Life and happiness – Life Stories

Every morning I walk my daughter to the bus stop from where she gets on to her school bus. Most days after her bus leaves I walk a few steps to a small makeshift shop to buy the daily supply of milk and bread. This shop is manned by a man who has crossed his prime, I call him ‘uncle’. Apart from being on the later side of life, he is also partially blind. He wears this jacket with multiple pockets, each for a different denomination of the currency. One pocket for Re 1 coins, one pocket for Re.2 coins, one for 10 Rupees, one for 20, a different one for Rs. 100 and so on.

Small school going kids would stop to buy a cream cracker on their way to school, senior citizens on their early morning walk would stop by his shop for a bread and lots of chit chat, the always on a hurry office goer would hurriedly pick his brand of bread/butter or biscuits ( he lets you pick your stuff) and “Uncle” would always greet every one with a smile and a funny line or two, his imparity never a hindrance in his smile.

On quite a few times I noticed that some of the customers would come with bigger currency denomination like a Rs.500 or a Rs.2000 note. Uncle would do a quick mental calculation, rack his multiple pockets, feel the currency with his fingers and tender the exact change to the customer. But sometimes, being early mornings, he would be short of the change to return to the customer. He would then smile at the customer and say, “ take what you need and pay me tomorrow when you come”.

I have seen him saying this to customers quite a few times and each such time would leave me a little anxious, what if they don’t come back tomorrow? I would think.

Distressed by my anxiety and unable to hold my curiosity, finally I asked him one day, “Uncle, how do you remember who owes you what ? I have never seen you note it down anywhere. Do they really come back next day to pay you. Most shopkeepers would keep the money and tell the customer to adjust the change next time but you do the opposite, you will not be able to recognize them again.”

He gave me his usual smile and said, “ No I don’t remember who owes me what. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they may not even come back. I don’t keep a track.”

“But that means you are losing money to unscrupulous people.”, I said.

He smiled again and said, “ Nobody gets anything before his time and no one can get anything more than what is destined to them. I have lived my life honestly and have tried to be happy with whatever I have. So if they don’t come back , I don’t feel bothered. I have done my bit. I have tried to educate my children the best way I would, they are both in college now.” He say quite proudly and continues, “How they use their education and their life is their destiny. I have done my bit. Those who don’t pay me will have their destiny to live, why should I bother about them. He has his karma, I have my karma to live.” He smiled again and handed my change back to me.

As I made my way back to my home, I mulled over what he had just said to me and realized that sometimes life can be so…………simple !!!

Why am I writing about this in my travel blog…probably because this was also a journey to simple, unadulterated happiness.

And such stories are floating all around us, do you have a similar story ? I would love to hear it , if you do J .

Do share your story with me.

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Tale of two cities and some Bengal Tigers – Lost in the pages of history.

On the eve of the 70th Independence day of India, I try to bring about stories of two places and some lesser known Bengal Tigers from the early Indian Freedom Struggle.

Chandannagar is a city located around 37 kms from Kolkata. Being a former French settlement , it holds a distinct and unique flavor distinguishing it from the other cities in Bengal. Originally Chandannagar was known as Chander Nagor or ‘Moon City’ possibly because of the crescent shaped Hooghly (river).

Chandannager was established as a French colony in 1673 and became the main trading port in Bengal till the British made Kolkata their capital.

Unlike the other French colony of Pondicherry or Mahe,  Chandannagar is lessor known. The Strand Road along the riverfront is a favorite amongst the local and the tourist alike. The French connection is evident from the Chandannager Gate which has the French slogan “ Liberate, Egalite, Fraternite” etched on it.

The Patal Bari or the “Underground House” is an example of the architectural excellence of those days. The lower floors of the building are submerged in water in the Hoogly or the Ganga river. Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore was a frequent visitor to Patal Bari.

Apart from the various architectural splendors, Chandannager is also known for its electrical displays. The beautiful creative lights can showcase everything from famous personalities to Titanic to space satelites. The latest news items are displayed through these decorative lights during Durga and Jagadharti Pujas.

