«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
How did Dada help me become what I am today? First of all, he taught me to be independent; he gave me freedom to explore many things. He always encouraged me to do innovative things. While I studied hard, I was also involved in a literary club that we had called “Aalok”(that means ‘Light of Divinity’); we brought out a magazine that we called “Aryama”(that means ‘Planet where departed ancestors reside’). This required us to go from shop to shop and solicit advertisement so that we can print this magazine, almost without any cost to us, and then distribute it to students free. Most of the articles were written by us, but sometimes, we would publish an invited article. Unfortunately, none of us have any copies to share any more. My articles included: interviews with a leading scientist (Neel Ratan Dhar, a chemist), and an administrator (Amiya Charan (A.C.) Banerjee, Vice Chancellor; he was also a mathematician). I also wrote an article on “Bioluminescent Organisms”. Daya Prakash Sinha wrote drama, and stories; others wrote poems. Amarnath Bhargava hosted the Aaalok club in his luxurious home. Bhabhi (Dada’s wife) always encouraged me to have my own social circle;
all my friends were entertained by Bhabhi with tea and snacks (pakoras) when they visited our house, no matter at what time of the day.
I had another freedom that Dada and Bhabhi gave me. I had essentially a private out-house toilet to myself. I would line the entire wall of this room with notes and with equations, and even diagrams (often written on paper that could be removed later, but some difficultto-remember stuff was written with special pencils directly on the white-washed walls). I used this wall to review my material before taking an Exam. I believe that this helped me excel in all Exams as I could take a quick glance at all the important points. Especially equations that I needed to remember.
The last and most important for me was Dada’s ability to forgive me even for things I would not forgive myself. He, however, would have me apologize if it involved another party, even if I argued that I was not wrong. Here is one story. Once Manmohan Laloraya, a class fellow of mine in MSc (Botany), and I decided to complain to Mr.
Girja Dayal Srivastava, faculty in-charge of the library of the Botany Department, about the unfairness of the departmental library system.
We were about 20 graduate students: 4 women and 16 men, each group (men or women) could borrow, at one time, 4 books each.
Since the number of men was 4 times more than that of the women, we felt it was unfair to men students, although in reality there was not much of a problem for two reasons: (a) several men students did not care to read anything; and (b) those of us who wanted to read, especially two of us, had good friendship with the women students and we would just borrow from them. Laloraya and I went to Mr.
Srivastava’s home one evening and complained about the unfair rule that discriminated men students; he did not like this at all. He took it as a challenge to his authority as a teacher. He argued with us: “Don’t you open the door for a woman?” We replied “Yes, we do open the door but this was a social issue, and irrelevant to the point we were making.” Anyhow, when I reached home, Dada was standing at the door, and asked me to go back immediately to Mr. Srivastava’s home and apologize before he will allow me come into the house.
(Obviously, Mr. Srivastava must have telephoned Dada before I reached home.) I argued with Dada that “I was not wrong”, but he stood firm, and I had to go back and apologize to Mr. Srivastava. Mr.
Srivastava, of course, accepted my apologies, and said “I am sure that the whole thing was not your idea, but it must have been that of Laloraya who is a troublemaker!” I knew fully well that this was not the case, but not to make matters worse, I stood in silence. My brother showed his pleasure and told me “Now, you have learnt not to insult your seniors.” Dada always forgave me for all my transgressions, big or small. He supported me in all my endeavors, and I am what I am today because of him.
I was in Japan when Dada passed away on August 14, 1997. I usually telephoned Dada, at regular intervals, no matter where I was.
Thus, when I was at Okazaki, I had found out about his stroke. As I was leaving Japan, I telephoned his home at Allahabad again, from Nagoya Airport, to find out about his condition. I asked Deepak, Dada’s oldest son, “How is Dada doing”. The answer came back, “What to tell?”; then in a shivering voice, he said “He is no more.” I was stunned and shocked as if Earth had moved underneath my feet. Dada was my real friend, my real link to India, and to everyone there. Since that day my feelings for India have changed dramatically.
