Stories About Men

Nek Chand – A self-made world-class artist

M P V Shenoi

Shenoi, a civil engineer and MBA, rose to the rank of Deputy Director-General of Works in the Indian Defence Service of Engineers. He has also been a member of HUDCO’s advisory board and of the planning team for Navi Mumbai. After retirement he has been helping NGOs in employment-oriented training, writing articles related to all aspects of housing, urban settlements, infrastructure, project and facility management and advising several companies on these issues. His email id is

I felt sorry when I read the news that Nek Chand died at the ripe old age of 90.

My Grandfather, an Eminent Professor, and His Three Illustrious Sons

Ashok Sarkar

Ashok Sarkar (born 1929) retired as an Air Commodore from the Indian Air Force. He was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) by the Indian government. His career included commanding a number of Air Force field units, and a diplomatic posting at the Indian Embassy in Moscow during the 1960s. He was an outstanding student and sportsman in his youth, and after his retirement, he was an inspiration for young sports talent in Agra, his hometown. He continues to run a play-school for young children, a labour of love he founded with his late wife, Chitra, and enjoys a quiet life nurturing the prize-winning flower garden at his ancestral home in Agra.

My grandfather, Shri Beni Madhav Sarkar, was born in the 1870s in a well to do Bengali family of landlords. They grew Daab (coconut plants) in their fields in the Hooghly district of Bengal.

Unlike others in the family, he showed a great liking for studies, particularly mathematics. As such, he pursued higher studies at Presidency College, Calcutta.

My father - Professor Bhatla

Manmohan N. Bhatla

Manmohan Bhatla, born in 1939, studied at Punjab Engineering College, Roorkee University, and got his Ph. D. from Oklahoma State University. He worked for Roy F. Weston, Inc.  as an environmental engineer for 40 years, and was a Vice President of this company for 30 years. During this time, he led many high profile and cutting edge projects in pollution prevention and remediation for industries in the US and Europe. He received a Medal from the Water Pollution Control Federation for a "Significant Operations Contribution." He has over 25 publications to his credit.

Prof. Bhatla

Professor H.R. Bhatla 1911-1992.
Professor of Physics, Punjab, India

These are some of my memories of my beloved father, a very complete and a wholesome human being.

The Last Cheetah

Vijay Padaki

Vijay is a theatre educator. He has been a life member of Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT) since its inception in 1960. He has written over 40 plays, produced widely in India and abroad. In addition, he has adapted and translated several Indian plays into English. By professional training, Vijay is a psychologist and behavioural scientist, and has vast experience in management consultancy, policy research and training in the areas of Organization and Institutional Development..

My grandfather was a hunter. That is how my friends in school knew me, Cheenu, the grandson of a hunter.

He is still alive. If you walk down Seventeenth Cross in the evening between six and seven, you will see him seated in a wheelchair in the first floor balcony, facing the street. You can’t miss the house. It is the only two-storeyed building in that stretch, the figure 1952 decoratively embossed on the balcony front. All the other houses in this old area of Bangalore have been knocked down and replaced by five and six-storeyed apartment blocks. It is still called a residential area, but everybody knows that at least two apartments in each block are offices of commercial outfits. The cars parked on both sides of the roads have drivers, snoozing with their seats tilted fully back.


Vinod K. Puri

Born in 1941, Vinod was brought up and educated in Amritsar. He attended Government Medical College, and subsequently trained as a surgeon at PGI, Chandigarh. He left for USA in 1969, and retired in 2003 as Director of Critical Care Services at a teaching hospital in Michigan. Married with two grown sons, he continues to visit India at least once a year.

The word swami has entered the English language, thanks to the writer RK Narayan and hordes of hippie visitors to India. But in this personal tale, the word has a special resonance. 

By Swamiji, I refer to was my grandfather's younger brother. I do not even remember his given name. This was a bizarre incidence in the family's history! You would have to imagine that a family of middle class traders amongst them had produced a saffron clad personage who in his lifetime renounced the world for the good of humanity!

By the time I first had a look at the face of Swamiji, his older brother Lala Charan Das, my grandfather was dead. My grandfather was something of a legend in Amritsar because of the amount of wealth that he had accumulated and the fact that he had married three times! They were perfectly legal marriages, after the demise of consecutive wives.

Dadu, our grandfather (1869 – 1953)

Suchandra Banerjee

Suchandra Banerjee (left) was born in 1939 to Tapogopal and Usha Mukherjee. After she got married to an Army officer in 1958, she made her husband's family and the Indian Armed Forces' family her own. She moved with her husband from city to city, ending in Lutyen's Delhi when her husband, late Lt. General Ashish Banerjee PVSM, served as the Director-General of the National Cadet Corps. Known as a person of great spirit and generosity, she has helped several people, outside her family, whose start in life was disadvantaged. She nurtures a large extended family and contributes to endeavours and institutions serving to uplift communities and the arts. She lives in Noida in the home she retired to with her late husband.

