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MY LIFE & TIMES

G.S.P.Suri (1926-2002 ...... and more to come)

 

 

PREFACE

 

Will Rogers once observed: “When you write down all the good things you ought to have done, but did not; and leave out the bad things you did, you have an autobiography.” This is a more charitable description of the usual run of autobiographies. Ahankaar is a universal human weakness and only a true Mahatma would be outside the mischief of the above definition.[1]

Why Life & Times?

Most biographies and autobiographies try to place personal events of a life against the background of the economic, political and religious history of the times in which the protagonist lived his life. This is not necessarily “padding”. No individual’s life can be understood unless the determinant influences are brought out.

However, carping critics do say that autobiographies are an “unrivalled vehicle for telling the truth about other people.” This, again, is an inescapable necessity. You cannot write about your own life without mentioning others, and nobody would say that such mentions should not be truthful.

 

 “Why does a man want to write his autobiography?” These are the first few words of Chapter One of a book called Roses in December. “God gave us memory that we might have roses in December,” says the page preceding the Dedication in the book.[2] The whole chapter is an excellent analysis of why M.C.Chagla wrote that book, as also of why so many other people have written (and will write) autobiographies.

 

 An English critic named John Sturrock studied 24 very famous autobiographies to find out. In his book, The Language of Autobiography, he says: “For all their self-castigation and earnest proclamations of indebtedness to others, autobiographers are a bunch of arrogant and autarchic people” who presume that they can “transform a lived farrago into a considered rational whole.”

 

I have before me an excellent illustration of what Sturrock meant. E.K.Nayanar, one-time Chief Minister of Kerala, had the cheek to get his autobiography published at government expense by the State Public Relations Department, “Not for Sale”. Complimentary copies were distributed far and wide. Just in case someone might dismiss it as a minor expenditure, it might be mentioned that the publication was a hard-cover 1100-page opus.

And then Mayawati did the same in Uttar Pradesh.

The Latest Fashion

Every child that is born has the prospect of an autobiography in him. But most of us do not have any memory at all of our most formative years, our infancy. That leaves the autobiographer handicapped in a sense. There is now a remedy available. “One day after our son was born,’ says Rohit Khullar (Delhi Times, 13th May 2002), “I bought web-space for him. Now, at three months of age, he has his own web-site” on the Internet. The baby’s web-site has on its first page : “My arrival: info on his birth and the delivery process.”  Another page is: “What’s New: Like the day he uttered his first goo-goo.”   And a photos page….

 

Yet another web-surfer says: “My friend Sumit gifted a web-page to my sister and her husband (for their new-born child) and they were thrilled. It is like the traditional Baby Album but it is on the Internet.”

 

A design consultant advises: “A web-site for a baby should be colourful; and include the baby’s first e-mail address, a baby biography, and so on…”

 

The psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh M.D. adds: “Web-sites for babies are an advancement on baby-books. And since all the information is on the web, it can be accessed time and again…”

 

 Which reminds me of one book written on a lap-top by a close friend, after her son taught her how to use the computer.[3] Emulation of her example is one reason for the present narrative.

 

MY INSPIRATION

 

I have shared some very hilarious moments[4] (in my official career) with my friend (and colleague in the Indian Information Service), Sheila Dhar, who died late in July 2001, at the age of 70. Some of these experiences figured in her autobiography published in 1995. Additionally, there were moving details of her childhood which she had never revealed earlier.

 

My wife and children had also shared many jokes (and other experiences) with Sheila Dhar, during her frequent visits to our home in the late 1960s. This was one reason for my wanting to write something about my own life and times. Chand became interested in maintaining a family album even as a student; after her marriage, she started an album of the Suri family photographs. In one later Album (the largest one), I have inserted relevant reading material also.[5]

 

MY PURPOSE

 

  I have tried in the following pages to mention some of the usual stages in the life of any individual, with particular references to my own life, and with casual mentions of those who figured in my life from time to time.[6] Neither the one, nor the others, can be exhaustive. There might even be a lack of balance and perspective. If anyone cares to suggest any additions or modifications, I shall be glad to respond.

 

Let me close this Preface with a quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson. He said: “All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared listener.” This chronicle contains 30,000 words already, I can easily write many times more…because the subject (myself) is so interesting to me…But it will all be wasted unless some people are interested in reading and reacting to it.

                                                                           … G.S.P.Suri

28th November 2001          

(Subsequently Revised)

 

“There are forces working in life for you and against you. One must recognise the beneficial forces from the malevolent ones and choose correctly between them.”

                 A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire, page 106.

 

THE CHILDHOOD DAYS

My father, Shri Tirath Ram Suri, was born at Ambala on the 16th December 1903. He joined the North Western Railway on 24th October 1925. Married a month and a half later, he served the Railways in Baluchistan, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh until 1959. Some more details of his life are naturally part of the narrative below.[7]

I was born at Ferozepur Cantt., on the morning of the  28th November 1926.[8]

 

WANDERINGS OF A LIFETME

Shortly after my birth in the Punjab, my parents visited Karachi. Naturally, I too went there; of course, you do not expect me to recall what I saw in Karachi – or on the journey through Sind.

Since then, I have been at places as far apart as Nagaland in the East and Balochistan in the West, Kashmir in the North and Kanyakumari in the South.

 

My father was in Balochistan from 1928 to 1932, engaged on various railway projects then being undertaken by the British as part of their foreign policy.[9] One of my earliest memories is today linked to Pakistan’s foreign policy.

A new rail link was being built through territory occupied by the Bugti tribe. The only pucca buildings in the region were the railway premises; the seniormost representative or employee of the British government in the immediate vicinity was my father. And the then chief of the Bugti tribe had a son of almost exactly my age. Naturally, I and Akbar Bugti were playmates. What happened to Akbar in the next six decades is part of history.

Another memory is of an elderly Baloch who used to talk to me in his native tongue. I remember only the greeting “Taaday Mooshay”, if memory serves.

He called me Saran Bahadur and my father had this name painted on a very small tin suitcase which housed my books for the next several years.

 

EARLY EDUCATION

 

My grandfather, LALA PARABH DIAL SURI (1869-1963), had  served in the Indian Railways and the Indian Accounts Service at many places all the way from Burma[10] in the East to Iran[11] in the West, and had then retired to Dayalbagh where he served the Radhasoami Satsang for 30 years (November 1932 to January 1963).

 

He[12] took me with him (for 12 years of schooling, 1932-1944) to this new domicile in Dayalbagh (Agra), where his Guru[13] had set up a colony for his devotees.

         

My First Day at School[14]

My mother took me to Headmaster Sunder Das to be enrolled in Class I.  As she was taking her leave, after completing the formalities, I also got up and followed her. When Second-Master Janak Raj took hold of my wrist and dragged me back to my allotted seat, I bit the restraining hand. He let go with a muffled comment, but the Headmaster gently took me by the shoulder and promised a treat. He then explained why I had to stay back. My mother gave him a half-rupee coin (to last as tiffin-money for the rest of the month), and that was that.

A Rapid Promotion

Two or three days later, as we were practicing our numerals, the class-teacher was called away from the enclosed platform[15] which housed Class I (where I was enrolled) to the Class II building (a regular structure with two or three rooms and a Verandah towards the west of the Bhandara Ground).

I must have stopped writing or started talking to the boy seated next to me, because the class-monitor (I still remember his name was Ram Hetu or Ram Hith) admonished me. I happened to have a mulberry twig (I think we used to call it a Kamchi) lying nearby and brandished it at the monitor…Perhaps I hit him…

The next day, after a rapid discussion between the Headmaster, the Classmaster and my mother, I was promoted to Class II under the direct supervision of Headmaster Sunder Das, a gnarled old Punjabi with easy-going paternal manners.

First Prize & Falling Grades

Four or five months later, towards the end of April[16] 1933, the usual final exams for Class II were held and I stood first, thanks probably to some earlier schooling at Lahore (of which I have the faintest memory) and some regular coaching by my grandfather in the evenings.

For  many diverse reasons, my showing in subsequent grades was not equally good. I stood second in Class III, third in Class IV, fourth in Class V and so on, until I passed my High School examination.

Thereafter, there were fewer subjects (and more to my liking). As a result, I began standing first again and secured a First Division in the Class XII examination of the U.P. Board of High School & Intermediate Education.[17]

MY EYES AND MY GRADES

No one had apparently noticed that my grades at school were falling partly because of a deterioration in visual acuity. It is a pure coincidence that Aldous Huxley “started treatment for his eyes by a method of eye exercises[18] introduced by the American doctor, W.H.Bates,” at about the same time as it was suggested to me by someone in Dayalbagh.[19] I forget who gave me a book entitled Better Sight Without Glasses. Huxley[20] did not benefit; nor did I. Later, I had to go to Lucknow to get the “refractive error” corrected; Agra did not have the facility in those days.

This was when I got an Agfa Box Camera for Rs.5 only. The first photograph was of the Assembly Chamber at Lucknow.

PICKING UP AN ATTITUDE

In my twelve years at Dayalbagh, I mixed with people from every region of the country, with the most diverse backgrounds, yet meeting each other as members of one community (in the basic sense of the word).[21]

My class-mates were[22] from undivided “Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, the Dravid Deccan, Orissa and Bengal.” We never realised the difference until we grew up quite a bit.

Our tall and swarthy P.T.Instructor was an ex-Army Muslim, a strict disciplinarian who made our Boy Scout groups the best in India. Our Drawing Master was another Muslim, a short and stocky, happy-go-lucky man whom we never saw except in the class-room.

As for cultural differences, I still recall my surprise when I first heard Gurdial of Rewari call out to his mother: “Maa, tu….” We  always said Pitajee, Maatajee, and so on.

The result of all this was a catholicity of approach which even today feels the hurt when individualities are drowned in group stereotypes.

Another lesson sub-consciously absorbed was that superficial appearances in any individual or group should be probed cautiously for underlying motivations and exceptional behaviour. My own atheistic[23] beliefs[24] arose in Dayalbagh, much against the prevailing atmosphere; meat, eggs and cigarettes were surreptitiously used by many, in contravention of prescribed behaviour;[25] sexual perversions were found even among some grown-ups[26], not to mention the experimenting adolescents.[27] And so on.[28]

Twelve years in Dayalbagh (under the shadow of a great religious teacher, His Holiness Sahabji Maharaj Sir Anand Swarup, and under the tutelage of a devout Satsangi like my grandfather) could well be expected to have made me a religious man; but every son of a Mahatma Gandhi is not a Mahatma.[29]

What I did absorb immediately was Sahabji Maharaj’s “imagined account” of how religions must have developed (see the last few pages of Yatharth Prakash). At around the same time as this book was being published came Dr.S. Radhakrishnan’s An Idealist View of Life  in which he said that all proofs of the existence of God were deficient in one way or the other; and what made it worse was the practical inefficiency , the moral ineffectiveness and the disastrous political consequences of all established religious faiths: “Nothing is so hostile to religion as other religions…The world would be a much more religious place if all religions were removed from it”, he said.[30]

In fact, my beliefs gradually crystallised into something like what another great man had formulated at about the time I was born: “Every man must be his own teacher…ceremonies are unnecessary for spiritual growth…Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect…” By 1929,[31] this man (J. Krishnamurthi) had abolished the Order of which he was the Head. In the ensuing half century, he was recognised as one of the world’s greatest philosophers.[32]

To quote him at some length: “You must not make me an authority…Some of you think (my prasad or charan-amrit) will set you free, that I can give you a formula (a guru-mantra or upadesh) that will liberate you – that is not so. I can be the door but you must pass through the door and find the liberation that is beyond it…It lies in the power of each one to enter into the flame, to become the flame…Liberation is life and the cessation of life. It is as a great fire and when you enter it you become the flame, and then you go forth as sparks, part of that flame…”

Here, I might as well quote the Nobel Prize Winner C.V. Raman (1888-1970), according to whom there is no heaven or hell, no rebirth. “This belief in the existence of a next life is the greatest impediment to a true religious life. People would lead a more rational and religious life if they believed that what really matters  is the life of today. This is also the message of science to humanity.”

 . 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. He also refers to surgical operations for hernia, etc. That is why I have quoted him at many places in my own family history. The three volumes of his autobiography are also a very good backgrounder for details of the political and social events of the 20th century.

 

 

 GENERAL KNOWLEDGE

While studying at Dayalbagh, I went over to my parents at Bhatinda every year during the summer vacations.[33] There we used to get all the Urdu, Hindi & English newspapers and magazines at home (these were later sent to the Railway Club).

My earliest memory is of the “Riyasat Weekly” and of the controversy generated in all the newspapers by Jawaharlal Nehru’s sending out invitations for his sister Krishna (Huttheesingh)’s civil marriage, using the Roman (English) script for the Hindustani text, and his criticism of those promoting Theth Hindi instead of Hindustani. At our school, we were taught Hindi as a ‘second language’. The first was Urdu (at least for me). I don’t know whether we had an option.[34]

These were the years when Abdul Ghaffar Khan became a national hero by pursuing non-violence with great backing among the martial Pathans. The Quetta earthquake was also big news for us.[35]

The Italian atrocities in Abyssinia followed soon after. Then there was the Japanese invasion of China[36] and Hitler’s rise to power in Germany.

POLITICS, SCIENCE AND RELIGION

This was the background to my life-long interest in current affairs. The interest in science and technology came later. [37]

Current affairs include politics. At 16, one should be interested in politics. Charan at that age actually tried to be a communist and a student-politician. “Amman” (Amrit Lal Suri) developed his Hindutva inclination at that age and has it still. But for me at Dayalbagh (at that age), participation was hardly an option.

The “Quit India” movement was in full swing. At Benares, according to Governor Maurice Hallett,  “the university had closed its gates even to the district magistrate and had declared itself ‘Free India’ and its training corps the ‘Indian National Army’.” [38] Troops were sent in to occupy the campus. Even in Agra city, the Superintendent of Police was roughed up by students. But Dayalbagh was an island far removed from such things.

The famous I.N.A. Trial[39] at the Red Fort in Delhi was the incitement for my first and last participation in politics. This was in 1946 when students of various schools and colleges in Rawalpindi took out a procession demanding the release of the INA heroes. Arun Suri’s wife Usha’s grandfather “Gokal Chand Bhasin had sustained a head injury during the police lathi-charge when he was accompanying” that procession. His injuries eventually proved fatal. See pages 149-151 of Usha’s family history.

I was more interested in Science. I even cut my thumb with the traditional Barber’s Razor which was used in the Botany lab for preparing “sections” for slides to be examined under a microscope. I did some dissections[40] in the Zoology lab. Even the signature that I finally adopted was based on that of Professor Som Prakash, Head of the Department of Biology. His way of scripting SP is exactly reproduced in the middle part of my signature.

This was the time when “the dualistic, mechanistic view of the world had been destroyed by the new theories of relativity and quantum physics. An aggregate of distinct units was replaced by waves, differentials of time and curvature of space. Uncertainty and indeterminacy were the new paradigms.”

Dayalbagh was a colony of those who had a common interest in religion. I have always said that both science and religion have the same target: The Ultimate Reality. In later life, of course, someone raised an even deeper question. “Great minds have not been able to agree as to what is the ultimate reality. Does it exist at all?” When this question was put to J. Krishnamurti, he replied: “What do you say? Is not that much more important: what you think. You say that great minds have said there is and there is not. Of what value is that?”

He went on to explain that only one’s own mind was capable of finding out. “But your mind is crammed with knowledge,with information, with experience, with memories; and with that mind you try to find out. Surely, it is only when the mind is creatively empty that it is capable of finding out whether there is an ultimate reality or not.” I still do not know what is meant by a “creatively empty mind.”

On another occasion, Krishnamurti said: “I feel we are delving into something which the conscious mind can never understand.” Bertrand Russell once said: “The Upanishads have spoken of the five stages of the cosmic process – matter, life, instinct, reflective consciousness and spiritual consciousness…” At the age of 75, I am still trying to understand the last stage.

The Radhasoami sect, like some others, prescribes meditation as a means for the realisation of the Ultimate Reality. I never sought initiation into the faith; but the nearest I got to meditation was in the way it is explained by J. Krishnamurti: “Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life – perhaps the greatest, and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody. That is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy, -- if you are aware of all that is yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation. So meditation can take place when you are sitting in a bus or walking in the woods full of light and shadows, or listening to the singing of birds or looking at the face of your wife or child.”[41]

GENERAL KNOWLEDGE

Coming back to the accumulation of general knowledge, Bertrand Russell once said:  “I fill my mind with whatever relevant knowledge I can find.” I did the same.

General knowledge helps in the sense that it is (to quote Wittgenstein) “like trying to open a safe with a combination lock; each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing; only when everything is in place does the door open.”

Of course, there is an even loftier view of education: “If we are being educated merely to achieve distinction, to get a better job, to be more efficient, to have wider domination over others, then our lives will be shallow and empty…” I am quoting J. Krishnamurti. “…In our present civilization, we have divided life into so many compartments that education has very little meaning, except in learning a particular technique or profession. Instead of awakening the integrated intelligence of the individual, education is encouraging him to conform to a pattern and so hindering his comprehension of himself as a total person.”

WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

 

“There are some people who are always reluctant to praise anyone for work well done. They feel as if they were parting with something very precious. On the other hand, if it came to running down someone, they would do so with the utmost relish and alacrity.”           

   …Roses in December, Page 212.

 

I was a student at the Radhasoami Educational Institutes at Dayalbagh (1932-44) up to class XII. It was a very good start with highly productive inputs by Lalaji in the early stages and by my Professors at College. Not over-much credit can be given to the school grade teachers, except two Mathurs: Gur Parshad & Sahab Parshad.

Master Naam Piara’s home library was also a formative influence, bolstered by books I ordered from the Illustrated Weekly of India’s “Home Library Club”. It was said of one of our greatest leaders at one stage:“He had never been abroad…(but) he could remember the names of roads and places which he had come across in his reading.”[42] At the age of 16, I was familiar with names and some details of localities in Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, London and New York, due to various reasons. Among these were: playing Monopoly, reading Charles Dickens, and the newspapers.

The urge to learn has stayed with me till the end of my days. In 1975, at the age of  about 50, I earned one increment of salary by passing the Government’s examination in Hindi[43] with distinction. Nothing to boast about, because Sardar Patel was learning Sanskrit[44] at about the same age; J. Krishnamurti was studying Sanskrit at the age of eighty-six,[45] at about the time the very first personal computers came into the market in America. I started working on computers three years later.

MORE EDUCATION

The Radhasoami Educational Institutes at Dayalbagh are today a Deemed University, but in my times the arts and science classes were up to the Intermediate level only (what is now called 10+2 in Delhi). My father had intended to put me in the Technical College at Dayalbagh but my Principal and professors insisted I would make a better showing in Arts. So he compromised by letting me pursue Engineering studies by paying for a correspondence course from the then-unique British Institute of  Engineering Technology (London).

 

The same people were running the British Institutes of Commerce & Accountancy, with courses also in Journalism and Short Story Writing; I indulged my fancy by paying for these courses out of my ample pocket money. Very soon, I was earning small amounts also from what I was learning in this line.

 

“I have come to the conclusion that the only real happiness in life is to be able to do work which one whole-heartedly likes. Without work life ceases to have any significance; and with work which one does not like, life becomes a torment and a torture.”[46]

 

Encouraged by these small returns, I took another correspondence course from the London School of Journalism headed by Frank Potter. This was slightly costlier, but also much more practical. Then there was a package of courses in Journalism, Short Story Writing, Novel Writing & Play Writing from the Bennett College, Sheffield, which I have still to finish. They said thirty years ago that I would be welcome to resume where I left off, any time I chose to do so.

 

BEYOND STUDIES

From time to time, I was Editor of my school and college magazines and Student-Editor of the Dayalbagh Herald’s student pages. My teachers and fellow-students were generally appreciative of my wide General Knowledge, and command of English.

 

This led to some interesting situations. I had read up  my grandfather’s palmistry and astrology books (Cheiro[47] & Alan Leo, if I remember right). I read many palms, but when I told Padam Adhaar Sinha (my class-fellow and a nephew of the Soamibagh Guru) that he was destined to be the next Guru,[48] he took it very seriously;[49] he practiced celibacy, dressed in the conventional manner expected of such a person and generally changed his life-style completely.[50] When I and my wife met him in 1960, he showed us around the famous up-coming Samaadhi and its model in his “palace”.[51]     

Another amusing situation arose from the Lafayette medium-wave radio receiver my grandfather purchased in 1937. He introduced me to a gentleman named Bisarya down our block who was a radio engineer (or mechanic); and told me to pick up some knowledge of the equipment. What I did pick up was the way the classical singers hemmed and hawed; the names of various ragas I picked up from the Programme Journal in Urdu we got at home. With this knowledge, I impressed many boys and girls with my renditions of classical music.

 

As a contrast, I offer the following lines from Lewis Carroll, quoted by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in his autobiography (Wings of Fire, page 106):

You may charge me with murder –

   or want of sense

(we are all of us weak at times);

But the slightest approach

    to a false pretence

Was never among my crimes!

THE NEW POPULAR EDUCATOR

Also during this period, I saw an advertisement by the Standard Literature Company of Calcutta offering commission on sales. I enrolled as an agent and sold exactly two sets (one to myself and another to Padam Adhaar[52] Sinha) of The New Popular Educator, a six-volume rexine-bound work comprising graduated lessons in a score of university-level subjects, ranging from Accountancy and Archaeology to Zoology.

From this book, I picked up many nuggets of knowledge, including Gregg’s Shorthand (which I used at College to take lecture-notes), and the “facts of life”.

MY FIRST WEDDINGS

In the late 1930s, a devotee of the Dayalbagh Satsang was one Seth Chamaria. He was also a film-financier.  From time to time, he used to bring along the prints of a film and set up a projector in the Satsang Pandaal. This was one occasion when the Pandaal became a Full House.[53]

One film we saw had a rather elaborate wedding scene in it, which impressed my neighbours and schoolmates (Chand and Suraj Seth) so much that they replayed it at their home, making me play the bridegroom (and their sister the bride). Word got around and we were teased quite a bit about it.

During the summer vacations[54] of 1939, at Bhatinda, a friend sent me a letter intimating results of the Annual Examination. But my parents who opened the letter were particularly intrigued by one sentence which said: “Voh  Bhola Baalam Kya Jaane?” This led to some joking about a possible daughter-in-law for them.

Four years later, I learnt for the first time that we had some relations even outside the parental family and the grand-parents. We went to Lahore to attend the wedding of Raj Kumar Chaddha, my mother’s cousin, the only  brother of six sisters. There we had a reunion with various branches of the family. Another marriage during the same week was that of Satwant Anand, middle Saala of my Taayajee, at Model Town in Lahore. The festivities included a mujra with the song “Mera Bulbul So Raha Hai”.

Three years further on, we were living in Lahore. My Maamajee’s daughter Krishna got married on Dussehra eve. I lost my educational certificates in the hustle-and-bustle of the wedding.[55] I and my cousins also saw the films Taansen and Anmol Ghadi.

 

BROTHERS , SISTERS & COUSINS

This might be the appropriate place to mention my brothers and sisters. Most of them were born in Baluchistan and at Bhatinda, more or less during the years of my education at Dayalbagh.

The 1930s were comparatively good times for government employees; things were cheap and there was not much pressure of work. When my father was confirmed in his post as an Inspector of Works (“with effect from 6-11-35”)[56], he threw a small party for colleagues and acquaintances in his commodious bungalow in the railway colony at Bhatinda. Among those present was a young girl, the future Mrs. Nagra with whom I was to stay for 14 months at Patiala seventeen years later. Also present was the sister of the roly-poly, jovial Maharaj Singh (“Mahajo” to his friends), proprietor of the railway colony’s licensed general store; forty years later, this girl was the wife of our next-door neighbour in Rabindra Nagar at Delhi.

 

Incidentally, this was also the period of my mother’s first serious illness, December 1937-January 1938. My father recorded the event in his diary, rather mysteriously, as follows: “Learnt a lot that was never dreamt (of). This changed mode of life.” He was then at Bhatinda.

Again, during the period of my stay at Dayalbagh was my  father’s first serious illness, in 1942, when my grandparents left Dayalbagh to attend upon him. He was then posted at Jind Junction (a  place without electricity, capital city  of a Princely State). He had been hard-pressed for field duties because of a military aerodrome that had to be built on a war-footing. This led to a worsening of his piles trouble. His Diary says: “Long illness first time in life 14-9-42 to 29-10-42.” Prem and I were then both at Dayalbagh.[57] How we managed our kitchen is another story. Pitajee was “transferred to Ferozepur  and left Jind on 24-7-43.” At Ferozepur, “on Monday 13-12-43” was  born a son[58] who lived only less than a month over 10 years; you may remember that I was also born at Ferozepur on 28th November 1926.

 

THUMB-NAIL LIFE-SKETCHES OF MY GENERATION

Prem Kanta, born at 4.35 PM on 4th June 1929 at Khanai in Baluchistan, married Krishen Gopal Chaddha in 1952 and spent her life at Jullundur.

