«Edited by Govindjee Urbana, Illinois, USA and Shyam Lal Srivastava Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India i The Cover A photograph of Krishnaji (Dada), 1980 ...»
I was so enamored by Dada and Bhabhi and the environment of our house at Allahabad that when Dada & Bhabhi returned from a trip to Australia, in 1971, I started saying that I will live with them in Allahabad already from the hour of their arrival at the Delhi airport.
I was so adamant that in spite of my parents’ refusal, I requested Dada and he agreed to it. Dada obtained my admission and that of Chitra in St. Anthony’s school at Allahabad. We had a rickshaw- wala hired to take us to school and bring us back home. I can never forget that year of my life. For every small thing, I used to go to Dada and my problem used to get sorted out whether it was a fight with a classmate or any teacher’s scolding. Dada had an answer to every problem. I remember Bhabhi’s love and affection when I used to sleep without eating dinner; she would feed me during my sleep and I used to eat the full dinner! However, on the next morning, I would say “I did not eat my dinner last night”. I also remember the tips given to me as a growing up teenager by Bhabhi.
Dada & Bhabhi always visited us at our Hauz Khas house in Delhi. When the proposal for my marriage was received, it was Dada who discussed all the matters of marriage proceedings with my future in-laws, as my parents were stationed at Baghdad, Iraq, then. My ‘Kanyadaan’ also was performed by Dada & Bhabhi. We all looked towards Dada as the pillar of the family. Every one including my father took his advice whether it be changing a job or any other family matter.
I remember going along with the family when he was given the Sir C.V. (Chandrasekhar Venkat) Raman award by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. We are so proud of it. Whenever an opportunity comes to tell about my family I never forget to mention it in my friends’ circle.
It was very unfortunate that I could not see Dada when he died.
We are very proud of him and will always remember him. In fact, I feel that he is still with us.
On Papa and Mummy Chitra Kumar 3740, Edenderry Drive, Troy, MI-48083, USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org I am the youngest daughter of Professor Krishnaji (Papa) and Mrs.
Bimla Asthana (Mummy). I am not sure where to start my recollection. The earliest memory I have is from when I was 5 or 6 year old, when Dadi (Mrs. Savitri Asthana, my grandmother, mother of my Papa; see Amma and Babuji: Our Life at Allahabad1) had passed away. I remember Papa crying in the room where her body was kept on ice, which later became my room. I only remember two occasions when I saw Papa that vulnerable; when Dadi had died and when I was given away at my marriage on my ‘Vidayee’.
On Papa Papa has always been a constant source of strength and courage for me. Even today when I have problems or issues to resolve, I think of him and how he would have handled it. I have the highest regard and admiration for him. In my mind no one can come even close to the place he has in my heart. I always tell my kids about all the good deeds he performed for everyone who came in contact with him. His cool composure and tenacity always left me in awe. How could one human being do so much and still have time and patience for someone like me who constantly bugged him with questions. I was not scared of him but knew my limits and boundaries, most of the time. We all knew what was right and wrong in his dictionary and I tried my best not to re-define them!
Papa hardly ever got mad at me. I don’t remember being punished even once. One incident does come to mind that shaped how I viewed “bad words or swearing” so to speak. Even today I am most uncomfortable with words that have negative or swearing like connotation. I don’t exactly remember how old I was but could not have been more than 5 or 6 year old when the following incident took place. We had a lot of help around the house and I used to play with the kids of these helpers, since my siblings were much older. I picked up some words from them that would be considered extremely mild by anyone else’s standards but not by Papa. I was sitting in the back verandah (in 14 B Bank (Ram Narain Lal) Road, Allahabad) and trying to break an earthen ‘Diya’ with a stick but the ‘Diya’ was quite strong and I was getting frustrated, so I used one of those words and Deepak Bhaiya (my oldest brother, who, unfortunately, has passed away ) heard it. He, like a true sibling, casually mentioned it when Papa was around and Papa took my one ear in his hands and just looked at me and said to never use ‘bad/offensive’ words in any circumstances. I don’t remember his exact words but the feeling, that it is so wrong to use a language that is offensive in any circumstances, has stayed with me and it upsets me to hear that from anyone.
