CHILDHOOD MEMORIES & TALES
GUNINDRA LAL BHATTACHARYA
Tales of my childhood? Well, so be it!
However, I do not remember anything before the age of 3 years. I heard from mother that I was born at No. 10, Radhanath Bose Lane, Goabagan, at 20 minutes past 9 in the morning, Wednesday, (8th Phalgun, 1324 BS, English 20th February 1918). Then Calcutta time was 24 minutes in advance of the Railway Time which was called Indian Standard Time. At that time my grandfather (Motilal Bhattacharya) named me Gunindralal. At that time my father (Sindhu Lal) was employed in Meerut.
After that my childhood was spent in Meerut. Here my father worked in Military Accounts. Father being transferred in service was to go to the Accountant General Burma, Rangoon. Of course, before this from 1913 to 1917 father and mother (Shibarani Debi) were in Rangoon.
A scene of this travelling by ship is my first memory. I recall that on the wooden deck my younger sister Hemlata and I were trying to walk but could not anyhow stand at one place. The ship was swaying and we were forced to clutch on to the railing; almost falling if we let go. There was no storm or rain. Father showed me the rear of the deck. Someone had died—he would be buried at sea. Some English people and some Indians were standing on both sides of a big coffin covered with a black cloth. A prayer was read from a book. Everyone silently bowing their heads showed respect. After that I saw that big coffin wrapped in black cloth was pulled up with a rope and from over the deck’s railing it was slowly, gradually lowered to the sea. Just a little later when everyone had left, I went to see the rear of the ship holding on to the railing. Then there was no rope and that coffin too had sunk. However, many sharks were following behind the ship. Father said earlier there were submarine ships in the sea and hitting ships from beneath, by making holes would sink them. Then to see submarine ships I held on to the railing and started thinking of that box covered with black cloth. The person who had died was a sailor of the ship. This is the first thing I remember of my childhood.
I was in Rangoon till I was five years old. We used to stay with my second eldest paternal uncle on the first floor of a wooden house. Below, a little to the side, was a hotel of Chinese food. Our cooking was done by Indra Thakur. He was my very dear friend. Only a few incidents of this time come to mind.
I can see my father very clearly. In the evening, lying down, by the light of a hurricane lamp he would tunefully recite the Mahabharata and I, sitting near his head, used to listen and keep looking at the book, if I too could read it. The grave, distinct reading slowly, gradually I began to get memorized by me. I too began to recite some stories. My favourite was Bheem and Duryodhan’s mace-duel. Everyone used to be scared of father and if he got angry everyone would run away and hide. I too used to hide under a table. Only once father, as if in sport, catching me, as if for punishing, made as if to pull me up by my hair. I wasn’t beaten but the wish to scare me was successful.
At this time I began to learn to write and read Bengali from mother. One day I received a letter from my (paternal) grandmother Hearing it read out and after trying to read it I was reminded of her very much—her loving touch, her call, “Gunodhor!” Not saying anything to anyone, on a piece of paper I wrote to her my heart’s feelings. I had seen that someone, whom every called Postman, came with letters. So one day in the morning, the day after writing the letter, I kept standing waiting for him. Immediately on his coming up, before he called anyone, I went to him and giving him the paper on which I had written, in broken Hindi explained to him that he should give my letter to my grandmother in Calcutta. I was sure that it was he who had brought grandmother’s letter to me, therefore surely he goes to her and knows her. He looked at me astonished and was trying to say that it was difficult for him. So I explained in detail to him about that grandmother of mine who is in Calcutta, whose letter he had brought, it is to her that this must be given tomorrow. But now breaking into laughter he shouted out, “Babu! Mai–ji! Postman!” Then mother and all others, my elder uncle’s sons and daughters, came and hearing everything from the postman began to laugh. They began explaining to me that bags were sent by ship and so many more things. I understood this much that this postman does not know my grandmother or does not go to her. Other than this I was in no condition to hear anything else. My hidden, secret love for grandmother had got exposed and my little bit of writing was such a tiny expression of it—realising and thinking of this and finding proof of my ignorance and little ability I felt extremely small. Never again have I wished to reveal my mind so utterly with heart and soul and so briefly. And this had become a matter of mockery to others. I had felt that elders do not understand anything about children at all. Never again have I gone to that Postman. The child mind has a logic of its own which arises from his knowledge and imagination. So too for elders. Dreams have their own logic too. Perhaps one who can respect the child mind of children would be able to comprehend it and can enter the world of children; at least be respected by them, because with understanding comes friendship, not mockery.
