Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bappa...my Hero! The man I love the most!!

// Sri //




BAPPA....my Hero! The man I love the most!





To the people from whom I have learnt the most, who care for me the most and whom I care for and love the most and with whom I continue being in love with every single day of my life....you are my world!

Bappa
Amma
Subhash
Sujit
Sona
Ranjit
Sachina
Sakshi, Shloka and Siddhant.


#Foreword: I had written this Memoir by way of dedication for Bappa's Platinum birthday, but call it procrastination or responsibilities, I was unable to finish editing it on time.  I have tried to be accurate in my log of events where Bappa's, educational and professional journey is concerned. Any mistakes on my part to be forgiven. 


CHAPTER 1


His world addresses him as Mr. S. R. Sarma or close friends call him ‘Sarmaji’. Amma calls out to him, by saying, ‘ithey’ (a word in Konkani, spoken out of respect for one’s husband or also an elder), his grand-kids call him, ‘Aabu’. ‘Minno’, Minno – Appa, Minno-Mhantu, Minno-Aabu’, etc...at times he was also called ‘Minnan’ by his Uncle and other relatives too! This man whom I am referring to is none other than my dear father, who my siblings (Sona and Ranjit) and our spouses and me, call Bappa. A self-made, hard-working, organised, principled and honest man. A very simple minded person, without a streak of cunning, having immense faith in the Almighty and very helpful by nature too! I have yet to come across a person like him. I guess he is one of a kind! He is my HERO!


Bappa (Ranganatha) is the 4th child of his Parents, Srinivasa Pai and Kannakkammal Pai, and was born on the 18th of February, 1938, in a village called Parakode, near Adoor in the Kollam (Quilon) district of Kerala. Kollam or Quilon, formerly Desinganadu, is an old seaport and city on the Laccadive or Lakshadweep Sea coast in Kerala, India on Ashtamudi Lake. Kollam has had a strong commercial reputation since the days of the Phoenicians and Romans.

Bappa has 5 other siblings – my eldest aunt, (late) Ratnabai (a name given to her after her marriage) whom we called ‘Akkeeli’, who was married off at a very young age. 

Then my eldest Uncle, (late) Gopalkrishna or whom the elders affectionately addressed as Gopi,  his younger siblings and cousins addressed him as Ollannu, and we kids, specifically my siblings and me, called ‘Hollo Mhantu (eldest Uncle), did his B.SC from the Kerala University and also did his M.A in English Literature from the Benaras University as an external candidate and after working for 3 -4 years as an Assistant Lecturer, got promoted to the post of a Lecturer and then as a Professor in English, in S. N. College (Sri Narayan College), one of the reputed colleges in Kerala.


He is followed by another elder Uncle, Ramnath, whom we address as, ‘Mhantu’, who did his B. Com and also kept giving the CAIIB exams (internal exams conducted by the banks, based on the success of which, an employee gets his promotions), who retired as the G.M of Canara Bank (all India).  

He is followed by Bappa, who did his N. D. Com from the Kerala University, followed by B. A and L.L.B from the Bombay University and retired from a reputed MNC, Voltas, as the head of the Legal Department.

 Bappa was followed by my younger Uncle, (late) Vishwanath, who was a poet and wrote lyrics for Malayalam movie songs or whom we kids addressed as, Vishappappa.

And lastly, Ramchandra or ‘Raghappappa or Raghu-appappa’, who too did his B. Com from the Kerala University, took up employment in Canara Bank and kept giving the CAIIB Exams and eventually took a VRS (Voluntary Retirement) from Canara Bank as a Manager.

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CHAPTER 2


Bappa had a hard life as a child (based on what he has always shared with us) and so he valued the importance of time and education and the value for money too. He and his siblings and a younger aunt and uncle who were around the same age as Bappa, would study sitting around a table with one Kerosene lamp, placed in the centre of a table as there were no street lights or electricity during those days in his village called Parakode and yet, he and his siblings shone in their academics.

