When your Mamaji is more than half a century older to you, there aren’t many conversations or events that one remembers.
The memories are of short fleeting visits when he came to meet my Grandmother or of few family functions that I was part of.
I do remember him attending my sister’s mundan ceremony and my parents silver wedding anniversary celebrations.
He belonged to a generation where children were seen and not heard. While I remember my grandmother telling me that he was very strict with his children, by the time I met him he was little mellowed down version. I believe he was a “dear old grand man” with his grandchildren. He was and continued to be affectionate towards his sisters with a pet name for each of them.
He was a retired Chief Conservator of Forests, his job involved touring and managing the erstwhile composite Bihar jungles in 50s and thereafter till he retired in late 80s. His postings were deep inside the jungles, the typical dak bungalows that Rudyard Kipling and Jim Corbett wrote about. The remnants of Raj, the service and style of living thereof, in the times when electricity was yet to reach certain areas is what my mother remembers of her vacations with her brother and family. Her memories are of spending the nights hearing the sounds of wild animals and waking up to chirping of birds and smells of flowers.
He had seen the devastating earthquake of Bihar in January 1934, and I remember my grandmother telling me how he fortified the house he built in Ranchi. The house is built on a massive plot with a huge variety of flora and fauna surrounding it. I have a memory of a well in the complex, and of food being cooked on large coal or wood fired chulha in the courtyard.
On his maiden visit to UK as a young man, he brought a dainty automatic Tissot wrist watch for my masi, which she passed on to me when I joined college. It has been a prized possession and I wore till it’s strap broke. It still works and is an heirloom to remember.
Till a few years back whenever I spoke to him, I used to urge him to write his memoirs – of the life he had seen in British era, the struggle for Independence as well as of the independent country. He had witnessed the society more closely than what we have, spending most of his life in interiors of Bihar. Those memoirs could have been an opportunity to know my ancestors, my grandfather and their fore fathers, to know about an era gone by over the last 90 years of his life, he jokingly in his soft voice refused to give in to writing.
Sadly, it was not to be. And it will be through old photographs and letters that I would be reconstructing the life of R N Kapoor and the family.