A Lone Pathfinder

Dr. Nilamadhab Kar
Quality of Life
Research and Development Foundation
A lone pathfinder
Author : Dr Nilamadhab Kar
Quality of Life Research and Development Foundation
Offices :
* 130, Ratnakar Bag, Bhubaneswar, 751018, Odisha, India
* 1 Leacote Drive, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton,WV6 8NB, UK
© N Kar
First Impression: 2010
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Bhubaneswar - 18, Ph: 0674-2430814
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
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and retrieval system without the permission in writing from the publisher.
To my parents
Harish Chandra Kar and Shantilata Kar
‘It is a story that spans a lifetime and beyond. It is
about somebody who is so close yet so far. And you owe him
so much. By being here you are just celebrating him-being-
here once upon a time. He is your great-grand father. It is
not just-a-story for you.’
1 A lone pathfinder
Set in a tiny corner of this world, the events of this story
took shape. They are still felt, lived, experienced and being
continued in many ways than one. All in a beautiful cadence …
It is a living and breathing story.
Like a stream flowing down, in many rhythms and moods,
bends and falls; like the life itself, the story follows its path like
this …
A lone pathfinder 2
A village by a river
There is a little village, Bhaktibrahmapur (Bha-kti-
bra-hma-pur), not far away from Bhadrak town. It is a
beautiful village with thatched-roof houses. There is a
temple in the middle of the village. Nearby flows down
the river Nalia. There are patches of bamboo bushes
and tall trees on all sides; and vast fields surround the
village up to the woodlands of neighbouring villages
or horizons. The grass grows long in the grazing fields
and the cattle from the village enjoy munching all day.
Paddy fields, ponds, grasslands and tall green deodar
trees make this tiny village as beautiful as any other
Serene calmness of the Nalia river
The road near the village takes one to Rajmakundpur
village in one side and to Arnapal chhak (crossing) in
3 A lone pathfinder
the other. Road from Bhadrak pass through Arnapal on
its way to Aakhandalamani, a pilgrim centre with a Shiva
A blessing
Not so long back, in this little village, lived
Bidyadhar and Sadhabani, a beautiful couple. They
were worried, as they did not have a child of their own.
Sadhabani, a pious lady, worshipped and made many
offerings to Gods and Goddesses praying for a child.
And, it is told; after ten long years of her marriage, after
all these religious rituals, a boy was born (in 1912) like a
blessing to her. He was named Bhabagrahi, the one who
understands and accepts other’s feelings. Many called
him just Bhabi, fondly; but mother Sadhabani called him
Sankhali, the only dependable one.
It is the story of Bhabagrahi.
The childhood in a beautiful village must have been
wonderful. Being the only one child of his parents,
Bhabagrahi was very gelha (very likable, lovable) and
perhaps a little naughty.
Only a few days in school
Sadhabani was a learned lady. She took particular
interest that Bhabagrahi should read and write well and
go to school regularly. Those days many children were
A lone pathfinder 4
not going to school. Schools were far away. Bhabagrahi
had to walk miles to reach his school at Gujidarada. It
was a great effort indeed. Because there were no
roads, one had to walk through the fields and on the
hida (partitions between two paddy fields); and even
cross rivers to reach the school. It rains around four
months a year. Winter is very cold and windy. It does
not snow there, but temperature falls too low. Schools
remain closed in late summer, because it is too hot.
Bhabagrahi and children during those days must have
struggled hard to go to school to learn.
Sadhabani’s emphasis on studies was due to the facts
that she herself was literate. She belonged to a Panigrahi
family in Benipur who gave importance to studies.
Bhabagrahi himself was inspired in his childhood at his
uncles’ home in Benipur, which had special place in his
heart. Maternal uncle’s house (mamu ghar) was of
course a favourite place for any child, and considered
the most favourite holiday destination in childhood those
Bhabagrahi was very interested in his studies. He always
worked hard. He was a good student. He liked to
continue studying. But…
When Bhabagrahi was just around 10 years old,
his paternal uncle Gadadhar took him away from
school to Kolkata (around 1922). Those days many
5 A lone pathfinder
people from the area, were going to Kolkata for work.
