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“After all, what is life but a mixture of unsolved problems, ambiguous victories and amorphous defeats! The trouble is that we often analyse life instead of dealing with it.”

                                    A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire, page 140.



Lala Parabh Dial Suri made out his Will in April 1943[2] at the age of 74; one year later, he essayed a brief autobiographical note.[3] He typed out a fair draft on the 1st April 1944, then typed a slightly revised version on the 2nd, and another one on the 5th. These, formally signed by him, are all available in my papers.[4]


He asked me to type out a fair copy of the autobiographical note on the 7th April 1944. One copy is inside the back-cover of the large-sized Family Album containing photographs dating from 1896 (when his first child[5] was born, and died within a few months).[6]


Also pasted on the back-cover of the Family Album is the certificate of his passing the Middle School examination in 1885. This certificate does not mention any date of birth; nor does the 1902 certificate for the Accountancy Examination of the Roorkee Engineering College. The first recorded date of birth is “May 1873” (in his Service book, when he acquired a permanent and pensionable status in Government Service in Burma in mid-1897).[7] The reason for under-statement of age should be obvious; it is in accordance with a well-known practice in India.


My research has expanded the very brief references which he made to the major landmarks of his life.[8] Some details were introduced into or omitted from his successive drafts; I have made use of all the versions. His Service Book dating from 1897 to 1929 has also been recovered recently, along with transcripts of various related documents, such as Annual Confidential Reports by his bosses and noting for annual increments, transfers and promotions.[9]


In 1909-1910, his bosses forwarded his name for empanelment as an Extra Assistant Commissioner. Their recommendations are fully documented. This was also the year during which he was a member of the Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner’s Cricket Team which played against the Lahore Deputy Commissioner’s XI. A group photograph is now in my scrap-books. This was also the year during which Dr. Annie Besant called on him; he had been a Fellow of the Theosophical Society since 1893.


One notable point that emerges from these papers is that his full name and signatures consisted only of the words “Parabh Dial” or “P. Dial” for the first 60 to 65 years of his life.[10] The entry against “Race” on the first page of his Service Book is also very interesting. The policies of the British administration in India after the Communal Award (and the political controversies surrounding the 1931 Census) may have brought about the addition of the Suri surname.[11]




1869 Birth at Dhilwan (in Kapurthala State, now in Jullundur District). Father died a month earlier, at Bombay.

1879 Goes to School.[12] To High School in 1886.

1889 Matriculates. Training & Job in the Railways.

1899 Mastermason at the Toungoo Lodge of Freemasons.


1909 Parabh Dial nominated for empanelment as Extra Assistant Commissioner.[13] Paid Rs.1800 for a plot of land at Lahore (for a projected bungalow ) opposite Poonch House on Multan Road.[14] Facial Paralysis, while posted at Rawalpindi. Visited by Annie Besant.[15] Death of Sister Janaki’s Husband. Wife’s Brother-in-Law died in Lahore Mental Hospital; Widow Nihal Dei & 7-year old Daughter[16] ended up at Rawalpindi on 9th June 1911; her son Tarlok Nath Chadha was born on 21st June 1911.


1919: Promoted as Divisional Accountant (First Grade). Death of Sister Janaki’s son Daulat Ram. Marriage of Nihal Dei’s Daughter (23rd October). Betrothal of Elder Son Durga Dass Suri (Marriage on 7th Feb.’20).


1929: Four Months Leave Preparatory to Retirement(from 15th January). Grandson Prem’s Tonsillectomy on 4th May. Retirement formalities at Lahore on 15th May. Left Shanti Niwas (his Lahore bungalow) the same evening  for Khanai in Baluchistan (with wife and her sister Nihal Dei as well as Nihal’s daughter’s orphaned son Baama also) in anticipation of “good news”. Grand-daughter Kanta born at Khanai on 4th June. Baama died later that year. Nihal Dei fell seriously ill and was taken to Quetta, where she died.


1939 Beginning of Second World War and huge rises in Cost of Living. Trouble with Hernia. Lal Chand Suri’s son Gurcharan’s last year at Dayalbagh Technical College was 1939-40. 

1949 Trouble with Prostate.

1959 General debility and aggravation of earlier complaints. Death on 17th January 1963. 



The flourishing shawl trade of Nurpur in the Kangra valley[18] had been the staple employment for the whole Suri clan for quite a few decades in the 19th century. After the death of Moti Ram Suri and his son  Jwala Dass in the small-pox epidemic of 1866, Mahesh Dass (elder son of Jwala Dass) continued to look after the business.  He was then about 18 years old. He had just been married when, within a span of a few weeks, his grandfather, his father, and his uncle  (mentioned above) were carried away by the epidemic. He  now inherited the responsibility for the care of an 11-year old brother (Narain Dass), a wife who was pregnant (Soma for her parents, Kirpa Dei in her married life), as well as his widowed aunt and her four children – and a business which required contacts all the way from Kashmir and Amritsar to Bombay and overseas clients.[19]


Mahesh Dass did a lot of travelling, especially to concentrate his assets in the Punjab and to collect outstanding dues from Bombay. The factory at Nagrota Suriyan was managed by his cousin Shankar Dass (son of the late Hukam Chand). Soma gave birth to a daughter whom Mahesh Dass named  Janaki.


He was on a business trip to Bombay[20] when he had a sudden attack of gastro-enteritis and died of dehydration[21] late in September 1869[22]. About a month after his death, his wife gave birth[23] to a second child who was given the name Parabh Dial by his maternal grandfather, Bhola Nath Anand.[24] Soma and her two children stayed at Dhilwan for the next five years.



Meanwhile, there was a steep deterioration in the export potential for shawls due to a war in Europe.[25] According to J.B.Lyall (see the Kangra District Gazetteer), the prosperity of Nurpur began to decline between 1870 and 1875, when the city was also visited by epidemics of cholera and fever (Malaria or Typhoid?).[26]


There was a time when exquisite Indian shawls (especially those from Cashmere were transported from India to France and were highly valued for their warmth, beauty and design. The Empress Josephine owned many Cashmere shawls; this became the most important fashion trend by the end of the 18th century. Every French bride needed Cashmere shawls for her trousseau. It became an important item of attire, also very useful because it helped the fashionable women to keep warm in their diaphanous gowns.


Then came the Napoleonic Wars which brought about a naval blockade resulting in the end of the shawl exports from India. The great demand for shawls among the European elite led to their manufacture in Paisley (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Paris, Vienna and Lyon.


Narayan Dass quarrelled also with Shankar Dass over business matters.[27] A court case for partition of assets wasted precious resources between 1876 and 1880.


Narain Das refused to pay for the upkeep of his Soma Bhabi and her two children. They had to shift[28] to the house of Lala Shankar Dass.[29] Dhanpat Rai, maternal uncle of Parabh Dial Suri, was Deputy Superintendent in the Settlement Department at Hansi. He helped Parabh Dial occasionally to pursue his primary and middle school education at Nurpur.


His mother Soma[30] (the formal name was Kirpa Dei)[31] had to sell off all her ornaments to pay for his education[32] and his sister Janaki’s marriage. She was married off in Vikrami Samvat 1942 and died 14 years later. Parabh Dial Suri said his sister was more educated than her husband. She had primary education; he was not literate except for arithmetic.


 “A History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab” was published in 1883 at Calcutta by Dr W. Leitner. Sir H. Verney Lovett says it showed “ far more indigenous female education in the Punjab” than in Bengal, Bombay or Madras. Incidentally, the first school for girls in Calcutta was set up by a character called J.E. Drinkwater Bethune in 1849.  He was in the Viceroy’s Council then (and upto 1860 at least) and met an “untimely death” like Moti Ram Suri in 1866 and Mahesh Dass Suri in 1869.(See Camb VI/116 & Index). Women were made eligible for University degrees for the first time in 1878 by London University.


By 1881, says the Gazetteer, Nurpur’s total production of Pashmina  shawls was down to only 10 per cent of the 1875 turn-over.[33]

The Punjab University was established in 1882.  It was an examining body.  In 1883, Sir Alfred Lyall was Lieut Governor of the North West Provinces.  See his criticism of Moral Education (recommended in the Report) when Lord Ripon set up the first Education Commission in 1882, mainly for school education.


It was only after Parabh Dial passed the Anglo-Vernacular Middle School Board Examination in 1885[34] and then matriculated (with the help of a municipal scholarship) in 1888-89[35] that the tide began to turn.[36] There were a total of 429,093 students at secondary schools all over India in 1886. The English text-book which all students in those days (including Parabh Dial Suri) had to study was by J.C. Nesfield, then Inspector of Schools in the “N.-W. Provinces”.



Jawahar Singh Kapoor, a clerk in the Railways, local secretary of the Arya Samaj and founder of the Singh Sabha, introduced the boy to an English officer in the Railways, one Mr Gilbert, in 1888. Gilbert[37] got Parabh Dial admitted into the Railway Telegraphy School at Lahore with a stipend of Rs. 10 p.m. The same Jawahar Singh (Kapoor) became a well-known social worker and reformer[38] in his later years.


“After passing my examination in Telegraphy, in 3 months time, I was appointed a Signaller at a Railway Station (Sohal) on the Amritsar-Pathankote branch at Rs. 15 p.m. My mother was with me…my elder sister having been married in about 1883[39]…”, Parabh Dial said in his brief bio-data (1943).


Between 1889 and 1894, Parabh Dial passed several departmental examinations and worked as Signaller, Assistant Station Master and Station Master at several stations, “largely as a relieving station master,” he wrote in his memoirs. But this was all in the region around Pathankote.


Then, in 1894, he received a tempting offer from the Mushkaf-Bolan Railway, then under construction for strategic reasons. He got a job which enabled him to save something (from a salary of Rs.45 per month) and marry.


The marriage took place at Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, in 1895.He had been engaged to Kartar Kaur of Gharota (in Gurdaspur district) for quite some time. After her marriage, she became Ratan Devi, aged 13.


The Lahore-Amritsar railway line had been extended up to Pathankot only in 1884. Earlier it was connected via Amritsar to Beas in 1869 and then further south-east. Only in 1897 did it reach Delhi. By that time, Parabh Dial had seen Baluchistan and Burma.[40]



While working on the Mushkaf-Bolan Railway project on the Iran border, where he was doing much the same work as in the Punjab,  Parabh Dial says, “I turned my attention to the Accounts Department and got myself transferred to the Office of the Accountant-General, Public Works & Railway Accounts, at Quetta, as an Accounts Clerk at Rs.45 p.m.” Here, he passed the required Departmental Examination “through the Civil Engineering College at Madras.” A higher examination (for Accountants Grade I) was to be passed at the Thomason Engineering College in 1902.


Major (later Sir Robert) Sandeman had been appointed Agent to the Governor General at Quetta when the Agency was created on 21st Feb 1877. Sibi was ceded by Yakub Khan of Kalat in May 1879 with Sandaman as its Chief Commissioner (additional charge).


“The ten years preceding Sandeman’s death in 1892, were marked by tremendous administrative activity Communications were opened up in every direction.....the Shahi Jirga....meets twice a year once at Sibi and once at Quetta.  The province, as now administered (says a document of 1919) can be divided into British Baluchistan.....and the native states of Kalat & Las Bela The Durand Line was drawn in 1893. Incidentally, Gandhi went to South Africa in 1893. That was also the year in which Swami Vivekananda made his mark on the international stage.[41]

SERVICE IN BURMA  (1896-1901)


Parabh Dial Suri has mentioned in his two-page Autobiographical Note that he nearly doubled his income by going from the North Western Railway in India to the Mandalay-Kunlon Railway under construction[42] in Burma.[43] His first posting was[44] to an obscure station called Naungcheu, (“beyond Mandalay.”)[45] Later, he was shifted to the Burmese capital, Rangoon,[46] where he was joined by his wife and mother.[47]


Many of the stories told by Lalaji & Bhaboji(Mr & Mrs Parabh Dial Suri) about Burmese customs and history[48] in those years appeared almost unbelievable to us as children[49] but are confirmed in many authoritative books.[50]


They also learnt the Burmese language[51] (and used some of it even in the 1940s in speaking to each other on private personal matters).




