These memoirs are as recollected in 1996, and continued later from time to time,
by: Ashit K. Sarkar - being a personal narrative of the many transitions in his life


TO SEE A LARGER IMAGE - MOUSE OVER THE PIX

1938

1956

1957

1990

1991

1999

2001

2003

2004-05

2005

2005-06

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Late 2014

2016

2017

   1938      1956      1957      1990     1991     1999     2001      2003      2004      2005     2006     2007      2008      2009     2010     2011     2012     2013     2014   Late 2014   2016    2017
Sorry, in case the years do not align properly!


NOTE: The thumbnail pix above range from 1938... Links to some of old photos have been included later, which will take you to supporting images of the past, as well as to the Family Trees. A Flash slideshow of the pictures (with titles) is also being provided right at the end, for a relook at some of the pictures of the past.



HERE IS THE "IN-BETWEEN" STORY.......



Very Early Memories

My memories may have faded, but now in 1996 I still clearly remember the annual summer trips from Lahore with my mother & younger baby brother, certainly in 1937 and 1938 (when I was 4 & 5 years old respectively) and perhaps in earlier years too, to the hill station Kurseong, near picturesque Darjeeling. We visited my maternal grandfather Sri Jogesh Chandra Roy (Click to see 1938 picture with Ma) the son of the great Brahmo reformer at Dacca, Sri Banga Chandra Roy - my great grandfather. (click to read a brief life sketch). As most grandfathers do, he spoiled both the young grandsons thoroughly with lots of love & presents – almost daily! I, even now, have a mental picture of his bushy moustache and penetrating looks. On our return to Lahore, I recall missing the hills and all the ups and downs during our daily walks, not to mention the goodies, the affection, and the cool weather & the serenity of the hills.

I also recollect making a combined family trip from Lahore (with our Boro-jetha and family) to Kashmir one summer - probably in 1936 or 1937, with vivid memories of a snow capped mountain visible from our tent (yes, we actually stayed in a tent by the side of a flowing stream in a deep gorge!). Going where? Being told that we were going "there" (possibly Gulmarg area) the next day. I was then three or four years old, and my younger brother Deepak (Choton) was just a baby. Unfortunately all the photographs and other memorable possessions, from the above trips, were lost forever along with everything else, because of our unexpected and unplanned forced exodus from our then home in Lahore in 1947, caused by the unfortunate communal turmoil during the partition of India whilst getting independence from British rule - as detailed later.

Roots of the Sarkar ancestors

I come from what is termed as 'probashi bangali' - i.e. Bengali's who migrated and live or are residents outside Bengal. While we spoke in Bengali language at home, I had no formal education of the language. Consequently, initially Hindi and later English, became my first language (I studied Urdu for a a while limited to it's basics only), but over the years English became the language in which I now think or dream! As stated later, my learning, reading and writing Bengali language started much later at home whilst I was in Delhi in the forties. With this background, being a Bengali became secondary to just being an Indian! My writing and speech, and later life may be viewed in this context.

The earlier history and details of our family roots have been lost with time and the passing away of any knowledgeable elders. Only some vague impressions or memories remain, which unfortunately cannot be verified or confirmed now, despite some amount of research. It is believed (but not verified) that one of our ancestors was given the title of Sarkar, possibly during the Moghul or later period, as a reward for managing state finances for the local Nawab. The family's location in then undivided Bengal or the clan details are not known, but there is a fair possibility that the family may have been living in the then French possession of Chandannagore (about 40 miles north of Calcutta), since our grandfather, Madhusudan Sarkar spoke French fluently. There are also some uncertain suggestions that we were initially 'Moitro'. What is known is that during the Renaissance of Bengal in the early nineteenth century, my then young grandfather Madhusudan Sarkar embraced the Brahmo religion and credo propagated by Raja Rammohun Roy, as many enlightened and educated intellectuals did at that time, to move away from the then irrational Brahmin controlled traditional Hindu religion which had been somewhat distorted by them. Another possible cause was the widowhood of his young sister with the family making her an outcast and the seniors enforcing the widowhood conditions strictly. His conversion caused considerable consternation within the staunch feelings of the family seniors and resulted in him having to leave home and Bengal for good, and settling down then in far away Lahore. Thereafter, the family connections were totally cut-off, and all contacts for his offspring's (our parents) got lost with their forefathers and family. Other than the names of his father, Dina Nath & grandfather, Gopal Chandra Sarkar, no other family details are remembered by anyone today. As such, he spent the bulk of his life in Lahore, where his children - five surviving sons - Benoy, Saroj, Promode (Barka), Amal (Chutka) & Ashok (Theo - my father) and four daughters - Binodini, Sarojini, Promodini (Barki) & Kumudini (Chutki) grew up, educated, got married & mostly brought-up their families. He died when my father was still in School and therefore my father spent several years at the home of his elder brother Saroj & wife Indira at Delhi, who later became the Under Secretary for the Agriculture ministry of the government. It was then the practice of the British Raj to move to Simla each summer from Delhi, and consequently his professional training and career possibly began in Simla after college followed with his marriage. Viewing the Family Tree may be useful for connecting to many names mentioned later in my narrative. Click to download & see The Sarkar Family Tree.

Reaching back, early years at Lahore:

Baba - my father, Ashok Kumar Sarkar, popularly known as Theo, the youngest son, became a qualified 'Flour Miller' in late-twenties after college, being trained by British Flour Millers. After gathering a few years experience, he worked in Simla Flour Mill (where my younger brother Choton was born in 1934), and soon thereafter became the Miller of a large flour mill on the outskirts of Lahore at Badami Bagh, next to the river Ravi.  My early memories start from this large home. We lived in a large sprawling bungalow with even a larger compound, next to the Flour Mill, which had a railway siding, where often wagons would wait to be loaded or unloaded. An enjoyable pastime for us was to use their vacuum hoses (for brakes) as telephones since the sound carried from one end wagon to the other end wagon at a considerable distance beautifully amplified! Electric power was only available during the daytime when the mill was running, and we used petromax & lanterns in the evenings! My father's immediate elder brother Chutka (Amal) Jethamoshay and Monica jethima and their two children also lived with us at Badami Bagh. The four of us youngsters, each spaced about a year apart, consisted of my cousin sister Ratna, then myself, popularly nicknamed Khokon, followed by my cousin Ajit, and finally my younger brother Deepak, pet named Choton. I was born in Calcutta (May 18, 1933).

I recollect that we had hens and a buffalo in the compound, besides a large vegetable patch, providing many homegrown products. Each of us had our own pet dog that we were responsible for. My mother Bina, and Monica Jethima, having both being married a few months apart and joining the Sarkar family and later staying together at Badami Bagh had become more like sisters, and shared the responsibilities of running the household jointly, and also in bringing up the four youngsters (1938 portraits Ratna, Ajit & Me - Choton missing). We sometimes made trips to the City on horse drawn Tongas to visit our other family members then living in Lahore city in different locations. They were: (1) Baba's eldest brother & wife, Boro-jethamoshay (Benoy) & Jethima, and their daughter & sons, Pennadi, Phoringda & Bittuda (other son, Lutherda was in Calcutta, and another married daughter Kokanidi at Patna), (2) their eldest daughter Babydi & husband, Bhanuda, and the then children Manju, Bubli, Ranjit (also nicknamed Khokon) & Tubli, & (3) Baba's eldest sister Binodini's daughter - the Auditto family: Miradi & husband, Gyanda, and the then children Dilip, Nita & Arun (Bablu). Recollections of regular family gatherings and feasts at our Badami Bagh home, with noisy card games of Bridge and Twenty-nine by the elders, are vividly remembered. Our delightful trips to the city to visit the cinema - especially to see Tarzan and Western movies are also clearly recollected, for which we fought for turns going on my father's bicycle! The four of us children and the pets grew up together playfully in such a serene environment, happily, and were getting ready to begin our formal schooling soon after the start of basic studies at home.

When I was only six, major tragedy struck the family. My mother, Bina, passed away after a fairly long period of sickness. I remember that night of August 16, 1939, vividly, when we knew that something was seriously wrong that day with so many people coming and going throughout the day, and we children being kept out of the way by our faithful retainer Makru. So much so, that we had to sleep on unmade beds that night after a frugal meal (most unusual), as against our normal practice of the family dinner together being followed most nights with Jethamoshay telling us a bedtime story, usually an adventure story from The Wide World magazine, which was regularly subscribed at our home. The next morning as soon as I woke up, like any other day, I went running to see & talk to my mother at her sick bed, only to find it absolutely empty, even without the mattress and bedding, and with me still not realising that we were never to see her again.

That was a very major upheaval in our sedate lives, as my sorrowful father soon thereafter gave up his job at Lahore, not wanting to stay there any more. He moved initially to Lyallpur - the granary of the then undivided Punjab, & later took up a job in Karachi, and subsequently at Jammu, while we two brothers continued to stay on at Lahore, and being well taken care of by Monica Jethima and Chutka Jetha along with cousins, Ajit & Ratna. Our lives, therefore, continued without any major disruption, which most others would have to face under similar circumstances. Faithful Makru, who had been with us from before we were born, went with my lonely father and continued to serve him and run his household for very many years till he became too old to work and was unable to return from his native place in Himachal Pradesh. The family shifted to Gwalmandi in Lahore city from Badami Bagh, and later to a first floor flat in Sevakram Buildings at Nisbett Road, which was our new home till 1947, and still remains so very memorable.

My early pre-partition Lahore and Delhi years

The following year after my mother's death, Pennadi's wedding took place at Lahore in 1940, when many of the family members came to attend from all over India. My father's second eldest brother, Saroj (Mejo-jethamoshay) had built his home in Delhi after his retirement from the Government of India service. They had come to attend the wedding too, and both he and Mejo-jethima (Indira) very affectionately wanted me to come and live with them in their large new home at 95 Daryaganj. Their two sons, Khokada (Sudhir) and Munnuda (Dileep) had both grown up, and since she had strong sentimental memories of my young father having stayed with them in the late twenties soon after my grandfather's death, was keen to have another youngster running around their house once again! So, my next five years were spent at Delhi. Initially, I had the luxury of a separate room, which soon I had to share with my cousin Bittuda (Amarendra), who came from Lahore after completing his MA to start his career in a Government job at Delhi in 1941. I initially joined the Happy School, and travelled daily by a horse drawn Tonga to Churiwala Gali near the Jama Masjid, which regularly picked up five children from the Daryaganj area. This was followed by Anglo Sanskrit Victoria Jubilee Higher Secondary School (ASVJ - which was also my father's old school during his stay with Jethima & Jethamoshay in his young days), and was about half mile away, to which I was old enough to walk on my own. One of my proudest moments was when the old peon of the School Principal recognised my father as he came to see me at the School during his visit from Karachi. He told me that my father was one of the best sportsmen of the School in the years past, and was often the top scorer, and had once sent a sixer over a Church spire during an inter-school cricket tournament held near Kashmiri Gate!  I used to go to Lahore during each summer vacation to join my brother, though in 1941 - when our summer vacations coincided, we had all gathered in Dharampur (in Simla Hills), at our Sejo-pishima (Barki's) villa, where we all had a great time. Pishima insisted that we must learn something new during the holidays, and that summer we were made to take up and successfully learn knitting (using broom sticks for knitting needles) - at her insistence!

My Delhi stay was exciting and memorable - they were the World War II days, and Jethamoshay followed the details of the war over the radio news, and newspapers most carefully (TV's were then not even in existence!). He marked the progress of the war with red lines on the many maps spread out in his room (mostly cut out from The Statesman), and which he explained to me frequently. Munnuda and Pratapda had both joined the then Royal Indian Air Force, as pilots, and later Joyda and Robida also joined the Air Force. With four illustrious cousins in the elite forces during the war years, any young wide-eyed boy would become a hero-worshipper! The house was always alive with excitement whenever they, and young fellow officers from their squadrons, visited Delhi - they became my idols, and I was determined to be a pilot when I grew up! I read a lot about the World War II then and in later years, and remembered Mejo Jethamoshay's briefings, and also the occasional tales from my cousins and their visiting squadron mates about them and their flying machines. During that period, Khokada (who called me 'Captain') managed to bring the US Army K ration packs occasionally - I tasted cheese, & also saw egg and milk in powder form for the first time – to my great amazement!

Mejo Jethamoshay was meticulous and insisted that when I started getting a weekly pocket money of four annas (25 paise - quater Rupee today!) that I should submit an account before getting the next week�s quota. He further demanded that I must save a part of this minuscule amount, in order to develop the good savings habit! However, both Khokada and Bittuda often quietly slipped in some extra cash from time to time, on the guise of payment forservices rendered, like fetching glasses of water, or putting away their shoes etc.! Bittuda had a bicycle, and he very often took me out sightseeing on weekends. The family Hillman Minx was cleaned and maintained carefully by Jethamoshay, and I was expected to help. Since I studied in a non-Bengali school, my learning of the Bengali language came about by sitting at the kitchen entrance with 'Barna Parichay' - Parts I & II, and Jethima's loving guidance! Thereafter, since I was an avid reader, books from the Bengali library, and later Khokada's collection of Rabindra Rachanabali and other books, were instrumental in my getting to know the Bengali language, even if in an imperfect way. Munnuda's visits were always very enjoyable, especially when he recited (and made me participate) from 'Abol Tabol' - the hilarious funny poetry of Sukumar Ray, the father of Satyajit Ray. Similarly, Joyda too always gave us a treat (mostly ice-creams) whenever he came to Delhi - they were then my favourite cousins besides Khokada & Bittuda! I joined the Boy Scouts movement and was also in the School Band. I was a pretty good student and invariably was obtained the first position in the class examinations. Sunday prayer services were often held at home, and Mejo-jethima and Jethamoshay took me to Brahmo Sunday services and functions regularly that were held in Delhi, so that I may become aware of, and also learn about our Brahmo upbringing and religion. The five years at Delhi passed happily, just before I grew up into my teens. We periodically visited my Chotomashi (Lotika Ghosh) and family and played with my cousins Bhanu, Bubu & Chantu (Mantu was too young!), and also visited Santoshmama & Protima Mamima (Das) from time to time, and play with their children, Babu, Tubu & Khukuma, who were also in Delhi, besides Sejo Pishima (Barki) & Pishomoshay (Basant Lal) literally next door at 70, Daryaganj. My classmate and best friend Raj Bhandari & his family lived nearby, with whom I spent considerable time - almost daily. I was invited to spend a lovely and enjoyable summer holiday with them at Mussoorie in the summer of 1943 - which was my first visit to this then lovely hill station. Another memorable incident was being unexpectedly bitten by Pishima's fierce Alsatian (German Shepherd) dog Pluto - who was my great favourite, as I went over one evening to their 70 Daryaganj home! It was quite a misadventure for me, but despite this, Pluto remained my friend and I would often take him out for long walks & runs in the years following!

I returned to Lahore in 1945 so that I could again be with my own brother (and cousins), and joined the famous DAV High School, which I was surprised to find, had as many as eleven sections in my class VIII (then unheard of!). I was given admission in the K section and was told that the "A" section was reserved for the best students for which I needed to prove myself by merit. After the very first terminal examinations, I did just that and got into the "A" section of 40 boys, being about twenty-something in the class of more than 450 students - a big drop in the rank as compared to the past! Significant memories of all three of us brothers playing Hockey at the Pioneers Sports Club (which was also our BP Boy Scouts Troop & Cubs Pack), and an adventurous two weeks Scouts Camp at Tararadevi near Simla in 1946, remain strong. Sejo-Pishomoshay (Basant Lal) click to see an earlier Family Group photo, was then the finance minister of Jind State in the heartland of undivided Punjab, where we went for a holiday (at Sangrur) whilst returning after the camp. During these Lahore days, with my friend and neighbour Subrata Dutt, we got interested in experiments with Physics & Chemistry projects, and we both were known as "the scientists!" amongst the locality youngsters - I recollect building an induction coil, giving unexpected high voltage shocks to friends and many others, and building various gadgets! Lahore was such a memorable and lovely city indeed during my formative years.

Partition and after: Lahore & Delhi

As all are well aware, 1947 brought about tremendous pre-partition communal turmoil in most of North India preceding India's independence. Lahore was specially affected where we lived, just as I was completing my academic year in Class IX at the DAV High School there. While Bengal too was affected greatly, I can only share my personal story of what we experienced during the independence struggle in Lahore, and later Delhi. For us, it started in March 1947 as my annual examinations commenced, when the predominantly Muslim police fired indiscriminately on a mostly Hindu student gathering agitating for India's independence at the nearby sports ground of my school - killing many by even chasing them into their hostels. The agitation spread rapidly throughout the city thereafter, and curfew was imposed and our examinations were cancelled. The communal overtones strengthened mainly due to the uncertainty about Lahore being a part of India or the newly proposed Pakistan. Both groups were hoping that the lovely city of Lahore would be theirs, and sought supremacy through unruly mob violence. This severe communal riots spread throughout Punjab and most of North India. Innocent bystanders and even train passengers were attacked, and there were wide spread arson and violence cases all-round those days. Often in school or in our class room we would learn about the loss of some of our classmates through such actions. There were even many tales of partisan police firing on residents on grounds of curfew breakage, whilst running out of burning houses!

Like many others, I did volunteer sentry duty often during night time in our Hindu locality - to raise alarm in case of any attack or arson (there was one such incident during my duty). Those were very difficult and uncertain days for us all. Both Hindus and Muslims extensively carried out attacks on each other during the partition and independence without any discrimination or cause. There were extensive curfews and inconveniences, and finally in late July we decided to temporarily get away from Lahore till the border issue was decided (the Radcliffe Award was announced on Aug 17, 1947, and positioned Lahore in Pakistan). We all had hoped and intended to continue to live in Lahore as before - whether it became part of Pakistan or India, not realizing what was to happen actually in the future. Instead of goodwill, and living in future harmony, we could not imagine that such strong hatred will develop between the Governments & people of the two neighbouring countries who were one nation earlier.

We had stayed back at Lahore during the summer vacation hoping and waiting for the end of the turbulence. This became futile, and finally we decided to get away to Delhi for a while. My father was then working in Jammu, and he gave up his job at end July 1947 and came to Lahore for taking us to Delhi. Those days, most trains were attacked and many passengers were butchered just because of their religion by senseless mobs, and it was very dangerous to undertake any travel. However, we had little choice, and my father escorted us all. Our trip, luckily for us, was uneventful, other than a packed compartment with barely any place to even sit, leave aside carry luggage! Before going, during an hour's break in the curfew, we all went to my Boro Jethamoshay's (my father's eldest brother's) home near Nicholson Road to try to persuade all of them to accompany us the next day to Delhi till peace returned. But it was to no avail. He insisted that since he had built the house with all his life's savings, they would continue to stay on at Lahore whatever may happen. He and his eldest son, Phoringda, regrettably lost their lives eventually - both being stabbed to death along with quite a few others. This happened soon afterwards in early August after many neighbourhood young men including my cousin had been arrested on trumped up charges of creating or planning disturbance, but were released by the judge. This did not suit the mob present there, and who indiscriminately attacked them inside the courtroom with impunity. This resulted in the saddest tragedy and major loss to our family during the 1947 partition of India, besides the loss of our homes and all our belongings, most of which having been so carefully packed and labeled by me before leaving home!

We had come to Delhi with minimum possessions, expecting to return to Lahore in due course, but soon realized that going back to our well organized home left behind was out of question, and consequently we lost everything we possessed, including even my mothers jewels kept in the bank locker at Lahore, as also my father's bank account there, which could not be transferred. I was particularly sad that even the pocket money given to me by various relatives or visitors over the years and the wristwatch that my father had presented as a prize for being first in the class, were also lost forever! It was due to the generosity of my father's sister Sejo-pishima & her husband Pishomoshay (the Lal's), who gave us a large part of their 70 Daryaganj bungalow in Delhi to stay for the next few years, and various household things, that enabled us to live with dignity at that time - with some degree of normality. Another part of the house was given to Pishomoshay's other relatives who too came as refugees from Punjab. Such generosity from relatives and friends were common during the catastrophe and many refugee families like us were saved from utter disaster as a result. At that time, we were too young to understand the benevolence and that from many others in the family that saved relatives and friends to survive from the crisis. To support the family needs, my father had to take up jobs in small broken down flour mills around the country having no security of service and with little money and no facilities, as most of the major or large flour mills were in western Punjab - which fell within the newly created Pakistan as a consequence to the partitioning of India with the grant of independence - a costly price to millions - and especially to us.

On looking back about the terrible tragedies and the senseless loss of so many friends and my cousin and jethamoshay during the partition, I feel that I still personally remained somewhat detached in accepting the happenings more calmly despite the deep anguish, and could not direct my anger towards any community in general, instead of the actual culprits. This may have been due to my primary enthusiasm and focus on the freedom of the country - for which we all were so eagerly looking for from my early school days and being prepared to suffer. I had been earlier involved with minor student protest movements for the British to "Quit India" in anticipation, and had mentally been conditioned to bear consequences for this attitude. Further, the Brahmo upbringing had emphasized respecting all religions and to remain 'good' in all actions - that had been ingrained in my behaviour. Moreover, since I had a number of Muslim friends & neighbours whose homes I had always been welcome to, I was never able to understand the frenzy that many got caught up with the religious aspect and the mob revenge syndrome against strangers belonging to any other religion or community, despite our personal losses of life, property and possessions. I clearly recollect that I learnt rumours of a likely attack to annihilate our neighbouring Muslim family in Delhi during post partition days, but was averted on my informing and helping them get away to safety before any such incident. The terrible tragic images of the pile of dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus killed during the riots that were being dumped from a truck at the Hospital mortuary that I had earlier seen in Lahore whilst going to School haunted me for years and deterred me from any such thoughtless communal mob reaction.

A very significant joyful memory that still remains vivid with me includes the historic Independence Day of India on August 15th, 1947 - when we all celebrated the long awaited great moment of change of the country's status, and listened to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech on All India Radio during the midnight broadcast. The celebration & euphoria of India's independence also remains equally strong in my memory!

Independence of India from British rule was the cherished goal of all citizens for years and dreams of all of us that we had been struggling for. Most unfortunately at a late stage the deliberate British policy of "Divide and Rule" enabled them to engineer the partitioning of India to satisfy Mr. Mohamed Ali Jinnah's demands for a separate country based on religion for the Muslims in then undivided India, so that he could become their supreme leader, despite his personal belief in secularism. "Pakistan was created to enable Britain to retain its paramountcy in West Asia -- which was part of a continuum of military control that took in Ceylon, Malaya, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand" - as noted by Prasenjit K Basu, a Singapore-based economist, formerly chief economist for Southeast Asia & India at Credit Suisse First Boston, chief Asia economist at Daiwa Securities and global head of research at Maybank group. Further, he had stared: "The creation of Pakistan was integral to Britain's grand strategy. If they were to ever leave India, Britain's military planners had made it clear that they needed to retain a foothold in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) and Baluchistan, because that would provide the means to retain control of Iran (where BP's predecessor, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, owned oil reserves), Iraq (where a British puppet monarchy enabled tight British control of the Iraqi Petroleum Co.) and the potentially oil-rich British protectorates of Kuwait, the Trucial States (now the UAE), Bahrain and Qatar. The problem for Britain was that the NWFP had elected Congress governments in both 1937 and 1946, and the NWFP delegation had entered the Constituent Assembly of India in December 1946 (defying the Muslim League's call to boycott it)".

Even as Britain was giving up their largest colony from where they had enriched themselves so tremendously in the past century and more, they insisted on the partition - to create the divide from the secularism that they themselves had followed during their own rule, or otherwise to delay granting freedom that was demanded. The then Indian political leaders gave in - that satisfied only some for them to see the British leave immediately, but which created the unfriendly neighbour on both eastern & western side of India, as well as increased the internal strife between so many citizens of India. The two halves created of West and East Pakistan were a failure from administration point of view, which had to be forcefully resolved later so painfully - with East Pakistan becoming independent Bangladesh eventually. The British succeeded in ensuring that these two new neighbouring under developed countries would waste their resources in struggling with each other, rather than jointly progress from their inherent wealth. Instead of a bloodless revolution, the partition in fact resulted in such vast number of innocent lives being lost or having to relocate causing dislocation of millions of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim families. This frenzy of violence marred and diluted the joys of independence, and sowed the seeds of enmity between the two countries, and consequently, encouraged the rise of fundamentalists - which plagues the world of today, in particular both Pakistan and India.

My disturbed studies in Class X were eventually restarted in October 1947 in the D.A.V School at Pahargunj, New Delhi during evening shifts, after their regular school was over. It was in one of the evenings during class that news arrived of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and disbelievingly we walked all the way to Connaught Place (about 5 miles away) to confirm the news from the Hindustan Times hoarding. That night I was called up to represent the BP Boy Scouts Association in India at the funeral, along with another scout. We both went to the Birla House early in the morning, and the two of us Boy Scouts walked just in front of the gun carriage carrying the body of Mahatma Gandhi all the way to Raj Ghat for cremation on this momentous and historic sad occasion. It was also during this period that much to my delight, I constructed my first ever working crystal radio set from a Popular Science magazine circuit, which I showed off proudly to my earlier somewhat sceptic but tolerant relatives, and to many of my friends.

A very significant memory that remains includes the historic Independence Day of India on August l5th, 1947 - when we all celebrated the great moment of change of the country's status, and listened to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech on All India Radio during the midnight broadcast as below:

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance."

