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T. R. SURI (A Brief Life-Sketch)



Tirath Ram Suri, younger son of Parabh Dial Suri, was born at Ambala on 16th December 1903, at about the same time as the Wright Brothers were making the world’s first flight of a heavier-than-air craft and the Taj Mahal Hotel at Bombay was opening its doors for the first time.

Graduating from the Technical Institute at Rasul (now in Pakistan), he was employed as an Overseer in the Punjab Irrigation Department in October 1923. He left this job and joined the North Western Railway on 24th October 1925. Married a month and a half later[1], he served the Railways in Baluchistan, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh until 1959. He spent the last three years of his life at Dehra Dun.


Details of his career and family life are available in a small pocket diary in which he recorded only the salient facts[2] until shortly before his untimely death in 1965.[3] This Diary of Landmarks[4] in his Life, hard-bound in brown leatherette, was Made in Germany. Even such mundane items used to be imported in his younger days. His annual diaries were the usual stuff now sold everywhere in India. Wherever possible, we will let his diaries speak for him.[5]




Lala Parabh Dial Suri had been under Christian and Freemasons  influence until the end of the 19th century. But, back in the Punjab, the Kangra background became dominant again. His ancestors had been Jwala Dass and Mahesh Dass. His son, born in 1901, was named Durga Dass. 

By 1903, however, Lalajee had come under the influence of the Arya Samaj. His next son came to be called Tirath Ram because of the then famous Swami Ram Tirtha.[6] Born in September 1874, Swamiji had propagated the ancient cultural heritage of India even in Japan and America.[7]

October was always a crucial month in the life of Tirath Ram Suri. His grandmother passed away on the 20th October 1905, when he was less than two years old. His Mundan ceremony was performed in October 1907 at Shimla where his father had been transferred earlier that year. A year later, he was watching “other children in the family” going to school at Rawalpindi.


Lala Parabh Dial Suri had accumulated a large number of “dependents” (orphans from collateral branches of his own and his wife’s family)[8]  by this time. Perhaps this was the reason for a sudden attack of facial paralysis; fortunately, it did not last long.[9] However, it delayed Tirath Ram’s going to school.

He had not finished two years of schooling when the whole family had to shift to the smaller town nearby; Lalajee had been transferred to Jehlum in October 1911. In another two years it was an even smaller town called Khanki.[10]

Tirath Ram’s first real memories pertained to the metropolitan capital of the Punjab, which he saw in October 1915. His father took an advance of salary and constructed a spacious bungalow at Lahore, opposite the princely Poonch House on Multan Road. He called it Dayal Niwas in celebration of his new faith.[11]



Tirath Ram’s early schooling had been dictated by the transfers of his father. Now at Lahore, his attention was attracted by two prominent personalities. One was Lala Lajpat Rai, who was in exile in the United States from 1914 to 1917.[12] The other was Swami Ram Tirth, after whom he had himself been named; the Swami[13] had been a Professor of Mathematics and a close friend of another Professor, Mohammed Iqbal, the poet who wrote “Saaray Jahaan say Acchha Hindostan Hamara”.[14]


At the age of 15, Tirath Ram saw his father move on to the next biggest city, nearby Amritsar. His elder brother was all of 18 years old when they married him off on 7th February 1920. A year later, the family shifted to Rasul which boasted of an engineering institute. This was the period when Gandhiji (then visiting the Minakshi temple at Madurai) got his head shaved on 21st September 1921 and, “discarding his ordinary wear, donned only a loincloth.”




Tirath Ram was training to be an engineer (at Rasul) when his father was transferred to Bahawalpur in 1922 and Multan in 1923.


“I was appointed as an Overseer on Rs.80 P.M. in October 1923 in Canal Department of Lyallpur,” says his Diary of Landmarks in his Life. A separate section in the Diary contains a Monthly Abstract of his Income & Expenditure (beginning January 1924); a word or two has been inserted here and there to indicate some particular purchase or investment.

A watch was purchased in March 1924 for Rs.39 after he had saved this amount. His salary was increased to Rs.110 in August. After one year of service, he had saved Rs.158 and bought a cow for Rs.20. Another cow cost Rs.30 in January 1925. Rs.50 were spent during April (apart from the usual expenses) because of “father’s illness”. Lalajee had had a nervous breakdown and took about eight months at Dalhousie to recover.


A new experience for Tirath Ram was (to quote from his Landmarks Diary) an “XEN’s Camp” in June; the inspection visit of the big boss cost the Overseer Rs.68; in July, “SE’s Head Clerk” accounted for Rs.65.[15] He complained to his father who, in turn, complained to a friend, a Deputy Collector in the Irrigation Department itself.[16]



Dewan Duni Chand Chadha, the Deputy Collector mentioned above, came from an “aristocratic family”. Their ancestors had ruled in the princely state of Mandi-Suket in recent times. He advised Tirath Ram to proceed on leave with effect from 1st August 1925.