One great difference from India which they noticed was the total absence of caste differences. In fact, “Caste, Purdah, Hinduism and Muhammadanism, with their paralysing strife, are unknown in Burma,” said an observer even in 1920.


“In Burma, caste is so little known that the Burmese language has no word for it....”, says the Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. I, Ch.VI. “One of the difficulties of conducting the  Census of the numerous Indian  immigrants was the impossibility of making the average Burmese enumerator understand the meaning of the Indian term Zaat or Jati.  Difference of religion he can grasp in a vague sort of way; he has a notion of what is meant by race; but caste remains to him an insoluble mystery.”[52] In this connection, reference is again invited to the first one or two pages of this narrative, where the absence of the word “Suri” in Lalajee’s Service Book and Visiting Card has been mentioned.

However, it must be mentioned that Parabh Dial’s knowledge of Burma was confined to the southern part of it.[53] The sparsely populated north, which he never saw, was more like the adjoining Nagaland. “…though nine of her thirteen million inhabitants are Burmese Buddhists, fourteen indigenous languages are spoken, and a sixth of her inhabitants, covering a third of her area (chiefly in the hills), are Shans, Chins, Kachins, Karens, etc., who have immemorial feuds with the Burmese,” said an observer in the 1920s, and the situation is not very different even today.


In 1885-86, Britain had annexed Burma (after the 3rd Burmese War). “Having to construct an administration at short notice, they brought over their subordinate Indian staff.” (The Chief Commissioner of Burma became a Lieut. Governor in 1897). For full background, see “Forty Years in Burma” by J. Marks (London 1917) and “Burma under British Rule & Before” by J Nisbet, 2 Vols.(London 1901).


“Do not honours and hurts come unsought and uninvited?”

                                    A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire, page 103.

Lalaji used to tell how he was co-opted into the Society of Freemasons after he impressed the Assistant Engineer by producing Prime Numbers of great length even up to 15-20 digits[54]---which he had picked up from the Englishman’s own technical journals.[55] Assistant Engineer Claudius (later Executive Engineer of the privately-owned Burma Railways  Company), himself a very young man, had become a personal friend of the 30-year old Parabh Dial; when Parabh Dial opted to leave the Company,[56] Claudius urged the Company management (in vain) to offer double the salary.[57]


Claudius had first become interested in Parabh Dial’s personal life because of their shared involvement with Theosophy[58] and Astronomy.[59] When Parabh Dial joined the Accountant General’s Office in May 1897, it was Claudius who noticed that Parabh Dial’s  date of birth ( mid-1873, as given for the 1885 Middle School Certificate and now recorded in his Service Book) was astrologically interesting.[60] Parabh Dial wrote back to Jaishi Ram, asking for a Jantri of the year 1873[61], so that he could compare the Hindu reading with the Western reading of Claudius.


Lala Parabh Dial[62] rose to be an office-bearer (rank of Mastermason and post of Secretary & Treasurer) in the Lodge of Freemasons at Toungoo.[63] The Freemasons were then a most exclusive club, mostly with European members. Sir Frederick Fryer (Chief Commissioner since 1895, redesignated as Lieutenant Governor in 1897) was a Freemason.[64] Charles Bradlaugh, the highly controversial Member of Parliament in that era, was a Freemason (belonging to both the British and the French sections), an “Orator of the Grand Lodge” being his status or rank in that fraternity. Annie Besant and Miss Arundale became members of a sister-group for women (called Co-Masons) set up in 1902. “Within a few years there were hundreds of lodges throughout the world. So much thought did she devote to Co-Masonry…”


The family’s ancestral house at Nurpur had been reduced to rubble by the Great Earthquake of 12th June 1897. His uncle Narain Das, then almost a pauper, had already sold off the house, and the land on which it stood, for whatever he could get. Forgetting old grievances, Parabh Dial sent him some money to help him out in his hour of need.


Sporadic correspondence with the Nurpur families (in 1898, 1929, 1932 and 1943) is available in my papers. A post-card from Jaishi Ram (dated 20th June 1898)[65] shows that Parabh Dial purchased a plot of land, with a small structure on it, from his cousin’s family. The post-card acknowledged that he had remitted money off and on to build a suitable house on this plot “in 1898…through my brother Lala Jaishi Ram”. Even this house suffered neglect and vandalisation (vide another cousin Hari Kishan’s two post-cards[66] of 1929, in reply to Parabh Dial’s enquiry accompanied by a self-addressed[67] Reply Post Card after his retirement). The house was ultimately gifted to Lala Hari Kishan Suri whose father Lala Shankar Das had afforded shelter and support to Parabh Dial and his mother and sister in the 1880s.[68]


Meanwhile, drought of the severest kind in 1896-7 affected about 8 crores people in all of North India plus Madras & Bombay.  Sir James Lyall, the former Lieut Governor of the Punjab, presided over an enquiry commission (which also reviewed the ideas of the previous 1880 commission) in 1898. From Burma, Parabh Dial sent some monetary assistance even to the uncle Narain Das who had refused to support him and his mother 17 years earlier in their hour of direst need.


Immediately followed the worst ever drought recorded in 200 years, over a much larger area than in 1897. Rs.80 million worth of crops were lost.  The Viceroy said in Oct 1900 that a quarter of India’s population had been given relief during the summer of that year.  Many diseases followed; about 2-1/2 lakhs died of small pox and cholera, 7-1/2 lakhs of other diseases.


But normalcy had been restored by the time Parabh Dial ended his connexion with the railways and returned from Burma to pursue the rest of his career in the Account General’s establishments in India .[69]


It will be noticed that Parabh Dial (in Burma, 1898) was dealing with Jaishi Ram (at Nurpur) when he built a house in his ancestral town. But three decades later, he gifted the house to Hari Kishan (in spite of the advice of Karam Chand). Anyone familiar with these families (all intimately related to each other) would see that the family of Jaishi Ram were well-to-do and highly educated. Jaishi Ram’s grandson Lekh Raj was Chief Engineer and later Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board. On the other hand, Hari Kishan was the son of Parabh Dial’s benefactor Shankar Das, but the family had not done too well in life.[70]



From Toungoo in Burma, Lalajee managed his transfer to the Punjab “by exchange with Mr Larkins” in the Accountant General’s office at Lahore. This was in 1901.


Lord Curzon (1901-1905)[71] took special interest in the PWD. (Camb VI/373). The Railway Branch of the PWD was abolished in 1905 when the Railway Board was set up.


The 1901 report of the Mac Dowell Commission said the Railways had been unable to carry much of the food and  fodder offered to them during the famine of the previous year (s). “The separate organisation for the accounts work of the PWD was in 1910 amalgamated with the civil accounts branch of the Finance Deptt.”




“Soon after coming from Burma to the Punjab,” Parabh Dial wrote, “I took Lal Chand, then aged about ten years, from Nurpur, under my own care (his grandfather having died), brought him up, got him educated up to Matric, got him married on 18-5-1912…..” and so on. This “grandfather” was Parabh Dial’s uncle Narain Das who had turned them out in 1880-81. Even Lal Chand turned out to be “ungrateful” after all that had been done for him and his sons.


Lal Chand’s case was just the beginning of many other additions to the family, including a widowed sister of Parabh Dial’s wife, as detailed elsewhere. This widow’s name was Sulakhni (formally Nihal Dei); her daughter Saraswati was also brought up by Lalajee and Bhaboji, and married off “on 13-10-1919 to Des Raj Anand, Station Master (resident of Pind Dadan Khan). She died on 9-1-1928.”

In 1902, Parabh Dial was transferred to Dera Ghazi Khan. He also passed the examination for Grade I Accountants from the Thomason Civil Engineering College at Roorkee in 1902.[72] The next transfer was to Ambala in 1903. Two of his sons were born during this period (see below). The first had his Mundan at Ambala; the second was born there two months after Lalajee’s  mother passed away at Ambala on 20th  October 1905 (widowed 36 years earlier).[73]




In the ensuing years, Sir Denzil Ibbetson, author of  an early exposition of the caste system in India and the Lieut Governor of the Punjab in 1907, was worried about anti-British riots at Lahore and Rawalpindi.[74] “Seditious” literature was reaching even the army units.  The Press Act was passed in 1910.(Sir George CLARKE was Governor of Bombay-----not the same man as Jaspat Rai Suri’s patron  “George Clerk” of the 19th century). Bal Gangadhar Tilak was deported to Mandalay but Motilal Nehru led the Congress to the Viceroy’s Exec Council as part of the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909 (When the annual Congress Session Venue was Lahore). Sinha was Congress President (Bombay 1915). A bomb exploded at the European club at Lahore in May 1913.[75] In Punjab and some other provinces, Lieutenant Governors were replaced by Governors following the Act of 23 Dec 1919 (Montagu—Chelmsford Reforms).


As already stated, Lala Parabh Dial Suri had returned from Burma to a posting in the Accountant General’s office at Lahore in May 1901. Of Parabh Dial’s two surviving sons, Durga Dass was born on 16th August 1901 at Lahore. Tirath Ram was born at Ambala on 16th December 1903.[76]                   


Lalaji (as everyone called him) had no daughters[77] but he was burdened with the responsibility for bringing up some children from cognate branches of his own larger family, who had become orphans.[78] One person to be mentioned in this context was Lal Chand Suri[79], grandson of the man who had turned out Parabh Dial (then a child) along with his sister Janaki and their mother Soma.[80]


Another person brought up by Lalaji and Bhaboji was Trilok Nath Chaddha (son of Lalaji’s sister-in-law[81], his wife’s nephew) who had also been brought up by Lalaji and “Bhaboji”.[82] He eventually became a Personal Assistant to Sir Sahabji Maharaj Anand Swarup[83] and built his own house in Dayalbagh. Later, Trilok Nath Chaddha’s marriage was solemnized at Dayalbagh. It was an inter-caste marriage, nothing very unusual among the Radhaswami Satsangis. Since then, some other marriages in the family have also been solemnized among Satsangis , at Dayalbagh and elsewhere.


At Lahore, Parabh Dial was posted for a substantial period only in 1915, just after he had been initiated into the Radhasoami faith before the beginning of the First World War. Here, after his promotion to the post of Superintendent, he built his first Kothi on Multan Road (near the Chauburji and opposite Poonch House) and named it Shanti Niwas.  “The construction was from 20-10-1915 to 20-4-1916…at a cost of Rs. 16,445.”  This included a loan of Rs. 7000 on which the interest was about Rs. 5000. “I had a bitter experience of starting construction with scanty savings”, he has recorded.


The second Kothi built on the adjacent plot long afterwards was named Dayal Niwas. The War ended in 1918 and he was transferred to Amritsar that year. Another round of quick transfers followed. Lyallpur, Rasul, Bahawalpur, Multan, were followed by Lahore again (on 2nd June 1924). The rapid succession of transfers was probably responsible for the nervous breakdown he suffered. He went on 8 months’ leave “on full pay” in 1925.  


The story of Lalajee’s family life from 1901 up to his retirement in 1929 has been retailed in bits and pieces above and below.[84] It might be relevant here to trace Lalajee’s spiritual or religious development from his earliest days.




Lala Parabh Dial Suri (1869-1963) spent the last 50 years of his life as a member of the Radhasoami Sect. However, the story of his religious life begins about 20 years before his birth. It starts with Christianity, meanders through Theosophy and Freemasonry, and touches the Brahmo Samaj, before coming to the Radhasoami faith in 1913[85], and two decades later to Dayalbagh where he spent the last three decades of his life in the service of the community, at the feet of two successive Gurus.




Are we related to Sher Shah Suri? This is the most-frequently-asked question whenever the family history is first discussed with anyone. The answer is detailed elsewhere.

Were our ancestors Muslims (at any stage)? This is the next consequential question. Probably, yes, more than once in the last 1000 years.


How Daler Khan Suri was born a Muslim is very material to our blood-line from the 16th century. Before that, it is all very vague.


 Coming to more recent times, Christianity had replaced Islam as the religion of the rulers. But Urdu and Islam were still the dominant cultural influences in the Punjab until the early decades of the 20th century. The Christian missionaries were not yet as powerful in the North as they had become in the East.