On looking back about the terrible tragedies during the partition, I feel that I personally remained detached in accepting the happenings somewhat more calmly despite the anguish, and could not direct my anger towards any community in general, instead of the actual culprits. This may have been due to my enthusiasm and focus on the freedom of the country - for which we all were so eagerly looking for from my early school days and being prepared to suffer. I had been earlier involved with minor student protest movements for the British to "Quit India" in anticipation, and had mentally been conditioned to bear consequences, I guess for this attitude. Moreover, since I had a number of Muslim friends & neighbours whose homes I had always been welcome to, I was never able to understand the frenzy that many got caught up with the religious aspect and the mob revenge syndrome, despite our own personal losses of life, property and possessions. I clearly recollect that I learnt rumours of a likely attack to annihilate our neighbouring Muslim family in Delhi during post partition days, but was averted on my informing Pratapda, who got an Air Force vehicle to safely escort them away to safety before any such incident. The terrible tragic images of the pile of dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus killed during the riots that were being dumped from a truck at the Hospital mortuary that I had earlier seen in Lahore whilst going to School haunted me for years and deterred me from any such thoughtless communal mob reaction.

Independence of India from British rule was the cherished goal of all citizens that they had been struggling for, but most unfortunately the deliberate British policy of "Divide and Rule" resulted in the partitioning of India. Even as they were giving up their largest colony from where they had enriched themselves tremendously in the past, they insisted on the partition - using religion as the basis - to create the divide from the secular country that they ruled, or otherwise to postpone getting the freedom. The then leaders gave in that satisfied only some for them to see the British leave immediately, but which created the unfriendly neighbour on both eastern & western side of India. The British succeeded in ensuring that these two new under developed countries would waste their resources in struggling with each other, rather than jointly progress from their inherent wealth. Instead of a bloodless revolution, the partition in fact resulted in the millions being massacred by zealot mobs on communal and religious grounds, and the dislocation of millions of Hindu and Muslim families. As a post-script, the following excerpts from Shashi Tharoor's 2016 book 'An Era of Darkness' supports my views and summarises the above conclusions so well:

"The British had a particular talent for creating and exaggerating particularist identities and drawing ethnically-based administrative lines in all their colonies. Indians were always subjects, never citizens; throughout the days of Empire, no Indian could have presumed to say 'I am British.'

As early as 1859, the then British governor of Bombay, Lord Elphinstone, advised London that 'Divide et impera was the old Roman maxim, and it should be ours'. Religion became a useful means of divide and rule: the Hindu-Muslim divide was, as the American scholar of religion Peter Gottschalk documents, defined, highlighted and fomented by the British as a deliberate strategy. The creation and perpetuation of Hindu-Muslim antagonism was the most significant accomplishment of British imperial policy: the project of divide et impera would reach its culmination in the horrors of Partition that eventually accompanied the collapse of British authority in 1947.

By excluding Muslims from the essential national narrative, the nineteenth-century colonial interpretation of Indian history helped give birth in the twentieth to the two-nation theory that eventually divided the country. It also legitimized, with a veneer of scholarship, the British strategic policy of 'divide and rule' in which every effort was made by the imperialists to highlight differences between Hindus and Muslims to persuade the latter that their interests were incompatible with the advancement of the former".

This frenzy of violence diluted the joy of independence, and sowed the seeds of enmity between the two countries, and consequently, the rise of fundamentalists - which plagues the world of today, and India in particular.

Back to academics & family

I completed my matriculation (ten year programme of the East Punjab University) in July 1948, four months later than the normal academic year, due to the disruptions. Since Delhi had changed to the eleven year Higher Secondary system of education, it became more convenient for me to join a college elsewhere instead of continuing studies at a Delhi school. While waiting for our results, Monica Jethima took all of us children soon to Allahabad, to visit her brother & other relatives, whom she had not seen for many years, & then to Calcutta. I was therefore able to renew my relationship with my relatives on the maternal side in Calcutta. I stayed with my Boromama at 74 Lansdowne Road, and Babyda took me around to meet other family members etc. including my Mejomama & family at Sibpur. Ranidi, Banidi, Khuku, Babyda & Sonu along with their prize bull terriers and various other pets filled their 74 Lansdowne Road house those days! From my paternal side relatives then living in Calcutta, I met and visited Chotopishi, Pishomoshay, Khokonda (Ranjit), Romoladi & Mriduladi, as well as Lutherda & Protimaboudi, and also got to know her family members well, during this memorable trip to Calcutta.

At that time, Baba was working in a small flourmill at Allahabad, and having to stay in a small tin shed next to the Mill and to live on simple meals from the workers canteen! I was shocked to note this whilst sharing his living conditions during my brief stay with him. While returning from Calcutta, he made it possible for me to continue with my Intermediate Science studies at Ewing Christian College in Allahabad from September 1948 (late for the session), despite strong suggestions made to him by many that I should get employed to contribute to the family needs after my matriculation. He insisted that the boys must continue with their education or training. I stayed in Princeton Hostel. He similarly ensured that my younger brother Choton joined the naval Training Ship Dufferin, for which he had qualified. These were at a very substantial cost, which he could then not afford, but did with great difficulty and only by relinquishing most of his personal comfort and needs. We both justified his confidence and great sacrifice by doing well in later life.

I recollect a quick two-day trip to Delhi from Allahabad during my college days to be present there for the original Republic Day celebrations on January 26th, 1950. We were still in the happy state of our independence, and most of New Delhi was lit up for this occasion, and I thoroughly enjoyed the then most impressive parade in free India that I saw, and being home with the family.

After completing my Intermediate Science examination in 1950, I went on a trip to Kurseong, to my then late grandfather�s house Snehalata Cottage, named after my grand mother - this time on my own as a grown up. Two of my mother�s brothers, Bholamama & family, and Susovonmama (Rangamama) were then living there. The view of the Kunchenjunga range from the window was fabulous, and I still remember it vividly. I made a day trip to Darjeeling from there, and returned to Calcutta going through the then East Pakistan by train. I had another enjoyable long stay in Calcutta with Boromama at 74 Lansdowne Road, and revisited many of the relatives whom I had met two years earlier. I specially remember taking Babla, Buro and a number of their young cousins to the Calcutta�s famous zoo - chaperoned by Protimaboudi, who had limited trust in my ability to manage the seven or eight youngsters on my own!

In the meanwhile, the refugee rehabilitation programme of the Government recognized the losses incurred by those fleeing from West Pakistan, and Jethamoshay was lucky to be allotted a small house at a nominal cost on then the outskirts of Delhi in Nizamuddin Extension - next to the then normal picnic spot Humayun�s Tomb and the Boy Scout camping site - and the family settled in this new home, which gradually developed into the prime residential colony in the expanded capital city as it grew in due course. Since Baba was moving from job to job in different locations, and was not quite aware of this programme, we were not able to claim or get any similar assistance. A-4 became the new Sarkar home, with Jethima nurturing the small garden to perfection with her care, and the home and possessions always shining and spotless! Later, an extension was added in part of the lawn, which soon became the residence of Romadi and Anantda after his retirement, till the end of their lives. Jethamoshay, and later Ajit, were happy to be able to repay the generosity of Pishima in a small way, and glad to have part of the family next door. Ratna got married to Kulbhushan, and lived in the neighborhood for quite some time, till they built their own home - which regretfully she was not able to enjoy due to her early sad death. Her daily "dhobi-ghat" and meticulously kept home is well remembered - no doubt she followed Jethima! Their daughter Tunia grew up in the meanwhile with the grandparents not too far away. Ajit too, after a few years working life in Delhi with Burmah-Shell, had been transferred on his promotion. Choton and I were away right from the start, but we came 'home' whenever we had a break from our studies, training or jobs. Baba too, came for stays in between his jobs, and his favourite relaxation at the 'Neela Gumbad' near the station watching the arrivals or departure of the trains - along with faithful Rana, his favourite dog, is fondly remembered by all. Talking of our dogs, Tipsy was our first pet at 70 Daryaganj, and became the founder resident of A-4, followed with his off spring Bingo! They were more human than most, and were loved and pampered by all, especially by Ratna! Rana was next, a very affectionate and faithful companion to all at home. For a brief period, Bittuda and Moynaboudi also lived in the neighbourhood, at A-20, before shifting to Vinaynagar. It was always a treat to visit them during my college days and later, and to see Munia & Borun growing up, and enjoy Moynaboudi's superb cooking, as she invariable produced simple but quick snacks for the hungry youngsters! After Bittuda�s retirement in the sixties, they settled in Whitefield, Bangalore, where finally they got their home built.

I continued with my studies - to complete my Bachelor of Science from the University of Allahabad. The total of four years of hostel life, two at Princeton in Ewing Christian College & rest at Holland Hall at Allahabad University, were invaluable experience. My training in the Provincial Education Corp, and later in the National Cadet Corp was also very enjoyable, including the competitive NCC Cadre camp at Amausi, during which I won first prizes for Inter-Battalion Rifle Shooting, for Guard Duties and Turnout, and was awarded the coveted B Certificate. I also completed the one-year diploma courses each on Photography and Workshop Practice at the University, and became Secretary of the Photographic Association, winning many prizes in their photo competitions. The use of the Photo-lab supplemented my small pocket money by processing and printing photos for others at discounted price! I was appointed the Student Editor of the Allahabad University Reporter, and also published a special pictorial magazine with help from a few friends covering the Inter-University Sports Meet in 1951. Other achievements included being admitted to the highbrow Alpha Club during the University days, and being appointed as a Prefect at my Hostel - Holland Hall, and having a major role in organising the golden jubilee celebrations of my hostel. I have many pleasant memories of the Allahabad days, including a three-day long exciting, but very tiring, cycle trip of about 180 km to Tanda Falls, near Mirzapur with another hostel mate, Om Prakash Goel (who later became a Professor in Jaipur), and being invited by Anukulda to a three day Christmas trip to a forest lodge at Dhandraul. He was my cousin Robida�s wife Chaya boudi�s brother, owner of the famed AH Wheeler & Co - the Railway Bookstall proprietors, and who were a most affectionate family and warmly insisted on my visits. I became a very avid borrower from their huge home library, and regularly visited them for badminton, cards, and of course, tasty home meals during my hostel days. Another very welcome and enjoyable invitation was to a School picnic by Suravidi, who was the Principal of the famous Jagat Taran Girls School, followed with card sessions with their senior hostel girls! It all started when a cousin, Bacchu (Monju Sinha - later Mitra), joined the Hostel for a short while, and I went to visit her from time to time, and got to know Suravidi well, who kept inviting me even after Monju left the School and returned to Calcutta!

Career launch

In May 1952, after completing my studies while awaiting my B.Sc. results, I attended a very interesting Training programme run by the United States Information Service (USIS) at New Delhi about conducting Public Opinion Polls, after literally talking my way into this assignment, for which I was initially deemed to be unqualified! USIS took me on a six weeks assignment as an Interviewer, and followed this with making me continue on a series of Contractual Studies and Analysis till end 1952. This first employment of six months with USIS was extremely interesting and challenging, and I really enjoyed it, and learnt a lot from the assignments. My earlier dream of joining the Indian Air Force, or even the Army, had been shattered due to my eyesight not being 6 by 6 without spectacles. However, with limited opportunities for growth for a "foreigner" USIS, I started applying to various commercial organizations for employment, even though USIS was keen for me to continue working with them. Kodak offered me a position, and to be sent abroad for technical training and on return, start their planned Colour Processing Laboratory at Bombay, whilst Martin Burn Ltd. also selected me for The Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. However, I accepted an offer made by Tobacco Manufacturers India Ltd., who I learnt only later, was then the manufacturing side of The Imperial Tobacco Company, where my professional career began in February 1953. In late 1953, TMI & Printers India (the printing side) were merged with Imperial Tobacco as a single Company, which in 1970 became India Tobacco, and then I.T.C. Limited and finally as ITC in 2001, as it is today. ILTD (the leaf tobacco side) remained a separate Company, and only in 1975 became part of ITC. I spent the next thirty years of my professional working life in this great Company - where I literally grew up from a naive and simple youngster!

On being selected, I reported to Mr. D Macfarlane & Mr. Lionel Till of the Primary Manufacturing Department at TMI, Saharanpur. I joined as Management Trainee with no idea or knowledge of the commercial 'boxwalla' culture. Most of the senior management were British expatriates - many veterans of the Second World War. The training consisted of learning to carryout or do every single job "on the floor" - from sweeping floors, stacking cases, feeding, operating or maintaining & overhauling machines to all clerical or miscellaneous tasks by simply replacing each worker by taking his place - from one day to a few weeks, and to do any odd jobs for the seniors. However, at the same time I was expected to maintain high social status externally, and never to let down the Company�s good name or image, and observing all the expected traditions - just like the schoolboys at Eton! The English bosses were strict and demanding. They looked at the new Indian "managers to be" with some disdain, but were generally fair and straightforward. We were expected to have formal black dinner suits on for Club nights, and participate in all the sporting and social activities. Many were quite new - like Billiards, Snooker or Ball Room dancing, or for that matter, Tombola or Roulette! I was a quick learner to the new life-style, and led a very hectic life - hard and long hours at our training schedule 24X7, and still continue with a very energetic activity level otherwise, including factory work, tennis or cricket matches on weekends! I discovered after joining that there was a class distinction amongst the Indian managers too - the Covenanted staff being the elite. The expatriates were A or C staff, and the Indian Covenanted managers were in B, whilst the rest of the Indians were either D, or E staff - in which latter junior most category I started life unknowingly. Those from premier Indian families or well connected, were usually taken in the Covenanted grade, who after their training started as Superintendents, as against E staff becoming Assistant Foremen, with very remote chances of becoming a Superintendent before retiring! The lady secretaries were quite appropriately and amusingly graded as the Staff X. During my Saharanpur days, I often made trips to Delhi during any long weekend, or went on the monthly 'amenity trips' on Saturdays arranged by the Company to Dehradun. Sometimes I went to Mussoorie from Dehradun for the weekend. We were given a generous cigarette allowance, which I gave away, mostly to Baba, as I was determined never to smoke!

My two years training passed quickly through this methodology, without any help or interaction from the senior staff who themselves knew very little about managing. On retrospection, I must confess that I hardly learned anything about 'management', or about 'industry', but had very valuable lessons regarding discipline, obeying orders, hard work & 'dignity of labour', integrity & ethics and the ability to carry out the job of any junior employee efficiently. That included operating & solving any technical problems of machines. It was my inquisitive attitude, interest and self-study of management books (then rare) that opened up that phase of my learning, along with 'on the job' experience. Formal Management Development was stressed in ITC a few years later, starting with TWI (Training Within Industry), initially slowly, but steadily gathering speed. Aldeen - the historical property where Tipu Sultan's family members were imprisoned, was acquired, that became the center of ITC's training activity. It was the first such large-scale corporate management training center anywhere in India well before even the IIM's. Later, Aldeen became the home of the Sangeet Research Academy from 1978, another unique ITC venture to promote Indian Classical music.

On being posted to Bangalore after my two years training at Saharanpur, I lived as a paying guest with a retired couple, the Hankins, very near the factory, who were childless, and never made me feel like a guest. I replaced my bicycle with a Triumph 200cc Tiger Cub motorbike in 1956, and learnt to drive thanks to one of my colleagues, and practiced on our ITC cricket field. and became more mobile, and was always available to provide lifts to friends, and ever ready to go for a picnic, which was very often on almost every weekend. Pratapda was heading the Indian Air Force Training Command at Bangalore at that time, and Hashiboudi and he provided me the warmth of the family as and when needed. Gopa and Robey were schooling then, and Robey invariably thrashed me at table tennis! Pratapda was such an outstanding individual in so many ways, and we all were in awe of his personality! We were so proud of him being one of the very first Indians to break the 'sound barrier' on a French Mystere IV A fighter at Cazaux Air Base on Oct 15th, 1954. Later, he distinguished himself as becoming the Chief of Air Staff (1969 to 1972), and also as the Chairman Of Indian Airlines and Air India, besides several other top level positions. He was honoured with the Distinguished Flying Cross during his war service, and later received the Padma Bhushan & the Padma Vibhushan, Regrettably, due to unethical demands made to him by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the behest of son Sanjay, he retired early in 1982, rather than give in to the unprincipled dictats. Sadly, this great shock led to his heart-attack and early demise soon after.

However, good days suddenly came to an end, and I was transferred at a very short notice to the Parel Branch at Bombay (now Mumbai) in early 1958, only a few months before my impending marriage to Anita. We had met a year earlier at the home of her uncle and aunt, then Air Commodore Corry Singha & Preetidi, who were very good friends of Joyda during his UK posting days. I had become very fond of them and their three children Dalip. Rohini & most affectionate Vinita, after meeting and getting to know them at Bangalore soon after my arrival. We both had some common interests and background and it was discovered that Anita�s father was also a flourmiller, and Baba and he knew each other well professionally! She had started her career in journalism as the Assistant Editor of Treasure Chest - a children�s magazine, after qualifying from Nagpur, and was at that time staying at the Bangalore YWCA.

Bangalore was then a very peaceful sleepy paradise for mostly retired people and pensioners, and the roads were generally empty after about 8 pm, with a small spurt at about 9 pm when the cinemas gave over! Most homes were bungalows with gardens or lawns, and hardly any fans were needed in this so called 'no fan station' in this then garden city! I was unable to even buy a table fan easily, and had to get one from Madras. I had joined the Bangalore Golf Club, but gave up my membership before long, and played tennis at the nearby Indian Gymkhana in Frazer Town. I had acquired my cherished Siemens Spitzensuper 10 valve radio set - then the most powerful set imported, and my first Tape Recorder - a rarity in them days. Choton had brought me LP's of some then new pop-group called Beatles, which certainly became my prize possession, as were my recordings of a then new unknown Canadian Singer, Pat Boone, from Radio Ceylon - well before the films & hit records! There was a substantial Anglo-Indian population here, and many such individuals were in ITC in the junior Management cadre those days, since the Britishers expected them to be more loyal! We visited the Catholic Club or the Bowring Institute with them at times, especially during the festive season, to attend dances and other enjoyable functions.  However, as mentioned, I was suddenly transferred at a very short notice to Parel factory at Bombay, and within a few months thereafter got married at Delhi.

Early Bombay days & Family matters

After my initial few days in the Chummery at Bombay, I had to quickly find own lodgings, as I was going to get married, and since there was no Company accommodation available for junior management staff as at other postings, nor did they compensate us for the very high local rental levels. Our first year's stay was at Bandra after our marriage, and thereafter I had no option but to sell off my motorcycle to pay for the six months rent demanded as brokerage and deposit, which had to be paid for a tiny flat in Kings Circle finally. The rent itself was twice the allowance given by the Company for this purpose and more than a third of my meager total salary, which may have been sufficient for a bachelor earlier at Bangalore, but was quite inadequate at Bombay for a married couple! Luckily, Anita started working immediately, and we just about managed with our combined income - at least during the early parts of each month! Hard that it may have been financially, we enjoyed those days without complaint or worry, and lived well enough from day to day without regrets. We often had friends for simple meals & went out a lot, were great movie buffs, attended concerts and shows, and often went to the theater, whatever we could afford – usually for about first three weeks of the month, after which the brakes had to be put on! Both of us worked hard and with lots of enthusiasm, and hardly thought of, or complained of the slow and low level of rewards. Life in Bombay was hard, but we remained optimistic during these initial early years. Memories of regular flooding during the monsoons and our having to wade through knee deep water in front of our building to the higher mid road remain vivid, which did not deter us from managing these difficulties like most other Bombayites!

Anita changed from journalism to advertising copywriting - from Femina to J. Walter Thompson, and before long progressed fast and was in great demand by other agencies because of her very high creative talents. I was able to catch up with my dream partially by joining the Bombay Flying Club, and learning to fly Piper Super Cubs during 1959-60 through a highly subsidized training scheme offered by the Government to young people. Joyda, Bani and young Rita & Deepa were also living at Bombay during the early years, and we all got together often, and had very enjoyable family gatherings. Amongst other relatives, the Neogy family consisting of Granny, Munnakaka and Renuka were also in Bombay, while Monica was then in Delhi, and later on after getting married she moved to the US. We were lucky to have many good friends and colleagues during our long Bombay stay, with whom we had great times. We made annual holiday trips to Delhi, and also to Chandigarh/Simla, to visit Anita�s mother at St. Bedes College, where Rekha was also studying initially. They too, and other family members, visited us quite a few times.

In the meanwhile, our son Vivek was born in the early hours of March 29th, 1960. I had just reached Anita to the Nursing Home (on my scooter!) only some hours earlier after dinner the previous night, since we had a dinner guest! We had a delightful time in bringing him up even with the very limited available help, since we could barely afford a part time young maid for only three to four hours a day at that time. My shift working hours helped, since the overlap in our working hours became less, and we could juggle our timings to manage him despite the limited & inadequate help. It was such fun and so exciting to see his development - he was the most trouble free baby, very undemanding, never gave us any problems, learnt fast and was bundles of joy. He traveled with us wherever we went on our Lambretta scooter. He got used to visiting our friends, and even staying with them overnight whenever we had to go to any official, or other late night functions. I loved my family life and my professional work, and was totally content. In due course, Vivek happily started schooling at the Don Bosco School, near Kings Circle.

My brother Choton (nick named Dicky by his colleagues) had joined the Scindia Steam and Navigation Company after completing his training at Dufferin and obtaining his coveted Second Mates 'ticket', followed with the Masters Certificate from the UK. He had become a Captain in due course, and his ship came to Bombay from time to time on brief visits. We always had a great time on board his ship, or on board INS Cuddalore, and later on INS Tir, on which Bablu - Arun Auditto - was then posted. We had many other good friends, Ralph Lazarus, Suman & Veena Saksena, Vijay Menon, the Aroras – Ajay & Aruna, Jayant & Veena, Balaji, KV Krishnamuthy, Buddha Guhathakurta and the Hemmadis - Usha, Manohar & Rajiv, to name a few, during those initial eleven years at Bombay. We often played Bridge on Sunday afternoons after a good lunch, and frequently went to the theater, or movies - on some days to two or three, especially if Balaji was around! At that time we were members of various film clubs as well.

In mid 1963, I was finally provided with Company accommodation in a large 3000 sq. ft flat on the first floor of the factory at Parel. This was a huge benefit financially, as the Company housing came complete with furniture, furnishings, crockery, cutlery and even linen, with a Maintenance Allowance as well, against a pitiful allowance previously - equivalent to less than half of the actual rent paid for an unfurnished tiny flat by me in the past.

I eventually upgraded my Lambretta scooter to a car, initially with a Fiat Topolino (Bug) 500 cc (which I purchased with a princely sum of Rs 4000), which I replaced later with an Ambassador after about two years. An interesting incident was when one day I had difficulty in starting the Bug, Vivek kept reminding me - Daddy, put some water, and the car will surely run! This was due to the fact that on account of a minor leakage in the radiator, I had to ensure topping it with water daily without fail, while the fuel was needed so seldom, and Vivek was absolutely convinced that water was the secret power provider to the car!

First trip abroad

In 1963, I was sent on a four-month posting cum technical visit to the Southampton and Liverpool factories of the British American Tobacco Company. This was basically to reward me ostensibly for one of my very major innovations about re-using the earlier wasted 'winnowings' produced during the manufacturing process, which generated over Rs Eight crores in savings annually for the Company - without otherwise acknowledging the original process change idea!

We left 3 year old Vivek at Delhi with Monica Jethima, and part of the time with Anita�s elder sister Onila, during our trip from September 1963, and he stayed back happily with minimum fretting, only asking for getting him a train set when we returned. The tour went off very smoothly. At the UK factories, a number of people expressed their surprise at my regularity of attendance and punctuality and the seriousness with which I worked - they mentioned that most similar visitors usually took plenty of time off to tour around the countryside instead of the factory! I made very detailed notes and drawings, and had a lot of discussions with concerned people after the study of any process, machinery or procedures, and devoted considerable effort, including corresponding with various machinery manufacturers, and collecting technical literature and drawings. Alas, on my return to India, it seemed so strange that hardly anyone showed much interest in the knowledge gained or on my many suggestions for modification or improvements. At that time I was eager to justify the considerable expense that the Company had incurred for this long tour, whereas they hardly seemed to be bothered. I later realized that the special & unusual UK posting was possibly to indirectly reward me for a very major process innovation that I had developed to reuse waste tobacco winnowings. This process generated huge on-going financial savings to the Company amounting to millions annually, & they did not want me to claim any rights arising out of my idea. I was much too naive to claim one anyway!

The very memorable but sad event during our UK stay was the assassination of US President John F Kennedy. I was watching TV after work and waiting for Anita to return from London after visiting Rina, when the news broke - the BBC programme was interrupted to announce this terrible event, followed with very detailed summary and the live coverage of events during the next few days. The BBC/ITV & VOA radio coverage of such earth shaking live news was most impressive.

The foreign exchange sanctioned (that was all ITC paid besides the airfares) - of only about 250 UK Pounds for this 4 months posting, was totally inadequate, but was accepted uncomplainingly by me. We had to live most frugally in 'digs', skipping meals and even six penny bus rides by me daily walking to the factory about two miles away, so that we may be able to manage to see a bit of Europe at the end of the tour. Thanks to the arrival of Choton�s ship, which we visited, when he gave away all his precious foreign exchange to us, and along with similar 'borrowed' help from many other friends, we could actually enjoy such a holiday. We managed some countryside trips including seeing the city of Chester in Wales, and Stratford-upon-Avon (whilst returning from Liverpool), and a fair bit of sightseeing in the city of London. Highlight was "My Fair Lady" at the Drury Lane in the West End, and "We Never Closed - The Windmil" (always nude but never rude) at Piccadilly Circus, with Choton. We spent an enjoyable Christmas fortnight with Rina at London - Vinita was just a tiny baby then. At the end of my assignment, on our way back home we started with our European holiday at Paris, where we brought in the New Year 1964, and took the conducted sightseeing tour that included the "naughty" Pigalle! Later, we had a Roman holiday sightseeing, and 'wishing' at the famous Fountain of Trevi whist throwing the penny into the pool (wishing to return). We took the conducted tour, as well as spent a day walking around with the help of a map, to get the feel of this historically ancient city. We followed with visiting Athens (and Parthenon at the Acropolis), and the coastal Greece. Then, we made a stop over at Cairo, and visited the famed Cheops Pyramid at Giza (well into its granite heart through the sloping tunnel - even if feeling somewhat claustrophobic!) Later, The Egyptian Museum which holds the greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities, with the famed stone sarcophagus with three coffins - the innermost being made of 110 kg of solid gold. Of course, Queen Nefrititi's Statue just could not be missed! Finally, we made the last stop at Beirut, en route to New Delhi. Switzerland was also on our flight schedule, but as the Geneva airstrip was snowed under, we had to give it a miss. We were on a very tight budget, and had to return early despite another week of leave still in hand, as we just ran out of all our foreign exchange - returning literally penniless. (In fact, we had to borrow a few dollars from a co-passenger to pay the Airport Tax at Beirut!) It was great to see Vivek's joy on our return and with the electric train set that we had brought for him, which he mastered and demonstrated his skill to us all within the hour, before he had turned even four years old!