Lalajee has recorded his return to Lahore, “completely cured, on 23-11-25….and posted at Ferozepur Division Sirhind Canal.” Next, we find his younger son’s Diary Entry:  “Preparing for marriage…on 26.11.25,” whatever that means, because Lala Parabh Dial has recorded that Tirath Ram was married to Duni Chand’s daughter Savitri on 8th December 1925.[17]


This was after the young man had been found a job “on 24.10.25 at Lahore as a Surveyor” in the North Western Railway. He received Rs.18 as the first salary on the 1st of November and Rs.100 P.M.[18] from the 1st of December onwards, rising to Rs.105 a year later, four days after the birth of his first child at Ferozepur Cantonment “at Satsang time. I was on tour at Baddowalia’[19], says his Diary of Landmarks, “and returned only at 7.30 A.M. on Monday. Lord’s grace solicited.” Signed:Tirath Ram Suri,29-11-26.



My father’s first big rise came in 1928 when he was shifted from Survey and deputed to the Way & Works wing of the Railways. It meant going all the way to Baluchistan from his familiar Punjab, but it added Rs.95 to his previous pay of Rs.110 P.M., early in March that year. Incidentally, the Cost of Living Index also fell substantially that year.

Two goats were purchased for Rs.14 and Rs.12 respectively in October and December that year. His wife was expecting another child. By June 1929, when the daughter arrived, at a station called Khanai, he could afford to spend Rs.300 for ornaments for his wife; more were made in August at a cost of Rs.360. October 1930 brought a gramophone for Rs.120.  (Young Reader: Do you know what a gramophone is?). More was spent next month on “records” and some furniture.


He was donating a fixed amount every month as Bhent (votive offerings) to the Radhasoami Satsang and the Cost of Living Index was falling further (due to a world-wide depression) when he was confirmed as an Assistant Inspector of Works with effect from 1st January 1931.



He earned Rs. 240 in March 1931, but was then sent back to his parent cadre where the emoluments were substantially less than in the Deputation post. In October 1931, he had touched almost what he was earning some years earlier. It was only around 1937-38 that he got around to what he was getting in 1930.


He was still in Baluchistan. Another son was born at Qilla Saifullah when his take-home pay (including allowances) was less than Rs.150, but the Cost of Living Index had touched rock-bottom, about a quarter of what it would be when his youngest child was born.


Baluchistan let him go in October 1933. He spent a very few months at Saharanpur before being promoted on Christmas Day and transferred to Bhatinda in an officiating capacity. Surprisingly, his emoluments as Inspector of Works were hovering around Rs.100 only in the first few months of 1934. Regularised in his posting with effect from 14th April 1934, he threw a party for which he spent around a hundred rupees. He also made a special Bhent of Rs.100 during a visit to Dayalbagh during Christmas week.  A son and a daughter were born in 1934 and 1935. Finally, news of impending confirmation in the cadre came in October 1935; the order took effect from 6th November 1935.


Pashi was born in 1937 and Gulloo in 1939. Meanwhile, the founder of Dayalbagh, His Holiness Sahabji Maharaj Sir Anand Saroop, the fifth Guru of his sect, passed away  on 24th June 1937 and Tirath Ram’s “wife  became seriously ill” in December, to recover only by August 1938. During this period, his Diary says he “learnt a lot which was never dreamt of. This changed mode of life.”




Somebody sitting in Lahore had decided that Tirath Ram Suri should have been paying rent for his government accomodation at Bhatinda. Recovery of arrears was started in 1938; but good sense prevailed in 1940 and a substantial sum was refunded, with no further demands.


By this time, Europe was in the throes of the Second World War. India was in a deep political crisis. We quote again from the Landmarks Diary (a new page headed “Important Events”):


“1.Transferred to Jind on 1-7-41 after 8 years stay at Bhatinda.

“2. Long illness first time in life 14-9-42 to 29-10-42…

“3. Transferred to Ferozepur & left Jind on 24-7-43…”


The next few pages in this Diary refer to the premature birth of  a son who was to die within a decade; a grade promotion and a transfer to Lahore; another transfer soon afterwards to Rawalpindi; the birth of Kuku there; and then the horrors of the Partition of India.




Lalajee and his younger son had never remained at one station for more than three or four years (sometimes even months) until Parabh Dial retired and settled down at Dayalbagh. Tirath Ram’s first period of respite from rapid transfers came when he was posted to Bhatinda at about the same time. Then, after eight years of stability, he was transferred to Jind on the 1st of July 1941 in connexion with a war-time project.


Bhatinda was then an important place in the princely state of Patiala. It was a historical city[20] and the Railway Colony was almost as modern as the Civil Lines in any British area. But Jind was the straggling capital of a small and backward State; even the Railway Colony had no electricity and other amenities. However, strenuous over-work (rather than any of the other factors) became the cause of what Tirath Ram described in his Diary as “Long illness first time in life 14-9-42 to 29-10-42…”


Lalajee and Bhaboji had to leave Prem and Saran at Dayalbagh to fend for themselves, while they went to Jind to look after their son’s health. After his recovery, according to another entry in Tirath Ram’s Diary, he was “Transferred to Ferozepur & left Jind on 24-7-43…” The next entry in this Diary refers to the premature birth of  a son who was to die within a decade.

Lalajee’s own elder son was then posted at Solan in the Simla Hills District. As soon as Tirath Ram recovered his health, Lalajee and Bhabojee shifted from Jind to Solan for a summer vacation. May and June were the months when Prem and Saran used to go to their respective parents and Lalajee used to get time off from his sewa at Dayalbagh. Saran was at Dayalbagh until April 1944. Then he went over to Ferozepur where his father was then posted.