In the eye of memory I see myself a child. Along with writing Bengali and reading a little it was decided that I would go to school where the sons and daughters of my elder paternal uncle used to study. I have heard it was “Bengal Academy”. Be that as it may, mounted on Indra Thakur’s shoulders I had gone to school. The first day I sat on the last bench of a class next to an older sister. In front were three more benches and a person with a long white beard and prominent spectacles was teaching. I understood nothing of what he was saying, nor do I remember. I noticed that sometimes one student would go out. Enquiring I got to know that taking permission for drinking water they were able to go out of the class. At once I felt extremely thirsty. Irritated, my elder sister took me outside. As she would return, therefore I too, though unwilling, had to return inside. A little later I felt thirsty again, but my elder sister would not go again and told me to shut up. I asked her, “Then what will I do? I am so thirsty!” She told me to suck the sleeves of my shirt. I began to do so and by the time the class got over the right sleeve of my shirt was soaked—perhaps it was thirsty! I remember well how I had totally believed what my elder sister said and never thought that thirst for water would not be quenched by that.
The next day just before going to school I was sitting in the bathroom. Everyone is calling and I am quiet, hoping very much that they would go away. But my mother did find me out. After that, wearing clothes, Indra Thakur took me away. I had agreed only at Indra Thakur’s words thinking I would be going for a stroll. Others, of course, had left before this. He took me to that same school. I would not enter by any means and would not let him go. Then a tall, lovely lady coming to the verandah called me. I liked her but she would hardly be teaching me. The class teacher would be that bearded dry gentleman. I felt no attraction for going. There was no fear, only rejection. The Headmistress of the school smiled and said, “Why are you leaving? Come!” I said, “But my tummy is aching!” Then she said, “Here there are bathrooms. There will be no difficulty.” I did not feel like objecting to this and blurted out, “But in that case I am feeling like vomiting!” Then she burst out laughing. Her laughter and her talk standing on the verandah I had liked and cannot forget even now. Perhaps if she had come near and said that she would sit near me and show pictures, or chat, then I would certainly have listened to her. Be that as it may, after that I returned home on Indra Thakur’s shoulders. Everyone at home began to say that I ran away from school. At that I did not feel any irritation or shame. I did not like school at all.
After this I recall another scene. Indra Thakur and I are upon a boat. The boat was a little far from the shore and for some distance the boat slowly danced and swayed. I am looking where Indra Thakur is showing, “There is the sea!” Only water and water for so far away, waves after waves, I am watching amazed at where there is no end. While staring I must have fallen asleep because later I only remember getting down from the boat, I am sitting on Indra Thakur’s shoulders and he is holding on to both my hands. Resting my cheek on his head I am as if hearing his sweet voice in my sleep.
After this at times I remember going to Tuktuki’s home. Tuktuki was a small girl like me, but I remember only her mother. She used to play the piano or organ or pedal harmonium. For listening to it there was no end to my eagerness to go up the steep stairs to the first floor. From there I did not even wish to go home. Only Indra Thakur could bring me back.
After this, something I had heard of because I do not remember him. Shri Saratchandra Chattopadhyay used to work in father’s office. He did not fancy working. Office work and his world were different, so he was somewhat of a peculiar sort of special creature. He would be talked about at times at home. I have heard that he had come home a few times and apparently had liked my name and my younger sister’s name. Later in his novel, Path-nirdesh his main character “Guni” and heroine “Hemnolini”—my and my sister’s names—may be an accident.
From Rangoon we came away towards the beginning of 1923. I remember nothing about coming back. We were in Calcutta till Durga Puja and the account of this time is of the house at Goabagan’s Radhanath Bose Lane.