Gur Charan, born at 12.25 (afternoon) on 11th June 1932 at Qila Saifullah in Baluchistan, worked as Sales Executive in some of the leading companies in India and aspired to start afresh abroad after his retirement to Dehra Dun in the 1990s. Married Sudesh Mehta in 1958.

Amrit Lal (born Sant Saran at 9.20 AM on 16th April 1934 at Bhatinda) was a steel technologist (trained in Russia). He served at Bhilai and BHEL Hardwar. Married Prem Oberoi in 1961.

Amrit Sakhi (born Som Kumari at 6.15PM on 19th August 1935 at Bhatinda) married ( in 1958, in the same week as Gur Charan above)Vidya Bhushan Nangia, a railway engineer, who retired to live in Outer Delhi.

Prakash was born on the midnight of 16th & 17th March 1937 (12.32 AM) at Bhatinda. (Lalaji’s Guru, Sahabji Maharaj, passed away at about 8.30PM on 24th June 1937)[59]. Married twice but both marriages ended in tragedies.

Rajiv (born Gogi, later Gulloo and a few other names of his own choice) made his appearance at Bhatinda on 4th June 1939 at 10 PM.[60] Married Major Kusum Bajaj of the Army Nursing Service.

Ashok, born premature on 13th December 1943, survived as a fairly healthy and very intelligent child until late in 1953 when new-fangled antibiotics damaged his kidneys. He died on 4th January 1954. His cousin (now Lieutenant-General) Prakash Suri was born three days earlier than Ashok .

Arun  ( born   Kuku  at  6.17  AM  on  23rd  September  1946  at  Rawalpindi) [61]received training in tool-room technology at the Swiss Institute in Chandigarh and soon emigrated to Canada. Married Usha Bhasin in 1973.[62]

Shobha arrived at Ratangarh (near Bikaner) on 9th August 1952 at 9.40 AM.[63]

 

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

After Dayalbagh, I studied at Ferozepur, Lahore and Rawalpindi (wherever my father was posted).

As I have said earlier, my College at Dayalbagh was then only up to the 12th class. So, after securing a good First Division in the final examination there, in 1944, I went over to Ferozepur where my father was posted at that time.

I had been born at this place 18 years earlier. Now I and my next brother Charan were on bicycles one day when we decided to visit my “native” cantonement area. The Second World War had not yet come into its final phase and people were still being trained in tank warfare, inter alia. We found ourselves bicycling uphill on a tank training ground, and soon got to the top. But going down the slope beyond the top proved trickier. We picked up great momentum and Charan must have braked too suddenly in panic. He came crashing down, with a slight gash on his head. It was not much of a wound, but what I remember till today is that Charan did not subsequently ever remember anything about the few minutes before and after the accident.

After the summer vacations, I joined the only college in town. No other memories are attached to this period.

AT LAHORE 1944-45

When my father was transferred to Lahore  later in 1944, I asked the Ram Sukh Dass College at Ferozepur to give me a Migration Certificate. I had enrolled there only in July 1944 and there was some unpleasantness with the Principal when he said it was too early to ask for a migration.

However, the necessary papers were given before Christmas and I went over to Lahore, where my father had been allotted a commodious bungalow with a large compound and semi-rural surroundings at the rear of the Railway Station. Within a few hundred yards was the Sikh National College, which I joined.

Principal Niranjan Singh there was a true missionary. Other professors included Gur Bachan Singh Talib for Political Science (if I remember correctly) and  Kartar Singh for English. I could not recognise most of the professors and felt a little lost. The only fellow-student I now remember was a swarthy, well-built chap named Nelson.

Professor Kartar Singh put up a notice asking aspirants for Editor-ship of the College Magazine to submit a specimen essay. One day, he sent for me and asked whether the essay I had submitted was actually written by me. I offered to write another one there and then. So I got the “job”.

My father was soon transferred again, from Lahore to Rawalpindi, early in 1945.

As soon as my father left Lahore on his transfer to Rawalpindi, I shifted to the Lahore Sadar where my elder Maamajee Dr Hans Raj Chadha was an established General Practitioner. From there, I had to bicycle a few miles everyday to get to the Sikh National College and back. I had met Maamajee and his family briefly during the 1943 wedding of his much younger cousin Raj Kumar Chaddha. Now I became better acquainted with them.

 

AT RAWALPINDI

 

My cousin Rishi Kumar Kohli was then at the Gordon Mission College at Rawalpindi. When he mentioned to Vice-Principal Cummings that I was a First-Divisioner from U.P., they got my migration expedited and I never saw the issue of the Lahore College Magazine which I had put together. Ten years later, Professor Kartar Singh was brought into the PEPSU Public Relations Department (as my junior colleague)[64] by Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala, the then Chief Minister, a maternal uncle of the Maharaja of Patiala.[65]

I went over to Rawalpindi early in 1945, only to come back to Maamaajee’s family at Lahore for my post-graduate studies in July 1946.

At the Gordon Mission College in Rawalpindi, I joined when the Philosophy teacher had just started on the Psychology module after finishing the Ethics module. At Lahore, we had already done Psychology, but not Ethics. However, at the next quarterly exam, I muddled through Ethics also on the strength of general principles of ethics.

In English, of course, I did much better, even if the textbooks were not very familiar. When the answer books were being returned after marking, Profesor (and Vice-Principal) J.B. Cummings asked: “Who is Gur Saran…?” I stood up even before he had completed reading out the full name. “Your marks are the best in class,” he said. “Which is the Club you have joined?”

I had not yet heard of the two Clubs, Barr & Minerva, into which the whole student body had been divided in order to provide some competitive stimulus to sports and other extra-curricular activities. Principal Stewart (another true missionary) was head of the Minerva Club. Vice-Principal Cummings inducted me into the Barr Club, headed by himself. Eventually, I topped in the Annual Essay Writing Contest; my rival, S.S.Puri, topped in Debating; he was Chief Secretary in Punjab in the 1980s.

My given subject for the Essay was The Advantages of Youth. In my script, I started by painting a woeful picture of old age. Considering that I was not yet 20 myself, the picture was quite correct, as I can now evaluate it. Incidentally, Sarvepalli Gopal (writing four decades later about his own father Dr.S.Radhakrishnan) can plausibly be accused of having plagiarised a phrase or two from my essay, when he says his father had “once lived on the pinnacles of life”. Of course, this is only to underscore the fact that Dr. Radhakrishnan was himself once prosecuted (unsuccessfully) for “stealing” from a thesis prepared by one of his pupils.

Similarly, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan once said: “Democracy can save itself only by becoming aristocratic.”[66] His son Gopal explains: “Democracy to him had an aristocratic slant in the sense that he believed that the people should be led by trained experts chosen by them.” Now, at Dayalbagh in my childhood there, all the houses of devout Satsangis had placards bearing in bold letters the tale ARIS-DEMO, a reminder prescribed by the then Guru that his ideal was an Aristocratic Democracy. Who was copying whom?[67]

THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE & RECOGNITION

I still have in my papers some tear-sheets from the College Magazine in which Professor Cummings described the working of the Student Clubs. Also there is the printed text of my prize-winning Essay (along with the 1946 photograph in which I look like Gulloo). As I have said earlier, the prescribed subject for the Essay was The Advantages of Youth; at the age of less than twenty, I pitted youth against what I then thought were the consequences of old age; and I was right. Obviously, the judges also agreed.[68] Even today, you can read the essay and agree with my judgement.

My wife calls it pride.[69] I call it a natural thirst for recognition – and knowledge. In any case, ever since my teen-age, I have striven for more and more of knowledge; and received more and more of recognition; from my peers, from my seniors and subordinates, even from most relations – with the exception of one or two very near relations.[70]

I list below some of the steps taken by me in pursuit of my professed desire above. To my school and college courses I added Private Study in various disciplines. The result has been a considerable fund of general knowledge which has contributed to some success in the social field as well as career advancement.[71]

Passed Honours in Punjabi, 1945.

Passed Honours in Urdu, 1946.

Passed Section A of AMIEE, 1946. (Lord Louis Mountbatten was Patron of IEE).

Took Diploma in Commerce & Banking, 1946, from British Institute of Commerce & Accountancy.

Took Diploma in Radio & TV Technology (with practical kits received from America). The study material was later passed on to Charan, Prakash & Gulloo, for “Radio Engineering College” @ K-8, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi-14.

Also took correspondence courses in Short Story & Novel Writing and earned some pocket money by selling short stories and a very few articles to various magazines.

Passed the Government-mandated Examination in Hindi in 1975, with Distinction (carrying one increment).

Worked on Computers in DAVP & AIR well before Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister and started the computerisation fad (I call it a fad because it is sometimes still being amateurishly implemented in government and even in corporate India).

“I think I have stated enough, and perhaps even too much, and sometimes indeed in a rather vain-glorious manner…in the virtual certainty that I will be accused of conceit and egotism…I cannot resist the temptation…” Many an autobiography has reflected this sentiment.[72]

 

REVERSALS OF FORTUNE

At the Sikh National College, Lahore, Dec.’44 to Jan’45, Prof. Kartar Singh made me Editor of the College Magazine. Later, he was my junior in PEPSU Public Relations Department.[73] At the Gordon College, Rawalpindi (1945-46), I topped in the literary contests (see certificates in my papers). Prof. Mehr Singh taught me English Literature; later he was my junior in the Indian Information Service.[74]

Incidentally, M.C.Chagla recalls (in his autobiography, Roses in December, page 166) that “J.C.Shah was my student at the Law College…and ultimately became the Chief Justice of India.” Chagla himself was Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. He also says: “I appointed Shelat…He is now (1973) a Judge of the Supreme Court, and … I often appear before him…” as an advocate. In another amusing reminiscence he recalls that “when I was a briefless barrister, and on the verge of starvation, I had written a cheque for a small amount which was about a rupee more than what stood to my credit in the Bank, and the cheque was promptly dishonoured.” Years later, he told this story to those who had invited him to preside over the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the same Bank.[75]

I was reminded of these things once again when Giani Zail Singh became President of India (1982-87). Somebody recalled that when he had earlier been appointed Home Minister by Indira Gandhi on 14th January 1980, the former Maharaja of Faridkot (now plain Mr. Harinder Singh) had written: “I am proud that one of my former subjects has been chosen to occupy a high post.” Way back in 1938, this same Harinder Singh had arrested and tortured Zail Singh, then aged 22, for his part in the freedom struggle.

EARLY GOOD FORTUNE

My father had always allowed me to use his Remington Portable Typewriter. In 1945, I took it with me to Lahore. There, one day, I saw an announcement for an All India Short Story Competition organised by the Finance Ministry of the Government of India in aid of the National War Effort (as it was called). I sat down and typed out a script. Within a few weeks, it was printed in the S.S.S.Bulletin (SSS= Small Savings Scheme), with praise for its “racy style.” I was awarded the First Prize in Defence Savings Certificates.

Incidentally, I was taking the typewriter back to Rawalpindi when an octroi clerk demanded a payment for it at the Railway Station. At that age, I did not know anything about bribes; so I shouted at the man until a crowd collected and forced the man to accept that it was not a new machine being brought in for commercial purposes.

 

Another interesting incident at the Rawalpindi Railway Station happened when I and Rishi Kumar Kohli, my cousin, were leaving for Quetta where his father had been transferred earlier. The Second World War was being wound up and many Tommies (British soldiers) were anxious to get back to their homes. I was to travel on a Railway Privilege Pass and had reserved a berth. But a young English Lieutenant barged in and occupied my berth; when I protested, his companions roughed me up and took me to the Railway Police post. There, however, we turned the tables on them by showing our reservation slips and throwing the “Rule Book” at them. Of course, it left a bad taste all round.[76]

 

POST-GRADUATE EDUCATION

 

“The coordination of my present with my past had already been jeopardised. The coordination of my present with my future was topmost in my mind…”

                                A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire, page 104.

 

My father had always wanted me to become an engineer and enjoy all the benefits of service in the railways. I did study Engineering through Correspondence Courses and developed a life-long interest in Electronics. But my interest in Journalism prevailed, especially after a bout of ill-health precipitated by a Partition scuffle in 1947.

Through the correspondence courses, I had already been preparing for the IRSE (Indian Railways Service of Engineers) Examination to be conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, having already passed Part I of the AMIEE[77] exam while at Lahore. But after passing the B.A.(Honours) examination of the Punjab University from Rawalpindi in mid-1946, I went back to Lahore and joined the University’s Post-Graduate Course in Journalism. I also enrolled at the Government College, Lahore, for M.A. in  Economics, but did not complete the course. Even for the Journalism Course, I took the final examination only in 1948, at Delhi, because the Partition of India intervened.

A COMIC INTERLUDE

P.P.Singh, Head of the University Department of Journalism at Lahore, was an American-trained journalist (and brother of the veteran Indian editor Rana Jang Bahadur Singh). Early in 1947, he was appointed Director of Information & Publicity in U.P.

He was replaced at Lahore by a certain “Comrade” Rajinder, in an ad hoc appointment. He was an ex-student-leader, fat and lumbering, with a matching brain. His lectures in our class were not just mediocre; they were sub-standard. Two other lecturers were veterans of acknowledged skills, but they did not want a temporary appointment.

When the University advertised for a regular incumbent, I sent in a post-card claiming that I could do better than Rajinder;[78] giving only my residential address, not my student-status. Someone in the university office showed the letter to the acting-head.

Ten years later, this man was Deputy Director in the Punjab Public Relations Department when PEPSU was merged and he became my immediate boss at Chandigarh. Within days, Vishan Das Dev from PEPSU and Mrs Anjana Mardhekar ( young widow of the well-known Marathi writer) were appointed to share the load with Rajinder. Anjana became my boss, but neither she nor Rajinder ever received willing co-operation from their subordinates, because of their lack of social grace. Four years later, Rajinder secured orders for my transfer from Chandigarh to Bhakra-Nangal on a field job. Fortunately, the Central Information Service sent me their offer (pursuant to an all-India examination held in 1961 by the UPSC) just in time. Naturally, I jumped at the offer and came over to Delhi.

But that was in April 1962, just after the General Election, Jawaharlal Nehru’s last. Meanwhile….

LAHORE 1947

On the 3rd of March 1947, I was at the office of the United News of India (the news-agency UNI, now extinct), inside the walled city, receiving practical training, when we received news of Master Tara Singh’s melodramatic behaviour outside the Legislative Assembly and the subsequent tension in town.

Leaving UNI, on my way to the University I witnessed the first conflagration near Sheetla Mandir. Some days later, I had come home in time after the evening classes but my cousin Rajinder (eleven months younger than me) had not, from wherever he was. From our top-floor in the Sadar, we could see fires at many places on the walled city’s horizon. Maamijee was gripped with panic, but there was nothing we could do. Rajinder turned up safe and sound next morning; he had stayed back with a friend. We always called him musaafir; he was foot-loose and fancy-free, even in his maturer years. An architect by training, he migrated to New York in his youth. The story of his marriage pertains to the late 1950s.

THE PARTITION OF INDIA

The British Government announced on 20th February 1947 their decision finally to surrender power in India at a date in the near future. That set a cat among the pigeons; to  mix our metaphors, everyone scrambled to get a piece of the cake. 

I was at the University Department of Journalism at Lahore on 2nd March 1947 when Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana resigned as Chief Minister of the Punjab and Master Tara Singh brandished his sword outside the Assembly Chamber. Riots broke out in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, etc

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

 

Pitajee wrote in his Diary: “Miraculous escape in Rawalpindi riots…Transferred to Ludhiana on 1-8-47. Grace solicited. Times are very bad. Arson and loot everywhere. Lahore property in great danger…”  On the 9th of November 1947, he wrote: “Sickness and danger on all sides. Bal Kaur[79] just saved from jaws of death. Lala Durga Das[80]’s condition grave. Saran’s health alarming…”[81]

 

POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS

Meanwhile, on 22nd March 1947, Lord Wavell was replaced as Governor-General by Lord Mountbatten. On 12th April 1947, Bhim Sen Sachar and Swaran Singh asked for a division of Punjab. Finally, on 2nd June 1947, the British Parliament set the date for the Partition of India on 15th August 1947.

Rioting in the Punjab killed 200,000. Total of refugees who poured  into East Punjab was 44 lakhs; from East Punjab to Pakistan 43 lakhs; corresponding evacuee land 47 lakh acres and 67 lakh acres. Refugees from West Punjab in camps exceeded 720,000 in October 1947. See G.D.Khosla’s book “STERN RECKONING”.

We were at Ludhiana during the worst period….

IN THE AFTERMATH OF PARTITION

We arrived at Ludhiana on the 10th of August 1947. Everywhere in India, there were apprehensions about what would happen after the creation of Pakistan on the 14th-15th August midnight. Most Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan felt unsafe and migrated to India….

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

We witnessed many horrors…   One day, a bullet fired by the Baluch Regiment escorts of a Pakistan-bound train whistled past my ear and embedded itself in the tree behind me.

Maasijee escaped from Rawalpindi in September, by train, and was with us when she escaped with her life from a severe attack of cholera.

I developed pleurisy and took several moths to recover…

My communist uncle (Des Raj Chadha) visited us at Ludhiana in disguise, because the “comrades” were still a banned organisation.

One day, some people called on Maatajee to propose their daughter’s marriage to me (approaching 21). When they were going back without getting any positive response, Charan (15) remonstrated to Maatajee: “Ghar aayee Lakshmi should not be rebuffed!”

TRANSFER TO DELHI

I was just recovering from pleurisy when it was announced that the final examination in Journalism was to be held by the new Punjab (India) University at Delhi. My father also received orders of transfer to Delhi Main Railway Station (Ludhiana had been only a smaller charge for want of a higher vacancy)….

 

On the back side of the Delhi railway station was the bungalow allotted to Pitajee. It opened on the hugely congested Nicholson Road, with a perpendicular on Mori Gate nearby. The road had been named after Brigadier John Nicholson who was killed while trying to retake Delhi in 1857.[82] 

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

 

 

PANCHKUIN ROAD

My father’s next transfer was to New Delhi. We moved to 97-A, Panchkuin Road, a semi-detached bungalow (with an in-house shrine to a long-forgotten Muslim Pir), opposite the Lady Hardinge Medical College & Hospital. That bungalow has since been pulled down and replaced by a multi-storeyed structure housing a hundred families.

Taayajee and family were also with us until he received his orders of posting at Palampur. It was during this period that Prem applied for his Micro-photographer’s job at the Central Research Institute, Kasauli. His marriage…

We visited Bombay in 1949, when father had a neural disorder.There, we stayed at the Punjab Hotel on Frere Road, with a branch of the family which had domiciled in Bombay before the World War of 1939-45 and now owned the multi-storeyed hotel. We visited Ahmednagar also (Maasiji’s Kohli family); I was learning radio technology and built a tiny transmitter to jam the neighbour’s receiver which was always blaring away loudly, even late at night.

Back in Delhi, I put up a hand-written placard announcing radio-repair facilities; no one was impressed enough to avail of my services, except one chap who took me to his house adjoining the Stadium Cinema. In any case, I got a job in a weekly journal soon afterwards.

But Charan (age 18) decided he would also start earning. He set up a photo-studio and spent more on entertaining clients than what he earned from satisfied customers. He also tried to follow in the footsteps of our communist Maamajee and spent a day or two in Tihar…

MY EARLY EMPLOYMENT

“Happen-stance” and “Serendipity” are two words in the English Dictionary which are rarely used. But these appear to have been the main determinants of almost everything that has taken place in my life: Education, Choice of Career, Avenues of Employment, even Marriage and Life After Retirement.[83]

I had passed my Journalism examination and was doing nothing in particular when Dutta, an activist of the North Western Railwaymen’s Union, heard about it and asked me to help in bringing out the Union’s weekly mouthpiece, The Railwayman. I undertook the honorary job of Editor and put some life into the rag.

One fine morning, Dutta suddenly turned up at my father’s official residence[84] and asked me if I would be interested in a job at the disposal of his Union’s Patron, Dewan Chaman Lal. I shaved and took a bath before accompanying him to Dewan Chaman Lal’s suite in the Maidens Hotel; very soon we were engaged in an animated conversation about the Gordon College, Rawalpindi, which turned out to be his alma mater also. Next day, the 26th of January 1950 (the Inaugural Day of our Republic), I was at Daryaganj as Assistant Editor of the weekly THOUGHT, founded by Sir Arthur Moore, ex-Editor of the Statesman, and financed by Martin Russell, a nephew of the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell.

I learnt later that these people were working for a Rightist outfit called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Also later, to strike a personal note, I learnt that Ram Lal Chadha,  their Manager, who brought me my first pay packet on the 1st February 1950, was the father of Bala (who married my cousin Jeet in 1955)  and a relation of Dewan Chaman Lal (Sawhney), their political sponsor.

Dewan Chaman Lal and Martin Russell were “rightists guarding freedom against the threat of communism.” Writing occasional editorials for THOUGHT was one of my assignments. One day our political editor, G.N.Raghavan, complimented me by saying: “You write as if you have been writing editorials all your life.”[85] “It is easy enough,” I replied. “All you have to do is to bash the reds.”[86] Twelve years later, Raghavan was my immediate superior in the Publications Division of the Government of India. At the UPSC interview for the post, I was asked: “Don’t you think Mr Nehru is soft on communism?”[87] They must have been satisfied with my analytical reply, because I was selected.[88]


 

Those were the days when the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council (but relented soon), the Korean War was on, the Hydrogen Bomb was being developed and India was supporting Red China’s admission to the United Nations. Our Ambassador to the Soviet Union was Dr S.Radhakrishnan who held the view that “freedom had no doubt been curbed in the USSR but those who attacked freedom in the name of freedom were no less dangerous than those who attacked it in the name of the state. American policy,” he said, “was inspired not so much by ideology as by opposition to the Soviet Union.” The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (headed by John Foster Dulles)[89] asked him to tone down some of his language before an article containing these views could be published; he complied, but even then the manuscript was filed in the archives of the Endowment.[90] 

Once, THOUGHT published an article scoffing at a Soviet “claim” that Academician Vavilov was alive when “everybody knows that he had been liquidated years earlier.” I put in a Letter to the Editor that this was a different Vavilov; the author of the article had been too quick to jeer at the Russians. I have a suspicion that this was the beginning of the end of my job in the magazine.

The Business & Economics page was also handled by me for some time. One story I did was entitled Mess in Pak State Bank. In one brief paragraph, on another occasion, I forecast that implants in the brain could do wonders for the transmission of information. I also interviewed Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi in 1950; he died in 2002 at the age of 104.

Our printing press (The Ashoka) was across the road, where I and K.R.Malkani[91] of the Organiser sat reading proofs and making up pages at the same table, within inches of boiling lead (for the Linotype machines). Today, my grand-children can produce better-looking computer-print-outs without leaving their home.

S.H.Vatsyayan, the famous writer, was our literary editor. The Managing Editor was Ram Singh, who brought in his crony Rakshat Puri by the back-door to replace me. Rakshat was foreign correspondent of the Hindustan Times in Y2K.

When Manager Chadha brought to my desk the notice terminating my services in THOUGHT, I was reading the final proofs for that week’s issue. Chadha suggested that I throw up the work and go home, but I completed the job before collecting my final dues.[92]

We were living at my father’s railway bungalow on Panchkuin Road, where Prem married Bimla on 24th January 1951. Meanwhile, Pitajee did a few months at Pathankot (away from the family) and was then transferred to Jullundur Cantt.

Here we stayed with the out-going family of the Keswanis; their son Sewak was Chand’s class-fellow at the School of Social Work four years later; he was part of the “comedy of errors” ending happily in my marriage to Chand, not to Phool (whose photograph was in the twin-frame with mine at the home of the Nagras, my hosts at Patiala). But that is another story.

MY FIRST GOVERNMENT JOB

During 1951-52, I passed M.A.(English) & M.A.(Political Science) as a Private Candidate but  never cared to attend the convocations. For the latter degree, I have only the Result Card, not even the formal Certificate which had to be paid for.

India had become a free republic on the day[93] I surrendered my freedom as a student and started[94] my years of “servitude” (what is generally called service or employment). Next was the year 1952, when  India had its first general elections with adult franchise; in February-March, I was Presiding Officer of polling stations at four places in the hills of PEPSU (wading through the bitterly-cold waist-deep waters of the Gambhar Nadi in one case to reach the polling station near Nalagarh); the first elected Parliament met on 11th May 1952;  my sister Kanta got married the next day; and I started on my first government job a week later. How I got the job is another example of “serendipity” and “happen-stance”, as you will see from the following details.

My father had been transferred from Jullundur to Pathankot and then to Ratangarh (the junction next before Bikaner)[95] in quick time. At Ratangarh, I was lazing around when the local para-medical worker (“compounder”) Munshi Ram turned up with an advertisement in the Tribune of Chandigarh (or was it Ambala?), inviting applications for a permanent and pensionable post of Information Officer in the PEPSU Public Relations Department at Patiala. Would I like to apply?