Tirath Ram’s next posting was to Lahore at the end of 1944, and to Rawalpindi soon afterwards. Arun (Kuku) was born there on 23rd September 1946.




The British Government announced on 20th February 1947 their decision finally to surrender power in India at a date in the near future. That set a cat among the pigeons; to mix our metaphors, everyone scrambled to get a piece of the cake. Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana resigned as Chief Minister of the Punjab and Master Tara Singh brandished his sword outside the Assembly Chamber. Riots broke out in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, etc


Our family was at 292, West Ridge, in the Railway Colony at Rawalpindi. Across the road from the verdant lawns of the bungalow was a slum; a mile away was the red light area (ironically called  the Bhagataan daa Bazaar), overlooking the Lei Nadi. The slum and the Bazaar immediately became a killing ground. When some miscreants threatened to cross the three-metre-wide road into the Railway Colony, Charan brought out his toy airgun in a show of bravado. Our family (and our neighbours too) were moved out of the area into a secure Camp. Twelve-year old Bholi clothed herself in three layers of dresses to make sure she would not run short.




The Landmarks Diary reads: “Miraculous escape in Rawalpindi riots…Transferred to Ludhiana on 1-8-47.[21] Grace solicited. Times are very bad. Arson and loot everywhere. Lahore property in great danger…”


Everywhere in India, but particularly more so in the Punjab, there were apprehensions about what would happen after the creation of Pakistan on the 14th-15th August midnight. Most Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan felt unsafe and migrated to India….


Many Muslims from East Punjab were migrating to West Punjab in driblets or in large convoys (by road and by rail). My father’s official residence at Ludhiana was sandwiched in between the Railway Station and the Grand Trunk Road (now called the Sher Shah Suri Marg), with nothing at all separating us from these life-lines for a seething mass of humanity…


On the 9th of November 1947, the Life Book Diary says: “Sickness and danger on all sides. Bal Kaur[22] just saved from jaws of death. Lala Durga Das[23]’s condition grave. Saran’s health alarming…”[24] One day, a bullet fired by the Baluch Regiment escorts of a Pakistan-bound train whistled past Gur Saran’s ear and embedded itself in the tree behind him. “Bal Kaur” (that is, the children’s Maasijee, Iqbal Kaur) had escaped from Rawalpindi in September, by train, and was with us at Ludhiana when she escaped with her life from a severe attack of cholera. Her communist brother (Des Raj Chadha) visited us at Ludhiana in disguise, because the “comrades” were still a banned organisation.


Gur Saran developed pleurisy and took several months to recover. One day, some people called on his mother to propose their daughter’s marriage to him (approaching 21). When they were going back without getting any positive response, Charan (15) remonstrated to Maatajee: “Ghar aayee Lakshmi should not be rebuffed!”


Gur Saran was just recovering from pleurisy when it was announced that his final examination in Journalism was to be held by the new Punjab (India) University at Delhi. Simultaneously, his father also received orders of transfer to Delhi Main Railway Station.


Ludhiana had been only a smaller charge for want of a higher vacancy, but it took another two years of see-saw promotions and reversions to reach a plateau of stability. The reason was that there were very few big stations in East Punjab (the part of NWR left to India); the much greater part (comprising stations in West Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province) had gone to Pakistan. It was only in 1952 that the Indian Railways were re-organised, with the newly-formed Northern Railway covering Indian Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.




We have already referred to the Diary whose hard-cover says: T.R.SURI…Life Book…(1923 to 1960). We now reproduce a full page which speaks for itself.


“Promotion as AEN[25] from 7-12-48 & news of 1st Class Passes.”

“Reverted as IOW Grade III[26] on 10-1-49.”

“Pain in finger-tips and heels…started on 28-1-49 and grew very serious in May 1949. Went to Bombay for treatment on 3-6-49 and returned in July ’49.”

“Reverted to Grade II in September 1949. Health slightly improving. Shifted to New Delhi on 20-9-49.Health better but numbness and pain is still felt…Promoted to Grade III from 27-5-50, Delhi


Main (Railway Station). Reverted to Grade II in July 1950 and posted at New Delhi.”

It was only in September 1950 that he finally regained his gazetted post and stayed in it for the rest of his service career. Meanwhile, let us take a look at his life in Delhi and New Delhi. 



On the back side of the Delhi railway station was the bungalow allotted to him. It opened on the hugely congested Nicholson Road, with a perpendicular on Mori Gate nearby. The road had been named after Brigadier John Nicholson who was killed while trying to retake Delhi in 1857.[27] 


One could follow this road right up to Kashmiri Gate which was then in fine condition. Some of the city’s best shops were housed almost in the shadow of the Gate and the city wall of which it was a part. In the same locality was the historic Library of Prince Dara Shikoh, which is now being refurbished as a a museum.


Staying with us for quite some time (as refugees from Pakistan) were the family of  Mrs. Savitri Suri’s uncle (a retired XEN of Punjab Irrigation), his son Raj Kumar Chadha with wife Neena, Tarlok Nath Chadha (a cousin of T.R.Suri, son of his Maasi), and a few others off and on, including their children.