We shifted to Colaba a year later, and soon afterwards Vivek joined the very well known Campion School after a year at Dunne�s Institute. He did extremely well in not only academics, but also in all other spheres during his school days. We made a few trips by car to Mahabaleshwar, and also an exciting overnight trip with Krish (KV Krishnamurthy) as a passenger in his own Fiat, (straight after his work day at the Factory) to Bangalore so that he could be present for his sister�s wedding at Erode on time the very next evening. Vivek & I used this Bangalore break to spend an enjoyable stay with Munnuda, Umaboudi, Monju & Pradeep at their Training Command residence at Hebbal, before the three of us returning to Bombay the following week, after Krish having attended the wedding!

Personal losses

Unfortunately, I was insensitive in not realizing that Anita was very unhappy and was getting disillusioned with married family life, and I literally fell from the sky when one day she told me so with tears. I had been so sure and firmly believed that we were a very happy family. Both of us had professionally progressed well, and for the first time were financially not so badly off, and had such a darling and intelligent child, whom we both loved so much. Despite lots of discussion, and effort spread over several years, I was not able to do anything to convince her otherwise. She remained distraught and obviously desperately unhappy and did not herself understand the reason, except only that she wanted to be alone & free. I mistakenly never believed that she had the strength and capability to manage on her own, and assumed that this psychological breakdown would eventually pass - maybe that itself was one of the causes for her wanting to separate. However, involuntary separation resulted when I got transferred to Monghyr (now Munger) in Bihar in January 1969. I had optimistically expected that after a short period of my absence, she would change her mind and that everything will again become all right. This proved to be a totally wrong assumption, and after agonizing two years, I gave in to her wish by not contesting to her plea for a mutual divorce. Fortunately, we could part without any acrimony, and continued to remain on trusting and friendly terms, and gradually to build back limited interdependence. She never asked for or wanted anything from me, despite having contributed all her early earnings to our joint kitty for running the household for all these years. She suggested on her own that I should take care of Vivek�s future, and only wanted assurance to share his holidays. We remained considerate to each other, and Vivek was such a positive link, instead of the usual pull and push, between us. Her mother and all other family members, especially Rekha, Viney & family, and Rina, continued to maintain the warmest love, regard and bonds with me despite this breakup. Our friendships have only strengthened over the years. Similarly, all others in her family too upheld the very warm relationship with me without any interruption, and continued to treat me as a very close family member most affectionately, even as an "out-law", instead of remaining "in-law"!

Baba had in the meanwhile finally retired from his flourmill jobs, last one being in Guwahati, where I visited him several times. After an unfortunate financial loss of most of his meager life savings at Calcutta by a con-man because of his trusting and simple nature, he came to permanently settle down with me in 1968 - initially at Bombay, and remained with me thereafter at Monghyr, Calcutta & finally till his demise in 1979 at Bangalore. With Choton and me then fairly settled in life, we both had decided to ensure that his simple needs could be jointly looked after by us, and that he should never be wanting of a home or to his needs. He became an institution by himself to the children especially, both in our residential neighbourhood at Alipore in Calcutta (where he became known as "Toffee Dadu"), and also later at the ITC Park in Bangalore, as he invariably had a sweet for the passing children! He spent a good part of the day sitting on the parapet around the large banyan tree in ITC Park in front of my flat, sipping his cups of tea and having his smoke. Strangely, soon after his death, this huge tree came tumbling down suddenly one day, as if missing his presence! He led a very simple undemanding life with me, and looked forward to the regular weekend visits to 74 Lansdowne Road home of Boromama at Calcutta, or to Bittuda�s home at Whitefield - which became a weekly practice and need for both! Moynaboudi often told me about Bittuda pacing around with impatience, whenever we were late in coming, communications not being easy those days. As mentioned, he was a heavy smoker, and addicted to his daily rounds of tea. He was diagnosed to have diabetes while he was in Monghyr in 1970, but earlier, was very fit and enjoyed excellent health, and did not suffer for long.

Vivek joined the Notre Dame Academy, a convent at Jamalpur, whilst I was posted in Monghyr, but within six months, his admission to the very well known public school The Scindia School, at Gwalior came through, which he joined in June 1969. Anita had come to Monghyr for a final visit in 1969, and we all made a memorable car trip to Gwalior with Vivek as the enthusiastic and capable map reader & navigator, breaking journey at Tillaya Dam, Varanasi (Benaras), Lucknow, & Agra en route for his admission. On the way back, we visited Jaipur & Delhi. Monica jethima & Baba traveled back with me from Delhi to Monghyr for a long stay, with stops at Allahabad & Arrah. You may read about it in REMINISCENCES (published in the Centenary Issue of the School Magazine) that describes the parents dilemma when sending their 9 year old child to boarding school.

Expanding horizons

I converted my loneliness to many activities, both at the factory and outside, and kept a golden cocker spaniel puppy - named Fuzzy, who became both Baba�s and my favourite and constant companion for the next 9 years. I got promoted to Asst Production Manager at Monghyr in April 1970, considered to be a break through those days for those starting life in the E Staff. I wrote and produced a monthly magazine Basdeopur Bulletin for the ITC park community, which was a great success, and also took up many responsibilities in our Club, initially in the Entertainment Committee, and then as the Club Secretary. I had a very busy life at Monghyr and also made lots of trips all over Bihar - to Calcutta & also to Khatmandu in Nepal, by car, besides many local picnics. The Tagores - Sunritda, Boudi, and Surasree & Shyamlu - were my next-door neighbours then, and he was instrumental in guiding me to most of the picnic locations around Monghyr. I was popular with the park children, and was often asked to be present at the pool when any of them wished to swim, as the club rules demanded the presence of an elder, for which I was readily willing or available! This enabled a warm bond with many of them, specially the Baldrey children - Wilie, Jenny & Paula; the Littles - Brian, Douglas & Candy; Ratna Ghosh; Sudhir & Sunder Rao; Neena & Seema Ali, to name a few, and I got enthusiastic support from all of them, particularly for the Basdeopur Bulletin & Club entertainment programmes. Wilie in particular became a very special favourite - she stopped over after school almost daily for a chat. Later on, she kept up long and frequent correspondence with me for years from Madras & later, the UK, which I cherished & enjoyed. Similarly, Seema would often drop by very early in the morning (when I was often in my bed reading a book or listening to the BBC news over the radio), as she was ready for school early but the family were asleep still, and had time before having breakfast and then to catch the school bus!

I was transferred to the Kidderpore factory at Calcutta in 1971, and moved there in my car with Fuzzy and Raj - my cook cum right hand man, arriving late evening in the midst of Calcutta observing a practice air raid blackout in view of the Bangladesh liberation war! Baba had dropped off at Madhupur for a short holiday with his old friend. Two months later I went back to Monghyr on a week�s temporary duty to take charge of the production function due to Tony Drayton�s illness, and had a very pleasant stay with the Baldreys.

I had very happy memories of my visits to Protimaboudi, both at her parents place in Calcutta and earlier memorable short breaks at Asansol over the years during my college days. Now, having come to Calcutta, Lutherda & Boudi stayed with me often. Her sisters and their families, Khukudi and the Guhathakurtas and their children, always gave me very warm welcome in their homes, as also Togokaka, Kakima & Tuktuk - later on, also Shankar, after his marriage with Tuktuk. At that time, Boromama, Babyda, Ranidi, Banidi, Khuku & Khokon of 74 Lansdowne Road, were going through bad times, and Baba & I ensured that some help was always available to them and visited them regularly to provide support - it had traditionally become Baba�s weekly Sunday visit to their place. Santoshmama, Protimamami, Pradip & Surasree, Tultul & Tubu, Nomitadi, Gutunda, Papribowdi & Babluda were some of the other close family members with whom I had lot of interaction, during my several postings & visits to Calcutta, that grew with the years.

Disaster took place next year when Choton, who came for a three months holiday after a very hectic period of command of the then largest Scindia ship on the Japan-Australia run, died as a result of a road accident in Calcutta on December 13, 1972. I had just left for Delhi only a week earlier to receive Vivek coming from Gwalior for his winter break - a trip which Choton was to accompany me but had postponed at the last minute in order to get some treatment for a throat infection. It was the cruelest blow to all of us in the family, especially for Baba, Jethamoshay & Jethima in their old age having ever to see such a tragic day.

Production to Personnel, & later HR

I was next transferred to Saharanpur in 1973 to take temporary charge of the production function there, with plans to be shortly made the MbO Advisor for the Northern India Cigarette Factories & Marketing Branches of the India Tobacco Division of ITC. I attended an MbO programme held in Srinagar, and enjoyed the Kashmir trip. However, soon after, the MbO team got disbanded, and instead I was offered the opportunity to move to Personnel function at the Kidderpore factory in 1974. I accepted the change readily, despite severe labour problems being predominant those days, especially in West Bengal, where violence, gherao etc. were common, and mainly targeted against the Personnel Managers. I never regretted this move to this very challenging function, and in retrospect, had certainly made the best choice for my future career. I was very successful in making major contribution to Kidderpore becoming productive and manageable in my three years there heading Personnel. In the meanwhile, Joyda had joined IISCO in Calcutta after his retirement from the Indian Air Force. Rita, Deepa, Bani and Joyda settled in New Alipore (later to Niharika in Alipore), and became my very dear and close extended family - & the very close and warm bonds continue. I acquired a yellow "love bug" VW Beetle in replacement of my Ambassador car, and had a great time for the next seven years with my Herbie!

I was later transferred (my second posting) to Bangalore, the largest ITC factory, in 1977, as the Personnel Manager, where I had my greatest success in productivity improvement settlements and reorganization of the workforce that brought about a 30 percent productivity increase in my three years there. I was nominated to attend an important Workshop/Conference called SEACOMD (South East Asia Conference on Management Development) organised by the British American Tobacco Company, at a place called Cisarua near Bandung & Jakarta in the Indonesian Island of Java in March 1979. It was an interesting programme, and I combined a lovely long vacation with the official tour that included visits to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore & Hongkong factories of the BAT as well. In Indonesia, I visited Bandung, Surabaya & Bali, traveling extensively by road, boat & train. I went down into a volcano crater near Bandung, and also saw the fascinating sunrise at Mt. Bromo - an unforgettable trip from Surabaya. Then onwards to Manila in the Philippines, Hong Kong & Bangkok before returning to Bangalore via Calcutta, to be informed at the airport by Rita that Baba was down with pneumonia at Bangalore, whilst staying at Bittuda�s home - the start of his declining health, and to my great loss, his eventual demise within six months - on September 27th,1979. Bani and Rita had come from Calcutta to give me great support during Baba�s hospitalization, as he had to undergo an amputation of his right leg above the knee to control the Burger�s disease affecting the blood circulation to the toes. Unfortunately, despite the surgery being successful, he was unable to withstand the strain and after-affects. His great mental strength was evident from the witty observation to Sumi just prior to the surgery carry on with your 'pronam' now - as later you will not find both my legs to do so!

I had to make many visits to the Head Office at Calcutta during my Bangalore posting, and the flight necessitated making overnight halts at Madras en route (there were no direct flights those days). I regularly stayed with the Baldrey family during these stopovers, and enjoyed their hospitality and warm friendship. I specially remember going to an all night dance directly from the airport, only to learn that jackets were essential - which I had to borrow from Brian! I finally went and saw them off when they immigrated to the UK towards the end of my Bangalore posting.

I was soon promoted to take over as the Employee Relations Manager for the entire Tobacco Division at ITC Head Office at Calcutta in late 1979. This move got delayed to early 1980, due to a long and major strike at the Bangalore factory called by a dissident and militant communist leader, soon after a very productive and good Wage Settlement. Having already dispatched my personal effects to Calcutta, I consequently spent a very hospitable period as houseguest of Chitra & Aravind Katre, my earlier next-door neighbours at the ITC Park at Lavelle Road.

My ITC career hit a bad patch next year due to some differences with my immediate senior. Strangely, many of the Directors despite agreeing that I was right, did not have the courage to do anything about it, but finally shifted me in late 1981 on a promotion as the General Manager of a subsidiary start up company in Sikkim to manage the entire business of this Company! I worked very hard and succeeded in making this Company achieve and exceed the high profit target given to me within less than a year. However, I still remained disillusioned with ITC's hesitation in giving me due justice that they informally agreed to, and in August 1982 accepted an offer of Britannia Industries Limited to become their General Manager heading the HR/Personnel function, to be based at their Executive Office at Bombay. I therefore, took early retirement from ITC after almost 30 years service, and discovered that even then I was denied some of my due benefits, mainly on account of technical reasons, which were accepted as unjust, but nothing was done. After years of follow up, only due to the sympathetic decision of their new Head of Personnel, Anand Nayak, a partial compensation was made after thirteen years in 1995. Despite all this, ITC continues to remain my cherished organization, where I grew up and developed from a naive youth into a professional manager, and where I made so many life long friends.

Losses, Farewells and Welcomes

On the family front, we lost Monica Jethima at Delhi in March 1978, followed exactly a month later by Chutka Jethamoshay at Ajit�s home in Pune, followed with Baba on September 27th 1979 at Bangalore after serious illness and a leg amputation - thus removing the umbrella of the elder generation from us all. Soon afterwards, I lost my loving and most affectionate Fuzzy. Ratna died the next year, leaving only Ajit and me from the original eight of Badami Bagh, as is inevitable to all with the passage of time. Sadly for Tuktuk, Shanker passed away suddenly in March 1982. Pratapda died in London on August 13th 1982, the day I retired from ITC. There were of course, the new additional family members of the next generation: Vivek, Tunia, Abhijit & Amit, and many cousins, nephews and nieces, and the following generation with the future progeny to follow - as is the way of families, and life.

My greatest satisfaction, however was Vivek�s steady and meritorious performance throughout in School, and later at IIT, Kanpur, where besides his academic excellence, he was involved in dramatics, debates and elocutions, and was given responsible positions demanding leadership and trust, which made us all immensely proud. I visited him both at Gwalior, as well as at Kanpur several times and could not but note the praise of the teachers and others. He was made the School Captain in his final year, and was all along the main star of their annual English plays. In 1976, he won the Silver Medal for Mathematics in the All India Higher Secondary Examination by the Central Board of Education along with four distinctions, and also qualified for a National Science Talent Search Scholarship. He joined the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur to do the then five years Bachelor of Technology course in Electrical Engineering. He achieved many distinctions at the lIT, and ended with a top Cumulative Performance Index of 9.6 (in a ten point scale), and went off in 1981 on a scholarship to do a Master of Science programme at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA, followed with Ph. D. program at Stanfird University.

Vivek married Ratna, daughter of my friend and ex ITC colleague, Rajeev and Vinodini Gupta, on December 22, 1982 at Mathura, in a fabulously hospitable and memorable ceremony. It remains unforgettable to all those who were present, and were treated as maharajas! Since I had "formally" introduced Ratna (as my friends daughter) to Vivek at lIT Kanpur during my first visit in 1976, I was certainly most delighted with this match, and happy to have her in the family. The wedding party returned to Delhi, and we held the reception on Dec 26th at the Welcomgroup Maurya Sheraton, which was very well attended. This was followed with another smaller reception at Bombay, before the couple returned to California after their hectic two weeks eventful vacation! Vivek thereafter obtained a Ph. D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. Ratna had also done her B. Tech from lIT, Kanpur along with Vivek most creditably, and they had been jointly awarded a prize for the best Project work, which was done at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at Bombay in 1980. She completed her Masters in Computer Science at Stanford University, and after a period of work to contribute to the family finances (since Vivek was still a student doing his Ph D), did her MBA from the Stanford Business School. She then became a consultant with the famous firm, McKinsey & Company at New York, while Vivek joined IBM, at their prestigious T.J. Watson Research Center at Yorktown Heights in New York State. They bought their first home in Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester in upstate New York. With the very premature arrival of Shilpa on February 26 1989, she gave up her job, and they decided to move back to California. She then completed her Ph.D. in Economics at Stanford University, while Vivek got transferred to IBM�s West Coast establishment at Palo Alto. Aparna was born on April 10, 1992, thankfully without the complications faced in 1989 with the premature birth of Shilpa, and the delightful family brought tons of joy to all of us. Ratna�s sister Ruchi had gone to help on both the occasions, and was, and continues to be, a great source of help and support to them, even after having settled in Tennessee after getting her license to practice in that State as general physician. They are now moving back to the East Coast, to the Boston area, where Ratna would be joining the Harvard Business School in September 1996 to teach, while Vivek will become a Visiting Associate Professor at M.I.T. across the river, on a year+ long due sabbatical from IBM, with confusingly the two Dr. Sarkars living in the same home! I made frequent and regular visits to them over these years, and they too came to India off and on, thus enabling the warm relationship to develop with my two lovely growing granddaughters!

Reflections on Loss of Parents and Loved Ones

On looking back, I have realized that our cultural upbringing made us so very reticent about expressing or demonstrating any strong emotional or affectionate feelings most of the time during our interactions with others close to us. The Western lifestyle on the other hand is much more open and effective towards this purpose. Without getting into any discussion on the merits or otherwise of such behavioural styles, I now feel sad that I had not been more expressive to my parents and others when we could have shared such emotions more openly, and not supressed them for the sake of politeness or culture.

As stated earlier, I lost my mother when I was only six and therefore the memories of our closeness are of little consequence now. However, my two Jethima's & Jethamoshay's, besides Baba, were instrumental in bringing me up with much care and love, and there were so many others - many cousin's & their wives or children who were or became close. My father having devoted bulk of his meager earnings towards the education of both the sons after much sacrifice (after the initial loss of all assets during the partition) that we could not realise till much later, spent all his last years at my home living so simply without any wants after being swindled of most of his savings once again. I seldom mentioned my love to him and assumed that he would take it for granted traditionally. We seldom hugged or expressed our closeness - since these unstated relationship was not to be expressed as per the social norms. Later years, as my son Vivek grew up and having become more 'Westernised' he never failed to give me a hug and express his love. I have realised how much of a difference this means that I failed to do for my father and others during their lifetimes. This would have meant so much to us that I can only regret in later years. Those reading may give this topic their careful consideration for their own actions.

Life with Britannia

I initially spent a total of ten years in Britannia (another three year spell later on from 1997 post retirement, described later), of which, from 1982 to 1989 was at Bombay, and thereafter at Bangalore, when the Executive Office was shifted there. These were all very hectic years professionally, and I became Vice President - Human Resource in due course, and was a member of the Company's Executive Committee, besides being made the Managing Trustee for the Retiral Funds. During the Bombay days, I always had a loving home at Panu & Munia's place, where Pia and Bonu grew up to be the young ladies as they are today. They all were most affectionate, and majority of my initial weekends were spent at Andheri with them. So much so, that the building watchmen believed that I actually lived in the building, but was away at work during the week - my yellow VW was well recognised by them! They gave me a family that I lacked. Later, Indrani and Amit came to Bombay, so I had to alternate my weekends with them, where too I got nothing but a most warm welcome always. The Goyals - Sudhir & Radhika & the family had over the years been based in Calcutta, Bombay & later at Bangalore during my postings, and had become very close and special friends, with whom I spent considerable time through many ups and downs. Most of my Bombay stay was at Maker Tower at Cuffe Parade - a fabulous flat with a grand view of Marine Drive, Malabar Hill across the bay, and also the shipping route near Colaba point. Later years were spent at Worli in a very central and a comfortable flat near the Nehru Center. In the meanwhile, my VW went kaput, and I obtained a Maruti 800 in 1986, which only recently I have replaced with a Maruti Zen. Large number of family & friends frequently visited me at Bombay, and my flat became well known as a guesthouse! Bubu had moved to Pune with Tapu having joined the Merchant Navy, and she was an early visitor at Bombay home, as I too made a few trips to be with her and Gooly, who were finding the civilian life difficult to manage on their own. Tubu, Tultul & Jojo - made several visits to my home, and one most enjoyable one was for 1983 yearend, when we had a fabulous large New Year party - partly at home and also at the United Services Club. Another memorable visit of Tultul consisted of non-stop watching old Amitabh Bachan movies - a definite record indeed, much to the delight of the shop below renting out the movie CD's!

However, this past enjoyment was soon overcome tragically, when as Tubu was to return home in March 1985, most unexpectedly he was seriously sick whilst on command of his ship off the coast of Sri Lanka. Despite a quick return to Madras after preliminary medical attention, where he was to be relieved and be treated, he died literally in sight of the Madras port. This was indeed a most tragic and sad loss to us all, and especially for Tultul & young Jojo, who was just about to appear for her school finals. They endured this terrible tragedy with tremendous courage and dignity in the coming years.

They visited me later at Bombay and as did a large number of other guests from time to time. One such visitor was Bill Franklin, when Jojo & Rita Ronita were also with me, and we were amazed at their number of shopping trips to Bandra (which almost matched their number of days stay with me at Worli!)!

Raj, my cook from Monghyr days, & his family took good care of me & my frequent guests, but he got into gambling and bad company, and finally I had to get rid of him with very great regret, as he started stealing various things, and later money, to meet his debts. Uchit was the replacement, who took charge of my household & carried the mantle thereafter, most efficiently & honestly.

One major event was the need to undergo prostrate surgery in July 1986, during which unfortunately, there was serious complications post surgery whilst a blood transfusion was in progress. However, Vivek's quick and decisive actions, and timely response by the doctors, saved me after a very close call. Ruchi had specially come from Hyderabad to be with us at Ratna & Vivek's request before the crisis - she was of great professional help, and the care and concern from them, as also Anita, Sudhir & Radhika made all the difference to me during this sudden critical emergency, and the subsequent recovery.

I was responsible for shifting Britannia's Executive Office from Bombay to the newly constructed modern Britannia Gardens, located on Airport Road and close to the HAL Airport, Bangalore in May 1989, and to employ all the new staff there, as well as start with an open organization culture. The Bangalore stay of the next three years was very enjoyable, Bittuda and Moynaboudi were residing at Whitefield, Borun, Sumi and Mini, as well as Gopa, Sanju, Vikram & Jitu lived closeby at Indiranagar. We had regular family gatherings at each other�s places on most weekends, and they were indeed most enjoyable. Moyna boudi's super cooking and the affectionate specials for me can never be forgotten! Besides her culinary skills, she knitted so well and regularly, which mostly benefited Panu! There were a large number of other friends, including many in or ex ITC still at Bangalore, and I had many family members and guests throughout who came and stayed with me often at 2B Chinar at the Britannia Gardens, often to or from the airport en-route, making life interesting & enjoyable - my home becoming well known as a convenient guest house amongst friends and relatives! Towards the end of my Bangalore stay, Bittuda expired quite suddenly, bringing our warm and long affectionate interaction of over fifty years to an end. It was in 1941 when he started on his job at Delhi, and we shared a room in the Daryaganj, that we had so much to do with each other and interact during my postings or tours so regularly with the family, which made this a very sad personal loss. Since Gopa & family had earlier moved to Delhi, our family gatherings became limited to only Borun�s family and me getting together. Munia came often from Bombay to see to Moynaboudi, who too sadly died in 1993, a year after my departure from Bangalore on retirement.

I had been nominated by the Government of India to a Food & Drinks Committee in 1988, and as a result, was invited to the International Labour Organization's Second Food & Drinks Committee Conference at Geneva in December 1991 as the Employers representative from India. This was quite an eye opener for me to see international politics at play in the background, and I ended up taking up issues on behalf of the absent Indian Government representative to the conference as well. I enjoyed the distinction and the bonus of an almost free trip to USA during my return journey from Geneva to Bangalore - via Palo Alto! This enabled me to spend a most enjoyable Christmas week in 1991 with Vivek, Ratna, Shilpa & Aparna, and be the Father Christmas!

I had wisely (in retrospect) invested in a small two bedroom flat at Palmtree Place, Victoria Layout at Bangalore in May 1990. At that time it seemed to cost an unaffordable fortune that I thought that I never could manage, but somehow with God's grace and luck, it just about worked out miraculously! Initially for the first three or four years it was rented out, but later, was left vacant in anticipation for eventual settlement. Various modifications and additions made this into a very usefully compact flat located so centrally that I would still find suitable and comfortable after living so luxuriously in large company flats for decades!

Retirement and renewals

End August 1992 - and the time to say Good Bye to my colleagues in Britannia finally arrived. My departure from Britannia was on a significant day, when openly there was a serious discord between the then Chairman, Rajan Pillai and the CEO, Sunil Alagh - who lost his job (temporarily, as it happened!) since he came back later during Nusli Wadia's reign, only to once again having to retire early due to differences, when Nuslie Wadia wanted to get his sons to become directors, and then went on to unethically curtail the retirement benefits of the Managers & Officers.

