23.3.15

0 The Height of a Love...

What could be the height of a love? What could be the extremes of longing, craving and yearning desire? This particular post throw some light. However, I am not sure whether my emotions are getting translated into words.

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 It was first Saturday of the month, again. It was a half day, today so a nine years old boy had already returned from his school. Steam engine of the train had blown its whistle to synchronize the mental clock of the boy from a distance of two kilometres. Whistle of the train also triggered a sequence of events. Yes, the steam engine was giving indication that it would reach “Saraigarh” the nearest railway station in another ten minutes. The boy started counting another 90 minutes from his mental clock. (Wall clock was still a luxury before economic liberalization). This much time was required for walking and taking a boat ride for reaching home from this railway station. The boy was actually waiting for someone.

The mental clock of the boy indicated him that it was just half an hour now. The boy positioned a wooden chair at his "dalaan" and started looking endlessly towards pagdandi (a grass laden elevated pathway through middle of the agricultural field, on which only one person can walk at a time). 


While he would be sitting in isolation, many people would enquire with him that why he was sitting alone. The boy would either ignore or would divert the question. With every passing second his restlessness would increase to next level. It would not take more than 90 minutes to pass. There would be two possible outcomes, now:

Firstly, there would be no outcome and his restlessness would not bring any result, not even a disappointment. Rather he would start waiting for next train which would come probably two hours later. While he would be involved in his daily chores, his radar would be meticulously switched on to receive signal from the whistle of steam engine of next train. Again, the same restless waiting for 90 minutes. Probably, it would bring the same results and nothing would happen. 

Or secondly, during the last phase of any of those 90 minutes, the boy would see a man in his mid thirties walking through the "pagdandi" towards his "dalaan" with a suitcase in his one hand and a big duffle in his another hand. 

The boy would be elated and would run towards him at his maximum speed. In a moment the boy would meet this man. The man would also be elated to see him. He would keep his luggage aside and uncounted numbers of hugs and kisses would be exchanged. Both of them would then walk towards the home. The boy would walk fast and then would stop occasionally to sync with the pace of the man. Upon reaching home, the mother of the boy would ask him the same question again, “I know why you have been waiting at "dalaan”. The boy would gracefully lie that he was actually longing for the arrival of his father. He would pose as if it was merely an incidental meet, co-incident indeed

Yes, the man in this story was my father and I was the “the boy”. The first Saturday of the month, whistle of the train, restlessness of the waiting, elation of meeting and finally uncounted numbers of hugs and kisses packaged together were probably the best memory of my father that was happening every month (in late 80's) when he was coming to our native place from Gorakhpur.

5.1.15

0 An Inspirational Story: The story of my father (Part-3, Last and Final)

Dear Reader, This story has been written as a coherent narrative of three episodes. Unless you read first two parts the context would be lost. Therefore please read part-1 and part-2 before reading it.

This is not my story. There is no point of giving my details merely on emotional account. However, there is one incident I would like to mention which is unique. There was a time when my father was disappointed with my academic performance. He was upset that I could not qualify for IIT/engineering. He was even more disappointed for my interest in literature. I am still struggling with my English. At that time, literature means “Hindi” only. Hence, he thought my interest in literature would not be able to give me even a lower middle-class life. I was adamant. Engineering was seemingly appearing not my cup of tea. I was annoyed, how come my father impose his ambition on me. I thought I have a good mathematics I could qualify bank PO job so let me pursue BSc and subsequently I will pursue my interest in literature. My father stopped giving me any further explanation. He was settled his thought with the fact this his hard work of last ten years had gone waste. Initially he stopped talking to me. However, after a while he resumed his talking to me, occasionally. However, I could not see any enthusiasm in him. My brothers were in school. He started devoting more time on them. Everyone in the family accepted my failure, gracefully. His life was back on its course, in its different form and started moving slowly.

