A Few Words from dear Papa...

I Tell My Tale of Life
                                            by Kanahiyalal Sarwal

wpe2.jpg (23010 bytes)I was born, so I am told, on 15th September, 1917 at Patiala on Friday at midnight. Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield, has stated that children born in mid of September on Friday at night and that too posthumously are generally considered unlucky. I am at present in sixty fourth year of my life and viewing my life as a whole as it passed through various vicissitudes, I do not consider my self as much unlucky as the standard set by Dickens tries to prove although it has not been free from trouble and shocking events which I had to face and endure. One of these events is the sudden and untimely demise of my mother when I was hardly one and a half-year-old. As a matter of fact I do not remember the sweet face of my mother. I am as such, up to this date, unaware of the expression of mother’s love for her children.

I am also told that I was the fourth and the last child and none survived except my sister who was elder to me in age by six years. The burden of rearing me and my sister fell on the shoulders of my poor father. My father who was at that time only 35 years old decided to remain a widower throughout his life as according to him bringing another wife as our step mother was likely to create unimaginable difficulties for myself and my sister. It is a coincidence that my real grandmother had also died at an early age and my grandfather had married again. This resulted in my father being deprived of his property rights and was expelled from his house and had to live in a rented that he later purchased with the money loaned to him by his well-wishers. To avoid similar maltreatment to us he decided to remain as a widower through out life. I was thus left with only sister 6 years elder to me under the protection of my father.

Since these were good old days our father took us, my sister and myself, to his office where every one treated us with abundant sympathy and love. We played there during the office hours and returned home with our father after the office closed. Meanwhile my sister entered the adolescent stage. She was now twelve years old and there was no one to look after her at home during office hours. My father, therefore, married her to a very handsome boy at Ambala Cantonment. Her father-in-law was Assistant Station Master at Ambala Cantonment and my brother-in-law was studying in a college at a station other than Ambala Cantonment. He also had no mother but his auntie (mother’s sister) was maintaining the house after the death of her elder sister. This so-called auntie was just like a wife to my sister’s father-in-law.

My sister became aware of this uncouth relationship and perhaps passed on this secret to one her friends and this news spread like wild fire in Ambala Cantonment and somehow reached the ears of my sister’s step mother-in-law who became her bitter enemy and determined to end my sister’s life lest this divulged secret should mar her reputation in the locality. She was therefore poisoned and died at a young age of 18 years. I was then about 11 or 12 years old.

I faintly remember the scene of the marriage of my sister—the big marriage party and the marriage ceremony ending in the early hours of the next morning. I was only 5 years old at that time. After the wedding of my sister—my only companion of childhood—started my loneliness. After returning from school I sat outside the locked house till my father returned from the office. My father then cooked meals that we both partook with abundant thanks to the Almighty. In the evening my father went to the market with his colleagues in office and again I either sat outside the house or continued to sit in a neighbouring house.

I may state here that my father was a saintly person and was always in a prayerful mood. He usually woke up at 2:30 a.m. and after ablutions sat in prayers chanting Japjee Sahib (a poem in Sikh literature) and Sukhmani Sahib (another one equivalent to the Gita in Hindu religion). This was done by him with the utmost regularity. So much so that I unconsciously learnt by heart most of the couplets of these sacred poems. He was a man of charitable disposition and gave abundant charity to the poor in cash and kind on the first day of every month. He was short-statured, had moustache and wore very simple clothes although he took rich food and ensured that I was given the most nourishing food. My world in childhood thus consisted of my only sister, 6 years elder to me, and the protection of my father. He was in the office of Accountant General of the Patiala state and had 35 years unblemished service record. He was known for his integrity, honesty, sincerity and his morality. My mother died when my father was only 35 as aforesaid and he prepared to remain a widower for the rest of his life in order to save me and my sister from having a stepmother. He sacrificed all the pleasures of life only to get a secure future for us. Out of his paltry income he got a room constructed in the local orphanage not getting his nameplate fixed on it. He was loved and respected by all who knew him and through him we children baked under the sunshine of the same love and affection. I now remember that as soon as he heard about the death of my married sister, he took a vow that he would sleep on a hard bed instead of a soft one and would not take meals in the evenings till I got married. Readers can themselves imagine the severity of the oath which he took and which he kept without let up till the end of his life.

I therefore grew up as a lonely child with no one except my poor father to look up to for love and affection. He took the greatest care of my health and studies with the result that I was health itself and got my degree in the year 1936. No sooner was I declared a graduate than I through the influence of my father was taken into state service in the office of Patiala state at the lowest ladder. I started my career at Rs. 25 per month in 1936 and ended it in September 1977 on a good salary of more than Rs. 1300/- per month.