Soon after Bappa had finished his 4th standard in school, his Parents shifted from Parakode to the Kollam (those days it was also called Quilon) town, as there was no high school in Parakode at that time. ‘Hollo Mhantu’ had to travel more than 5 kms to attend his high school in Adoor and that too by foot because in those days the bus services/Govt. Transport was unreliable. Due to this reason, their father decided to move base to Kollam town, as by then, he already had 3 sons whose future would have got affected.

Bappa’s father, joined his Brother-in-law in Kollam, as a partner in an wholesale business in grocery. He was a landlord too and owned many paddy fields and also had a part time job as an Anchal (Post) Master in the service of the then State of Travancore. In those days, the postal service in Kerala was called the Anchal service, but was called the Postal service in the rest of India. To mail a letter to any other state in India, postal stamps were used, whereas within the state, Anchal stamps were used. For his services to the Government, Bappa’s father, drew a handsome salary of 10 Travancore Rupees (which was different from the British rupee). Bappa’s father and grandfather were hugely respected. Bappa’s grandfather owned rubber estates, which are still there and have been inherited by his sons.

After their move to Kollam town, Bappa started going to the school and was in the 5th standard, which was then called ‘Preparatory Class’, as children moved from Primary school to Middle school. (The Middle school, comprised of 6th, 7th and 8th standards and High School comprised of 9th, 10th and 11th, where 11th was a stage where children completed their S.S.C and the educational system was 11 + 2 + 2 for completing graduation). After completing a year  (1946) in Kollam, Bappa’s grandfather suggested that Bappa be sent back to Parakode, as his Uncle (who was the same age as Bappa, and who was more of a friend to Bappa than an Uncle), Nand-maam, who was missing him.  Also, because of the Second World War, there was acute shortage of food grains in the country, but in Parakode since Bappa’s grandfather had his own paddy fields, there was no lack of food in the house. The fact remained, that Bappa's father was not in a position to feed so many mouths and so this decision was taken. Bappa was not at all keen to leave his parents and go to his grandfather's home and he had to much against his will. Bappa was in the 6th standard then, and till he completed his S.S.C he had to stay with his grandparents in Parakode, which was till 1953. Bappa had to do a lot of menial jobs during his stay with his grandfather. He was made aware that he was under foster care and this was something he has never forgotten even till date.  And this situation also made him take a decision very early in life that whenever he had children of his own, he would never send them away from him and he would undergo whatever hardships but make sure his children lived under his own roof. 

In fact, when he passed SSC, there were hardly 3 or 4 students from his school who scored 1st class and he was one amongst them. Since 1st class students were in short supply, he could easily get admission at the S. N. College where his eldest brother was already a Lecturer. He did not get any suitable tips in choosing his subjects for the Intermediate course.  Some friends told him that PCB (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) were good and he opted for the same and since he had a 1st Class, he could easily get the subjects he wanted.  In fact, if he wanted, perhaps he could have got admission for MBBS after passing the Inter with 1st Class.  But he did not have any plans for MBBS nor could his father afford to send him for any medical course.  

In fact, he had to discontinue his studies after he passed the Intermediate. His elder brother who was working in a Cashew Import/Export firm (which he joined after his SSC), had at that time passed the Inter exam by appearing as an external candidate from the MP University (he had to go to Bhopal for appearing for the exams).  He wanted to join the College for B.Com, which was a full-time course and so he had to leave the job resulting into some drain in our family income at that time (as his father was jobless) and because of these circumstances, he was asked to discontinue his studies and take up a job, for which purpose, he learned typing which appeared to be pre-requisite those days.  