On the family front, sadly, first Togokaka, and then Joyda suddenly passed away within three months after my arrival in Calcutta. Both these families and homes were always very special to me, and the losses being so personal. However, such inevitable periodic loss of loved ones and family elders was to be expected, and had to be accepted.

Earlier, I had been offered a non-executive Directorship of Tega India Limited, an engineering Company with foreign partners, and which I finally gave up after about seven years. Also, for many years, I had been involved in various Management Development activities and Seminars, and have successfully run many programmes, internal or external, as faculty/directing staff. Earlier, for a while I casually undertook lectures at the Bangalore University's Department of Management, and was also became an examiner for Ph. D. students at the Indian Institute of Science during the eighties. I wrote quite a few articles off & on, some recently being translated in Bengali and published - enjoyed doing it, including this very special write-up now! These were so satisfying and professionally helped in expanding my horizons.

Another enjoyable project was preparing the Family Tree (both for the Sarkar & the Roy sides of my father and mother's families) after corresponding & following up with very many relatives, and also getting help from many to develop a database, and the result of this effort has been most satisfying. I was happy to develop an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose; despite my then very limited knowledge of the programme capabilities, or for that matter, computer use! Further, it was a big task with the earlier links or roots having been totally lost with the passing away of all the knowledgeable elders. This took me well over a year to develop initially, and now the amendments & corrections continue from time to time, and have resulted in an extensively detailed database.

I came to Calcutta for an year's assignment with The Assam Company - the oldest tea Company in the world, established by Royal Charter during East India Company days. After my year with The Assam Company was up, I was invited to join the expanding IFB Group as Senior Vice President - HR in September 1993. This too has been very interesting and rewarding. I believe that I have been able to professionalize the management processes for more effective management, and have contributed substantially towards greater motivation and team building. Significant contributions were the restructuring of IFB's organization, employee levels & grades and the applicable terms of service, compensation and systems, besides managing industrial relations, during my three years with IFB. I enjoyed getting to know the tea industry & gardens.

Tuktuk - my very favourite cousin and sister, and with whom I had such close relationship, was heading for another tragedy few years after the very unfortunate death of Shankar. It was noticed that she was gradually losing memory - after being so outstandingly efficient and capable in the past. Despite her physical disability affecting her leg due to polio from her early age, she had overcome all problems, and had even learnt to drive the specially modified car that I had helped to get made for her years ago, and was such a prized and dependable employee, first at Bokharo Steel before her marriage, and later at ITC after Shankar's death. This was the start of Alzheimer disease, which soon disabled her completely, and besides having to give up her job; she had to be soon shifted to Shefali Kakima's home for being looked after, with loss of speech and most of physical and mental faculties. What a major loss and cause of worry for poor Kakima in her advancing age. However, this prompted Kakima to very bravely start the Alzheimer Association of West Bengal, to provide help and assistance to similar patients and their families.

Other vistas

During my Britannia, Assam Co. & IFB days, spreading over 14 years, I had to tour all over the country extensively, particularly the metro cities. Earlier, during my ITC days too, I also made a lot of work related travel. This gave me the opportunity to keep up with very many relatives and friends during my trips, and attend many family functions. I often stayed with many of them, instead of using Hotels or Company Guest Houses - and was therefore, able to build warm relationships while spending time with them rather than just a quick visit (if at all!). I also made many personal international trips; one very memorable & enjoyable trip was to Thailand, Malayasia & Singapore in early 1981 with Joyda & Bani, when we used train travel from Bangkok to Singapore & back with quite a few sightseeing stops en route. This was consequent to a challenge given to me when I suggested the use of trains instead of air for the internal travel, and was told by Bani to organize it! Later in 1981, Vivek joined University of Wisconsin at Madison, and we did part of the travel together & visited the Baldreys at London, and Rina & family at Toronto, besides my extensive travel around the USA on a VUSA to about twelve destinations, before coming to see Vivek settled in his new place! Thereafter, I visited the US regularly - initially every alternate year, and then almost annually - to be with them in various locations. I managed to include en route stopovers, and also use Greyhound or VUSA internal air travel with many of my US trips. They included visits to Hawaii, Canada, Japan, Germany, Holland, UK etc. and also to an interesting World Communication Expo at Vancouver, Canada, arranged by Ratna & Vivek well in advance. I was thus able to meet many friends and relatives all over the world, and enjoyed their warm hospitality too. These have helped me in keeping up & building the strong bonds of affection. I enjoyed my stays especially with the Baldreys in England, Sitangshuda & Beate at Witten in Germany (being the first family member to be with them within a week after their marriage in 1988), Hans & Anne at Utrecht, Rina at Toronto, Raj at Washington DC, Atashi at Minneapolis, Veena & Jayant at Hartfort CT, Monica & SP at Blue Bell PA, Abir & David at Valparaiso IN, Adukias at Mattoon IL etc. A very wonderful visit was to meet & stay with the Schwartings (Karl and Ursula) - early friends of Choton during his frequent travels - at Bremen, and get to know them and their daughters, after years of correspondence. A sad trip was to Hartford CT, when I was with Jayant as he died due to a sudden heart attack.

I had always enjoyed good health (other than minor issues), and had generally taken it for granted. On Jan 30th 1996 night I was suddenly very unwell, and the next morning the Doctor diagnosed it due to a stroke with partial paralysis of the left leg, resulting from extremely high blood pressure & a possible blood clot in the system, and I had to be hospitalized immediately. While with God's grace I have got over all this very quickly, and am back to normal life, thanks to the doctors and moral support from many, time has perhaps come now in July 1996 to ease off a bit from the very hectic pace of life, and high pressure work environment. I believe that doing nothing is bound to accentuate the aging process, besides taking away all the joys of life, that one does not like to even think about and wishfully avoid, and is likely to drive me up the wall for sure! I enjoy professional management work challenges, and hope to be able to find something suitable that will keep me utilizing my experience and knowledge profitably in the coming future, but hopefully with a comparatively lighter physical load - as an Advisor or a Consultant perhaps, or part time work maybe?

Finally, 1996 Concluding Remarks & Dedication:

I draw a great deal of satisfaction that from my very humble beginnings, I have been able to reach where I am today with my own consistent efforts, and that whatever I possess today has come from scratch totally on my own, with the blessings of the many well-wishers. I believe that I have learnt from some of my failures, and at the same time, not allowed my successes to go to my head, and that I continue to remain unassuming and non egoistic, and most importantly, content. However, what surpasses all this is the pleasure of seeing the fine, calm & considerate, value based and brilliant but most affectionate son Vivek grow over these years, and now with Ratna not only being charming and loving, but also sharing most of these qualities and values, and both of them in bringing up their lovely and affectionate children with topmost priority in their lives. With such a wonderful family, what more can one look forward to - I have had a rich and wonderful life so far - am more than content, and I thank God for this eventful great life and the blessings!

It is just not possible to close this journal without expressing sincere gratitude and appreciation to a very large number of un-named relatives, friends, colleagues and well-wishers, including many of their children. Whether senior or junior, well-off or otherwise, male or female, young or old, they have been warm, affectionate, tolerant, hospitable, generous, respectful, loving, or helpful to me by their actions or deeds, given me their involvement or time patiently to listen to me or just being with me, and make me feel wanted. Often through advice and discussions during the past years, when I may have been feeling lonely, down in the dumps or maybe in sad or even high spirits, or in the course of normal or abnormal periods, I have been comforted. They have shared my burden with their concern or help, or participated in my joys. I have received much selfless and undemanding friendship and love from so many that has often touched my heart with its genuine warmth, and made life so pleasurable, interesting and worth living, and I have drawn sustenance from their friendship and warm affectionate concern. It is just not possible to describe all such incidents, and with my short and somewhat fading memory, I may not even recollect many experiences or people, but there have been lots and lots of such events that have consistently brightened my life time and again - thank you all!

These personal memories and sentiments are especially dedicated with my love to Vivek & Ratna on the eve of the start of their new careers in the academic world, and also later, for dear Shilpa and Aparna to know more of me, as they grow up into lovely, mature affectionate young ladies.




POST SCRIPT 2000: Experiments with time....

Since writing the above narrative in July 1996, I have come to realize that from time to time it will be necessary to bring this journal up to date through additional pages. The turn of the century (and the start of the new millennium) may perhaps be a very significant moment of time to pen down the first post-script (whilst I am holidaying at Amsterdam with Hans & Anne, in Europe en-route to the US, and have a fair bit of time to introspect, recollect and the use of Hans's computer) to cover the past four years. I am also using this opportunity to carry out some minor editing in the earlier write-up, which I am sure will continue whenever I re-read this chronicle, and recollections come to surface! Needless to restate, the title of my narrative, "Before I Forget" remains justified, and therefore, in all likelihood I will need to write oftener, before I do forget!

Back to Britannia

Good intentions often remain 'intentions', or get modified - depending on the circumstances. In my case too, it was no different, and as per the then plan, I called it a day at IFB in September 1996, in order to retire once again (third time!) from full time active work life. However, on learning of my intentions to retire, Britannia urged and invited me to return again to take full time charge of the HR function of the Company, at Bangalore. This function had fallen into a bit of disarray being headless for quite a while, and Britannia had plans for a major commercial upsurge. Sunil Alagh, the Managing Director & CEO, was keen that I develop the Corporate HR team and set future directions, build a strong and competent management team for the planned expanded business, and develop strong bonds with Britannia's partner Danone, and their Asia Pacific HR director at Singapore. He too had his period of ups and downs in the Company, and had been ousted soon after my retirement in 1992 due to disagreement with the then Chairman, Rajan Pillai, but had come back again not long ago with the support from the international partners, Danone. He wanted to get Britannia back on tracks based on the plans developed in earlier years before my retirement, whilst I was in the Executive Committee, and had been a party to most of these plans. He assured me of full freedom to work on my ideas to meet the Company's objectives. My loyalty to Britannia at their time of need, the trust demonstrated by the recall, and the challenge was something I just could not turn down, not to mention the substantial likely & steady income once again for a while! I therefore, came back to Bangalore with full executive authority to become their Senior Advisor & Vice-President - Human Resource, from January 1997 - but technically not as an employee! This was immediately after the weddings of Rekha & Viney's son Ranjit with Miho, & their younger daughter Aarati with Rohit, at Delhi. Vivek, Ratna, Shilpa & Aparna, besides Anita & Rina, were all coming to Delhi, and we had planned to be together to celebrate this very special double event. We had been able to rent a large suite and a couple of rooms at the New Delhi YWCA, and also borrow a car for the two weeks stay, which made it so convenient. It was a most delightful and enjoyable family get-together during this grand celebration soon after Xmas 1996.

One complication was my immediate need for bilateral hernia surgery, for which Vivek insisted that he should be present. This was carried out at Bangalore in the first week of January immediately after we arrived from Delhi, and he saw to the organizing of my Britannia Gardens flat at 1B, Deodar - helped by Anita, while I was still recovering post surgery at the Mallaya Hospital. I had an absolutely smooth and quick recovery, and got down to full time work at Britannia from the third week of January 1997, and rejoined the Company when all the top management were away at Thailand for a brain storming session - to which I too had been invited, but had regretted due to my impending surgery. My work-life remained similar to the past, and the Company grew spectacularly during this period as per the plans (Sales more than doubling from Rs 6024 million in 1996 to Rs. 13384 million in 2001, and Profit after Tax from Rs. 110 million to 434 million in the same period)! I believe that HR had contributed significantly to the achievement of these dramatic success results during my period of return to Britannia.

This assignment with Britannia got extended from the initial offer of two years to three due to organizational needs, and finally ended in January 2000. I was happy to be able to leave behind an excellent HR team under Harikrishna (whom I managed to get back to Britannia), and participate in the incredible success of Britannia. During these three years, I toured a fair amount within India as required, and made some foreign trips too, in addition to my annual personal travel to the US to be with the family. It started with a trip to Singapore & Malaysia in March 1998 for the First Asia Pacific HR Conference, during which I developed the interaction with the Danone's HR heads in this part of the world. This was followed with participating in a worldwide Danone HR Managers Conference at Cagliari in southern Sardinia, Italy in May 1998. I was able to make a quick five day visit to Vivek & family at Boston prior to this meet, and also do an enjoyable tour of Rome, Venice, Florence & Pisa whilst returning after the Conference. There were also trips to Bali and Singapore (in April 1998), and another to Sri Lanka in January 1999 for the Britannia's annual Top Management brain storming meetings. I organized the Second Asia Pacific HR Conference at New Delhi in late 1998 (for Dannone) with a visit for the participants to Agra, which was much appreciated. The next HR Conference was for a week at Beijing, China in June 1999. The combination of work with interesting sightseeing and entertainment etc. organized so meticulously by the hosts at China made it the most memorable finale for me prior to the end of my assignment with Britannia. These interactions not only enhanced the Group's HR objectives, but also helped in building greater understanding amongst the participating personnel from so many different countries, a task I was entrusted with during this extended assignment. I could proudly leave Britannia having made tremendous progress, and leaving it to a very fine team to continue thereafter.

Post Retirement - after 47 years of Work life

A very satisfying professional honour was the invitation by Dr. R.L.Bhatia of The Center for Organisational Change to be the Guest of Honour and the Keynote Speaker at The Asia Pacific HR Conclave - held at the Nehru Center, Mumbai from January 13th to 15th, 2000, immediately after my saying the final goodbye to Britannia on January 1st. This was very well attended, and an excellent Conclave. I enjoyed this unique distinction immensely at the end of my professional career of over 47 years, as a befitting farewell. My presentation was very well reported by the press, and was appreciated by many participants, and quoted in several professional magazines, and in web sites, with many acclamations from even strangers, making it so personally satisfying!

Going back in time before I called it a day with Britannia, Uchit - my all-purpose cook-cum-retainer for many years, had an unfortunate massive stroke in 1998 with one arm being partially paralyzed, even after considerable medical help and long treatment. He had to return home to his family in Bihar after two months of recuperation at Bangalore. My smooth running household went through a period of difficulty till I found a suitable replacement after about one year - even if it was not a full time staying-in help.

Monica & SP, who was very sick after a stroke whilst in Philadelphia after a very successful long career, and needed constant attention & help being bed ridden, decided to shift from the US to India in 1998. They stayed with me at the Britannia Gardens flat initially for about two months prior to moving to a suitable rented flat nearby at Domlur. I was happy to be able to help & support them in their settling down process, and later with very many other needs, that they continued to require. Granny & Renuka also shifted to Bangalore after their years of stay at Mumbai, and joined them since. Unfortunately, SP finally passed away in December 2001. I continue with my help & support, and it is nice to have the family around, and especially Granny, who is approaching 100, and has always been so especially affectionate to me.

Another very shattering event was the sad death of Vinita at Toronto in 1999, while Rina was visiting India to put up a Kathak performance in Mumbai - she had been to Bangalore shortly before this news came.

Other change was that I decided to replace my five-year-old Maruti Zen with a Santro made by Hyundai in late 1999, just before I signed off from Britannia. At the start of the millennium Borun & Sumi moved to Jaipur on transfer, while Mini went to Pondicherry to continue with her post graduation education. I will certainly be missing them in Bangalore - they were always a great support, and are very close.

Travel bug bites again

I undertook a long two months trip at end of the century on my final retirement from full time service, which started with a most enjoyable weeklong holiday at Dubai (my first) - with my ex-ITC friends from years, Revathi & Venkat in mid December 1999. They made me welcome, and we did a fair amount of running around and the traditional shopping, despite the trip was supposedly a "no shopping" one (but which finally still needed an extra suitcase!). I managed to catch up with Joyontoda�s son Sumit, Chimu & kids, and some other friends in Dubai as well.

I then went to Calcutta for attending various family functions. It started with the 'mukhebhat' of Jojo's twins, and thereafter, Shona's wedding with Suranjan. It was excellently organised by Tidu & Enid, & was a lovely occasion to enjoy with so many people. I also made a short visit to be with Ratna's brother Sanjeev & family at his tea garden near Bagdogra, and to see Protimaboudi, Bhaiyya & family at Jamshedpur from Calcutta. Another great occasion with all the gathered family was Abhi's wedding with Mithu. I accompanied the bridal couple to Delhi from Kolkata for the reception at the YMCA, Nizamuddin East, before returning to Bangalore in the third week of February.

The important task of vacating Britannia Gardens flat and moving to my own Palmtree Place apartment at Victoria Layout was done at end March 2000. This naturally necessitated getting rid of a fair part of my personal effects and furniture etc. accumulated over the years, so as to be able to fit into the very much smaller flat. Vivek came over all the way from the U.S. for a five day stint just to help me with this difficult decision making process in early April. It was lovely to have him, and also Anita, stay at my own home for the first time instead of at the Company flat - soon after the change in my status after a busy 47 years full time work life.

Even after Britannia, I continued to be active professionally with occasional Consultancy work for Dynamix Dairy Industries at Baramati off & on, (which had began a few years earlier), and on other short-term advisory work etc. The NIPM (National Institute of Personnel Management) Executive Committee work also demands time from me, besides being called for making presentations, or as Guest speakers, by various Institutions. However, it is at a relaxed pace of work as compared to the past, and at my own choice.

Another tragedy was in store for the family - on July 16th, 2000, Rita called to convey the sad news that Deepa's husband Bundle had been on the ill fated flight to Patna which had crashed that morning - I had spoken to Deepa only the previous evening. Robey, and later Borun, too called to reaffirm this very sad news. I had known Bundle from the seventies as a youngster playing cycle polo with Vivek. After he married Deepa, I made short visits to their homes at Guwahati & again at Coonoor, and he too stayed at my Britannia flat during his Bangalore visits often on work.

My health has remained reasonably well & steady, and I continue to be fit with no evident problems of the past. The medications, periodic checks & reasonable care, have enabled my life to go on smoothly.

The travel bug continues to be busy, and I am now making my usual "annual pilgrimage" again from last week of July 2000. The trip began at Mumbai with a couple of days enjoyable break with Radhika & Sudhir, before leaving for Amsterdam. Hans & Ann gave me a very warm and hospitable relaxed spell, but not without trips to The Hague to see the Peace Palace etc. and the famous stained glass windows at the St. John's Church at Gouda (besides the cheese making!), and many other sights. There was also the visit to Sitangshuda & Beate at Witten, and meeting Beate's mother Inge (Nettman) after about 12 years - for a delightful dinner at her place. Despite the fairly wet weather during my stay in Germany, the holiday was so very enjoyable - just by being with them! An enjoyable walk in the nearby forest taxed my energies to the limit, but in most picturesque settings and fresh & clean atmosphere.

From Europe to the US for another seven weeks - soon to Vivek & Ratna's new home at Stamford CT after spending the initial few days at Washington DC with Jojo, Raj & Bonu/Joy, & then to Knoxville TN at Ruchi's place to join Ratna, Shilpa & Aparna, before they take possession of the house - here I come!

With a serene environment and time in hand, I am penning down this postscript comfortably, using Hans's PC at Utrecht, and contemplating on my good fortune of being able to manage my retirement with so much enjoyment and in affectionate and friendly atmosphere in so many different homes, and having such serene time for reflection, and with anticipation for a good time ahead.

 

Recommencing the write-up in 2006:

It was indeed a very enjoyable US trip in 2000, when Vivek & Ratna were in the process of taking possession of their new home at 336 Den Road, Stamford CT, and were temporarily homeless as I arrived at JFK. As such, after spending a night at NYC, I visited Pensylvnia & DC before meeting Ratna, Vivek, Shilpa & Aparna at Ruchi's place a week later at Knoxville TN for a lovely holiday, & to celebrate Ruchi's birthday, before finally getting to their grand new home at Stamford in Connecticut. It was large and lovely, and I was able to help Ratna & Vivek a little bit in setting it up. As always, it was a very enjoyable visit with good weather during August & September, when I made very many short trips, and finally whilst returning, had a break journey in London with Brian & Joan - as I had been regularly doing whenever visiting London (at their first Hounslow home in England for the last time!), and with them visited Wilie & Peter's home near Taunton for two days. Later (in 2002) Brian & Joan bought a lovely house & shifted to Chard, near Somerset, which I visited in 2003 during my next UK visit. They now live quite near to both Wilie & Jenny, a very supportive convenience.

Family and festivities

Early in 2001, we had a delightful gathering at Kolkata for Asha's wedding to Narasimhan. Bhanu, Aparna & Anna were all there from the US, as were Sitangshuda & his son, Stefan, from Germany, and so many other known and unknown relatives and friends!  However, shortly afterwards, sudden tragedy was to take place - as Sitangshuda expired on 9th February after a sudden short hospitalization on the very day he was to fly to meet Stefan at Bangkok airport for their trip back to Germany together. He was such a fitness freak, and so active, that this was indeed a much-unexpected sad blow to the family, and me. We had both got along so well with each other, as I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be with him and Beate much more than most others.

Venkat & Revathi shifted from Dubai & settled in Bangalore in 2001 - providing me with a ready second home and family to interact with most frequently, which I certainly I enjoyed. We made a fabulous two-day trip to the Nagarhole National Park in early 2002, and the following year to Bhadra National Park, and visited Halebid & Belur whilst returning. Both these trips were most enjoyable. Chiku got married to Manaswi at Bangalore in June 2002, which was great fun celebrating with them all, and I was very involved with this grand occasion. Finally, Venkat & Revathi's new flat at Sarjapur Road became ready in June 2004, and after a very well organized puja, they shifted to their lovely new penthouse apartment in Sobha Onyx. Snoopy - a beautiful cocker spaniel became their family member shortly before Raja joined Vivek's family in the US, and is my great favourite, is now well settled there with them in the new home, and excitedly greets & welcomes me whenever I visit them - I have to devote the first few minutes only to him, and not even talk to anyone else first - he has become my surrogate pet!

The wisdom years

After my retirement from full time work in 2000, initially I continued to remain fairly busy (which dwindled gradually!) with calls from various Colleges to make presentations to their Management students on topics of interest. I was invited to join the Executive Committees of NIPM & FKCCI, and later also the Bangalore Management Association, and which continues year after year. The All India Manufacturer's Association (AIMO) also approached me to be their honorary advisor on labour issues. These ex-officio positions have kept me in touch with professionals, and occupy a fair bit of my time. In this connection, I was invited to present a paper to the National Commission on Labour on behalf of AIMO in November 2000, and was subsequently invited to join the NCL's Sub-committee at Bangalore during their deliberations in 2001, prior to making their final recommendations to the Government of India - a very prestigious professional assignment indeed.

The residents of the Palmtree Place Apartment Owners elected me to their Managing Committee, initially as the Secretary in 2000, then Vice President, and later as the President, which covered the next three-year period, and which demanded a fair amount of administrative work and responsibility. I was happy to contribute in developing systems, budgets and administrative procedures during my tenure, and also organize and negotiate a very attractive long-term annual income for the Association. With my frequent long absences from Bangalore, I was finally able to give up these responsibilities, but continue to help the Association whenever possible.

There were some formal consultation assignments too, but these were fairly limited and covered short periods only. They were fairly remunerative and required some travel, but have gradually dwindled with passage of time! The only consistent organization that used my services, even if for short periods, quite regularly till mid 2004 was Dynamix Dairies Ltd., Baramati. As stated earlier, I had been associated with them from its very inception in the nineties. I was responsible for their top-level organization restructuring, and especially develop their Management Compensation system and procedures - from a  much-disorganized state and for the annual reviews regularly. This provided me opportunities of travel to Pune, and also Mumbai a few times each year, whilst visiting the Baramati plant. I stayed with Sudhir & Radhika at their newly purchased home at Chembur during these trips, and visited many others. Bunny (Jayavant) had settled at Pune after Goa - I managed to meet him often during my Baramati trips, as also Nita & Kamlakar.

In the meanwhile, the recently married couple Abhi & Mithu came to Bangalore on a posting, and we had another family member in town! However, their stay did not last long, and they moved to Bhopal by end 2002 (then to Indore in 2005). Abhi and Mithu�s baby son, Arunanshu was born a month prematurely in June 2004 at Raipur, adding to the grand-children generation of the family! Mithu�s twin sister, Mishtu also got married at Bangalore, and lived here for a few years, but regrettably she had to take the ultimate step of leaving home with her young son, to settle at her mother�s home at Raipur, due to the ill treatment meted out to her by the in-laws.

More journeys, and Nine-eleven:

During 2001 & 2002, I made my usual annual trips to the US during the summer, and they were extensive as ever! I spent a week in Singapore in 2001 en route, and stayed with Vijay & Shanti (Menon) for a couple of days, followed with Monju (Banerjee), before reaching NYC via Seoul! During a short visit to Sujoy & Simanti at Tampa, Florida, they took me on a very memorable excursion to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral - which was just great, and most enjoyable. I also had a very ambitious three week Greyhound travel chalked out from Stamford to Philadelphia (Ratula & Abhi) to DC (Raj Bhandari) to Knoxville TN (Ruchi, where Vivek & family had come to celebrate Ruchi�s birthday) to Indianapolis (Debu & Meher) to Minneapolis (Atashi, & also Shona & Suranjan) to Acron OH (Veena) to Syracuse NY (Salma) to Wrentham MA (Bhanu & Aparna) to Framingham MA (Gutli & Joy), before getting back home! While I had been often using Greyhound in the past, this was indeed a pretty hectic trip and very enjoyable, comfortable and economic. Then there were the usual several short trips to NYC etc with Vivek/Ratna - so it was indeed a whirlwind tour! Shilpa & Aparna had grown up to a more mature age, and we had very enjoyable interactions, and which gave me lots of joy and pleasure.