He was India for me; my emotions are no longer the same; I have lost a good part of the depth and the closeness that was there when Dada was there. However, just remembering him makes these feelings return. I feel proud to be an Indian, especially because of him.
Soon after I landed in Chicago, I purchased an air ticket to go to India. I also had to get a new Visa; although it was a Saturday, the Indian Consulate in Chicago was able to issue me a Visa the same day. I reached the home where Dada had lived before his death. It was my most difficult visit to Allahabad, and, I cannot describe it in words: my entire life with Dada flashed before my mind’s eye— every little thing! It was an end of an era in my life. Dada was everything, and now I had to live without his physical presence.
Rajni and I were married in Urbana, Illinois, on October 24,
1957. Unfortunately, we could not visit India until the middle of 1961 after we both had finished our PhDs. In September, 1961, I started teaching at the University of Illinois, and we have remained in Urbana ever since. I feel fortunate that Dada and Bhabhi visited Rajni and I twice in the USA. Some of the photographs of their visit to USA, especially to Sanjay’s wedding, in California, are reproduced in Part C of this book.
I consider all the positives in my life as a Tribute to Dada. I repeat that Dada was my real Mentor, my Guiding Spirit, and one who has made me what I am today in both my personal and academic life.
This book was planned by me, 10 years after Dada’ death, as my personal offering to his memory. It was a shock to me that my Dear Bhabhi left us the same year (2007). I expect that this token of my love and respect, for both Dada and Bhabhi, will reach all their loved ones in 2010.
I n this short essay, I pay tribute to both Dada (Krishnaji, my Mama, my maternal uncle) and Mami (Shrimati Bimla Asthana, or Mrs.
Krishnaji, my maternal aunt). My mama and mami were exceptionally beautiful couple. I had a special relationship with my mami and, thus, I will write about her first. I remember her with great fondness.
My Mami She was the most beautiful looking lady I have ever seen and met in my life. She had fair and velvety skin that glowed and as a child I used to think that she had come straight from the heaven. Her generosity and kindness were exceptional. She was a very dignified lady.
My relationship with her is special because she always looked upon me with a favor. I felt I was always given preference over the others.
Every time we were in Allahabad I got to help her in doing things in the kitchen, with shopping, and in other activities such as knitting, sewing and picking stuff from the garden courtyard. She would dress me up in different ways e.g. in a Sari or Shalwar-Kameez or Ghaghra.
She would get my finger nails and toe nails painted and have Henna applied to my palms. I loved being pampered in this fashion. She would let me buy bangles. I did everything in Allahabad that I did not get a chance to do in Bhagalpur, Bihar, where I lived with my mother (Malati) and father (Radha Krishna Sahay). I enjoyed my visit to mami thoroughly.
On our visits to Allahabad, she would prepare special meals and spend her time looking after us and making us comfortable. She herself would go to the shops to get presents for us. She cared for us a lot.
There were no flaws in her arrangements. Everyone depended on her and no one questioned her.
I remember once when I was visiting Allahabad for my eldest cousin’s wedding: Mami was busy performing various ceremonies.
Suddenly, during one ceremony, where everyone’s feet were painted red she looked at me, smiled and said, “You are growing into a young lady now”; then she turned to my mother, “You should look for a boy for her now and get her settled in marriage”. Her comments sent a thrill in me, but I knew that I wanted to complete my studies before any wedding bells would ring for me.
On another occasion we were travelling from Allahabad to Delhi by train to receive my mama (Krishnaji) who was returning from his first foreign tour. It was winter and cold. Trains in those days were not as well equipped in India as they are today. I remember I was very cold and I had huddled into mami’s arms. She covered me with her shawl. I must have slept. For when I woke up, we were reaching Delhi in the morning. I still had mami’s shawl wrapped around me.
This was my mami. Her behaviour towards me was always motherly.
She never scolded me and was never angry with me. All I remember is the tremendous love and affection that I received from her.