Literature and Engineering went hand in hand, finally: In the beginning, the silence of my father was appearing a logical win for me. However, very soon the same silence started bothering me. It was most obvious that I lost a friend in him. Then there came a time, when I started realizing that I did not put my 100%. Failure for once can never be a failure for always. As a son, I committed biggest mistake. I should have live for his dream. I could have pursued my interest separately on different occasion of life. With time, I started justifying my decision wrong. However, I had already completed my first year of BSc, by then. I started going to college regularly. I started feeling that I need emotional support of my father, very badly. His silence became unbearable to me. His silence was making me lonely. Deep inside my mind, I was feeling guilty. I promised to myself that I will try another attempt, honestly. With few months of hard work on chemistry I started having confidence on it. I wrote two types of exams in May 1996. I wrote B.Sc 2nd year and entrance examination of MNREC and IIT. Somehow, I qualified all three exams. My rank in IIT was 3228. They were calling it as an extended merit list. The certificate of extended merit list did not give me any tangible outcome. BSc turned out to be a waste. Finally, I got admission in Engineering. However, the extended merit list certificate which my father got it in person from IIT Kanpur remained his prized possession till end. I discovered it, while I was in Gorakhpur in last month for his funeral. My mother told me he was still displaying it to his relatives, friends and colleagues.

After my admission in Engineering, my father realized that I was doing something which was not of my interest. He realized that I was doing it for him. He wanted to compensate me. After a while I was settled in B.Tech course, and when I came for vacation first time, my father gifted me most precious gift of my life. He gifted me membership of Gorakhpur Central Library (of Railways) that allowed me to borrow four books at a time. This library is very rich in literary books. It has a good collection of Maithili books also. It was the first time when I read Maithili books first. Interestingly I read “Khattar Kaka’k Tarang” there itself. Every time I came on vacation, I used to carry four books with me to my college. I read Premchand, Chatursen, Renu, Yatri, Hajari Prasad Dwedy, translation of Sharat Chandra etc. My room partner was induced with my passion. Initially most often when he was occupied with his mechanical engineering I was occupied with Sharat Chandra. Soon we were sharing the same literary books.

I could not fulfil his wish: This membership of library changed me like anything. My intellectual appetite for literature was fulfilled aptly. Though, I could not fulfill his dream but he ensured my dream is fulfilled. Membership of library is still vouching it loudly. So far, I have published two books (fiction). I am in mid of my third book (novel). I was staying in UP. Had he not given me this membership of library, I would not have come across the world of Maithili literature and my reaction (as my own creation) would not have come this far. A couple of months back during our morning telephonic discussion, I told him that how passionate I am for the book that I am writing currently. He asked me several times about what I was writing on. I kept telling him, “papa you will be the first to review this book”. He was so much curious to know the subject, but except for the fact that I was writing novel, I could not reveal anything else to him. Now I am feeling it was an emotional blunder, the loss that I would never be able to recover.

This blunder was not alone. I have missed so many other opportunities. I had planned so many things for him. They remained unfulfilled. I was never ever able to imagine that he would leave me so early with all my ambition unfulfilled. It was in September 2010, someone hosted me on a cup of coffee in Le Meridian, Delhi where one cup of coffee was Rs 1100/. I always used to share with him most exciting things of my life. I also shared with him the news of coffee amounting to Rs 1100. He was not ready to believe, but then he said, “There must be expensive saffron in coffee. Otherwise why it should be so expensive”.
 I said, “This is how things are in five star.”
He told me, “Once I would like to experience it”.
Today, when I am writing this memoire, I am feeling that I am most unfortunate guy under the sun, because I kept planning that I will sponsor a 5 start vacation for my parents but I could not do it.

There is another incident worth sharing where I failed to fulfill his wish. Since 1982 till 2012 (till his retirement) he kept reading “The Hindu”. He was specially waiting for every Thursday when he would read columns of “Mr. Premshankar Jha” who has been one of the pioneers in his field and widely respected around the globe. My father used to admire him so much that he wanted to meet him in person. During my last visit to Delhi, I expressed his wish to my close friend Mr. Atul who is himself a columnist (use to write for Pioneer, Hindu etc himself). Atul said, “it is not a big deal. It can be arranged easily”. When I returned back, I told the news to my father. He was so much excited that he would meet his role model. Alas, I could not fulfil. I am feeling so helpless, now. God, if at all it exists, had a different plan.