[The funny thing is that one of my younger colleagues has experienced my displeasure with such language and refrains from using such language when I am around.] There was another time when I saw Papa really angry. Ranjan Bhaiya (my older brother, who is sadly no more) had gone to visit his friends at some hostel and did not return until midnight. Papa probably would not have been bothered if it wasn’t for Mummy throwing up and crying as if something had happened to Bhaiya. (I can fully relate to that now as a mother.) Papa closed all the doors (and we had many at 14B Bank Road) except his own and kept working on the bed. I was so terrified of the wrath that was about to come rolling down on Ranjan Bhaiya, that I went to the farthest room, away from Papa and closed my ears. After that incident, Ranjan Bhaiya never stayed out late without informing at home.
When we were in Australia during 1970-1971, Papa took me once to a Hair Dresser to get my hair curled. My kids cannot believe that their Nana (their mother’s father) can do something like that.
My husband will never do that for our daughters. Papa would let me wear clothes I would not let my kids wear now. Mummy was not too happy on those occasions. Short red leather skirt and white leather boots! I could go wherever I wanted or do whatever as long as I had a chaperone or it was safe for me. Papa would take me to the circus and magic shows. I remember going to the famous magic shows of P.C. Sarkar (Protul Chandra Sorcar; see http://www.pcsorcarmagician.com/bio.htm). Papa would entertain almost anything coming out of my mouth for discussion. What I have learnt from just watching him is more than any institution or book can teach. I don’t think I will be exaggerating if I call him an institution.
I remember an incident when I was in high school (1976) where he had to juggle between being a concerned father and being ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’. I was selected to play Table Tennis at a state tournament at some place unknown to me (I think it was Rampur).
Most of the team was going by train but few people were going by their own car with their parents. Since Papa knew that family, he wanted me to go with them. I was not very fond of those ‘rich snobbish’ people; I argued with Papa and stopped eating unless he could convince me that his reason for not letting me go by train had some merit. Papa then called my coach who was a Muslim gentleman and told him that the only way he would let me go by train is, if he took responsibility for my ‘safety’.
I think we all knew what was right and wrong in Papa’s dictionary but it didn’t keep me from doing some things that I was not supposed to do because I didn’t see anything wrong with them. But all such endeavors ended in his favor without him saying or doing anything.
I give here a few examples. I was not allowed to ride a bike on the main road whereas both my brothers (Ranjan Bhaiya and the eldest Deepak Bhaiya) were. I considered it to be not fair, so I took my friend Poonam’s bike and went on the main Bank road towards the intersection of Katra market. There was a big circular construction called “Gol chakkar” where I saw the Vice Chancellor’s car with Papa in it. I was so terrified that he will see me that I lost my balance and fell on the road. He did not see me but I never took a bike on the road again. Another incident that I remember took place when I was studying at Allahabad University. My friends and I once decided to skip our Statistics class taught by Dr. U.N. Agarwal at the University.
We left the classroom 10 minutes before Dr. Agarwal’s lecture was scheduled to start. After 5 minutes, I said ‘Dr. Agarwal will definitely tell Papa; and it will not look good that the Pro-Vice Chancellor’s daughter was skipping his class’. (Papa was then the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University.) I did not think about being scolded but what will people think about Papa and we all walked back to the class. I once jumped over the boundary wall of our house to get to the class because it was shorter and Papa found it out. He said that how he can enforce discipline to students in the university if his own kids did not follow rules!
I don’t think Papa feared anything. Here is one incident: when he was the Pro Vice Chancellor of the Allahabad University, a large group of students came to our house protesting something. I can’t remember what it was about. Papa was in his office at that time and my older brother, Deepak Bhaiya was not at home either. So, just women and children were in the house. The angry students turned off our electricity from the main box and gathered outside the house, and on the lawn, screaming and yelling at the top of their voice.
After sometime, Papa arrived in the university car and some students decided to lie on the ground just before the car arrived in the driveway.
