Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Father - An Essay in an Autobiography

Pita Ji Writing... Another Har Dyal - Born to be
an Extraordinary Scholar-Physician. About 1954.
He was born, according to an authentic written record in the family, on Monday, August 30, 1920. He was the first born - the Jayeshatha Saputtar - of his parents. The various conversations among the elders of the family which included my two most loving great grandfathers and an adorably talkative great grand-aunt, called Bhua Ji by the entire village, often innocently overheard by me as a child of four-five years, had confirmed this to me. They mentioned that his father Dwarka Nand and his grandfather Giata Nand were also the first born of their parents. And So Am I - his son, now 71+ years according to the date of birth in the Matriculation Certificate, and so are our eldest son, Aditya and our six year old grandson, Antariksh!

Pray, don’t misread this opening statement in any overtone of machismo or a parade of any gender bias - it is but a humble mention of the facts of my family tree. My father was named Har Dayal Nand by his Guru-grandfather Vaidya Bhushan, Kaviraj Pramatma Nand Ji (d. October 19, 1947), the most renowned scholar and Ayurvedic physician of his era. The name might have been inspired by the popular perception prevailing in those years of Har Dayal (Later famous with the prefix ‘Lala’, though he was a ‘Mathur’), the legendary scholarly genius with a miraculous memory. According to the lore in the family, Baba Pramatma Nand Ji had also selected my name, even before my birth! That story could wait till the time when I write about myself! This piece of narration is dedicated solely to the sublime, sweet and sour memories of my father, “Shri Haridial Nand alias Haridial Singh Vaid, Ayurved Rattan, Ayurved Manishi, Gold Medallist, Proprietor, Shri Gajnesh Ayurvedic Aushdhalaya, Ahmedgarh.” A uniquely engaging conversationalist with all the old world wonderful charm of a philosopher-physician, he was destined to fade away, like many extraordinarily gifted persons, including his name sake Har Dayal, in despair and deprivation on April 19, 1978 - at the age of 57 years, 7 months and 19 days! I had sent him my first - and fatefully the last - birth day greetings card from Tehran promising to ‘fulfil all your dreams and expectations of Me!’ I am reminded of the soulful moment in 1955 in my school when he had, pointing at the youthful Deputy Commissioner S.D. Bhambri (I.A.S. 1950) of Sangrur, that, “in independent India now such young persons who are bright in studies and succeed in competitive examinations will the real rulers of the country!” A dream had been planted in my mind and soul!   

L to R: Channa (Major Charanjit Singh Jagdev), Pita Ji, Jangi (Brigadier Jagjit Singh Jagdev) Children are sons of Pita ji's friend Air Force Official Randhir Singh who had taken this photo. About 1954.
It will be noted that my Father, if alive, would have been 94 this month. I feel uniquely luckier to meet Ambassador V.M.M. Nair, going fine at 95+ years and the I.C.S. batch of 1942, during the walk-and-talk in our residential complex. Ashwani Kumar I.P., the film-hero-type-super-Cop and for many years Mr Hockey of India, is exactly of the age of my father. Kumar is known to be fully alert and moves around actively, though confined to a wheel chair. I feel quite convinced that my father had all the ability to qualify for the I.C.S. if the family had the right exposure and guidance to educate him in the British system of education. He was, however, tutored totally at home in all the traditional learning of Sanskrit classics, Ayurveda, Kavya Shastra - Prosody, Sangit Shastra - Musicology interpretative religious studies, including the modern ideologies of Gurmat, Arya Samaj and new wave ideas of Swami Shivananda and Sri Aurobindo. He was trained to be a good horse rider - I remember once riding behind him on a journey to my mother’s village - and also a champion chess player!

Father was most rigorously trained, in the Gurukul-style dawn to dusk routine, for more than two decades to be a perfect calligrapher in both Gurmukhi and Devanagri scripts. Professor Bachittar Singh I.R.S., his 12 years junior beloved nephew who had become the first Post-Graduate in English in the area in 1950, confirmed to me, “Chacha Ji was known to be very bright but was equally naughty too… Baba Ji (Pramatma Nand) used to tie a rope to his one leg so that he did not stray away during the day long lessons!” No Wonder, that no scholar could discern any shade of difference in the ‘pearls-like’ handwritings of Guru Pramatma Nand and disciple Har Dayal Nand in the various voluminous works ‘penned’ jointly by them! Well versed in music, he had become the most sought after Pathi - reciter - of Granth Sahib - in the far and wide area. The circle of his influential Sikh admirers persuaded him to become an Amritdhari - baptised Sikh - on July 26, 1947. I vaguely remember how he had suddenly stopped sharing ‘hookah’ with grand-father Giata Nand Ji and had also adopted an attire of the Sikh tradition. 