Shreela Bhattacharya (right), born 1934 is the senior most scion of the present generation of the Mukherjee family. Upon her graduation, she married Dr Saurendra Kumar Bhattacharya, a brilliant bio-chemist. They lived in the UK over 1956-1959. They settled in Mumbai in 1965. Soon after his retirement in 1988, Saurendra passed away. Shreela continued to live in Mumbai, devoted to her family and close friends, Tagore's music and literature. In 2010, hampered by visual impairment she moved to her son's home in the Netherlands, where she lives a quiet life. She returns regularly to her home in Mumbai and ancestral home in Kolkata.

Editor's note: Suchandra Banerjee is the principal author. Her daughter, Leena Brown, submitted this story.

First President of the Republic of India - the Great Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

I C Srivastava

I C Srivastava was born in 1943. A student of English Literature, he joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1966. During his 37 years tenure, he served as Collector/ District Magistrate of three districts, rising finally to the position of Chairman, Board of Revenue, Rajasthan. Shri Srivastava worked as Secretary/Principal Secretary of as many as 17 Rajasthan State Departments, including Revenue, Irrigation, Education, Culture, Tourism, Sports, Women &amp\; Child Development Department. He retired as the Chairman. Rajasthan State Mines and Minerals Corporation.  Shri Srivastava has authored several books on Administration &amp Current affairs in Hindi and English. Nowadays, he is associated with various social and cultural voluntary organisations in Jaipur.

The following family story illumines the greatness, the innate goodness and polite nature of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. This is reflected in his meeting with my eldest brother, Vishnu Chandra who went all the way to Delhi to have darshan (glimpse) of and draw inspiration from the head of the newly declared Republic of India.

Great Memories of a Great-Grandfather

Bal Anand

Bal Anand was born in 1943, in a village about 20 km south of Ludhiana, in a family of saint-scholars who practised Ayurveda. Graduated from DAV College, Jalandhar, and did Master in English Literature from Govt. College, Ludhiana. After a stint for a few years as lecturer, joined the Indian Foreign Service. Served in nine different countries and retired as India's High commissioner to New Zealand. Now reading, reflecting and writing in nest in Greater Noida.

It was October 2018. I realised – as if in a flash – on the night of 18th October that the next day was the 71st anniversary of passing away of my most beloved and esteemed great-grandfather – a unique Guru, a tactful teacher, a versatile scholar and renowned Vaidya of his time, Shri Pramatmanand ji.

As a child of about 4 years at that time, I have rather very vague - बहुत धुंदली सी - but distinct memories of the day. I had lost my mother about a year earlier, and, therefore, used to spend more time in the loving care of my Naanee (maternal grandmother) Bishan Kaur, though my two great-grandfathers - Giatanand ji and Pramatmanand ji, not to speak of the grandparents­- Dwarkanand ji &amp\; Dadee-maan Dhan Kaur, and the two paternal / grand paternal aunts simply adored me.

Bhaaiyya ji: My Father, Bhai Sunder Singh ji

Sangat Singh

Born in 1933 in Dijkot, a small hamlet in district Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), I (Sangat Singh) came after about eight attempts, including miscarriages. I  grew up in Lyallpur as a  pampered child. At the age of five, I was sent to nearby one roomed primary school where spartan old Jute Hessian bags (borian) were used  for  mats.  I refused to study there, and was enrolled in Sacred Heart Convent School  for the next 9 years.  After getting his college degree in India, he moved to Singapore in 1954, and then to Malaysia in 1957, where, now a retired plantation manager, he lives with his wife.  More about him at this link.

Ed. note: A version of this article originally appeared at

It was 1931 or 1932. I was not born yet.

My two elder sisters, Bhenji Amar and Bhenji Beant, were getting married within a week's gap. The weddings took place in our own double-storeyed building that had the business end on the ground floor facing Karkhana Bazar in Lyallpur (pre-Partition Punjab). The two floors above were the residential quarters.

The façade prominently carried the names Bhai Jawaher Singh Sunder Singh. It was a common practice to have the grandfather's name in it. It was later when it became Bhai Sunder Singh &amp\; Sons.

Pitaji – An unschooled learned man

Bal Anand

Bal Anand was born in 1943, in a village about 20 km south of Ludhiana, in a family of saint-scholars who practised Ayurveda. Graduated from DAV College, Jalandhar, and did Master in English Literature from Govt. College, Ludhiana. After a stint for a few years as lecturer, joined the Indian Foreign Service. Served in nine different countries and retired as India's High commissioner to New Zealand. Now reading, reflecting and writing in nest in Greater Noida.

He was born, according to an authentic written record in the family, on Monday, August 30, 1920.

He was the Jayeshatha Saputtar - first born - of his parents. The various conversations among the elders of the family, which included my two most loving great-grandfathers and an adorably talkative great grand-aunt, called Bhua Ji by the entire village, often innocently overheard by me as a child of four-five years, had confirmed this to me. They mentioned that his father Dwarka Nand and his grandfather Giata Nand were also the first born of their parents. And So Am I - his son, now 73+ years according to the date of birth in my Matriculation Certificate. And so are our eldest son, Aditya and our six year old grandson, Antariksh!

Pray, don't misread this opening statement in any overtone of machismo or a parade of any gender bias.  It is nothing more than a humble mention of the facts of my family tree.


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