Kolkata is around 300 kilometres towards North-East
of Bhadrak. It had flourished as the capital of India
till 1911, after which the capital was gradually shifted
to New Delhi. People were going there by train from
Bhadrak rai l way stati on or by steamer from
Chandabali port. Some who could not afford were
probably walking all the way. It was difficult in those
days to earn a living in the villages. Most people were
poor. The reasons of poverty were the vagaries of
nature like flood, drought and cyclone, that almost
occurred alternate years or in rotation and were
ruining the agricultural crops. So people were going
to Kol kata whi ch was a ci ty then, where many
different types of work were available. Many people
worked as chefs. For Brahmins taking care of temples
and worshiping was common and respectable work
Old Howrah Station
A lone pathfinder 6
In his own words regarding his education:
“I learnt English a bit while studying 4
standard in
Board UP school , whi ch was si tuated near
Gujidrada Masjid, Kacheri-Jamindari Sirasta. At
that time, my uncle Gadadhar Kar was going to
Kolkata. He took me along. Initially I worked as an
assistant in a Wheeler of books and magazines in
Sealdah Railway station. Later he had a cooking
One of many Sanskrit question papers Bhabagrahi answered in 1938
7 A lone pathfinder
job in a temple. I studied Sanskrit in a Sanskrit Tol
(school). While I was studying Sanskrit I was around
22 years old. For misery of the family he had taken
me to Kolkata, but I had regrets (abasosa) and I
was upset.”- Bhabagrahi. As told to children and
grandchildren, on 14.11.1983 at Bhubaneswar;
noted by Harish.
Initial struggle
Bhabagrahi obviously did not like leaving school.
But the si tuati on mi ght be such. Gadadhar kept
Bhabagrahi in a bookstall near Sialdah railway station.
It was an unfortunate event to leave school and work
while still a child; but that’s how it was. May be from a
di fferent angl e i t was an opportuni ty for young
Bhabagrahi to get exposed to a different world, world
of books, magazines and knowledge. He used his time
well. He continued studying there on his own while
working. He learned Bengali, Sanskrit and English. He was
very good in Bengali, he could read and write well. He
was sending money home from his earnings for his
parents; who would be suggesting each other many
ideas on how to spend it!
Trip to Puri – the first one
It is surprising that in his teens he had visited Puri,
a pi l gri m centre, famous for the templ e of Lord
Jagannath (Lord of the Universe). Puri is around 200
A lone pathfinder 8
Puri has al ways remai ned the choi cest pi l gri m
destination for the people of Odisha. The road that leads
to Puri is known as Jagannath Sadak (road) and people
even touch the road with reverence. Road to Puri was
intersected by many rivers which made the journey
kilometres south of Bhadrak. He travelled by train. He
said in one occasion, “When I was about 14 (around
1925) I came to Bhubaneswar and Puri for the first time.
Then no body had ever dreamt that here (i n
Bhubaneswar) one day capital will be built. We had
walked to Lingaraj temple in old Bhubaneswar from
Railway station.”
Jagannath Temple, Puri
9 A lone pathfinder
difficult especially in monsoon seasons until the bridges
were built. However, with train people really enjoyed
the ease and scope of visiting their beloved deity – Lord
Bhabagrahi got married, when he was 18 years
old. Yashoda, his wife was only 12 at the time; however,
she came formally to stay in Bhaktibrahmapur when she
was 16. Those days most people married when they were
in their adolescence. Yashoda belonged to a nearby
village Shushua around two kilometres away. She had
come to Bhaktibrahmapur earlier, before marriage to
one of her friend’s relative. This relative was neighbour
of Bhabagrahi’s family. Yashoda mentioned that
something was already there in the air, at that time, and
her friends teased her about it.
More days in Kolkata
Days passed. He continued working in Kolkata.
Mainly the work was in temple. There were many people
whom he knew from the nearby villages, where he was
There in Kolkata, he met Damodar Dixit who had a
puffed-rice shop at that time. Damodar belonged to
Bha-dra-ka-li-sha-hi, another village around 3 kilometres
away from Bhaktibrahmapur. Perhaps both did not
know then how significant was their meeting. It was as
A lone pathfinder 10
In his own words regarding interaction between religious
activities and college education:
“At that time in Kolkata, Brahmo Samaj was
conducting social reformation (samaj sanskaar).