When it came to filing my application, we found that a High School Certificate had to be attached as proof of age. Now,  I had lost all my certificates before Partition at Lahore. Munshi Ram just took down the details, got the thing typewritten and secured the local Magistrate’s attestation on it.

The PEPSU Public Service Commission sent me an interview call with a date which clashed with the date on which I was to take my final paper for the M.A. in Political Science at Delhi. I sent them a post-card explaining my problem; they were good enough to reply that I could come on the following day.

I was too young and inexperienced to be surprised. Can you imagine such an accomodative response today? In any case, I took the night train and landed at Patiala Railway Station in the morning; parked my suitcase in the first bungalow outside the Station premises[96] and rushed to the Commission’s office.

They were interviewing candidates for engineering vacancies when I sent in my slip. They called me in almost immediately and finished the interview in five minutes flat. “An idle formality,” I thought. “They must have selected their man already, yesterday.”

The Rajpramukh’s order notifying my selection and appointment reached me in a tattered condition on the evening of 19th May 1952 at Jullundur where we had just married off my sister Kanta and were winding up the week-long post-nuptial proceedings. The postal envelope had gone to Ratangarh, then been redirected to Delhi, and thence to Jullundur!

The Public Service Commission was then headed by Sardar Mohan Singh of Rawalpindi. I was told later that I had been selected because all the other candidates (locals already working against ad hoc posts, incidentally all of them Sikhs) had strong backers and ministerial recommendations. These candidates became my junior colleagues, and we always remained on the friendliest of terms. Even our families were on intimate terms.

Can you imagine similar things today when communal jealousies are fanned by politicians and Public Service Commissions are headed by persons like Ravinder Pal Singh Siddhu, recently in the headline news for massive and wholesale corruption, and now in jail.

THE YEARS AT PATIALA

The Public Relations Department was housed in the vast and luxuriant Baaradari Gardens. At the centre was the Baaradari Palace, with the Skating Rink at the farther end. Almost at the gate of the Gardens was the building of what used to be the kitchens for the palace, called the Lassi Khaana. This we were now using as our offices. Nearby was the Co-operative Store for all state employees, which I visited on the first of every month.

My post had been created as part of a reorganisation of the pre-PEPSU facilities; an officer of the Central Information Service (Vishan Das Dev) had earlier been inducted on deputation as Director. He was a wordly-wise man (who once told my future father-in-law to advise me to hang around with the ministers if I wanted to progreess in my career). At the termination of his tenure, he was replaced by an old Durbar hand, Sardar Mangal Singh. Another poet-courtier of yore, Sohan Lal Sahir, was the Deputy Director. There is many a story to tell about these two, and about two other Directors there (R.N. Madhok and Madan Gopal) and about my colleagues.

Functioning at the headquarters office in Patiala was easy enough.

But going out on tours with the ministers was a job I usually diverted to my colleagues, none of whom was a trained journalist. Only, as a matter of policy, I preferred to go with the Rajpramukh, Maharaja Yadavendra Singh of Patiala, who had just entered public life. In 1952, his hands used to quiver even when he was reading from a prepared text; within a year or two, he had become a confident and competent public speaker.

 The ministers were not half as good. The first time I called on a certain minister in his office, to introduce myself, he was sitting with his cronies; all of them got up on their feet and greeted me with folded hands. I was only 26. I still do not know what they thought I was.

The Chief Ministers in those days were relations of the Maharaja. Once Col. Raghbir Singh okayed a notification saying: “His Highness the Rajpramukh is pleased to order the closure of all offices on account of the death of…..”[97] Gian Singh Rarewala was more sophisticated. During his regime, a veteran of the freedom movement in the state, named Brish Bhan, used to borrow one or two newspapers from me (almost every day) and go through them on the lawn outside my office. Later he was the first commoner to become Chief Minister of PEPSU (the Patiala & East Punjab States Union) and returned the favours by inviting me to his home town and his home. Prem Singh Prem was from our caste-group and made me conscious of it by his attitude.

 

 

MARRIAGE & AFTER

The “Ghar aayee Lakshmi” episode (mentioned earlier) was in 1947, when I was only 21 and unemployed. On my nearing the age of 28, my father wrote in his Diary: “Pray for Saran’s marriage at an early date.”

A family friend named Nazir Lal Bhasin was also a senior officer in the Railways on the Ludhiana-Jakhal-Hissar section. From his inspection carriage one day he spotted me when I happened to be travelling by the same train on my way to my parental home at Ratangarh. He invited me into his O.C.[98] (as it was popularly called) and we had a brief chat about my job at Patiala; then he offered me a glass of milk, which I politely declined. It was only when I mentioned the encounter later to my mother that she told me that the glass of milk was a traditional form of proffering a daughter’s hand in marriage!

On my 29th birthday, I decided to get married and sent a brief matrimonial ad to the Tribune…It cost me Rs. Five! Among those who responded for themselves was a school-teacher and a nurse from Kapurthala. An Inspector of Police arrived at my office with an offer to look at his daughter in Barnala. Then there was a post-card from Chander Kishore Kalra at Patiala, asking for details.

 

I returned the post-card “To Sender” with a request for “Your Details Please!”

 

The next thing I knew, I was sitting across the table from my Office Superintendent (Jaswant Singh Tathgur, in his room) when a man came in and introduced himself to Jaswant Singh as the P.A. of  P.W.D. Deputy Secretary Sahab Dayal Kalra. “You have somebody called Suri in your office,” he said. “Kalra Sahib wants his personal details…for matrimonial purposes…”

 

Jaswant Singh winked at me and described to that man my face and figure, my job and qualifications, my temperament and health, and much else…in my presence!

 

A few days later, Mr Kalra wrote to me saying he was responding to my newspaper advertisement and there were two marriageable daughters in the family. He followed up the letter immediately by arriving at my office and asking how we could proceed. “We are Aroras,” he said.

 “I have already indicated in my ad that caste and dowry are no considerations for me," I replied, and gave him my father’s address…

So he wrote to my father enclosing a photograph of his daughter Phool.

 

COMEDY OF ERRORS

 

At Delhi, my cousin Rani was present when the proposal was discussed. Immediately, she rummaged through her books and brought out her College Magazine. “Look, Maasiji,” she told my mother, showing her a photograph in the magazine, “this one here is Phool Arora…and you couldn’t find a better  match for Bhaapa Jee…She is just as good at studies and debating and all that, just your son’s cup of tea…”

 

So off they went to the Lady Irwin College --  my mother, my Maasi Jee and my cousin Rani. Phool Arora was sent for. Eager friends directed the party to her room in the hostel, and the conversation started with Maasi Jee telling Phool Arora: “We have received a letter from your father at Patiala… “

 

“But my father is not at Patiala,” she replied.

 

“Sahab Dayal Kalra? I do not know any such person.”

 

“Matrimonial? But I am still  to finish my B.A. next year…”  And so on.

 

The expedition had become a farce. So the party retired precipitously to the bus-stop outside the Lady Irwin College. But other students were also there. “Why are you going away?” they asked Rani. And turning to the elders: “There is no lack of fine candidates in our college,” they joked. “Let us find you the kind you want…”

 

Back home, they looked up the letter. It was an Arora family all right, but the name was Phool, the signature was S.D.Kalra and the girl was a student at the Delhi University School of Social Work, more than a mile away from Lady Irwin.

 

WHO IS PRESENT & WHO IS ABSENT?

 

The next morning, they set out for the University, the letter in hand. They located the School of Social Work. And who do you think they met? Sewak Keswani, son of a family friend[99], greeted my mother warmly. He was a student there and a class-fellow of the two Kalra girls.

“Come, I will take you to their room,” he said. “Phool? She has gone to Patiala during the Maha Shiva Ratri week-end. Her parents are showing her some boy for matrimonial there…But her behn is here. Come…”

    

The Behn hosted the party, talked about the family and about the School of Social Work. On learning about the matrimonial intent, she even asked: “Ladka kya karta hai?” And so on.

 

Back home, Maasi Jee said: “Kudi tay eh vee wah wah hai…”  And there the matter rested.

 

At Patiala, I  took my local Maasi, Mrs  Nagra, with me when we were invited to tea at the Kalra residence. For the next few weeks, she put my photograph along with that of Phool  in the kind of twin-frame which is usual for couples. The Nagras were transferred out of Patiala soon afterwards.

 

When I visited Ratangarh during my next vacation, my mother asked me: “Have you decided on the girl you saw at Patiala? We have not received any letter from them.”  They also told me of their visit to Delhi University and their hostess for the day there. Her name was Chand. The original letter of proposal was brought out and scrutinised again. The proposal was clearly for “two daughters of the family.” We opted for the one who had caught Maasi Jee’s fancy. In any case, she was the one who had been “seen” by three members of our family; the other one was “only a photo.”

 

 

HOW GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES SHOULD MARRY

Sahab Dayal Kalra consciously or unconsciously  chose the 31st March 1955 to “close the deal”. On the last day of the financial year, I was invited to 9-B, New Patiala (where I had earlier seen Phool, and been entertained to a dance performance by Shashi, her younger sister). A very minor ceremony was gone through, much to the chagrin (expressed later) of my mother, who would have preferred something much more elaborate for the Thaaka or Rokka or Engagement of her eldest son! Even the bride’s father was not present.

 

A few days later, I saw Chand for the first time. It was only in a photograph. When a date for the nuptial ties was discussed, I pointed out that I was on “earned leave” up to the 19th May (like every year) because on the 20th was  my “annual increment”.  Mr Kalra, being a government servant of 36 years standing, understood all the implications. All the bride’s brothers were also government employees. The wedding was fixed for Saturday the 14th May, 1955, so that the rituals could be wound up on Sunday.

 

Chand’s Chachi Jee wondered aloud how there could be a wedding without a Band and a Ghodi; so they made the necessary arrangements. Our people arrived at Patiala on the 9th and were put up in a newly constructed bungalow about a hundred yards away from the Kalras. A simple Sehra-Bandi was performed on the appointed day and the bridegroom was hoisted on to the Ghodi at the appointed hour. Then came a message from Mr Kalra. His minister had gone to fetch the chief minister for the Baraat-reception ceremony – and would we please wait for some time. To me it seemed that I was up there on the Ghodi’s back for half-an-hour!

 

We took the bride to Ratangarh on the 16th. Munshi Ram (the “compounder” who had got  me the Patiala job, as described earlier) promptly put on a blaring loud-speaker playing all the film songs available in town.

 

I had to return on the 19th but was persuaded to stay on for another four days, overstaying my “earned leave”. No one in the government noticed anything wrong; Jaswant Singh doctored the papers, just as Munshi Ram had doctored my High School Certificate for my job  application.

 

Chand at Orphanage.

 

At Jeet’s wedding. 12/7/55.

 

Return from SSW.

 

Trip to Kangra Valley. August 55.

AN UNWELCOME VISITOR

Later in August, a few days after Chand’s birthday,  I received my arrears of pay for three months or so. We did a little shopping, came home and retired for the night. Like every night, I had put away my wrist watch and my purse on an open shelf in the sitting room.

Outside our house was a rickshaw stand. One of the boys there must have been watching our daily routine. He clambered up the drain-pipe to our first-floor apartment and escaped with the two items.

Fortunately for us, he was foolish enough to be caught trying his luck in another house on the following night, with my watch on his wrist. The local police were good enough to restore the watch to me. The cash could not be recovered…naturally.

 

 

 

Trip to Calcutta & Ranchi. Nov.-Dec. 55

ANOTHER MUNSHI RAM

 

An elderly peon in my office volunteered to do the daily shopping for the new Lady of the House. Chand had come from a largish joint family and took some time to find out how much of fruit and vegetables to order for a day; how much water to add to the daal for two; and so on.

One day, the peon (named Munshi Ram) brought all the vegetables ordered by Chand, but refused to accept payment. Reason: the total was less than a quarter of a rupee! So, from the next day onward, we told him to spend a rupee every day and use his discretion about what fruits and/or vegetables to buy for us.  And we always had enough for the two of us – and an occasional guest.

 

Interview for PIB.

 

Sanjeev was born on 10th April 1956. Sukhdev-Kamlesh 7/5/56.

AUDIT AT PATIALA

Shortly after the birth of Sanjeev, my grandfather visited us in our cubby-hole across the street from the Green Hotel outside Sheranwala Gate. We were on the first floor of a five-storey building overlooking the City High School Football Grounds. He was on his way to his summer tryst with Kasauli where Prem had been living (opposite Hotel Alicia) since 1948.

Lalajee saw Chand writing up the household accounts. Having been a professional accountant himself all his life (and having maintained meticulous household accounts, a habit transmitted to his sons also), he enquired about my pay and expenses. These were in three figures (around Rs. 300 per month) while he himself was managing with a pension of Rs. 75 per month. He advised us gently to save more and spend less. However, I did manage to convince him that we were not living “extravagantly”, by reminding him that his pension was “half-after-commutation” and that we had a new-born to bring up. However, the clincher came when I got him to calculate the approximate cost of our expenditure-list items in terms of the prices when he was similarly situated in 1901. It turned out that he was then spending about Rs. 70 per month on a slightly better standard of living; and he was getting around Rs. 130 per month (equivalent to about Rs. 490 in 1956).

DELVING INTO THE PAST

At Patiala, the Director of Archives was also a Suri. He became instrumental in re-awakening an interest in the family history. Let me go back in time to explain the background…

OUR KNOWLEDGE OF EARLIER GENERATIONS

My grandfather, Lala Parabh Dial Suri, was born in November 1869, a month after the death of his own father, Mahesh Das, and three years after the death of his grandfather Jwala Dass and  great-grand-father Moti Ram in an epidemic in 1866.

The result was an abrupt break with the past. Hardly any recollections of ancestry and family history could be passed on to Parabh Dial.

It was in 1938 that Lala Parabh Dial Suri (accompanied by his wife and myself) had visited Mattan (sixty km. South of Srinagar), the historic temple at Martand in Kashmir, at the age of 68+ and was hosted by the hereditary Purohit (“Panda”).

The Purohit was Pandit Ram Chand Gopi Nath s/o Pandit Shankar Das. From his records, Lala Parabh Dial Suri (“Lalaji”) obtained the “family tree” which I have since investigated and extended back a few more generations.

Approaching the age of 75, Lala Parabh Dial Suri had dictated to me ( at Dayalbagh in April 1944) a 700-word autobiographical note with the briefest reference to his ancestors. (Two original, signed MSS available). Separately, in his Diaries, he put down whatever he remembered about his ancestors, starting with Pindimal Suri, who spanned the 18th century, but whose detailed bio-data was unknown to Lala Parabh Dial and relatives. During the next few decades, I expanded the family history with research into the earliest period.

“We belong to Lahore,” Lalaji used to say, which was legally and technically his domicile under the British law, but the family history in the last two or three centuries has had its canvas broadly in the West Kangra district and the surrounding areas of Punjab.

In his autobiographical note, he had made a one-line reference to Behrampur near Kalanaur (where Pindimal Suri held some land in the late 1760s, courtesy the Abdalis), until the Sikhs came. Lala Durga Das Suri (his elder son) mentioned Kalanaur and the Shawl Industry in a letter he wrote to me (in reply to my greetings on his 80th birthday, along with a questionnaire). Nurpur is still the home of the Suri clan dating from 200 years ago, from which Lalaji stepped out into the wider world. Shishoo (Lieut.-General Prakash Suri) has been in touch with the Nurpur families.

Sohan Lal Suri, the Court Chronicler of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century, knew all about the Lahore families and their role in the history of this province which had always had stronger political, commercial and cultural links with Qabul & Qandhar than with “Hindustan”.

Sohan Lal also wrote up extensive notes kept by his father GANPAT RAI SURI about the history of their family and country. Seven volumes of Sohan Lal Suri’s Persian MSS are in the British Museum and the India Office Library in London. Many historians have already used the material for their work. My youngest sister Mrs. Shobha Dhir was in London when her husband was Military Attache there and met Mrs. Ramachandran, the India Office Librarian (old assistant of mine), but did not secure any photocopies as planned.

LEARNING MORE OF FAMILY BACKGROUND

As mentioned above,  V.S.Suri, a descendant of Sohan Lal Suri, was Director of Archives at Patiala (a ‘Shishya’ of the famous Dr. Ganda Singh – a voluminous writer on many aspects of the history of Punjab). V.S.Suri brought home to me the distinction between the Nurpur Suri families and the “real” Lahore group.

According to V.S. Suri, his ‘Guru’ Dr. Ganda Singh, and his ‘uncle’ Lala Sita Ram Kohli, M.A., were the first to be allowed to go through the archives of the Lahore Secretariat during the First World War. Sita Ram was then a post-graduate research student who sifted MSS of the Sikh period under Garrett, the Professor of History (and later Principal) of Government College, Lahore. Garrett was editing the work after the War. (See Cunningham’s History of the Sikhs, 3rd Edition, November 1915).

V.S.Suri also held the view that the Kohlis joined the Khokhrains only in the 17th-18th centuries. They were the adivasis of the Kangra hills (like the Gaddis). His authorities were Vol. III of the Journal of the Punjab Historical Society and J.Cunningham. He said the Suri, Bhasin, Sethi & Anands separated from the “Bajahis” (Bawinjahis – 52 subcastes) when they escaped into the Chamba region. There they married with Kohlis also. Sabharwals were originally from Gujarat (Sabhramati) and the Kohlis from coastal Maharashtra.

This was the background to my renewed interest in the family history and the beginning of my actual researches in this context.

YEARS IN THE PUNJAB (1956-1962)

In May 1956, the Union Public Service Commission selected me for a Class II post of Assistant Information Officer under the Central Government, offering a decidedly better salary. My posting was at Jullundur where Kuldip Nayar[100] had just opened the new Information Centre. I hurried to join the post on 1st July.  The local Civil Surgeon gave me the required Fitness Certificate, but a few weeks later someone in Delhi ordered me to appear before a Medical Board of three doctors at Amritsar.

Just then, Parliament had passed the States Reorganisation Act under which PEPSU was to be merged into the State of Punjab on the 1st of November.[101] Being unsure of my prospects at Jullundur, and being a permanent employee of PEPSU, I reverted to Patiala after less than four full months at Jullundur. Two days later, I was at Chandigarh, designated a P.R.O. in the Punjab Public Relations Department.

 

THE YEARS AT CHANDIGARH

 

As an emergency measure, I and my colleague Balwant Singh Bhullar had been allotted one newly-built Type-10 house (between the two of us) in Sector 19 in the south-eastern corner of Chandigarh. Bhullar was from a rich and influential Jat family; he never occupied his half of the house; we had full occupation; and very soon, Bhullar got himself transferred to the Excise Department. We were in No:1 and the ladies in No:2 were more than excited that Chand could even “design and knit” woollens. Across the road was Master Amar Nath, our official Chief Photographer (also from PEPSU, and a family friend).

 

After a few months, we were given one “full  house” in Sector 23, on the south-west, next to the busiest shopping complex in Sector 22. But it was a Type-11 (that is a smaller) house in a crowded locality. Our neighbors were the Bhandharis; Neelam, their child, was older than Sanjeev; the head of the family was Chief Technical Officer of the Roadways.

 

It was only in December 1957 that we finally got our due, a  newly-built Type-9 house in Sector 7, next to the Governor’s sector, about a mile from the Lake. This was the best accomodation we have ever had in every respect; even the Joint-Secretary level accomodation in Rabindra Nagar at Delhi was not as good, besides being an old construction.

 

Our house overlooked a large grassy quadrangle, with a block of Type-10 houses on one side and another block with Type-12 houses on the side opposite ours. Living in one of the Type-12 houses was Kala who took up our house-keeping job; and we have never had a better maid-servant.

 

Sanjeev and the Puppy.

Sanjeev and Usha (?) Bhabi.

 

The People in the Old Secretariat.

 

Operation Ratangarh.18/12/56

Beginning of Children’s Diaries.

The Lady in No:10

Mrs Prem & Her Brother

 

Phool weds 12/7/57. Sanjeev burns finger. Death of FCAnand at Lahore.DDS retires finally, to Doon. Sanjeev at Temple; coin collector!

Shift to New Secretariat.

 

Minakshi was born at Ratangarh (Churu District)[102] on 12th April, 1958. Incidentally, a first-cousin[103] of hers has a mother-in-law[104] born in December 1958. Bela 12/2/58; Geeta Rajpal 12/8/58; Aju 21/10/58. Yogi-Lata 19/5/58..

 

Charan, Bholi wed… Sanjeev at Kutub; Kamla;Sheila; kesh-qatal. S&M went to the lake.

My father wrote in his Diary: “I retired on 31-12-58[105] and soon shifted with bag and baggage to Dayalbagh to live with and look after parents who are too old and should not be left alone…my anxiety is now to do something for Pashi, Gulloo, Kuku and Shobha who are too young still and need attention in settling in life.” However, within three months he was appointed “Chief Instructor in the Railway Technical Training Centre, Shahjahanpur.”[106]

In another Diary, he wrote on 13th October 1960: “Kuku[107] and Shobha can get good education at Bhilai[108]…we cannot leave Dayalbagh for sake of parents…”[109] The next day he was writing (in a long letter) to Gulloo: “I understand you are not pulling on quite nicely with Pashi and his work and prestige is suffering badly. He does not like your stay with him on this account and has asked us to tell you to shift …If Rewari suits you, you may go there…”[110]

Matajee was even then urging Pitajee to get part of his pension commuted “as she says money is required to start some work or industry for the children.”[111] However, Pitajee was not “very keen” on following this advice because, as he noted in his diary, “if I lose the capital (as happens with 90 per cent pensioners), I will be stranded with a low pension.” Eventually, he did take Rs.9715.20 “as commutation and pension reduced to Rs.161 P.M. from 6-12-60.”

 

 Shobha stayed under parental care, while Pashi, Gulloo and Kuku came to live with me for long or short spells. Only Kuku completed his studies satisfactorily at the Swiss Technical Training Centre at Chandigarh. Gulloo spent most of his time filling up page after page of his school exercise books with imaginary budgets for different possible standards of life in the future.[112]

 

Arvind 27/1/60; Ritu 1/5; Ginny 20/9; Shashi weds 20/10/60.

 

DELHI (1962-85)

The Central Information Service was constituted in 1960. Class I posts (Grade II) were advertised in 1961. I came (with Chand and the children) to Delhi from Chandigarh to take the examination. This was when we met Raj, Neena and Pawan after a long time.

The subject for my Urdu essay was  Khilaai Parvaaz (Space Flights).

Later, I came (alone) for the interview when Zaheer was the UPSC chairman; I admired his paternal, affable approach; he must have appreciated whatever I said during the interview, for I received a call for a Medical Board examination a few months later.

The “medical” was to be at Patiala on the 2nd February 1962. The Ashtagrahi (confluence of planets) scare was then the talk of the country, and my father recorded a prayer in his Diary to save us all from the evil portents. It proved to be a lucky day for me; I sailed through the experience which had caused me so much loss in terms of career in 1956 at Amritsar.

On the 9th April 1962 I joined the Press Information Bureau at Delhi. My first boss was the amiable and able Abdul Hamid  (just like Madan Gopal at Patiala), at that time attached to Gulzarilal Nanda, Minister of Commerce. I covered two major functions for Nanda (who was to be acting Prime Minister after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, and again after Lal Bahadur Shastri). Radhakrishnan became President in May 1962.[113]

Abdul Hamid was Press Secretary to President Zakir Hussain seven years later when I met them both at Kohima in my capacity of Nagaland’s Publicity Director. Another 12 years later, Hamid was a member of the Union Public Service Commission, where I represented my Ministry occasionally on the Selection Committees. Incidentally, I was then living at DI/80 Rabindra Nagar, within easy walking distance of the UPSC office on Shahjahan Road.

For some time on our arrival at Delhi, we stayed in the top floor of K-8 Jangpura Extension (now our permanent address since 28th July 1985; Charan and Sudesh were living there at that time). Then we shifted to Lajpat Nagar II, where Chand escaped being burnt alive when a kerosene stove overturned in her hands. Also at that time Pashi had a brush with the police when one of his business partners was involved in some shady deal; we got him out of detention with some difficulty.

PUBLICATIONS DIVISION

In June 1962, G.N.S. Raghavan (erstwhile Editor in the THOUGHT Weekly) was Deputy Director (Editorial) in the Publications Division. Padmanabhan, the Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting who had processed my induction into the Central Information Service, now suggested to Raghavan that my qualifications fitted me for work in the Publications Division. Orders for my transfer from the Press Information Bureau were issued when I had completed just 80 days there. During these few weeks, I had been shifted from the Ministry of Commerce to the more congenial work in the Features Unit. The Publications Division was the next obvious move.

The PIB is located in the Shastri Bhawan on Parliament Street in Central Delhi, while the Publications Division used to be in the Old Secretariat. A Delhi minister is now sitting in the room where my chair used to be. In any case, we had now to think of shifting to North Delhi to be nearer my office and also to put Sanjeev and Minakshi into school.