My grandfather loved to play chess. He was the Private Tutor of the Crown Prince of the kingdom of Udaipur in Rajputana and also the Director of Public Instruction of that place. Before that he used to teach Sanskrit and Philosophy in Agra College. There my father was born in the year 1888. We used to call grandfather, “Babu”. He used to write books and followed a strict regimen. Five sons, each one a gazetted officer, with their help and his own pension he lived very happily.
On Sundays a get-together for playing chess used to be arranged. A brother of my grandmother used to come. We used to call him “Rejo-Mama”. The match of the two would be full of great excitement. Sitting at the side I used to watch hour after hour. I used to enjoy more the conversation and the occasional ululation, specially when Rejo-Mama would be forced to accept defeat at grandfather’s move. And when grandfather would enter the bathroom, when he was about to lose, how delighted would Rejo-Mama be and how he would mock! The match would be held in a big hall, Babu’s room.
After this I remember the puja in the zamindar’s house in the neighbourhood. A huge, vast pandal within the house. The image above and a little below a large courtyard where sacrificing was done. Well-dressed, busy people, incense-smoke and music. Amidst all that indeed roaring tremendously a person with a big khanra (curved sword) ready for sacrificing. Two men would come, each bringing a goat. Their heads would be fixed in one place. After that with the priest’s waving of lamps, bells ringing, drums sounding and shouting “Joy Ma!” with a single blow the sacrifice was done. One man running with the bloody head would offer it at the image’s feet. On the day of “Maha-ashtami” there would be many sacrifices. Once day after that I did not like it very much and did not go any more, did not look for long. Grandfather said that he did not believe in this type of puja. It seems that Vedic Brahman pandits do not do such puja.
After this, one day in the afternoon a photograph of ours was taken. Father wanted that before going to Delhi all of us should be photographed with his parents. The photo was taken on the roof of the house. Our new dress was khaki half-pant and shirt. We seven brothers and sisters, Grandfather, Grandmother, “Pishima/Thandidi” (father’s sister), father and mother. My elder brother used to live with Grandfather and studied in Calcutta, matriculated from Scottish Church. He was asleep then. I had gone down to call him. With a sulky face he came. I remember his frowning face. In the photo too it came out quite well.
This roof was a place of great fun. In the late afternoon after removing the washed and dried clothes the women of the house—mother, elder brothers’ wives, pishima, elder sister, all would sit on a “madur” (reed mat) to dress their hair. One would dress another’s hair with many types of buns being made—braided, plaited etc. So many sorts of laughter and talk—I could understand nothing. But who had not brought hairpins, whose comb was lying in her room, and who wanted another ribbon—all these I had to bring. In the evening, cleaning up here itself, durries would be spread. And my elder uncle’s son would play a gramophone with a big horn. Many types of folk-plays would be played. Everyone listened with great joy. I used to always wonder that the one who used to sing from inside the box, how do I get to see him! At times looking into the horn I used to try to see. I was told that male and female singers lived inside. I believed that and used to wait so that in case they came out I would see.
In this way the days would pass. One day I went with someone to Hedua crossing to hire a carriage. Those days there was a stand for horse-carriages there. Three carriages were booked for going to Howrah Station the next day. Then it took three days to reach Delhi. We left by the horse-carriages. At home I was amazed seeing the weeping of mother and grandmother. Grandmother caressed me a lot and gave me one rupee. After that it was going to the station, getting into the train and proceeding to Delhi.
Many stations were there on the way. Father seemed to know all indeed: what food is good at which station—where hot puris, where rabri, where burfi! A small compartment was reserved for us—3rd class, but being reserved we were travelling quite comfortably. Only mother was irritated—father was buying a lot of food and she was saying it wasn’t necessary. Still he bought and we, eating up all that, embarrassed mother. Father praised his own intelligence and we had such great fun. Greedy for food, we left nothing at all to show father was right.
In the daytime I recall from Bihar onwards on both sides dry, dusty fields and alongside the tracks innumerable spiny manasa trees. Far away some villages and large trees that were running along with us.