 Even the father of Lala Lajpat Rai, an Aggarwal of Jagraon, “observed Muslim fasts and deprecated Hindu customs and rituals. He was an ardent follower of Syed Ahmed Khan and his close friends were also Muslims…”[86]

On the other hand, Fazli Hussain, the most influential Punjabi of that period (until the late 1930s), “explained that his family had been converted to Islam from Hinduism several generations earlier, and yet it was so much under the influence of Hindu culture and traditions that, when he was due to marry, a pundit was called in to examine his horoscope and fix the auspicious hour. He was married both according to the Muslim law by a Qazi and according to Hindu rites.”[87]


Fazli Hussain and Lala Harkishan Lal were the two Ministers appointed by Sir Esdward Maclagan who followed O’Dwyer as Governor of the Punjab in the 1920s.


Such was the childhood environment of Parabh Dial Suri with the Islamic influence clashing with the Christian influence on his mother’s family.

A new factor (after his return from Burma) was Swami Ram Tirth, after whom he named his second son, born in December 1903; the Swami 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”.[88]


In the 21st century, A.R.Rahman was the most famous or popular music composer. But hardly anyone knows that he was born Dileep Shekhar in Madras on 6th January 1967. His father died in 1976 and his mother converted to Islam under the influence of a Sufi saint named Karimullah Shah Kadri. In 1982, Dileep Shekhar became Allah Rakha Rahman…


There are innumerable such cases.But let us return to the role of Christianity in Parabh Dial’s early life.


In the latter half of the 19th century, Christianity in India became a hand-maiden of the British Empire.[89] Many Indian intellectuals and religious leaders sought to save the local heritage. The British view was summarised by Sir Alfred Lyall who said Hinduism was determined to live though doomed to die!

We have still to find out the name of the Christian Mission working in Bengal & Bihar (which constituted one British Indian Province at one stage) which gave Lalajee his name.


The story begins a few years before the birth of the subject of our narrative. In the 1850s (around the time of Swamiji Maharaj, the founder of the Radhasoami sect, who died in 1878), one of the Missionaries sent out from Bihar to the Punjab had the idiosyncratic habit of giving the same name to every child he baptised.[90] One of the children[91] he adopted in Bihar (Chhapra)[92] was named Prabhu Dayal Mishra, later to become almost a member of our family.[93] Himself a famine foundling, he was active in the relief work during the 1897 famine when he brought many destitute children from Rajasthan to Lahore. “The famine was so severe that mothers used to roast their own children to feed themselves,” says Dhanpat Rai in his biography of his brother, Lala Lajpat Rai.[94]


This missionary was at Dhilwan (near Jullundur), then part of the Princely State of Kapurthala, when Bhola Nath Anand’s wife fell seriously ill. The Mission Doctor saved her life and believed he had converted the family to Christianity. Bhola Nath’s daughter, Soma (designated Kirpa Dei by her mother-in-law after her marriage to Mahesh Das Suri of Nurpur) was five or six months pregnant with her second child when she came to Dhilwan from Nurpur, with her first child Janaki in tow. Her husband Mahesh was on a business trip to Bombay.


Then came the news that Mahesh had succumbed to cholera in Bombay. The widow delivered a male child soon afterwards. And the Christian Missionary named him also as Prabhu Dayal. This was about a month after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Kathiawar.


(It would appear that when Soma got her son admitted to the only school at Nurpur[95] in 1876 or 1877, the new student’s name got registered as Parabh Dial; this spelling stuck to him all his life. Strangely, the only exception is in the Marks Sheet issued to him from the Thomason Civil Engineering College at Roorkee in 1902, for the examination in which he qualified as a 2nd Grade Accountant; and there his name is spelt exactly as it was given to him by the Christian Missionary[96] mentioned above).[97]


Mishra and the Suri child were treated as Dharam-Bhais.[98] Decades later, Parabh Dial Suri was to donate his life-insurance policy to the Orphanage at Ferozepur which had been founded at the turn of the century by Shiv Ram Bhasin (great-grand-uncle of Arun Suri’s wife Usha) following the 1898 famine in Berar (Vidharba) when many orphans from there were brought up at Ferozepur.[99]




The children were yet very young when another son of Kathiawar felt annoyed with the inroads of Christianity, Islam and even new-fangled versions of Hinduism. Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj when the Suri child was only six[100] or seven years of age. “Back to the Vedas” and “Back to the Pristine Sanatan Dharma” was his message.[101]


However, at this time, Dayanand[102] was only a preacher. His constructive programme came much later. In comparison, people like Mishra were helping a starving Narendranath Dutt, later to become famous as Swami Vivekananda.[103]  The adolescent Mishra had made many influential friends and patrons in the Christian community in the 1870s.[104] One of his Bihari friends, then known only as “Laatoo”, took a menial job[105] in Calcutta[106] but later became a leading light of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda.[107] Annie Besant had a comparable rise; she was doing menial work[108] shortly before she declared herself an atheist at the age of 26.; but became the President of the Theosophical Society[109] in due course; and President of the Indian National Congress much later[110].


Parabh Dial became a Fellow of the Theosophical Society in 1893, at the age of 23.[111] Olcott signed the certificate, which is in my records. But he has noted that he rejoined the society in 1903.[112]


It must be noted that the word Suri was never appended to his name or signatures (nor did it appear on his Visiting Card) until well into the 20th century. He signed as “P. Dial” in his own accounts book for 1916 and 1919 (relating to the marriage of Saraswati), and even in November 1925 and January 1926. When he sent a Reply Post Card to his cousin Hari Kishan Suri at Nurpur, in April 1929, there was no “Suri” in his own name on the Self-Addressed side.


It was only the controversy preceding Ramsay MacDonald’s Communal Award which appears to have changed his mind. Some time after his Retirement in mid-1929, he changed his signatures to “P.D.Suri”. In the process, he also changed the style in which the “P” was welded into the “D”.


The Brahmo Samaj, Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Annie Besant were other influences on Lalajee’s early formative period. During his service tenure in Burma, Babu Parabh Dial (this was the officially registered spelling of his name) was inducted into the Brotherhood of Freemasons by his bosses. When he passed an examination in the Burmese language, he received a cash prize and a copy of the BhagwadGeeta translated into English by Dr Annie Besant, herself a Freemason.[113]


But, back in the Punjab[114], the Kangra background became dominant again. His ancestors had been Jwala Dass and Mahesh Dass. His son, born in 1901, was named Durga Dass; the next, born in 1903, however, came to be called Tirath Ram because of the currently famous Swami Ram Tirtha.[115]



It was only in 1913 that Lala Parabh Dial Suri was inducted into the Radhasoami faith[116] by Master Nam Dass.[117] The story of the intervening decade is only partly available.[118]


Urdu and Islam were the dominant cultural influences in the early decades of his life. Even the father of Lala Lajpat Rai, an Aggarwal of Jagraon, “observed Muslim fasts and deprecated Hindu customs and rituals.[119] He was an ardent follower of Syed Ahmed Khan and his close friends were also Muslims…”[120]But his mother was from an orthodox Sikh family. The Arya Samaj was to come later. Such was the childhood environment of Parabh Dial Suri with the Islamic influence clashing with the Christian influence mentioned earlier, and the native Hindu influence being debilitated by the harsh economic circumstances.[121]  


He was only in his teens when he first heard about Dr Annie Besant. She was not yet a Theosophist. In some magazine, she had made fun of the supernatural element in Rider Haggard’s novels, which were then the rage, and were also Parabh Dial’s favourite reading.[122] She also wrote disparagingly of the word Om used reverentially by Edwin Arnold.[123] But by 1891, she had publicly given up Christianity, creating Parabh Dial’s first cogitation about religious creeds.[124]

 Mrs Besant began to experiment with the occult, but told her critics that a Theosophist did not have to believe in it.[125] Her views about the origin of the universe and the seven steps to Nirvana appeared quite correct to most people in India.[126] She had been learning Sanskrit and Urdu even in 1891[127]; a proposed visit to India in that year was cancelled at the last moment.[128] Everyone in India knew about these things. A young student in London (named MKGandhi) was also, at that time, investigating  matters of the spirit.[129]



Just past his teen-age, Lala Parabh Dial Suri had become interested in Rosicrucian, Kabbalistic and Masonic lore, besides his intellectual involvement with the teachings of the late Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1774-1833) and Keshub Chunder Sen (1838-1884). Nearer home was Swami Dayanand (1824-1883), founder of the Arya Samaj when Parabh Dial Suri was yet a child. A contemporary of Parabh Dial Suri, named Narendra Dutt (born on 12th January 1863), was later to be famous as Swami Vivekananda.[130]


Shortly after his marriage[131] in 1895, Lala Parabh Dial Suri went to Burma[132] and came under the influence of his boss who was a Freemason. He became an active (and valued) member of the Brotherhood of Freemasons[133] and held office in the organization. He retained the Mystic Ring and the Secret Literature of the Freemasons until the end of his life, but his mind and heart travelled on to other paths.



In India, the National Congress had come into existence in 1885, but it was only the events of 1892 in Britain (see below) which made Parabh Dial Suri conscious of politics, or even of the British Empire in whose service he went first to Baluchistan and then to Burma.


He had been but a child when Edward Prince of Wales (later to be King Edward VII) visited India amid much controversy in the British Parliament and Disraeli proclaimed Victoria “Empress of India”. In 1880, there was the riotous and scandalous episode of Charles Bradlaugh being elected to the House of Commons but not being allowed to participate in its proceedings.


Emerging into his teens, Parabh Dial saw the 1892 General election in Britain resulting in the defeat of Lord Salisbury & his Conservative party and the emergence of the Liberal Party as the winners under the leadership of Gladstone.       But, surprising as it seems to us today, Salisbury refused to resign as Prime Minister; his government drafted the ensuing “Speech from the Throne” and the Queen delivered the speech to the new Parliament without any compunction. Mr.(later Lord) Asquith moved in the House of Commons an amendment to the Motion of Thanks, condemning the Conservative party’s insult to the verdict of the people.




Politics in India also appeared a zero-sum game to Parabh Dial Suri. In fact, nothing appears to have changed since his time (except that the rulers are now Indians, not foreigners). We can use Nehru’s words to describe the seemingly eternal situation: “…the handful of the upper middle class who had on the whole prospered…and wanted no sudden change that might endanger their present position and interests. They had close relations with the…Government. …The peasantry were a blind, poverty-stricken, suffering mass…sat upon and exploited by all who came into contact with them…petty officials, police, lawyers, priests.”




Mrs (Dr.) Annie Besant came back into Lala Parabh Dial Suri’s life when she organised two associations for young Indians in 1908. These were called the Sons of India and the Daughters of India. She had already toured North India in 1896-97[134] (when Parabh Dial Suri was in Burma)[135], and again in 1905[136] and 1906[137]. Parabh Dial Suri’s native district of Kangra suffered a very destructive earthquake around this time. 


Annie Besant was then in the news (in India and abroad) all the time. Olcott, long-time President of the Theosophical Society, died on 17th February 1907 and Dr Besant was elected to succeed him within a few weeks (after a world-wide ballot gave her a majority of 9826 against 1122 for all her opponents). In August, she announced the formation of an International Committee for Research into Mystic Tradition. We will now see how these events shaped Lala Parabh Dial Suri’s life until his meeting with Annie Besant in 1910 (see below).[138]




Long ago, an English astrologer had predicted the death of Annie Besant in 1907. Now people made fun of him and of astrology. Annie Besant herself recalled that “when she left England in 1906 she could not understand why so many of the people who went to the station to see her off were weeping so abundantly. It was some time later before she learnt that they had expected never to see her again”.


Now many people were recalling another prophecy. Colonel Olcott, the earlier long-time President of the Theosophical Society, had been told in 1897[139] “that he would never want for money…and that he would live twenty more years to enjoy it.” Olcott wrote that “this strangely corroborates the prediction of the late Madame Mongruel, and substantially those of the different horoscopes that have been cast for me at different times.” But his death on 17th February 1907 came as a rude shock to believers in palmistry, astrology and many related arts.[140] Lalajee was one of them.[141] The ground was now ready for theology and theosophy. 