As per the custom and practice of the time, Father’s marriage had been arranged at an age of about twenty years. There is, however, no written reference in the family of the date and year of marriage. The conversations in the family have revealed that my mother, though not formally educated, was a very talented and hardworking lady. She had a great passion for all type of knitting including making the large size carpets and durries, many of which had remained in use for decades since her passing away. Though I have never been clearly told about it, She is understood to have died sometime in early 1946 due to complications after a delivery. It has been further understood that my father was deeply depressed over her demise and had tried to seek solace for some time wandering in the guise of a sadhu. My grandmother, a deeply pious lady with prayers on her lips all the time, was the most worried soul in the family about the remarriage of her son who had become a widower at the age of less than 26 years. And strangely at the same time, she would often narrate to me the stories of ‘Dhroon-Dhruv’ Bhakat, Pooran Bhakat and other noble children who had been maltreated by their step-mothers! Finally, after many efforts and a go-between role by a highly respected relation, Babu Ji Patram Singh, the second marriage of my father was solemnised on March 9, 1953 in the village of Pawala, near Rajpura in a large family of ex-service men. 

It must be mentioned that Father had been pushed to take up many responsibilities at a much younger age in the multi-generation joint family because of a long drawn civil litigation over the properties. The deaths of the saintly elders - Pramatma Nand ji on Oct 19, 1947 and Giata Nand Ji on August 20, 1951 - altogether altered the circumstances of the larger clan - khandaan. The family had started shifting to Ahmedgarh, initially for the education of my uncle - and I also joined the school there in May 1951 in the 3rd grade. Father, making a break from the family tradition, set up there “Shri Gajnesh Ayurvedic & Unani Aushdhalaya”, to begin with, in partnership with Shri Lal Chand Jai, a friend and registered Hakim of the Unani System. Soon Father started his independent practice and was able to rent a shop and a residence located in close proximity - at a rent of Rs. Ten for each of the two! Ch. Vivekanand Koshal, a well to do and progressive minded land lord, was very kind and respectful towards my Father for his learning and wisdom.

Pitaji as Pradhan Mantri i.e., General Secretary of the PEPSU Vaid Mandal. Holding the welcome address at the state level conference, March 9, 1952. Behind - Police Inspector Dharam Chand, City In charge Ahmedgarh.
Having not studied in any formal school system, Father was extra keen to obtain the recognised qualifications as an Ayurvedic practitioner. He, therefore appeared privately for the examination conducted Ayurved Vidyapeeth, Allahabad. To his great surprise, he was declared ‘Pratham, Sarv Pratham - First Class, First’’ in the ‘Ayurved Bhishak Examination’ held in 1952. He was awarded a Gold Medal by the Govt. of the PEPSU, then headed by S. Gian Singh Rarewala, declaring, “A Sikh Tops the Examination of Sanskrit.” He had actively involved himself in organising the Vaid Mandal movement in the state and worked tirelessly for the registration of Vaidyas under the new legislation.  On the basis of his newly obtained qualifications, he was able him to get a job in 1955 as Vaidya in Govt. Ayurvedic Dispensaries and served on a small salary of those days for more than a decade. Then he resigned to resume his practice in the wake of deterioration in his father’s health. He started contributing articles, with references from the handwritten books of the family like the one interestingly named ‘Mohtam Sahib’ and the rare works in the Gurmukhi script, to the prestigious journals of Ayurveda including ‘Dhanvantri’, ‘Sachittar Ayurved’, ‘Ayurved Mahasammelam Patrika’, etc. He participated regularly in the national Conferences on Ayurveda; I witnessed one such ‘Sammelan’ at Vithal Bhai Patel Bhawan in New Delhi in December 1974.  

Father, apart from his multifarious scholarship, had remarkable abilities for organisational matters and dealing with the governmental machinery. He enjoyed genuine friendships with activists of all political parties. He was at his best in the company of ‘Sants and Mahants - saints and abbots’ of great spiritual learning who were also quite wealthy and socially influential. It was a great privilege for me to enjoy listening discretely to their learned discourses. Father was quite clear and keen that I must excel in modern education. He seemed, of course, intuitively aware that I had my own path to traverse and avail the new opportunities in independent India. There was, to admit honestly, an unavoidable and unbridgeable generational gap between us; the back-breaking burdens of the family accumulated from his second marriage vitiated and soured the emotional bond between us. His health, with early signs of high blood pressure, had started deteriorating sharply with heart and diabetic conditions. He must have been fully aware of all his ailments and had started looking much older at the age fifty.