After learning typing and immediately after his completing 18 years of age, he started working as a Typist in a Cashew Import/Export firm.   Though he joined as a Typist, he started looking after all the procedural aspects of import and export and attending to all documentation such as opening Letters of Credit for import of raw cashew nuts from British and Portuguese East Africa, scrutinising Letters of Credit received from the firm's customers in USA, UK, USSR, GDR etc, maintenance of records connected with purchase and sale contracts, shipments, preparation of all shipping documents such as Sale Invoices, Bills of Exchange and Bills of Lading, liaising with the Bankers, Shipping Agents, Clearing and Forwarding Agents, our own factories for coordinating the shipment schedules and correspondence connected with all such activities.  In fact, the experience he got by working in that firm for a period of over 4 ½ years, was very rewarding and helped him in discharging his duties even several  years later, in the Legal Department of Voltas.

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CHAPTER 3

He started working from 1956 and the following year, he learned that one of the leading Colleges, of his town, namely, Fatima Mata National College (where his brother did his B. Com) had started a course for the National Diploma in Commerce awarded by the All India Council for Technical Education (which even today is the Government body, granting approvals and recognition's to Universities for all kinds of courses).  

The N.D. Com course in Fatima College was a part-time one (which he joined from June 1957) and the Classes were from 5:30 p.m to 9:00 p.m. It was a 3-year course, after which he had to undergo a year of practical training in a Company or Bank, only thereafter he was entitled to get the Diploma – thus you could say that it was a 4-year course.

He completed the course, by working in the Office till 5:00 p.m., then walking out to the College (3 km), attending the classes till 9:00 p.m., and then again walking out from the College to home (about 4 or 5 km) and reaching home not before 10:00 p.m.  He was not eligible to get any paid leave as such, since it was a Proprietary concern and only for the final exam after 3 years in April 1960, he managed to take a month’s leave and that too without pay.  Any way his hard work paid off, as he stood first in the State and 2nd rank on all-India basis.

On completion of his N.D.Com (Diploma in Commerce), at the age of 20, he came to Bombay. A boy straight from a village, when he arrived in Bombay, as in the case of all those at that age coming from a village to a Metro, he was all in awe of the place and also a little gawky too!

His practical training was in Voltas, in Bombay.  He joined Voltas as a typist/clerk. After completing one year’s training (during which period he got a handsome stipend of Rs. 75 per month), he was absorbed by Voltas in its Accounts department, as a clerk for a monthly salary of Rs. 210 (100 basis plus 110 Dearness Allowance).  He was always well turned out and in fact, Voltas considered him in the category of the ‘Well dressed Employee’. Then, he was promoted as an assistant to a person in the Legal Department. Seeing his sincerity and hard working attitude, soon, he was promoted to the position of an officer. This was in October 1961.  


From 1963 till 1969, he was working in the Sales Tax Section of the Accounts department, during which period, apart from the help rendered by him in preparing the Sales Tax Returns, he was also responsible in giving advice to the various Trading and Manufacturing Divisions of the Company, as well as, its Corporate Management in the legal and procedural aspects of sales tax, for which he had to keep abreast with the latest in the sales tax field by reading the relevant High Court and Supreme Court judgements and commentaries and books.  

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CHAPTER 4

He got married to Sunita Sarma nee Baliga, on the 20th of April, 1967. At the time of their marriage, Amma too was working as a typist in a law firm. But she quit her job, after marriage to take up a full time job of running her household and looking after her husband and kids - The Perfect Homemaker! 

Bappa took up a home in Dombivili, in the Thane district of Maharashtra. And on 30th December, '68, I was born, followed by my sister, Sona, who was born on the  31st of March, '72 and my brother, who was born on the 26th of May, '73.

Bappa's work, was well appreciated by the concerned people in Voltas.  In March 1969, for some vacancies as Commercial Executives, he was nominated by his superiors.  At the end of the one day programme, consisting of written tests, group discussions and personal interviews, he was asked by the HR personnel whether he would be interested in a vacancy in the Legal Department, as an Executive, to which he replied that he held only a Diploma in Commerce (equivalent to B.Com) and had not done L. L.B.   So he was told that since had already put in about 6 years in the Sales tax section and was conversant with Mercantile laws, as a student of Commerce, he could appear for a separate written test and interview for the Legal depatment vacancy.   

Though he was hoping he might be selected for a Commercial Executive's post, having regard to his experience at Kollam, he was apprehensive about the job in the Legal department, because he honestly felt that being an L. L.B is a pre-requisite for the job of a Legal Executive.  Anyway, he appeared for the test and interview in the Legal Dept, along with 3 or 4 other candidates.  After a few days, he was pleasantly surprised when he was told that he was selected for the Legal Executive’s post, with the understanding that he would join and complete the LL.B in due course. 

The N.D.Com was recognised as equivalent to B.Com by many Universities in India (but not Maharashtra), with the result many of his classmates who had gone to places like Calcutta and Madras could pursue higher post-Graduate courses, whereas for doing the L.L.B course in Bombay, he had to first get a Degree.

It was then, that he decided that he had to upgrade himself. He did his B.A (Bachelor of Arts, which he got from the Pune University) majoring in Economics, as an external student on the basis of his passing the Intermediate course in 1955) and then joined the KC College in Bombay, to do L.L.B (Latin Legum Baccalaureus or Bachelor of Laws). There was no looking back after that. He slowly moved up the ladder of the hierarchy of Voltas. From an officer, he got promoted to a Legal Manager and by the time he retired from Voltas, he was the head of the Legal Department.

His got his first promotion from Grade V to IV, in 1973 and then the second promotion was in 1975 and third promotion in 1977. In July 1978, he left Voltas and joined Hindustan Lever as its Indirect Taxation Manager, at their head office, in Bombay.  In September, 1980, he was transferred to Calcutta as the Branch Legal Manager.  A decision he had taken when he had been a kid himself, of not sending his children away and keeping them under his  nose, even if he had to face any hardships; was met by him. When he got posted to Calcutta, my maternal grandmom told him to keep me with them and proceed to Calcutta with Amma and my siblings. But he put his foot down (and I will remain indebted to him for this decision of his for my lifetime!) and told my Mom and grand-mom, that come what may, he would not have his children staying with anyone and he was capable of taking good care of them. And he did! He gave us the best even during our stay in Calcutta. Later, after a year, anyway, since he did not like the posting at Calcutta (power load shedding, failure to get admission in a good School for Ranjit and me, lack of job satisfaction and several other reasons), at the suggestion of his ex-boss in Voltas (Patwardhan), he rejoined Voltas in September, 1981.  

In 1982, Patwardhan was appointed, as the Company Secretary, whereupon, Bappa became in-charge of the Legal department, though technically reporting to Patwardhan. In Feb 1984 or so, Patwardhan left the Company, after which Bappa was heading the Legal Department, till 1998 when he retired from the services of the Company. From 1998 till 2008, he was the Legal Advisor to Voltas on a retainer basis, visiting the Office 4 or 5 times (at times even 8 days or just one day) in a month.



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CHAPTER 5

As a husband, he made sure he could give Amma the comforts which were within his limits. In fact, when Sona and Ranjit were born in quick succession and it became difficult for Amma to handle the three of us (I was the brat of the lot), he instructed her to hire the services of one full time maid and one to do the odd jobs at home. He fulfilled all his duties towards his wife and kids. Even recently, when Amma was terribly sick for almost a year and more; it was he who attended to every small need of hers. He gave her a bath, took her to the doctor every day to have her wounds dressed, cooked and was there at every beck and call of hers. Hats off! 

It really took all of us aback to see Bappa in this form too! A man who barely entered the kitchen in the initial years; over a period of years, we saw him first making the morning tea and then after Sona and me had got married, and Amma got sick, Bappa took over to cooking meals too (of course taking instructions of how to go about making that dish, from Amma). My kids vouch that the ‘khichdi’ made by their Aabu is incomparable and not even their own Mom (me) can come close to making ‘khichdi’ the way their Aabu does! :) He is their Hero too!

As a father, though Bappa used to return home late from work, he made sure he was there for us. He taught us how to play carom, so much that, in school when I participated in the carom competition, I stood first. (Till date, it is one of my favourite games). He being a man of principles, inculcated the value of being self-respecting, and being sensitive and compassionate in nature himself, we imbibed those virtues in us too! As all fathers probably do, Bappa was no different in expecting his kids to do well in life and excel in the field chosen. I sincerely was the Black Sheep in this matter or perhaps on hindsight, I feel I probably was Dyslexic! (No puns or jokes or self-pity here!).

Being his first born, I was the apple of his eye and of course, it is but natural that he expected me to live up to his expectations and become something in life. But...I probably proved him wrong in many ways. He used to feel so proud of all his kids and would rave about each of his children’s achievements or talents. Both our parents never differentiated between their children. All of us were treated equally by them. 

I was tutoring 3 Japanese girls in written and spoken English at the age of 16. I used to get Rs. 600/- for tutoring, all of which I used to give to Bappa. But, not known to me, he never used the money I gave him, instead he saved it. I have a passion for music and those days having a two-in-one tape recorder was a big thing. Of the money I had given him, he bought our first two-in-one tape recorder.  And he proudly said that it was bought out of the money I had earned. 

I had a passion to drive cars too! And when I got my driving licence at the age of 18, he was proud and that made me happy too!  One day, when we went on a family trip to Lonavala and I successfully drove the car on the tricky ghats (those days there were no expressways, only tricky hairpin bends and it was a narrow road, with two-way traffic, he himself did not have the daring to drive on the ghats) as it was no mean task to drive the ghats, rubbing shoulders with the rowdy and rash truck drivers and he was on top of the world when I did. He could not stop raving about my driving skills to one and all.

The day Sona graduated and became a doctor, {she is an M.Sc (rank holder) in Physiotherapy from the Bombay University and also has a diploma in Sports Medicine} his chest beamed with fatherly pride. He had tears in his eyes when he saw her walk on the corridors of the hospital with her white doctor's coat. (Probably a dream unrealized, due to shortage of funds when he was of her age!) She has been faculty of many reputed hospitals and though it may make me sound biased - she is the best physiotherapist I know!

Sona got married to a wonderful person with a golden heart, Sujit Kolke, an Industrial Designer, who is working in a MNC called PTC, on the 19th of November, '2000 and they are blessed with an adorable son, Siddhant. 

Then when Ranjit got a first class in his B.Com and got admission for doing his Article-ship for C.A, at Billimoria & Co. (it was tough for anyone to get admission there, as it is one of the most prestigious institutions for doing the Article-ship), Bappa’s chest beamed with pride again, at Ranjit's achievement too! Unfortunately, Ranjit could not complete his C.A, but went on to do a diploma in Financial Management from N. M. I.M.S (Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies) and a diploma in computers from Infotech Computers,  Vashi.

Ranjit is currently working in Dubai as a Manager, for a company called Gargash Insurance and is married to a beautiful Nepali girl, Sachina Pradhan, who has been working for the Emirates Airlines and is currently the Airport Services Officer at the Dubai airport.

I hated Maths all my life (thanks to some wicked teachers in my formative years at school) and that subject and my delicate constitution were the cause for my ‘elastic’ graduation. A course which could be completed in 3 years, thanks to this subject, and my frequent illeness, took me 5 years...so the word elastic! But somehow the subject seems to love me, as today, being a tutor myself, most of the students who come to me, come to study Maths and they are excelling in the subject. My own kids are better in Maths, based on what I have taught them and more from what they have learnt in school. 

But, at that time, instead of pulling me down, he kept encouraging me. When I wanted to give up studying as I just could not bring myself to study Maths, he asked me to do a Double Diploma as an Executive Office Assistant at the Davar’s College of Commerce, Banking and Language Studies. So, as against one, I did a double diploma and stood first in two batches, conducted by the institute, to the effect that I was immediately asked to join the institute as faculty, to teach the new students. Again, he could not stop raving on my achievements (for me it meant nothing honestly, as I felt he was raving about me to make me feel good) and then after completion of my graduation, it was he who coaxed me to do my Diploma in Computers too! On his advice (I just was not inclined again), I did a double Diploma and once again, I stood first in my batch and once again I lived up to the faith he had in me!

I always had a delicate constitution (manufacturing defect is how I choose to call it!) and never once did he whine or complain or rebuke me for being so. He, in fact always told me that I should inculcate the habit of retiring to bed early, but again, it is not in my hands, I am a night person! During the day my energy levels are very low and as the sun goes down, my energy levels go up...and so it was that many a time when I fell sick, I would feel, that it is because I don’t obey Bappa and go to bed early. I still idolize the Owl! And now it's my husband's turn to remind me to go to bed early, and I realize why he said what he used to, now, when I have become a mother myself. I am not so principled (yet) as Bappa has been and yet somewhere a small voice in me, probably that kid which is still trapped in me, wants to do something in Bappa’s and my lifetime, to make him feel proud of me in every which way! I can almost visualize Bappa now, when he reads this line...I can see his eyes brimming and I can hear him say, “I am proud of you! I have always been so! Why do feel otherwise!?” It is this very nature of yours, your unconditional love, which makes me love you the most!

He has always been protective towards his wife and children (I know that all parents/spouses are, but he is more so!) and he still continues being so. In spite of the fact that now we, his children have grown up and having kids of our own too! Till recently, whenever he drove the car and if any of us would sit in the navigator's seat besides him,  after taking care of the regular paraphernalia involved before starting on our trip, adjusting the rear view mirror etc...the next thing he would do is reach out to our side and lock the door (his car is not the new generation car, with auto lock) and then he would insist that we put on the seat belts. Only after he was assured that the door was locked well and the seat belts had been put on, he would start the car. And a similar precaution would be taken when he stopped the car too! He would not allow us to unlock or get off the car, until the car engine had died down. 

He gave us the best of what he could manage and more. He made us fall in love with books, which till date are my best friends. He got all 3 children married in the best manner he could, gave the best of clothing, facilities and education that were within his means. I got married to a live wire, Subhash Shenoy who has the knack of making friends even with a pole or a dead pan and is currently working as a G.M in a lighting company in the Kingdom of Bahrain, on the 25th of November, '96 and we are blessed with 2 beautiful girls Sakshi and Shloka. 

His immense faith in the Divine is what he has passed on to me too! I recall an incident that had happened long ago. We had a Fiat car, which was our first car, which he had bought out of his hard earned money and it was dear to him (and me too) and he took excellent care of the car. One day it got stolen. Bappa was distraught. In the evening, when he lit the lamp at the altar, I heard him pray aloud. He demanded to God to give him back his car. Call it his immense faith, in a matter of 3 days, he got a call from a neighbour saying that our car had been spotted by him in some far off place, but that the tyres were missing. His joy knew no bounds and he broke down before the altar and offered his thanks. That day, he proudly related to us and a few close family friends, how God had not let him down and had answered even such a small prayer of his too! 

His helpful, honest and simple nature won him a lot of friends and yet there were some who took advantage of his simple and trusting nature. Cunning and cheating are just not in his dictionary. He has earned his livelihood through hard work, honesty, loyalty and dedication. He has helped many monetarily, given free legal consultations to many and to some, who could afford to pay his fees but cleverly dodged paying him after their work was done. But, for his good deeds, God has blessed him abundantly. 

Bappa, God is continuing blessing you! Do not let your faith falter! I have faith in the Supreme and I know that nothing wrong will ever happen to you. I pray for your good health, your life through. Amen!






Afterword




Bappa, you are my ICON!  You are my HERO! You are the only man I have loved the most and if it is indeed to be believed that there is another birth, then I pray to God to always bless me and send me as your child in each life! Amen!!


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