HOUSE-HUNTING[114]

Living at Shakti Nagar in North Delhi was my favourite Bhabi Vimal, daughter of Narinder Nath Wadhawan (an Electrical Engineer in the Railways) and wife of my eldest cousin Narinder Nath Chadha (an Engineer in All India Radio). She suggested that we get living accomodation in Model Town, which was then a clean area with university students finding it particularly close and convenient. Since then, the Subzi Mandi has shifted to adjacent Azadpur and the character of the locality has changed.

Vimal and I went to Model Town while Chand was looking after the children; a property agent showed us a vacant second floor with a miani on the first floor in D Block of Model Town III and made the usual remark: “This should be fine aap mian-biwi ke liye.”

 The location of the floors was highly inconvenient, but we made it our base; then Sanjeev and Mina went round the F Block of Model Town II, scouting for a place near the main market, chaperoned by their parents. F-11/3 was a newly built house and Shiv Shankar Kapoor of Grindlays Bank was sitting in the verandah waiting for his first tenants when Sanjeev and Minakshi entered the gate and asked: “Uncle, yeh makaan To-Let hai?” We got the front half for Rs.150 per month.

The rear portion comprising two smaller rooms was taken shortly afterwards by four students, that is two married couples; Edward Mpisaunga (tall and hefty) with his wife Ruth; and Chimombe & Winnie (not really gigantic, though little Bunty[115] thought them so). Ruth delivered a son whom they named Sunil; we received photographs of their comparatively luxurious accommodation when they went back after graduation to Harare in their native Southern Rhodesia (now free Zimbabwe).

Later, a Christian couple moved into the rear half, with a common passage. The husband was Dr Anthony Stone, Professor of Mathematics at St. Stephens College, age 35, and his wife was Bertha Zimmerman of Canada, age 45. She had been a mission-worker in Ethiopia and met Tony on board a ship. They kept in touch with us for the next three decades… 

It took 13 months for the Punjab and the Central governments to exchange notes and for the AGCR to start paying me my salary; and when I got the arrears in one lump sum, Morarji Desai took away a hefty tax-cut; no one helped to expedite proceedings and no one told me that arrears are not taxed at a high rate.

 

Meanwhile, Morarji Bhai gave me another blow when the retirement age of central government employees was raised from 55 to 58. Going by my seniority, I was about to be promoted when this happened. My seniors got a three-year extension of their employment; and I got my “over-due” promotion only in early 1966.

LIFE AT HOME IN MODEL TOWN

 

The Chinese invasion came at a time when we had hardly settled down in F-11/3, mentioned above. One day, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave an assurance in Parliament that a White Paper on the causes of the war would be presented to the Lok Sabha on the ensuing Monday. Simultaneously, the Publications Division was asked to publish a profusely-documented book on The Chinese Threat (with maps of the disputed boundaries).[116]

 

I had to stay back late into the winter night to give the final Print Order at the Government of India press at Faridabad. Nobody in the office cared to inform my family; and Chand started telephoning people to find out about “a missing  husband”. Around mid-night she went personally to the house of my colleague Mahinder Jhamb (in F-3/8, Model Town); he knew only half the story. I came back home just before dawn.[117]

 

Earlier, while the war was still on, the Publications Division had brought out a pamphlet entitled  Who is the Aggressor?  It so happened that the only other words on the cover were: K.G.Ramakrishnan, the name of the author, a very senior editor. Taking these words as the answer to the main question, I joked to the author about it. We became very good friends; there was a sequel to this story 15 years later, when I was chosen for the post of Senior Copy Writer in DAVP.

 

AN EVENTFUL YEAR

During the next war (Pakistan, 1965), there was no such crisis, or scare.[118] 

This war was towards the end of the summer season. We were still sleeping under the open skies. The Jains (of Jain Bartan Bhandar) living opposite us across the street thought we were Jains also, because we always finished our supper around sunset and came out to sleep around the time when the war-ordained Black-out came into force. Our children thought nothing of air-raid warnings and all that.

By this time, I was a full-fledged Editor and my bosses had taken a fancy to me. I was picked to join a team of journalists and information service personnel going to the battle-front for a “familiarisation tour”. No one knew at that time how long the war would last. I bought an overcoat and made other preparations. And then Minakshi fell ill; I could not go.

Salarias       

Sanjeev’s fish for the Bengalis

Neighbor’s sword  (earlier Rana at Chandigarh)     

Holi  & Coal Tar    

LIFE IN THE OFFICE[119]

When I had just come to the Publications Division, a very senior colleague, Prithvi Nath Kaul Bamzai, at first thought I was a Muslim. Later he told me that an ancestor of his, NOORUDDIN KHAN BAMZAI, had re-established Afghan rule in J&K after uprooting SUKHJIWAN MAL SURI who had become very popular. Only 28 years later did I read his History of Kashmir (foreword by Jawaharlal Nehru) and realised how much of a hero Sukhjiwan Mal Suri was.

After the 1938 visit (with my grandfather), I had never been to Kashmir again, nor did I come across any further genealogical data. My father and some family members went to Kashmir in 1946. His grandson Sanjeev took his bride Rajni there in 1988. They did not visit Mattan. When Parabh Dial Suri died in 1963 and T.R.Suri in 1965, their ashes were taken to Hardwar; Mattan had ceased to be the destination long ago.

Much later, at Delhi, Farhad Suri, son of the veteran Delhi politician, Mrs. Tajdar Babbar, was approached in Golf Links for details of his family’s earlier history, because like the Nehru family they are of Kashmiri origin. They suggested the “Rajataringini”, translated and annotated by Jawaharlal’s brother-in-law Ranjit Pandit.

At a staff conference, I met Habibullah “Shaair”, the Field Publicity Officer of  Pahalgam.  Bamzai brought up the subject of my ancestry and after a few months Habibullah supplied extracts from some Panda’s Ledgers about some Kashmiri Khatri and Rajput families. But these did not tell me much about the family history at that time.

I did some desultory reading to find out if there were any links with the Sher Shah Suri family.

AHMEDABAD: CLUES TO AN EARLIER BACKGROUND

One fine morning, early in September 1964, my Director came to my room and told me: “Suri, you have to fly to Ahmedabad before noon today. Here are the air-tickets. Someone will meet you at the air-port there and take you to Sharada Prasad…”

That evening, I was taken to the National Design Institute to work on the  preparation of the famous Nehru Exhibition under H.Y.Sharda Prasad[120] & Charles Eames[121]. It was taken to New York and London and seen by the U.S. President and the British Queen, inter alia. (By the way, Queen Elizabeth’s year of birth and year of taking up a Government job, viz., her coronation, are the same as mine, 1926 and 1952. Her mother died at the age of 101 in the year 2002).

Sharada Prasad put me in the spacious room next to his at the Circuit House, where the room rent was Rs.2 per day, with hot water in a huge bathroom with a huge bath-tub, and other services, laid on. Incidentally, the left half of the Ahmedabad Circuit house was (and still is) maintained as a “historic” place because it was there that Gandhiji was tried for sedition by a British Judge who complimented  the “prisoner in the dock” for his patriotism and then sent him to jail because the laws were such.

 

I worked there for a fortnight and then flew back to Delhi before my “open” air-ticket expired. The more important reason was that six-year old Minakshi was telling her mother: “I am already forgetting what Daddy looks like.” Sharada Prasad then requisitioned the services of Sheila Dhar, my room-mate in the office at Delhi. She was substantially my senior and the Kayasth wife of an up-and-coming Kashmiri named P.N.Dhar. He was then the Director of the Delhi School of Economics or the Institute of Economic Growth; much later, he replaced P.N.Haksar as Secretary to the Prime Minister. Sheila became a family friend who came visiting very often and once wrote to Minakshi: “Moti Auntie aayay gi, sub chut kar jayay gi…”

 

At the National Institute of Design, Dashrath Patel (and a post-graduate student Minakshi Shah) drew my attention to Suri families of the South, descendants of Jain Acharyas, and their relations with the Mughals, Bahmani and Adil Shahi rulers.Much later, the Rana of Mewar came out with the Hakim Shah Suri Memorial (Annual) Awards, in the memory of the redoubtable general (of Afghan origin) who had fought for the family of Rana Partap against the Mughals.

 

Another friend I made at Ahmedabad was Pratap Kapoor (then Information Officer in charge of Features at PIB). He came rushing to me one day and said: “Come, put on your coat…we are going to meet Indira Gandhi (then the Information Minister, our minister).” Nothing much happened at the meeting; it was just another ploy by Pratap to be in her good books. At the Institute, he spent less time on work and more on ogling or chatting up the nubile Parsi Receptionist, Miss Cama. Years later, he was Director of Defence Publicity and picked me to be Editor-in-Chief of a group of journals meant for the armed forces.

 

MY BRUSH WITH INDIAN HISTORY

Back at Delhi, I worked on a series of pamphlets which made me familiar with the history of various communities in India and their foreign links.

 

The first one was during the visit of the Pope for the Eucharistic Congress in the winter of 1964. For the occasion, we published an illustrated pamphlet entitled Christians in India. It contained the history of the faith since the arrival of Saint Thomas in the Deccan, along with photographs of Christian churches in India and relevant demographic data. Naturally, we added mention of the freedom of religion guaranteed under our Constitution and references to the many Christians who had held high offices in the country.

 

This was also the pattern for a pamphlet on Muslims in India. Years later, as Senior Copy Writer in DAVP, I wrote a pamphlet entitled Religion is Love, Unity is Strength, in an effort to promote national integration. 

SHIFTING 1968

The promotion

The Eid accident…hernia at hissar

Life of jamnalal bajaj  tape recorder

gutter class     gk       ……darzi with perfect fit

Sahai chor              Roz Nahana          Recurrence of hernia

 


 


Minakshi herself has undergone surgery since then, for Caesarians[122] in 1984 and 1989, and for the resultant hernia in Y2K.

 

My cataracts were in the natural course of old age, but Sanjeev’s wife rushed headlong into painful and protracted surgery. We were both in O.T.s simultaneously on the 5th October in Y2K. She has still to recover from the trauma.

OLD AGE AND DEATH

My grandfather lived to be 94; so did Chand’s grandfather (and her father). And in fairly good health also. However, I would like to end this section with what was said about J. Krishnamurti by his biographer:[123] “His health, at eighty-seven, is probably better than it has ever been; his bodily suppleness, like his eyesight, is unimpaired…”

Compare this very exceptional case with that of Dr S. Radhakrishnan, which is more like many of the best. At the age of 80, shortly after his retirement, his “speech became slurred when he suffered a stroke…Thereafter a succession of minor strokes punctuated a slow descent spread over seven years.” What a contrast of two eminent men at the age of 87.

There is just one other matter on which I would have liked to quote Krishnamurti. Someone asked him: “How is one to be free of the constant fear of death?” This is one fear I have never had, nor really understood in others. But our philosopher (with “his total remoteness from his body and his utter lack of sentimentality about death”) just maintained that “every moment is a re-creation”, while the relevant famous shloka from the  Gita is generally quoted only after a man is dead. 

AFTER RETIREMENT (1984-Y2K)

 

Shortly after DAVP purchased a Personal Computer for me, Minakshi gave me my first grandchild. Then came a freak accident in the bus. I broke the ligaments in my ankle and they put it in plaster.

Ritika could not be denied her ride on my knees, especially when I retired and stayed at home all day.

As soon as I recovered the use of my legs, Ramamohan Rao of All India Radio invited me to implement my earlier suggestion to computerise the processing of Election Backgrounders and Results for use in News Bulletins. We did it for the first Rajiv Gandhi General Election to Parliament.

Ritika began accompanying me on my trips to Parliament Street. I would deposit her with Mrs Gupta in the DAVP; and the baby would show off her dancing skills on the office tables. Then she saw people working on typewriters and said: “Main bhee tik-tik karoongee.” Today, she is a registered MBBS.

We vacated the official residence at Rabindra Nagar on my father’s 20th death anniversary, 28th July 1985 and occupied the second floor accomodation at K-8 Jangpura Extension for the next 20 years. After my mother’s death, the house was sold to a builder who demolished it and built a new residence instead.

Within two or three years, Baby Ritika had begun to “recognise” her parents again; and ultimately went back to live at Adarsh Nagar.

Meanwhile, Sanjeev married Rajni (born on 18th October in the year of UTI’s birth) in a simple ceremony at the nearest temple. Lalajee (Chand’s father) passed away the same day (19th October 1988) after a brief illness at the age of 94.

Ajay & Minakshi’s second five year plan brought them a son on the 21st April 1989, exactly five years after Ritika had been born on the 21st April 1984. I had been translating some of V.P.Singh’s Hindi speeches into English for DAVP. Now the Publications Division gave the collected speeches of Rajiv Gandhi to be edited for publication in book form. I did the editing at Adarsh Nagar, with the bawling of Rites in the background.

Now it was the turn of Rajni to put a grandson in my lap (Mohak, born on Minakshi’s birthday, 12th April 1989).  India was all excited about Mahabharat on TV and a reputed publisher asked me to do a Series entitled Characters from the Mahabharat. We did 22 volumes in all, on an average of one every week, with Mohak in my lap half the time, until he was two years old.[124]

Subsequent generations may not be aware of the 22 slim volumes co-authored by Chander Kanta Suri. At least three editions came out. We netted only Rs. 44,000 for this work. No royalties. Specimen volumes were given to almost everyone we knew. Sets were given to a selected few, until the supplies ran out, even with the publisher.

 

THE PLACE OF RELIGION

 & WOMEN

 

The life of Lala Parabh Dial Suri has become more vivid and his religious development more understandable by the parallels I have added from the lives of Lala Lajpat Rai, Swami Vivekananda, Jawaharlal Nehru and Annie Besant. Gandhiji, of course, born a month before Parabh Dial Suri, provides a perfect foil.

I went back recently to two books[125] which had had a formative influence on my views about religion:

Paul Brunton’s “Search in Secret India” (including chapters on Raman Maharishi & Sahabji Maharaj of Dayalbagh).

“Yatharth Prakash” by Sahabji Maharaj Sir Anand Sarup of Dayalbagh. Published in the mid-1930s. What particularly left its impress on my mind was a ‘fictional history’ (in the end pages) of how rituals obscured real religion over the ages.

 

NAGALAND

The first time I heard Nagaland mentioned in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting was when I was in the Publications Division. Entering the Director’s room, I found a senior editor N.N.Pillai[1] pleading to be excused from going to Nagaland as the State Director of Publicity. He had been selected for the post on the basis of his own request, but now found the prospect rather uncomfortable.

His request was granted and A.K.Roy of All India Radio was sent to Kohima. Roy was back in Delhi within a year for reasons not much to his credit.

When Chief Minister T.N.Angami was next in the “Indian” Capital, he reminded the Ministry that the post was lying vacant. The Principal Information Officer asked G.N.S.Raghavan to suggest a name; he rang me upon a Saturday and I assented without hesitation. “Consult your wife,” he said, “and I will ring up again on Monday to ascertain your decision.”

The appointment order arrived in December 1968, when Sanjeev and Minakshi had yet to finish their final term in the school-year. So I prevaricated by asking the Ministry to put down the terms of Deputation in black-and-white. They did it early in February and we left Delhi on the 12th.

The Jeep Driver[2] sent to receive me at Dimapur, the rail-head, was asleep when the train arrived (very late due to a bomb-scare en route). We just took the next bus. Asked for the Inner Line Permit at Chumukdema, I just told the sentry I was the new Director of Publicity, and he let us pass. Our “security” arrangements have always been like that.

We arrived at the Kohima Bus Terminus to be told that the local Petrol Pump had been blown up. Deputy Director Bendang Ao had warned me earlier not to bring my family to Kohima because the 8-room Director’s Residence had been “occupied” by a local big-wig. Now that we had disregarded his advice, he washed his hands of all responsibility. I rang up the Radio Station and Director Sivaswami arranged for my transport. We spent the night at the house of accountant Banga (a Sardarji domiciled in Nagaland) and shifted next morning to the M.L.A.s Hostel. When the Chief Secretary was told about this, he transferred us to the Officers Annexe of the V.I.P.Guest House, at the very crown of the town, at what was called the Ministers Hill. We were located about a hundred metres above the Chief Minister’s Residence.

I will leave it to Chand to describe our food for the next few weeks, until the railways delivered our luggage booked at Delhi. “The purely personal side of the past lingers only in the memory of the person who has lived it,” says Chagla. He also mentions that his wife “carefully and conscientiously preserved” all the clippings which enable him to write his autobiography in the greatest detail.

OFFICIAL MATTERS

When I called on the Chief Minister at his residence on the night of our arrival, the place was agog with song and dance. This included very Nagamised[3] renderings of the latest Hindi film hits.

T.N.Angami had just resigned after Hokishe Sema was elected Leader of the House in the State Assembly. This was the reason for the celebrations. A few months later, I was told to go back to “India” because “you are T.N.Angami’s man.” This canard had been spread by Hans Raj Rattan (Nagaland’s Liaison Officer in Delhi) and V.K.Arora (the Central Government’s Regional Field Publicity Officer for Nagaland & Manipur), both officers of the Central Information Service.

 

I was advised to make a courtesy call on the Governor also. But I decided that mine was not a big enough post to require this. Much later, I met Governor B.K.Nehru at a helipad near Kohima for a perfunctory encounter, as we shall see below.[4]

 

SOME VIP VISITS

During my stay in Nagaland, we had visits from President Zakir Husain, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narain, among others.[5]

 

 

 

 

At the end of the President’s visit, we presented to him an album of photographs taken during his stay. My staff had worked overnight to complete the job; they were rather disappointed that the VIP did not immediately go through the photographs like an eager child; instead he passed it on to his Press Secretary, my old boss, Abdul Hamid.

Back at Delhi, Hamid carried the album to Rashtrapati Bhawan the next morning. Hamid was told to wait as the President had gone to take a bath. He did not come out alive…

 

Indira Gandhi’s visit brought a good number of press representatives to Kohima. She was photographed with many groups, including one group of ladies only; Chand was in the line-up which was headed by the wives respectively of the Nagaland Governor[6], the Chief Minister, the Corps Commander, and so on.

Hans Raj Rattan, a member of the Indian Information Service like me, and a former incumbent of the post I was now holding (Director of Nagaland Publicity), came with the Prime Minister in his current capacity as the State’s Liaison Officer in Delhi. He knew more about my Rs.16 lakh budget than I did; for he asked me if he could spend some of my Entertainment Budget for the year to entertain the press representatives. I learnt later that he had spent more in one or two days than I had spent all through the year.

 

Jai Prakash Narain’s visit encouraged the Naga underground elements. He  was opposed to Indira Gandhi on many counts. His movement was to lead to the Emergency regime six years later.[7] But for the time being, expectations of insurgent activity during his visit caused many a faint-hearted officer to seek personal safety.

 

Among these was V.K.Arora (a much younger member of the Indian Information Service, then posted as the Regional Field Publicity Officer for Nagaland and Manipur). He told my family to stay indoors and advised me not to attend the civic reception to Jai Prakash Narain in the Town Hall. His family stayed behind closed doors. My wife and children did not. Nothing happened. He preached a peaceful “revolution” and went away. That was also the beginning of my (rare) contacts with Dr. M. Aram and other Christian members of the Peace Group.

 

The Corps Commander with his headquarters at Zakhama invited me to visit him. V.K.Arora tagged along. As soon as the General saw us, he told his Adjutant: “Arora Sahab ko canteen mein lay jao; jo saamaan inko laina ho, lay dena.” Arora had been visiting Zakhama far too frequently, and the General knew why. We depended a lot on tinned foods but did not scrounge at Zakhama.

 

In fact, we had the strangest sources of food. Spices and condiments we had taken with us from Delhi; vegetables came from Dimapur; we grew some in our compound; some Naga friends brought eggs and poultry; even our Naga sweeper returned the compliment whenever we gave him some left-overs of fish or meat. The Nagas are a very self-respecting lot; they never beg or steal. Tit for tat is their motto in many ways.

 

Even T.N.Angami, who had selected me when he was Chief Minister, came visiting occasionally, usually during his morning walk. Twice he brought saplings for my kitchen garden.

An unexpected and uninvited visitor was Balraj Madhok.[8] He was staying at the VIP Guest House next door. Suddenly, he rang my call-bell and said: “Can you give me a cold drink, some sherbet or something? They offer me nothing but beer or rum. Even the plain water here causes dysentery, I am told.” Chand gave him Rooh Afza imported from Delhi.

 

Nihovi Sema & the Midnight Knock

Akum Imlong, among the most sophisticated of the Nagas, was Minister for Information and Publicity. His Deputy was a chamcha of the Chief Minister, called Nihovi, who had been accomodated in the ministry to fill the Sema tribal quota. Nobody bothered much about him, while he concentrated on how much he could squeeze out of the departmental resources.

At about three in the night, after a warm summer day, there was a loud knocking at our bed-room door. Peering out of the glazed window, I could see some three or four Nagas with rifles in their hands.

By this time, we were quite at ease about the natives; so I got up and opened the door, without a second thought; Chand did not go beyond uttering a word of caution; the children were sound asleep.

In broken Hindi, the leader of the group explained that Nihovi Sema was on tour in the nearby Sema territory and had exhausted the rolls of film which he had scrounged from my Deputy, Bendang Ao. He had now sent them, young men from his home village, to get more rolls. Bendang’s newly-wed wife Ainla (daughter of Education Director Yajen Aiyer, more influential than any Deputy Minister) had told them not to disturb her husband; so they had thought it better to approach the Director himself!

I had to explain to them that film rolls were not stocked at the Director’s residence; and only Bendang could direct them to the appropriate store-keeper. They went away very puzzled about the ways of the “Indian” government.

 

Some time later, Nihovi started sending me bunches of his negatives, with oral requests to give him the prints. These negatives kept accumulating in the top drawer of my office table; he never took the liberty of reminding me. When I was “returning to India” on the completion of my tenure, as the train was crossing the Brahmaputra, I dumped the whole lot of negatives into the river.

 

REMINDERS

Nihovi never sent a reminder. I learnt later that it was considered bad manners (among the Nagas) to remind anyone of anything; it implied a reflection either on his memory or his willingnes to oblige you.

If I remember correctly, the veteran footballer T. Ao was Director of Health Services. In my enthusiasm to do some real publicity for the state, I had sent out a circular to all Heads of Departments seeking data on their achievements in a detailed proforma; of course, no Department bothered to reply. When I sent out routine reminders, the response was a deafening silence again.

With one exception. The Director of Health Services rang me up, personally, to protest. “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “What do you mean by sending me a reminder? I am old enough to be your father…”

 

NAGA NAMES

The Chief Engineer, Electricity, was Lanu Toy. There were other “exotic” names.

 

THE STATE CALENDAR

When the time came to print the Nagaland State Calendar for 1970, tenders came from two Calcutta firms and one from Sivakasi (the Fireworks City). On calling for previous papers, it was found that the 1969 calendar had no mention of the Mahatma Gandhi Centenary celebrated all over India that year. So we started the 1970 Calendar with a portrait of the Mahatma.

The Controller of Printing was a Keralite named Mahadevan. He secured the government’s permission to go to Sivakasi to personally supervise the job. The Director of Publicity was requested to tag along for the editorial chores. We spent two days at Sivakasi (eating on palm leaves), then went to Mahadevan’s home town (for more of the same), and rounded off the trip by a visit to Kanya Kumari.

On my way back, I missed a flight at Madras, and had to stay there overnight. A long, long walk along the Marina, and into the crowded upper reaches of  the town are my only memories of  24 hours in Madras, apart from the utter lack of communication because only a handful of those concerned could speak English.

When the Calendars were distributed, just after Christmas, there was a lot of favorable comment. So I saved a few boxes for my friends in Delhi. However, one memorable comment came from the disk-jockeys in the Nagamese programme on All India Radio, Kohima.

One of them asked his colleague (on the air): “Have you seen the new Calendar? It has Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait on the first page…”

“Oh! Is that Mahatma Gandhi?” replied the other man. “I thought the Director of Publicity had put his own photograph there.” You know what he meant, if you have seen portraits of both the Mahatma and the Director of Publicity, Nagaland 1969-70.[9]

 

 

TOURISM CONFERENCE

Karan Singh was the Union Minister for Tourism (among other things) in those days. He called a conference of all the State Ministers and Directors of Tourism to be held at Darjeeling. Nagaland designated Nehovi Sema and me to represent Nagaland.

At the opening session, every state was given time to describe the status of tourism within its boundaries. When the time approached for Nehovi Sema to stand up and speak, he suddenly realised that he needed to go to the toilet, leaving me to present Nagaland’s summary of the situation…

Mehdi Abbas Hussaini, an acquaintance from the Publications Division in Delhi, was present at Darjeeling, on deputation as an Assistant Director of Tourism. He took me out to lunch and a visit to Tiger Hill. Later, in the 1970s, he and his second wife Nasreen became close friends of the family at Model Town in Delhi.[10]

As Director of Tourism, I was responsible for the establishment of Nagaland’s first Tourist Lodge, at Dimapur. Much later, a second Lodge has come up at Kohima also.