Author's Father and Father-in-law
at his wedding, Aug 12, 1973
I think that the occasion of my marriage in August 1973 was the most fulfilling moment for him. The Akhand-path to celebrate the birth of his grandson on the Lohri of 1975 with Tikka Kuldeep Singh Bedi, a descendant of the Sikh Gurus, reciting the Granth Sahib was his greatest - and sadly the last - moment of celebration. He and my father-in-law Shri Nand Lal Ramdasia, had become very close friends and the latter’s sudden death in a suspicious medical accident-reaction to penicillin injection - on December 4, 1977 left my father completely shattered person. His own demise within a period of less than five months was a big double shock for me but it was no surprise. While taking leave of him at the railway station of Ahmedgarh on 17th January, 1978, I had an eerie and foreboding feeling that it was, perhaps, my last glimpse of him. I could piercingly fathom from his face and foresee in his eyes that light of his life might be fading fast.   

Shrine of Author's Ancestor - Baba Gajjan Shah Ji
On the 19th of April this year - the 36th death anniversary of Father - I chose to make a pilgrimage to the more than 170 year old shrine of the family patriarch Baba Gajjan Shah Ji in in our native village of Falaund Kalan. After prayers, I spent some time with Manohar, a childhood play-mate who had lost his eyesight at the age of five years in an attack small pox. I requested Manohar to recite again my favourite Kabbit - fast rhymed poem with profuse alliteration - of Sant Gulab Das - and I have noted it this time. Then I chanced to come across there an older person; walked across to him and introduced myself in the name of my ‘Vaid’ Father. He immediately extended his arms and embraced me tightly saying, “I am Shah Nawaz Khan and I am now more than eighty years old. Your father Vaid Har Dayal Ji had saved my life sixty years ago when I was almost dying of persistent dysentery… he was the best Vaid of his time in the area!” I surprised him by telling him that I do remember having seen his father, Rattu Khan, a tall fellow who used to graze the goats of the village! And standing a few steps away from the sacred soil of the cremation of six generations of forefathers, I could not control the incessant and profuse flow of the tears of pride in my eyes, in the most pious memory my Father! 

References to this article

  • This article was included in the collection "India of the Past, Preserving memories of India and Indians"


Aditya Prateek Anand said...

Dear Papa-ji, Please accept our gratitude for sharing the details of the extraordinary life of Pita Ji with us. His erudtion, interest and accomplishments help inform and explain our natures as well.
In modern physics, time is just an extra dimension mapped onto this universe's fabric, and anyone who has ever been is still there with every moment still existent. Somewhen .. Pita Ji is still writing...

Anonymous said...

He had extraordinary knowledge in imparting treatments as He did to Mr.Lachhman Singh (Jat da Zarda) very popular chew able tobacco of those days when he offered financial help in treating his intestinal malignancy by ayurvedic medicines.I vaguely remember how he imparted his knowledge in treatment of leukaemia to son of MR ,Lal Chand Puri by taking him to Taj Mahal(Agra) to take opinion of Pt. Shiv Sharma physician of Honorable President of India .I have shared the pious love showers from that honorable Pita Ji so we were talking of one living legends , I do not find appropriate matching words to explain their wit.I takes many more years to explain how he died under treatment of than physician of times Mr MM MOUDGIL .
How people exploited this it's different story as it is of untold/unsung like .
continue it's facts ,more we write larger be at peace where ever he Abide in heavenly abode.

Anonymous said...

why it is so,, in guise of sadhu because he belonged to family of Baba Gajjan Shah what else you require.He was fed up with your chacha ji shanker leela ,he got a jolt when he took lion share of CHOTIAN LAND which he was compelled to sell.
A purchase of cursed house where no body could live at piece .He was living writing letters to make him busy ,this is a sad story why a DIPLOMAT OF FAME ,could not do any thing in looking after him.?
Do not cry over spilled ...beans because you considered him a PURRIAN WAALA .
FORGIVE ME it,s again a journey of of 170 years but you will call your biological father because from the day one you never liked his opinion it's a fact hard to believe.

Unknown said...

:) proud to be a part of this family.
With the blessings 0f my great grand father today am Vaid Gitika

Unknown said...

:) proud to be a part of this family.
With the blessings 0f my great grand father today am Vaid Gitika