However, the wonderful holiday was shattered on Sep 11th 2001 (the ill famed Nine Eleven) just a week before I was due to return, with 19 hijackers killing almost 3000 innocent people in the US using hijacked jetliners by deliberately crashing into the World Trade Center in New York and also the Pentagon outside Washington. A fourth hijacked plane was made to crash through the bravery of the passengers into a field in Pennsylvania instead of the intended target. I watched the entire spectacle live over the TV news almost from the beginning after learning about a plane crash early in the morning from a visitor who heard just it over his car radio news. This terrorist activity has changed the world forever, and the Western world has now realized the tragic consequences from this unfortunate event when it impacted them - but what India had been facing for over a decade with no sympathy from the very same Western world. I left on Sep 18th, on one of the first flights leaving JFK since that morning, only after the total shut down of all international flights for the full week. The security arrangements were very tight indeed, but it was funny when they confiscated my shaving razor, but which on request to the crew was replaced during the flight!

Comparatively, the 2002 trip was more restful. I had planned that on my return leg, I would make a trip from Delhi to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to visit Jojo & Bhaswer. However, the Bishkek trip was later cancelled, and I managed to extend my US stay at the very last minute whilst waiting to catch a train at the Stamford station, for going to DC for my return flight to India! I made Mumbai & Delhi stop-overs before & after this US trip, and the usual short trips within the US to visit Bhanu & Aparna, and also Gutli & Joy, and be with Raj at Washington DC, when we both were with Bonu & Joy for the "Griha Pravesh" puja for their new home. However, the highlight was a quick trip to Richmond VA with Vivek right at the end of my stay, to collect Raja (a field spaniel puppy), who became the newest member of the family, and the center of attraction for years to come! The drive itself was anxious and exciting, as it was during the height of the shooting spree going on in the same vicinity of Virginia and on the very same highway that we were using by some unknown marksmen! We spent a night with Ranjit & Miho on our way, and got back safely next day with Raja (much to everyone�s relief) just in time to take my return flight the following day!

However, a major family tragedy was in store whilst I was still in the US. Chitra had gone to attend a Sradha at Kolkata, and whilst returning, the Rajdhani Express had a serious accident, and though injured she was able to walk to a helpful local resident�s home, and talk with Ajit over the phone, but died shortly thereafter, mainly due to lack of any medical help being unavailable. Abhi, Ajit & Amit had rushed to Kolkata (from Bangalore & Delhi), and had to go to Bihar to identify and bring back the body, and then carry out the last rites - a most horrific experience.

Health issues

My early health was generally good, and other than minor injuries or cough & cold or upset stomach etc. that were mostly home treated, and we seldom needed a doctor! Hospitals were hardly known, and even my mother's serious illness was attended by visiting family doctor at home. Prescriptions from them had to be mostly dispensed by pharmacies from limited number of base drugs, and most numbered standard mixtures made by them were dispensed for various illnesses. Then branded medicines were almost non-existent. My first hospitalisation that I recollect was in the early seventies for removing infected appendix, for which I had to come to Calcutta from Monghyr! Unlike today, health consciousness was very limited, but mostly out of necessity, we led an active early life, that contributed to us being and remaining healthy.

During my regular routine medical check-up in January 2003, some problems with the stress test were found, and therefore, I went in for an Angiogram , which indicated three arteries to be partially blocked. Anita had specially come down to Bangalore for being present, and Tidu was also luckily in town at the same time - which gave me good support. I had planned for a long circular train journey in February-March from Bangalore to Hyderabad, Bhopal, Delhi (side trip to Jaipur), Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Raipur, Chennai & back, using the Circular Rail Journey facility and the Senior Citizen�s concession offered by the railways. This centered on attending the wedding of Babla & Babli�s daughter Doyel at Delhi. I had a very enjoyable visit to Rajeev & Vinodini and others at Secunderabad, and then visited Abhi & Mithu at their new posting at Bhopal, and then a delightful week�s stay with Borun, Sumi & Mini at Jaipur, after attending the wedding (traveling back with them). Whilst at Delhi, I took the opportunity of showing my angiogram report to the Escorts Heart center, and was advised that I should get a cardiac bypass surgery done soon. I therefore shortened my Kolkata stay and cut off the Jamshedpur & Raipur visits, in order to return to Bangalore in the first week of March 2003. Thanks to the help from my ex-colleague Nishit Mohanty (of Britannia), the most reknowned Dr. Devi Shetty was consulted, and he agreed to do the surgery personally at his new Narayana Hrudalaya Hospital on March 21st. Vivek & Anita reached Bangalore the same day, and with the support and good wishes from them and many others, I had the surgery done, and the recovery was speedy and steady. The aftercare and attention managed by Anita & Vivek, followed by Viney (Kapila), and then later by Sumi & Mini, ensured that my household operated smoothly and capably, whilst I also had excellent company! These three months cover was most helpful, and surely contributed to my quick and smooth recovery. However, at this critical juncture, Savitri, my maid of quite a few years suddenly left my services, and Sumi was instrumental in managing this hiatus smoothly till an excellent alternate Ishwari was found. In the meanwhile, Mini had got a job at Bangalore, and even though she found it convenient to stay at a guest house nearer her work place, she was mostly home during the weekends or whenever convenient. My routine post surgery recovery was very quick (it was the leg artery surgery that gave more trouble in healing!), and I was back to normal soon. I was content with life moving smoothly thereafter.

However, this serene period was suddenly shattered when Borun & Sumi met with a serious road accident on July 1st, 2003 whilst driving back by car to Jaipur from Delhi after attending a wedding. I was at that time in Baramati, and Mini immediately rushed off from Bangalore to be with them. They both had multiple fractures with severe injuries, and were lucky to be alive. Their MICO colleagues were of great help, and their gradual recovery after the prolonged stay in the hospital took place mostly with their steady help & support. As Baby, Pranab & Khuku/Manosh had already reached Jaipur to be with them, I put off an immediate visit to be with them at Borun�s suggestion. I went there later during the last week of July (after attending Amit�s marriage with Gauri at Delhi), and give what little limited support that I could give by being with them at the hospital daily. Their recovery is a long saga of their personal courage and the support of many others. Thank God! However, the casualty was Mini losing her job with the NGO at Bangalore, on account of the long break that she was forced to take to care for her parents - a task she did magnificently, with help from many friends, colleagues and others, to nurse them back to normalcy.

Central Asian Journey

After my Jaipur visit, I made up my previous year�s aborted Bishkek trip from Delhi, and had a delightful two weeks with Jojo and family, which helped considerably in my post-surgery recovery. It was indeed a new experience with Central Asia being so different to either the Western world, or the East, and this place being close to the very famous silk route of China, in the nomadic country of the past. After the breakup of Kyrgyzstan from USSR in 1991, considerable upheavals with deteriorating economy, had taken place, and many industries were closed. Many professionals had to do menial or low level jobs, while the lucky ones managed to grab positions and property. Bishkek, the capital city, is situated in a plateau at 2600 feet above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and picturesque snowy peaks at over 15000 feet. Wide boulevards (even if in need of some repairs!) with green pedestrian walkways on its sides are provided so thoughtfully for convenience and possible future expansion to meet traffic needs - which I used for my daily walks. There are many marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards and, especially outside the city center, thousands of smaller, often privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers and give a generally beautifying effect to the city�s otherwise rather drab appearance. The weather was just right during my visit, and I had a very enjoyable and a relaxed holiday, and was taken around the city and nearby areas a lot and also taken very good care of by Jojo & Bhaswer, and their old faithful Karunakaran, besides other retinue. The twins, Radha & Tara, were in a very interesting age, and we got to know each other well. A very enjoyable long weekend was spent by the huge Issyk Kul Lake (being the second largest alpine lake in the world), about four hours drive away from Bishkek, and at 5000 feet above sea level between two major peaks in the Tien Shan Mountains. My lovely Bishkek visit ended with a breakfast gathering with the Indian community at the Indian ambassador�s residence on our Independence Day morning, on August 15th before catching my flight back to Delhi!

Granny celebrated her 100th birthday with our presence for the occasion in 2003 and with her amazing vitality. Despite having become frail, her faculties continue to be strong, and she remains so special to us. It is so encouraging to see her, and be blessed with her abundant affection.

Thanksgiving 2003 & later

Instead of my usual annual summer trip to the US, Vivek & Ratna had suggested that I join them for Thanksgiving (Nov 25th) at Stamford CT in the winter of 2003, and also celebrate Xmas & the New Year with them for a change. I decided to take a break in England on my way out, and stayed two days with Monju (Mitra) in London and then spent four days with Wilie & Peter at Taunton. Since Joan & Brian were nearby, we visited each other daily, and all of us had a very enjoyable time together. Gill & Tony (Drayton) had invited all of us for lunch at their lovely home in Hereford, and Wilie also took me to meet Tony & Maureen (Sparrow) in Devon the next day. They have a very historic vintage property, which they have further developed. It was delightful to meet my ex-colleagues, remember our old ITC days and especially renew old contacts! The new home of Joan & Brian was lovely, and as expected, very well maintained.

Thanksgiving at Vivek�s turned out to be a surprise special ceremony for me as well to wish me for my 70th birthday belatedly (that actually took place a few months earlier) during Thanksgiving party at Stamford! It was indeed a real gala affair with a very large number of friends joining them, like each year (the number for dinner was almost 30, if I am not mistaken!). Miho, Ranjit & their baby Sayo were certainly the center of attraction! They had specially come from Chicago, where they have shifted after DC. Ruchi, Ranjana & Viney & their daughter, Anjali were also with us, and it was a great weekend. Of course, Raja had grown up and I had to rebuild my friendship with him since I was last involved in bringing him over a year ago. It snowed heavily two days later, and even the deck had more that ten inches of snow! After a couple of days, I went to Bhanu�s new home in Hopedale - not too far from their earlier home at Wrentham MA (whilst their daughter Asha & Narasimhan became my neighbour in Palmtree Place in Bangalore at my behest, around the same time!), and spent a couple of days with them. Thereafter, I stayed with Gutli & Joy for a day & a half, and then one night with Rimjhim & Jesper in their new home in Brooklyn, NYC, to specially see their baby Rasmus, before returning to Stamford. After Xmas, all of us went off to be with Ruchi for a week, and to bring in the New Year at Knoxville TN, in a slightly warmer and more comfortable climate! Ranjana & Viney had also come, so we all had a merry time together. Despite the severe winter this year, I managed to find reasonably comfortable days to take walks with Raja, or to make many trips to NYC, and specially one with Vivek to see a great show "Remembering Sinatra", after visiting the Naval Museum on the US WW-II aircraft-carrier Intrepid. I got back to Bangalore on Jan 6th after a lovely memorable winter trip.

Borun & Sumi came on a short holiday to Bangalore in early January 2004, (after their amazing recovery) and Mini stayed back with me trying to get back her lost job after their accident. Unfortunately, despite a long wait and sympathy, this did not materialize, and finally Mini decided to rejoin Pondicherry University to do her Ph. D. She went to visit her Mashi, Khuku & family at Kochi in early May, and I too accompanied her for a week�s visit, and despite the weather had a lovely hospitable stay with them. Anyway, it has indeed been good to have Mini as a very undemanding and pleasant company during these months - she is so helpful whenever the maid is off or occasionally when we feel like going out for a meal or a movie!

During March 2004, Vivek had to make a very brief India trip on work - he spent two days in Delhi, followed with two nights at Bangalore, and then about half day at Mumbai before returning to the US! This bonus visit was indeed nice, and we could see each other, even if so briefly. I had earlier been to Mumbai to spend Holi with Sudhir, Radhika & Aditya, and also to meet Anirudh & Sharon, who had just got married.

I had a very interesting house guest. Aditya (Goyal) needed a break after his very taxing period of work on shooting the film "Asambhav", mostly in Switzerland, and decided to spend a week's holiday with me in mid 2004! We both enjoyed this visit - mostly watching movies on his DVD, which he had brought! He claimed that he had a very relaxed and enjoyable break, and I was delighted that he was here! No one could even imagine that soon afterwards a great tragedy was in store. In Jan 2005 he was diagnosed to have Leukemia, and I rushed off to Mumbai to be with the shattered family to provide some support. I spent my three weeks daily being with him at the Tata Memorial Hospital, till he was released after the prolonged treatment. However, despite all efforts, including a bone marrow transplant (from Anirudh), his condition worsened, and he finally succumbed to the dreaded disease in Sep 2005 - what a tragic loss of such a lovely personality. Anirudh & Sharon (and her mother) had also visited me on a short break to Bangalore just before the unexpected tragedy, and we had a fairly enjoyable time with them around.

Further travel and other adventures

I guess travel details will continue to dominate my memoirs, since after my retirement with the free time availability, the warmth & affection of friends and family and reasonable health, I will fully utilize opportunities to visit people to combine festivities, family functions or work whenever possible, and therefore recount of such journeys will take precedence over most other activities. My retired life has remained interesting and busy, with time never hanging heavy or making me uncomfortable with nothing to do! There are plenty of activities still on my lower priority list to be done! I still continue to be very content both mentally and physically.

Like previous year, I again made a very enjoyable circular journey rail trip in the winter of 2004 to Chennai, Kolkata, Jamshedpur, New Delhi & Secunderabad. Kolkata was festive as usual and I had a good time there followed with a visit to Bhaiyya (Prosenjit) at the Steel City, and enjoyed renewing the bonds with Tumpa, Koyel & Sanjit. Of course, it was lovely to see Protimaboudi again, who has settled down with them. The Kolkata winter stay was enjoyable as always and in meeting large number of people during the festive season. I attended Ajit's grandson Arunanshu's formal "mukhe-bhat" party held at Delhi, for which Abhi & Mithu had come from Bhopal, and Amit & Gauri were back from the US, making it a lovely family get-together. However, I had to quickly change my travel plans to Mumbai (from Delhi) on learning of Aditya's serious illness.

Ratna, Shilpa & Ruchi made an India trip in Feb 2005 mainly to show the Taj to Shilpa just prior to her sixteenth birthday. I went to Hyderabad for a week to be with them in the first stage of their visit. Shilpa wore a saree for the first time for a pre-birthday dinner party, and looked gorgeous! They later visited Delhi, Agra & Jaipur before returning after a very enjoyable and hectic time.

My US & Europe trip of 2005 turned out to be one of the best with excellent weather almost throughout. I used the convenient direct Lufthansa flight out of Bangalore on May 11th to reach New York with just one stop this time. Soon, I made a week's visit to DC, during which mostly I stayed with Jojo & Bhaswer, after a day at the hotel with Vivek, and finally a night with Dilip & Nutan at Germantown. Raj was not in town and was not contactable, so unfortunately missed meeting him this year, but visited Bonu & Joy, and also met Champa, who was visiting Somit & Lauri, and Savita and Puchkun too came over, besides visiting Radha & Tara's school. In early June, Aparna & I accompanied Vivek to Chicago for a week, where he had a Conference at the famed Palmer House Hilton. We had a luxurious corner suite, and Aparna & I were the veritable tourists, and made excellent use of the seven day pass for using the excellent Chicago bus and train systems - daily doing the rounds of various museums, aquariums, fairs, art exhibitions and shows (including the famed Blue Man show), and including an excellent architectural river tour of the downtown Chicago buildings, organized for Vivek's conference participants! Abir & Debu, with their families had invited us for a terrific "Sunday Champagne Brunch" at our Hotel itself, and later took Apu & me to Abir's home at Munster for the rest of the day. It was lovely seeing them, & also to meet Debu & Meher with their children, who had specially driven over from Indianapolis that morning. We also met Ranjit, Miho & Sayo several times and had a lovely dinner at their home. Sayo has grown to be lovely youngster full of fun, and who got along so well with Aparna. The Chicago trip was certainly a very enjoyable one, with a new perspective this time. My earlier visits were short, mostly whilst traveling from or to Minneapolis by Greyhound for a day visit.

Major part of my this US stay was at Stamford with Vivek & the family, and we made several trips to the "city" (NYC) and near about places - saw a Broadway play of Somerset Maugham, "The Constant Wife", and a super musical "Ella - Off the Record" at Hartford CT, bringing back haunting memories of my college days & old favourite, Ella Fitzgerald! We celebrated Ratna's birthday by having a super & a fancy dinner in one of the on-campus restaurants - the Ristorante Caterina de Medici - manned by the students, of the famous "Culinary Institute of America" at Hyde Park NY campus, following a tour of the Institute. Few interesting movies "Madagasker" & "Herbie: Fully Loaded" brought much joy. Whilst I was visiting them, the election of Aparna as the School President was a very proud moment for all of us, and also her participation in a Hindi play at her weekly Hindi School, where I had to make a speech to the gathered parents and students! Shilpa attended a Leadership Camp, involving tough and adventurous trekking with a group in the wilds/hills without any modern facilities, and included a 36 hours managing totally alone in the forest, which she claims to have enjoyed. Another major attraction was Raja - whom Vivek & I had collected as a small pup from Virginia two years ago, and who has now become the absolute center of attraction of the family, with whom I had to successfully re-establish my bonds once again! I finally made a four day visit to Hopedale to visit Bhanu & Aparna towards the end of my US stay, and enjoyed their hospitality. I missed meeting Gutli & family due to an incorrect impression that they were away.

During my return journey to Bangalore, I stopped-over for 11 days break at Frankfurt, and used a Benelux-Germany Eurail Pass to travel around conveniently. After a busy weekend with Beate at Witten Annen Nord, I went to Drierburgen in Netherland (near Utrecht) to be with Hans & Anne and then to Bremen to have lovely two days with Ursula/Karl (Scwarting), before returning to Witten for a lovely dinner at Inge's with Stefan's cooking, before leaving very early next morning for Frankfurt to catch my return flight to Bangalore.

In Holland, Hans & Anne took me out to the old city of Delph this time, and I had a most lovely and enjoyable visit with them. At Bremen, I was delighted to meet all the three Schwarting daughters, Heidi, Ulli & Burgi again, & their families, besides a fabulous champagne buffet lunch in a very well known place on the outskirts of Bremen during my brief two lovely affectionate and memorable days with Ursula & Karl.

It was also great to meet Stefan, Arunima & her daughter Lale, at Beate's mother Inge's home, but missed Natasha. Sitangshuda's old friend and hiking companion, Martin Schmitthenner was keen to meet me, and invited us to a nice dinner in a nearby old time village restaurant. Beate was most helpful and took excellent care, and ensured to make my visit most caring and comfortable. We enjoyed half day picnicking at a nearby lake, where I had been earlier with Sitangshuda. This Europe trip will always be memorable - as was the US visit!

Sad turnaround in Britannia's core values

In the meanwhile, there had been major changes in Britannia. While changes have to take place as needed, it was very distressing to see that within three years after I left, the value system and integrity that I had painstakingly contributed in developing in the organization was being thrown asunder by the very top. The Board of Directors had dishonestly decided to stop (from April 2004) the committed tri-annual pension increases intimated in 1992 as terms of service (as approved by the Board during the Company's Platinum Jubilee) for all pensioners, and also retrospectively change the existing Defined Benefit Pension scheme for the Officers and Managers to a Defined Contribution type of superannuation, which resulted in very substantial reduction in the pension eligible amounts to most individuals suddenly on the verge of their retirements. However, instead of making this change for the future after protecting the accrued benefits for past service (as done by many organizations) and openly, they did it quietly and retrospectively, denying the promised and agreed terms to the pensioners. As a result, those retiring from March 2003 stopped getting any pensions at all (on their refusal to accept the lower amounts based on proposed changes), contrary to all rules and laws, since the rule changes needed prior approval of the Commissioner of Income Tax, which has not been obtained. A Pensioners Welfare Association was eventually formed in mid 2004, and I got drawn in at the year-end to help them get justice and fair play on behalf of the suffering pensioners. I am therefore much involved in guiding the Association in their efforts, and had to do some trips to advise some affected pensioners at Chennai. The issue still remains unresolved, with the Company deliberately flouting the rules (and getting away with it), in view of the very slow speed of justice in our country, and their vast resources to "manage" the official authorities! A very sad state of affairs indeed - and especially hurting behaviour from a respected and trusted organization like Britannia, that I had so proudly served in the past, for their loss of credibility to their commitments, and being so unfair. The struggle continues.

My Personal Philosophy:

I have come to strongly believe that we all need to overcome or shift away from excessive anxiety, worries and concerns - on which we have often little or no control. Instead, our efforts should concentrate towards areas or issues, wherever some action is feasible, in taking positive steps - where some personal actions or decisions can make a change or difference, and provide satisfaction with results emanating from such practical steps or actions. Worrying by itself resolves nothing, and just makes life difficult, and therefore a state of mind which does not get overburdened with such worries needs to be attained with a positive attitude to overcome, or at least lighten, such situations, through the acceptance of reality with a degree of equanimity, even if it ought to be worrisome - partly by "switching off" the mind from these anxieties. Easier said than done....

My belief is that we need to concentrate on the long lasting "being content" - rather than aim for the illusory and limited "happiness" that we cannot cling onto for long - seems to be much better strategy in meeting the negative scenario. This helps in being able to be least affected from most worries. It is of course, easier to make the above claim, but is very hard to actually be "content" - and needs lot of effort in training the mind to achieve this state of "nirvana"! I have been able to successfully follow this principle to a fair extent, and often take actions rather than agonize over the years, which has given me a great deal of relief from anxiety on many issues, and I feel that many others can surely benefit from similar attitude and philosophy - which key recipe I am happy to share with all others.

Me and Smoking/Drinking

My father was a heavy smoker, and whilst I never opposed him strongly against this habit, personally I had made up my mind in not indulging in this 'bad habit'! During my college days, many of my classmates were smokers, and some of them even called me 'backwards' as I refused to join them having a smoke. Anyway, during my student days, a very important reason that was very supportive was also the cost - which I just could not afford in my student days. Later, it was more by chance I started my work-life in the factory that manufactured and sold cigarettes - the premier company in India so well known for providing excellent careers! An interesting gesture from a colleague right at the start was perhaps additional reason for strengthening my decision 'not to smoke'. In my very first month of service, a well meaning fellow resident at the Chummery (where we stayed) very kindly offered to "loan me two tins of cigarettes to be returned when I received my monthly cigarette allowance." When I mentioned that I did not require it as I was not a smoker, the reply was "since you will shortly start, you might as well accept the loan"! To that I was further challenged that he was willing to bet me a bottle of beer that by the following month I would be smoking. I retorted that even after a year I would not be smoking, and since I also did not drink beer, I would settle for a bottle of squash instead! I managed not to succumb to the temptation throughout life later, even though we were given the top brand as cigarette allowance generously, which I passed on to my father or smoker friends or family. I did not develop a drinking habit either, though once in a while and irregularly I did drink occasionally - more as 'social drinking. Lately, I have developed a preference mostly having only wines once in a while.

American Impressions:

I am often asked about my personal impressions about America, and about Americans, in view of my frequent visits to the US (over 25 times), and having a fair amount of interaction with Americans during my long stays. I hesitate to respond, as I find this to be a very complex question in the ever changing scenario that influences one considerably, which tends to colour ones views.

My early contact with the Americans was during my USIS assignment in 1952, when I was amazed at their open friendly behaviour with one and all, with little or no consideration for age or position. On joining (I was barely 19), when I was introduced to the Head of USIS, Mr. Charles L. Mullin, a grizzly old diplomat - older than my father, his first sentence was "call me Chuck"! Whilst on his office rounds, he often sat at the edge of our tables for a short chat, and at times picked up and sharpened my blunt pencils on the office automatic pencil sharpener! During the poll data analysis assignment, I was chosen to head the workgroup consisting of seniors, including a lecturer of a college, despite being so young, with the comment "He is a good enthusiastic leader, and understands the job best." Dr. Ruth Wright, the Educational Attache of the US Embassy and head of the Fulbright Foundation in India, gave me daily lifts from home to office and back, as I happened to live on her route, and treated me as one of her students (she was earlier the President of a US University). Such friendly informality from senior diplomats and others was so different to the British "correct" behaviour and our Indian culture of deference that we were so used to! Soon afterwards - on joining a very British Company ITC, I had to revert from my newly learnt easy & informal behaviour style quickly!

America being colonized only in the last three centuries has resulted in them lacking the period architecture and structures that is so significant in the old world of Europe and Asia, besides having any long history. There is a tendency of sameness amongst the cities of America, which makes one feel that "If you have seen one, you have seen them all" feeling, despite some differing features or facilities, and some other differences including cultural, that one observes across the vast country. The obvious wealth provides for much of the high standard of public facilities that is taken for granted there, but is quite amazing to us. Whether it is the public roads or parks, nearby forests, lakes or riverside, children's play grounds, schools, libraries, sports facilities, the museums or the art galleries, they all are mostly so well maintained with pride by the city or private foundations, and are often freely available to one and all. Each city or town attempts to highlight their uniqueness in some way proudly, and at times create some very special themes. The commercial success of enterprises play an important role in everyone's lives in the vicinity, and many develop their business with some unique facilities, and provide imaginative and interesting conducted tours etc. to the tourists and visitors, which also bring glory to the organization as well. A lot of emphasis and attention has been given to attract this very large group by developing tourist spots with very well thought out infrastructure bringing large revenues. The highways and the national road systems are uniquely excellent, and so well marked to be easy and helpful, and are continually improved or modified. The vast country is very well linked through very competitive airline systems, and roads, with excellent bus services. I have regularly used Greyhound extensively, and most comfortably. The rail system is comparatively lesser used and not so extensive, but still of much higher standard.

The average American remains quite unconcerned with the events outside their city, state or at most the country, despite the available communication facilities of such high standard. Many have seldom traveled outside their immediate vicinity, and therefore remain somewhat insular. The poor and under privileged in America is vastly different than that of the third world, and are well off in comparison, with the availability of social security and other benefits. Many are intellectuals with strong views and beliefs, and having special talents or abilities to survive. There is generally a very strong competitive spirit in an opportunity environment that drives people to pursue success with determination and hard work of high quality at all levels of society.

