The other day, to be precise on August 8, 2019, my big brother Sanjoy, generally known as Dada, crossed a huge milestone. After completing his 90th year he stepped into his tenth decade. This should have been a day of jubilation but that couldn’t be as it also happened to be the first death anniversary of my second brother who left us on this very day last year.
Dada’s ninety years were delightful to look back on. As my mother used to tell us, he was a precocious child and uniformly did well in school. The World War II broke out when he was just 10 years old. He took upon himself to monitor through the newspaper reports the progress of the Allied Armies daily in a diary. This diary would be referred to by even my father’s friends and colleagues from his college when they came over for their monthly session of bridge. He was a reasonably good student and in the college he became a member of the debating team in which were, among others, Atal Bihari Vajpayee who later became prime minister.
It was my father’s colleague and best friend Prof Qureishy who insisted on him to opt for Geography as the subject for his post graduation and after which he encouraged him to take the IAS Etc. Examinations. Prof Qureishy had lost two of his ICS brothers during the partition riots. Dada took his last chance in 1952 and opted only for the IAS. It was a daring act in those days of job scarcity.
In his administrative career he frequently fell foul of his political masters. Probably, he had a congenital dislike for the politicians including the highest of the land. But because of his competence and irrefutable honesty they could only transfer him from place to place.
Perhaps he found fulfillment of his ambitions when he was deputed to the Union Government. He was initially posted as Addl. Textile Commissioner in which post he again came across an utterly corrupt minister who, as a measure of punishment, transferred him to the Ministry of Commerce as Joint Secretary and head of the then small Policy Planning division.
Nobody in the Commerce Ministry or elsewhere wanted this post. He went and took it up and was required to go practically every month to Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, for negotiations. His intellect, knowledge of trade matters and capability to interpret the complicated GATT rules attracted attention of Arthur Dunkel, Director General of General Agreements on Trade & Tariffs, a specialised agency of the UN. He was called by name by Dunkel to assist him as consultant to him. That is when a career in GATT began for as long as 20 years during which he won the hearts of even the representatives of the countries not very friendly with India. It is, in fact, because of their insistence that he chaired the International Textile Control Board after his retirement from GATT. This he gave up after completion of the term of three years to return home.
Since them he has been home. Voracious reader as he used to be, he read a lot ordering stacks of books every month. He even wrote a book on Indian Bureaucracy that was published by Rupa. As he progressively aged his eyes failed and he had to give up his passion for reading. Yet the verve for life remains. Every evening he is in the Arera Club to spend time with old associates. It is like “steady church going” for him. Another marked trait is that he continues to be a foodie with emphasis on the non-vegetarian type of stuff.
Now that he has attained a milestone one wishes him continued good health, happiness and well being.