Annie Besant visited Simla as President of the Theosophical Society in 1908.[142] After a seven-month tour of Europe, she returned to her Indian headquarters at Adyar on 28th November 1909. A week later, she introduced the child Jiddu Krishnamurti “astrally to the great Devas….no less than Mars, Mercury, Brihaspati (Jesus), Uranus, Neptune, and the great Surya, as well as other minor beings, amid a great glory of light and colour,” says her biographer. As is well-known, Krishnamurti grew up to be a world-famous philosopher.[143]


It was only in 1910 that she propagated Theosophy[144] extensively[145] in North India.[146] She met Lala Parabh Dial Suri also in this connexion.[147] We can presume that this was part of her recruitment drive for the Theosophical Order of Service which she had just organised.[148] Perhaps it was in this context that the Theosophists said that Gandhiji was one of them.[149]




 By this time, Lalajee was supporting a big joint family[150] and was more in touch with Indian thought. Raja Ram Mohun Roy, the Brahmo Samaj, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda were old stories by now. Only the Arya Samaj was a strong presence in the Punjab.[151]


Annie Besant was still a rising star but many Indians (including Parabh Dial Suri) were disillusioned with her Theosophical Society[152] because of the many internal dissensions and scandals revealed by TheHindu of Madras and by many respected religious and political leaders.


At the Society’s annual convention of 1910, “a little blue leather book” had been released. Entitled The Masters and The Path, it was claimed to have been written by the boy Krishnamurti. “Within a few years the little book had been translated into twenty-seven languages, had gone through over forty editions, and had sold over a hundred thousand copies; thousands of people wrote to express their gratitude for the way in which it had changed their lives.” Lalajee bought a copy at Jehlum shortly after Mrs Besant’s return to India from a foreign tour; he kept it till the end (in his black-and-gold Despatch Box, along with the Freemasons secret manuals). But it  was found in a court case in 1912 that it had been faked by the notorious Leadbeater.


Moreover, we find that “…as a result of the deification of Krishnamurti…Bhagavan Das (later to be the author of The Essential Unity of All Religions, andmuch later honoured with the Bharat Ratna award), Mrs Besant’s tried and true friend, led a revolt…”


The Societies for Sons and Daughters of India, founded by Annie Besant in 1908, had also become dormant. Obviously, these developments left Lala Parabh Dial Suri puzzled and dismayed.


On a visit to Lahore (which suffered a plague scare for two years), he purchased the first-ever English translation of Swami Dayanand’s Satyartha Prakash.[153] But its voluminous details and combative contents did little to guide him out of the depression which had been with him since his mother’s death in 1905, and the scare of his facial paralysis.[154]


Transferred to Khanki in 1913 (shortly after the bomb attack on Lord Hardinge), he found a friend and guide who led him to his final faith. This was also the year when Lala Lajpat Rai totally abandoned his law practice in order to devote all his time to social service (see the story of the Servants of India Society). As mentioned above Lala Parabh Dial Suri also spent the last three decades of his life in honorary service at Dayalbagh.


The first three Gurus of the Radhasoami sect had done their work and passed away in 1878, 1898 and 1907. It was left to the fifth Guru, Sahabji Maharaj Sir Anand Swaroop, to found the colony at Dayalbagh where Lalajee settled down for the last three decades of his life after having become a disciple in 1913.[155]



In 1913,[156] Lalaji sought initiation[157] into the Radhasoami Satsang.[158] Much later, when the sect had established its own colony at Agra (ever since known as Dayalbagh), Lalaji retired from government service and began to serve the Dayalbagh administration in an honorary capacity. This continued from 1932 until his death in 1963.[159]


As mentioned earlier, Durga Das Suri was born on 16th August 1901 at a place called Vadda Vehda (the Large Pavilion) located inside the Lohari Gate in the ancient walled city of Lahore.


He matriculated in March 1919 from the Government School at Amritsar.[160] After a brief stint at the Government College, Lahore, it was felt that he would be better off at the Lyallpur Agricultural College to which he migrated in May 1920.


Durga Das Suri sent me some details of his career (and other branches of the family) in a letter which is in my papers.[161] Graduating in 1924, he was given a two-year Research Fellowship to investigate Indian Medicinal Plants. The study took him to the Nilgiris in the South and to the Burma border in the East.[162] This remained his field of work until the Partition of India in 1947.


Independence brought him to the Central Government (on deputation) to work at Palampur and Dharamsala, finally to retire at Hyderabad (Adviser to the Indian Oilseeds Committee) in mid-1958.



Tirath Ram 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.


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, had been named Durga Dass. But by 1903, 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.[163] Born in September 1874, Swamiji had propagated the ancient cultural heritage of India even in Japan and America.[164]


After Tirath Ram Suri (1903-1965) graduated from the Technical Institute at Rasul (now in Pakistan), he was employed as an Overseer in the Punjab Irrigation Department in October 1923, at Lyallpur. He left this job and joined the North Western Railway on 24th October 1925.

Married[165] a month and a half later, he served the Railways in Baluchistan, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh until 1959.

Both Durga Das and Tirath Ram spent their years of retired life at Dehra Dun.


Details of Tirath Ram’s career and family life are available in a small pocket diary in which he recorded only the salient facts[166] until shortly before his untimely death in 1965.


Sadly, Lalajee’s financial resources declined sharply just when the need was greatest. The steep rise in the cost of living because of the World War of 1939-45 was the first reason to worry. He had handed over the upkeep of the Lahore Kothis to his sons, who were remitting to him the net rental receipts from that property.This too became depleted and irregular due to the political climate in Lahore. A small honorarium which Lalajee had been getting from the Radhasoami Satsang Sabha, whose accounts he was auditing at Dayalbagh (as the sewa assigned to him by his Guru), had to be given up. This was when he made out his Will in April 1943, at the age of 74.




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[167] 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.[168]


On the 4th of July 1943, Lalajee wrote a letter from Solan to the Financial Controller at Dayalbagh, asking for “an extension of  leave…upto the end of July…as my state of health requires further stay here.”  In reply, he was advised to “please give up all care about duties here and take complete rest…” He was “retired” and his honorarium of Rs.60 per month was  naturally discontinued.


We have already noted that he made out a Will in April that year. This was also the time when he first pencilled out a brief outline of his life-story. He also started compiling an abstract of his earnings and expenditure “From 1-4-1889 to 31-3-1943 (54 Years)”. A note in this Register[169] indicates that he returned to Dayalbagh only in December 1943. In September that year, the Radhasoami Satsang Sabha had suggested to all Satsangis (in a printed circular in Hindi, dated 22-9-43) that they should surrender their “occupancy rights…in houses in Dayalbagh”. Attached was a form-letter (in English) to be filled in and signed by those to whom it was sent. This Lalajee did on 20th December 1943.  




Between 1932 and 1960, some of Lala Parabh Dial Suri’s grand-children studied at Dayalbagh.


Prem Nath Suri, son of Durga Dass, was at Dayalbagh from 1936  to 1942. Gursaran, son of Tirath Ram, was there from 1932 to 1944.[170] Their contemporary and co-resident for several years (until he completed his Technical College course at Dayalbagh in 1940) was Gurcharan Dass Suri, son of Lal Chand Suri (one of the nephews whom Lalaji had brought up from childhood). Amrit Lal and Amrit Sakhi also studied at Dayalbagh for a few years in the 1950s.[171]


Some historical facts may be mentioned here to illustrate the generation gap.


There was no such thing as a telephone, anywhere in the world, when Parabh Dial was born. In fact, when he was hardly seven, an internal memo of the Western Union had this to say about the instrument then being tested (1876): “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” Today their telephone revenue is in millions of dollars.


The Wright brothers flew the world’s first aeroplane on the day following the birth of Tirath Ram Suri. That was also the year Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company. He was then about 40 and Lalaji was about 35. The Ford Model-T remained in production until a few months after the birth of Gur Saran. During the generation gap, its price came down from $850 to $290. In the early 1930s, Hollywood produced a film titled Just Imagine the World in 1980 which showed traffic policemen regulating air traffic from pill-boxes floating in the sky. Orwell’s famous novel 1984 was also an effort to foresee our times.

Space & Cyber-space Generation


India adopted the decimal currency in the year of the birth of Gur Saran’s son, Sanjeev. The next year saw the beginning of the space age and the beginning of efforts to reach the moon. The birth of Sanjeev’s son, Mohak, marked the proliferation of the Internet.


On the whole, the linkage of our family members to Dayalbagh and the Radhaswami Satsang has been rather tenuous after the passing away of Lala Parabh Dial Suri.[172]


LALA PARABH DIAL SURI (1869 – 1963 )



1.     Parabh Dial began his education at Nurpur and passed the middle school examination in 1885. Two years later, his mother managed to send him to the nearest high school at Gurdaspur for further studies, eked out with a small stipend given by the NurpurMunicipality.


2.     His maternal uncle L Dhanpat Rai who was then Dy Supdt (Settlement Department) at Hansi (Distt Hissar) also helped the boy at this stage with small sums now and then.


3.     After matriculation in 1887, Parabh Dial went to Hansi for employment but not finding any immediate scope there he went to Lahore and got admission to the RailwayTelegraphySchool on a stipend of Rs 10/- pm.


4.     On passing the prescribed examination of the Government Telegraph Office, Lahore, he was appointed a Signaller at Rs 15/- pm and posted at Sohal Railway Station only 10 Km from Gurdaspur on the Amritsar – Pathankot section of what was then called the North Western Railway.


5.     Between 1889 and 1894, he first passed further examinations in Booking (Coaching and Goods), then qualified for Assistant Station Master and Station Master’s duties, got postings and promotions accordingly.


 6.     In 1894, he secured a transfer to the Mashkaf – Bolan Railway (which was then under construction in Baluchistan on the Iran border) with a salary of Rs 45/- per mensum. Being anxious to appear in the qualifying examination for Accountants, he then got himself posted in the office of Accountant General (PWD and Rly Accts), Baluchistan, at Quetta and passed the examination in 1895.


7.     The same year, he was married to 13 year old Kartar Kaur of Sankhatra (Distt Sialkot). (Renamed Ratan Devi after marriage).  A son was born at Quetta in 1896 but lived only six months.


8.     Immediately on qualifying as an Accountant, Lala Parabh Dial had got his applications for a suitable post forwarded throughout India and Burma. He received and accepted an offer by wire to join at Naungcheu on the Mandalay – Kunlon Railway (then under construction) on Rs 80/- pm. His mother stayed back with her brothers in India.


9.     When the Accountant General came to Naungcheu on inspection, he appreciated the young man’s work and transferred him to Rangoon in charge of the Heavy Stores Division of the Burma State Railways on    Rs 100/- pm. It was decided around that time that the Railway could go under a company (leaving no chance for a transfer to Punjab later on). Therefore Lala Parabh Dial gave up the railway job and managed his transfer to the office of the Accountant General (BurmaProvince) at Rangoon. His Service Book from 1897 to 1929 is available with Lieut.- General Prakash Suri.


10.    From his savings during this period he sent a sizeable amount to his mother back in India with which she got a house constructed at Nurpur in 1897. This was later made over to Lala Parabh Dial’s cousin L Harkishendas as a token of gratitude to the latter’s father L Shankardas who had helped Soma and her children in their days of distress.


11.    In 1897 also, Lala Parabh Dial was confirmed as an Accountant on permanent and pensionable establishment (on Rs 100/- plus Rs 30/- Burma allowance). He worked in the Rangoon and Toungoo Divisions, passed an examination in the Burmese language and got a reward of Rs 180/-. He was admitted to the exclusive Freemasons Lodge at Toungoo as a member, and later promoted to Mastermason and elected Secretary and Treasurer.


12.    At this stage, Narain Das wrote to his nephew in Burma narrating a story of woe and penury. Lala Parabh Dial thereupon remitted some small amounts to ease the last years of the uncle who died in 1898, followed with a year by his son Ishar Das, leaving a grandson Lal Chand.


13.    In 1901, a certain Mr Larkins of the Accountant General’s Office at Lahore agreed to exchange his posting with Lala Parabh Dial who thus arrived back in Lahore after a lapse of 14 years. Descendants of Larkins held top positions in India, but disgraced themselves by spying for another country.




1.     Ratan Devi, now much maturer at the age of 19, five years after the trauma of her first – born child’s death, was blessed with a bonny baby at Lahore on 16th August, 1901. They named him Durga Dass. Their next transfers were to Dera Ghazikhan in 1902 and to Ambala in 1903. Another son, Tirath Ram, made his appearance on 16th December, 1903. Soma expired here on 20.10.1905 at the age of  50 years.