On the third day in the morning we reached Delhi. There two assistants from father’s office had come to the station. Getting down there, on two-wheeled horse-tongas we reached Raisina. On 23rd October 1923 we first stayed in No. 9 Ridge Road. All arrangements for cooking were there in the house. A servant named Damodar had come with us. Mother arranging everything properly fed us. After that in the evening all of us fell asleep. The house was quite big, with a small garden inside and a dry toilet, and inexhaustible water supply. Right in front was a dairy and a small hill that used to called “Ridge”. These are my memories till reaching Delhi. My age was above 5 years and less than 6. We stayed in this house for almost five years.
Now some stories about the time when we stayed at Ridge Road. Apparently now this road’s name is MANDIR MARG.
At that time the real capital was in Simla. Raisina was being built. All around the huge pillars of the Legislative Assembly were huge wooden supports. Initial construction of the Viceroy’s house has begun. North Block was complete. South Block was not yet completed. In the distance the War Memorial Arch was coming up. On the road running straight from the Gol Post Office to Connaught Place, Regal Cinema had just opened and going from Ridge Road straight to Talkatora Park was a club of Bengalis.
Alongside the front of our house then was a narrow railway line on which small and large engines used to go carrying broken stones straight via Talkatora and Alexandra Place, over Queen Victoria Road up to near the Purana Quila railway line. For making a stadium before Purana Quila many stones used to be taken there. The numbers on the small engines were 1, 3 and 11. The big one’s number was 7. Looking big, the line was metre gauge.
In front of the house, on the other side of the road, was the hill (Ridge). Here at winter time there were many wild jujube trees with tasty sweet-and-sour berries. For quite some hours some of us would wander in sunlight and shade seeking where how many good, sweet berries could be found—wild sweet-and-sour jujubes. We would climb up the hill by footpaths or anywhere indeed. However, a little to the south, near the house at No. 3 Ridge Road, a road went over Ridge Road. Quite far off there was a big water-tank from where water used to be pumped to all the houses. Entry was prohibited into that water-tank at the right side of the road and at the left side was quite a thick jungle in which were many “palash” trees. I remember they were truly flame-of-the-forest—densely full with so many red flowers. Through them indeed there was a horse-riding track laid with wood-chips, quite a soft path. I used to hear that it runs straight to Roshanara Gardens to the north and on the other side to near Talkatora Park. From time to time I have seen one or two English ladies and men walking quite slowly. Apparently this Ridge was the final edge of the Aravalli Hills of Rajputana.
At this time in summer it would be extremely hot in Raisina. As we were small, perhaps we did not feel the heat so much. In the afternoon under the fan, at night on the open ground in front or inside in the courtyard’s garden we used to sleep. But I remember about the “aandhi” (dust-storm).
From about 4 to 6 in the afternoon, suddenly on the western horizon would rise a cloud-like reddish ochre filling the sky. Along with it was the loud cawing of crows and their flying about hither-thither restlessly. That dense cloud rising at high speed in the sky would reach overhead. After this would come a dust-storm. To stand outside would be extremely difficult. I used to try but the blast of the wind from the west would push me back. After that it would bring along plenty of dust. Mouth, eyes and ears would get filled with dust. If the house-doors were shut, it was difficult to open them because immediately after the storm began we would somehow flee inside the house. That wind would keep pushing against the bolted doors, as if saying, “Open up! Open up!” Nothing at all could be seen outside the glass windows, only a storm of red dust blowing, or it seemed like a cyclone. After about half an hour slowly, gradually, when the fury of the storm would lessen, then suddenly it would rain very hard and sometimes not even that. It would remain sullenly hot and till about midnight or 1 A.M. our bodies would burn from the heat. But there was plenty of water in the taps and we would bathe three to four times from the afternoon onwards. Another special problem was cleaning the dust in the rooms. However, the way in which the dust-storm like a red cloud would at swift speed overcast the western sky and below it crows, kites and other birds would fearfully fly about here and there and their outcries; the repeated banging on the doors, banging as if some invisible person were angry with the doors—these scenes and sounds still float in front of my eyes and it seems my ears can still hear.