Without fear, Papa got down from the car, and walked with the students and invited their leader in the living room to talk. The electricity was turned back on and Papa asked the servants to give water to all the students as it was very hot that day. I witnessed this in amazement. I don’t remember what the issue was but they all went away peacefully. That is the kind of effect he had on everyone. Anyone who came in contact with him could not forget him. Quite often I will meet random people who would turn out to be Papa’s ex-students (20-30 years ago) but they would still remember him and show the highest regard for him.
Now about his generosity. I can hardly remember ever being just by ourselves at the house on 14B Bank Road; many relatives lived with us. That was such a normal lifestyle for us. Everyone living with us was like our immediate family. I always found Papa to be extremely generous and giving of his time, energy and money. I remember that he would put away a small amount from his salary in some sort of a trust for the needy/poor students who wanted to go for higher studies.
On Mummy I don’t think there is a safer haven than mom’s “pallu” (the end of a Sari). That is how I grew up, feeling safe, secure and loved.
Mummy was an epitome of love and affection and the amount of patience she had with me and everyone and everything around her was unbelievable. I would very often go to sleep with her and pull her “pallu” to cover myself despite having my own blanket. She was very emotional and paranoid about our safety and well-being. The incident regarding Ranjan Bhaiya mentioned above is an example. I don’t remember any incident or event involving Meenu Didi (my older sister) and Mummy or Papa. I do remember sitting on Mummy’s lap while riding on a rickshaw to Didi’s in-law’s place in Allahabad.
I, however, like to mention a incident during my 2004 visit to Delhi where Meenu Didi now lives. Mummy was visiting Didi, in New Delhi, as she would usually do in the winters. Even though she was quite old, she went with Didi and I to the Sarojini Market to buy me a nightgown because she knew how much I loved those from India.
I tripped in the market and fell flat on my face on pavement stones. I lost consciousness for maybe few seconds or so it felt like. I got bruised on my lips and nose. Didi and mummy picked me up and sat me down on a stool at a shop and the shopkeeper gave me water. The loving look on Mummy and Didi’s faces made me forget my hurt and pain. It was like: ‘we are here, no need to worry about anything’.
Mummy mentioned that a homeopathic medicine Arnica would help if we had any and Didi went rushing through the market to find some.
When we reached home, Mummy and Didi were so concerned that they mentioned it to my Jijaji (Dr. Suresh Chandra, MD, Meenu’s husband) as soon as he came; he personally gave me a Tetanus injection. Even at age 44, I felt like a child in safe hands.
I miss Mummy’s food and hysterical laughter and concern for me. I think I have inherited her hysterical laugh. She had a “thing” for house lizards. It always ran a chill down her spine if she saw one on the floor. Both my brothers very often used that to have a good laugh at her expense. Once she was cooking and Ranjan Bhaiya made a lizard (Chhipkali) out of the roti dough, using black pepper as eyes.
It looked quite real. He placed it quietly behind mummy on the floor and said “ Bhabhi, I think there is a Chhipkali behind you.” [Both my brothers called our mother Bhabhi as she was called by all others.] Mummy, before even actually seeing the thing, started jumping up and down, screaming and then her scream turned into a hysterical laughter when she realized it was a fake lizard and she couldn’t stop for a long time.
Every time I visited India, she would make sure I get my favorite foods, e.g., “Phara”, Jackfruit, Arvi, and Chaat. Her passing away is too fresh in my mind to write much in the past tense.
M y encounters with Prof. Krishnaji (Dada), if I may call it so, were few and infrequent before and after the wedding of his niece (Ila, daughter of his younger brother, Mr. Gopalji) with me.
My marriage took place on the 22nd of January 1987, in New Delhi.
Right from the time of negotiations of my marriage, to conducting the rites and the rituals and extending hospitality to all concerned, it was Dada all along. This is not to belittle the role played by all the other senior members of the family. Every meeting and the time spent was an unforgettable experience. He resembled my father in many ways. They were both born leaders who carried strength of personality and depth of gravity in whatever situation they were placed in. One could unhesitatingly share one’s problem with them and one would be instantly relieved of the burden, as it would become their own.