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

In case you have not done earlier 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, Berekely 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.


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.]


0 It was first saturday of the month

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, triggering 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 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 on which only one person can walk at a time). Many people enquired with him that why he was sitting alone. The boy would either ignore or would divert the question. With every passing second his restlessness increased to next level. 90 minutes had already passed. 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 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 deny that he was actually longing for the arrival of his father. He would pose as if it was merely an accidental meet. 

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.


2 An Inspirational Story: The story of my father

It is 08:35AM in my watch and I missed it again by 5 minutes, the deadline to start for my office. I am starting my Car, putting my seat belt on, and I am allowing turbo effect of engine to come with full force so that it could pull me from my basement parking. I am on the road now. I switched on the Bluetooth and redialled a phone number from the previously dialled list. An ever energetic voice appears from the other end. He asks well-being of my son, my wife and my office. If there is any news from my village he narrates it minutely. Then we switch on to the topics of national politics, international politics, philosophy, mythology or the book that I am reading currently. We keep talking. He is satisfied that I bought a car in which this facility is inbuilt. It is 9:05AM. He says, “Now you must be reaching your office so let us hang up”. From the modulation of my voice he is sensing the traffic condition from 2000 miles that whether there was a jam or it was smooth today to judge whether I am about to reach my office or we can talk for some more time. Finally call gets disconnected to be connected again next morning or until we really need to talk. Every morning this was my routine. These were not merely the discussions; my father has been pumping energy in the morning that used to keep me rejuvenated for the day. However, on unfortunate day of 11th June 2014, I had so many urgent things to do. I postpone the daily telephonic discussion for the evening. When I called back that evening instead of my father my brother picked the call and he informed me that he was no more, he died few minutes back. How could I afford not to talk to him on that day? Generally upon NOT getting a call he used to call me. He did not call me on that day, either. He had already booked his final journey leaving me shattered, meek and incapable. More I try to become normal more powerless I find myself. I already started going to office. It’s unbearable for me when I start my car and habitually put my Bluetooth on and finally realizing that I cannot talk to him anymore. At his relatively good health and at the age of 61-62 it was NOT a right time. As someone suggested his good memory would guide me throughout my life. His life has itself an inspirational story to learn important lessons. Let us have a look.

My father’s life story can motivate any person in distress. Everyone’s father is unique, there is no doubt. But he was unique out of several uniques. I would like to write about him without assigning any adjective to him, yet I am sure those who read this story would have a remarkable positive influence on him. I am writing his story (in short) without using any adjective, does this not vouch many things in itself? If you find it motivational do write to me. It will help me regain some of the energy which would be necessary to move on.


Late Shri Mohan Mishra (1952-2014): Story of my father is nothing less than a story of modern India which encompasses a glorious past, brave survivals through austerity of its extreme, progressing slowing but steadily and now roaring to become superpower to regain its glorious past. Let me start the story since 1940’s prior to the birth of my father when my grandmother was just married. The grandfather of my father (my great grandfather) was a baron and had a close relationship with the King of Darbhanga (mithila). Therefore, my grandmother came from a very affluent family of Darbhanga. My great grandfather inherited 700 acres of highly fertile land. He was possessing 7 elephants (presently cost of one elephant is equivalent to a Mercedes S class). He was sponsoring a traditional residential Sanskrit college where students used to get education free of cost till post graduation courses. As my great grandfather and so his sons were highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. They started taking part in freedom struggles.

A landlord-ship and freedom struggle did not go hand in hand. The king of Darbhanga (Mithila) was very upset of their participations in freedom movement. Though quit India movement was at its peak, however English collector (of Bhagalpur) thought to teach my great grandfather a lesson. They sent so many legal notices to him for creating unrest in the society. He did not respond to all legal notices and there came a day when collector manipulated and got the legal rights to attach all his property.

A prosperous landlord became wealthless. My grandfather had three more brothers. Two of them were highly involved in Quit India Movement starting from 1942. When they saw their entire property vanished, they fled away together from home. Subsequently, one of them get into the team of Lal Bahadur Shashtry and were jailed together. Association with Lal Bahadur Shastry brought him again in prominence and when he became priminister of India, one of the brother of my grandfather, Mr. Ramakant Shastry became Mayor of Agra.

Back home, my grandparents found themselves nowhere. They still wanted to run their inherited Sanskrit college. But alas, they didn’t have any means to do this. In spite of this life crisis my grandfather decided that he would stay in my village. My great grandfather at that time possessed a man-made fish pond/lake spread in the area of 5 acres. My grandmother sold all her ornaments which her affluent parents gifted her in marriage. Thus my grandparents purchased this fish pond of 5 acres. As of today (07th July 2014) I (Kumar Padmanabh) inherit this fish pond as an agricultural land. My grandmother was left with nothing except this piece of land. She became mother of 4 children but none of them survived owing to lack of healthcare system and hence huge infant mortality rate in India. My grandparents were however settled and running their non-luxurious life with 5 acres of land. Then in 1952 my father was born. India was improving and healthcare was now available a little bit. There was a health center 35 KM away. My grandparents took extra care and my father survived. My grandfather also inherited family tradition of becoming Sanskrit Scholar. He was an expert of Mimansa, a sect of philosophy that deals with rituals. Life of my grandparents were coming steadily, however in 1954 there came a day when my grandfather died leaving behind my 40 years old grandmother and my 2 years old father alone at the mercy of the God.