Let me be vocal:  My father had unique attributes. He never beat me in my life even for an example like other parents do to their preteen or teenager child. Though, very rarely I was able to make him happy. His love for books has been unmatchable. I remember, in year 1994 I was with him in Delhi. My mother gave him a considerable amount from her savings for buying something for her. He could not find those things in Delhi, instead of returning that money he bought books, including “A Suitable Boy”. Upon his retirement in 2012, he did two things (1) He started doing kitchen garden in 4000 sqft of his vacant land that he possessed adjacent to the house and he was making sure a part of the kitchen requirements come from it, and (2) purchased around 25 books from Geeta Press, mostly unusual one (like Vishnu Puran, Chhandogyopanishad etc). Now this is my prized possession, inherited naturally. Last week my wife observed that he had already underlined a part of the book. I asked him last year, what you would do with these books. Since all of these books are big in sizes, I was suspecting whether he will be able to actually read all of them. He told me, “You know all of my ancestors were great Sanskrit Scholar. I have broken the tradition. This is a way I could tender my apology to my ancestor. Instead of sitting idle and counting my days, I will read them”. I asked him, “What is your ambition now”.
He said, “Somewhere in my unconscious mind, I have a plan to host a Sanskrit College, again. This is the only way I could reclaim the glory of my ancestor”.
I asked him, “Are you really sure. Do you know how much money you will require?”.

He replied, “If India can dare to reclaim its glory, by becoming a superpower why cannot I dream like this. Who can stop me dreaming something”.
Yes, it was a dream. But size of the dream demonstrates the size of the ambition of the person. Everyone cannot dream. From the affluent family of a baron to the acute poverty, from the potential owner of a cavalry to the point of melancholy of its extreme, from the family who hosted a Sanskrit College to a poor child queuing up to collect food grains in relief camp to a respectable life having double MA, MBA and LLB everything seems to be a fairytale. As my friend (Vishal Verma) rightly said in the comment of the first part, that he was not reading story of my father, rather it was appearing a story of mansarover to him. Yes, everything appears a fairytale the most unrealistic one, rarely found in middle-class family. In the history of civilization 74 years (1940-2014) is a very small time span. However story of my father encompasses everything in it.

He was proud of his ancestor and kept mentioning their deeds. Till date he was remembering the name of district collector of Bhagalpur who was responsible for the fall of landlord-ship. The name of the peon who brought the final legal notice he remembered and mentioned to all of us. He used to tell me about this peon whose name was "Gadla Mandal". He used to tell me that Gadla was a "maghaiya dhanuk" means he was originated from Magadh! (A traditional maithil would consider Magadh, as an inferior place. There is a history attached we would discuss on some other point). I am feeling sorry that I don't remember the name of the English district collector of Bhagalpur.    

Dream and Fairytale: Everything appears like a dream, now. But they are true. While writing this story, even I did not try taking creative freedom of an author. How could I take this freedom? I was able to see his dead body only after 18 hours of his death. When I arrived in Varanasi, my mother still had her last hope with me. She asked me, you take him to good hospital he will wake up. He cannot leave me like this, after living with me for 42 years. My mother was shaking me vigorously. How difficult it was for me convincing her that he will never returned back now. Even today it is very difficult to believe that I was the one who was carrying his body on my shoulder, I was leading his Shav Yatra and I experience his body converting into in ashes at Mankarnika Ghat. Family Pandit has rightly said, “The death is the only truth of life, everything else could be easily managed.” I need to move on. Yet 61 was NOT the right time. Life looks empty and void. I lost an emotional punching bag on which I was always hitting with my weakness, with my doubts, with my fear and with my problems to get in return the strength, the wisdom, the clarity and the solution of life.