I was married in the year 1937 on the Basant Panchami Day, but the marriage anniversary was never celebrated by us as there was no such custom in those days. After an year and a half we were blessed with a pretty female child. I forgot to tell you that my life partner was so to say more than healthy and in the inner most of my heart I felt a pigmy in relation to her and thus I felt sometimes felt unequal in match. The birth of a child in a lonely house in 1938 after 21 years gave immense delight to my dear father and myself and my wife. The child began to grow but fate snatched our father in a fatal accident in a windstorm when his grand daughter was only one and a half years old. This was the biggest shock of my life to lose my saintly father at the age of 22 years. Reader will perhaps feel perplexed to know that I passed sleepless nights for years after my father’s death. Meanwhile my pretty daughter was 9 years old studying in the fourth class thus letting us forget our unbearable sorrow on account of the sad demise of my father. Alas! This happiness was not to last long as she was snatched by the cruel hands of death on account of typhoid which was incurable in 1947 when she got this nasty disease which was as soon as she had entered the 10th year of her existence in the mortal world. We two (my wife and myself) were left alone in this unsympathetic world. We suffered this untold grief and stark loneliness after the sad demise of our only daughter who was angelic and had all the ingredients of a beautiful, cultured and pure hearted damsel, but God willed it otherwise.

Since there was no other child in the house, everyone who knew me advised me to consult a lady doctor for getting a child or to get remarried. I refused to accept this suggestion point blank and told my unwanted advisers that I would get children from my wife and none other as I did not want to be a source of trouble to her in marrying another woman. I always said that God is great and He will certainly bless both of us at the destined hour.

There are no words to express my gratitude to God Almighty who gave us a beautiful male child in September 1955 although after 7 years of the death of my daughter, that is after 17 years of the first child. We reared this child with the greatest care and with thankfulness to God. We became fully satisfied with our life. After one year of the birth of our son, PEPSU state was merged with the Punjab and we had to shift to Chandigarh from Patiala bag and baggage. This was in 1956. After almost five years we were blessed with another male child. Our gratefulness to God, who blessed us with two sons, was unending.

At Chandigarh I was able to get 11/4 kanal plot allotted from Estate Office in Sector 21-D. Since there was no construction in that sector we waited till Sector 21 grew. In the meanwhile through the medium of a sincere friend we got one kanal plot by private purchase in Sector 8-C in 1960. Sicne the plot was got allotted by the original purchaser several years before there was a condition set by the Estate Officer Capital Project, Chandigarh to the effect that such houses should be completed till the 31st of March, 1961. We had, therefore, no alternative but to start construction in December, 1960 and completed the construction by the end of July 1961.

Myself and my wife spared no pains in taking sincere care of these two children and God is to be thanked that both of them got distinction in their studies. The elder son is second class M.A. in English. He is a class II officer under the Sikkim government as Post Graduate Teacher in English in a scale of pay ending Rs. 1400/-. The day is not far when the saintliness of his grandfather will reflect in him and will take him to the great heights in social, literal and religious spheres. He is a versatile speaker and a prolific writer. The second son has become a doctor. He is at present a House Surgeon at Rajendra Hospital, Patiala. He always got distinction in every class and stood first in Matric examination in Chandigarh and got scholarship from the Central Board of Secondary Education inspite of my income above the ceiling fixed because he was number two in the All India list. In Pre-university (Medical) he again got scholarship of Rs. 50/- per month from the Panjab University as out of income scholarship. In Pre-medical, he was again on the merit list and got admission in the Medical College at Patiala on the basis of 74 percent marks secured by him. He again is a studious, obedient and highly talented child. He is sobre and highly affetionate.

In the mean time I forget to tell that in 1970 while I was Superintendent (Class II post) in the Civil Secretariat I got heart ailment but through God’s grace I regained my health in due course. It may be mentioned that my elder son was 15 years old at that time and the younger son hardly 10 years old. But God was instrumental in saving my life perhaps to take care of the small children.

I had to retire from the Punjab Civil Secretariat on 30.09.1975 but was taken on deputation in the Punjab School Education Board as Superintendent and was granted extension up to 30.09.1977, that is up to the age of 60 years.

Before heart attack, I had constructed half building in Sector 21-D on 11/4 kanal plot. An addition was further made in this building a little later.

The reader will be interested to know that I entered service on a petty pay of Rs. 25/- per month and retired at a salary of Rs. 1300/- per month. Through out my service I did not take even one pice as illegal gratification and has been teetotaler, non-smoker and vegetarian. During my service, I had to work hard in various offices but it was always rich good luck to have approbation of my officers and love of my colleagues. Similar is the case with my sons. I need hardly mention here that myself and my better half never dyed our hair and my saintly wife never used any cosmetics.

(Dearest Papa passed away on April 11, 1985 -AS)

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