By and large, people are mostly easy and friendly even to strangers passing by, but it is not easy to bridge the distance to closeness, as mostly they tend to mind their own business, which limits interaction at very personal levels. We are used to much closer relationships in comparison, and find this aspect somewhat strange to find such distance even within their own families, in otherwise such an open society. Their expectation from the children to be independent from an early age and mostly manage on their own is so different to our dependence on parents till much older age generally. It seems strange that even well off families urge their children to undertake university education with loans, which they have to repay themselves from their future earnings.

What impresses me a great deal is their drive for education, and the free facilities they provide for this purpose. The emphasis is more towards creativity and practical application of knowledge than just course work from early age that makes for independence of thought, and imaginative action during the learning process. At higher levels, the tilt is even stronger, that makes success more achievable. It is well known that the Indian or Asian children mostly do extremely well in the US academic scene, and their early basic learning system combined with the later practical application emphasis gives them an edge over the US students. Average work life is highly challenging and competitive throughout, but is very rewarding.

Life is hard generally, and demands a lot from the individuals, and despite this, one notices the extra efforts put in to generally look after the exteriors and homes, the lawns or gardens, or even in the balconies of apartment blocks. They do have the inevitable slums and shanties, and the dreary and drab parts, which are a blot to the modern and rich country, and also the roadside vagrants and gangs bringing much disrepute. Crime with violence is commonplace, and the free availability of handguns increases the statistics for sure, in otherwise law abiding population generally. The countryside with vast open spaces and farms are a delight to us city dwellers living in the highly populated poor country.

For visitors from third world countries, cost of living is high mainly because of the exchange rate, but still America is much cheaper than Europe or Japan in comparison. For those earning in the US, life & standards are easy to improve, and to accumulate savings with time which many Americans do not, living it up from day to day! Be what it may, I do enjoy my visits to this great country and the interaction with the people there with admiration most of the time, even if I find their international superiority attitude, and their shifting logic to justify their actions, quite galling.

Creation of My HOMEPAGE!

After several years of effort spent in developing the Family Trees for both the Sarkar side as well as the maternal Roy side of my parentage using Excel spreadsheet, with growing knowledge of the internet, and that of html language for developing a webpage, my next very interesting pastime became preparing a personal Homepage. Using a free facility by VSNL, I made a new Webpage and then later an improved one using Yahoo Geocities, which I updated & modified from time to time. Besides containing my C.V. it includes links to my published articles, few photos, the Family Tree details and miscellaneous items at present, and also to this narrative! To me, it was an exciting learning experience having started from scratch to learn the basic HTML language, and to search and find the huge free resources from the web! Sadly, the Yahoo Geocities free website was discontinued and I found an excellent alternative with 'webs.com' for my Homepage instead. (Later, I also obtained a very convenient short Domain Name - http://ashitsarkar.co.nr, Google & Picasa were also invaluable!)

Back to My Story - 2005 & early 2006:

Finally, our beloved Mini discovered her future life partner amongst her friend's friend in September 2005, and that became a valid reason for her to visit Bangalore off & on, and finally get engaged, whilst I just left the same evening for a pre-planned Secunderabad trip to spend a very enjoyable Diwali week with Rajeev, Vinodini & also Ruchi, who was visiting home! Sumi & Borun are indeed delighted, and were present for the event after having come from Jaipur, soon after a huge deluge a week earlier at Bangalore, with the highest recorded rainfall. We all are excitedly waiting to welcome Abhinav to join the family in due course.

During a recent social evening at Bangalore with an old friend, Roger Pereira (Anita's ex colleague at JWT in the sixties), I was invited to assist his expanding PR Company, R&PM: Edelman in HR and recruitment. I happily made a week's trip to Mumbai in October 2005 to attend an interesting Q Workshop organized by their international partner Edelman, and to get to know his people and business. I had a delightful three day stay with Mithu & Devsaday (Dutt - ex ITC colleague), and another two with Ranjana & Bablu, besides staying with Indrani & Amit. Sudhir & Radhika were abroad after the sad death of Aditya a fortnight ago, so missed them, and also Munia & Panu, who were in the US with Bonu. Nina (Robey) was visiting her parents, so managed to have a lovely meeting with all the Malvi family this time, and the usual chin-wag about old days!

Besides being busy with the Britannia's pensioner problems, I made a seven weeks domestic trip in December 2005! It started with two days at Secunderabad for the Griha Pravesh for Baby, Pranab & Shubra�s new flat at AWHO on December 15th. This commenced with Baby sweeping the floor of the new flat, which was captured on my camera, besides the Puja ceremony! I then had a two day pleasant stay with Abhi & Mithu at Indore, and then got back to Secunderabad in time to receive Aparna & Vivek for their five days Xmas week visit to Ratna's parents Rajeev and Vinodini, which was indeed enjoyable. The year-end was spent at Jamshedpur with Tumpa, Bhaiyya & Boudi very pleasantly. Most of January 2006 was at Kolkata, except for three very pleasant days at the tea estate near Bagdogra, and being so well looked after by Shefali & Sanjeev, and renewing the bonds with Saanya & Sagari. At Cal, I stayed a while each with Bani, Rita & Deepa, but the bulk of the stay was with Shefalikakima. I attended Maghotsava at the Sammilan Samaj along with Tidu & Enid, and caught up with many others. The return trip to Bangalore was in great style with the upgraded Jetair flight, and being met by the Hyundai sales staff with my brand new Getz car that I had ordered earlier at the airport itself on Jan 30th evening! I had before the trip decided to change my almost new Santro, with just over 13000 km on the odometer, with this car of the year. By and large, despite the extensive travel, this trip was a relaxed and comfortable, which brought this noteworthy possession on my return.

 
The immediate priority after getting back was the NIPM & Indian Institute of Science's planned "International HR Confluence 2006" that was held at the Indian Institute of Science campus from Feb 15 to 18th. I was on the organizing committee, and a lot of work had to be covered. I chaired two of the Tutorials, and interacted with several international speakers and participants. Our theme was "ENABLING EXECUTION EXCELLENCE - Global Agenda" and the emphasis to this vital somewhat neglected aspect of executing the strategy was very meaningful to the current emerging India scenario. It was a huge success with excellent feedbacks mostly - from more than 400 participants. Considerable attention to dental problems also kept me busy for a while.


I used my leisure very profitably developing a totally revised Home Page, using Geocities free facilities (from the earlier VSNL, and later Webspawner sites). It was great fun relearning and experimenting with the use of HTML tags for improving the website, mostly by trial and error, and adding many new items to the newly revised Home Page, including a link to this personal narrative on the Homepage! Soon afterwards, the Geocities site was blocked temporarily for over a month, so I created an alternative webpage. With available time and highly energized enthusiasm, I was able to learn many other tricks of HTML, and substantially improve my Homepage, which I later recreated on an excellent new free site: www.ashitsarkar.webs.com - the current site.

2006: Weddings Galore - the first one!

The wedding of Mini on June 18th 2006 was certainly the central pivot of events during the year, which kept us all busy. Borun & Sumi returned to Bangalore from Jaipur after his retirement in May, and got their flat redecorated and modernized. Mini moved back to her parent�s home after her long stay with me off & on during the last two years or so. It was lovely having her at home. The wedding went off so well, with a very large number of family members attending it. Vivek came especially for about ten days, during which period Anita too made her long impending Bangalore visit. Ipshita was here from early June on a two months internship assignment with IBM here, and Indrani & Amit came over to add to the festivities! Sanju, Gopa & Jitu, besides Protimaboudi, Babla & Babli, Buro & Sukanya, and Bhaiyya were also present, and also Anjali & Remo. Both Khuku, Pranab, Munmun & Joy, and Baby, Pranab & Subhra were also present, as were Borun's two Mamis & cousins, and also Sumi's cousin making up the family strength! I had been able to organize eight guest house rooms, and Borun had the use of two empty flats in their building, so accommodation was well managed, and we all had super three rollicking days!


Vivek & I made a days visit to Hyderabad before he returned to the US (only to continue with a trip to Australia & Japan within a few days)! However, soon afterwards, Rajeev's health took a turn for the worse, and he had to be hospitalized during July-August twice. Shefali flew down from Bagdogra to help Vinodini during the emergency, followed with Sanjeev, and then Ruchi & Ratna too, as the condition was serious enough to warrant it. I too went over for four days in mid August before Ratna returned to the US. There was some marginal improvement, but Ruchi had to extend her stay to organize the home care and medical support for the future, which Vinodini alone would not have been able to manage without support.

The next gala Weddings of 2006:

The next wedding (at Goa) - that of Vikram with Shaleila (Dalgado) on Sep 23rd was just grand, and was loads of fun! Gopa & Sanju had made super arrangements for the "huge" number of 'barati's - from all over the country & abroad. 31 rooms were booked (courtesy: Bunny) at The International Center at Donna Paula - about 5-6 km from Panaji, and about a kilometer from Cidade de Goa, where too some were staying, besides in other private homes! Borun & Sumi had come from Jaipur, and Mini & Abhinav from Bangalore besides me, and of course, the entire Lal & Chanda family members! Robey & Rumu specially made my stay enjoyable and added to my great pleasure! Deepa had come with Ranojoy & Rita & Partho too were present to make our group so exciting, besides other friends and relatives.

On arrival on 20th, the few of the family present were invited to meet the Dalgado family over drinks & dinner at the five-star Marriot Hotel next to their home, followed the next night with a huge late night party at Mambo�s at Baga Beach! We were caught in the rain as we were getting there, but soon the external wetness was overcome with internal liquidity levels surpassing it along with the very high decibel level, and lots of snacks & eats. While we got back by respectable 1.30 am, the hardcore continued till almost 3.30 am, we were told next day!

The wedding on 23rd at the fabulously well-lit Mae de Deus Church at Saligaon (alas, with a power failure, we had to stew in our suits inside the church for about half an hour during the service), followed with a grand reception at "Emerald Lawns" not too far away. Terrific food, band & music - very enjoyable finale indeed!

During the free periods, I managed to do a fair bit of sightseeing etc with one group or the other. Went to Old Goa Churches (saw the St Xavier's body), and an architectural Museum of Goa Homes - very well explained by the architect himself. The sightseeing brought back memories of my earlier visits about ten years ago, when I was with IFB Industries, and often stayed with Manju, Bhasker, Lilly and Milly at their Zuarinagar bungalow.

Oh well, after the very enjoyable parties and the gathering of the clan at Goa, it was to back home to Bangalore, but only for a short period, before embarking on more travel from Dec 15th again. Rina had come from Toronto, and it was fun having her around before I left for Delhi - she was to join us later for Christmas.

The final 2006 family wedding:

The winter of Delhi was warmly enjoyable during Shantanu�s (Puchkun) wedding on December 21/22 with a Brahmo ceremony being conducted by his pisho Sanju on the 21st evening, and a Vedic ceremony the next morning - both the functions being held at The Grand, which prompted Vivek to book a room at this five star hotel for the night for the stay of both of us, just to avoid the need for the late night long drive back to Palam Vihar, with the requirement of a car & driver, and the possibilities of fog en route, but why should I complain about the luxury of the hotel so thoughtfully organized by Vivek!

However, the ceremonies had got going a few days earlier - starting with an enjoyable family lunch gathering at the Chirag Enclave residence sunny rooftop, within a few days of my arrival. The tempo built up fast, and the added bonus of Vivek having come specially to be present for the ceremony, since Shantanu was his 'neet-bar' (page) for his own wedding exactly 24 years earlier! Aparna was expected to come with him, but due to clash with some other plans it was not possible, and therefore Vivek left early, back to the US on 23rd night. However, both Rina & Anita had also reached Delhi for the festive season, so that all three sisters could be together, and the multiple Christmas parties by Shirin & Baba, Dilip & Tutti, Vicky & Malati & finally by Rekha & Viney kept us going strong and very enjoyably busy till the year end.

However, Enid had become very ill at Kolkata, and had to be hospitalized from mid October. Both Shona & Sujoy came down urgently from the US to be with her. Tidu decided to get the needed open heart by-pass surgery in the meanwhile during their visit. Most unfortunately, Enid�s condition deteriorated, and we lost her on Nov 22nd after almost a month of being in coma. In retrospection, she had visited most relatives and friends in her recent extensive travels thankfully (see snap) - as if to bid them final Good-Bye in time ostensibly!

The hectic year of 2007:

I was anyway intending to make my usual annual trip to Kolkata, which I did from Delhi in early January 2007, with the intention of being of help to Tidu during his post-operative recovery, and be of some solace to him after his great loss. I stayed for three weeks with Shefalikakima. However, Tidu went away on some urgent work, and needed no looking after! As always, I managed to visit a large number of people, and attended to many invitations for lunches & dinners, resulting in my antacid consumption going up substantially! Finally, just after attending the Maghotsava prayer meet on Jan 25th at the Sammilan Samaj, I was back on the Rajdhani Express to be in Delhi for three days just to be the 'surprise guest' for the 'Sweet Savoury Seventy' party for Viney's seventieth birthday so lovingly organized by Aarati, Ranjit & Damini, assisted by Akash, as a very special surprise treat for him. My totally unexpected presence at the family birthday lunch caught Viney gaping! Anita too arrived from Mumbai, as did many other family members to his great surprise, and to our enjoyment!

I remained occupied with the Britannia pensioner's issue, and had to follow up our complaint against the Fund Auditor during formal Hearings by the Disciplinary Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) held at Mumbai, and with preparation for court cases against Britannia & the Fund Trustees. The final hearing took place on May 7th - just before my planned seven weeks US trip to visit the family.

Vivek's move to Academic World:

Vivek had been designated an ACM Distinguished Scientist in 2006, and was persuaded by Dr Ken Kennedy of Rice University at Houston to accept the very prestigious E.D. Butcher Chair for Computer Science with them from mid July 2007, after his twenty years with IBM. He had earlier been offered this position, but had demurred, claiming that it would affect the children's education. Shilpa had just managed to get her admission for under graduate studies at Stanford University from September 2007 - to follow the footsteps of her alumni parents. Apparently, Dr Kennedy had obviously kept track, and timed his offer to get Vivek to finally accept the change. Sadly, soon after getting Vivek to agree to move to Rice University Dr Ken Kennedy expired. Therefore, my 2007 US visit became possibly the last one to their lovely Den Road home at Stamford in Connecticut.

I certainly had a very varied and interesting time from mid May so thoughtfully fitted in or organized by Ratna & Vivek, who were themselves so very busy with the forthcoming job change & relocation, and involving frequent trips to select their new home at Houston, besides other tasks. With Shilpa's graduation from the High School, there were piles of parties - mostly for her - but we too benefited! Besides, with the forthcoming departure ahead, V & R were also having many farewells - so I was really busy! A lovely graduation-cum-farewell lunch party was held at home lawn mainly for Shilpa's & Aparna's friends (and their parents), and some others - with Shilpa's very talented classmates providing a live band, and super food from a very favourite local eatery!

One of the major unique highlights organized by Vivek & Ratna was a Hot Air Balloon ride over the South Hudson Valley (CLICK TO SEE the SLIDE-SHOW!) on Fathers Day (June 17th 2007), to also commemorate their twenty-fifth year of married life - which was truly a great experience for all of us! I made trips to Boston (stayed with Bhanu), and to DC, Maryland & Virginia to meet relatives and friends - enjoyed their affectionate hospitality and interaction. An overnight stay at Sonali & Joy's Woodbridge home was very timely to attend Trisha's graduation function, and an evening with the newly wed Kavita & Puchkun at their DC flat, besides meeting Kavita's parents for a delightful dinner, were memorable. The couple of days stay with Jojo & family at their new Potomac MD residence was very relaxing. I also managed to spend two days with Shaila (Shalini & Balaji�'s daughter) at nearby Richmond Virginia, and later a weekend with Amit & Gauri at their New Jersey home. The weather was mostly great, except for initial few cold and rainy days.

Back to Bangalore
(soon to be officially renamed as: Bengaluru...)

On my return from the US to Bangalore in July 2007 I was aghast to see that the Corporation had demolished the car parking area in front of our building covering the earlier drain asserting it to be unauthorized (quite incorrectly, and high handedly), resulting in the exposed open unhygienic drainage flowing right in front of our building, with its strong odours, & making it quite unsafe - besides creating congestion on the road in front with parked vehicles. They may relent and again grant permission for covering the drain, but at a massive cost to borne again by the residents, who may have to also pay for the demolishing costs! Anyway, the concerned BMP official had got his glory for having fearlessly demolished unauthorized structures - by simply ignoring the earlier formal approvals granted, claiming that the then concerned officials had no authority to grant such permission, and that they have since retired! Such is the bureaucratic logic and reasoning! This called for a huge unnecessary expense by us all once again and follow up with the Corporation to get fresh approval for covering the storm water drain again. Having no choice, we did so, and I was asked by the Committee to oversee this project, which I carried out with help from others. Following this, I was persuaded by the Palmtree Place residents to once again take charge as the Association's president from July 2008.

I was delighted to have Bubu & Tapu's daughter, Radhika (Goolly) - on her appointment as Creative Director of McCann Erikson here in Bangalore, come and stay with me for six weeks during July/August 2007 before she found and moved to a nearby convenient flat.

Tidu had planned a lovely trip for Simanti & the boys, Nikhil & Niloy to Madhumalai Forest & Wellington/Ooty & Coonoor from Aug 29th, during their India visit. I was delighted to be invited to join them, and besides rebuilding bonds with them, we had a super time together. The first night was spent at "the Tree House" at Forest Hills - a resort at the edge of the forest. We were fortunate to have a huge wild tusker in our yard in the morning that we could observe comfortably from the top of the Tree House, besides seeing a wild boar and some deer etc. The stay at Wellington Club thereafter was most comfortable, and we all attended the opening ceremony of Nina & Shanker (Rao)'s new home on Sep 1st followed with a fab party - with the entire Rao family, & a host of friends being present. Next day, we collected Deepa's daughter Nikita from her boarding school for the day, and she was happy to get to know her new cousins! We drove back to Bangalore on Sep 3rd, and the next moring I left for Secunderabad for a four day visit to Rajeev & Vinodini. Ruchi was visiting, and so were Ranjana & Vinay (Adukia's), so it was a nice get-together.

However, the year 2007's glorious close came later with the news of Abhi & Mithu's daughter Arundhati's birth on December 5th - a triple birthdate with her mother and Mausi, followed with my joining Rajeev & Vinodini at Secunderabad for their Golden Anniversary on December 14th! This was superbly & faultlessly organized by Ruchi with considerable planning and decorative items (specially brought by her from the US), and created so much joy for all of us present. Vivek - despite a six hours delayed flight, joined all us well wishers in good time for a late lunch to celebrate with all of us! Sanjeev had managed to make it as well, but we had to miss Ratna, who had been with her parents for Diwali just a few weeks earlier, and could not come again, having to stay at home with Raja and Aparna - who still had school.

Vivek could thereafter just spend three days with me at Bangalore, before rushing back to Houston in good time to be home - in order for Ratna & him celebrate their own Silver Anniversary on Dec 22nd - for which they both went to New York for a week, along with Shilpa & Aparna - who used the opportunity to visit friends in nearby Stamford in Connecticut. As Ratna & Vivek returned after seeing a Broadway show, they were delightfully surprised to find their 'borrowed NYC flat' so tastefully decorated by Shilpa & Aparna (with the help from Junie & Ash, who had all come down from Stamford CT) during their absence, and made ready for a grand party! It was actually Ruchi, who had masterminded this conspiracy with them from the distance....

These two Golden & Silver Anniversaries - just eight days apart - were surely so specially significant at the year-end of 2007 for the Gupta & Sarkar families!

As per the established routine (almost!), I went off on my winter stay at Kolkata for three weeks during January 2008 - breaking journey at Secunderabad at year-end, then to Raipur - to visit Anjali & Mishtu, and finally about a week at Jamshedpur with Bhaiyya and family, en-route. Kolkata became my 'cultural extravaganza' and 'gourmet's delight' with so many new experiences during this year! Very enjoyable....

Wilie & Peter had decided on a South India visit this year, and I took over the role of their informal local travel agent helping them plan their trip here, from March 7th. It was great having them over for a fortnight, before they returned home to the UK. We re-lived through so many happy past memories, and the gentle ribbing with Peter made us all have a great time! I accompanied them to visit Karnataka's pride ruins at Hampi, and despite the strenuous long walks in the sun on both the days, thoroughly enjoyed the excursion, which I had been hoping to do one day, and had not been able to so far.

Brian had unfortunately been very unwell since last one year, and had improved a bit as Wilie & Peter came over, but his condition became worse, and soon after their return home, he died mercifully without further suffering. I was sad losing such a good friend of half a century, but we all realized the inevitable.

I had some health problem soon after Wilie & Peter's departure, which needed a fair amount of visits to doctors, specialists, lab tests and medicines to nudge the health back to normal. With age, the recovery process does take longer now, and one is not able to bounce back to vigour as one did earlier - but a two-week visit from Vivek (and Anita too, for a week) at that time (with an ulterior motive, as you may note!) did wonders, and was certainly far more satisfying than the effects of all the medicines towards getting well! Vivek organized a very friendly group of relatives, ex-colleagues and friends to celebrate my 75th birthday at the Bangalore Club! with a grand lunch on Sunday, May 18th 2008! (A slide show of the party may be seen by those interested by clicking the above link). It was indeed a very delightful and comfortable gathering, and was enjoyed by all the 27 participants, including me! I was very pleasantly inundated with messages, cards, gifts and good wishes throughout the day making it ever so memorable.

However, my "annual year-end greetings circular" perhaps summarises the year fairly well - and is reproduced below:

Bangalore – December 2008

Hi Folks,

Inevitably, this very eventful year is coming to an end, and we will soon be celebrating the festive season, and will be welcoming 2009 - with optimistic hopes for peaceful and joyous future for all - without the pain and suffering that we had to sadly witness recently, the uncertainty and downturn of the economy the world over.

Earlier, Wilie & Peter had come for a three-week�s visit from England, and I was their tour operator cum travel agent! All of us had a lovely enjoyable time together, and visited Hampi, a destination that I had been waiting to see for ages. Sadly Brian was ailing, and soon after their return, my dear friend of fifty years passed away.

My annual US visit was made later than usual, as Vivek had moved to warmer Texas last year, and both Ratna & he had joined the Rice University faculty. My journey started with Goa to attend a lovely wedding, and then five delightful and hospitable days each with Anne & Hans at Holland, and then with Beate and her husband Rainer in Germany. Then to the US, and after five days stay at Houston TX, I was off on my three weeks travels to Massachusets, New Jersey, DC/MD & Indiana to bask in the warm hospitality (despite the low temperatures) of Bhanu & Aparna, Amit & Gauri, Jojo & Bhaswer & finally with Debu & Meher. I managed to meet so many old friends and relatives, including Dilip & Nutan, Sonali/Joy and family whilst in the DC region. The final month was then spent in Houston with Ratna, Vivek, Aparna & Raja, with a four day quick trip to be with Gutli & Jay at Dallas. The highlight was the Thanksgiving gathering just before my return, when Shilpa was home from Stanford. Ruchi, Ranjit/Miho, Sayo & Aiki too were with us, and finally with 21 for dinner and 30 for dessert, the party was a great success. We were delighted that Abir & family could also join us. (Sorry - to some the names may not be meaningful or recognizable! They are good friends or relations - as you are sure to guess...)

During my "relaxed" Houston stay I still managed to see four plays, one magic show, two movies, a trip to NASA space center and multiple visits to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences (specially the 'fab' exhibition - Body Worlds 2, and another on Butterflies) - besides very many eating outs from Sandwiches & Dim-Sum to French or Japanese cuisines! We attended the Houston Fall Concert, in which Aparna was a Guitarist in their Philharmonia group - which went off extremely well, and made us proud of her achievement. Another interesting item was attending a very absorbing and witty lecture at the Rice University by the famous Dr Andrew Wiles, who was successful in finally proving the 'Fermat's Last Theorem' a few years ago - that had eluded mathematicians for the last three centuries! The US Presidential campaign kept us fully absorbed, and we were delighted to see the historic win by Barack Obama.

Finally, soon after my return, I upgraded my PC to a terrific 24" Apple iMac - a New Year gift to myself - and look forward to getting used to the different operating system quickly to make the most of this new high-tech desktop!

Looking back, I can sincerely claim being active and content with my relaxed life during the year. I remain involved with the Britannia pensioner�s case to get justice; to get their entitled pensions released, which very sadly the Company has withheld for almost six years - and am now optimistic about the court case that I am involved with on behalf of the Pensioners Welfare Association, which I filed in Bangalore.

I am so grateful for the affection, care and concern from a large number of friends and relatives that makes my life so worthwhile. Finally, my greetings, good wishes and God bless to you and your families.

Sincerely,

Ashit

The 2008 year-end (on return to Bangalore) was a very busy period, mainly with the Court Hearings on the Britannia Pensioners case, as mentioned above. The New Year brought out a very welcome order on January 1st from the Court; for Britannia to immediately start paying part Interim Pensions to those retiring pensioners who had been denied their dues for the last six years - awaiting the final judgment on the Claim Statements filed with the Court by PWA - a very satisfying start after years of waiting!

However, the greater and most satisfying news a week later was that the Association of Computing Machinery had recognized Vivek as a 2008 ACM Fellow with their highest award, with the citation:"For contributions to technologies for parallel computing".

(ACM website: "The ACM Fellows Program was established by Council in 1993 to recognize and honor outstanding ACM members for their achievements in computer science and information technology, and for their significant contributions to the mission of the ACM. The ACM Fellows serve as distinguished colleagues to whom the ACM and its members look for guidance and leadership as the world of information technology evolves"). 