Note: My father died peacefully and happily. Never ever in his life he made a demand from anyone. Rather, he kept giving whatever and whenever he could. I remember in year 1998 he took loan from his office to help one of his relative who was in financial crisis. He had seen all ups and downs of life, yet he defeated the trouble, itself. More trouble life had given to him stronger he emerged, always. Against all possible odds, he instilled the wisdom of life in his children to an extent that an admirer of literature is a successful technologist*, a college dropout is a successful entrepreneur** and a technologist is a real technologist***).

(*You know me! **My youngest brother a college dropout is implementing currently largest surveillance system of the town, single-handedly, where thousands of cameras around the nooks and corners of the town are networked together on Ethernet (how many engineer can do it, I know. He is doing it  for the police headquarter and a part of it had already gone live. **My brother younger to me is a senior architect in Siemens Energy System. All of us are enjoying the fruit of his hard work. In one of such examples, my younger brother purchased a house in Bangalore worth more than Rs. 1.2 crore. Is not it vouching the outcome of the honest hard work of my father?).

15.10.14

0 The story of my father- (Part-2)

Dear Reader, This post is in series. You will not get any meaning out of it, unless you read the entire story. In case you have not already read Part-1 of this story can be found in this link

Enough of the appalling emotions, before I start next part, please allow me to share some good news.  It was 2nd of November 2009. I was in University of California Berkeley. I had to present my research paper in probably the best conference of the world of my area. I happened to meet one of my interns in Berkeley. He did internship with me as an MS student from Cornell University but now he was pursuing his PhD from university of Berkeley. He was posted in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for his experimental work. He was elated to see me there and he asked me if I could give a talk in LBNL. I wrote an email to my boss in India. He agreed, rather he encouraged me to go there well prepared. Everything was all set. Since I was not a US citizen I had to fill a long form to get approval. It was 07:30 hrs US time and I was all set to go to this Lab. My talk was scheduled at 08:30 hrs. It was already a late afternoon in India. I called my father and explained him everything. I told him that University of California, Berkeley stands 2nd in the rank of all universities in the world. I feel fortunate. He did not tell me anything. Whenever he was feeling satisfied he preferred not to say anything. Otherwise he was vocal. I kept mum. I asked him, “do you know none of our IITs are even in top 100”. He told me, “I am still wondering how come any Technical Institute would be better than IITs”. He did not say anything. I went up the hill of Berkeley and found myself in LBNL premises. In the reception area, name of people from LBNL were displayed who received Nobel Prize in the past. There were 13 such names (if I remember correctly). Since I reached in advance, I decided to call my father. At that time he was in his office and with his boss. My father received my call and realized that I am visiting a place and giving a talk which has already produced 13 Nobel Laureates. It was an overwhelming moment for him. My father’s past was not hounding me at all. Rather, I never get affected by his past. I have been living a middle class life. But how could he afford to forget his past. He was talking to me but his voice was rather husky. He was cautious since he was with his boss. Immediately I realized he was getting too emotional. His boss overheard the word Berkeley. I knew he was crying without letting anyone sensed. I asked him whether something has gone really wrong whether received any bad news. He said, “No everything is alright. I am just getting emotional. I always thought you have more potential than what you are performing. But I am highly satisfied. I am feeling proud of you, Beta!”
I said, “There is nothing great about this Papa. Even people come here for selling RJ-45 cable. They also give talk”.
“I know Beta, now have grown up, now. But don’t demean your own achievement. Even if it is NOT great let me remain in this illusion”.
“Yes, papa, as a professional this is also a proud moment for me!”

His boss overheard our conversation. He asked him, “who is there in Berkeley”.
“It is my Son”.
“What is he doing there.”
“He has a talk scheduled there, just now.”

My father explained him what I do. He explained him everything about me. By that time it was already late evening. Next day boss of my father called his colleagues who were probably all IITians. He introduced my father to all of them. After his meeting was over, he gave me a miss call. I called him back. He explained what happened in his office. He said, “I am proud of you, Beta! Due to you I started getting so much of respect in my office. I don’t have any complain from the life, now!.”

These words were precious for me. Though my association with Berkeley and LBNL was instantaneous and did not last beyond few days, but as of today it gives me immense satisfaction that it brought respect to my father. Telephonic discussion with my father was a means for maintaining long distance relationship. Please read second part of his life struggle.