2.     The next transfer was to Simla in 1907 and then to Rawalpindi in 1908.


3.     The three years spent in Rawalpindi were not a happy period by any stretch of imagination. Lal Chand, grandson of Narain Das, had been brought into Lala Parabh Dial’s home after the death of his father Ishar Das. He was now an adolescent, a difficult age for even normal children, not to speak of an orphan. Lalaji suffered an attack of facial paralysis; the crisis passed soon but left its mark for life. Another crises followed almost immediately.  Around 1882, Parabh Dial’s sister Janaki had been married off under the compulsion of circumstances to a poor sickly person in a Gurdaspur village who gave her a son, Daulat Ram, and died at an early age. Janaki saw her son grow up and marry a girl called Viraan before she herself passed away. Daulat Ram, never very healthy, contracted tuberculosis and came to Rawalpindi in 1909. There he died in the midst of the family in 1910. A pall of misery hung heavily over the family, especially his widow, Viraan.


 4.     Meanwhile, Ratan Devi’s sister, Bibi Nihal Devi, had been married to a cloth seller at Moga named Moti Ram Chadha. He turned out to be a drug addict who was struck with insanity and expired in the Mental Hospital at Lahore in 1910. Bibi Nihal Devi was brought (with a seven – year old daughter, Saraswati) to live with the family at Rawalpindi, having none else to support her. On 21st June 1911, a month after her arrival, she gave birth to a son, Tarlok Nath, who thus became the fourth boy being brought up by “Lalaji” and “Bhaboji”, as Lala Parabh Dial Suri and his wife Ratan Devi were called for the rest of their lives by their succeeding generations.


5.     In 1911, Lala Parabh Dial was transferred to Jhelum. Here he arranged and solemnized the marriage of Lalchand with Mehar Kaur of village Jasoran (District Sialkot).


6.     From Jhelum, he moved to Khanki in 1913. Here he was initiated into the Radhasoami faith through Master Nam Das of Wazirabad.


7.     Posted back to Lahore again in 1915, he got an opportunity to build a bungalow (on Multan Road, near Chauburji, opposite Poonchh House) for his family and the large number of dependents he had acquired. His scanty savings were supplemented with a loan on high interest which took him long to clear. The house was completed in 1917 and named Shanti Niwas.


8.     Living in Shanti Niwas at one time were: (a) his own wife and sons; (b) Bibi Nihal Devi, her daughter Saraswati, and son Tarlok Nath; (c) Lal Chand (who was employed as an Accountant in Lahore), his wife and his two sons Gurcharan and Narinder; and (d) Janaki’s widowed daughter-in-law Viraan; besides everyone who came to Lahore from their bases back in Nurpur, Gurdaspur, etc.


9.     Lalaji’s next station of posting was Amritsar where he was transferred in 1918. While at Amritsar, he arranged and solemnized the marriage of Saraswati to Des Raj Anand, Assistant Station Master on the North Western Railway, then posted at Pind Dadan Khan.


10.    Durga Das matriculated in March 1919 from the GovernmentSchool at Amritsar and joined the GovernmentCollege at Lahore for further studies. This was a very eventful year for India, particularly for Punjab and Amritsar. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar on 13th April 1919 was followed by Martial Law. Father and son lost touch for several days and the father in Amritsar became over-anxious about his son in Lahore from whom he had failed to receive any letter for three successive weeks. So he took out a special Permit from the Martial Law Administrator at Amritsar to visit his son at Lahore. In the middle of his fiftieth year, he bicycled all the way to Shanti Niwas, stayed there overnight and bicycled all the way back to Amritsar next day. Later that year, he was transferred to Lyallpur.


11.    Here on 7th February, 1920, Durga Dass was married to Satya, daughter of L Faquir Chand Anand of Gharota (District Gurdaspur) who later became Managing Director of National Bank of Lahore and the National City Bank of Lahore Ltd.


12.    Transferred next to Rasul in 1921, Lalaji got his younger son Tirath Ram admitted to the EngineeringCollege there. Transferred to Bahawalpur in 1992 and to Multan in 1923, his first grandson Premnath (Durgadass’s first child) was born at Multan on 23.3.1924.


13.    Transferred again to Lahore on 2.6.1924, Lala Parabh Dial suffered a nervous breakdown and had to resort to the Dalhousie hill station for rest and treatment on 8 months leave.


14.    He returned to Lahore, completely cured, on 23.11.1925 and was posted to the Ferozepur Division of the Sirhind Canal Project. By this time his younger son Tirath Ram was a full – fledged engineer and employed in the Irrigation Department. His marriage with Savitri, daughter of Dewan Duni Chand (Dy Collector Irrigation Branch) was solemnized at Dinanagar on 8.12.1925, shortly after Tirath Ram had joined the North Western Railway. His first son was born at Ferozpur on 28.11.1926.


15.    Lala Parabh Dial Suri, in his 60th year, went on 4 months leave preparatory to retirement on 15.1.1929 when he was drawing Rs 300/- pm and retired finally on 15.5.1929 on full good service pension viz    Rs 150/- pm. Settling down in Lahore, he got half the due pension commuted for Rs 8800/- lump sum; During the next two years he bought a piece of land adjoining Shanti Niwas and built on it a second bungalow (Dayal Niwas), adding to the commutation money his provident fund, Postal endowment fund as well as his savings.




        From Lahore Lala Parabh Dial thought fit to emigrate to Dayal Bagh (Agra) in order to avail of Satsang. In November 1932 he built there a double ‘D’ Type house in Prem Nagar. The then Guru of the community, Hazoor Sahibji Maharaj gave him the “sewa” of auditing the accounts of Dayal Bagh enterprises, which duty he devoutly discharged for the next three decades, almost till the end came on Maghi in 1963.


[1] Incidentally, this word Lala itself has a history of its own. According to the Cambridge History of Islam (see Volume I, page 408), Lala was the official designation of the Tutors-cum-Guardians of the Royal Princes of Persia. “The post of  Lala, like the offices of Wakil and Amir-ul-Umara, had always been considered a Qizilbash prerogative”  until, around the time of Akbar’s Deen-e-Elahi in India, Tamhasp of Persia appointed “Ghulams” to senior positions to counter Turcoman and Persian vested interests. In Al-Hijri 994 (1585-86 of the Christian Era), a Georgian Christian “ghulam” lately converted to Islam was a provincial Governor; another was the Lala of the Royal Princes. Earlier, the wife of  Mohammed Shah (she was a Maazandrani Princess) was hostile to the Qizilbash elite and killed many. They murdered her on 26 July 1579 and were powerful for another decade.

[2] Full twenty years before his death. The reasons are given towards the end of this narrative.

[3] A very rough (profusely edited and extensively corrected) draft appears in his Accounts Register for 1888-1944. This was probably occasioned by his (rather distant and adopted) nephew Lal Chand Suri demanding a mention in the Will and a share in the family properties. Parabh Dial responded by setting out how Lal Chand’s grandfather had behaved in the early 1880s. See details in the subsequent narrative. Also the contrast in the case of their ancestor Moti Ram Suri.

[4] In another Accounts Register (a fat one, 1950s & 1960s), he recapitulated parts of his life story. This was in 1953, occasioned partly by the ungrateful behaviour of Lal Chand. Parabh Dial was now aged 83 and some of his recalled data is a bit hazy. It has had to be cross-checked against other documents.

[5] His wife was only 13 when they married in 1895. This was not uncommon in those days. Gandhiji’s wife was also 13. So also was the wife of M.C. Setalvad. Many other examples can be cited.

[6] Parabh Dial Suri and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi were born within a few days of each other. But Parabh Dial married at the age of 26, while Gandhi and his wife were both around half that age. Gandhiji’s wife gave birth to her first child when her husband was just 16. As he recalled in his Autobiography, “…the poor mite…scarcely breathed for more than three or four days…”  Incidentally, Swami Vivekananda was about seven years their senior. We shall have occasion to make more such comparisons in order to understand the influences and circumstances at work in Parabh Dial Suri’s life.

[7] The Service Book was recovered in a tattered and decaying condition, 135 years after Lalajee’s birth and 40 years after his death. Lieut.-General Prakash Suri (“Shishoo”) was getting it laminated, when last reported.

[8] He himself depended on the meticulous accounts he had kept all his life. 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.” Chagla’s own personal library consisted substantially of biographies and autobiographies. Similar profusely documented biographies exist for people like Annie Besant, J.Krishnamurti, M.C.Setalvad, Jagadish Chandra Bose  and many others.  Lala Parabh Dial Suri kept a very few books besides those related to the Radhasoami faith; his wife read only those “scriptures”.


[9] Currently it is with “Shishoo” (Lieut.-General Prakash Suri, Director General, Border Roads Organisation), after lamination of the severely decayed pages. However,  fair copies of the papers relating to Parabh Dial’s empanelment as EAC (Extra Assistant Commissioner)  are available in my papers also.

[10] These appear in the accounts of Tirath Ram’s marriage (1925), the papers relating to the second Kothi (1930), and in the correspondence with his sons in 1932. Late in 1934, he was practicing his new signatures (P.D.Suri). His elder son, Durga Das, was addressing letters to “Lala Parabh Dial Sahab”; even when this address changed to “L. Parabh Dial Suri Sahab”, the older form kept recurring on many subsequent post-cards, his favourite medium of communication.

[11] On his Pension papers, of course, he had to sign as “Parabh Dial” only. We have a copy of the last such paper which he signed on 15th February 1962, fulfilling an annual ritual prescribed by the government for all pensioners. The ritual still continues.

[12] His certificate of passing the “Anglo-Vernacular Middle School Examination” of  “The University of the Punjab” in 1885 is on the back cover of the Family Album.

[13] Actual relevant documents are available.

[14] Original papers (Deeds, etc.) are available.

[15] He became a Fellow of the Theosophical Society in 1893 at the age of 23-1/2. The certificate issued by Olcott is pasted in the back cover of the Family Album.

[16] Detailed accounts of Saraswati’s marriage (and her son’s marriage) are available.

[17] The family of Arun Suri’s wife Usha nee Bhasin has a kind of parallel. Her great-grandfather Jiwan Mal was the son of rich parents but found himself in straitened circumstances when his father died. Not being much educated, he started life as a petition-writer at the civil courts “to support himself and his family”. His eldest son Ram Dass “had a brilliant academic career and became a ‘munsif’ (a sub-judge ) in the civil courts”. Then began the rise anew of the family, even though Ram Dass died at the young age of 32. (See page 9 of their family history).  See also a footnote about the Ferozepur orphanage at the end of this Chapter. Swami Vivekananda ( born only six years before Parabh Dial Suri) was also reduced from affluence to starvation on the death of his father.

[18] Indian shawls had been world-famous even before Napoleon presented a Kashmiri Pashmina shawl to his wife Josephine. Then it became the rage in Europe. How the shawl-weaving industry came to Nurpur (Nagrota Suriyan in particular) has been told in the life story of Jaspat Rai Suri (1768-1842). The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 put an abrupt end to shawl exports to Europe. 

[19] The gold sovereign (British Pound coin) as a currency came to India in 1868. The Indian rupee was worth two shillings in 1872-73; it was devalued to 1s. 7d. in 1885, 1s. 4d. in 1890, 1s. 2d. in 1893.

[20] “…where he was doing busines with the Amritsar (Lohgarh) firm of Jagannath Parmesharidass, silk merchants,” according to Parabh Dial’s hand-written notes.

[21] As late  as August 1957, a VIP like Morarji Desai had the same complaint. “I had eaten some over-ripe fruit when I left Bombay…the full effects of food poisoning were seen by the evening…The doctor…told me…it would have been fatal…” (The Story of My Life, pages 91-92). In 1981, Chand had the same experience in Pune.

[22]  Incidentally, the U.S. Dollar has carried a portrait of George Washington continuously since 1869.  The Suez Canal was also opened in 1869.

[23] At Dhilwan, near Jullundur, the parental home of the widowed Soma. By the way, Motilal Nehru’s father was dead three months before the birth of Jawaharlal’s (would-be) father.

[24] “Father of Lala Harbans Lal Anand,” says a marginal note somewhere.