The family shifted, on 20th September 1949, to 97-A, Panchkuin Road, with a perpendicular on Basant Road, leading to the Railway Stadium. It was a semi-detached bungalow (with an in-house shrine to a long-forgotten Muslim Pir), opposite the Lady Hardinge Medical College & Hospital.


Tirath Ram’s elder brother Lala Durga Dass Suri was also there, with family, until they left for Palampur. Their eldest son Prem was selected for his first job (at the Central Research Institute, Kasauli, with a career in the same line ending at the Indian Council of Medical Research at New Delhi) while staying at Panchkuin Road; he also brought his bride to the same bungalow.


That bungalow has since been pulled down and replaced by a multi-storeyed structure housing a hundred families.



Meanwhile, as we have already mentioned, Lala Tirath Ram  Suri suffered a neural disorder, which “grew very serious in May 1949,” says the Diary. In search of a cure, he visited Bombay in 1949.There, we stayed at the Punjab Hotel on Frere Road, with a branch of the family which had domiciled in Bombay before the World War of 1939-45 and now owned the multi-storeyed hotel. We visited Ahmednagar also (Maasiji’s Kohli family).


Back in Delhi, Charan (age 18) decided he would also start earning. He set up a photo-studio and spent more on entertaining clients than what he earned from satisfied customers. He also tried to follow in the footsteps of his communist Maamajee and spent a day or two in Tihar. His mother had to visit him in the lock-up…



On the 11th September 1950, while the family remained at 97-A, Panchkuin Road in New Delhi, T.R.Suri took over at Pathankot on promotion as AEN (officer in charge of two kinds of Inspectors, the IOW meaning Inspector of Works, and the PWI meaning Permanent Way Inspector).[28]


Next, says the LIFE BOOK, he was “transferred from PTK to JRC on 28-4-50 and continued to work as AEN without a break until retirement on 31-12-58.” PTK is officialese for Pathankot and JRC stands for Jullundur Cantonment Railway Station.




The family moved straight from New Delhi to the sprawling official residence at Jullundur. There, for some weeks, they stayed with the out-going family of the Keswanis; their son Sewak was Chand’s class-fellow at the School of Social Work four years later; he was part of the “comedy of errors” ending in Saran’s marriage to Chand, not to Phool. But that is another story.


Kanta’s marriage also took place at Jullundur on 12th May 1952, and Saran joined his first government job (at Patiala) on 20th May 1952, but that was after T.R.Suri had secured a “voluntary transfer from JRC to Ratangarh 29-1-52 to escape from DEN Mehta’s vindictiveness…” DEN stands for Divisional Engineer, the officer in charge of Personnel& Administration at the Divisional Headquarters. This was not exactly a repeat of the 1925 experience in the Irrigation Department, but pretty close to that. There was more such official bother to follow in the next few years.


On the domestic front, to quote again from the LIFE BOOK,  entry dated 9th August 1952, “Shobha Rani arrived…at 9.40 A.M. at Ratangarh. May Almighty bring  luck and happiness to the family. Day of increment.” That last phrase means that it was the day on which he was to get the annual raise of pay which is called a grade-increment.


However, the next entry dated 4th January 1954 is on a doleful note: “Dear Ashok left us for ever at 7 P.M. on date at Ratangarh. Heart failure after long illness and kidney failure. Alas, such an intelligent and loving child leaves behind a memory…” This was the son born premature on 13th December 1943. The kidney failure was caused by the small-town doctor’s amateurish use of the then new-fangled anti-biotics. But T.R.Suri’s kidneys also failed in the 1960s due to other factors.


Entry dated 15th October 1954 in the LIFE BOOK: “Rumour of reversion upset very badly. Pray it may be wrong. Promise to control kaam, krodh, loabh, moh, ahankaar.[29]


26th October 1954: “Involved unnecessarily in muster-sheet defalcation case. Pray Radhasoami Dayal to protect from any harm.”


1st February 1955: “Sampat is troubling without any cause. Pray Radhasoami Dayal to save from any harm.” Sampat was then his immediate superior, a thoroughly corrupt officer.


22nd June 1955: “Selection for Class I again called. Pray for empanelment. I repent for not (giving up the eternal human weaknesses mentioned above). Shall now (make more vigorous effort). May I continue as AEN till my retirement on 31-12-58.” Signed: T.R.Suri 22/6/55.


Happily, he could record on 1st January 1958: “Empanelled as AEN. Thanks Radhasoami Dayal. This big worry is now over.”


But, of course, worries never end. In July 1958, his middle daughter Amrit Sakhi was suddenly taken ill shortly after her betrothal to a PWI, Vidya Bhushan Nangia. “…alarming…May Radhasoami Dayal protect the two families which are connected to Satsang,” he wrote in the LIFE BOOK. The invocation worked. She got well and the marriage was solemnized in mid-September[30] the same year at the house he had built in 1953-54 at K-8 Jangpura Extension in New Delhi. She became Sudha Nangia. Two days later, her brother Charan married his young friend Sudesh who was living in K-6. Incidentally, K-6 was across the lane from our Maasiji’s house K-7. The two sisters, Mrs Savitri Suri and Mrs Iqbal Kaur Kohli, had managed to secure adjacent plots. 