Many years later in the year 1957 when I used to live alone in Jammu in the month of May then and was the Colonel in the Signals Regiment of 26 Division, then I went roaming after the evening to where I would take the troops to our grenade throwing range. There was sand all around. Suddenly, just like the old Raisina dust-storm, red dust clouds began to rise quite swiftly in the western sky. Along with it that cawing of crows and just a little later the current of dust-storm. Pushing myself forward in the face of it felt fun because the storm’s speed was pushing me. However, this storm did not last for more than half an hour. But seeing the manifestation of old memories of Raisina I did like it indeed. For, after Raisina in 1930, that type of dust-storm had not occurred. The adjoining village habitations and fields had become filled with crops and vegetable gardens.
Then there was only one market. Its name was “Gol Market”. Inside were some vegetable and fruit shops and a Mussulman’s meat shop. Outside where there were shops of atta, rice, ghee etc. Near that in a small shop a Sikh used to sell meat. The Mussalmans used to cut the meat after halal and Sikhs did exactly the opposite—“jhatka” (beheading with one stroke) without halal. Be that as it may, good meat was 8 annas a seer. Even better meat was available at Ajmeri Gate. As we were a big family, father used to bring 3 seers of meat. On Christmas it would be gram-fed or “dumba” meat. On cooling it would congeal, full of ghee or fat. But eating it with hot rotis tasted like amrita (ambrosia). Also, one felt extremely hungry. We brothers used to eat 12 to 18 rotis. Ferrying fish from Okhla, a Mussulman named “Sadhu” used to insist on supplying almost daily. The head of the fish was free. Fish, too, was 8 annas a seer. Excellent atta was 8 seers a rupee. Fine Basmati rice was 7 rupees a maund and ghee 2 rupees a seer. Father would bring monthly provisions from the city. I used to go with him on a tonga. Then the fixed official rate for a tonga was 12 annas. 6 annas for the first and the next hour. From Lal Kuan and Khari Baoli atta, rice, masala, ghee etc., and right next door from big vegetable shops about ½ maund potatoes and other vegetables. Later from Chandni Chowk sweets: Sohan Halwa, laddu, and for mother many types of fried dal from Ghantewala’s shop. After that via the fountain in Chandni Chowk by Nai Sarak, Chawri Bazar, Ajmeri Gate and a dusty road that later became Minto Road, by that straight west from the Gol Post Office after Havelock Square, Dalhousie Square and Ranjit Place, our house on Ridge Road. During the journey father would buy a Hindustan Times newspaper. At home we used to read Pioneer. As father was born and studied in Agra and while working in Kanpur, Kanauj and other places he was used to reading The Pioneer. At that time in Delhi no other English daily had come out.
On the Ridge, a little north from our house higher up on that road, a lot of the hill was being broken down and flattened. Daily in the morning groups of Delhi village women would come singing. At summer time at noon one or two of them would sit to eat on the verandah of our house. Two or three dry thick rotis (almost half an inch thick), raw onion and red chillies—this was their food. If spoken to they would laugh a lot because they did not speak proper Hindi. They were Gujar tribe, speaking broken Hindi, sounding quite sweet. Be that as it may, I heard they were working because a temple would be built. Birla was getting this temple built. The women workers got 6 annas a day and the men got 8 annas. From this, however, each had to donate daily one anna for the temple! Even at that young age I felt bad about this. I had heard Birla was a wealthy man. To deduct money forcibly in this fashion I felt was unjust and I felt no respect for this temple. However, in the evening when the men and women in separate bands would go southwards by the road in front singing away, then it felt extremely nice –the words of their songs and the way they walked. Somewhat like a dance and swaying away. On their heads they carried iron pans in which they used to take broken stones for spreading. They came from quite far away. I had not seen exactly from where.
In the year 1924, probably in the month of March, father decided that we would all get admitted to school. Then where Willingdon Nursing Home is now there was MB School and a school of Bengalis had started. We would be admitted in the Bengali school and were all going with father one day. On the way someone came and said something to father. I heard the wife of someone of father’s office had committed suicide in the morning setting fire to kerosene possibly in Tughlak Place. Father told me to return home because he was going to help there. So at the very beginning my going to a regular school having been prevented I was not sad at all. I have already said that in Rangoon I did not like school at all.
