of the first day of my school is quite vivid. I attended a class that lasted for about an hour. The class was dismissed and I assumed that the school was over since I had never been to a school before. I left the school grounds, but when I looked back on the street, there was no one coming behind me. I was the only child on the street! I immediately recognized my mistake and went back to school—there was total silence—no one was visible.
Then, I guessed correctly that all the students must be inside classrooms. I meekly entered a class room where I could recognize some students from my first class. I don’t recall being scolded or punished for my mistake.
I do have recollections of my family, starting with July, 1941, and even earlier. I recall living in 34/3 George Town, located in a house in a large residential complex; all of it was owned by one Mr.
Chaddha. The complex had a boundary wall (Hatha), and many mango trees and lot of place to play. One of our neighbors was Mr.
Ram Narain Varma, an advocate. His eldest son was Mahesh Chandra;
Mahesh had many brothers and sisters. Mr. Chaddha’s family also had many children (I remember “Anno”; Raju and Teju). Thus, we had a team; we had great fun: we played “Gulli Danda”; “Khoh Khoh”; “Kabbadi”; Badminton; and Cricket. Beyond it, we played school. One of us will act as a “Principal” or a “Headmaster”, or act as a Teacher; and the others were to act as “students”. We had hell of a great time until one day, we decided to make fun of “Anno”. We started singing “Anno Rani Chaddha. Unkay Peyt May Gaddha”. (It better remain untranslated.) We did not realize that we were making fun of the family name through this game of ours. Mr. Chaddha, of course, complained to our parents. Mr. Ram Narain called Mahesh and his siblings inside their house; they were punished with a cane, and were not allowed to play for many days. My father simply “grounded me”. Later, appropriate apologies were made, and accepted by Mr. Chaddha, and after almost 14 days, we were free again to play, but now we were restrained in our manners.
In fact, Gopalji (Bhaiya) has written a few things about my earlier days; thus, I will try not to repeat them. I do remember Dada’s friend throwing chess pieces on the street when he would loose the game with Dada. I remember Dada’s solemn face when we lived in one large single room on the terrace of our uncle’s home after our father had died in 1943. Our uncle (Mr. Har Prasad, our Chhoté Chacha, Babuji’s only younger brother) lived at 22 A Park Road (later changed to 17A, and now to be precise, its number is 26/17 Panna Lal Road, Allahabad); he very graciously invited us to stay in his home after Babuji’s1 death. I have a vague recollection of hearing bits and pieces of Dada’s discussion with Chacha about sending (or not sending) Didi (my sister Malati) for higher education, while they were all sitting in the front yard of the house; I was, at that time, riding a rusty tricycle (that was too small for me) on the terrace (chhat). I really had no understanding about all those things. It seems that the discussion included the fact that Dada will be able to earn money to remove our financial difficulties: I had overheard that Dada was going to join a class that would teach him how he would be able to make and pack “jam” in bottles/cans. (My world was that tricycle: I had suspected that the tricycle belonged to the late Keshav Bhai (Krishna Murari, the only son of Chacha) and that I was not supposed to use it.) The care of Dada for me has always been in my memory. I remember Dada standing by my side when we lived at 3 Cawnpore (Kanpur, now Shri Purushottam Das (P.D.) Tandon) Road, also at Allahabad, taking my temperature when I was laid down with high fever; I was lying on a cot in the verandah that had curtains made of Jute. Much later in life, I remember his great concern and care when I had cut myself badly by a razor blade; I did not want to show him, but he insisted and said “let us look at it together privately, when others are not watching”. I vaguely remember that he saw it, cleaned it and put a bandage on it.
On the lighter side, I also remember Dada standing in “Kurta and Dhoti” when a car came by; it whisked by us; and I later learned that senior relatives of the future Bhabhi (Dada’s wife) were in that car (see the text by Gopalji, Part B, Chapter 20 for details of Dada’s marriage).
I don’t have much memory of Dada when we lived in Madhokunj, but my memory gets clearer when we had moved to 14 B Bank Road (Ram Narain Lal Road); this big bungalow was owned by the University, and Dada was fortunate to have been allotted this for our use. Among our neighbors were the famous Urdu poet Raghupati Sahay ‘Firaq’ Gorakhpuri and the historian Ishwari Prasad. Firaq Sahib was famous for his collection of poems “Gul-e-Naghma”. A block away lived Bachchan ji, Harivansh Rai, a famous Hindi poet, who wrote and recited Madhushala; he was the father of the movie idol Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan ji often introduced himself by singing a poem, when translated into English, it meant “A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life - that is me”. My world was, however, books, mostly science books. For my books, Dada had first assigned me a closet in the living (drawing) room and later in another room that had been partitioned with a temporary screen. In this room, Dada had given me his own desk, and a chair; the other half of the room was Dada & Bhabhi’s bed room. My bed was in another room that was at the end of the inner verandah. Both the drawing room and my half- room opened into a nice outer verandah. The floors in the house were really nice; they had nice big reddish tiles; there was a grey border around the red middle. I felt good living in this big house.
Dada was the Head of the household, and looked after all our needs.
He had given me some minor duties (I did have a bicycle, but often I would go on foot): bringing home medicines for my mother (Amma) from Mishraji’s Pharmacy in Colonelganj market, or fresh vegetables and fruits from the Katra Bazaar. It was a good life.