Early January 2009 saw me on my usual trip to Kolkata for about three weeks and a weekend in between with Bhaiyya and family at Jamshedpur, followed with an enjoyable week in February with Robey & Rumu at Delhi. The entire month at all these locations was full of non-stop 'wining and dining', attending theater, dance-drama, movies, birthday bashes and other functions including Maghotsava at the Sammilan Samaj, and meeting a very large number of friends and relatives! Even the return journey from Delhi became exciting as I had to suddenly change travel plans at the last minute because of the AP Express (on which I was booked) being delayed by over 11 hours, and therefore had to miss my Secunderabad stop-over enroute! However, I was able to make it up later with a visit in March, when Ruchi had come. I was thus able to discuss my routine annual medical results with her, and also get some additional tests done at her suggestion for treatment to my recurring aneamia problem.

In the meanwhile, Tidu had found a life-partner and got married to Connie. She brought his loneliness to an end with getting fully involved with good support to his office work as well as to the social and family life, endearing herself to one and all. Her quest for travel suited Tidu much, and they underwent or planned many enjoyable and extensive domestic and international trips

Mid-year started with two weddings - Khuku's daughter Munmun (Sonali) had her wedding on July 1st at Hyderabad - which I attended, followed with Bubu & Tapu's daughter Goolly's (Radhika) marriage at the Tolly in Kolkata on July 12th. Both being thoroughly enjoyable, and giving me the opportunity to meet large number of friends and relatives, besides the series of inevitable feasts! I avoided all the rich food, and was happy with just a few simpler dishes, and concentrated on the 'gup-shup'.

However, the mood changed suddenly, when Monica called on July 15th evening to inform us that our beloved Granny had just died. It was not unexpected, with her being well over 105. I took the first flight out from Kolkata and reached Bangalore the next morning in time to carry out her last rites, as she had wished me to do. The following morning, I, along with Renuka, carried out the immersion of the ashes at the confluence of Cauvery, Hemavati & Lokpavni rivers at Srirangapatnam (near Mysore). While on our 280 km round trip, I got a call from Vivek (from the US) to be informed that Rajeev's condition at Hyderabad had become critical - even though earlier in the morning the news was that his condition was improving (few hours later he called again to inform me that he had passed away). He informed me that Ratna & Ruchi were on their way to Hyderabad already. I had been at Secunderabad with them only twelve days earlier, and while he had been quite unwell for almost four years, this drastic change was a shock to me. I flew out to join the family at Secunderabad for the funeral on Sunday 19th morning - Ratna, Ruchi, Sanjeev and Shefali having also arrived. Vivek too reached late on 20th night and the havan was held on the 21st. The double-whammy of two deaths of people I cared for was very sad, and my body possibly reacted with sudden ill-health symptoms at Secunderabad, and later on return to Bangalore, that required emergency care and attention. With Ruchi around, the corrective action was prompt, especially with the care from Ratna & her at Secunderabad, followed with Borun, Sumi & Mini at Bangalore after my return to Bangalore. This put a shadow on my impending travel plans to the US due after a fortnight, but after my fitness was confirmed by the doctors just a week before the planned date, the US visit from mid August became a reality!

As expected, the trip was an excellent change - very relaxed and enjoyable, despite having to give up most of my initially planned travel within the US, and just limiting it to only a week in Washington DC region at Jojo's home in Potomac MD, all of the rest of the five weeks being in Houston TX. Shilpa was able to come for a week from California, so the entire family was together for a while. I was looked after very well, and my walks with Raja most evenings brought back the necessary limited exercise that I had been avoiding in the past! I occupied my spare time usefully for guiding the Britannia pensioner's case through e-mails despite the distance, and in developing the alternative Homepage at Webs.com since the Yahoo Geocities were closing down the Homepage provision in October 2009.

My usual annual winter Kolkata trip this year was advanced to December. Bhaiya & Tumpa's daughter Koel had recently joined Manipal University to study Engineering, and she was on her first holiday trip home via Bangalore - so I accompanied her to spend a week with Bhaiya and family at Jamshedpur initially before getting to Cal. As always, I enjoyed the great early winter weather and many activities, including a quick three-day urgent trip to Delhi in between, before returning to Bangalore on Jan 1st, 2010. Vivek soon made a quick five-day trip to BLR to attend a Conference, so even if he was quite busy, we still had a delightful time! My first 2010 houseguest was Bhanu from Hopedale MA (before he went visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia & Kolkata), and we had an enjoyable few days together, including a day's coach excursion trip to Shravanbelagola, Halebid and Belur - for the nth time for me! After he left, I got caught up with BLR cultural extravaganza - with a series of classical song and Festival of India dance programmes, and finally ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan, lasting for more than a month, that not only kept me busy, but was so full of enjoyment!

The year of 2010 continued with more travel - six week's in Kolkata in the mid-year to be with Shefalikakima during Tidu and family's summer trip to the US, and later a week at Mumbai during Vivek's visit. But, that was not all, as I was invited by ITC to be a faculty to a high powered Workshop on Oct 26th, 2010 held at their luxury hotel - ITC Sonar. It needed a lot of work, recollecting old memories of fifties to eighties and gathering data and revalidating them to prepare the presentation. It was interesting and profitable, but it was lovely to once again get the sense of belonging in the cherished ITC which was celebrating its Centenary this year! This went off very well with excellent feedback from many, and the two days stay at Sonar was most memorable. Another most interesting item was my penning down "My ITC (His)Story" for the "The Way We Were" - a compilation of the recollections of many ITC old-timers that ITC News. ITC expects these memoirs to be publishing in due course in a separate booklet. I enjoyed recollecting the old memories, followed with frequent revisions and additions every time I re-read it! Finally, a three-week trip to be with the family in Houston for Thanksgiving in November rounded up my travels for the year!

The short trip started with an unplanned and unexpected trip to New Orleans with Ratna & Vivek - to a city that I had not been to, and had always hoped to see! I am reproducing the details from an e-mail message:

The New Orlean visit was packed with a great time in excellent weather. On Friday, soon after reaching, we had a traditional lunch (of Gumbo, Jumbalaya & another Creole dish) in a nearby place to our Hotel Omni Royal Orleans at the heart of French quarters on St Louis Street, followed with walking around the area and soaking in the festive atmosphere! We had an early dinner at Singha Thai at the edge of the French Quarters on Carondelet, followed with a lovely time at the well-known Arnaud�s having dessert and Music! Bourbon Street with all the late night regalia of music and Street performers fully lived up-to its reputation. Saturday morning, we drove to see two Plantations - Laura & Oak Alley. It was a gorgeous day with sunshine to enjoy the tours and walking around the lovely gardens at both these plantations of different styles - the former being Creole, and the latter an American one - each with their complex family histories well narrated by the guides. We had an enjoyable sea-food lunch at a closeby restaurant in between. For dinner, another great place called Lola's - with Spanish cuisine at the Esplanade, not too far away from the French Quarter. Afterwards, we went to the Snug Harbour Jazz Club on Frenhmen Street to listen to cool jazz by Michael Wolffe (Piano), James Singleton (Base), Mike (Drummer) & Donald Harrison (Sax). Two & a half hours of this music was just fab - we did not do the crawl to the many other pubs and clubs on this street! On Sunday, we had a great 22 mile drive over Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (each way - just amazing!) to Covington, where an Art Exhibition was on. However, there were some rains after an hour or so, and we used the opportunity to have an enjoyable lunch at Sorelli�s Brick Oven, waiting for the break in the weather. On getting back to our Hotel, I did not miss out the coffee and doughnut in the evening - at the famous French Cafe Du Monde, near the Jefferson Square & French Market nearby. At night, we went to visit Enid�s brother David & Lekha Subbaiya's home (across the river) for a delightful dinner. As you may note and see - absolutely packed most enjoyable unforgettable three days at New Orleans.

The 2010 Thanksgiving gathering at home - with visiting Shilpa, Aparna, Ruchi & Vinodini, besides Ranjit (Kapila), Miho, Sayo & Aiki was just great - the dinner was superbly organized mostly by Ratna & Ruchi (as in the past), and we had a lovely gathering of many friends, neighbours and colleagues. Aiki kept us all enthralled with his activities and with Raja during their short visit. Ratna & Vivek arranged for some lovely group photos by a professional photographer – will be memorable reminder!

On to 2011, and Later:

After my return home from the US just before the year-end, the year started easy. However, soon I was at Kolkata and so sadly I had to attend Papri-boudi's 'sraddha' on Feb 13th. Just after my return to Bangalore, another sad news of Tuktuk came, that after over sixteen years of suffering, she was finally relieved of her miseries, and died on March 3rd. A very poignant memorial service was held on Sunday, March 13th at home attended by over 130 family members and friends, for which I reached Kolkata in good time, and spent about two weeks with Shefali Kakima, Tidu and the family. Not much later, Bani, who too had been suffering for the last few years, died on June 4th - necessitating yet another trip to Kolkata to be with Rita and Deepa for the 'sraddha' on June 12th at the Sammilan Samaj. These losses of loved and close people jolt one to realize the inevitable uncertainties of life.  Even if it was a relief in these three instances, which were not unexpected, the loss of loved people leaves one saddened.

Shilpa completed her design-engineering programme at Stanford University and the family joined her for this great graduation day in June - whilst I could only do so 'virtually' from halfway round the globe!  I continued to remain busy with the Pensioner's case - which was dragged on and on by Britannia through appeals at various forums as favourable decisions came our way.  Mini came from Sydney on her first visit home on a short vacation from her new job, and it was good to see her, and to learn that she has settled down very well in her new country, and is managing well.  Unfortunately, she and Abhinav had a break-up last year – but they both have managed the split in a friendly and helpful manner.

My annual US trip (on BA this time) from Oct 9th 2011 started with initial four week of stay and travel on the East Coast, before finally getting to Vivek & Ratna. The following message describes the trip quite aptly:

I reached Houston TX on Nov 4th evening for my month's stay, as per plan after the initial four very enjoyable weeks on the East Coast - meeting many friends and relatives, and generally having a good time. The first five day's stay of this trip was with Bhanu at Hopedale MA (near Boston). Then, I had a lovely week with Amit & Gauri at their NJ home - with Ajit being there too, and so we both could spend time together during the weekdays. I spent a delightfully relaxed day with Ipshita at Manhattan, and a lovely special dinner with Sujoy and Simonti in their new NJ home to celebrate expectant Gauri's delivery due in December. Another memorable dinner visit to Ranjit & Miho's home at Scarsdale was delightful with Sayo and Aikee putting up a special entertainment show for their visitor! It was super being picked up as I reached Union Station at Washington DC on mid-day Sunday Oct 23rd by Bonu and family (Sonali, Joy, Trisha & Aayush), and take me home to Woodrich VA for lunch, and later drop me at Jojo's home at Potomac. The weather has been quite variable, and while it was very comfortable in Boston region where I was warned to be prepared for low temperatures, instead I had to experience a most unexpected snow-storm later on Oct 29th when I was in Washington DC - that we were unprepared for! Amongst many other interesting get togethers, I had a lovely dinner with Puchkun and Kavita (to celebrate her Mom's birthday!), and a delightful lunch with Doel in downtown DC during my lovely week's stay with Jojo at their Potomac home, and a night with Dilip & Nutan - as always. My next visit was to Dallas TX - with one day's stay with Gutli (Devalekha Mallik), Jay, Ishan and Shahana, followed with a few days with my friend Balaji's daughter, Shaila, Anup, Niharica and Dhruv. My Greyhound trip to Houston, the DC to Dallas flight and the two Amtrak journeys, were comfortable.

Vivek & Ratna are well and remain actively busy, as also Shilpa in her new job, and Aparna too is doing well at Pomona College. Ratna has just been assigned new responsibilities at Rice University as Director, Institutional Research from Nov 7th, 2011. The month at Houston was very relaxing in comparison, as both Ratna & Vivek were at work on weekdays, but they ensured that I continued to have a comfortable and enjoyable time with any interesting programmes that were taking place. The highlight was the Thanksgiving family gathering, with Shilpa & Aparna as well as Ruchi, Ranjit/Miho and Sayo/Aikee being with us for a couple of days, and many other friends and neighbours joining us for the grand dinner! Besides a few movies, the Christmas Concert at the Rice University by their Chorale team was unusual and superb. Their gift of an iPad became the new acquisition for me to keep busy!

Now, back to routine on return to Bangalore.... The great news soon after was the birth of Rudra on Dec 26th to Gauri & Amit in New Jersey delighting all of us! The year ended soon after, and the very who were visiting from Mumbai, and Borun and Sumi, on an enjoyable day long picnic visiting the monolith statue of Gomateshwara at Sravan Belgola, followed with the exquisite Hoysala first day of 2012 was very delightfully spent in the most pleasant company of Indrani and Amit, period temples at Halebid and Belur. This 500 km trip was on a very pleasant day, using a very comfortable Innova SUV - mostly on the newly constructed excellent National Highway - much improved from the past, and which was even better than many international highways!

Another delightful possession (my New Year gift to myself!) - which was collected on Jan 4th was the newly introduced compact Hyundai EON hatchback, replacing my five year old sparingly used Hyundai Getz. There was also an addition to the family with Rishaan being born to Umaboudi's grand-daughter Suravi and Ranjan, bringing much joy to all.

My usual Kolkata trip was next - starting in February 2012, with four days at Bhubaneshwar visiting Bhaiyya's new home (after Jamshedpur), and being with Protima-boudi. Kolkata was cool and pleasant and this time there were abundance of festivities and feasts during my four weeks, starting with the twentieth anniversary of Tidu's company infoBASE including a picnic at Diamond Harbour, and closing with the Golden Anniversary party at Fort William for Shankar and Krishna - Shona's parents in law, and several other get together's with friends and family at many homes and clubs - gastronomical delights mostly!

Little did I know that I would soon have to get back to Kolkata again in five months for an eventful time! It was necessary as Tidu and Connie went off to the US, and I went over in early August to keep Shefali Kakima company during their absence of six weeks. She was not at the best of health, but still at 94 was active and clear headed, and we had enjoyable chats, and had our meals together. However, she had some health problems, and Tidu and Connie came back early in good time to be with her during her final week, when she passed away peacefully on Aug 10th without any suffering, and as she desired. She repeatedly stated that "my time has come", and only wanted us to be around. Her last minute enquiry checking what was being cooked for me indicated the clarity of her mind, and concern for others, just an hour before she passed away! Her sraddha went off smoothly with a large attendee numbers, and a very well conducted service on Sunday 16th Sep morning at the Sammilan Samaj - followed with a lunch organized at home for the sashan bandhu's (those who went to the crematorium), and others. Sujoy had come to attend the Sraddha from the US, as also many others. I am happy that I could be with Kakima during her last month and provide her some joy with my presence, which will remain so memorable to me. She had been so special all along - as also the family. It was the end of a special era for me. However, the crowning glory came within two weeks, when we learnt that the Government of India had conferred the 2012 Best Mother Award (Vayoshestra Samman) to her - a great honour for her selfless life and devotion and care that she spread through starting the Alzheimer Association of West Bengal in 1999, and guide to help numerous sufferers in managing for over fifteen years, besides looking after her own daughter Tuktuk for more than a decade with such devoted care.

My annual US trip followed soon after my return from Kolkata - starting on Oct 6th 2012 with a five day stay with Jojo & family at Potomac MD, followed with three days at Culver City CA with Raghu Bhagat, and then with Shantha & Abe Mathew at San Diego for an enjoyable break. Vivek collected me from Shantha's home and we had three days at Claremont CA, where I visited Aparna's Pomona College, before getting to Houston TX on Oct 20th. After these two weeks of active and busy wandering, I had an enjoyable relaxed long stay at home thereafter, with the Thanksgiving week trip to Ruchi's home at Knoxville TN, a week before my return. Vivek, Ratna, Raja and I made this 1600 km outward drive on their Honda Pilot very comfortably - breaking journey at Monroe LA on our way out, and at Covington (near New Orleans LA) on the way back. It was lovely for me to stay the night at Sushama's home at Munroe LA en-route, with Krish & Malu also being there - enjoyed the evening and the welcoming yummy cooking. Ruchi's home was full with us, Shilpa, Aparna and Ranjit, Miho, Sayo & Aikee too, to complete the usual Thanksgiving family! We had a lovely time with excellent & comfortable weather, and with Ruchi ensuring that we all had a memorable Thanksgiving party with many of her friends and visitors. See the Thanksgiving Pix by clicking here. As always, I enjoyed meeting so many friends, relatives and well-wishers - enjoying their hospitality and good-wishes during this trip, before getting back to Bangalore on Dec 5th. Sadly, right at the end of my stay, I was very distressed to realise that apparently, I had failed to perceive that I had been invading into Ratna's space through my excessive attention to her whenever she was around. My assumed belief from the warm and affectionate welcome that she had invariably displayed, and which I had taken for granted and my efforts to be helpful had in fact backfired as a result to make me blind to this intrusion into her space. Fortunately, we were able to discuss this, and hopefully the misunderstanding has been cleared.

2013 started with the very sad news of my very good friend of over four decades Sudhir (Goyal)'s passing away in Kolkata. He had been unwell ever since he retired, and moved away from Bangalore two years ago. A great loss.... I made a Kolkata visit soon after (in Feb 2013), followed with a most enjoyable three day visit to Neena's (Rao) new home at Coonoor.

However, the big event in May 2013 was a lovely party at Kolkata as I joined the "Eighties Club"! It was at Vivek's insistence that my 80th birthday be celebrated in style with a large group of friends and relatives for which he would come, I consented to and arranged this party at Fort William Army Officer's Institute at Kolkata - which was kindly booked by my cousin, Admiral Subir (Paul) for my birthday-eve. Anita, Rekha/Vinay & Sudhir/Sadhana (Rao) joined us from Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai respectively, making a total of over 70 attendees for the occasion, besides a very large number of 'virtual' well-wishers from all around the world who were not able to be present physically. You may see the photos, (View slideshow) including pix of the next evening's family dinner on May 18th - my actual birthday! Nikita took most of the photos, and Tultul was such a great support in making arrangements for the party that went off so smoothly and extremely well, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the good food and drinks, and meeting so many. After the ten day stay at Kolkata in Shomir & Connie's so well organized home (whilst they were away in the US), Anita, Vivek & I travelled to Mumbai, and saw off Vivek to the US. I spent a few days in Pune thereafter before returning to Bangalore after four-weeks of hectic time.

Not much later, I was on the move again! First, I was at Secunderabad to attend Yagna (Balaji)'s wedding reception at a grand and super function at the Chowmahalla Palace near the Charminar on Aug 13th - where a large number of family and friends had gathered. I stayed with Anita & Swaran and managed to get Koel to spend the Sunday with me, since she had recently started working there. Kolkata followed next, where Tidu's entire family had come to celebrate his 70th birthday! We all had a great bash at the Fort William Army Officers Institute with a super lunch, before dispersing. I then went to Mumbai for two days before getting back - only to prepare for my Australia trip! Rina was visiting India, and she spent a weekend at my home - followed with a three day visit by Bablu & Ranjana from Mumbai.

"Down Under" Excursion - 2013, and later:

I used the newly introduced Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner direct flights from Delhi to Australia very comfortably to reach Sydney on Sep 14th. Stopped for a day at Delhi on my way out, and after lunching with Robey and meeting Gopa & Sanju, specially visited ailing Hashiboudi at the hospital. (who sadly passed away a fortnight later on Sep 27th). After an enjoyable dinner at Shireen's home, spent the night with Rekha & Viney (Rina was also visiting). Reached Sydney just two hours after Vivek had arrived there from the US. We were collected from the airport by Nina (my ex-ITC colleague Anant Malvi's daughter) & David for a two day most enjoyable stay with them, but only after a fairly extensive tour around the Botany Bay and Cronulla Beaches and a hearty breakfast there, and further look around Sydney! The next day was a great Sunday, starting with seeing Para-gliding take-offs from Sydney's Bald Hill top, followed with a ferry ride to Manly, and culminating with watching the super rendition of "South Pacific" at the famous Opera House rounding off the day, where Mini (Sharmishta), my special OZ host and favourite grand-niece, joined us (she was working the previous day and could not take the day off, as she had taken leave from Tuesday to join us later at Canberra).

Click for a FABULOUS VIRTUAL PANORAMIC 360˚ VIEW of SYDNEY (takes a while to load)

On Monday morning, Vivek and I drove down to the capital city of Canberra - about 300 km away. Vivek was to give a keynote address at a conference there the next morning. It was quite rainy, but I used the opportunity to do a fair amount of sightseeing on the Canberra's centenary "Hop On & Off' bus - and enjoyed seeing the Australian War Memorial, National Gallery, National Film & Sound Archive and the Parliament House - despite the rain, and the necessary long walks! Mini joined us at Canberra in the evening, and we got together with some of Vivek's co-conference delegates for a delightful dinner, and also the next evening. We had glorious sunshine the next day - and went to see Floriade - the fabulous biggest spring festival of flowers, followed with a visit to the National Museum. Next morning, the three of us drove up about 500 km to Australia's oldest wine producing region at the very well known Hunter Valley, where Mini had booked us in a rustic and comfortable 'Hunter Hideaway' cottage (appropriately named 'Chardonnay'), where we were welcomed by wallabies and kangaroos as we got there! The two days were delightfully spent sampling wines in many different vineyards and learning a lot about different wines, and wine making (click to read history of OZ wines in Mini's blog), besides sightseeing, and even a visit to the local zoo.


RELAXING - POST SAMPLING WINES!

We returned on Saturday Sep 21st evening to Mini's home at Redfern - a very central location in Sydney - after a comfortable drive of 230 km with some sightseeing en-route. The Sunday was delightfully spent with a brunch at Nina's home followed with a drive to the Blue Mountains of Australia (at Katoomba) with them - about 100 km away - and enjoy the Scenic Railway, Skyway and Cableway rides there, besides the stroll around to see the valleys, mountains, mines and the famous 'Three Sisters' peaks and the 'Orphan Rock'- on a lovely sunny day (read Mini's description in her blog here). Vivek returned to Houston the next morning, and Mini also had to get back to work - with me relaxing and taking it easy after these hectic and enjoyable nine days! See a slideshow of some of the photos of these 9 days. After two days of rest, Mini took me around for a lovely long walk to the Museum, Hyde Park, The Royal Botanical Garden and the waterfront on a lovely sunny day - really gorgeous even if I had to walk quite a bit. It was good to see Shubro & family - who had moved from Bangalore two decades ago, and then my ex-ITC colleague Stan & Vicky (Frederick) at Sydney, with whom I stayed for three days.

My last five days were spent at Melbourne, where I stayed with Usha & Raj Babbar - great friends of Connie & Tidu, but after five days with them I felt as I've known them for years! Their hospitality and warmth was just wonderful. Immediately on arrival, they took me on a long drive to Mt Dandenong for brunch at SkyHigh, followed with feeding cockatoos nearby. I met Gordon & Helen (Ellis), Beverley (Wilson/Nick) and Terry & Rita Welsh for lovely lunches and reminiscences of our old ITC days. Before returning to India, I was also taken to Melbourne's prestige casino at Crown Signature club by Usha & Raj, who was a winner whilst we watched....

All in all, the month long Australian trip was just great and I was delighted to see Mini so well settled and managing so confidently. She really took such good care to make my trip so worthwhile and memorable. View some more photos of the latter part of my Australian excursion.

Five weeks after my return, I was suddenly very unwell on 21st Nov morning soon after waking up, and had to be taken to the Cardio super speciality hospital by one of my neighbours. I underwent a very detailed check-up and several tests - which in any case I was intending to get done as my heart bypass surgery was carried out ten years ago in 2003 and a review was necessary. Fortunately, I was fully cleared with no signs of any heart damage and this medical scare was attributed to other causes, and I am now already back to my normal health, but am still taking more care. The great support through phone calls and messages immediately and the next few days from far and wide has given me added strength to recover. Vivek, Ratna & Anita from the US & Mini from Sydney called (and so many others from all over) that were so supportive, and Ruchi's medical review was most encouraging.

I was away for three weeks to Kolkata in Jan 2014 and then a week in Secunderabad. As usual, I had a very enjoyable time mostly meeting, wining & dining with many friends and relatives, and attending very interesting cultural programs, and even making a day-long excursion to the Sunderbans - accompanied by Salma, who was visiting from the US. While no tigers were seen, it was a lovely picnic - with 7 hours on a steamer at the Bay of Bengal delta of the Ganges a little over 125 km from Kolkata - in clean and serene environment of the forests with excellent weather. At Secunderabad, I was with Sumi & Borun in their newly acquired home at Yapral, that they had done up so well. Sad news of the passing away of Vinodini on Mar 16th 2014 at Bagdogra was not so much a shock, as she had been suffering for some time, but nevertheless a big loss to us all in the family.

My 81st birthday coincided with a big day for Aparna, as she graduated from Pomona College, Claremont CA on May 18th with Vivek, Ratna, Shilpa and Ruchi being with her during the weekend, and celebrating the big event. She has since started her work-life with teaching Mathematics to senior students at St Ann's School at Brooklyn Heights, NYC.


(Here is a group photo taken at Pomona College).

Vivek made a brief visit to Bangalore to attend the wedding of Ratna's nephew Nikhil that was celebrated so grandly, but for which Ratna was unable to come. Later, Shilpa decided on a change of her job and fortunately, Vivek persuaded her (whilst he was at Newark airport to change flights half-way on his trip to Mumbai) to make a brief India visit before embarking on her new assignment as Product Manager with Facebook, at the very last minute. I was then visiting Goa to attend Bablu's (Admiral Arun Auditto) joining the 'Eighties Club' on July 24th, where we had a lovely get-together and a great bash! From Goa I came to Mumbai for a week - mainly to collect Vivek, who was to accompany me to Bangalore after a few days. As mentioned, the bonus visit of Shilpa joining us at Bangalore thereafter for four days was just great, and we had a very active enjoyable days. We made a day long 500+ km excursion to show Shilpa & Vivek the Gometeshwara monolith statue at Sravan Belagola, and the two famous Hoysala period temples at Halebid & Belur on a very pleasant day, before they both returned to the US.