The education of T.R.Suri’s children had suffered due to his frequent transfers. The only exceptions had been when he had sent some of them to Dayalbagh to be educated under the assiduous care of their grandfather, Lala Parabh Dial Suri; Gur Saran from 1932 to 1944, Amrit Lal from 19   to 19  , and Amrit Sakhi from 19   to 19  .


Approaching the age of retirement, his eyes were fixed on the eldest son, Gur Saran.  His youngest daughter, Shobha, still a child, stayed under parental care, but Pashi, Gulloo and Kuku were sent to live with Saran, Chand, Sanjeev and Minakshi for long or short spells. Only Kuku completed his studies satisfactorily at the Swiss Technical Training Centre at Chandigarh.


We have already noted  how Tirath Ram Suri’s continuance in his gazetted post  was being endangered by the machinations of his thoroughly corrupt boss, Sampat. “Pray I may continue as AEN till my retirement due on 31-12-58,” he had written in his Diary of Landmarks, on 22-6-55.


The next entry is dated 1-10-56 and says: “Saran’s service in danger. Pray Radhaswami Dayal to safeguard our interest.”  Saran was then at Jullundur where Pashi had been sent to learn radio assembly and repairs from Saran.


Next entry: “1-1-57:[31] Saran reverted from Central to Provincial service…operated for piles at Ratangarh.[32]” Saran was at Chandigarh for the next five years. When Pashi finished his training under Saran, he returned to Delhi and set up shop in 1958. Within two days, according to what Chand remembers, Gulloo took his place at Chandigarh. He left after more than a year to start working with Pashi, only to return within a few months, as we shall see later.


Meanwhile, Kuku was sent along with Chand (shortly after Minakshi’s birth at Ratangarh: 12-4-58) to continue his studies at Chandigarh.




We quote next from the 1960 Diary:  “I retired on 31-12-58 and soon shifted with bag and baggage to Dayalbagh to live with and look after parents who are too old and should not be left alone…my anxiety is now to do something for Pashi, Gulloo, Kuku and Shobha who are too young still and need attention in settling in life.” However, within three months he was appointed “Chief Instructor in the Railway Technical Training Centre, Shahjahanpur.” This job lasted for about nine months.  “Released from RTTC today, 27-11-59”,  says his LandmarksDiary.




Now was the time to worry about the pension and plans for the future. In the 1960 Diary are numerous long and detailed calculations of the expected retirement benefits. Unlike the British days, when pension was half the last pay drawn, it was now only three-eighths; and the years of service also entered the calculation. Then there was the rule that one-third of the due pension could be exchanged for a lump sum, based on the average life-expectation in India. 


Matajee was urging Pitajee to get part of his pension commuted “as she says money is required to start some work or industry for the children.”[33] “But father and many others think that commutation is not good (because) if the capital is lost, then there is neither any regular income in lifetime, nor any capital…”


Pitajee was not “very keen” on commutation because, as he noted on the next page of the  diary, “if I lose the capital (as happens with 90 per cent pensioners), I will be stranded with a low pension.” Eventually, he did take Rs.9715.20 “as commutation and pension reduced to Rs.161 P.M. from 6-12-60.”[34] The Gratuity (another lump sum calculated on last pay and years of service) amounted to Rs.9718.75.[35] There are also long calculations of various ways of investing this amount and the likely advantages/disadvantages.


From his very first pay-day in 1923, he had saved something regularly, only to find (when the World War started) that he would have to spend more than his income for the last two decades of his life, showing the minus sign in the Savings Column of his Abstracts of Monthly Expenditure in the LIFE BOOK.


In the 1960 Diary, he wrote on 13th October 1960: “Kuku[36] and Shobha can get good education at Bhilai[37]…we cannot leave Dayalbagh for sake of parents…”[38]  The next day he was writing (in a long letter) to Gulloo: “I understand you are not pulling on quite nicely with Pashi and his work and prestige is suffering badly. He does not like your stay with him on this account and has asked us to tell you to shift …If Rewari suits you, you may go there…”[39] In the end, Gulloo went back to Chandigarh and “studied” there until Saran’s transfer to Delhi in 1962. From the papers he left behind after this second attempt to continue his studies at Chandigarh, we learnt that Gulloo had spent most of his time day-dreaming, filling up page after page of his school exercise books with imaginary budgets for different possible standards of life in the future.[40]


The school results of Shobha and Arun (Kuku) for the year 1960-61 are available in the 1960 Diary.





The next entry in the Landmarks Diary is dated 1-1-62 and says: “Many calamities expected all over the world from 2/2/62 to 5/2/62. Radhaswami Naam will help.”  He was referring to the dreaded Asht-grahi when a line-up of the planets and the sun was proclaimed by the superstitious as a harbinger of much evil for humankind.


Tirath Ram Suri already had symptoms of the renal failure which was to cause his death just over three and a half years later. The 1960 Diary reveals his cogitations about his finances, his health and other things which matter more after retirement.


At the same time, he was summing it up in the LIFE BOOK.  A full page written on 16th February 1960 says: “Very few pages now left in this note book to record important events of my life. This is an indication that my end is fast approaching  and there is not much left to be recorded now.” [41]


The page continues: “Let me now pass my remaining days in peace and happiness.” This is followed (without a break) by a remark that reflected his experience of the previous quarter of a century: “Wife is very sensitive by nature.[42] Her feelings should not be injured by rough or unthoughtful actions or deeds.”