[25] The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

[26] There were two big famines between 1868 and 1881, says the Imperial Gazetteer.   Then followed a decade of normality, during which even the indigent Soma managed to educate her son Parabh Dial Suri and marry off her daughter Janaki. See next chapter.

[27] They could not collect many outstanding dues because the people who had owed big amounts ( to Moti Ram, Jwala Das and even to Mahesh Das) began to take shelter behind the newly-promulgated Limitations Act of 1871. Shankar Das understood the technicality but Narain Das was just a raw adolescent.

       A new Contract Act and a new Evidence Act were also enforced in 1872, as also was a revised Criminal Procedure Act. The lawyers minted money but their clients like Shankar Das and Narayan Das could only wring their hands in despair while pursuing numerous futile law-suits.

[28] “We went straight off to our other uncle…”, Lalajee wrote in his first draft of his bio-data. “He used to support us with grain and cloth…”

[29] Parabh Dial was only ten years old at that time. His bitter memory of that period is reflected in his autobiographical note. Obviously, he did not know exactly how his uncle Narain Das had lost all the money left by Mahesh Das.

[30] This was the childhood name or the pre-marriage name at Dhilwan.

[31] See his hand-written account of his life in his Accounts Book for 1888-1944.

[32] “…up to Middle School standard at Nurpur…and Gurdaspur Boarding House where I completed Matric…”, says his first draft of his bio-data, prepared on 17th April 1943, when he also prepared his Will. The heading was “A Short History of Self.  This he changed in his own hand-writing to “A Brief Biography.” The later type-written version is entitled “A Brief Sketch of My Life.”  This was finalised in the first week of April 1944.

[33] When Parabh Dial grew up and studied astrology, he noted that this period lay between two successive transits  of Venus across the face of the Sun , in 1874 and 1882 respectively. Parabh Dial was a senior member of the secret society called the Freemasons. He also studied Palmistry and Mesmerism. But all this was before he became a Radhasoami Satsangi in 1913. More details about Parabh Dial Suri and his descendants are in the next chapter.

[34] The relevant certificate is at the last page of my Family Album.

              [35] “My mother managed to send me to Gurdaspur for matric study in 1886,” he says. After matriculation, he went to Hansi where his mother’s brother Dhanpat Rai was employed. He could not get a job in the Hansi Project and came back to Punjab. Incidentally, Dhanpat Rai appears to have been a common name in those days; Lala Lajpat Rai (born only four years before Parabh Dial Suri) had a brother (later his biographer) named Dhanpat Rai. This was also the real name of Munshi Prem Chand, the classic Urdu novelist. Incidentally, all three had sons named Amrit Rai. Another favoured name in those days was Hans Raj  (for example, the Arya Samaj Leader, the “Wireless” Inventor, and Doctor Hans Raj of Lahore Sadar & Delhi of our family). Harkishen Lal, Jaishi Ram, Lal Chand and Durga Das were also names common to our and their families.

[36] Later in this chronicle, we have made some comparisons with an exact contemporary of Parabh Dial Suri. This was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His father married four times in succession and was rich. Gandhiji matriculated in 1887. There are innumerable contrasts in the lives of these two contemporaries, but the search for a religious life was common to both. See the section Pilgrim’s Progress later in this narrative.


[37]Incidentally, Lalaji used the name Gilbert playfully (very frequently) to address little children. See in this connexion the Publisher’s Note at the beginning of this book. He also used to recount how the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was called Ram Sahay Mukand Lal by many Indians. Conversely, an Englishman would say: “There was a cold day…There was a banker day…” when he wanted a servant to open or shut a door.

[38] Founder of the Singh Sabha.

[39] The sister died “of consumption in 1897, when I was in Burma.”

[40]While Parabh Dial was working on pioneering railway projects (first in the Punjab, then in Baluchistan, and later in Burma), another contemporary  was employed on the earliest canal projects in the Punjab under British rule. This was Bila Ram Kalra whose grand-daughter Chander Kanta  married Lala Parabh Dial Suri’s grand-son Gursaran in 1955.



[41] He was born about seven years before Parabh Dial Suri (12th January 1863 vs. November 1869). America and the world acclaimed him at the Parliament of Religions which began on 11th September 1893. Indians who have a special meaning for the figure 108 may like to recall what happened 108 years later, exact to the day (New York’s commercial heart was destroyed by suicide bombers on 11th September 2001).

[42] He had passed an examination in Accountancy at Quetta but, finding no immediate benefit from his new qualification, he “got my applications forwarded throughout India and Burma, and got an appointmrent by wire to join at Naungcheu as Assistant Accountant @ Rs.80 p.m…”

[43] Lalajee left Calcutta by steamer shortly before Swami Vivekananda arrived there by steamer after a tour of Ceylon early in 1897. Later that year, Vivekananda set up the Ramakrishna Mission. At the age of 35, he was already saying he would not live to be 40; he sought respite in Almora and Kashmir. He also visited  Lahore, Ambala and a few other places in the Punjab. His prediction came true. On the other hand, a famous astrologer named Sepharial forecast in print (see Theosophist, January 1894) that Annie Besant would die in the year 1907; Lalajee saw her alive in 1910. 

[44] “…as Assistant Auditor @ Rs. 80 p.m.”.

[45] The railway line from Rangoon had reached Prome in 1877, Toungoo in in 1885, Mandalay in 1889. It was extended to Myitkyina only in 1898, after Lalajee’s arrival in Burma. Later, it reached Lashio in 1902 and Moulmein in 1907. 

               [46] In charge of the Heavy Stores Division of the Burma State Railways, at Rs.100 p.m. 

[47] “…when the Accountant-General came (to Naungcheu) on an inspection, he appreciated my work and transferred me to Rangoon in charge of a Heavy Stores Division on Burma State Railway on Rs.100 p.m.”

[48] “To keep the royal blood pure, a Burmese King’s chief queen was his own half-sister,” says the Imperial Gazetteer. “…King Mindon had fifty-three recognised wives, forty-eight sons, sixty-two daughters…in 1866 two of his sons tried to assassinate him… On his death-bed he appointed his three best sons to succeed as joint kings, each with a third of the kingdom…” And so on.

[49] “They ate earth-worms with relish,” said Bhaboji. These could well have been the ubiquitous noodles of all South and East Asia. But then we saw Nagas eat live insects in 1970.

[50] Years later, Lala Lajpat Rai was externed from the Punjab and taken to Mandalay.

[51] Lalajee passed an official examination in the Burmese language and was given a reward of Rs 180 (equivalent of one increment for 12 months). He also passed examinations in Urdu, Persian and English, according to the document nominating him for empanelment as an Extra Assistant Commissioner (1909). Gur Saran (already an Adeeb-e-Faazil of Lahore University since 1946) received a similar increment in 1975 (for passing the Higher Hindi exam with Distinction).

[52] Forty years later, Nehru found “the flowery and youthful people of Burma so unlike, in many ways, the people of India with the stamp of long ages past upon them.”

[53] According to the 1891 Census, Upper Burma accounted for only about 10 per cent of the total population of British Burma.

[54]  In December 2003, a million computers were harnessed in parallel to find the now largest known prime number which is (or was) 63,20,430 digits long. See Times of India12th December 2003.


[55] This was the period when Jagadish Chandra Bose had made headlines by becoming the first Indian (or Asian) to be invited to speak before the Royal Society in London. For details, see his analytical  biography by Subrata Dasgupta, or an earlier  (appreciative) biography by the famous scientist Patrick Geddes.

[56] “…on coming to know that the railway was to come under the company’s management, affording me no chance of transfer to Punjab, for which I was anxious in the interest of my mother’s health, in spite of my being offered double pay, I managed to secure my transfer to the office of the Accountant General, Burma Provincial Service…”


[57]  The railway line from Rangoon had reached Prome in 1877, Toungoo in in 1885, Mandalay in 1889. It was extended to Kunlon and Myitkyina only in 1898, after Lalajee’s arrival in Burma. Later, it reached Lashio in 1902 and Moulmein in 1907. 


[58] Parabh Dial was a Fellow of the Theosophical Society in 1893, two years before his marriage. He remained a more or less active Theosophist for the next two decades, until his disillusionment with Annie Besant. See later in this narrative.

[59] The planet Eros was discovered in 1899 between the Earth and Mars.This is in a class apart from the Asteroids which are beyond Mars. Parabh Dial’s interest in astrology dated from the earlier publication of Tilak’s book on astronomy and the Aryans.


[60]  It had something to do with  two successive transits  of Venus across the face of the Sun , in 1874 and 1882 respectively. Parabh Dial was convinced that his stay under the roof of Narain Das during this period was governed by malevolent stars. He probably did not tell Claudius that his age-on-record was fictitious.

[61] See Jaishi Ram’s reply dated 19th June 1898, in which he said he was procuring the Jantri through someone in Amritsar.

[62] His full name and signatures consisted only of the words “Parabh Dial” for the first 40-50 years of his life. The entry against “Race” on the first page of his Service Book is also very interesting. The policies of the British administration in India after the Communal Award may have brought about the addition of the Suri surname.


[63] Parabh Dial kept his Freemason’s ring on his finger till death ; where is it now? Probably at Dehra Dun---as also his coded book about Freemasonry rituals which he used to keep under lock and key in his Despatch Box---where is the box now? Ask Shishoo (Lieut.-General Prakash Suri). Some of his accounts, his Service book and a few other papers were recovered from Charan’s premises by Amrit Lal Suri only in July 2002.


[64]  He inaugurated Burma’s first Legislative Council in 1897. His successor (in 1903), Sir Hugh Barnes, was also a Freemason.

[65] Written in Shikasta Urdu but addressed in  bold-script English to “Babu Parabh Dial Sahib”, was delivered at Rangoon on 27th June 1898. This also referred to a seemingly mysterious request for a Jantri for the year 1873. The clue to the mystery is elsewhere in this narrative.

[66] Written in the then prevalent Shikasta Urdu.

[67]  Addressed in  Lalajee’s bold cursive hand-writing to “Lala Parabh Dial, Pensioner” at his Lahore Kothi. Incidentally, this was 37-A, Multan Road. Decades later, his elder son settled down  at  37-A, East Canal Road, Dehra Dun. His descendants are still there.

[68] Lala Karam Chand Suri, (Dewan of the Sheikhupura Estate near Lahore), son of  Jaishi Ram and thus a nephew of Parabh Dial from a collateral branch of the Nurpur family, strongly advised him to keep the plot of land on which the house had been built as a possible focal point for subsequent generations, as a link to their roots. Only “Shishoo” (now Lieut.-General Prakash Suri) has kept in touch with the Nurpur families.

              [69] “Finding that the Burma State Railway was to go under private management, precluding any future re-patriation by transfer to the Punjab,”  he had “managed my transfer to the office of the Accountant General, Burma Province…confirmed as an Accountant on permanent and pensionable establishment at Rs.100 p.m. plus Rs. 30 as Burma Allowance  in 1897.” One of his hand-written notes says he was offered double his pay by the private company.

[70] “Shishoo” (Lieut.-General Prakash Suri) was in touch with Hari Kishan’s elderly sons in the late 20th and the early 21st century.

[71] Curzon and Macaulay have been unjustly villified by many ignorant critics. Credit must go to Curzon for the advice he gave in the year 1900 to the Princes studying at the RajkumarCollege. He said: “Let the land of your birth have a superior claim upon you to the language of your adoption; and recollect that you will be remembered in history if you earn remembrance not because you copied the habits of an alien country but because you benefitted the inhabitants of your own….”

[72] Certificate available in my papers.

              [73] Their native Nurpur was named after Jahangir’s queen Nur Jahan who was widowed in 1627 and died in 1645, after years of bitterness against Jahangir’s son and successor.

              [74] He recommended the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai to Mandalay in Burma.

[75] Incidentally, our family’s most intimate connexion with politics was through Des Raj Chadha (younger brother of Gur Saran’s mother Savitri). He was born in 1912, according to his close colleagues, viz., EMS Namboodiripad, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, BT Ranadive, M Basavapunnaiah, P Sundarayya and others. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India and “was 72 at the time of his death” on 30th January 1984, says the “PolitBureau’s Homage” printed on the front page of People’s Democracy, February 5, 1984. Dozens of other Tributes from the top leaders appeared in the same issue.