The principal of City College was a Brahmo. He
did not allow Ganesh Puja, which resulted in a
strike by Hindu students suggesting Hindus not to
enrol i n the col l ege. Shi bkumar Vi dyarthi
Bhawan a four-story bui l di ng was bui l t by
Marwari s, whi ch l ater became the Marwari
Hospital. In front of the Hospital was St Paul’s
Missionary Cathedral College where you (Harish)
if destined: Bhabagrahi and Damodar would later
become related as samudi (parents of a married
couple) by their children’s marriage; (Bhabagrahi’s son
Harish married Damodar’s daughter Shantilata).
Howrah Bridge, Kolkata
11 A lone pathfinder
were studying.” - Bhabagrahi. As told to children
and grandchildren, on 14.11.1983 at Bhubaneswar;
noted by Harish.
He stayed in Kolkata till around 1939 when he was in his
late twenties. India was still under British Raj. Freedom
struggle was in full swing. Kolkata, being the initial
capital of the Raj, had its own special place in the
struggle. Reverberation of World War II was beginning
to be felt all over.
Return to Bhaktibrahmapur
Bhabagrahi returned to his village. It was a return
to his family, a home-coming which was long overdue.
Parents, family, change in social, financial situation at
home might have been the influencing factors for this
return. There were responsibilities too, like cultivation
and temple rituals, besides the pleasure of watching the
children grow.
Temple rituals
Temple rituals are generational responsibility and
those had to be done. The temple in the village is an
important institution. It is not only a place for religious
activity, but it has deep cultural, spiritual meaning for
the villagers and they seek psychological comfort and
reassurance from the divine. The main deity is Shyamrai,
who is Krishna. There are many idols of Gods and
A lone pathfinder 12
The religious activities in the temple include morning
prayers symbolically meaning Gods getting out of bed
and having breakfast, the afternoon bhog (where
cooked ri ce and curry are offered as Prasad),
evening prayer and bhog after which symbolically
Gods go to sleep (pahada). On different festival days
there are many other types of ceremoni al
observations. One pompous ceremony is Rath Jatra,
when Jagannath goes to the house of his Mausima
(aunty) on a wooden chariot. The villagers build each
year a chariot from the wood plates and poles by the
Goddesses. Jagannath is also there, on a dais. It is
estimated that around 1700 AD, a gentleman named
Purushottam Kar came from Puri and established the Kar
generations in Bhaktibrahmapur. Deities were installed,
most probably during that period by him for worshipping.
Village temple in Bhaktibrahmapur
13 A lone pathfinder
hel p of a carpenter. Li kewi se, there are many
festivals; as they say 13 in 12 months. Holi (festival of
colours, people apply coloured water and powder
(fagu) to each other) is celebrated in much fanfare.
Dei ti es are taken from pl ace to pl ace i n Biman
(chariot which is shouldered by four or more persons,
who car r y i t ar ound) to attend fai r s (mel anas:
gatherings for religious functions and merry making)
in nearby areas like Lunia.
The temple rituals are done, day after day, and it is almost
three centuries old. Bhabagrahi was doing his part in
maintaining the rituals. However, a few felt that he did
these for the sake of duty only; probably because of his
learning from Brahmo samaj which was against idol
Tax collection
On coming back from Kolkata Bhabagrahi took
up a job of collecting land revenue (khajana) as
col l ecti on moharir under the zamindari system
(Harnawabi). The Zamindar from West Bengal appointed
him in this post as he was well versed in Bengali.
Correspondence regarding collection was in Bengali
at that time for easy perusal of the Bengali zamindars
(prior to 1952, zamindari was being auctioned at Kolkata
or in Cuttack). Bhabagrahi had to go to nearby villages
to collect a part of the earnings from the fields as
khajana from the villagers.
A lone pathfinder 14
In his own words regarding his work as tax collector:
“When I was 28 travel to Kolkata for work ended.