 

On my way back from the Conference at Darjeeling, I had some business (official as well as personal) at Calcutta. So I requested the Tourism Office there to arrange for my transport from Calcutta Airport to my “Calcutta Residence.”[11] Imagine my surprise when a de-luxe tourist bus, with only a driver in it, and nobody else, met me at the airport and dropped me at home. So much for the uses of the Tourism Department!

CHAND AS A TEACHER

 

Literacy in Nagaland was not widely prevalent in those days. But the urge was there. Principal Goudinho of the Kohima Mission School came to know that Chand was a post-Graduate; and approached me to ask if she would like to teach English and Mathematics at his school. She agreed.

I used to drop her at the school on my way to the office in the morning; and pick her up on our way back to our residence at the “top of the town”, a few feet higher than the Chief Minister’s House. Further down was the residence of the State Education Minister.

One day, I was invited to dinner by the Education Minister. His toddler son was playing on the plush carpet when a fat caterpillar dropped right in front of him. The boy put out his hand, scooped up the insect and put it into his mouth. No one (except me) thought anything unusual had happened.

It turned out that the Minister wanted Chand to be a tutor-at-home to his daughter Mary. She said she could not spare the time. Just before the next terminal test, there came a request for a “guess paper”…

One Punjabi father of a student approached Chand to “pass” his son who had left his test pages almost blank. “If you do not help a Punjabi student,” he asked, “who will?”

 

SANJEEV & MINA

“A good stenographer is God’s own gift,” said one of India’s most efficient personalities.[12] My own experience in Nagaland underscores this point. A Malayali young man named Radhakrishnan enabled me to attend to all the Departmental papers and correspondence almost single-handed. We left over nothing for “tomorrow”.[13]

 

CALCUTTA, DEHRA DUN, DELHI (up to April 1970)

While on deputation to Nagaland, I had occasion to pass through Calcutta more than once on my way to other states. Lakhpat Rai Rajpal’s office on Prinsep Street came to mind when I purchased a book about James Prinsep’s vast contribution to Indology for my Departmental Library. Further references in his research papers led to a Suri family in Bihar and Bengal who ended up in Calcutta towards the end of the 18th century and contributed to Prinsep’s research in the early 19th century. Much more detail can be found if one can wade through the voluminous contributions of the Indologists of 1830-1860 which are available in the Asiatic Society at Calcutta (and the National Archives at New Delhi).

On returning to Delhi as Research Officer, R.&R.D. (Research & Reference Division), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, I was provided fresh opportunities for exploring the family history. Director Shankar Dayal (a Delhi Kayastha, erstwhile Editor of The Traveller in India) had kept the post vacant for me and we managed to set up a new library adjacent to the Press Information Bureau’s Conference Hall on the first floor of Shastri Bhavan.

Ever since then, it has been a favourite hunting ground for journalists in search of backgrounders. I was head of the Purchases Committee for this library and pursued my interests also when reviewing new arrivals.[14] The Division’s offices were on the Seventh Floor.

Raj Kalra’s sister-in-law Mrs. Shukul Murgai (she died around 31st December 1996) was then at the National Archives. She helped me to browse  through a large variety of papers unofficially. More fruitful was her contact with the Delhi State Archives where I found the Khekhra papers in which Dhani Ram Suri had quoted extensively from Hidayetkesh etc., and given a summary of his own career in URDU interspersed with Persian, a veritable mine of relevant data, the value of which was realised only much later.

The National Archives was also the place where more references to the Calcutta relations of Dhani Ram Suri were found – in the “Asiatic Researches” (and its later Avatar, the “Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal” which started publication in about 1832).

It later transpired that Dr. O.P. Kejriwal – (Director, Publications Division, Government of India, Information and Broadcasting,1995) – had dug up the same mine of information in 1978; that was how Shukul Murgai was aware of its value.

Kejriwal’s book (Oxford University Press, 1988) was praised by A.L.Basham. Kejriwal later became Director of the NEHRU MEMORIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM in 1999-2000.

Shankar Dayal was nearing retirement and did not want his last years in service to be anything but smooth sailing. Therefore, when the Ministry selected me to be Chief Editor of the Aakaashvaani Group of Journals, he refused to relieve me. The post would have given me 10 per cent Deputation Allowance; so I put down a protest note on the file.

A few weeks later, I was sitting with him in his room when the telephone rang. At the other end was my old friend and admirer, S. Padmanabhan, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry. He had seen my protest note and now asked Shankar Dayal if he could relieve me for a post in the Research & Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat.

By now, Shankar Dayal was in a repentant mood. He told me of the post and said: “Do you want to go?” My response was: “What is the pay?” When Padmanabhan told us it was a five-year tenure post with 20 per cent Deputation Allowance, I immediately said “Yes”.  And that was that.[15]

My decision to go to Nagaland had been equally instantaneous in 1968. And in 1962, it was Padmanabhan who had proposed and finalised my transfer to the Publications Division when I had not yet completed three months in my first posting in the Central Information Service.

ACT NOW, REPENT LATER

As soon as I received my Deputation orders, I went over to the South Block (in the Central Secretariat) and met my future boss, Colonel V. Longer. It was the 12th of January and the next day was a Friday; Longer must have been joking (or was he superstitious?), for he immediately sent for his staff officer and made me sign the papers for taking over charge.

This was quite irregular because I had not yet been relieved from the Research & Reference Division. When Shankar Dayal came to know this, he put on a wry face, but made no further fuss.[16]

If this happens to be typical of my behaviour on many occasions, one of my colleagues did say: “Suri, your motto seems to be ‘Act in haste, Repent later.” This was when I had relinquished my lien on my permanent post at Patiala and gone over to the Information Centre at Jullundur (on a probation post under the Central Government) in July 1956.[17] My son was only three months old at the time and my wife had to pack up and follow me to Jullundur a week later. Her parental family was still at New Patiala. 

Within four months, the situation had become difficult. PEPSU was to be merged into Punjab (under a nation-wide Reorganisation of States) with effect from the 1st November 1956. The Civil Surgeon at Jullundur had given me a Medical Fitness Certificate (still available on my files at home) but the Ministry insisted that I appear before a Medical Board at Amritsar, because it was a Class II Gazetted post. Only just in time did I manage to secure a telegram reverting me to my PEPSU post. I was relieved from the Jullundur post on the morning of the 29th October, joined at Patiala in the afternoon and received my orders of posting at Chandigarh on the last working day of the State of PEPSU.

NO PATIENCE?

It is for others to judge how patient or impatient I am by temperament, but I can provide some grounds for judgement.

Almost all my file-work, whether in office or in my private matters, has always been readied long before it is due. Then I put it aside, waiting impatiently for the due date or hour to arrive. During examinations, I have always hurried through the answers and then hated to revise. I have never read even a text-book twice; if necessary, I would rather go through another text on the same subject,

Long before any supplies of soap, tooth-paste, postal and other stationery or snacks got exhausted at home, I used to get some more from the suppliers. Now that the wife is the manager of purchases, I remind her fairly early. My role now is limited to funds for domestic expenditure. In this also, she now makes out all the Bills Due on the last day of the month, puts the appropriate amounts in labelled envelopes, ready for the Milk-wallah, Cable-Wallah, Gas-Wallah, and so on. Sometimes, I go down-stairs on the first of the new month to hand over the dues to the milk-delivery person.

But patience is needed more in dealing with people. There lies the crucial test. My bosses and even my subordinates in offices have never found me wanting on that score (at least not to my knowledge), But in the domestic sphere I have my doubts. Let Chand, Sanjeev, Rajni or Mohak decide. Matajee and Minakshi would be at the two extremes, I think.

R.A.W.

During 1972-77, I was on deputation to Indira Gandhi’s Secret Service in the aftermath of the Bangladesh war, the assassination of Mujib-ur-Rehman, etc. I was in the Psychological Warfare Division, which was later abolished by Morarji Desai.[18]

Before I recount any events or incidents during this period, it might be interesting to look back across the centuries at the use of spies, secret agents and routine intelligence-gathering and reportimg activities by various governments. (This is a haphazard collection, just for fun; by no means an exhaustive survey):

Reporters called Prativedaks (besides dozens of other official designations) existed under the Mauryas & the later Guptas. – R.C.Majumdar, (Advanced  History of India, page 120). See Arthashastra of Kautilya for the Earliest Period.

The Prativedaks were the “….secret emissaries of the central government who enquired into….all that went on in India and made reports to the emperor (at any  time, any where while he (Ashok’s order) was eating, in the zenana, in the inner apartments, with his cows, in transit, or resting in the Udyaan”. – R.C.Majumdar (Advanced History 1967, pg. 123).

Balban (in the late 13th century) devoted special attention to informers & news-writers. He appointed them independent of local Governors on whom they spied & reported. “Balban took great pains in selecting and exercised great caution in promoting them.” Our source is Zia-ud-Din Barani. Minhaaj had died earlier.

Alauddin Khalji used a “disinformation campaign” to strike at his uncle Feroz Shah and replace him on the throne of Delhi. Later, he made use of “psychological warfare” against Raja Ramachandra of Deogir in 1294 (see details in Ibn Batuta or Cambridge History of India, Volume III, pages 96/97).

After the Khaljis, Feroz Tughlak’s ablest minister, Malik Maqbul, a Brahman of Telangana converted to Islam, was also chief of his secret service.

See Abdul Hamid Lahori, official chronicler of Shah Jahan’s reign, for not so ancient history.

THE INTELLIGENCE BUREAU & THE RESEARCH & ANALYSIS WING[19]

These organisations were manned mostly by police and army personnel, with their own life-style. When the Chief of the RAW sent a circular to us all, announcing the formation of a club, a social wing, and inviting all of his employees to join, I just ignored the letter. A few days later, my boss Colonel Victor Longer (at a drinks-and-dinner party at his house in Bharati Nagar, where Chand was also present) asked me why I had not acknowledged the Chief’s missive; it had to be done; that was the done thing in their set-up, he said.

I then dictated a polite note, regretting my inability to join any evening events, saying my doctor had advised me against such things.

In a similar situation, it might be interesting to note, Dr. S.Radhakrishnan “was punctilious in attending the many parties and receptions  which  are  an  unavoidable  part  of  a diplomat’s life,’ says his son and biographer. “But, unmindful of protocol, he departed well ahead of anyone else, including whoever happened to be the chief guest, for he was accustomed to retire early.”

It was towards the end of my tenure in R.A.W. that I became interested in Jiddu Krishnamurti, the most famous philosopher of the century. We received a report that Mrs Pupul Jayakar, a friend of Indira Gandhi, had approached her for an assurance that no harm would come to the philosopher even if he came to India and said something about freedom and the “tyranny of established authority” – by which he was continually and habitually referring to the authority of religious gurus and scriptures, not to the Emergency regime in India!

Assurance granted with a smile, the philosopher flew into Delhi[20] and stayed with his old friend “Pupul”. Later, he had a long discussion with the Prime Minister. Some people even asserted that it was on his advice that the Emergency was lifted and the General Election was held in 1977. About two years later, when I was in DAVP, it was Indira Gandhi’s turn to call upon the philosopher at Vasant Vihar,[21] shortly after her spell in jail.

ALL INDIA RADIO

When I was nearing the end of my 5-year tenure of deputation to the Cabinet Secretariat, I remembered that one gets to earn the same higher pay on any leave taken right then (as I had done towards the end of my year at Nagaland). So I availed of all the earned leave available to me.

Nearing the close of the leave period, I asked the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to tell me about my next posting. They were not bothered; they had perhaps even forgotten that I existed, during the five years I had been away.

 My leave period came to an end and I presented myself at Shastri Bhavan for posting orders. The Deputy Secretary found that in the whole cadre of perhaps two thousand posts, there was not one vacant for me. Then he asked me: “Would you like to work under S.C.Bhatt in All India Radio?” Bhatt had been my boss for a few months in the Publications Division (and was later to be the boss again, for a longer period, in DAVP) and was known in the Service as everybody’s bete noire, a hard man to get along with, himself a hard worker and a very methodical officer.

“Anything is OK with me,” I replied.

“Sir, I am sending Suri to you,” the bureaucrat telephoned to Bhatt, and got his immediate approval. An ex-cadre post was created within minutes.

My very first assignment was to write the obituary of President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed for the day’s News Bulletins. He died on 11th February 1977. I just went back to the Research & Reference Division and polished whatever had been written when Ahmed was elected in 1974.

THE NEWS ROOM

It is typical of the working of government that I was sent to the News Room and told to put news bulletins together the same day, without an iota of briefing.

A year later, it was my turn for promotion to the Junior Administrative Grade; I became Chief News Editor. The youngest boys then under my charge, Sebastian Roberts, John Churchill, etc., are today the senior correspondents. We get their voice-overs on the radio everyday. Some have gone to postings abroad which were not even thought of in our days. We had four  Foreign Correspondents, one each in Europe, America, West Asia and East Asia. Incidentally, Praveen Kavi sounds very much like me on the microphone,

When Indira Gandhi revoked the Emergency, my erstwhile top-boss in the R.A.W. had assured her that she would win the ensuing General Election. On counting day, the whole world knew of her defeat by the evening; the B.B.C. and other foreign broadcasters were full of the tidings; but All India Radio kept quiet even in the 9 o’clock bulletin that night. When I arrived at three in the morning, I cleared the news for the morning bulletins and left the newsroom at about 9a.m. Some days later, when Minister Sethi was detained by the police, I was on the evening shift; news of the “arrest” was broadcast at 9 p.m. and Sethi telephoned Advani to say that it was not technically correct. I was called up by my boss at 11 p.m. to indicate my source; nothing happened thereafter.   

Some time after my promotion, I started the programme “Comments from the Press”, which was compiled every afternoon from telegrams and teleprinter messages received from all regional offices of the Press Information Bureau and All India Radio. It was broadcast just before the evening news. Now it is continuing as a regular feature in more than one bulletin, but adulterated with news-content.

I was compiling the Comments one evening when Information Minister L.K.Advani walked in. He looked over my shoulder, asked what I was preparing, and then said: “Do you include all shades of opinion?” When I replied in the affirmative, he said: “Very good, keep it up.” We never experienced any lobbying or pressure.

Just after the General Election which threw out Indira Gandhi, I arrived at Broadcasting House (Aakaashvaani Bhavan) one morning to find that our room had been gutted with fire. The typewriters had melted and the fans hung from the ceiling with gnarled blades. All the wooden almirahs were charred and the tapes of many commentaries broadcast during the Emergency were beyond any hope of usefulness. The Shah Commission was told that nothing had come out of our interrogation.

If I remember correctly, Bhatt had left and Raina was the new Director of News Services.  Some colleague in the Service intrigued to get my job and secured orders for my transfer to the  troubled Srinagar Station in Kashmir. However, I had responded to a circular received a few months earlier, and the government had selected me for deputation to the Ministry of Defence as Editor-in-Chief of the Sainik Samachar Group of Journals. The relevant Notification arrived just in time: I was relieved from All India Radio on 31st August, 1978.[22]

SAINIK SAMACHAR

 

The Sainik Samachar is a monthly illustrated journal for the information and entertainment of all ranks and formations of the armed forces. It is published in ten languages, but a master edition is prepared in English and all the others are translations. Even the production is routinely mediocre. My new boss, Pratap Kapoor,  had known me since 1964, when we were working on the Nehru Exhibition at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and had called on Indira Gandhi together. He also came to my residence in Rabindra Nagar on the 7th October, on the eve of Air Force Day 1978, to collect copies of the Special Number I had brought out for the occasion; he telephoned later to say that Defence Minister Jagjiwan Ram  had congratulated “us” for the “good show”.

 

 

The offices of the Sainik Samachar Group of Journals are located in sunless barracks in a corner of the Central Secretariat grounds. The Editor has a miniscule library. I have never liked working in such surroundings. So I was glad when S.C.Bhatt and K.G.Ramakrishnan (the bosses in DAVP) picked me for the “deputation” post of Senior Copy Writer, a job with better pay and more to my taste.

 

Now, when Pratap Kapoor  received the orders of my posting to DAVP, he insisted that he would not relieve me until I had produced the Navy Day Special Number due on the 4th December 1978. He wrote to the Defence Ministry and the Information Ministry that “the new Editor-in-Chief has only just now…brought some life to the Journal…and should not be shifted…” He gave me a copy of this letter and some small inducements[23] to continue working under him.

 

But Bhatt (who had been my boss in the Publications Division in the 1960s and in All India Radio in the 1970s) and K.G.Ramakrishnan (who was then a very active Secretary-General of the National Confederation of Government Officers’ Unions) went to the Information Secretary and secured my transfer to DAVP. I gave the Print order on the Navy Day Number a week before the deadline, and walked over to the Press Trust of India Building at 4, Parliament Street, which houses the DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity), next to the Reserve Bank of India.

There, I worked as Senior Copywriter, later Joint Director and briefly de facto Director, DAVP. The Director retired and no one was immediately appointed in his place.

 Five years after my retirement in December 1984, the Central Administrative Tribunal decided that I should have been the Director with effect from May 1983. Shahla Haider (sister of Foreign Secretary Salman Haider), who had been acting Director in 1984 was adjudged 30 places my junior in the Senior Administrative Grade of the Indian Information Service. The Revised Seniority List and the President’s Notification of April 1989 are in my Money Papers Diary.[24]

SUMMING UP AT THE END

FUN WITH FILES

Thirty-three years of service in the government leaves one with memories of many files. Some were crucial, others were fun.

When the Emergency ended, followed by the defeat of Indira Gandhi, the Janata government dismissed nine state Assemblies on the ground that they had forfeited their popular mandate. I was asked in DAVP to write a pamphlet justifying the action. I put up a note saying that this was a political argument which was beyond our ken under the code of conduct for government employees. The file went up to the Minister and came back (weeks later) with his note suggesting that we bring out some pamphlets on the recent achievements of the new government…

Director S.C.Bhatt was a Gujarati, and he was as taciturn and strict as another Gujarati known by the name of Morarji Desai.[25] Now it so happened that the post of Gujarati editor in our Languages Section was vacant when Morarjibhai’s speech was to be published by DAVP. When the Gujarati version of the pamphlet came out, Prakash Shah[26] of the PMO noticed with horror that the cover spelt the Prime Minister’s name as Moronji Desai. Mayhem naturally followed.

Something similar had happened when Swaran Singh assumed the post of Foreign Minister under Indira Gandhi. My “twin”[27] in the Indian Information Service, Harbans Mathur, was editor of the Indian & Foreign Review which published an article that mentioned “Sardar Swaran Singh’s record as a veteran of pubic affairs…”[28] Foreign Secretary S.K.Singh asked for action but Chief Editor G.N.S.Raghavan dismissed the event as “just another Printer’s Devil”, one of the occupational hazards of a publisher.

Going back a bit, the same word caused a lot of embarrassment to Anjana Mardhekar, my immediate superior at Chandigarh. A glossy pamphlet she was distributing at a public function said on its cover that it had been “Issued by the Pubic Relations Department”.

While working in this Department as a P.R.O., I had to draft “messages from the Chief Minister” to be read out, or to be printed in newspaper supplements, on a variety of occasions. Pratap Singh Kairon’s Private Secretary never took a second look at requests coming in for such messages; he just passed them on in a bunch to the Public Relations Department. However, one letter that landed on my table was a personal request from some relation of the Chief Minister to help in a case of marital cruelty. You can imagine my response.

“Let me say to the credit of Kairon, who was then…also the education Minister of the Punjab, that whatever other faults he might have had, he had a broad vision, and realiused the national interest…”[29]

Partap Singh Kairon once boasted at an election rally that his conduct of public affairs had resulted in Punjab having a per capita income which was double the national average.[30] Our Director Roshan Lal Verma put out this claim in a Press Note circulated to all newspapers. I put the same in a poster. A few days later, Kairon was at the Planning Commission asking for enhanced Plan Funds for his state. “But you are already so well off,” said the Deputy Chairman, referring to our poster and refusing more funds. Back at Chandigarh, Kairon angrily hauled up Roshan Lal Verma for the fiasco; he rushed back to his office and sent for the poster file, only to find his own Press Note as the first paper in it.[31]

This man had entered the I.A.S. with some smart politicking. Even his P.A. Kundan Lal used to joke about it in his presence. Once, an illustrated article on the Pinjore Gardens drafted by me found its place in the Illustrated Weekly of India. At the end of the article, the author’s named appeared as “R.L.Verma”. Incidentally, this article was based on a glossy brochure written and produced by me at Patiala under Madan Gopal; I had submitted this brochure as part of my application to the Union Public Service Commission in 1956; when a member of the Commission asked me how they could be sure that it was my work, I told them they had to take my word for it. They apparently did, for I was selected…

SOME OTHER JOBS

One chore for the Senior Copy Writer, my first post in DAVP (the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity), was to translate into English the Independence Day speech of the Prime Minister; it was then published as a DAVP pamphlet. When Charan Singh’s Red Fort harangue landed on my desk, I found that it dwelt less on national concerns and more on party politics. Bound by the government code of conduct, I blue-pencilled several paragraphs and put up the manuscript to the Director, S.C.Bhatt. He passed the buck to the Ministry. The file never came back to me. Verbal orders were communicated to us in September that there was no need to print the speech “as it has already appeared in the newspapers on the 16th August.” Charan Singh was the only Prime Minister whose Address to the Nation from the Ramparts of the Red Fort was not published by DAVP.

For about three decades,National Awards for Excellence in Printing used to be processed every year by DAVP; these were then given away by the President at an annual function. His speech for the occasion was drafted by the Senior Copy Writer of DAVP (my job in 1982). When Giani Zail Singh took the podium, he said: “Before I read out the prepared speech, I will voice some of my own thoughts.” He then launched into his usual earthy remarks, with his favourite verses of Urdu poetry thrown in. When he realised that he had spoken quite a bit, he started with my opening paragraph, then said: “You can read the rest in print tomorrow.” And that was that.[32]

Much earlier, in the Publications Division, I had edited the speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru. Then I was given a trickier assignment, the Collected Speeches of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. He had a collection of favourite anecdotes and parables from the Sanskrit which he repeated quite often; that was all right in any individual speech; but in a collection, it would have been detrimental to his image as an orator with a big reputation. So I edited the scripts in blue, green and red; appending a note that it would be advisable to delete the red-marked passages altogether; the greens could be retained only if the President wanted them; the blues would be the main text. Radhakrishnan was known to be quite touchy[33] (unlike Nehru who said: “I have done my job; let the editor do his, as long as he does not change the sense of what I wanted to say”). Naturally, the file went right up to the top. My suggestions were mostly approved. You can see the resultant book, Radhakrishnan’s Speeches and Writings (1964-1967).

My impression about his speeches was confirmed 20 years later. His son and biographer Gopal himself (writing his father’s biography around 1980) mentioned (about an earlier work) “the weakness of being wordy and repetitive”. He also quoted a reviewer’s opinion that “a good editor could easily have reduced the length of the two volumes by about a third without diminishing its impact.”

Again, Lord Casey tells the story of Radhakrishnan’s reply to a minister who complained about having been mis-reported in the press. “It is your own fault,” said Radhakrishnan, adding: “You make a different speech every time. Why don’t you do as I do – I make the same speech every time, with only minor variations – and all the newspapermen know it almost by heart and so I get reported correctly…”  See The Diaries of R.G.Casey 1951-60, London 1972, page 220.”

The speeches edited by me were published in 1969. His earlier speeches of 1962-64 were published in 1965, when I was working on Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches (even before his death in 1964 and my father’s death on 28th July 1965; the latter event clashed with work on the Pakistani infiltration[34] which culminated in open war on 1st September)[35].  The Occasional Speeches and Writings of Vice-President Radhakrishnan had been published earlier.

Years later, after I had retired, V.P.Singh’s Hindi speeches were sent to me at home for translation. A collection of Rajiv Gandhi’s speeches was published after I had edited the bulky file with Ritesh (then a few days old) bawling away in the same room at Adarsh Nagar.

ABOUT OUR ANCESTORS

A chance meeting with old friends from Punjab Public Relations secured a very brief outline of V.S.Suri’s family history in 1983. This dovetailed somewhat with the oral traditions of the Sewadars of Bhai Mati Das recalled from Pars Ram Chibber (whose relation Gen. Chibber led the Golden Temple operations in 1984.) A study of Prof. Hari Ram Gupta’s works revealed many new sources. Gupta was teaching at F.C.College, Lahore, in 1940s. Habibullah Shair, Field Publicity Officer at Pahalgam, came up with the family history of Diwan Moti Ram, Governor of Kashmir (his father was General Mohkam Chand and his son was General Ram Dayal). These names had echoes in the family histories of both the Lahore Suri families and the Nurpur Suri families.

