The Allahabad and its people that I remember

Sadhona Debi Chatterji



Sadhona Debi Chatterji was born in October 1931 in Calcutta to Hari Prasad and Subarna Bannerjee. She did her matriculation, and got married to Birendra Kumar Chatterji in June 1948. She has a son and a daughter. Her husband, like her father, was in the Imperial Bank of India, which later became the State Bank of India. Her husband retired as Chairman UCO Bank in 1984, and passed away in 1989.

She has had a tremendous interest in national and world affairs, with her own opinions on many issues. She is an avid reader. She has been a popular and well-loved person among the family and a very large circle of friends. Even at the age of 85 and ailing, she got phone calls from all over the world. She passed away in 2015.

Editor's note: Sadhona Chatterji wrote this note in her diary in the 2002. It has been typed and provided by her son in 2018.

I was married on the 28th of June, 1948. My husband late Shree Birendra Kumar Chatterji, belonged to Allahabad. He and most of his siblings were born and brought up there.

Birendra and Sadhona Chatterji. Wedding. 28 June, 1948, Calcutta (Kolkata).

Birendra and Sadhona Chatterji. Wedding. 28 June, 1948, Calcutta (Kolkata)

His father, late Shree K.P. Chatterji, was a professor in Allahabad University. His subject was Chemistry.

When I came to Allahabad as a new bride in 1948, that town was at the height of its glory.

The University, the High Court, the AG's office and some other important Government offices were all there. There was also an Air Force Centre at Bamroli near Allahabad.

Apart from all this, some very well known families used to live there at that time. The Nehrus, the Saprus, the Katjus, all these well known Kashmiri families used to live there.

The family of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and the Gandhis were all in Allahabad at that time.

Apart from these, some very well known Bengali families also used to live there. Among the Bengali families, I remember the Mukherjees (Justice Basudeb Mukherjee, his brother Shree B.D. Mukherjee, I.C.S and Otima Mukherjee, later Bordia), Shree Piarey Lal Banerjee, a very well known advocate of those days. His daughter-in-law Purnima Banerjee was an active congress worker. This lady was Aruna Asaf Ali's elder sister. Apart from these families, I remember Justice D.N. Roy's and Justice Bidhu Bhushan Mallick's families also. Justice Mallick had at one time become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

Most of the children of these families used to go to the same schools and later on to the same University and had become good friends.

My two sisters-in-law and Indira Nehru were in St. Mary's Convent together.

My husband, along with Firoze Gandhi and so many others, was in the University at the same time.

Firoze Gandhi's elder sister Temina was my father-in-law's student in the University. I have heard from my mother-in-law, that Temina Gandhi used to speak Bengali fluently and very often, when she used to come to our house to take lessons from my father in law, she used to stay back for lunch and have it with my mother-in-law sitting on the floor. She was better known as ‘Temi' in the family.

I met her after my marriage and then later when my husband was posted in Allahabad in 1960/61, and again in 1963/64, when we were in Bombay. She used to come and visit us very often. I remember her as a very good looking and a very friendly lady.

Some other people I remember from that crowd were two granddaughters from Pandit M.M. Malaviya's family - Lakhshmi and Sushila. Both of them were in the University more or less at the same time with my husband.

We met Lakshmi in Meerut in 1955 when we were posted there. She was married to one Col. Bhanu Mehta whose father was Shree Jagat Mehta, I.C.S, someone important in the Government of India.

Sushila was our neighbor in Kanpur. She was married to the Rohatgi family there. Another lady from Allahabad of those days was like a family member of my husband's family. She was Mekhola, Shree L.K. Jha's wife. I remember her as a very gentle and soft spoken lady. Her father was also a professor in the University, and her mother Rubimashima came from the famous Tagore family.

One more person whom I remember very well is Firoze Gandhi.

We were in Lucknow together. He was the editor of National Herald and my husband was posted as an accountant of the Imperial Bank branch at Hazratganj.

Most of the evenings we used to meet at Kwality at the Mayfare Building in Hazratganj.

Firoze Bhai used to live alone in Lucknow at that time. His wife Indira used to live with her father in New Delhi and their two sons were in Doon School in Dehradoon. Firoze Gandhi used to miss his family very much and used to talk about his sons quite often.

Our son Pulok was about two years old then. Firoze Bhai became quite fond of him. Most probably he reminded him of his own sons. He used to come straight from the press, and my husband used to come from his bank. I used to bring Pulok in a cycle rickshaw from our home.

Both the men used to be very hungry after a long day's work and we used to have lots of tea and sandwiches. We also used to have lots of almond biscuits which was a specialty of Kwality and we all liked them very much.

The branch agent of Imperial Bank was a Parsee gentlemen and my father's friend. Mr. Kayajee and his wife very often used to invite us for Sunday lunch to have "dhansak" with them. Sir Homi was the governor of U.P at that time. He also used to come for lunch. My husband introduced Firozebhai to them and after that he was also invited for lunch at the bank house.

We were in Lucknow for a very short time. From there we were transferred to Firozepur, in East Punjab.

Firoze bhai used to joke about it, "Now that you are going to a place with my name, you will not like to see me anymore." We never met Firoze bhai after that. Years later, when we were in Meerut, we met Lakshmi there.

From Meerut, we used to drive down to Delhi very often, and once or twice Lakshmi also came with us.

In Delhi, we used to drop her at her uncle's, Shree Keshab Deo Malviya's, house. He was a Minister in the government. On our return after one or two days, we used to pick her up and return to Meerut together.

Once, when we were coming back, she told my husband that she had gone to visit Firoze Bhai, who was not well and was in the hospital. She said, "Firoze bhai was remembering you Birubhai. [Biru = Birendra]. He was upset to know that you were in Delhi, but did not go to see him".

My husband felt very guilty about it and decided to go and visit Firozebhai in his next trip to Delhi. But God never gave him that chance. Firozebhai passed away before he could go and see him. Today both of them are no more in this world, but where ever they are, I hope they have met, and are happy.


© Pulok Chatterji 2018


It's fascinating to read how high Allahabad was flying at that time. The decline since then makes you feel mad at the stagnation of UP overall. The restoration of the glory of Allahabad and UP should be a high priority for any UP Chief Minister.

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