[76] At the age of 35, Swami Vivekanda was already saying he would not live to be 40; he sought respite in Almora and Kashmir. He also 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, he became famous as Swami Ram Tirtha. Obviously, Lala Parabh Dial Suri was among his admirers; hence the name of the son.


[77] Instead, his cousin Hari Kishan’s daughter Giani was adopted and (considering that orthodox Hindus believe Kanya Daan to be a ritual of supreme merit) married off at Lahore. When her husband was murdered in a communal riot in 1932 (see Hari Kishan’s correspondence, available in my papers), she came back to the care of our “Lalajee and Bhaboji”. She visited the family of Tirath Ram Suri at Bhatinda also. Savitri Suri recalled many more details in the year 2002. Gian Devi had another sister also. “Shishoo” visited their brothers in Nurpur in the 21st century.

[78] These included his own sister’s son, Daulat Ram, who became a Road Inspector. See Lalajee’s handwritten note in his main Account Book (1888-1944).

[79] The minutest details of Parabh Dial’s expenditure on Lal Chand’s marriage in 1912 are available. Details of other proceedings in connexion with the wedding are with “Shishoo” (Lieut.- General Prakash Suri) in a Diary left behind by Lalajee.

[80] The death of Soma (at Ambala on 20th October 1905 at the early age of about 55) and many other personal details have not been reproduced here. These should be added from Lalajee’s Autobiographical note and personal knowledge. Lalajee added some details in his own handwriting in a note contained in his Account Books for 1946-1960.

[81] Nihal Dei, familiarly known as Sulakhni (Punjabi equivalent of the Hindi word Sulakshana). She died in 1929. Meanwhile, her daughter Saraswati was also brought up and married off by Parabh Dial. Unfortunately, she died even before her mother, leaving a son behind her. The minutest details of her marriage expenses are available.

[82] See details in Lalajee’s Autobiographical Note.

[83] Fifth Guru of the Radhaswami sect, after Sarkar Sahib (the Fourth Guru). Incidentally, Anand Swarup had been initiated into this faith by one Lal Chand Suri in 1901. (Not to be confused with the Lal Chand Suri who was Lalaji’s nephew).

               [84] He retired in 1929 to Lahore  and built his second Kothi there around the  time when Dr. S.Radhakrishnan  delivered the Convocation Address at the PunjabUniversity at Lahore. Immediately after the Address, a young man fired at the Chancellor of the University, the Provincial Governor, and wounded him.  Lalajee named his new bungalow as DayalNiwas, obviously a prelude to the fact that,  very soon, the Radhasoami colony at Dayalbagh was to become his final abode for the last three decades of his life.

[85] This was the time when an exact contemporary of  Lala Parabh Dial Suri (but a famous man)  was making his own final approach to his articles of faith. This man was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (born just a few days apart from Parabh Dial). In 1913, he had became a “father” to many at his Tolstoy Farm, he was at the same time a teacher, a “nature-cure” practitioner, a celibate husband and a role model to friends like Kallenbach. Herman Kallenbach had been living on about Rs. 1200 a month when he was won over to a life of simplicity by Gandhiji and reduced his expenses permanently to around Rs. 120 per month. Parabh Dial was earning substantially more at this time.

Jawaharlal Nehru also mentions his father “giving up many an expensive habit” when he joined hands with Gandhiji.

               [86] However, his mother was from an orthodox Sikh family. The Arya Samaj was to come later. See Joginder Singh’s Introduction to The Story of My Life by Lala Lajpat Rai.

[87]See pages 111-12 of India from Curzon to Nehru, by Durga Das (Collins, London 1969).

[88] 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).

[89] Perhaps the best analysis of the situation is by Sarvepalli Gopal in the Prelude to his biography of his father who was himself brought up in a Christian cultural milieu.  

[90] He probably picked up this habit from precedents in Indian society. For example, there were dozens of Nanakpanthi Sikhs who called themselves Ram Das. This included one of our direct ancestors. Again, Keshub Chunder Sen, the prominent leader of the Brahmo Samaj, insisted on being called  Jesudass in 1866 (see Romain Rolland’s Life of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, page 126).

[91] Known to a later generation because of his coming to meet Ramakrishna Paramahans in 1885. He was still a Christian missionary and a mentor of Sadhu Sunder Singh who became well-known in Europe as a Protestant missionary in the 1920s. See pages 155 and 301 of Romain Rolland’s Life of  Ramakrishna Paramahansa.

[92] A big famine in 1864 had left the orphaned child to the tender mercy of  the Christian Mission. In 1866, he was supported and educated  by Keshub Chunder Sen (then a Christian). Another child, Laatoo, born a few years later, also came to Calcutta a destitute, took a menial job, met Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa and ended up as a revered Swami Adbhutananda.  In the 1890s, he visited the MartandTemple in Kashmir as a companion of Swami Vivekananda. See story in The Apostles of Shri Ramakrishna, page 284 in the 2nd edition, published by Advaita Ashram, Calutta-14. This is the temple where Parabh Dial Suri secured details of his ancestry in 1938.

[93] Dhanpat Rai Anand got his appointment in the Hansi Project through Mishra’s contacts.

             [94] There was another famine in 1899. Deposing before the Famine Enquiry Commission in 1901, as also publicly on many earlier occasions, Lala Lajpat Rai vehemently opposed the handing over of famine-stricken Hindu children to Christian Missionaries “unless Hindu agencies declined to take them over.”

[95] Details available in the Kangra Gazetteer and in my papers.

[96] This must be the same as the one mentioned by Romain Rolland in his biography of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Page 301 f/n.

[97] The certificate is available in the Family Album which also contains his Middle School Certificate from the Punjab University (1885), the certificate of admission as a Fellow of the Theosophical Society (signed by Olcott, 1893), and the documents relating to his nomination for the post of Extra Assistant Commissioner (1909).

[98] See Nanumal’s story in the 18th century chronicle of our family for a similar relationship. At one time in India, this used to be a stronger tie than even a blood-bond. All the disciples of  Ramakrishna Paramhansa, led by Vivekananda, called each other a Dharam-Bhai.

              [99] Source: History of the Bhasin Family, mentioned above. Lala Lajpat Rai was Secretary of the Orphanage in its early years, says his brother and biographer, Dhanpat Rai.

[100] He had been living at Dhilwan. The family came back to Nurpur only in 1875.

[101] Swami Dayanand belonged to the earlier generation, but Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an exact contemporary of Parabh Dial Suri. In his Autobiography (My Experiments With Truth),  Gandhiji  has described his irritation with Christianity (as he found it practised by some people) in 1885 when he was still in his teens. 

[102] His real name was Moolshankar. See below for Vivekananda.

[103] Mishra approached a son of RKSuri of Calcutta and procured some translation jobs for “Vivekananda” in 1885. See pp.274-275 in RR. The contact went back to Keshub Chunder Sen’s “grandfather, a native secretary of the Asiatic Society (who) had control over the publication of all the editions of books published in Hindustani…”, says Romain Rolland, page 120. Mahatma Gandhi  translated Ruskin into Gujarati much later; he also mentions a close (but much older) friend who had translated the works of  “Maharishi” Devendranath Tagore into Gujarati  (Autobiography, page 98).

[104] Check the Leadbeater connexion. Mishra was in the Himalayas in the 1880s.

[105] As what we call a Mundoo in Punjabi. Laatoo lost his parents at the age of five. An uncle took him to Calcutta and got him employed in the household of Dr Ram Chandra Datta. When Ramakrishna Paramhansa fell ill, Ram Babu deputed Laatoo to attend on him. Laatoo “accompanied the Master as a devoted attendant when he was removed for treatment to Shyampukur and thence to Cossipore and served him till the last moment. Laatoo was one of the chosen twelve to whom the Master gave the Gerua cloth … Afterwards…Laatoo was named as Swami Adbhutananda…” See The Apostles of  Shri Ramakrishna, pages 270-295, 2nd edition, published by Advaita Ashram, Calutta-14. This is the temple where Parabh Dial Suri secured details of his ancestry in 1938. Laatoo Maharaj (Swami Adbhutananda) lived the last 7 years of his life at Benares and died on 24th April 1920.


[106] He was at the bedside of his first employer, Dr Ram Chandra Datta, when the latter died towards the end of 1898. “For more than three weeks he incessantly nursed his old master…..With the same earnestness did he nurse the wife of Ram Chandra Datta, whom he regarded as his mother, in her dying moments…”

[107] Full life-story available in The Disciples of Ramakrishna Paramahans. In the 1890s, he visited the MartandTemple in Kashmir as a companion of Swami Vivekananda. See story in The Apostles of Shri Ramakrishna, page 284 in the 2nd edition, published by Advaita Ashram, Calutta-14. This is the temple where Parabh Dial Suri secured details of his ancestry in 1938. Laatoo Maharaj (Swami Adbhutananda) lived the last 7 years of his life at Benares and died on 24th April 1920.

[108] See Nine Lives, pages 55-63 of the First Five Lives.

[109] See The National Reformer, 9th August 1874.

[110] In 1917. The Theosophical Society had 36,350 active members in 1244 lodges all over the world in 1920. The peak was 45,000 in 1928. The number had declined somewhat (to 42,673) in 1929 when Dr Annie Besant was elected President for the fourth successive term. At her death on 21st September 1933, the figure was only 33,000 (1426 lodges, in 54 countries). She was succeeded by George Arundale who died in 1945.


[111] The Theosophical Society was younger than Parabh Dial himself, having been founded by the Russian-born Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (in New York) only a decade before the Indian National Congress. It is interesting to note that Mahatma Gandhi also came to his spiritual advancement via Theposophy. In his Autobiography, he acknowledges that it was reading Madame Blavatsky’s Key to Theosophy that “stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism.”

[112] Motilal Nehru became a Theosophist around the same time. Jawaharlal was inducted into the society more than a decade later, because he was much younger.

              [113] She became one only in 1902 when a French group started a women’s wing. Only males were allowed in the main organization.

[114] Lala Parabh Dial Suri travelled to and from Burma via Calcutta. This was the obvious thing to do. But Gandhiji, returning to India from South Africa in 1901, disembarked at Calcutta and then travelled back via Allahabad to Bombay!

[115]  At the age of 35, Swami Vivekanda was already saying he would not live to be 40; he sought respite in Almora and Kashmir. He also 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, he became famous as Swami Ram Tirtha. Obviously, Lala Parabh Dial Suri was among his admirers; hence the name of the son.


[116] “My Guru, Sahabji Maharaj, sent his blessings by post in 1914”, says a hand-written note.

[117] Not to be confused with the much-respected Master Nam Piara of the next generation, father of Prem Piara, the current Secretary of the Radhasoami Satsang Sabha. Master Nam Piara was teaching at Dayalbagh in the 1930s and his son was a student contemporary of Lala Parabh Dial Suri’s grandsons.

              [118] Incidentally, it was around this time that J.Krishnamurti was initiated into Theosophy. From 1913 onwards, he always addressed Mrs Annie Besant as Amma, and his other greatest mother figure as “Mum”; this latter was Lady Emily Lutyens, wife of  Sir Edwin Lutyens (the architect of British New Delhi) and mother of Krishnamurti’s biographer, Mary who was two years old when she first met Krishnamurti and remained in constant touch till the end.

[119] On the other hand, Fazli Hussain, the most influential Punjabi of that period, “explained that his family had been converted to Islam from Hinduism several generations earlier, and yet it was so much under the influence of Hindu culture and traditions that, when he was due to marry, a pundit was called in to examine his horoscope and fix the auspicious hour. He was married both according to the Muslim law by a Qazi and according to Hindu rites.” See pages 111-12 of India from Curzon to Nehru, by Durga Das (Collins, London 1969).

               [120] See Joginder Singh’s Introduction to The Story of My Life by Lala Lajpat Rai. 

              [121] The Islamic influence was obviously deep-rooted in history. As far back as the 18th century, our ancestor Dhani Ram’s sons (like himself) were educated in the Muslim Madrasas and Maktabs of Patna and Calcutta. But he had the good sense even then to teach English to the youngest, Asa Ram, which the son later turned into a career.  In the last phase of his government service, he was P.A. to Sir Charles Gray, Chief Justice of  Bengal. See a separate file on the “Bengal & Bihar Suri Families.”