A little labour put the whole jigsaw together. The three modules (the Jain Acharyas, the Kashmir families and the Deccan group) fitted perfectly. Unfortunately, Shukul had left the Archives and the Khekhra papers could not be accessed again. Shri Nandan Prasad, ex-Director of Archives, was now old and busy with War Histories. The head of the History Department at the college in Baghpat showed no interest in pursuing the story of Dhani Ram Suri who had lived there around 1773.

UNPOPULAR - RABINDRA NAGAR

We came to live in Rabindra Nagar in 1978 when I was Editor-in-Chief of the Sainik Samachar group of journals (in ten languages). S.N.Prasad (who had retired as Director of Archives in 1979, living in the flat below mine at Rabindra Nagar), returned to work for the Defence Ministry and was again allotted the adjacent flat. (Mine, D-1/80, had also been vacated by a Defence P.R.O., because I was on deputation to the Defence Ministry). We met casually at some G.O.I. meetings, turning my thoughts back to the family history. S.N. Prasad had been the immediate superior of  Mrs Murgai (mentioned above) and M.L.Ahluwalia, Asstt. Director during  the Emergency. One useful colleague of theirs was in the Nehru Memorial at Teen Murti, working for his Ph.D. His research on Lala Lajpat Rai, a contemporary of Lala Parabh Dial Suri, resulted in a relevant book for me. See “ THE STORY OF MY LIFE” by Lala Lajpat Rai (An Unknown Fragment) by Joginder Singh Dhanki. Earlier Prasad had encouraged a translation into English of Lajpat Rai’s Urdu Biography by the Punjab Kesri’s  younger brother, Dhanpat Rai (quite a favorite name in that period; it was Munshi Prem Chand’s real name: and our Lala Parabh Dial’s Maamaji’s name was also Dhanpat Rai).

KEEPING THE DOCTOR AWAY

A gentleman called Verman (a very good Satsangi) introduced us to the word Salad or Salaad when I was about ten years old. We were having lunch at his residence. He produced a big bowl full of lettuce leaves in the raw and started munching them, along with the other things on the table. He explained how roughage and greens were good for health. It was much later that we started regular use at home of the multi-constituent Salad which has become the life-long Salaad habit in the family. But even now, no one considers it as essential as atta, daal, rice, salt, sugar and cooked vegetables, while actually it is more essential if we wish to keep the doctor away.

I was born a chubby baby, fed on Glaxo, and grew up on the “healthy” side. But after leaving Dayalbagh in 1944, something went wrong. My Maamajee Dr. Hans Raj Chaddha was practicing at Lahore Sadar when my father was transferred from Lahore to Rawalpindi and I had to move in with the family at Lahore Sadar to continue my studies at the Sikh National College which was about five miles away, near the Lahore Junction railway station.

I had to bicycle there and back everyday, but this could not have been the only cause of my complaint which Dr. Hans Raj diagnosed as piles. He gave a couple of pills and left it at that.[36] Things got worse until I had to revert from Central service to my home state in 1956 because the Medical Board asked me to come back after treatment.

I took two months leave from Chandigarh (December 1956 and January 1957) and underwent successful surgery at the Soorajmal Jalan Hospital at Ratangarh (near Bikaner) where my father was posted at that time. It was here also that my daughter Minakshi was born, on 12th April 1958, when my father was  nearing superannuation.

Our next brush with doctors was when a physician at the government hospital in Chandigarh told us that  four-year old Sanjeev had developed rheumatic fever, potentially a killer. Thankfully, he was proved wrong. But we did have to go on a vacation. Sanjeev went to see the Taj Mahal at Agra (where my parents and grandparents were resident in Dayalbagh at that time); he signed his own “recovery certificate” by climbing right to the top of the Qutub Minar at Delhi. This is not allowed now to anyone.

At Delhi, in 1965, my colleague Shahbaaz Hussain invited us to join the Eid-ul-Fitr festivities at his home. Sanjeev and I were leaving home when Minakshi insisted she would not be left behind. We took a three-wheeler which overturned at the first crowded place near Kingsway Camp. Call it a fortunate coincidence: the clinic of one Dr. Rawail Chand Suri was right opposite the scene of the accident; we got the necessary treatment (including anti-tetanus shots) and were back home half-an-hour after we had left.

As a consequence, I developed inguinal hernia and had to undergo another surgery, this time arranged by Sukhdev Kalra at Hissar. This was not so successful. Further exertions at Greater Kailash in 1970[37] led to a recurrence of the hernia which has lasted for the rest of my life.

Next, it was the turn of Chand. While in Nagaland, fresh food was at a premium; we consumed a lot of packed and preserved food; to get over the monotony, frying pakoras became a frequent practice. The lady of the house occasionally felt uneasy afterwards, but ascribed it to acidity, gas or indigestion. Eno’s became part of the kitchen supplies.

It was only one night early in 1972, at Jangpura in Delhi, that a crisis developed. The local quack (I forget his name[38] at the moment, but he still has a flourishing practice) prescribed an antacid and went away. By sunrise, Chand was in great distress. It was only then that Lady Dr Chadha of the CGHS diagnosed it as a suppurating gall-bladder. “Your wife could have been dead within a few hours,” she told me…

We shifted to Safdarjang Enclave to be near Safdarjang Hospital; we also put Minakshi into Lady Hardinge Medical College as soon as she had completed her pre-Medical studies.[39] This came in handy for Chand’s next operation for abdominal hernia, the resultant of the earlier surgery[40]. Minakshi’s teachers permitted her to be present in the Operation Theatre; she saw her mother’s B.P. go down into the 40s but recover on immediate necessary action.[41]

 

MORE VIEWPOINTS FOR HISTORY

I have mentioned somewhere that most historians think only in terms of male lineage, except where a woman is a monarch or a Joan of Arc. Actually, we should emphasize the distaff side much more; but,alas, this is no longer possible for the ages past. Let us attend to it in the future.

Then, there is religion.

There should be a religious angle also to our family history. No history of the Middle Ages (and later) can be complete without tracing the religious leanings and activities of the main protagonists – because religion was a much greater determinant of lives in those times.

This could be a fascinating project, in many ways replicating the growth of the Mahabharata from the original Jai-Kavya of Vyas, detailing not only the life and times of our main-line ancestors of historical times, but also their collaterals and contemporaries (all that is worth recording in the lives of ordinary mortals—as a contrast to formal history which is about extraordinary mortals; and as distinguished from the Mahabharata which includes immortals in its ambit).

One important point of difference would be to incorporate the modern scientific view of creation, evolution and social science, in contrast to the myth-laden Mahabharata, as  I did about Stem Cells (for Gandhari) and Nuclear effects (for Parikshit) in C.K.’s Mahabharata series.

THE MECHANICS OF HISTORY

Even histories written by professional historians have a problem when it comes to narrating events in strictly chronological order. They make short excursions forward and backwards in time in order to make individual careers stand out and be interesting and meaningful.

Even the “historians” of the epics (Mahabharata, Ramayana, etc., and the foreign classics) gave retrospects and “flash-backs” of individual characters. Our ancestors were lesser mortals and no historic events happened in their personal lives. But the story of their life can be made more interesting and illuminating by putting it in the perspective of greater comtemporaries.

Similarly, the history of the Suri families would become more interesting if narrated around individuals in separate small packages, as done (on a slightly bigger scale) in the printed series Characters from the Mahabharata.

This could be supplemented by a “Who is Who” volume containing thumb-nail (or nutshell) biographies of every known Suri (even outside our families).The ‘THUMBNAIL data’ about my brothers and sisters could be expanded by future workers on this history.

COMPUTERIZATION & PUBLICATION

“PROFILES OF MY ANCESTORS” (Five hand-written volumes were given to Amrit Lal Suri in 1999):  On 2nd January 1998, I brought home a second-hand ’386 with Wordstar on it, as also Tally & Lotus 123  plus Hindi Word Processor software. After purchasing a second hand DMP and stationary items, my notes were shaped into a long narrative in January-February 1998. This would have been the culmination of my project. But Sanjeev wanted to set up a data-base for his projects (stock-market & tourism agency). I gave him Rs. 50,000 and he brought home the Busybee 2000 from HCL on 23rd February 1998.

Working on “MS Word” in the “Windows 95/97” environment, all my notes were incorporated in a new script (with help from Major-General Prakash Suri, Shishoo) and printed on my HP 670C Jet.

As the work progressed, various printed editions were given to interested persons. In a rough edition, I  inserted notes about many relevant clippings which are too extensive to be put on the computer by me. Many digitally scanned photos also.

Arun Suri’s in-laws (Bhasins) have put all their family pictures (and related photographs too) into a printed book, complete with anecdotal material for the last 3-4 generations. We could do the same, if the family albums are scanned digitally. It can also be put on the internet to elicit data on related clans and other SURI families. Letters to prominent SURIs have had no response. Nor have the Kalras & Chadhas done anything substantial  about the material (relevant to their ancestry) given to them.(Sukhdev Kalra did something).

K.B.Suri, the energetic founder of Morepen Laboratories at Parwanoo in Kangra died of a heart attack at the age of only 38 ½ years. His family may also have some idea of our links, recent or remote. The family of Sushil Suri, the new C.M.D. at Morepen Village, did not respond to my letter.

 Deepak Suri, of course, is interested in both the family history and the computer world. His father Prakash Suri should be the next anchor for this project. What about Anoop, who set up a website which did not attract much support?

A whole new range of computer hardware and software has invaded the Indian market in the last few years. Our history is on the Web. Prakash Suri put it there in mid-2000 A.D. Arvind Nangia offered to bring in voice-recognition (dictation) software but my CD drive conked out….

 

Perhaps I have mentioned somewhere that I finalized the first draft of my Family History on the Radio Shack Tandy Computer which I purchased for DAVP early in 1984. Print-outs from a DMP were distributed to all concerned. One copy still exists in my papers.                                                                                                               

“Windows-95” was launched on 23/8/95. Multi-media computers with this operating system went on sale in India w.e.f. 31/8/95. Working on “MS Word” in the “Windows 95/97” environment on my PC, all my notes were incorporated in a new script (with help from Major-General Prakash Suri, Shishoo) and printed on my HP 670C Jet. As the work progressed, various printed editions were given to interested persons.

This whole project had begun when “Lalaji” dictated his two-page autobiographical note in his 75th year. Now I am past my 83rd year and the available material can fill a book of 1200 pages.

 

 My right eye was operated upon for cataract on 19th November 2000. An infection of the iris took four weeks to subside,[42] and months to end.[43]

 

 Meanwhile, a virus from an old floppy had destroyed my 1 GB HDD in October and a 10 GB Disc was installed on the eve of Diwali. Fortunately, much of the relevant data was available on  floppies.

 

After the less traumatic operation on the second eye (5th October 2001), we went to see Sanjeev, Rajni[44] and Mohak at Jullundur in the last two months of the year. After that Minakshi took over the typing of the Family History manuscript on her computer. Prakash (Lieut.-Gen. Suri) continued with scanning of family photographs and putting my script on the internet.

In June 2003, Aruna, Minakshi and Chand persuaded me to buy a new state-of-the-art computer with Windows XP. On this machine, I have prepared a detailed Web of the Family History. Aruna was given the material to put on a 40MB web-space sold to her by PentaMedia & Associates (ezeefamily.com/gspsuri) but the project did not materialize because the company backed out. As mentioned in Part I, we moved into A-26 Jangpura Extension in January 2005.
HINTS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

Since then, I have filled out many gaps in the family history. A well knit genealogy of Suri families dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries is now available. They went from Kashmir to Central Asia in the 12th century and back in the 14th century, then to the Deccan via Mewar and Ujjain. Their return to the North is even better documented. S.K.Saxena, IAS, Director, and Dhanendra Kumar, IAS, Commissioner & Secretary, respectively, of the Haryana Archives Department in the last century were very helpful in securing a general background and some interesting details.

Dozens of diaries of the latest period are awaiting research in big and small libraries all over India. Scores of letters by scores of people of that period are full of trivial as well as significant details.[45]

A definitive history of his family written in Persian by Hidayetkesh is probably lying somewhere in Aligarh University or India Office (London). One point to remember is that religious conversions (to Islam and back to Hinduism) were very frequent; so also were marriages within the family, near-cousins, etc.); child marriages, multiple marriages and female infanticide make the picture even more confused. Firdausi, Al Beruni, Rajtaringini and Afif are good general sources for any further reference and details. Ibn Batuta, Badauni, Ferishta, etc., were also consulted. Some of these are now available on the internet (and on my hard disk).

Buried somewhere in Persian records is the manuscript written by the Kashmiri saviour of Noor Jahan, quoted by Pindimal Suri, referred to by Sohan Lal Suri, about our descent from a Jain Suri family of a village named Chaharan in Ghaur, and their nexus with the Sher Shah Suri line which claimed descent from Mohammad Ghauri*. Late in the 20th century, the Taliban were fighting their communist enemies in this remote region. Now they are fighting the so-called Christians and Muslims who had trained and furnished them to fight the Soviets.

Dhani Ram Suri’s memoirs, lost to us, were in chaste Faarisi.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

Erskine’s & Jadunath Sarkar’s documentation of the life of Aurangzeb’s Chief of Intelligence, Hidayetkesh, was a great revelation. This man was born Bhola Nath s/o Chatarmal who himself was Waqia-Nigar-I-Kul (Chief Chronicler). As early as 1603-4, Salim flayed alive a Waqia Nigar for reporting him to Akbar.

Chatar Mal died in 1698 and his son was executed in 1713, leaving voluminous data, national and personal, drawn upon by Sohan Lal Suri (and his father) and by his grandson. These families were linked by marriages to Rajput & Khokharain families; but data, names and chronology on the distaff side is scanty and vague; more research in Rajputana should be useful.

Guidance about sources in Calcutta is now available from O.P.Kejriwal’s “The Asiatic Society of Bengal & the Discovery of India’s Past, 1784-1838,” published by Oxford University Press. Kejriwal was my colleague in the Indian Information Service (Director, Research & Reference Division, 1996. Then  C.E.O., Prasar Bharati in 1998-1999. Then Director, Nehru Memorial Library).

Dr. Bool Chand of K-40, Jangpura Extension, supplied a thesis by a Kurukshetra University don and a book by a Pune professor which deals with the Khartar Gachch, inter alia.

My diaries are full of random gleanings from the history of the Marathas, the Mughals and the Sikhs which add depth and background to the bare bones of genealogy or outline bio-data as recorded in my Diaries for 1990 and 1991, to which I keep on adding footnotes and interpolations.

A.K.Suri, earlier Inspector General of Police, Jammu (until a bomb burst under the J&K  Governor on Republic Day, 1995), became Additional  Director-General and later Director-General in J&K till 2002 and in Himachal in the next few months.

Hundreds of Indian companies are now in Central Asia, the Uzbek PM said in Aug.’96. (Delhi Visit 23/8/96). Arvind Nangia brought me a summary of the Khirgyz epic Manas. These are our links with our ancestors travelling on the Silk Route. Apart from fragmentary Kashmiri chronicles (quoted by Persian writers), Juvaini is our main source for the two centuries they lived in Central Asia until Taimur forced them back to Kashmir.

 

THE NUMISMATIC ANGLE

 

Shortly after my return from Nagaland, the Research & Reference Division was visited by a group of trainees of the School of Archaeology, looking for data relating to their excavations near the Purana Qila. One of the students showed me a coin of 16th century ruler Adil Shah Suri which he had found in recent excavations there.

 

At that stage, it did not occur to me to acquire that coin. Much later I remembered the names of his senior guides and tried to contact Joshi, Thapar and Pande, among others who had led the excavations for different layers.

No luck.

 

Which leads me to the next topic.

 

MONEY MATTERS IN MANY WAYS

My grandfather, a meticulous professional accountant, ended his brief autobiographical note with these words: “…I have been able to earn during my life by earnest and honest living a sum of Rs.1,42,208. Spent on all sorts of family expenses a sum of Rs.67,097 (47%). Spent on social and charitable purposes Rs.19,015 (14%). Total spent Rs.86,112 (61%). Total Savings (including cost of buildings) Rs. 56,096 (39%). Vide detailed accounts in my Notebook folio 55. With best wishes and blessings to my successors….Huzoor Radhasoami Dayal’s Humblest Charan Sewak, Parabh Dial Suri.”   

His successors have tried to follow his example. My father has left monthly abstracts of his income and expenditure. My wife and I have some idea of household accounts. In the following pages, we take a general look at the money in our lives, at the personal level, the family level and in human lives generally.

COST OF LIVING INDEX

My memories about money start with the eight-anna (half-rupee) coin which my mother handed over to Head-master Sunder Das when I was first admitted to school; it was for my half-time treat for the rest of the month. Chand recalls those who used to get a paisa a day for pocket-money; and found it enough. For the modern reader, let me clarify that 8-annas equalled half-a-rupee.

Whenever something like this is mentioned, people of the older generation start talking with nostalgia about those times when a paisa could buy something substantial. Those of the late 20th century remember using 5-paisa and 10-paisa coins. Today’s children have not seen 25-paisa coins and prefer to deal only in rupees. Even beggars do not respect small coins.

 

(We will discuss this matter of rising prices again, in detail, a few pages later. For the present let me continue with my personal life).

 

MONEY AND ME[46]

Remember the eight-anna coin in 1932? My pocket-money always kept pace with my age and with prices. My parents never left me wishing for more, and I was never over-greedy. I had enough even for the many books I purchased and for the many  correspondence courses for which I enrolled on my own without much consultation with my parents (or grand-parents). I had enough for all my other needs and wishes also. This included treats and gifts for my brothers and sisters which some of them remember with appreciation even today.

An accounts register[47] kept by my grandfather at Dayalbagh tells me that I was given Rs. 5 every month as pocket money when I was at college there.[48] My annual cost-of-living was Rs. 365.[49]

The cost-of-living rose steeply in the next five years, for many reasons.[50] When Amrit Lal went to Dayalbagh in 1951 (for his Diploma in engineering), he started on a monthly pocket money of Rs. 8 but this was almost immediately raised to Rs. 15. Amrit Sakhi joined him at Dayalbagh in September 1952 and was allowed Rs. 5 per month. Their monthly college fees were Rs. 12-3 annas and Rs. 9-3 annas respectively. Their cost-of-living was approximately Rs. 600 and Rs. 300 respectively for an year, until they finished studies in 1956. Pashi was there very briefly in 1954.[51]

When I brought my first pay-packet to my mother on 1st February 1950, she told me to keep it and save it. I was living with them for the next two years and a bit more. When I received my first government salary at Patiala in 1952 (including arrears), I bought my youngest-but-one brother (then aged nine) a portable radio receiver.[52]

I was earning less than Rs. 200 per month at my first job in the THOUGHT Weekly at Delhi, and slightly more than Rs. 300 per month at Patiala when I got married and Sanjeev was born. This was Rs. 400 at Chandigarh when Minakshi was about four years of age. The Government of India paid a bit more until I was promoted in 1966 and rose to about 750 in the next three years. Nagaland was substantially better for the year I spent there, at about 1100; the next deputation (to Mrs Gandhi’s secret service) took it to about 1200, thanks partly to the Third Pay Commission. Then, as Editor-in-Chief in the Ministry of Defence and in All India Radio, with a promotion and another Pay Commission, it came up to about 1500. The next six years in DAVP saw me retire at about 4000, including Dearness Allowance. Today, a peon gets more.

As I have hinted earlier, my seniority (in dispute from 1962 to 1971, and again in 1978) was adjudged only five years after my retirement. Government went in appeal to the Supreme Court, which was kind enough to raise my pension (only for future payments) but stayed any payment of arrears of salary or pension until a decision on the government’s appeal. With a large back-log of cases, the Court is unlikely to take up the case in the near future. So I have told Mohak to become a lawyer and pursue the case sometime in the 2020s.  

WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH MONEY?

 

“To my mind, the quality of one’s life depends not so much on the art of making money as on the art of spending it.”    Roses in December, Autobiography of M.C.Chagla, page 221.

 

By the year 1954, I had saved about two thousand rupees in my account with the Palai Central Bank at Connaught Place in Delhi. These were very courteous people from Kerala and very near our residence at Panchkuin Road when I opened this account.

With enough cash in the kitty, I married. This was towards the end of my annual “earned leave” in 1955; in those days, one could not expect resumption of salary payment immediately after availing of earned leave; it took months for the Accountant General to add the increment, calculate leave pay and release the “pay-slip”.

Chand came to her new home in May 1955 and I brought home the next pay-packet on the 23rd of August – about a thousand rupees.

 

The 23rd of August 1955 happened to be Chand’s 23rd birthday. We opened an account which she could operate at the nearby Bank of Patiala, half-way between our residence and my office, a five-minutes walking distance. The initial deposit was a token amount of Rs.23.

Since then, all our bank accounts and similar deposits have been on an “Either or Survivor” basis. But she has not used her option much…So much paper-work wasted.

 

In any case, we spent some of the cash in our hands that day,  and left the purse in the sitting room of our cubby-hole two-room flat. The purse (and my wristwatch) was stolen that very night. 

We informed the police; and the thief (with my watch on his wrist) was foolish enough to strike at a nearby home the next night. He was caught. We were by then with my parents at Ratangarh for a very brief visit; the police asked us to return to Patiala and helped me identify the watch. You know where the money would have vanished…

What Chand thought was a month’s pay was now gone. On the first of September, she learnt that it had been three months pay; she had not been properly informed about my salary, although I had stated it in the clearest possible manner before negotiating the marriage.

Not much later, the Palai Cantral Bank failed. Chand was naturally in tears.

We got the money back, in driblets, after about two years.

 

COSTLIER HOUSE-KEEPING

The Palai failure marked the beginning of a stressful period for the lady of the house; this was more so because of children and transfers.

Sanjeev was born at Patiala on 10th April 1956. We got him a ceiling fan which remained with him until he left the parental home at the age of 44. His pram was used as a household-purchases-transport-vehicle also when he was a six-month old baby at Jullundur.

Between 28th October and 1st November, I was transferred from Jullundur to Patiala and from there to Chandigarh. There we had to shift from house to house three times in three years.

Meanwhile, Chand had also to go to Ratangarh for the birth of Minakshi; and I went there to fetch them back to Chandigarh.

Pashi was with us at Jullundur and Chandigarh to learn radio assembly and repairs from me. Kuku was with us in 1958 and 1959. Gulloo came for schooling shortly after Pashi left. Then came our transfer to Delhi in 1962. All this entailed a lot of stress. As Minister for Revenue & Resources, there was very little I could do except to take on some extra-official editing and writing jobs. The Minister for Home & Finance had to start doing the laundry and some other chores (apart from looking after children of all ages) herself to balance the budget.

ACCOUNTS

She also started keeping household accounts in a proforma designed by me. The eminent economist (and Indira Gandhi’s secretary) P.N.Dhar heard about our accounts from his wife and came to our house to look up the proforma. “I wish I had some more accounts like this; it would be fine data for a paper on domestic consumers,” he said.

Account books for the years up to 1968 were eaten up by white ants when we were away in Nagaland. The subsequent ones are still with Chand.

In these registers, there are columns also for visitors; and for our visits to other homes and places.

In some other account-books, there are notes which have become memoirs of sorts. For example, we find that when Chand purchased a knitting machine late in 1967, requests began pouring in (many without even the required measurements or the wool) for cardigans and blouses, even for night-caps and mittens.

In the first three months (United Nations Day ‘67 to Republic Day ’68), she had knitted 200 ounces of wool, not including what was wasted on practice and pattern-experiments.  By mid-June 1969, she had knitted a total of 575 ounces and spent about Rs.700 from her own pocket, some of it willingly for birthday presents, etc.

 

We still have the chest and height measurements of about fifty persons, the last entry being on 4th January 1970. Incidentally, we recorded the birthdays and other anniversaries of more than two  hundred people, some of them not even related to us.

 

VISITORS TO THE FAMILY

If we look back at the columns in our Accounts Registers showing the names of visitors, we find only a few outside the family circle who made more than a dozen visits. These included Manohar Lal Juneja (and his Andhra wife Ratna), Mehdi Abbas Husseini (with his second wife Nasreen), Ramamohan Rao (with his wife Rajeshwari), Shiela Dhar (whose economist husband’s one visit I have mentioned above) and Aruna Saigal (whose father[53] “entrusted” her to my care in my DAVP office room). Of these, only the last two played any substantial part in our family’s lives, as I have mentioned elsewhere.

SAVINGS & INVESTMENT

The British government had a rule of thumb: a pensioner got half of what he had been getting at the time of his super-annuation. Our national government, with men like Morarji Desai as Finance Minister, started playing around with formulas and fractions to reduce the reward for years of service.

When my grandfather retired, his pay was Rs.300 per month. He commuted half his pension of Rs.150 to get a lump sum of Rs.8800; and lived the rest of his life on a pension of Rs.75 per month.