As I was able to read and write Bengali well, I got
the j ob of col l ecti ng khaj ana. I t was i n the
Hornwabi Kacheri in the Bengal i zamindar’s
Sirasta, with a pay of 6 rupees a month. For
collection of the khajana I had to go to villages
in Chudamani, Basudebpur and Bhadrak region
about 20 days in a month. At that time Bhairaba
Babu of Naib Sahi (village) was getting rupees 8;
and those who were working as teachers were
getting 5 rupees a month. If an assistant (or peon)
was not taken for collecting the khajana and if
everything was managed by self then there was
an additional income of 3 anna and 6 pahula (thee
pahula equalled one paisa, and 4 paise equalled
one anna) per day. At that time, one rupee was
64 paise!”. Bhabagrahi. As told to children and
grandchildren on 14.11.1983 at Bhubaneswar;
written by Harish.
The revenue collections were initially going to zamindars,
and later government took over it. The zamindari system
was abolished by the government of Odisha in 1952 by
an act. After abolition of zamindari system, government
of Odisha offered the post of Naib Tahasildar to those
collection moharirs. Bhabagrahi did not join the post
even if people suggested. The reasons are not clear.
Probably he did not prefer to join. There was a possibility
of transfer which would necessitate moving far from
Bhaktibrahmapur; and he did not like it. There was
15 A lone pathfinder
another probable reason: he had no school certificate
even for primary level. This could make things difficult
for official issues, but some felt he still could have got
the job as revenue collection moharir considering his
experience and the inconsistency with educational
certification process then in the immediate post-
independence period.
A sample of his writing
A lone pathfinder 16
Anyway when the zamindari was abolished, his job as
revenue collector was over. He was around forty. He
opted for the life in the village, to look after cultivation
and other domestic issues. And he gradually got used
to it.
Literary zest
Bhabagrahi was good in mathematics and
history. But his fondness was more for literature. He read
so many books. He knew English, Sanskrit, Bengali
languages well other than his mother tongue Oriya.
Bhabagrahi passed few examinations in Sanskrit through
Sadabarta Math in Bhadrak. Those days many people
were not able to read or write because they were not
going to school. It was really difficult for them to read
the letters or do calculations. Bhabagrahi was helping
them out in need.
There were many other activities that he was involved
in. He had published a mini-drama book ‘note jhada’
(precipitation of currency notes) in 1968. This is an
enigmatic write up with characters depicting fight
against injustice and evil in the social milieu. It was a
sort of critique of the political situation and leaders. The
theme and story of this book gives an idea of his
scientific temperament and self-confidence which
bring about wealth and prosperity to individuals and
the state. In his instinctive imagination he could visualise
sectoral shift from agriculture to service and industry
sector for rapid growth of economy, which reflected
in later years in his own family.
17 A lone pathfinder
He also authored few other articles, which were never
published; and were probably lost. Authoring and
publishing a book in those days; particularly when one
was not involved in an academic institution was
understandably a great achievement and speaks
volumes about his literary zest and brings forth a
valuable facet of his persona.
Cover page of “Note Jhada”
A lone pathfinder 18
19 A lone pathfinder
A lone pathfinder 20
21 A lone pathfinder
A lone pathfinder 22
Bhabagrahi believed that if one has studied all subjects
except logic then he is like a boy in the ‘thinking world’.
He was suggesti ng that one shoul d depend on
reasoning rather than irrational believing in issues. He
kept his knowledge base broad, be it history, geography,
science, language, religions (theology) or economics.
His scientific temperament was evident in his way of
life. And that’s not all; more importantly he continued
learning, for example in later years, he surprised the
grandchildren explaining them some scientific concepts
such as light years!
Freedom Struggle
Bhabagrahi was patriotic and participated
actively in freedom struggle. He was a primary member
of Congress party (he became one by paying 4 annas,
i.e. 25 paise) which was forerunner in the movement of
India’s freedom. He was involved in meetings and was
well aware of the progress of the struggle both locally
and nation wide. There were shootings by British in
nearby areas and he mentioned about these in many
narrations about the freedom struggle.
Besides, there was lot of acceptance of suggestions of
the leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. For example, to wear
the handloom weaved cloths and to be self sufficient.
Spinning one’s own threads to make cloths became a well
recognised symbolic activity of India’s freedom struggle.
It had a special meaning and message. Gandhi himself
used charakha (spinning wheel) suggesting self sufficiency
23 A lone pathfinder
and thus rejecting dependence on foreign goods. The
spinning wheel was the symbol of Congress party.