Unfortunately, in her later life, she suffered from throat cancer. I was deeply saddened by her death in 2007. She is missed tremendously. Her death has left a vacuum that is impossible to fill.
I will always remember her with great love, respect and fondness.
My Mama The late Professor Krishnaji—has left an everlasting memory on my psyche. He was my eldest mama, my mother’s eldest brother, Dada.
Memory is like a thread that beads one’s inner experiences: The stronger the thread the more everlasting the memories. Just as the blowing wind draws different shapes over the sand dunes and the seas, life experiences create memories that bring together a harmony parallel to nature itself.
I write of Krishnaji, my eldest mama with feelings mixed with fondness and regard. He was popularly known as Dada by all. For as long as I can remember, he had been the constant contact from my mother’s side of the family. Be it on any occasion, any time of the year or any situation, he was the one person I know and remember was thought of always at the first instance. There was no superficiality in him, only pure humanity exuberating love, kindness and strength.
I have held him in high regard since my childhood.
I wish to share my personal memories of mama that I hold very dear to my heart. These memories are of a person, who could carve life’s path itself, not just his own, or his family’s, his student’s or anyone else’s. His unique quality of depth of understanding, his sheer intelligence that can be described as that of a genius, his academic excellence, his social propriety, his fine mind with its unique blend of scientific purity with an acceptance of the rest that was around him relates a story that is told once in a few generations; moreover, it needs to be told over and over again.
Krishnaji’s personality carried a charisma that is God gifted to a handful in every generation. Not understanding the depth of mama’s character as a child, I am sure that I missed to appreciate him as a person then. As I have grown older, I became aware of his personal qualities and a personality that was unparalleled but revered by many at the same time. I later understood and appreciated his perspectives on many issues and his many contributions to the family, to science and to society at large.
Mama was a complete and an undivided part between the two families of my father and my mother. And being that, he always strived for unity. He was a truly remarkable man of integrity and intelligence.
I say all of this with absolute truth and honesty.
As a child, I travelled to Allahabad quite often with my parents and my two younger brothers Anshu and Anat. For the first 12 years of my life, only the four of us, my parents, me and Anshu, would travel. Then Anupam (Anat), my youngest brother was born and he joined us on our journeys. We were always welcome in Allahabad. I thoroughly enjoyed these countless train journeys. My face would light up when the train reached the station and no sooner I saw mama I would start jumping up and down, sometimes holding my mother’s sari and sometimes holding my father’s hand. I remember being carried in mama’s arms and I loved it. All these thoughts have taken me back to a time that makes me feel like a little girl. I remember having a wonderful time with all my cousins, playing a lot, receiving gifts galore and making mischief. Most of all, not being told off was the best part of it. During summer, we would climb the mango tree in the courtyard and pluck small, unripe mangoes and eat them with salt and chillies. During the day time, there would be intense heat and we were specifically told not to go outside but nothing would deter us from venturing out. Then, in the evening a vendor would come with various snacks like Chaat, Golgappé, sweets and we would fill ourselves with snacks. Sometimes in the evenings we would travel to the Civil Lines to see a cinema and eat ice-cream in special restaurants.
Then, there were times, when we would walk from home to the nearby cinema to see a film and have snacks on our way back. How we would still be hungry by the time evening meal was served remains a mystery to me till today. At night, our beds were laid outside in the Veranda to bring respite from the heat and help us sleep. Sleeping outside and not in the rooms was an attraction that I looked forward to whenever we visited Allahabad.
Mama was there all the time. He hardly ever said ‘No’ to us. He oversaw all the arrangements. His presence is imprinted on my memory as words inscribed on paper via carbon. For me, he is synonymous with Allahabad. I find it difficult to separate the person from the city: A beautiful city with a pious confluence (Sangam) of 3 rivers Ganges, Jamuna and the invisible Saraswati. How everyone looked upon an elder like Dada for everything simply illustrates a fine but powerful example of social sensibilities that he championed all his life.