To the north of our house was Ranjit Place. In house No. 1 there lived Subrata Chakrabarti, an assistant in father’s office. As taught by father, we used to call everyone “Kaka-babu” (Uncle) and their wives were our “Kakima” (Aunt). On the day of Bijoya we would do pranam to all kakas and kakimas. Father did not believe in Brahman and non-Brahman distinction and had instructed us accordingly too.
At this No. 1 Ranjit Place Subrata Babu’s son Dulu or Sukumar became my intimate friend. Subrata Babu’s relative was Ajit-da. He was possibly in class 8 of that Bengali school. Then the Headmaster was Mr. Ganguli.
At father’s bidding after one or two days it was Ajit-da who got me admitted to school in class 4. The exams were just a few days later. About attending classes I only remember the grave and calm Mr. Ganguli’s class. I used to sit on the rear bench and listen, understanding nothing at all. No one used to ask me any question.
Of the exams I only remember the day of Arithmetic. Then I knew only addition and subtraction. On the day of the test, father saw that we also had multiplication and division. On the morning of that very same day father taught me to multiply and divide. I learnt with tearful eyes with some slaps. At the time of the test however there was no simple addition, subtraction or multiplication and division at all. In the question paper were rupees, annas, pie additions and some simple or problematic calculations. I could not tackle a single one. I remember I was writing in the copybook when I saw tht one or two boys asked for and got more paper. I thought this must be the rule, so I too asked for an extra paper and actually got it. But I could only write my name.
I remember the results of the exam in the class. The teacher, Noni-babu, was calling out names and announcing the marks. Hearing that my mark was zero I was not surprised, but out of shame my face had become hot. In other subjects I heard I had passed. Be that as it may, at home I was not beaten by father.
Immediately after this test we came to Calcutta during father’s holidays. On both sides those fields and running along with the railway line big, large thorny manasa trees. On the way my father’s eldest brother boarded, probably from Aligarh. He too was going. His youngest daughter’s marriage was in Calcutta. Everyone used to get together. Grandfather used to enjoy a lot with sons and grandchildren who were living outside Bengal.
Be that as it may, I remember in the train my father’s eldest brother asked about my studies. Very innocently I told him that I had scored zero in Arithmetic. He was very grave, with a white beard. All of us were in great awe of him. Hearing of my getting zero in Arithmetic he said at once, “Then what else now—eat gur-muri (molasses and puffed rice)!” At first I understood nothing. Later I felt perhaps he had mocked my mother’s parents, because my maternal grandfather belonged to the village Geedhgram in Burdwan district. Molasses, puffed rice, kheer etc., were his favourites. He used to cultivate a lot of land himself. Thinking of this I felt that eldest uncle had decided that my studies could not improve at all. And all this mockery on telling the truth I did not like at all. At such a tender age (almost 7) somehow I lost all respect for him at these words.
Returning from Calcutta I began to go to school again, possibly in class 4 itself. My younger brother Robi also got admitted in class 1. He was about 2 ½ years younger to me. As he was not good in studies, father engaged a private tutor. He used to come to teach me and my younger sister Hemlata in the evening. I remember that I used to get only the smell of milk and sugar from his mouth. At that time I had a fixed idea that my intelligence was very little. Somehow I began to study in class, but I got many friends—Sukumar, Biraj, Shitangshu, Satyabrata, etc.
From the year 1926 I began to get a lot of Malaria fever. There was terrible shivering, one quilt atop another, and upon them some younger brother or sister would lie down. I remember the fever rose to 108.2 degrees once. Immediately after the shivering stopped the fever would shoot up very much and often after an hour would become normal. I had become quite weak. I had a lot of Quinine mixture and from Harsha-Babu homeopathic medicines. By no means would this fever leave me. It would come almost every week.
At the time of this fever I remember about one night. All were sleeping. We brothers and sisters were lying within a large mosquito net. A low powered electric light was on. My sleep was broken. I do not why I took off the mosquito net. After that I kept it in a corner and saw the light and fan switches. In those days the surface of the fan-regulator used to be uncovered. By turning its knob the fan could be slowed or speeded up. I felt as if I must put my finger inside the hole of the regulator, curious to see what would happen. I remember getting a severe shock. Being quite contented, curiosity satisfied, I lay down and fell asleep again.