In 1930s and 40s, a revolutionary poet, Banchhanidhi
Mohanty of Bhadrak was singing the revolutionary
patriotic poems, going around throughout the district
and neighbouring areas. Tuned with harmonium, these
songs touched many hearts and spread the freedom
struggle messages. Dr Harekrushna Mahatab was his
contemporary and hi s mentor. Bhabagrahi was
impressed during his youth by these songs and quoted
them often while discussing on the freedom struggle.
Few examples of those songs are:
bfû ùMûfþ ùUaê fþ _ûfû fûMò fûùe
Kû¦ò Kû¦ò Mû§ú aê Xÿ û ù`eò fûùe
Oh, the saga of round table farce
Gandhi, the old man returned crying
Kj Kj ùKCñ RûZò _ûAQò cê KZò
Keò jêeò , jûeò , Mêjûeò
Kj _ûAQò ùK iêL, fò bûAQò \êüL
cûMò cûMò _[ bò Kûeú
Tell me has any nation got freedom
by fussing, loosing, pleading?
Tell me has anybody got happiness, stamped
gloom by begging in the street?
Kûjê ñ @Aùf aò ù\gê ùa_ûeú
@ûùc ùjfê Zûu _ûAñ bò Kûeú
Where from came these businessmen foreign
For these folks broke we did become
A lone pathfinder 24
ù~ùa aûN cê ùL _ùWÿ Zûe @ûjûe
cú^Zò ùe Kò ùi _ûG C¡ûe
QûWÿò ùK \ò G ùKùa ]ô ae Rûfeê
^ Mùf cú^ @ûù_ aûjûeò
When a prey gets caught in the jaws of tiger
Can it escape sheer by prayer!
Does fisherman let the fish out from the net
Unless the fish let them out themselves!
In his own way, Bhabagrahi participated and supported
India’s freedom struggle. His contribution like that of
many unknown Indi ans then, under the Indi an
leadership, resulted in a mass movement that was
unique in the world, with non-violence being the core
mantra, which destabilised a mighty empire and saw
India free in 1947.
Family furthered
Gradually Bhabagrahi and Yashoda became
busy in household activities, and taking care of their
children. They were blessed with Narayana, Harish
(Baau, only Yashoda nicknamed him so), Birendra
[chagala], Basanti (Budhi), Sumati (Suma), Surendra
(Kuna) and Minati (Chhati). Children called him ‘Baa-
pa’ (father). Initially Sadhabani was taking care of the
household affairs and Bhabagrahi was not having too
much responsibility as Yashoda perceived.
It was hard to meet both ends those days. There was
scarcity all over due to the effects of World War II during
1939-1945, which continued much beyond it. There were
25 A lone pathfinder
financial problems no doubt for the young family. On
rare occasi ons, at the ti mes of di stress or need
Bhabagrahi (probably had to) sold off household things;
Yashoda lamented. Yashoda mortgaged ornaments to
meet urgent financial needs. There were tensions.
Hopefully Sadhabani and Yashoda coped with those
Bhabagrahi and Yashoda had a very uni que
relationship. In later years of marriage, when the
children took care of the household the couple had
minimal interaction, to be true. In villages then there
were always lots of work to do for the living. Men
and women folks had very defined routines, however
repetitive and monotonous they might be, they had
to be done day after day, season after season, year
after year. Besides work there were religious and
social rituals for many occasions and observations.
Bhabagrahi’s interest in these rituals was distinctly
different from the contemporary people. He was not
much involved, he was rather detached. Yashoda
was very much in to these; religious observations
(osha), fasting (upabasa), worshiping (puja), issues
related to temple (thakura ghara katha), and relatives
(bandhu baraga), all were looked after by her more
or l ess. Li ke most coupl es those days, perhaps,
Bhabagrahi and Yashoda had hardly any time for
interaction beyond just the communications for ‘living
the role’ or ‘enacting the scenes’.
And while living their roles, days would have just come
and gone. And seasons, … and years …
A lone pathfinder 26
Some shocking events
Father Bi dyadhar passed away i n 1942.
Bhabagrahi was around 30. From then on all the
responsibilities came on Bhabagrahi’s shoulder. There
was another particularly shocking event for the family.