It was an inconsolable moment for my grandmother. Her estate had vanished, her husband died leaving behind her two years old son. Brothers of my grandfather were already left village. There were no mode of communication and they thought there is nothing left in the village. My grandmother had a lots of self respect and she decided she will not go to her parent's place demanding her share of property which would have sufficient to live a luxurious life. She had no other option but to live for her son, i.e. my father. Therefore the real struggle for survival started in 1954. It was a time when river Kosi was at its peak. Even today it is known as sorrow of Bihar. It was always changing its course, devastating agricultural land of northern Bihar. Jawahar Lal Nehru, then priminister of India decided to tame this river by restricting it to flow through two embankments. My village came in between the two embankments. Mr. Nehru promised rehabilitation of almost 100 villages falling between the two embankments. That promise is not yet honoured. So now the Kosi flood was restricted within these two embankments. Other portion of Bihar was benefited but my village started remaining submerged in flood for 3 months to 6 months every year during monsoon.

By 1960 construction of embankment was over and therefore my village started getting flooded every year. Agriculture was completely devastated. Mr. Nehru started distributing food grains as a relief. As an 8 years old child, my father would go to the relief camp to get food grains every month. At that time he was going to a government primary school to get his education. Since, in this school, the education was provided only till grade- 5th. After few years my grandmother realized that my father needs to go to nearby town for his middle school education. It was 35 KM away from my village. As an 11 years old child, my father started living in hostel. Hostel and mess fee was almost 20 rupees a month. This was a huge amount in early 60s. Since the agricultural land was almost used to be submerged in flood only means of survival was relief. Arranging Rs. 20 a month was a challenge. My grandmother decided to have an entrepreneurship stint. Mahatma Gandhi organization was teaching making of Khadi. So my grandmother started churning charkha given by that organization. Very soon, she started earning good amount to afford fee of my father.

Instantaneous financial problem of my father was solved by initiatives of Mahatma Gandhi organization. However, my father was worried. As a 12 years old child every year during the rainy season, he would come to my village to look after his mother. He would remain in village leaving his study to take care of his mother. He used to be with his mother until flood water used to subside. He told me that many years, even house was getting flooded. He was making “machaan” and for several weeks both of them were staying on the “machaan”.

Time passed and there came a day, when my father was graduated. He passed his exam. He told me once that during those days result was getting announced in newspaper and after seeing that he passed his 10th grade, thereby became eligible for applying government job, he ran from his school (in Kishanpur) to his village which was 35KM away. He ran for 35 KM continuously. My grandmother was so happy. He was not yet 18 so not eligible from age point of view to apply for government job. Therefore he decided to pursue his study further. In the meantime river Koshi was tamed further and 5 acres land of my grandmother was started giving her more crops that they could consume, hence they started saving. Moreover, the entrepreneurship stint of my grandmother was at its peak and she was earning substantially. While my father was in 2nd year of Intermediate University Course (12th) he married to my mom. My father was 20 years old and my mother was 15 years old. My father told me, he was a unique example of his village who did not take any dowry in his marriage.

In year 1973 he finished his intermediate examination at the age of 21 years. Then he started looking for a government job. One of his relative was an IAS officer in Kolkata. He helped many people of my village to get a job. My great grandfather had lots of obligation to his family. Hence my grandmother suggested my father to go there to seek his help in getting a job. In 1974 he was camping in Kolkata for many months. This IAS officer was very much fed up with this kind of requests and therefore he was NOT in the mood of helping my father. However he suggested him to develop some skill. (Son of this particular IAS is now CFO of Hathway in Bangalore. He very well remembers my father. When I was in IIT Kharagpur, I introduced myself to him through a community portal. He was astonished, how could I go to IIT).

My father returned back home in 1975 without a job. Government Job was not easy. Either it was coming through recommendation/influence or through extreme hard work. He sold the ornaments of my mother to get some seed fund and started learning typing and shorthand. After few months he became so much proficient in these two skills that owner of the institute recruited my father as an instructor. In the meantime he started preparing for banks and railways recruitment. I was born in year 1976. He was economically satisfied. Therefore he participated in 1975 Jai Prakash Narayan Movement. The effect on his phyche was so much that he removed my surname from my official papers. Because he believed your surname represents your cast. Even though coming from a highly reputed Brahmin family he did not want to take advantage of that. Subsequently, he started applying for the government job. It was in 1977 that he was selected for many positions in Indian Railways and SBI. He preferred Indian railways and joined as a  a personal assistant to chief engineer in Gorakhpur on 30th October 1978.
During the period of distress and when river Kosi was tamed properly, some of the village people were envious of 5 acres of land that my grandmother purchased and which was giving good crops. With some false documentation they registered a part of the land in their name. Both my father and grandmother were very worried because my grandmother purchased those lands after selling her ornaments. My father fought legal battle for 5 years and then he got his land returned in year 1983.

After his job in Indian Railways in Gorakhpur he was getting railway quarter in Gorakhpur. My grandmother was not willing to relocate. She wanted to die in the territory where she struggled for her survival. My father respected her opinion and decided not to relocate until her last breath. We were getting agricultural produces and my father was getting his monthly salary cheque. Everything was looking so bright and beautiful. But all of sudden my grandmother died on 17th September 1984. As an 8 years old boy, I saw my father crying like a kid. My father struggled for his survival, for his education and for his career along with his mother. His world was restricted to his mother. All of sudden his mother left him. He wanted that she should see the world. By that time I was going to my school. I was doing very well in school. My father was so happy. For his mother’s love, for the reason that I was doing good with my study, my younger brothers were still very young and with all his ecosystem in place he decided that he will not move his family until few years more.

 (To be continued… He was just 12th class pass. How he got MBA. How fortunate am I that both of us went to the same university, in the same year, many a time on the same day for our respective studies. I will talk about the last book he gifted me. And why he was so happy during Obama's last visits of India. Please read on…)

You can share if you want. Your words would help me to move on. Please comment…!