                                                Part-II

Luckily the first boss of my father was an IIT Delhi graduate. He was highly impressed by him and eventually started knowing the world of IIT. It was in 1983, when he was got himself free from legal battles and hence hassles of life. It was 1983 when his past stopped hounding him. Once he asked his boss, “What should I do for my son since now so that he will be able to qualify for IIT”. His boss responded, “You cannot do much from now but ensure he is good in mathematics. Instead of learning it through practice ensure that he is applying his brain”.

My father learnt that mathematics is the only option. There was literally none in the village who could teach me mathematics. However there was a teacher in the middle school. Actually by that time we had a middle school and a high school in my village. My father went to this teacher and requested him to come and live in our home. He said, “you will eat what my family is eating”.  It was a win-win situation for both the parties. My father got a permanent tutor for me and the teacher got a home to live and a homely cooked food from my mother. (in villages the ecosystem doesn’t allow anyone to rent his house). I started learning. My father used to write letter to my teacher on the priorities. I still possess some of those inland letters. I started doing very well in mathematics. I moved to high school and always stood first in my class. My father ensured that I am very good in sports also. I played volleyball and subsequently cricket a lot. I remember I played volleyball at the district level school competition also. Subsequently boss of my father kept changing, but mostly it was an IIT graduate. My father learnt from his bosses that either there is an IIT or there is nothing else. I remember when I was in grade 8th  he told me about IIT. He told me that from 9th my real test would happen and I need to be sincere. He did an experiment. He collected my academic records and found that never ever in my life I got full marks in mathematics, i.e. I never got 100 marks out of 100. He asked me why my marks remained below 92 always. Rather, he asked me what was making me to commit mistakes. It was the time when I was asking him to buy a cricket bat for me. A good bat was costing around Rs 200/. Rs. 200 in 1989 was not a small amount. He challenged me. He told me if I could get 100 marks in the annual exams, he would buy a bat for me. He was so much satisfied that his experiment worked and he had to buy that bat for me. I believe in worst mutilated form this bat is still available in my home in Gorakhpur.

Back again in 1983 when he got rid of all hassles of life and when his past stopped hounding him again, he was feeling that only intermediate education was NOT enough he should study further. He enrolled himself in St. Andrews College in evening class. Immediately after waking up, he used to cook meals. After eating, he was going to office. From office he was going to college and from there he was coming back home. He used to eat what he cooked in the morning. His boss allowed him to do his study officially. By 1986 he finished his graduation with English, Hindi and History. He found a natural inclination towards study. He started reading books. Soon it became a part of his life. Till now, he kept reading something. All official communication in Indian Railways used to happen in English. Once he asked his boss how to improve his English. His boss who a had failed attempt of civil services examination also, told him to subscribe for “The Hindu” news paper. Since 1986 till 2012 he was subscribing “The Hindu” magazine. Since it was Delhi edition it was coming one day late. His colleagues and his friends were making fun that he reads late news.

A well studied graduate course, association with IIT graduates and subscription of The Hindu changed his outlook. He started reading books and also started buying non academic books for me. I was in class 4-5th when he started buying books for me. Until class 10th he gifted me more than 25 books. However, today I feel the best books he gifted me was in 8th grade. These two books I still remember. Only few years back America and Russia launched Apolo and Soyuj spaceship respectively and they were combined together in space. Mr. Alexei Lionobe was an astronaut on the mission and probably one of the best author. He wrote his experience for children. My father gifted me the translation of this book. I enjoyed Apolo-Soyuj mission in best possible way. He gifted me another book from Geeta Press. It was “mythology for children”. It had stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kalyan, Purana and everything. These two books made me a habitual reader.