His son, Narayana died when he was only 14. He had
malaria, which was very common then. He had visibly
enlarged spleen (pilehi peta). For the young parents
nothing could have been more devastating. In an effort
to share his woes perhaps, Bhabagrahi called his other
sons Harish and Birendra, then little boys, to sit beside
him, a day after Narayan’s death, and asked them to
seek blessings of the Lord Jesus. (Though he was Hindu,
he had read Christian scriptures extensively. It was
difficult to say whether he had any inclination to
Christianity at that time. It was of course not apparent
in later period of his life).
His mother Sadhabani, lived beyond 60 years of age
(probably 64), and died in 1954 leaving behind many
grandchildren of her own. Harish was studying in 9
standard at the time of her death. She was obviously
very happy and contented to see her grandchildren
studyi ng. She took speci al i nterest i n taki ng her
grandchildren to school even in her advanced age,
often l i fti ng the chi l d on her wai st (ka-khe-i -ki ).
Sadhabani had inculcated that sense of importance for
studies not only in her son Bhabagrahi but also in her
grandchildren; and in a way transformed their lives.
Then there was another major event. The family house
got burnt in May, 1957 (Jyestha, 6
day, Sunday). In fact,
27 A lone pathfinder
the whole village was reduced to ashes. The family had
to start from the scratch. Children moved to their
maternal uncle Brajabandhu’s home in Shushua for a
couple of months. The relation of Bhabagrahi with his
shala (wife’s brother, brother-in-law) Brajabandhu was
bi tter-sweet. After an al tercati on they were not
communicating well with each other, which continued
ti l l the chi l dren’s sacred thread ceremony when
Bhabagrahi invited him and then things were fine.
Around a year after the fire incidence, something more
tragic happened in 1958 (around June). The children lost
their uncle. Brajabandhu left home saying he is going to
Chhatia, a place famous for a grand temple of Lord
Jagannath. On the way, he rested at Bhandaripokhari,
and slept on a veranda (pinda) of somebody’s house.
It is told when the owner invited him in and offered
food; he replied that he would rather prefer sleeping
under a tree than inside his house. In those days persons
during the course of a pilgrimage were taking lot of
penance. This may be the reason why he did not accept
the hospitality. Next day, villagers found him unwell; they
took him to the primary health centre. But he died soon
after. His body was left near the Jagannath Sadak, which
was bei ng bui l t then as nati onal hi ghway fi ve.
Brajabandhu’s father-in-law got the news only after 3
to 4 days. It was a sad end. He left behind a widow in a
solitary house.
Incidentally, years later in 1963, Harish, nephew of
Braj abandhu, was posted i n Bhandari pokhari as
Assistant Block Development Officer. He enquired about
A lone pathfinder 28
his uncle from the doctor, the same one who treated
Brajabandhu, during that fateful day in 1958. The doctor
could remember the incident. He was not sure about
the cause of death and guessed that it could be due to
snake-bite (which was common then) or heart failure.
Harish saw a skull on a tree strangely and wondered
whether that could be his uncle’s; but there was
obviously no way to confirm at that time.
Children grew up
Life moved fast. Children grew up one after the
other. Like his mother, Bhabagrahi took great care of
education of his children. His orientation and exposure
gave the children probably a broader view, and they
carried on.
Harish passed matriculation (11
standard) in 1956 from
Narayan Chandra High School and after one month
Bhabagrahi arranged for him to be assistant teacher in
Chandiapada Middle English (ME) school. It was a
proposed school, which paid scarcely. Anyway that
was a stop-gap before moving on. After around a year,
Harish joined college. Bhabagrahi, Brajabandhu and
one of their friends, Fakir Tripathy saw to it that Harish
should go for further education instead of continuing
almost as an honorary teacher. Brajabandhu provided
109 rupees for the admission fee and other college
expenditure, a huge sum during those days. Harish
studied Intermediate of Arts (IA) at Bhadrak College
during 1957-59. Gadadhar, his grandfather who was
29 A lone pathfinder
around 60 then, supported him during this period by a
cooking job in Calcutta. After IA, Harish went to Kolkata
to study Bachelor of Arts (BA) from St Paul’s Cathedral
Missionary College. He joined government service as
an officer for developmental activities (Assistant Block
Development Officer) and later shifted to Bureau of
Statistics and Economics, a directorate under Planning
and Coordination department, Government of Odisha.