My father got Rs.9715.20 on one-third commutation and his pension was reduced to Rs.161 P.M.[54] The Gratuity (another lump sum calculated on last pay and years of service) amounted to Rs.9718.75.[55] From his very first pay-day in 1923, he had saved something regularly, only to find (when the Second World War started) that he would have to spend more than his income for the last two decades of his life, showing the minus sign in the Savings Column of his Abstracts of Monthly Expenditure in the LIFE BOOK which he maintained meticulously.

 

When I retired from government service, the gratuity and pension rates were at their lowest in decades. Unlike the British days, when pension was half the last pay drawn, it was now only three-eighths; the years of service also entered the calculation. Then there was the rule that one-third of the due pension could be exchanged for a lump sum, based on the average life-expectation in India.

The gratuity (a lump sum) became better for those who retired four months later; even so it was nowhere near what it is now. Rajive Gandhi and the Pay Commissions made things better.

Even so, when the Fifth Pay Commission recommended that pension should be half the last pay drawn, the government refused to accept their recommendation. Much needless paper-work was forced on accountants and people until, in the course of several months and three formula revisions, the 50-percent norm was accepted. Happily, the Sixth Pay Commission was treated with more respect; its recommendations are operative with effect from 2006.

When my pension was up-graded in 1989, as the culmination of a 12-year old dispute about seniority (as I have mentioned elsewhere), some of the lump-sum accruals were invested by Sanjeev and the rest went to the Post Office Savings Schemes.

I put the marginal amounts in various mutual funds. The going was good until Harshad Mehta took the market by storm; we conservatively booked only a part of the profits. Then came the crash…Another bubble came and burst… The net result, in my opinion, is that it would have taken much less effort to get the same returns if we had just kept the money in the bank.

And then the “Old Mother of Mutual Funds”, the staid Unit Trust of India betrayed the middle-class investors in the 21st century, paying out all its reserves to the big corporates with “inside” information.

MONEY & THE CHILDREN

The Unit Trust of India was established in 1964, the year of Rajni’s birth. By that time, our children were beginning to learn the right use of money. Sanjeev was eight; Minakshi was six. Both were at school and needed to make small purchases every day.

Chand was helping them with their home-work, and offered them a money-incentive for a time-bound disposal of the daily grind. I offered to round off (upward to the nearest ten rupees) any savings they could make from their earnings in any week. As they grew up, the accounting period changed to a month.

There were other little ideas which have since been “codified” in many an article in the newspapers. For an early example, see the Financial Times supplement of the Times of India, dated 4th June 2002.[56]

 

INSURANCE

 

“I am glad that I have been able to endow my ten grand-children’s lives for Rupees One Thousand each…(paying) a  premium of Rs.500 per annum from 1st January 1943…” Obviously, these are not my words. The quotation is from my grandfather’s autobiographical note already mantioned at the beginning of this section on money-matters.

 

These insurance policies were with the New India Assurance Company. By the time we grew up the life insurance business in India had been nationalised under the monopoly of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).

 

My own ventures into life-insurance were half-hearted measures, both promoted by relations. Prakash Saluja (brother-in-law of Raj Kalra and a step-brother of Shukul Murgai, my contact in the National Archives) bought me the first policy for Rs.10,000 in 1959. The next similar policy was in 1969 at the instance of Lakhpat Rai Rajpal, my own brother-in-law.

 

I outlived the maturity of these “endowment” policies. Compare this with what happened to a “life policy” taken out by my grandfather for a “sum assured” of Rs.1000. He continued to pay the premia year after year, until he had paid out more than the sum assured; and he was still in good health. So, in 1943, he donated the policy to the Orphanage at Ferozepur. He lived another 20 years after that.

NECESSITIES & LUXURIES

One thousand years ago, China and India were the richest countries in the world. The rest of the world was not very far behind, because all economies were then predominantly agricultural.

Today, the USA is the richest country in the world. The per capita income of the Chinese is a fraction of that in the USA. Indians are only about half as well-off as the Chinese.

There are about seven million car-owners in India; which means about five  crore people using them. We are not among them. About 20 crore TVs have been sold; we are thus among one-fifth of India’s population which has access to television at home. About one crore homes (out of 20 crores in all) have electric irons and mixer-grinders.

About half the population has footwear of some kind; more than two-thirds drink tea; somewhat more use cooking oil. Almost all of them have bicycles, radios and wrist-watches, according to the NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research).

 

PRICES & CURRENCIES

 

Statisticians tell us that (broadly speaking) what cost Rs.10 in 1850 cost Rs.100 in 1950 and Rs. 600 around 1980. Learned Economists and Financial Experts call it the Price Index or the Cost of Living Index. Today’s equivalent is Rs.6000.[57]

IN ANCIENT TIMES

The Gupta period in Indian History is called the Golden Age. Ten grams of gold[58] bought enough for the upkeep of one Buddhist monk for one whole year. Since then, the purchasing power of gold has come down to one-hundredth of that.[59]

“Prices in India rose by 700 per cent from the 5th to the 11th century.” From Mahmood Ghaznavi (11th century) to Babar (16th century), there was another similar escalation. The next equivalent rise was up to the British period.

COINS & COSTS

Seven hundred years ago, the Silver Rupee of the Khalji rulers used to weigh 175 grains and was called a Tanka. (The Bangladesh rupee is called a Taka in our times). Worth half that was the Jital which could buy three seers (slightly less than three kilograms) of oil. Eight Jitals were worth a maund (about 37 kilograms) of wheat.

In 1330, Mohammed Tughlaq reduced the Rupee to 140 grains of silver and introduced “token coins” of copper.[60] Feroze Tughlaq brought in the Shashghani (=6 Jitals), the Addha (=Half a Jital) and the Bikh (=a quarter Jital) for the cheapest transactions. 

By the time Akbar died in 1605, the Rupee[61] (again 175 grains of silver) was worth “seven times more than in 1914, and twenty-one times as much as in 1951.”[62]

Just over a hundred years after Akbar, in unsettled times following the death of Aurangzeb, a rupee was worth 10 seers of fine rice and 20 seers of wheat in the Punjab.[63] Famines and wars continued to effect wide fluctuations.

A circular issued by the East India Company in 1759  fixed the salaries of a Head-Cook and a Coachman at five rupees a month; the Dhobi and the Darzee got three rupees a month. But prices rose sharply in the next few decades. Even so, Moorcroft, travelling across India in 1819, found fine rice selling at 36 seers for a rupee, coarse rice at 48 seers for a rupee, wheat at 40 seers and cattle at four to six rupees per head.[64] This was a vast improvement on the Punjab in the earlier century.

All in all, one rupee of Akbar’s time would be worth five hundred rupees today. And that also for some commodities. The value for the antiquarian coin collector would be much more.

STANDARD OF LIVING

Coming back to our own family, we find that my grandfather started poorly but had a higher purchasing power and standard of living for the most part of his life than did his sons or grandsons.

For this comparison, we take the Income at a particular age; divide it by the Price Index (the Cost of Living for any individual); then divide the resultant figure by the Number of Dependents at that particular period. Then we make a graph for all ages.

My father was better off when he started earning in 1924-1925 (at the age of 22) than my grandfather was (at about the same age) in 1892; and I was also better off in 1950 when I started earning at the age of 23. But that was because we had no dependents; Lalajee had a mother and a sister to look after. Even so, his “comparative affluence” graph rises above mine at the age of about 25 and above my father’s at the age of about 30. Again, my graph has a hump; and two or three cusps; my father’s graph has one or two brief plateaus; but my grandfather’s graph goes up and up until the Partition robbed him of his bungalows at Lahore.

In my case, there is a big dive immediately on retirement; but some improvement when the Central Administrative Tribunal and the President granted me a “promotion” five years after I had retired! Incidentally, both my children had been married off by that time.[65]

 

CLOSING ALL ACCOUNTS (THE FINAL CHAPTER)

HOBBIES & HARD WORK

Can you pursue a hobby and get paid for it? My sixty years in reading and writing (call it journalism or publicity or story-writing) have almost all been pleasant work, and for the major part it has been paying too. The state and central governments paid the substantial part; a little came from free-lancing.

 

Even my study of electronics and computers has not been just a hobby. It paid off partly to Charan, Pashi and Gulloo. And computers have also helped in some small measure. Above all, the compiling and referencing of the family history would not have been possible without computers (in 1984 in the first instance, and then from 1998 onwards).

Carpentry was another useful hobby. I assembled my own book-shelves and racks from timber lying unused. At one stage I was working with my own electrical drill and lathe (the Cubmaster brand, including many wood-working tools). Welding, of course, is part of electronics.

Astrology, palmistry, homeopathy and mesmerism are other lines, taken up and given up.

 

For the last twenty years of the 20th century, while Chand  continued to treat embroidery as her hobby, and Sanjeev kept up his interest in coins and stamps, most of my reading (apart from the newspaper) has been in search of data for the family history. This was mostly a follow-up of the broad outlines accumulated during my service career.

FAMILY HISTORY

I have already mentioned the historical insights I gained during my work on the pamphlets entitled Christians in India and Muslims in India when I was an editor in the Publications Division in the late 1960s. Two decades later, as Senior Copy Writer in DAVP, I had occasion to bring out a profusely illustrated, colourful brochure to mark the one-thousandth anniversary and Maha Mastak Abhishek of the Shravanbelgola shrine, sacred to the Jains.

 This brochure gave a historical perspective on the Jains ever since Mahavir, referring to Chandragupta Maurya’s conversion and to the story of Bahubali whose towering  Digamber[66] statue adorned my front-page. Naturally, it added depth to my family history which begins with the Jain Acharyas who have borne the Suri surname for the last 2500 years.[67]

 

Also in DAVP, in the course of setting up the Library in the Conference Room, I discovered the nexus between the Suri families and the original Khokhars, especially the Khokhar chiefs of the 14th century, with relations in Kashmir.

 

 

SCRIPTS IN MY DIARIES

In my 1978-1980 diaries, I had put together a “historical-fictional” account of Lala Parabh Dial’s life, based mostly on his own narrations.[68] The best version was given to Shishu (Prakash Suri).[69] A Hindi translation was also circulated.

 

In 1981, I started writing out a similar narrative about Chand’s grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. The first four chapters (in my own handwriting in the 1982 Diary) about Lorinda Ram Kalra were given to Yog Raj Kalra and later to Kamlesh Kalra. Later, outline notes about the Kalras were given to Sukhdev Kalra. He got them cyclostyled and distributed to all his relations.

This trend received a further boost when the Khukhrain Association of my old friends and Biradari members in Chandigarh brought out a Souvenir giving vivid details of the Suri & Anand heroes who offered resistance to Mahmood Ghaznavi’s invasions upto 1026. The research was ascribed to a very senior but dead civil servant. (Tear-sheets given to Prakash Suri. Photocopies available in my papers.)

Sohan Lal Suri also refers to Arjun and Surjan as two of his illustrious “ancestors” of the Ghazni periods – not necessarily Suris. Cunningham records a legend that they became rulers of Ghazni after a civil war (fratricidal).

This brought to my mind the fact that a Hindu Raja was ruling Kabul in the latter years of the 19th century, according to P.N.K.Bamzai. I could not read Alberuni, the historian of that age, but I dug up Bamzai’s book which details a lot of interaction between Kashmir, Kabul, Khokhars, etc. (Later, I got Alberuni in English and have quoted it).

Their links with our family are too amorphous to be researched but one can do historical fiction.

In the “Cultural Heritage of India” (published by the Ramakrishna Mission ) was found a reference to the Rig Veda Suris and the long line of Jain Acharyas who continue to be called Suri even in the present age.  They also figure prominently in the History of Hindi Literature.

The political career of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son led to the study of the widespread phenomenon of sons using the hard-earned sobriquets of their illustrious fathers as surnames.

Dr. Bool Chand (an old friend ever since he was a contributer to THOUGHT in 1950) came to live in K-40, Jangpura Extension and confirmed that families of ancient Jain Acharyas had been using SURI as a surname for centuries.

Dr. Bool Chand supplied data from printed publications and extracts from research papers of Kurukshetra University, Raja Ram College (Maharashtra); and the prolific writings of  Pandit Phool Chand Shastri (born 1901, died 31/8/91), father of my colleague Ashok, and senior colleague of Dr. Bool Chand. (see 1st February in my 1986 diary#).

 

My 1981 diary (spiral bound, with blue cover) is full of notes on the events from 1750 to 1900, relating both to the family and the nation, as a background for research. Some useful data was obtained from Prakash Singh who was contributing to the Weekly SPOKESMAN of New Delhi (S. Hukum Singh’s mouthpiece of the Sikhs). He was head of the Sikh History Research Department, Khalsa College, Amritsar.

 

Minakshi typed out this material in June 2002. Since then scores of sources have been tapped to fill out details…..My only fear in the year 2010  is that my computer will crash some day and all this stuff will be lost for ever.

 

Let me close this chronicle with a quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson. He said: “All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared listener.” Having written 30,000 words already, I can easily write many times more…because the subject (my self) is so interesting to me…But it will all be wasted unless some people are interested in reading and reacting to it.

 

 



[1] A prominent figure in the Capital’s Malayalam cultural circles; much later he was a Professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication.

[2] His name was Ramei. Everyone called him Romeo.

[3]The 16 or more Naga Tribes (each with its own language) communicated with others in a mixture of Assamese, English and Hindi which was called Nagamese.

 

[4] B.K.Nehru (“a brilliant economist,” according to M.C.Chagla)  had earlier been our Economic Ambassador to the United States. “…his wife, though a foreigner, is more Indian than most Indians.”   Roses in December, page 292.

[5] This was an year of great events in India. These included the split in the Congress party, the nationalisation of banks and insurance, the consolidation of the secret services under Indira Gandhi,  the first death of a President while in office, and much else. Morarji Desai devotes full chapters to these topics in his autobiography.

 

[6] When many of us got sun-burnt waiting for Indira Gandhi to arrive, later than scheduled, Governor B.K.Nehru made a few sarcastic remarks about “big people and punctuality”  which I cannot reproduce. Chagla speaks about punctuality in an interesting episode involving the highest levels of at least two countries. See Roses in December, page 265. For another Governor, who said: “I have nothing whatever to do”, see page 246.

[7] [7] The Emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi in response to Jaya Prakash Narain’s call for a “Total  Revolution, folowing a judgement of the Allahabad High Court convicting Mrs Gandhi of corrupt electoral practices.”

 

[8] Founder-President of the Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

[9] Incidentally, Jaswant Singh Tathgur, the Office Superintendent at Patiala, used to call me “Mahatmajee” because I was not usually amused at their rather silly jokes, especially the more risque ones.

[10] See an Obituary Note about Hussaini, written by Khushwant Singh, in my Miscellany Album. That album also contains Reviews of Sheila Dhar’s life and books. Also photographs of other colleagues and family friends at Delhi and elsewhere.

[11] Home of my sister-in-law Shakuntala Rajpal at 11/4, Janaki Sha Road, Hastings.

[12] M.C.Chagla, Chief Justice, Ambassador, Governor, Union Minister for Education. Roses in December, page 359.

[13] Here again I agree with Chagla. Page 442.

[14] The library has served me well for the last thirty years. Even after my retirement in 1984, books were issued to me through Khorawal (Publications Division Library) and Aruna Saigal (Press Information Bureau). Aruna was working with me in DAVP in 1982-83 and was then transferred to PIB; but she acted as the conduit for library books (and for “courier” services between Chand and Minakshi, and much else) from 1985 to 2002….Ish Kumar replaced Aruna in DAVP, but he was strictly a mercenary, although a better stenographer than her. The complete Mahabharat received through Khorawal is still with me; he retired without taking it back, just as the care-taker in DAVP refused to take back the VIP brief-case when I retired .

[15] For a parallel, see how Parthasarthy became the first Vice-Chancellor of the Jawahalal Nehru University. Roses in December, Page 373.

[16]  Something similar had happened early in 1962. My Deputy Director wanted a friend of his to be brought over to Chandigarh and secured orders for my transfer to the Bhakra-Nangal Project. My orders for the Central Information Service arrived the same day, a Saturday. My Director was out on tour; so I  went over to the Deputy Secretary and managed to get my relieving order. I joined at Delhi on the ensuing Monday, 9th April 1962, just after the General Election was followed by a new Ministry.

 

[17] My immediate superior at Jullundur was Kuldip Nayar, Information Officer.  His book Between the Lines (1969) reproduces Sardar Patel’s perspicacious warning of 1950 about China’s intentions. It also gives profuse details of the war with China in 1962 and its aftermath in 1963.

[18] I am not the only one who bears a grudge against Morarjibhai. See Chagla’s Autobiography (Index) for several extensive references.

[19] . Morarji Desai says: “This agency was created in 1967-68 with my consent as Finance Minister… I cannot forgive myself for my stupidity in not seeing the possible implication of that seemingly innocent action.” He goes on to explain how Indira Gandhi used this agency for her own purposes. (The Story of My Life, Part III, page 44).

 

[20] On the 25th October 1976, says Mary Lutyens, daughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of British New Delhi in the second decade of the 20th century.

[21] Mary Lutyens gives the date as 8th January 1979. This Vasant Vihar is not the posh colony in Delhi. Rajghat, Vasant Vihar and Malibu were some of the locations in India and abroad which were centres (long before these names came to Delhi) of Krishnamurti’s “followers”, a term he hated and ctriticised.

[22] Something similar had happened early in 1962. My Deputy Director wanted a friend of his to be brought over to Chandigarh and secured orders for my transfer to the Bhakra-Nangal Project. My orders for the Central Information Service arrived the same day, a Saturday. My Director was out on tour; so I  went over to the Deputy Secretary and managed to get my relieving order. I joined at Delhi on the ensuing Monday, 9th April 1962, just after the General Election was followed by a new Ministry.

[23] Like a share in his Entertainment Allowance and official transport.

[24] See a separate Chapter below incorporating many of the Diary’s contents. These include Prices Since Ancient Times, Cost of Living Indexes,  Comparative Affluence of our Three Generations, Savings and Investments, and so on.

[25] “Morarji had his blind spots, and one of them was his intolerance, his tremendous sensitiveness to criticism, a fanatical belief that he was always right, and that any other point of view could not honestly be held by anyone.” Page 152 of M.C.Chagla’s autobiography.

[26] Later our man at the United Nations.

[27] Born exactly one month before me (28th October 1926), he was my colleague in the THOUGHT Weekly Magazine in 1950; we met again at the UPSC in 1956; after the interview he treated me to lunch at the Khan Market because I was a stranger to Delhi. Six years later, we were both in the Publications Division (Director U.S.Mohan Rao remembered us mostly as “Suri & Puri”). When Mathur went to Meghalaya as Director of Publicity, I went to Nagaland. Naturally, he retired exactly one montrh before me. But he died too soon.

[28] Gopal says: “It was mainly to keep (Indira Gandhi) out of the ministry of external affairs that (Lal Bahadur) Shastri assigned it to Swaran Singh, a limited politician who had nothing to say for himself except that he had nothing to say.” But Radhakrishnan wrote to her: “You have great qualities and I…have my dreams of  your future.”  See pages 311-312.

[29] M.C.Chagla, Union Education Minister at that time. Roses in December, Page 343.

[30] The average for India even two decades later was Rs.1000, as compared to Rs.2000 for Punjab.

[31] “The per capita income of one and a quarter billion people in one hundred under-developed countries was less than one hundred dollars a year  as compared to the per capita income in the United States of 2100 dollars,”  said our Ambassador to the USA. Roses in December, page 279.

 

[32] M.C.Chagla always prepared his speeches himself; even when he had to inaugurate the Central Board of Irrigation & Power, he collected only technical data from those concerned. “After the conference many of the engineers came to me,”  he writes, “and expressed their surprise that I should be such an authority on the subject!” Roses in December, page 197.

[33] In some matters. But otherwise very considerate. On a state visit to London, he deviated from his programme  and “called without notice on his publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin…Radhakrishnan walked up the stairs to Sir Stanley’s office… ‘Mr President’, remonstrated a surprised Sir Stanley, why didn’t you inform me? I would have made proper arrangements.’ Radhakrishnan replied, ‘Never mind the arrangements. I have come to find out how my books are selling.’  This story is retailed by Chagla as well as Gopal.

[34] As early as 21st February 1965, Chester Bowles wrote: “Pakistan is in bed with China and India is standing up to her.”  Within two or three months, Pakistani forces had been ousted from the Rann of Kutch. But Ayub Khan sent about 3000 guerillas into Kashmir; India retaliated acros the cease-fire line.

[35] A cease-fire was declared on 23rd September. Kuku was 19 on that day.

[36] Much like what most parents do when their daughters reach the age of puberty.

[37] We had to lift water manually from the ground floor to our first floor.

[38] Dr Madaan.

[39] She can add a chapter on this.

[40] This was a sudden development and I had to leave the All India Radio newsroom in the middle of the night shift. The hernia recurred a few months later; another operation followed; but this was no emergency; I did, however, take a few days off from DAVP.

[41]  Later, in 1981, Chand had a near-death experience at Pune. In  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). Chand had eaten some over-ripe mango at Arun Kalra’s wedding.

 

[42] Chand stayed awake for 67 hours, to administer eye-drops every 15 minutes or so, until Aruna relieved her for another day in the ICU at our home.

[43] President Radhakrishnan at about the same age suffered on account of “a botched operation for the removal of cataract on his right eye.”  He went to London for the left eye two years later.

[44] Rajni did something like what Radhakrishnan’s son had done in his school days. He “tried to reach a ball that had gone on to the roof and fell 12 feet through a skylight.”  In Rajni’s case, her son had called out to her and she fell exactly as in  the incident cited by S.Gopal.

[45] See references to various libraries, in my Diary from which Minakshi typed most of this stuff.

[46] At the time of my birth, half-a-kilogram of butter cost one rupee. A Citroen car cost Rs. 4500.

[47] Abstracts Register (1888-1947). Black, hardboard cover.

[48] First Year & Second Year Arts (Intermediate of the U.P.Board), 1942-1944. The monthly fee was Rs. 6.66 (Six rupees and ten annas) with an annual examination fee of  Rs. 25.

[49] See page 11 of the Abstracts Register (1888-1947).

[50] One factor was the Devaluation of the Indian Rupee which made the Dollar worth Rs. 4.75 instead of the earlier Rs. 3.33. I was particularly affected because a Life Subscription for the Readers Digest, which I had ordered at the previous valuation, could not come through because the Devaluation came right in the middle of the transaction.

 

[51] Details for Amrit Lal and Amrit Sakhi at Dayalbagh in the 1950s are from the fatter Register (Light Brown Hard Cover), pages 72-79 and page 90.

 

[52] Ashok died barely 15 months later. The youngest, Kuku, was too young (age 6) for a radio. Years later, Prakash dismantled and re-assembled that radio under my su[pervision to learn electronics.

[53] Anant Ram Saigal was a retired photo-correspondent of the Tribune.

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

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

[56] Clipping available in my papers.

[57] Generally, 100 is taken as the base for comparisons. Then we say the Price Index in 1980 (Base 1950=100) was 600. With the passage of time, the base year is changed to make the figures manageable. Currently, the base used by government statisticians is 1982=100 and the Index is around 475, which means that Rs. 475 can now purchase things that cost around Rs. 100 in 1982. This was written a decade ago. Needs revision.

[58] They had Dinaars containing 8.73 grams of gold.

[59] See article by Margaret Bhatty in my  Money Record Diary, 1996.

[60] Many people called him mad, for many reasons. For one thing, he shifted the capital from Delhi, only to return. His average subjects lived on about one Dinaar a month. To his favourite foreigner, Ibn Batuta of Tangier, he was paying a thousand Dinaars a month.

[61] The Akbari Rupee could be exchanged for 135 kilograms of wheat, 13 kilograms of oil or 5 kilograms of ghee.

[62] R.P.Tripathi: Rise & Fall of the Mughal Empire, Allahabad 1956, page 233.

[63] H.R.Gupta: History of the Sikhs.

[64] For all we know, this was not the same in all parts of the country.

[65] Minakshi married almost immediately after doing her MBBS. In his autobiography (page 120),  Morarji Desai says he spent Rupees Ten Thousand  on his brother’s FRCS in England. We must have spent about the same on Minakshi’s MBBS. Today, her daughter needs about Rupees Ten Lakhs only to go through the MBBS; the “donation” required to secure admission is about double that amount. (This was written a decade ago; today Ritika MBBS needs much more to do MD).

                            [66] Naked.

 

[67] I have mentioned elsewhere how I chanced upon references in the “Cultural Heritage of India” (published by the Ramakrishna Mission) to the Rig Veda Suris and the long line of Jain Acharyas who continue to be called Suri even in the present age.  They also figure prominently in the History of Hindi Literature.

 

[68] See Manohar Malgaonkar’s Bend in the Ganges for an excellent example of  historical fiction  “where the sanctity of historical events and facts is preserved, while a fictional character or two are created to propel the story-line forward.” In my case, I substituted my own ancestors for the fictional characters, so that no fiction at all is needed. No Friends, No Enemies by Mandeep Rai , IRS (2002), is the latest example of historical fiction which has come to my notice. It has the cold war for its milieu.