My Political Outlook:

I am often asked about my political views, since the general opinion seems that I may be considered a liberal but not a very vociferous one about politics! This is a fair analysis, and I am attempting to examine & state my views below:

In early years during my school days, the most important target was getting independence from the British rule, which we finally got after millions mostly living in North India paying the terrible price of having to be forced to give up their settled lives, property, possessions (and also many innocent lives due to the senseless mob holocaust during partition of India). This affected our family in a big way and tragically with the loss of my uncle and cousin and many friends, and us becoming literally penniless refugees, who welcomed the freedom with mixed emotions. Fortunately, our relatives helped us to resettle honourably, and we managed to overcome and enjoy the future as free citizen with time and after considerable rebuilding efforts, when politics played little role, but sheer survival did for most of us in those early years post independence.

At that time, the Indian National Congress (INC) was the only major political party, and we admired Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhas Bose, Abdul Kalam Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel & many others who worked tirelessly for India's independence, and credited them for finally getting it, and were happy to have them at the helm of managing the country.

I voted in the very first election after independence in Oct 1951 when I was a student in Allahabad University - naturally for the Congress party then. Later, I have participated in every election, and voted often for the congress candidate, but at times for others - not because of the party, but as I considered that a good and honest candidate in my opinion was needed - even when I was not too satisfied with their past performance. In earlier years little information was available about the candidates, their promises or performance thereafter. In those days, my belief was that most of the candidates generally cared for the country more than self, even if many were not too capable or even if their parties had limited regional priorities. Most of them were honest, and uncorrupted.

Since then many parties have emerged and grown - many using muscle, mafia and crooks as back-up, leading to many from the mafia now choosing to become the politician himself instead of being a supporter! Caste, religion, popular local interests have often overtaken secular or national interests. Country's interests are often sidelined for personal gains by many of them; thereby most current politicians have lost the reputation that they once had as responsible leaders. More than one-third of current MP's have serious criminal charges against them, and now they are the law-makers despite being law-breakers! It is no wonder that almost all of them have become crorepatis after becoming an elected politician. Majority of them ensure personal gains for self and family as their main objective in being in the government. Corruption is rampant and most consider themselves to be above the law. The legal system in our country has become a joke as justice takes years and decades, leaving the crooks to enjoy the ill-gotten wealth with impunity, whilst the honest sufferers can barely afford the legal costs , and have to wait for years hoping for justice - which often they do not get. Our legal system mainly serves the powerful and rich to subvert justice, rather than the honest or the poor, or is used extensively to harass political opponents.

In this scenario, I have very limited reliance on any political party and their loyal followers, who are mostly self interested individuals and opportunists, and do little towards long term national interests. This applies to all parties including the INC to some extent and therefore I cannot see myself of being an ardent supporter to any one of them. Their manifestos are unreliable or mostly obscure, and are not implemented sincerely. I cannot call myself apolitical, or belonging to any particular party, but am supportive to the best as it appears to me from the available information at that time with hope for better days to come for India despite the limitations.

Back to my life-story - 2015:

The year started with my usual annual Kolkata trip of three weeks from mid January. I had a delightful time wining and dining with many friends and attending several cultural programs, and enjoying Connie & Tidu's hospitality. Whilst returning from Cal, spent five delightful days at Secunderabad - mostly with Borun & Sumi and the last night at the Taj Banjara to celebrate Sadhana (Rao)'s 50th birthday bash in terrific style with a large number of the family and friends! A few days after my return, I was in Ahmedabad on Feb 23-24th to be a Guest Faculty for a prestigious IIM/A three day program on Family Business at their invitation. This was very successfully done, and I returned via a Delhi visit of five days with Rekha & Viney, and including a nostalgic annual contributory lunch gathering of 60+ ex ITC Walla's at the Delhi Gymkhana, where I met so many other old timers. Thereafter, I continued to have a lazy, relaxed life at Bangalore. A significant change was the sale of my Eon car in March 2015, when after over sixty years I no longer possessed a vehicle! However, since Monica - who had moved back to Bangalore late last year after a Kolkata relocation, and became a resident in my apartment complex, decided to get a new car for her use. I, therefore became the de-facto temporary driver for her off and on, and was also often able to use her WagonR for my personal use mostly when needed - which had in any case become minimal of late.

Finally, the year's best news of the success to our efforts spearheaded by me! The long drawn court case regarding Britannia pensioners that I had filed in 2008 and had worked so tirelessly on, closed with the Civil Court order in Sep 2015 totally in favour of all the pensioner members of the Association. Naturally, Britannia and the Trustees have appealed to the High Court against the judgement, and therefore the due benefits are still awaited, but now with considerable hope and anticipation by the members.

An interesting Video Interview was made in October 2015 by "1947 Partition Archive Org Team" covering my experiences at Lahore, consequent to my sending the article "MEMORIES of a 14 YEAR OLD of INDIA's INDEPENDENCE & PARTITION" to New York Times after reading an article on this topic. This group is collecting and recording for posterity these details and interviewed me. Anita edited this tape in an hour long unit, that I reproduced a personal copy in a UTube Ashit's Video Interview for friends and family!

In October, I made a trip to Delhi where I stayed for the first three days at Delhi with Madhu & Pavan Malik, during which I managed to visit Umaboudi, Aruna/Ajay and Bubu/Tapu at Noida, Gopa/Sanju at their home, and had a delightful and enjoyable dinner with Rumu/Robey at India International Center, before moving to Palam Vihar for the great family gathering and celebrating the next great event, which was the grand (but at low-key level due to Viney's health considerations) the golden jubilee gathering for Rekha and Viney's 50th anniversary functions at Delhi on Oct 25th, just before leaving for my USA trip the next day. Several delightful meals in joyous environment from 23rd (hosted by Vivek for the family) was enjoyed by all. Vivek had specially come for four days from the US, as also Ranjit and Sayo. Anita and Rekha had quietly prepared a fabulous tribute to Viney in the shape of a surprise book "This Magnificent Man and his Flying Machine" that was circulated and presented to all for the occasion! Their tremendous effort was much appreciated by everyone. This book contained very many interesting episodes about Viney from so many. After the most enjoyable family gathering and gala Anniversary party, the next evening I was off on Emirates to Dallas TX. We could never imagine that within two months, Viney would no longer be with us, as he suddenly became very ill, and passed away on Dec 21st. A great shock to all of us losing this great loving and affectionate personality.

On getting to Dallas, I spent the next fortnight enjoying the superb hospitality and warm welcome for about three days each at the homes of Shaila, Gutli and Debu/Meher, followed with a week with Sushma/Malu & Krish at Monroe LA. Luckily, most days had excellent weather and we could be so comfortable in going around and having a good time and varying meals in so many different places! Only on Nov 8th evening I finally reached Houston to be with Ratna & Vivek. Borun & Sumi, who are on a long US visit from Secunderabad, came over to Houston and Vivek drove them and me to Austin for a five day trip on Nov 14th. On reaching Austin, we met Sumi's uncle/cousin Shyamol & Maitree Mitra - for a fab meal! We had a very enjoyable time, that included a lovely brunch meeting with my old ex-ITC colleague Jags (CR Jaganathan) and also a day with Ajay/Aruna's daughter Rekha & Harsh Rai (see below about Ajay). The three of us (Vivek was attending a conference) made a day-long excursion by Gray Line to LBJ Ranch and Johnson city. Soon after return to Houston, the usual Thanksgiving week organized by Ratna & Vivek - with Ruchi's help - took place most successfully, as always! Ruchi's friends Mark & Nathan, as well as Ranjit & family had come besides Aparna & Shilpa, as also Bhanu for a longer visit. This is likely to be my last memorable Houston visit with V & R moving to Baltimore next year, since Ratna is joining Johns Hopkins University as Vice-Provost for Institutional Research on Jan 4th, 2016.

I had a night's stop-over at Dubai whilst returning, and was welcomed so warmly and affectionately by Sharon and Anirudh. He had arranged for Babchun - Sumit (Acharya) to join us for a late dinner, and it was great to see him as well. They are living in a lovely flat very centrally in downtown Burj area and I was happy to note that they are doing so well.

Year-end & Later - Losses:

Earlier in the year, most suddenly my very good and dear friend and ex-colleague Venkat expired on March 17th despite him always being so careful about his health, and both Revathi & him spending two weeks annually at the Yoga & Rehabilitation Ashrams, and his regular golf. He had often asked me to join them and I was considering doing so. However, fate waits for none. This was a very sad loss to me personally, as he was surely one of the best friends that I ever had. Sadly, December 2015 turned out to be a month of many losses of people I cared for a lot. Mithu & Mishtu's mother Anjali expired at the start of the month after a long period of bravely facing serious health issues at Raipur. Thereafter, my ITC ex-colleague N Gopalkrishnan succumbed to an accidental fall during some roof top attention to the power supply. Only a few months earlier during my Hyderabad visit he was proudly showing me the solar panel installation that he had carried out at his lovely Banjara Hills residence! The very next day, our beloved Viney breathed his last at Delhi as stated earlier, followed soon after by my Ewing Christian College and Allahabad University class-mate Ajay Arora, a good family friend of over 65 years. Only a month earlier, during my Delhi visit before leaving for the US, I had an enjoyable lunch with them at their Noida home, and both Vivek and I had a great day with their daughter Rekha at Austin TX. Babluda passed away on Feb 7th, 2016 soon after I attended Papriboudi's barshik on Feb 1st at their home during my Kolkata visit. Another loss of my class-mate and room-mate at Holland Hall, Allahabad, in 1948-50 SK Agarwal (Capt) last year was learnt later. Another two of my dear ITC colleagues Jasvir (Malik) & Arup (Bannerjee) died within the next six months, not to mention the passing away of dear Raja at Houston, as noted below. These inevitable losses remind us about the uncertain life on which one has little say or anticipation.

On to 2016:

I faithfully went on my annual Kolkata visit in time to attend Maghotsava at the Sammilan Samaj with Tidu & Connie, and the usual round of meeting friends and family and attend so many feasts and other functions! I also made a weekend trip to Bhaiyya's modern Tata residential complex situated in the village Bamnapal - 40 km from the nearest railway station (Jajpur Road), and 20 km from his new Tata Plant (still under construction), mainly to see Protima Boudi who is ailing somewhat, but is still mentally strong. Whilst returning, I made a Delhi visit, specially to attend Pavan & Madhu Malik's daughter Anjali's grand wedding, as well as catch up with many others. I stayed two nights with Rekha, one night with Vikram & Shaleila and thereafter three nights with Gopa & Sanjoy, and as such was able to meet so many other invitees at their homes too, besides enjoying the warm hospitality of so many.

Vivek came all the way from the US for three days to be with me on my 83rd birthday, and brought Anita from Mumbai. We, along with Koel (who is soon going off to the US to join Columbia U) celebrated the evening at The Mainland China in style! I accompanied both of them to Mumbai and spent an additional week with them at Anita's flat, with Rekha having specially come from Delhi to join us. Onila's two sons Anil & Suniel were over for dinner one night - it was great to see them after decades. Further, we had a delightful get together with Sudhir (Rao) visiting from Chennai as well. Most enjoyable ten days.....

The 'doggie' Sarkar Family!

Our entire family (includes the Roy's, Choudhuri's, Lal's & Chanda's) have been dog lovers and so many of us have owned and petted dogs ever since I can remember. My Boromama in Calcutta had several national prize-winning Bull Terriers during the British Raj days pre-Independence, and we were so proud of the Viceroy's Cup that was won by Bitty (his favourite) at Delhi, and the cupboardful of prizes by him & his other dogs! During my early Lahore days when we were staying at Badami Bagh mill premises and when I was barely six years old, I recollect that we had several puppies or dogs in our compound that we children looked after and cared for. Later, post partition as we moved to Delhi (as refugees) in 1947, we soon had a lovely mongrel dog Tipsy - who became a part of the family as we were put up by Pishima at their 70, Daryaganj bungalow - where earlier, Sejo Pishima (Lal's) very fierce and often ill-tempered alsatian Pluto ruled the neighbourhood. A memorable earlier incident was being unexpectedly bitten by Pluto quite severely - who was my great favourite, as I went over one evening in 1945 to play with him. It was quite a misadventure for me, but despite this, Pluto remained my friend and I would often take him out for long walks & runs in the years following! Even in his older age he remained ferocious and erratic, and could suddenly be aggresive to his well wishers, as I found while visiting the Lal's at Sangrur!

Tipsy and his offspring Bingo grew up later mostly after the family moved to the newly acquired Nizamuddin Extension home, whilst I went away to study at Ewing Christian College and University of Allahabad from 1948 to 1952, followed with joining ITC in Jan 1953 and moving to Saharanpur, with occasional weekend visits home. Bingo was followed by another most affectionate labrador Rana - who accompanied Baba for his daily walks to the Railway Station vicinity or with the family to the Humayun's Tomb gardens for his exercise and running. We all loved each of them and were returned their affection many folds! Later, after I moved to Monghyr in 1969 and Vivek was also there during the first eighteen months, we had a puppy (Patch) for a very short while followed with a lovely Cocker Spaniel (from the Drayton family's litter) named Fuzzy who grew up in Monghyr and later moved with me to Calcutta and then to Bangalore as I got posted. Another litter-mate of Fuzzy adopted by Anji & Anne Mehra named Goggie (named as such by their baby daughter Anjana who could only pronounce it as such) became great friend of Fuzzy playing together daily in the park cricket field and compound. However, during a month's stay of Goggie at my home during Anji's annual leave, the warmth evaporated fairly fast due to jealosy of having to share Baba's and my affection for both of them equally - no more future welcoming at home for Goggi! Baba had settled down at my home from the mid-sixties (initially at Bombay), and Fuzzy became his shadow literally at Monghyr & later, and Vivek as his great buddy too as he came for his holidays regularly from School or from IIT. Fuzzy loved his picnics and outings with me/us and the daily car rides on my Volkswagen love-bug. He became quite adept in chasing monkeys at my Monghyr residence and learnt to even climb the fruit trees following them! Fuzzy was most friendly to the core and loved every one - including any strangers whom he welcomed, and was a useless watchdog as he only barked (with joy) as I got back from work! He missed Baba very much after his death in 1979 at Bangalore, and died after about a year in Kolkata at Tuktuk's residence waiting for my arrival on transfer, whilst I was still held-up in Bangalore due to a factory strike. That was such a major shock for me.

Without Baba being around, and with my frequent tours I refrained from keeping a dog at home after Fuzzy, but was lucky that my dear friends Revathi & Venkat - whom I visited so often at Bangalore - decided to keep one! Snoopy became my favourite and I was happy to enjoy his affection, and his antics from time to time. He developed the habit of going with them to a particular ice-cream parlour and my visits triggered his trips! A memorable event was his participation in a dog show with my presence and encouragement, him winning acclamations - bringing much joy to all of us! Other confirmed dog-lover in the family was Koel, who from her early days took special care of their dog Rex at Jamshedpur and was also involved with the Dog Show function that I attended during one of my visits. Deepa was another special doggie enthusiast in the family, as was Tidu!

Our next doggie family member was in the US, when both Vivek & I drove down from Stamford CT and collected Raja (as named later by Shilpa and Aparna) from the Field Spaniel breeder in Virginia over a weekend in 2002. He soon became the darling of the entire family, and was looked after so caringly and affectionately by Ratna & Vivek during the next decade and a half. He, in turn gave all of us much joy and love as the 'baby' grew up along with Shilpa & Aparna - but still continued to remain the baby of the family! I 'shared' his bed (according to him) in the guest bed-room which he 'owned', and became a favourite friend soon. During my previous year's visit to Houston he had prankfully hidden up my wallet in his dug-out (to complain that I was not giving him sufficient attention on my arrival) that was fortunately located by Ratna just a day before I was returning! Very sadly, Vivek called to inform the very sad death of Raja on Aug 22nd 2016, just before my planned trip, when I was looking forward to be with him during my visit. He had bouts of pneumonia, but lived a full age of 14 years of love and affection that he gave to all of us all throughout his life. Their shorter life makes the loss so tragic and sad, and more difficult to bear.



Continuing With My Story....

Finally, the Britannia Pensioner's case was resolved during a series of meetings with the High Court appointed Mediator after hard bargaining. The amicable settlement signed on Aug 29th is expected to result in a court decree to be issued that will release the agreed pending dues soon (sadly due to adverse decision of the Commissioner of Income Tax, further court proceedings have to be gone through delaying the process substantially, and creating uncertainity).

Two days after the mediation process got over, I was off on my eight weeks US trip after a delightful evening at the home of Nitin Asthana, who dropped me after midnight at the airport for my flight at 3.00 a.m. making it so convenient (this was the second time he had done it)! My first 'port of call' was with Bhanu at his new home at Pinehills, Plymouth MA in time for his birthday the next day, and my peaceful two weeks with him. This was followed with five days with Amit/Gauri & son Rudra at their newly acquired Short Hills NJ lovely 100 years old home, with Ajit already there. We had a delightful get-together when visiting Vivek & Ratna brought Aparna, Koel, Ipshita & her fiance Som from NYC for Sunday Sep 18th lunch so efficiently organized by Amit & Gauri. Ranjit & Aikee had also come for a while, thereby Ajit & I were fortunate to have three grand-daughters and two grand-sons at this lovely family gathering! Unfortunately Sujoy & family were unable to come, but we had met both of them earlier.


My next few days were with Jojo, Radha & Tara at Potomac MD (Bhaswer being away at Dar-e-Salam). With Vivek & Ratna also in town, we had a delightful lunch with Kavita/Puch, and thereafter went to spend one night at Baltimore at Ratna's home and also to visit her Johns Hopkins office. Later, I had dinners with Bonu & family, as well as with Doel and her fiance John. Vivek & I spent a delightful day visiting the Air & Space Museum at Chantilly VA next to Dulles Airport, before getting to Houston TX to an empty feeling house without Raja - for the next three weeks including some hectic trips planned. The first quick trip was to San Diego CA to enjoy the hospitality of Shantha & Abe, and on return a delightful visit from Shilpa and Ratna. The following weekend, Vivek drove me along with visiting Ruchi (who had specially come to meet me) to Austin TX. We had a delightful time at Rekha/Harsh's home (with Aruna visiting them), and made a day long trip to re-visit LBJ Ranch and Fredericksburg TX to see the historic National Museum of the Pacific War. On our way back from Austin we made a trip to San Antonio and had a super guided tour of the war at the Alamo Church. The final four day stop-over at Abir & David's home at Munster, near Chicago was just great. She had taken three days off specially to drive me around and we had a quick enjoyable visit to the Chicago's Natural Science Museum and then dinner at Anjali & Rick's home with Ranjana & Vinay having come from Matoon IN specially to meet me. The next evening was at Nitin's sister Nishi (nee Asthana) & Narsingh Saxena's home for dinner. After eight glorious weeks in the US - almost circumnavigating the entire US from the Northeast corner Boston & Plymouth MA to the Southwest San Diego CA, and the East Coast (NJ, VA, DC regions) & the deep South (Houston, Austin & San Antonio TX), followed finally with Munster IN & Chicago IL in the North, I got back to BLR on Oct 29th with lovely memories of meeting so many people and their affectionate hospitality! Vivek & Ratna made great efforts to be with me at several locations, and he accompanied me on some of my trips, and taking charge of the arrangements. Both the weather and my health were mostly good that contributed significantly.

After my return, the next great event before the year-end was the grand wedding of Ipshita with Som at Mumbai, for which Indrani & Amit had made super arrangements for the large number of guests, most of them being provided five star comfort at The Hilton. The functions, food and arrangements were equally grand, culminating with the marriage on Dec 23rd after four days of fun and gaiety! Vivek had specially come down for this event, and thereafter we enjoyed X'mas lunch at Anita's home with Rekha being with us from Delhi. I returned to Bengaluru after this very memorable week to relax and rest, and to happily welcome the new year of 2017! Soon thereafter, I made my usual two-weeks annual Kolkata trip from January 21st, and had a delightful time 'wining & dining' with friends (specially with Robin & Bebu, and with Devsaday & Mithu) & family (Deepa in particular, besides Tultul). A 'Pet & Dog Show' and a 'Vintage Car Rally' at the Tolly, and several cultural programs were significantly enjoyable.

Major problems with Renuka's health (she was 90) kept me occupied after my return from Kolkata. However, sadly for Monica and us, with least suffering she finally passed away on March 24th, 2017 and her funeral was carried out at Wilson Garden cremetoria the next afternoon. The asthi-visarjan by immersing the ashes at the Triveni Sangam at Srirangapatnam (near Mysore) was done on Sunday 26th. Next was the need for me to get a cataract surgery on my left-eye - this I got done on Apr 7th. Whilst the surgery was easy and fast, the five to six weeks long eye-drops applications of five different medicines initially more than 14 times daily (reducing gradually) every hour or half-hour was most cumbersome along with the many early restrictions and the needed eye-care! All this was admirably managed by my maid Ishwari very caringly and regularly. Also, fortunately Tidu was visiting on the day of my surgery and the next day - and was such a great support. After three weeks on Apr 28th I was cleared to be back to normal activities with a revised eye prescription specs. This is how I looked in between:


Vivek made a ten-day visit to Mumbai for Anita's birthday and Rekha too came down from Delhi, as well as I joined them for a relaxed stay and an enjoyable time for us all. A very proud event of Aparna being asked to address the outgoing graduating students of her St Ann's School on June 13th, which she did admirably! A ten minute video of Aparna's speech/address may be viewed by clicking here

After ten years at Rice University at Houston TX, Vivek joined the School of Computer Science in the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, Georgia to hold the Stephen Fleming Chair for Telecommunications at Georgia Tech from 16 Aug 2017. Additionally, he will also hold a joint faculty position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and also be an Associate Director for Georgia Tech's Center for Research into Novel Computing Hierarchies (CRNCH).

2017 Trip to the US & to Tanzania.

My six-weeks 2017 trip was earlier than other years in September/October. Since Vivek had just moved to Atlanta GA to his new assignment recently and still to finalise their new home, and with both Shilpa & Aparna being away in separate locations due to their jobs and even Ratna still to move to Atlanta, I followed the previous years pattern of going visiting Bhanu at Plymouth MA soon after reaching. I had a delightful week with Bhanu that included a very enjoyable 4 hour's sea-cruise to watch whales & dolphins - my first such unusual adventure. Next, I spent a week at Amit's home again at Short Hills NJ, where like previous year we had a delightful family lunch for which Ratna & Vivek came besides Aparna, Koel, Ipshita/Som and Radha (Jojo's daughter) who had recently joined NYU. It was followed with my stay at Baltimore & then at DC with Krish & family at Savita/Mark's home for three days, before we reached Atlanta to Vivek's temporarily rented apartment on the 31st floor with a fabulous view at downtown Atlanta at a walking distance from Georgia Tech. An interesting trip was to the nearby Stone Mountain Park using the sky-lift and watching the giant carving of three civil war figures - the largest in the US. Shilpa & Aparna came alternately during the next two weekends (Ratna too for both) and we had a lovely stay and drive to Ruchi's home at Leicester/Asheville NC for two days during Shilpa's visit.

With Bhaswer & Jojo having moved to Tanzania last year, their special invitation made me include a week's stopover at Dar Es Salaam whilst returning from the US. Besides their terrific hospitality, Jojo had very thoughtfully booked a three-day safari for Babuli (Bhaswer's mother) and me along with her. This was just terrific - as I had almost given up my ambition to go on a safari during my lifetime, but Jojo made it a reality for me now.

This 'comfort in the remote bush' was at Lake Manze tented camp of the Selous Game reserve about 300 km south of Dar Es Salaam for which we had to use a 30 minutes Cessna flight to the jungle airstrip at Siwandu & back. The Camp consisted of 12 tents furnished with adjoining modern showers and bathrooms and positioned around the central grass-thatched large welcome hall and dining/resting/relaxing area. We experienced the "primitive life" of no electricity in our tents, but with lanterns & a solar powered table fan to be in relative comfort in netted insect free tents! The catering in the middle of the jungle was varied and superb and could put most good restaurants to shame! Wild animals often passed by from time to time through or around the camp and our tents. Land Rovers provided with expert local guides and powered boats on the lake enabled us to go around extensively and comfortably morning and evening. The camp is well positioned next to the lake to offer optimum game viewing as well as privacy and exclusivity. We could watch so many different kinds of animals including elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, baboons, many varieties of deer, birds etc. in the unique landscape there.

The most unusual event was our very close observation (encounter?) for almost ten minutes of ten lionesses that we watched from our jeep at a distance of only 5 to 6 meters whilst they were either snoozing after a belly-full, or busy tearing and munching their recent kill of a buffalo, whilst they totally ignored us - just as well for us! It was just amazing as one of them even sauntered past our open jeep at literally hand-shaking distance to go and sleep under a nearby tree. Our Masai guide told us to calmly watch without excessive movements or noise! Another most unusual event was watching from quite a close distance for more than 20 minutes the birth of a baby Angola deer. It soon started on its life with getting on its feet after many tries and then having the first sip of mother's milk, and ready to follow the mother. Such unique experiences! You may view the Safari slideshow by clicking here.


TO CONTINUE......






A SLIDESHOW OF SOME OF THE ABOVE LINKED IMAGES FOR A QUICK REVIEW:
You may control Slide movement from the bar at the bottom of the slide


to see The SARKAR Family Tree (my paternal side)

or, for my MATERNAL SIDE - The ROY FAMILY TREE

Finally, this very meaningful video summarizes life so well.
Do see it in Fullscreen by clicking on 'vimeo' (bottom right)


What Will Matter

by Steve Politte

ALSO, have a good laugh: