Last month I received a call from Shree Muchkund Dubey. He spoke of a book authored by him. It was a collection of the songs of the celebrated Bangala Deshi Boul singer Lalon Shah Faqir, selected and translated by him from Bangla to Hindi and published by Sahitya Akademi. He further told me that release ceremony and presentation of the first copy of his book to the Honourable President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan (titled “Lalan Shah Faqir ke geet” was scheduled on the 3rd June. I was requested to be present on the occasion.
We had been classmates during our High school days. Since then we had moved in entirely different trajectories.He joined the prestigious elite Indian foreign service while I had had an uneventful career graph of a teacher in a college in a muffasil town. He rose to be the foreign secretary of the Government of India. After superannuation he joined J.N.U as professor for a while. Presently he heads the Council for social development, Delhi.It is interesting to me that he chooses to be known as Professor Muchkund Dubey instead of Shree Muchkund Dubey,ex- foreign secretary government of India .
I did have hardly any physical encounter with him during his tenure in the foreign office of the government of India. I had kept track of him through our common local friends whenever I happened to visit our home town. I am not aware whether he ever remembered me.I had learnt that Muchkund shed every pretensions to his achievements and would graciously seek the company of his humble classmates whenever he visited home.. That was so pleasing to our vanity.
I happened to meet him after three decades at our home town. Our common friend Professor Sheeldhar Singh introduced me to him. He recalled our common endeavour in writing and getting published in a local weekly and about our humble ways of acquiring linguistic skills.
Next contact between us materialised after a few years, when I received a telephonic call from him. It was a pleasant surprise. We had retired by that time. I used to stay at Chandigarh with my elder son, a consultant in nephrology at PGIMER. I thought that some patient might have approached him to seek help from my son. But he told me that he had obtained my contact number at Deoghar and would be happy if I meet him whenever I happen to come to Delhi. He gave me his contact number. I was elated and surprised at the same time. Elated, because he remembered me and surprised because he cared and chose to remember me. He was now heading Council for social development after serving as Professor in JNU for some time.
In a few months, I came to Delhi to stay for some time with my younger son , a professor in Delhi University. I contacted him and he invited me over dinner that evening. He sent his car to fetch me. We talked of our classmates, of our teachers, of our children, and also of his present assignments and publications. He passionately recalled his association with Poet Jasimuddin during his stint as High commissioner to Bangla Desh
I was constantly preoccupied with a question, :Why should he seek me? Is it a simple manifestation of his humility to identify his roots? What connects me with him at personal level? He is an international celebrity and I have been a commoner. What is common between him and me? Is there anything that I share with him?
This event was to be significant for me on two grounds. Ostensibly, for being being invited to be a witness to a celebration of an achievement of one of classmates, who attained the highest position in the coveted foreign service. Esoterically , of course it meant an occasion to visit Delhi after a gap of a few years. Apu, my younger son, was allotted flat on the fourth floor by the university. The building is not equipped with a lift. That had effectively stopped our visit to Delhi, because of my doubtful capacity to negotiate the steps up to his flat. A disquieting feeling was a constant presence. So it was decided that accommodation will be arranged in the University guest house. Though it was a disconcerting feeling to stay in a guest house instead of with own family.
The event was a lifetime experience. Apu and other members of his unit were also on the guest list independent of me. He is associated with CDS in his own might and is the Editor of its Hindi publication named “,Samajik Chintan aur Sameeksha Naya Daur” That has established another link in our relations.
I recalled having asked him in our last meeting about his publications and whether he is still fluent in writing Hindi. It was an apt reply to my query, it appeared.
It was a very fulfilling experience to be a witness to the literary flair of a diplomat. The presentation ceremony was followed by the singing of a few songs by famous Bangladeshi singer Ms Farida Parween in her enchanting melodious voice. Muchkund was all attention to the guests, high profile as well as the rest. I did not feel out of place among the high profile gathering. The host was all attention . I met several acquaintances , who were happy to see me.
The next morning it was decided that I should attempt to reach Apu’s flat. I was feeling uncomfortable that I came to Delhi and even then did not see his residence. My daughter-in-law very softly persuaded me to make an attempt. We came to the apartment and I could cope with the steps of all the floors easily. It was a pleasant surprise as well as assurance for future visits.
The question still remains relevant - What is common between us?