[122] We find references to various magazines of that era. Among them wereThe Theosophist, The Reformer and one called Our Corner. It was in the last-named that Mrs Besant “published a contemptuous review…of witchcraft, astral bodies and a belief in eternal life (in the ) highly popular stories (of Rider Haggard).” Here probably began Lalajee’s interest in spiritualism.

[123] Review of Edwin Arnold’s Lotus & Jewel in The Reformer, December 1886. “Within three years she herself was saying Om with the best of the Hindus and presumably benefiting from all the mystic advantages accruing from the proper repetition of this reverberating monosyllable,” says her biographer. See Nine Lives of Annie Besant.

[124] In contrast to Parabh Dial Suri and his companions, their exact contemporary Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi narrates how he grew up with Satyawadi Harishchandra, Shravan Kumar and the Ramayan. However, in the same period, he says he neglected his handwriting and regretted it all his life. In contrast, Lalajee’s handwriting was excellent. Of course, there is no comparison; Gandhiji’s father married four times in succession;  Gandhiji went to London after Matriculation in 1887 (while Lalajee could not find a job in the Hansi Project); Gandhiji was earning Rs. 300 per month in the 1890s (while Lalajee retired at that level in 1929). 

[125] Controverting Charles Bradlaugh, “she listed its three main official objects, which were the only requirements to which a Theosophist actually had to subscribe. These were: to found a Universal Brotherhood without distinction of race or creed; to forward the study of Aryan literature and philosophy; to investigate un-explained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in man.” All Indians went with her to this extent.

[126]Nine Lives. Part I, page 296.

[127] Gandhiji had been learning Latin to further his studies in law. He became a Barrister on 10th June 1891.

[128] “She was already thinking of India in private as her “Motherland” – a term which she was soon to begin using everywhere in public,” says her biographer ( page 385).

[129] He met Besant, Blavatsky and Bradlaugh, among others. See his Autobiography. He also speaks about his brush with Theosophy in 1890-93 and some good Christians he met around that time. In 1893, he was deeply involved in religious introspection.

[130] However, unlike Parabh Dial Suri who lived to be 94, Swami Vivekanda died at the age of  “thirty-nine years, five months and twenty-four days, thus fulfilling a prophecy which was frequently on his lips: I shallnever live to see forty. At the age of 35, Swami Vivekanda  sought respite in Almora and Kashmir. He also 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, later to be famous as Swami Ram Tirtha. Lala Parabh Dial Suri was among his admirers and named his next son (born at Ambala on 16th  December 1903) as Tirath Ram Suri.


[131] His bride was 13. That was also the age of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s bride (in fact his own also). But that was in the 19th century. Radhakrishnan (the future President of India) married off “his five daughters when they were between eleven and sixteen years of age wiythout bothering to secure their consent,” says his son and biographer, “and indeed sometimes even without his having seen the bridegroom before the day of the ceremony…”

[132] His brother-in-law later escorted Lalajee’s wife and ailing mother to Burma; they came back to India only in 1901, with Parabh Dial. His mother passed away in 1905.

[133] At this time, Gandhiji was making a comparative study of  various religions, besides trying to exercise celibacy (Brahmacharya). He writes about his Christian friends in South Africa (1893-96 and 1897-1901).

[134] To propose the establishment of  a HinduUniversity at Benares. She canvassed “the wealthy and influential Hindus she met, chiefly at Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Lahore.”

[135] Gandhiji visited Burma (a few months after Lalajee’s return from there) after attending the 1901 Congress session at Calcutta. At Calcutta, he met “Maharishi” Devendranath Tagore, Sister Nivedita and many others. Later he went on to see Annie Besant at Benares. Travelling by Third Class (for the experience), he went on to Agra and Jaipur, before “settling down” in Bombay for some time.

[136] At Paris, in June that year, she attended the Supreme Council of International Co-Freemasonry. Earlier in that year, there was a flurry of activity in Kashmir, Tibet and the Western Himalayas. See Theosophical Review and Vahan  for September 1906 and earlier in 1905.

[137] By this time, Gandjiji had finally avowed celibacy, experimented with Nature Cure (for his second son Manilal), and had been running the Indian Opinion for about two years. He had also taken a fancy for Ruskin’s books.

[138] Efforts to find the details of this meeting are futile. Most of the items donated by Mrs Besant to the Museum at Adyar are missing. “No one seemed to know anything…about the diary which Mrs Besant kept or about the clipping service which she subscribed to,” says her most thorough biographer. Even “…access to the archives was denied me,” he says. See The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant by Nethercot, page 456.

              [139] By a famous Palmist, Mrs Laidlaw.

[140] Morarji Desai devoted more than a page (in his autobiography,  The Story of My Life, page 167) to an incident which appeared to prove that astrology is not a fraud. However he did not categorically assert any faith in any occult phenomena. However, on page 93 he mentions being referred to as “the future PrimeMinister.” The book (recounting many more such prophecies) was published in 1974; he became Prime Minister three years later.

              [141] Transferred to Simla in 1907, he picked up the habit of purchasing second-hand many books left behind by Englishmen retiring from Simla His grandsons were greatly benefited by this habit. Incidentally, his younger son’s Mundan ceremony was performed at Simla early in 1908.

[142] In 1907, Alan Leo (whose books Lala Parabh Dial Suri kept even at Dayalbagh) “had told her that by not dying she had knocked the bottom out of English astrology”. Nine Lives, Part II, page 99.

[143] On 31st December 1908, Annie Besant had announced that she had been revealed “the new coming of a Christ, a Messiah, a World Teacher”.  She met Jiddu Krishnamurti for the first time on 27th November 1909 , according to his biographer, Mary Lutyens, daughter of the architect of British New Delhi. He was  being groomed for this Avataar by Leadbeater.

              [144] The Theosophical Society had 36,350 active members in 1244 lodges all over the world in 1920. The peak was 45,000 in 1928. The number had declined somewhat (to 42,673) in 1929 when Dr Annie Besant was elected President for the fourth successive term.

[145] Selectively, she had already initiated Jawaharlal Nehru. He became a member of the Theosophical society at the age of 13. See his Autobiography, pp. 12-16. The membership had lapsed by the time of  Annie Besant’s next all-India tours.

[146] The North India trip was in late April and May. “Contrary to her wont,” says her biographer, “Annie decided to remain in India all this year, and not go even to Kashmir or the hills for the summer….” Earlier, in March 1909, she met the Viceroy, Lord Minto, who had invited her to the Durbar  “in which certain relics of the Buddha were presented by the Viceroy to the Burmese envoys.”

[147] Some photographs of Annie Besant in 1910 have been found in Lalajee’s papers. More indicative of his interest in Theosophy are pictures of Kut Homi and other Theosophical icons with endorsements in Lalajee’s handwriting. One surprising find is a photograph of the Rawalpindi Deputy Commissiner’s Cricket Team (with Lala Parabh Dial in it, at the age of 40) shortly after they beat their Lahore counterparts.

[148] The aim was “to labour for the spiritual improvement of mankind…work altruistically for man’s material betterment….Her faithful friends who joined the Order served manfully for some years, but the heedless world swept on, hardly noticing her efforts”, says her biographer.

              [149]See The Theosophist, July 1910. Also Louis Fischer: The Life of Mahatma Gandhi (New York, 1950), page 84.

[150] See details elsewhere. Gandhiji also recounts (see Autobiography) how around this time, he was running his expanded household at Johannesburg. This included the Polaks and others. Morarji Desai devotes full chapters to “My Family” and “My Faith” in his autobiography, which finds many echoes in the history of our own family.

[151] Romain Rolland says that “Dayananda concluded a political alliance lasting several years…with…the Theosophical Society…” Page 159.

[152] His son Tirath Ram also showed some interest in Theosophy at the age of 60; see his life-story.

[153] This must have been The Light of Truth: A Guide to Vedic Hermeneutics, published by Durga Prasad from Lahore in mid-1908. One of Chand’s distant relations, Rai Sahib Chaudhuri Partap Singh of Karnal, noticed in 1970 that it had “become a rare book and was not available in the market.” So he got it reprinted. One copy was given to Sukhdev Kalra on 22nd July 1974.

[154]Rawalpindi, 1909-10.

[155] This was also a turning point in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. He had given up sex, salt, milk (and much else) and taken to fasting, nature-cure (even in the desperate illness of his wife), Satagraha, etc. He devoted several chapters to each of these articles of faith in his Autobiography: My Experiments with Truth.

[156] Mahatma Gandhi had not by that time acquired his over-arching stature; in fact he was still an acolyte of Mrs Besant. Men like Lalaji were even more confused by the fact that “she was really more Hindu than the Mahatma, whose great heroes were of the Western world, like Tolstoy, Thoreau, Newman and Jesus Christ, while she knew the sacred books of the Hindus by heart, and constantly reminded her hearers and readers of them.”

              [157]   Through the good offices of  “Master Naam Das at Wazirabad.”

[158]. Incidentally, Sir Anand Swarup (Fifth Guru of the Radhaswami sect, after Sarkar Sahib, the Fourth Guru) had been initiated into this faith by one Lal Chand Suri in 1901. (Not to be confused with the Lal Chand Suri who was Lalaji’s nephew).


[159] He was getting an honorarium until 1943, when he fell ill and wrote out his Will. See correspondence in my scrap-book of his life.

[160] Lalaji (his father, my grandfather) used to tell us that Martial Law had been promulgated in Amritsar at that time. Nehru says: “The Punjab was isolated…a thick veil seemed to cover it and hide it from outside eyes.  There was hardly any news and people could not go there or come out…waited for scraps of news and bitterness filled our hearts.” It was in this atmosphere that  Lalaji bicycled all the way from Lahore to Amritsar one day to enquire about the welfare of the student taking the Matriculation examination.

[161] Late in the 1880s, a remarkable Englishman named Charles Grant had “urged the importance of teaching the principles of mechanics and their application to agriculture….”   The AgricultureCollege at Pusa (Bihar) came up under Lord Curzon (1901-1905). Others followed at Lyallpur, Nagpur and Kanpur  within the decade. Durga Das Suri started his career by studying at the LyallpurAgriculturalCollege.

[162] A place called Mungpu.

[163]  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.


[164] 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..

[165] On 8th December 1925 at Dinanagar.

[166] He was an introvert who shared his thoughts with current diaries. A few pages reached my hands and are in my papers, along with Lalaji’s Memoir and Tayaji’s letter mentioned earlier in this chronicle.

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

[168] Lalajee’s liking for Simla (and its suburbs) dated from the first decade of the 20th century. In the 1930s, he made it a regular summer resort. We lived at Jatogh, Barog, etc., apart from Chhota Simla. Morarji Desai mentions his lone visit to Simla in his autobiography, pages 155-156, with particular reference to the traffic regulations there in the pre-Independence days.

[169] Black cover. Page 11.

[170] This was exactly the period from just before the death of Annie Besant to just before the death of her successor, George Arundale, as President of the Theosophical Society.

[171] Lalajee had taken out “endowment”insurance policies on the life of all his grand-children. We benefitted at our ages of majority. However, on his own life-policies (which he had taken out several decades earlier), he paid out more in premia than the assured amounts. Ultimately, he donated the “surrender value” to the Orphanage at Ferozepur which had been founded at the turn of the century by Shiv Ram Bhasin (great-grand-uncle of Arun Suri’s wife Usha) following the 1898 famine in Berar (Vidharba) when many orphans from there were brought up at Ferozepur.

[172]  Incidentally, this word Lala itself has a history of its own. According to the Cambridge History of Islam (see Volume I, page 408), Lala was the official designation of the Tutors-cum-Guardians of the Royal Princes of Persia. “The post of  Lala, like the offices of Wakil and Amir-ul-Umara, had always been considered a Qizilbash prerogative”  until, around the time of Akbar’s Deen-e-Elahi in India, Tamhasp of Persia appointed “Ghulams” to senior positions to counter Turcoman and Persian vested interests. In Al-Hijri 994 (1585-86 of the Christian Era), a Georgian Christian “ghulam” lately converted to Islam was a provincial Governor; another was the Lala of the Royal Princes. Earlier, the wife of  Mohammed Shah (she was a Maazandrani Princess) was hostile to the Qizilbash elite and killed many. They murdered her on 26 July 1579 and were powerful for another decade.



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