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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third part can be found here

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

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