The next paragraph says: “I have no financial worry if everything goes on allright. There is enough for the education, marriages and future of the children and wife.”


The next paragraph was indicative of the future, though not as it materialised in actuality: “We wish we could have a nice, neat and clean bungalow of our own in Delhi Chiragh,[43] to pass our last days peacefully, and to fix up the boys in some trades at Delhi.”


Having lived all his life in spacious railway bungalows, he was not too comfortable in the spartan accomodation at Dayalbagh or even  in the flatted house he had built for himself in the K-Block of Jangpura Extension at New Delhi, near the centuries-old Nizamuddin Basti.[44]


Two pages later, in the same LIFE BOOK, the caption is: Last Entry.  Revised and updated twice or thrice, it was signed on 4th April 1960. In part, it reads: “Financial position…in 1983 if I live 25 years (after retirement): I will have…Rs.4 lakhs, out of which I can spend 2 lakhs and leave 2 lakhs for children…if I live in Dayalbagh.”[45]


His 1960 Diary is full of detailed pros and cons, running into pages, debating a choice between Dayalbagh or Delhi, Dehra Dun[46] or even Pachmarhi (which he visited, with wife and children, for a spot-inspection).


On 13th October 1960, there was an even more interesting proposal to consider. To quote the diary entry: “We can spend four months at Bhilai (where Amrit Lal was employed in the Steel Plant and it was proposed that ‘Kukkoo and Shobha can get good education’ there); 2 months in hills; 2 months on sea-side; 2 months in Delhi; and 2 months in Agra (meaning Dayalbagh).” 

But he was persuaded to settle down at Dehra Dun where his elder brother had already made his home.[47] Their father died on 17th January 1963,[48] at the age of 94.[49] His own  end came on 28th July 1965.[50]


Post-Script: His mother (who had been unwell even in January 1965) died in August 1966. His eldest son had to be operated upon for inguinal hernia at Hissar on 18th December 1966, exactly ten years after a previous surgery at Ratangarh.


Tirath Ram Suri’s wife had spent four decades with him. She was to spend another four decades without him.  She had been keeping the household accounts also since 1954. As the LIFE BOOK says: “Accounts are now maintained by wife as I keep very busy in government work.”  She continued to keep detailed accounts, though not in the systematic manner of her husband and her father-in-law (who was a professional accountant also). She also kept up the diary habit.



The Ancestors of T.R.Suri’s Wife SAVITRI CHADHA


Jawahar Mal Chadha, a Jamai of the Katoch family of Ghumand Chand and the Dogra Braj Dev (see family trees at Mattan and Hardwar),* was born in the summer of 1845. And was named after Mai Jindan;s brother (later executed by the Khalsa) who was then briefly the Wazir of suzerain Lahore.(Dalip Singh was Maharaja).

(Another Jawahar Mal was Commandant of the Lahore Ordinance Factory)


*See 1991 diary Frontis piece.


His grandfather was killed defending Governor Lehna Singh Sandhanwalia (NOT MAJITHIA) of Mandi in 1841 against his own Sikh insurgents. Next year, his father was made Diwan of Mandi*; and Suket was added some years later (formally recognized by the British (under Montgomery).


*Mandi had been recovered from the Nepal Gorkhas by the Dogras (with British help) in 1842; (war between 1833 and 1842). In 1847, the British "restored" Mandi (later Suket) to the puppet Lahore Durbar.


In the winter of 1845-46, Sikhs of Mandi threatened Sabathu, Kasauli & even Simla. But the Rajputs supported the British and no actual hostilities took place.




The Nepalese emerging from their homeland in the early 19th century(in their pursuit of riches and control over trade routes) had penetrated deep into the Kulu Valley (along the Beas) and almost captured Kot Kangra(westwards)  in the next big valley. During the first decade, MANDI (on the river BEAS, downstream from Kulu, at an altitude of 8000 feet) was still their strong-hold (see 1807-1809) until the Sikhs (under Desa Singh Majithis) pushed them back; only to be replaced by the Dogras in the next three decades (with British connivance. In 1847, the British "restored" MANDI to the Lahore Durbar.


The Lawrence brothers were the real rulers till 1858.


Birth of Jawahar Mal Chadha (some time during the 1840s).

He later became Diwan of Mandi-Suket. See back cover.




Czar of Russia seeks dominion over Central Asia. Uzbekistan (Babar's homeland) taken in 1861? C.f. 1790.



[1] On 8th December 1925 at Dinanagar, according to his father’s signed typescript.

[2] He was an introvert who shared his thoughts with current diaries. A few pages reached my hands and are in my papers.


[3] How much significance he attached to this diary can be judged from a remark he wrote in it, more than five years before his death: “Very few pages now left in this note book,” he said, “to record important events of my life. This is an indication that my end is fast approaching and there is not much left to be recorded now.”


[4] The cover carries these words in his own hand-writing: “T.R.SURI…Life Book…(1923 to 1960).”

[5] M.C.Chagla mentions “the piles of papers which my wife had conscientiously preserved…without which this book (his autobiography, Roses in December) could never have been written.” His own personal library consisted substantially of biographies and autobiographies.