[69] Also in his posession should be my bulky file of MSS covering all that was known from Rig-Veda references to the latest times about the Suri clan. (Including “adapted” material about Lahore and Lyallpur cities.)

 

 



[1] You can hardly beat the last sentence in Moraji Desai’s Preface to The Story of My Life, where he says he had “undertaken this venture of writing my autobiography … so that the reader might get some guidance … whenever he is confused.” 

[2] The Dedication itself is : “To My Wife whose loyalty and devotion will always abide with me as one of my most precious memories.” Amen.

[3] The book is  the autobiography of my friend and colleague, SheilaDhar: ‘Here’s Someone I’d Like You to Meet’ with the additional or alternative title Tales of Innocents, Musicians and Bureaucrats.

 

[4] Our boss, U.S.Mohan Rao,  once juggled three oranges, throwing them up in quick succession and retrieviong them without a pause. “That is how I have to manage my Deputy Directors also,” he said. Sir Maharaj Singh, once a Governor of Bombay, demonstrated his mastery over ventriloquism while in New York as a member of the Indian Delegation to the United Nations. See Roses in December, page 232. The New York Times took note of the fact.

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

 

[6] Many of the casual mentions are in the form of footnotes, liberally scattered throughout this narrative.

[7] Source: Mostly his Diary of Landmarks in his Life. This pocket-sized diary, hard-bound in brown leatherette, was Made in Germany. Even such mundane items used to be imported in his younger days. Other sources are his annual diaries, the usual stuff now sold everywhere in India, and his father’s notes in many places.

[8] In the preceding 9-10 momths, the idea of a world religion was being promoted. The construction of a Zoroastrian shrine, a Buddhist Vihar, a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim Mosque, and a Catholic chapel was undertaken at the Adyar headquarters of the Theosophical Society. – Reports in the Times of India.

[9] See details in his life story.

[10] Where he became Secretary and Treasurer of a Freemasons Lodge. He was at various stations in Burma from 1897 to 1901.

[11] A railway line was being extended to a border town,  a famous place called Chaman.

[12] Then a pensioner, aged 63. With him was his wife, aged 51; we called them “Lalajee” and “Bhabojee”.

[13] His Holiness “Sahabjee Maharaj” Sir Anand Swaroop, the fifth Guru of the Radhasoami sect.

[14] I was probably put to school earlier at Lahore, but that lasted only a few days because Lalajee decided to shift to Dayalbagh. Tthis was around the time Krishnamurti returned to India after a long exile.

[15] This enclosure was used as a Kitchen-cum-Pantry during the Bhandara days. It is a few feet above the large Bhandara Ground where people were served.

[16] That was the time when Krishnamurti (then a middle-aged man) got chicken-pox; I had it at the same age. He had to let his beard grow and was photographed with it. My similar picture is in the Family Album which I gave to Kuku some years back. The Theosophists believed that such coincidences were indications of spiritual links. Their leader, Annie Besant, died on 20th September 1933.

[17] Morarji Desai recounts at great length how he “got a second class with great difficulty in the annual examination at the end of the first year” but went on to secure “the first class” in the Board examination next year.

[18] Mary Lutyens says J.Krishnamurti “was later to practise this treatment himself, not because there was anything wrong with his eyes but in order to avoid wearing glasses as he grew older. As a result he can now, at eighty-six, see to read perfectly without glasses. He  still keeps up these exercises regularly for ten minutes a day.”  She adds: “For years now (Krishnamurti) has read very little apart from thrillers…During a flight he will look at the Readers Digest and Time…he watches television…and is particularly interested in the news…”

 

[19] I also came across Bernard McFadden’s Physical Culture Encyclopedia, which Morarji Desai credits for his “faith in Nature Cure.”

[20] “He was very near blindness,” says M.C.Chagla, Roses in December, pages 285-286. Aldous Huxley “has written at length” about the eye exercises.

 

[21] We also had diverse visitors. These included the Viceroys (Willingdon and Linlithgow), Governors (Frank Noyce is one I remember) and politicians like Morarji Desai (early 1940). Desai is wrong on details about Dayalbagh in his autobiography (pages 169-170).

 

[22] In the words of our National Anthem.

[23] This is just a convenient label. “God” is too intricate a subject to be discussed in passing. When students at Moscow University wanted Dr. S. Radhakrishnan to justify his belief in God, he asked them: “Do you believe in truth, beauty and goodness?”  They replied in the affirmative. “Well,” he told them, “that is my definition of God….Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.”  “If you call this God,” the Russians replied, “we believe in Him.”  See also R.N.Chowdhary: Nehru in His Own Words (Ahmedabad,1964), pages 11-12.

[24] Early in the 21st century, the Supreme Court of the United States of America is seized of the controversy about whether God can be mentioned in state documents under their secular constitution. They used to pledge themselves to “the Nation” until an ultra-religious legislator pushed through a law to make it “one nation, under God”. The Dollar carries the motto: “In God we Trust.” This is also baing challenged.

[25] Even the biggest names in history had these “aberrations”. Jinnah founded the Islamic state of Pakistan but he regularly consumed alcohol and the kinds of meat prohibited by Islam. M..C.Chagla bears personal witness in his autobiography. The Government of India gave the Dalai Lama the kind of “strict vegetarian food” it thought he should be eating; so he “asked  for  kidney and sausages”, says M.C.Chagla. Roses in December, pages 195-196.

[26] Though in public they would have approved only of men like Krishnamurti  who would , at the age of 25, “carefully avoid…when I see a woman…either to walk away from her or keep my eyes on the ground…”

[27] Compare what Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wrote about his own adolescence and youth  in 1943: “No disasters overtook me. Though I was held back from the grossest ‘sins’,there was much in my student life that could be recalled only with shame and self-accusation. Though I was free from the puerility which scrawls indecencies on the walls of lavatories, I was not a moral snob to complain about it. Both these may be due to cowardice and not moral sense or courage.”

[28] There was H.G.Wells who wrote: “To make love periodically, with some grace and pride and freshness, seems to be, for most of us, a necessary condition to efficient working.”  About Dr Radhakrishnan, his son says: “The affair with the neighbour’s wife was to set the pattern for a long series of involvements of which this was the first…”

[29] Nehru was described as “a reverent agnostic.”  He himself, six weeks before his death, wrote: “I am not exactly a religious person, although I agree with much that religions have to say.”

 

[30] London, 1932. Page 34.  Also pages 107-112 of his biography by his son.

[31] At the age of just 34.

[32] He died in 1986,  two years after my retirement from government service. He was then 91.

[33] Obviously, I travelled on Railway Privilege Passes; once a friend Chetan Sarup was seeing me off at Agra Fort Station, when a fellow-passenger asked me if I was any relation of a railway engineer; that would have been an easy guess, but imagine my surprise when he told me that my voice reminded him of a certain Mr. T.R.Suri who used to be his colleague in Baluchistan ten years earlier. (He went on with nostalgia about his association with my father). Decades later, Minakshi’s class-fellow at Lady Hardinge (Vibha Kaul) telephoned me but thought it was Sanjeev at the other end; only after a minute or two of flippant talk did she realise her mistake and started apologizing to “Uncle”. After Sanjeev’s marriage, much the same happened with his Saalees.

[34] Much later I studied Hindi in order to pass the mandatory government examination. The controversy about the use of Hindi as the official language of the country persisted throughout my lifetime. Education Minister Chagla had to resign on this issue. Kuldip Nayar devoted a whole chapter to the controversy in his book Between the Lines.

[35] Our family had acquaintances and relations there. For me, there was the story (learnt later) of Professor Hari Ram Kewalramani’s personal tragedy. He was the one who gave me my earliest testimonial of “an unusually excellent command of the English language.”

[36] I put up a huge map of China on a wall and followed the war on a daily basis  for several years, becoming quite familiar with the place-names. Later on, the Communists changed all the spellings, much to my discomfiture.

[37] Of course, the death of Jagadish Chandra Bose in November 1937 did arouse mild interest in his work. His 70th birthday was only two days after my 12th birthday. A simplified account of his research in plant sensitivity was there in my English Reader. Much later, I read his biography by the eminent scientist, Patrick Geddes, written shortly before my birth. An analytical survey of his life and work appeared only in 1999 (Jagadis Chandra Bose and the Indian Response to Western Science by Subrata Dasgupta, Oxford University Press).

[38] See the Fortnightly Report of the United Provinces government, dated 19th August 1942.

[39] Among those on trial was Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, who was put up by the Leftist parties as a Presidential candidate in the year 2002, at the age of 87.

[40] Twenty-five years later, my children (aged six and eight) egged me on to dissect a frog, at our home in Model Town at Delhi, while their friends looked on. Some were curious, others thought it was a paap. Sanjeev grew up to keep snakes and other pets; Minakshi became a surgeon-gynaecologist.

[41] Freedom from the Known ( 1969),  page 116. Also see his Foreword to Meditations (1980). His views on many other points are in Life Ahead (1963).

[42] Roses in December, page 316.

[43] The Constitution of the Republic (promulgated on the 26th January 1950,  the day I started on my first job in journalism) had provided that fifteen years from the promulgation  Hindi would become the official language of the Union. When Lal Bahadur Shastri ignored demands from the South to continue the use of English, President Radhakrishnan told the Prime Minister: “You will lead the country to ruin and disintegration.”  Most people are unaware of such details of history, just as most will not believe it if told that Bhim once took up a sword to fight Yudhishthir.

On another occasion, Vice-President Zakir Husain “complained that the government were mishandling a rich legacy from a citizen of the United States for the study of Urdu poetry.”  Radhakrishnan passed it on to the prime minister with the remarks, ‘By such bungling we are losing goodwill and financial support for worthwhile projects…’Note dated 17 July 1964.

[44] He was also playing pranks (very uncharacteristic of his later life). See The Story of My Life by Morarji Desai (pages 172-173).

[45] According to his biographer, Mary Lutyens; page 98.

[46] The sentiment is mine but the words are those of M.C.Chagla: Roses in December, page 69.

[47] When Radhakrishnan was in Europe in the 1930s,  Cheiro “studied Radhakrishnan’s palms and forecast that he would reach the top, be the head of a state, but would, before his death, lose his mind,” says his son and biographer Gopal. “Both these prophecies seemed at the time so wildly off the mark that they became a family joke,” he concludes. However, both prophecies came true.

[48] The same thing happened to Krishnamurty at a much younger age. The Theosophists took custody of the child and announced to the world that he was the next Messiah, an incarnation of the Buddha and of Jesus Christ. It took him decades to free himself from their clutches. Later, he said, he wished he could “stir up the bloody Theosophists! I do hate this…”  

[49] Bishop Leadbeater told Australian students that Jesus Christ was coming again in a new body: “Do you realise that if He is going to choose a young person through whom to speak…it will have to be…about the age of some of you?”

[50] Krishnamurti’s comment:  “Lord what fools we mortals are. We believe in anybody that shouts loudest…the so called T.S. birds (Theosophical Society leaders) cry in a jungle of fools, and fools swallow what pleases them…it does them no good.”  Moreover: “Anyhow it is all damned rot and I am fed up with it,” he said at the age of 25. But he kept his views untold to his mentor, Annie Besant.

 

[51] Krishnamurti said: “…if I am to occupy a leading position…it will be because of what I am and not what other people think of me or have created a position for me…”

[52] Padam Adhar was my close friend and classmate. He became Guru of the Swamibagh Sect in the later 20th century.

[53] Morarji Desai says: “During my college days I did not go to more than three or four plays and six or seven films.” My score at Dayalbagh was almost the same. I did act in two school plays.

[54] Not all my summer vacations were spent with my parents. In some years, my grandfather took me with him to some summer resort (it was Kashmir in 1938). 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. I also visited Simla when Masiji was there. Rishi and Jeet were my age-group.

 

[55] See sequel in 1952 at Ratangarh.

[56] Extract from my father’s Diary of Landmarks in his life.

[57] Amrit Sakhi (“Bholi”, later Sudha Nangia) had also been at Dayalbagh (at Nursery School). She went back to Ferozepur at this juncture. See Lalajee’s account books for details of her expenses at Dayalbagh (as also of her brother’s).

[58] Pitajee received news of a promotion on 27-12-43. The actual orders were received on 24-1-44. “New baby has brought this luck,” he wrote in his Diary. “May he live long a happy life…”  Father was transferred from Ferozepur  to Lahore in September 1944 and then to Rawalpindi in January 1945.  I shifted from college to college accordingly, as described later.

[59]. Incidentally, Sahabji Maharaj (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).

 

[60] Mehtaji Maharaj had accepted the Dayalbagh gaddi six months earlier.

[61] Mehtaji Maharaj visited Rawalpindi four weeks later and named him Sahab Prasad.

[62] There is some kind of a parallel between the recent generations of Arun’s family and Usha’s family. See chapter on Arun’s grandfather, Lala Parabh Dial Suri. Apart from that, two names are also common among the ancestors of both, namely Ram Dass and Jiwan Mal.

[63] Chander Kanta’s eldest brother, General Raj Kumar Kalra, got married on the day Shobha was born. She is also married to  an Army officer, Rakesh Dhir, currently Commandant of the High Altitude Warfare School and earlier the Military Attache at the Indian Embassy (High Commission) in London.  

[64] M.C.Chagla recalls two somewhat similar instances. A teacher in a Catholic school had punished him; years later, Chagla was the Chief Guest at a function in the same school as Minister of Educatuiom in the Government of India; and the old teacher was still there. See Page 12 of Roses in December. Again, in his First Year at College, a certain Professor Joshi had occasion to punish Chaghla; “Many, many years later when I bacame Chief Justice…the same Joshi appeared before me…” See Page 23 of the same Autobiography for what happened then.

[65] Morarji cites his own case when he replaced “a senior lecturer from our own college”. See The Story of my Life, page 25 (Volume One).

[66] Andhra University Convocation, December 1935.

 

[67] Much later, Education Minister M.C.Chagla “told the Delhi Public School, they should represent the aristocracy of intellect and the democracy of opportunity.” Roses in December, page 363.

[68] The panel of judges comprised Professors of English from all the major Christian Missionary Colleges in the Punjab.

[69] Even close associates of the famous philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti held this “vice” against him.  But he told his “Mother”, Lady Emily Lutyens in a letter dated 7th April 1920: “If I allow myself, I could be the most conceited fool on earth; but thank God, and you, I shall never be that…” Even Lala Parabh Dial Suri had to guard against such an accusation. See his Post-Script to his biographical note dated 21st April 1943 (in his Abstracts Register 1889-1943, page 47; the earliest genealogical table in on page 50).

[70] A frequent journalistic game is to ask wives of prominent men if, given a choice, they would have married the same man. See, for example, Wives of Fame by Edna Healey, London 1986. My Indian variation is to ask: “Would you go with the Saat Janam ka Bandhan (Tying the Knot for Seven Re-births) Theory?

[71] Krishnamurti studied a wide variety of subjects, but for different reasons. He had to change his subjects again and again in trying to get into Oxford and Cambridge, and then for the London Matriculation, where also he failed thrice and gave up trying. About the 20th January 1920, “his own recollection is that he left the papers blank.” But, as his biographer remarks: “What is in him today (1975) was there at the beginning. His true being was all the time slowly, secretly unfolding, hidden even from himself.” School reports and college degrees are not everything.

 

[72] This particular quotation is from Chagla.

[73] This was  political patronage, in which strange things happen. In 1978, Giani Zail Singh was accused of “misuse of power” during the Emergency. He was arrested and tried by the Gurdev Singh Commission. Justice Gurdev Singh submitted his report in August 1980 when Zail Singh was India’s Home Minister (w.e.f. 14th January 1980). He was exonerated of all the 35 charges against him. Today, Advani is an accused in the Babri Masjid Case but he is Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister.

[74] M.C.Chagla recalls two somewhat similar instances. A teacher in a Catholic school had punished him; years later, Chagla was the Chief Guest at a function in the same school as Minister of Educatuiom in the Government of India; and the old teacher was still there. See Page 12 of Roses in December. Again, in his First Year at College, a certain Professor Joshi had occasion to punish Chaghla; “Many, many years later when I bacame Chief Justice…the same Joshi appeared before me…” See Page 23 of the same Autobiography for what happened then.

 

[75] This was the Bank of India. My own account with them dates back to the years when I was working at 4, Parliament Street, in New Delhi.

[76] J.Krishnamurti had a similar experience in England. To quote his letter dated 19th November 1916: “My Dearest Mummy…(Lady Emily Lutyens)…in that carriage…there were eight soldiers and all the windows shut. They were rude when I asked them, very politely, if I might open the windoew a little…Anyway I got my way in the end.”  Of course, there is nothing to compare with M.K.Gandhi’s experience at Maritzburg.

[77] Associate Membership of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, the premier professional body in this line.

[78] There is a world-famous parallel, the case of the “most widely read columnist of her times”, who died on 22nd June 2002. I quote from the Times of India  (Editorial dated 26th June): “It all began in 1955 when the author of the Anne Landers’ Column died…Lederer contacted …the Chicago Sun-Times to state that she could do a better job…”  She was tested along with many others and got the job. “At one stage, she was syndicated by 1200 newspapers across the USA.”

[79] My mother’s sister.

[80] My father’s elder brother.

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

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

[83] “Fate plays a big partin determining a man’s future,” says M.C.Chagla, and then illustrates it with his own life story. Roses in December, page 66.

[84] Railway bungalow No:97-A, Panchkuin Road, opposite Lady Hardinge Hospital. Today the Hospital is named after Sucheta Kripalani and the bungalow has been replaced by multi-storeyed accomodation for scores of families.

[85] Jiddu Krishnamurti was writing editorials for The Herald of the Star when he was not yet 18 years of age.

[86] We had not yet entered the McCarthy era when Ambassador Radhakrishnan warned President Eisenhower against “the deluded, unconscious enemies who suppress liberty in the belief that they are safeguarding it.” This was on 21st May 1953.

[87] This had its beginnings on 8th August 1950 when Nehru wrote to the Rightist K.M.Munshi, then Food  Minister,  not to let ideology stand in the way of importing foodgrains offered by the Soviet Union.  On the 5th October 1950, Loy Henderson (American Ambassador in Delhi) wrote to President Truman that Nehru was systematically undermining American prestige. (Source: Official  papers of Nehru and Truman). Nehru had remarked to Radhakrishnan (on 6th March 1954): “I don’t want any Americans outside America and anywhere near my borders.” Five decades later, they are swarming all over the world, including Pakistan which was the reason for that remark.

[88] Earlier, at the UPSC interview for a Class II job, in 1956, they discussed Nehru as a Prime Minister. My reply happens to have coincided with what Radhakrishnan wrote later to Nehru on 26th May 1957: “My only complaint is that you are not sufficiently strong to get your ideas through. You are so democratic in your spirit and so tender in your dealings with men that sometimes wrong things happen.”  The Jeep scandal of Dewan Chaman Lal was then in my mind; the ouster of Krishna Menon in 1962-63 was yet in the future.

[89] From Dulles to Dubya, there has been a long line of ignorant politicians, a tribe which is even more commonly found in India. Take this example: Dulles told Walter Lippmann in 1954 that he wanted “to get some real fighting men into South Asia.” He added: “The only Asians who can really fight are the Pakistanis…we could never get along without the Gurkhas…” When Lippmann pointed out that the Gurkhas are not Pakistanis, the American Foreign Minister replied: “Well, they may not be Pakistanis, but they are Moslems…” Source:Walter Lippmann and the American Century by R. Steel, New York 1980, page 504.

Again, President Eisenhower was told by his staff in writing on the 25th February 1958 that Radhakrishnan (who was coming to meet him) “speaks English, French, Hindustani, Tamil and Bengali.”  His son tells us that he spoke only English and Tamil (in addition to his mother-tongue Telugu, of which the American Foreign Office was totally unaware).

[90] The script finally came to light  three years after my retirement when it was published in the Silver Jubilee Nnumber of Mainstream.

[91] Today, he is the chief spokesman of the Sangh Parivaar.

[92] Morarji Desai, in his autobiography, repeatedly notes that he never left any papers pending whenever he left any job. About my uncle Des Raj Chadha, much the same thing was said by E.M.S.Namboodiripad and Harkishen Singh Surjit (see their articles on his death).

[93] January 26, 1950.

[94] As Assistant Editor in THOUGHT.

[95] My father’s Diary says: “Voluntary transfer from Jullundur to Ratangarh 29-1-52 to escape DEN Mehta’s vindictiveness…”

[96] The occupant was Sardar Partap Singh Nagra, the Railway’s Permanent Way Inspector. On receiving  my appointment order, I landed up at their house again and stayed with the family for full 14 months before shifting to rented accomodation. But that is another long story.

[97] Incidentally, “I have never believed in closing…government offices as a mark of respect for someone who has died…One may cancel parties and functions, if one likes, but I do not understand why (the whole country, state or office) should cease working because someone has passed away.” Roses in December, page 148. 

[98] Officer’s Carriage.

[99] Sewak was the son of L.D.Keswani, the railway engineer whom Pitajee had replaced on transfer to Jullundur Cantt. The two families stayed in the same very commodious railway bungalow for several weeks. The grounds outside were so vast that one had to go scouting for little Kuku if he had gone out playing. He was about six.

 

 

 

 

 

[100] In the next few years, Kuldip Nayar was Information Officer attached to Home Minister Gobind Ballabh Pant and to Lal Bahadur Shastri. By the time I joined the Indian Information Service (Class I) in 1962, Kuldip Nayar had shifted to the United News of India.

[101] Giani Zail Singh, the future President of India (25th July 1982-1987), was President of the PEPSU Congress at that time. He was then accomodated as Vice-President of the integrated Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and also provided a seat in the Rajya Sabha (1956-1962).

[102] Quite often the hottest place in India. Touching 50 degrees Centigrade.

[103] Anoop, son of Amrit Lal Suri.

[104] Mrs. Anita Katyal, mother of Niketa.

[105] Chand’s grandfather died on 13th January 1959. His wife had passed away on the eve of Holi in 1954.

[106] “Released from RTTC today, 27-11-59”, says his Diary, one day before my birthday. The next entry is dated 1-1-62 and says: “Many calamities expected all over the world from 2/2/62 to 5/2/62. Radhaswami Naam will help.”  This was the dreaded Asht-grahi which I have mentioned elsewhere.

[107] Had passed 8th class in May 1960.

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

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

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

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

[112] “Sir Mohammed Zafrullah Khan used to read novels on the Bench,” says his distinguished colleague, M.C. Chagla. Roses in December, page 218.

[113] By the time the National Integration Council met for the first time early in June 1962, I was found more suitable for the Features Unit of the Press Information Bureau. Within weeks, this paved the way for my eventual transfer to the more congenial Publications Division. J.B.S.Haldane became an Indian citizen in June 1962.

[114] M.C.Chagla devotes whole pages in his autobiography to this, saying: “…the first serious problem I had to tackle was finding a roof over my head.”. Roses in December, page 301 et seq.

[115] Dauighter of Vimal Bhabi, mentioned above.

[116] Kuldip Nayar (Between the Lines, page 138) says many earlier maps printed by the Publications Division itself were wrong and had to be destroyed. I was kept very busy even in early 1963 because of the “Colombo Proposals” (see Kuldip Nayar’s Diary, especially for 28th November 1962).

[117] My grandfather passed away at Dayalbagh on the morning of 17th January 1963. My father then settled down in Dehra Dun, July 1963, where his elder brother had settled about five years earlier.

[118] Sanjeev and Mina developed chicken-pox in the month of November 1964; I caught the infection too; it lasted until January 1965. In February came the scooter accident. In May 1965, Chand and both the children went down with typhoid. Then came my father’s death and the war with Pakistan. My grandmother died in August 1966. I was operated upon for inguinal hernia at Hissar on 18th December 1966, exactly ten years after a previous surgery.

[119] For some very amusing descriptions of life in the Publications Division in my years there, see the autobiography of my friend and colleague, SheilaDhar: ‘Here’s Someone I’d Like You to Meet’ with the additional or alternative title Tales of Innocents, Musicians and Bureaucrats.

[120] Khushwant Singh and Sharada Prasad were the two senior-most Chief Editors at that time. Sharada Prasad was later Information Adviser to Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi.

[121] American designer of international fame. “Call  me Charles,” he would say, American style. His wife Deborah was also quite informal.

[122] Exactly five years apart, on the 21st April.

[123] Last paragraph of the biography by Mary Lutyens.

[124] His first birth anniversary was celebrated with considerable fanfare at the temple financed by Gulshan Kumar in Pant Nagar. His Mundan was part of the proceedings. The videograph of the occasion shows him rather puzzled, turning to me for moral (as well as physical) support. 

[125] A third book worth mentioning was given to humanity by a man who was himself illiterate. Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, dictated the Quran in driblets over a period of 22 years.

 

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