For my father, a graduation degree was required just to bring him in mainstream because most of his colleagues were graduates. Classroom study brought self awareness in him. It institutionalized importance of higher study in him. He enrolled himself in MA in English in St. Andrews College. Within two years he was a post graduate in English. It was a different study. MA in English did not fetch him anything. The ecosystem of Gorakhpur was such that it was not giving him intellectual satisfaction (In Gorakhpur, if you dare to speak English, people will think you are uncivilized. Sanskritatized Hindi is still prevailing among educated class as a mode of formal communication). He decided to do another master. He enrolled himself in MA in Hindi course he finished it. MA in hindi exposed him to the Indian Literature. He resorted to buying more books. A significant part of his salary was going towards this venture. In Gorakhpur, I found his book collection was amounting to 2 bora.

By this time I finished my 10th. He stopped his study. Now he was qualified enough to be respected among his peers. So far only my father was staying in Gorakhpur and we were still in our village. I passed my 10th grade with good marks. In mathematics I got the marks that were beyond his expectation also. So he was feeling more confident. We shifted to Gorakhpur. Now his beyond-office-time started going to family. He was little bit uncomfortable that he was not devoting time on his self improvement. At that time liberalization of Indian Economy was already started. MBA was a degree that was most talked about. The hype was to an extent that an MBA could get you everything of life. Moreover, he was very much upset that he started his career as a personal assistant and still he was the same in 14 years. Annamalai University in Chennai was offering MBA for experienced people. He enrolled himself in this course. By 1994 he had an MBA. Initially he thought it will fetch him a good job. But finally he could not afford to leave a government job and his MBA did not fetch him the things he expected. Boss of my father was highly impressed with his spirit, although there was no added advantage of an MBA to his post but he took an exception and provided 4 out of term salary increments, the maximum possible thing within the scope of the law.

Soon he realized MBA was NOT the worth. Once you have the habit of working hard you will seldom relax. What is next. I was grown up by that time. I had already finished 12th by that time and I already had a failed attempt to IIT. His dream of sending me to IIT was shattered. His preparation for almost 10 years did not bring any results. He was very upset. Initially he thought MBA would be his last venture. But he did not see any hope from my side. He enrolled himself in LLB course of St. Andrews College again in its evening batch. His spirit of study was well acknowledged at his work place and therefore he never got any refusal towards it. Since I did not qualify for IIT and I did not get a chance in state level engineering also I did not have any choice but to enrol for BSc. I got admission in same St. Andrews College. My course was a regular course and my father’s course was in evening. When I would have been leaving from college my father was arriving. He was also commuting by his bicycle. Most often we used to encounter near the bicycle stand.

While I was doing my BSc my father was very keen that I should try once more for IITs. I said enough is enough. I know only mathematics. Otherwise I had interests in literature. He told me once. "In India, you cannot afford to pursue your interests because it will NOT fetch you anything". He told me once that my interest in literature would NOT be able to give me even a lower middle class life. His boss continued insisting that if someone is very good in mathematics, IIT should not be a great deal. My father started suspecting me and my calibre. This was appearing from his body language.

Though mathematics was not a problem at all, however Chemistry was against my nature. I was unable to remember all those chemical equations. I had my own interests. I was very upset with my father’s response. Once I said to him, "How could you impose your opinion on me". Its good he wanted me to see in IIT. But I was not made for it.” Subsequently, more conflict arises. I was thinking my father is doing injustice to me. If I have an interest in literature and history he should allow me to pursue my interests. Conflict kept intensifying. Then there came a time when he stopped talking to me. Back in my native place, it was a time, river Kosi changed its course again and completely devastated my village. His 5 acres of land and his house in village submerged in Kosi. His ancestral glory stopped giving him any evidence. My entire village vanished. It was disappeared from the map. My younger brothers were still in school. In spite of having a good mathematical skill I did not qualify for IIT. My interests were in literature and history. He was worried for his family yet again. Bad fortune started hounding him again…..

[To be continued… In the third and last part I will write about how he overcame the final roadblocks. Why I finally landed in IIT at the different capacity. How our conflict of interests brought us closer and how he became my best friend. I will explain what happened when he purchased books from the personal savings of my mother. You will come to know what prevented me not to meet my wife before my marriage. You will experience the concluding journey of my father. Of course, I will explain how last visit of Mr. Barack Obama , the president of US had a personal impact on my father’s life.]