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The Strand Road, Chandannagar (PC Wikipedea)

Chandannager is also the birthplace of Kanailal Dutta, one of the lessor known revolutionary who fought for the freedom of India. Kanailal Dutta was a part of the Jugantar revolutionary group in Bengal which had Barin Ghosh, Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose and many others as its members.

Inspired by his professor, Charu Chandra Roy, KanaiLal joined the freedom struggle early, during his graduation days. During 1905, Kanailal Dutta was in the forefront of a movement against the partition of Bengal.

In 1908, Kanailal, all of 20 years of age was arrested in connection with the failed assassination attempt on then District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Bihar,  Kingsford.

While in jail Kanailal Dutta and Satyendranath Basu, were told to execute Narain Goswami, who though initially a revolutionary but had later turned approver.

On August 30, 1908, Narain Goswami was shot dead inside the Jail premises. On October 21, 1908, The High Court pronounced death sentence for Kanailal Dutta and he was subsequently hanged on the morning on November 10,1908 at a tender age of 20.

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Midnapore  city, situated on the banks of River Kangsabati, is part of a district by the same name in West Bengal. The entire of the West Midnapore district is known for the ancient archaeological excavations. The biggest excavation is in the city of Tamluk or the ancient city of Tamralipta. The Tamralipta port is believed to be the exit point of the Mauryan (between 322 BCE – 185 BCE) trade route. The travelogues of Faxian and Xuanzang, Chinese Buddhist monks, also carry notings about a Buddhist settlement near Tamluk.

Tamluk is one of the major attractions for tourist when in Midnapore. Chandrakona is another such town near Midnapore which has beautiful ancient architecture dating back to the Chauhan Dynasty . The Forts of Ramgargh and Lalgarh are the major attractions of this town.

Sarasanka Dighi Lake,  Samoleswar Mahadev temple, Bidyadhar Puskarini Lake are some of the places if interest in Dantan near the main town.

Apart from the ancient historical excavations, Midnapore is also known for being the birth place of Khudiram Bose, a fighter of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Khudiram Bose was all of eighteen years of age when he was sentenced to death and hanged for his involvement in the failed attempt to kill the then District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Bihar,  Kingsford.

Kingsford was known for the corporal punishments he meted out to the young political activists. His harsh and often cruel sentences had made him very unpopular amongst these activists. Due to the atrocities committed by him, the revolutionary group decided to do away with him once and for all.

Born in the Midnapore district in 1889, Khudiram was deeply influenced by Shri Aurobindo, who was then a revolutionary freedom fighter. He joined the group of revolutionaries at the tender age of 16.

Khudiram( all of eighteen years of age), along with his colleague, Prafulla Chaki who was also about the same age as Khudiram, were chosen to assassinate DM Kingsford. With 2 revolvers, a bomb and a little money, the two set off on their mission. They spent a few days in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, spending time to observe the daily routine and activities of their target, Kingsford.

On the night of April 30, 1908, Khudiram and Chaki, waited near the European Club in Muzaffarpur, for Kingsford’s carriage to arrive.

As the  carriage arrived, Khudiram aimed and threw the bomb at the carriage, which burst into flames.

However, unfortunately for him, the carriage was carrying the wife and daughter of a lawyer by the name of Kennedy, instead of Kingsford on that day.

Khudiram and Chaki did not wait to find out the result of their daring attempt, but instead ran the whole night in different directions. After walking around 25 miles, Khudiram reached a place called Vaini Raliway station (known as Khudiram Bose Pusa Station today). It was from here that he was caught by the police, who became suspicious on seeing his exhausted appearance.

On the other side Prafulla Chaki was also similarly intercepted by the police. When he realized he had no room to get away, Prafulla killed himself with his pistol.

Khudiram Bose was hanged on August 11, 1908. He was one of the youngest and probably second person to be hanged during the Indian Freedom Struggle.

Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki and Kanailal Dutta offered themselves to the cause of the India’s Freedom much before the Nehru’s and the Gandhi’s came on the scene. However, the names of these Bengal Tigers is lost and forgotten somewhere in the pages of history.