Some of you who know me must already be wondering where this brother came from suddenly... I mean everybody knows I only have a younger sister. But they don't know everything. There was a person who used to call me Brother long before my sister was born.
He was my grandfather. I was his brother.
He was a teacher of Mathematics in Kanailal Bidya Mandir in Chandannagar, a suburban town near Kolkata. The previous statement is, however, a gross understatement of his mathematical prowess. He was a person whose mother tongue was mathematics. He used to say, "A person whose hobby and profession are the same is the luckiest person in the world." He was such a man. Whenever other mathematics teachers in the town couldn't solve a problem, they used to tell the students, "Take this to Ranajit babu. If he can't solve it, it must be wrong!"
But if you thought he only solved sums, you couldn't be more wrong. He introduced me to the world of mathematical puzzles and brain teasers. Today, the world is crazy about SU-DO-KU. He used to create and solve similar puzzles in my childhood. He made magical mind-reading cards, riddle rhymes with people's names, Spirograph designs, horoscopes... of course, he added his special touch to all this with his mathematical mind. Here's a sample from his riddles involving people's names:
My first is in Japan, not in China;
My second is in lion, not in hyena;
My third is in play, not in game;
Do you now know my name?
(Answer at the end of this post)
Apart from the knowledge of mathematics, physics and chemistry, he had an amazing knowledge of Indian mythology. He knew many Bengali and Sanskrit verses by heart, and had the best handwriting that I have ever seen... something similar to the heading at the top of this blog, but better. He also had a fantastic sense of humour.
Coming back to the birthday, it used to be a memorable day in our house. My grandfather used to teach a lot of students in our home after his retirement. In those days, we were not aware of the fact that 14th February was Valentine's Day. But his students used to fill the house with cards and flowers the next day. And everybody had a feast at their Sir's house. In the evening, many old students used to gather, and we would have some sort of a party. Maybe one of the students would sing some songs, someone else would recite a few poems. It used to go on so late that sometimes my grandfather himself became irritated because his bedtime was delayed. He was strictly an "Early to bed, early to rise" man... his "early" meant 10:00pm and 4:00am for "bed" and "rise" respectively. He would go for a walk along the river every morning.
After he passed away, my grandmother used to stay alone in the house (which my grandfather had fondly named Abhilash: The Wish) , as my parents and we lived in Allahabad. She felt lonely on 15th February every year, so the old students would come to give her company. My uncle would drop in probably in the morning to put a garland on my grandfather's portrait, and again in the evening to spend some time with grandma. We would call from Allahabad. That's the most we could do, with our schools and my father's office preventing us from coming home.
My grandma passed away last June. Currently our Abhilash is locked. There's no gathering of students in the evening there today. Even my uncle passed away last September, so no garland on my grandfather's portrait. No feast. No cultural programmes. No call from Allahabad in the night. In fact there's no number to call at. 033-26802677 is disconnected, silenced forever. I am here in Hyderabad, spending the evening in office remembering my grandfather's birthday by posting here in this blog.
That's the only thing I could do to remember my brother on this day.
(Answer to the riddle is Joy, my pet name.)