[6]  Swami Vivekanda  visited  Lahore, Ambala and a few other places in the Punjab. At Lahore, he met Mr Tirath Ram Goswami, then a Professor of Mathematics there. This was in 1898.  Later, the professor became famous as Swami Ram Tirtha. Obviously, Lala Parabh Dial Suri was among his admirers; hence the name of the son.


[7] Like Vivekananda. Both also died young. The Swami Ram Tirth mission published many of his books and lectures. Giani Zail Singh sponsored translations into Punjabi, as also the setting up of a suitable Memorial, on the occasion of the Swami’s Birth Centenary..

[8] See details in his Life-sketch.

[9] Compare Charan’s case.

[10] Lalajee was initiated here into the Radhasoami faith, which he was to follow steadfastly till his death 50 years later. Tirath Ram himself invoked the grace of  Radhasoami Dayal on every child born to him and at every crisis in his life.

[11] See note above.

[12] He entrusted his “subversive” writings to the New York Public Library. These were retrieved half-a-century later and are now in the National Archives of India.

[13] For more details, contact Swami Ram Teerth Mission,  Satsang Bhawan, 53-Rajpur Road, Dehra Dun.

[14] It is not generally known that “the forebears of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the poet, were Saprus – Kashmiri Brahmins – and Jinnah’s ancestors not so far removed either were also Hindus.” India from Curzon to Nehru, page 169, by Durga Das (Collins, London, 1969).

[15] The AEN (Assistant Engineer, boss of the Overseers) was a young graduate from Roorkee, named Sahab Dayal Kalra. We shall meet him three decades later in this story.

[16]  Inspections and Inspectors have always tended to be costly.  To cite a high-level example, “…addresses given to the Chief Justice were presented in silver caskets, with the result that a Chief Justice could collect a lot of silver before he retired from ofice,” says M.C.Chagla in his autobiography, Roses in December, page 187. At the lowest level, read Munshi Prem Chand’s short story, Namak ka Darogha. Another story says that when Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan Tiwana became Chief Minister of the Punjab, his mother wished him even greater success: “May God make you a Patwari in due course,” she blessed him! 

[17] Morarji Desai was also a Deputy Collector in those days.

[18] The Viceroy was getting Rs. 700 per day at that time, according to Durga Das: India from Curzon to Nehru, page 98. Jawaharlal was “jobless” because his father was rich. Durga Das retails the full story on pages 110-111.

[19] From memory, I believe this is a village near Ferozepur where the Sikhs fought a battle long ago. Check.

[20] Razia Sultana had been a prisoner in the fort which is still intact there.

[21] In a lower grade, as an emergency posting. It was only on 7th December 1948 (after a lapse of 16 months) that he was promoted to the Gazetted cadre, even then on an ad hoc basis.

[22] My mother’s sister.

[23] My father’s elder brother.

[24] I got pleurisy, with consequences, as described later.

[25] Short for Assistant Engineer (a gazetted rank). The next higher is XEN, short for Executive Engineer.

[26] The highest non-gazetted rank and grade. Next below is Grade II.

[27] A bronze statue of Nicholson was installed at the Kashmiri Gate end of this road. When India became a republic, this statue was taken away by his kinsfolk to Ireland. Today, it stands in front of the Royal School at Dungannon. Many statues of more important British personalities (even a king and a queen) were removed to a wooded depository near Kingsway Camp. Among these was King George V who used to shelter under the canopy still in existence opposite India Gate. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi was proposed  to be installed under that canopy, but the decision is still awaited after two decades of discussion and controversy.

[28] Permanent Way means the railway track and the bed of stone ballast, etc., on which it is fixed with “sleepers, fish-plates, dog-spikes” and what-not.

[29] This is a recurrent theme in his diary. Compare Morarji Desai’s words in his discussion with Acharya Vinoba Bhave: “I have been making an effort for the last thirty-five years to be free from anger.” Or in another context: “I had been considering the necessity of controlling my anger from 1921…” (The Story of My Life, pages 357 and 305 of Part II).

[30] Her father was on two months leave from 11th September to 10th November 1958. From the 11th November, he was put on an interim job as ATSO (Assistant Track Supply Officer) at the Northern Railway Headquarters at Baroda House, New Delhi, because he was due to retire in another seven weeks or so. This was his first experience, in his whole life, of “commuting” to office, as his eldest son was then doing at Chandigarh..

[31] Tirath Ram’s elder brother, Durga Das, had retired on 1st August 1956 but was then re-employed for a 2-year term by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Posted at Hyderabad as Agricultural Adviser to the Indian Oilseeds Committee. He then finally retired to Dehra Dun, setting the example to his younger brother. Faqir Chand Anand, father-in-law of Durga Das Suri, died in July 1957.

[32] The surgery was on 18th December 1956.

[33] Entry dated 15th January 1960 in his diary for that year.

[34] Calculated on a Last Pay Drawn of Rs.795 P.M. , and life-expectancy. There is mention of  “10.12 x 12x 80 = Rs.9715.”

[35] Last Pay(Average of 10 Months) x 30 (Years of Substantive Service) x 10/20. The formula is obscure to me.

[36] Had passed 8th class in May 1960. During the next decade, he qualified as a Tool-Room Technician from the Swiss Centre at Chandigarh, worked with Telefunken Radios at Faridabad and then migrated to Canada.

[37] Where Amrit Lal Suri was posted in the Steel Plant. He was then 26 and in the scale of 250-15-400… and “can maintain a life companion,” our father wrote in his diary. “Let us go…and consult him on the subject….Kuku and Gulloo can join Aman at Bhilai for further studies." 

[38] However he was doubtful if he could “mould myself to Dayalbagh life.” Additionally, he already had the first symptoms of the damage to his kidneys which led to his death five years later. His next choice was Dehra Dun, although he did toy with the idea of settling down at Pachmarhi, after having spent a few days there with the rest of the family.

[39] Where our middle sister was with her husband, Vidya Bhushan Nangia, a railway engineer.

[40] M.C.Chagla has some similar stories to tell in his autobiography. The one I found most bizarre was about a High Court judge who adjourned his court for a full day, on false pretences, so that he could “watch Naidu and Amarnath batting” in a cricket match. Roses in December, pages 64-65.

[41] He drafted a Will (not now traceable) but did not formalise it. Subsequent to his death, his children agreed to sign a Power of Attorney document entrusting everything to their mother. Years later, Charan cancelled this document without consulting anyone, after he had got whatever he wanted from her.

[42] He never mentioned to her how his experimentation with some quack remedies led to his renal degeneration. He was not himself sure of the link, but he did discuss it with me when he was admitted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. This topic had come up (obliquely) once before also, when he offered me some advice, pertaining to birth control, when I was at Ratangarh after the birth of Minakshi, with a reference to the birth of Shobha a few weeks after Kanta’s marriage.

[43] He did purchase a plot at Soami Nagar, very near Chiragh Delhi. When he decided to settle down at Dehra Dun, he asked me to build a house on the Soami Nagar plot but I did not have the resources. Charan took over the plot and sold it off for cash when it had appreciated in value.

[44] This house was built in 1952-53. When I was transferred to Chandigarh in 1956, Pitajee offered to buy me a plot in that new city, but I could not afford to build on the plot. Subsequently, a plot in Soami Nagar (South Delhi) was offered to me; ultimately Charan got it and sold it for cash.

[45] On a final blank page of his LIFE BOOK, he had made a rough comparison of the earnings and expenditure of his father, his elder (and only) brother and himself.


[46] Ultimately, at Dehra Dun in 1963 (see below), he inspected at least ten houses seriously, offered at prices ranging between 12,000 and 40,000 rupees. What he did buy cost him Rs.42,000 all told. Additions, repairs and improvements extra.

[47] Tirath Ram Suri left Dayalbagh on Monday 20th May 1963, stayed for two days at Delhi and then left for Dehra Dun (after a short stay at Hardwar). The very next day, he attended a meeting of the Tagore Society. Between many visits to various localities in search of a house to buy, he went to a meeting of the Dehra Dun Theosophical Centre at 25 Circular Road on Sunday 9th June. After the deal for 2 Pritam Road (32 Curzon Road) in July 1963, he turned his attention to meetings of the Gardening Society.

[48] See the sequence in footnote above. Tirath Ram was first taken for a ride (on the pillion of a motor-bike) to see a cottage on Rajpur Road (2nd June 1963). Ten days later, he was exploring the suburbs on a bicycle when he felt some giddiness and suffered a fall near the Doon Hospital. Even so, he purchased a bicycle on 26th June 1963 for Rs.200, in order to attend to various chores consequent upon the decision to purchase a house for which an advance payment of Rs. 3000 was made on Sunday 16th June. The same evening he attended another meeting of the Theosophical Society. .

[49] A year or so before his death, Lalajee discussed Pitajee’s health with me in a series of letters. One of these compares the blood pressure readings of the three of us. This was in reply to a postcard from me which is on my file about Lalajee, along with his Will and his autobiographical drafts. Much of his correspondence in the latest years of his life is lying (unexplored) with Charan; Amrit Lal Suri retrieved some of it, including his Service Book (1897-1929). Currently (August 6, 2002), the Service Book in a completely tattered condition is with “Shishoo” (Lieut.-General Prakash Suri), for lamination.

[50]  This was what the Europeans call an anna mirabilis, if I remember the phrase correctly. Tirath Ram Suri  was continuously suffering from the degeneration of his kidneys, as is shown by his notes in the diary for 1965. He kept on trying various alleviating prescriptions and practices, but without any more-than-transitory effect. At Model Town in New Delhi, Sanjeev and Minakshi developed chicken-pox in the month of November 1964; their father caught the infection too; it lasted until January 1965. In February came a scooter accident involving all three.  (Aman’s daughter was born on 2nd April at Dehra Dun. The whole of April was a period of pain and sleeplessness for T.R.Suri. Kuku came to visit on Baisakhi day. Gulloo arrived on the 22nd evening). In May 1965, T.R.Suri was feeling slightly relieved, thanks to the Swamiji of Tapovan.  But at Model Town in Delhi,  Chand and both her children went down with typhoid. T.R.Suri’s diary for 1965 is blank after the first week of June.  The  trouble with Pakistan was brewing at the time of his death. The war came in September.





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