Harsha kakababu (uncle) lived at Ranjit Place, probably at No. 15. Every morning he used to give homeopathic medicine to all. My duty was to get medicines from him for myself and my brothers and sisters before going to school. One day, after asking many people many types of questions, he prepared small paper packets. I was his last patient. He was preparing medicines and saying how good homeopathic medicine was—could do all types of treatment. I remember asking him, “Kaka-babu, is there any medicine to increase intelligence?” Remaining silent a little he said, “Yes, of course there is!” Going home after that one day finding my father alone I had said, “Harsha kakababu has said there is medicine for increasing intelligence too. Wouldn’t it be good if I take it?” Father did not give any reply to this at all. I felt, “Alas, no one at all wants that my intelligence should increase a little and I do a little better in school studies!”
In the year 1926/27 father decided that he would send me on a change of climate. My elder uncle’s son Moni-dada and my elder brother Noni-dada had come from Calcutta. My elder brother was studying in a college in Calcutta, studying M.A. in Philosophy to become a professor. He did not like government work or clerkship. Be that as it may, it was being decided that I go to Calcutta with them. Father was talking with them about me. I was outside the room, listening. On my lap was my younger brother Amarendra. I was keeping him quiet, very curious about what father would decide. I heard I would have to go with them. And father spoke about my weakness in arithmetic and simultaneously said that I was quite ‘intelligent”. I knew that in English “intelligent” meant clever or sharp. This was the first time I heard something a little good about myself—that too from my father’s mouth. Hearing this I felt very happy. And to prove that I was good began to make great efforts to keep my little brother—who was on my lap—quiet and moved away from there. This was my first prize, I felt, that too from my father!
Before this I used to hear from my mother in the afternoon the poem, “Meghnad-Bodh.” Mother used to read books father had bought. Besides this, two volumes of the Kashidasi Mahabharata I had read many times and several passages had got committed to memory by themselves. At home a portrait of Satyanarayana was very dear to me. It seemed as if the portrait were smeared with wealth, beauty and friendship. Besides this mother would observe “broto” (vows) and a book titled “Meyeder Brotokotha” that mother used to read I liked very much. Father had bought me some Bengali books like Asutosh’s autobiography in Bengali. I used to be full of respect reading about such great people. Be that as it may, leaving my friends to go to Calcutta I was suffering a lot. But on coming to Calcutta my fever really stopped. After Pyrex at first I had taken Arsenic Album 30 given by my “mejda” (second eldest brother).
For one year I lived with my grandfather and grandmother in Harinabhi and during the monsoons in Calcutta. Some matters of that time that affected me a lot I am writing down.
 Translated from Bengali by his son Pradip Bhattacharya.
 20.2.1918-4.9.1988. Lt. Col. (Retd) Corp of Signals, 1942 commission.
 Married to Satish Chandra Mahapatra of Baripada, Orissa.
 Sindhu Lal was the 3rd son of Motilal. He was conferred the title of “Rai Sahib” and was Assistant Accountant General in Delhi when he died.
 The renowned novelist of Bengal.
 Deep-fried puffed pancake.
 Sweet condensed milk.
 0.9 kg.
 fat-tailed sheep
 37 kg.
 Rabindra Lal Bhattacharya who retired from the Indian Air Force.
 Later this changed. Raisina Bengali High School gave him a medal for standing 6th in the H.S. Board exam 1933. In ISc he stood 1st in the University 1935; in BSc 1st in the University 1937. His father suddenly died. He shifted to Arts and took his MA in English in the II class in 1939 from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he also lectured 1938-40. In 1968 he got the LLB degree from Calcutta University and practised law.
 Amarendra Lal Bhattacharya who retired from the Indian Meteorological Department.
 An epic by Michael Madhusudan Dutt on the killing of Ravana’s son Meghnad or Indrajit.
 Tales of vows/fasts for women.
 Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor, Calcutta University for five terms.