Birendra studied Bachelor of Science (BSc). After
working as science teacher in High school for a brief
time, he joined Accountant General (AG) office in
Bhubaneswar. He took up further studies in Vedas and
became an authority in the field, with extensive scholarly
discussions and publications. He started and edited a
journal on Veda titled ‘Veda-Rashmi’ which reached
like minded people far and wide. Bhabagrahi’s initiative
to educate his daughters is noteworthy, especially so
as in those times women education level was abysmally
low. However, many of his efforts did not succeed; like
he sent Basanti to Bhadrak Popsing Girls’ High School,
but she came back soon. Sumati studied in the village
till high school and did her IA in Bhubaneswar staying
with her brothers, and later got trained as a health
worker. She became a much sought after person in the
communi ty she served. Surendra, after col l ege
education and brief stint at stenography joined Odisha
secretariat eventually and settled himself within the
domes of power that governed the state. Basanti and
Minati could not study beyond school, which was a pity
compared to their sibs but it still was an achievement
considering the women education at that time in
A lone pathfinder 30
villages. They took good care of the household they got
married in to.
A new role
Bhabagrahi’s life took a new turn when he
became a father-i n-l aw. Damodar Di xi t vi si ted
Bhaktibrahmapur and fixed the marriage of his daughter
Shantilata with Harish. Bhabagrahi affectionately called
her, Dikhita-jhia (Daughter of Di xi t). It was not
uncommon those days to address the daughter-in-laws
with their maiden name (the houses of origin). There
must be meanings and reasons behind this; especially
as married ladies take up husbands’ family name. It was
like respecting her individuality, never forgetting her
roots, and amalgamating but not completely dissolving
her persona in the husband’s family.
Bhabagrahi was very affectionate and proud of his
daughter-in-law. And so was his daughter-in-law:
extremely caring and respectful. She belonged to the
category who took care, knowing and understanding
what one needs. (There is a saying in Oriya: good ones
voluntarily take care knowing the needs; middle ones
do willingly when told, and not-good ones do anyway
when tol d but unwi l l i ngl y. Perhaps when these
categories were thought of, there was no concept of
one who would refuse when asked!)
It was l ong before next marri ages i n the fami l y
happened. Daughter’s marriage is a highly emotional
and stressful time in Indian households. Bhabagrahi
31 A lone pathfinder
conducted marriages of Basanti to Dolagovinda, Sumati
to Mayadhar and Minati to Daitari. He was also actively
involved with Birendra’s marriage to Savitri. Surendra
(married to Kalpana) was not so lucky during his
These years saw how Di khi ta-Jhi a became a
responsible member of the Bhabagrahi’s household. She
was the much-loved ‘bau’ (sister-in-law) of the house.
Her endeavour and dedication changed Bhabagrahi’s
family from that of a ‘parents and children’ structure to
a beautiful joint family. Bhabagrahi and Yasoda enjoyed
the dynamics and the chores of a joint family. Life had
gone a full circle.
Taste in food
Bhabagrahi liked many different kinds of food;
those were simple and healthy as one used to get those
days in villages. Morning breakfast was usually pitha
(pan-cakes made of rice and black-gram dough fried
on frying pan with mustard oil or ghee). The dough was
prepared at home after grinding the soaked rice and
black gram on a stone, which was almost a daily early
morning chore for ladies. Pitha was served with milk,
and guda (jaggery).
Lunch menus were much varied. Rice with dal (pulses),
vegetable curry (with seasonal vegetables), and saag
(leaf) often that were grown in the garden (drumstick
leaves were common) were the usual. There were of
course fish or dried fish (shu-khu-aa) frequently. Fresh
A lone pathfinder 32
water live fish was almost always available throughout
the year from the small ponds in the village. Most families
owned a pond; and when needed, they would use
fishing rod or net to catch fish.
Ri ce was usual l y served, for di nner but a si mpl e
alternative in later years was roti and milk. Bhabagrahi
liked milk and milk products like sara (the deposits of
cream on the boiling milk), chanchhi (the deposits at
the bottom of a pot after the milk is boiled). Occasionally,
very infrequently though, there would be nal-bha-ji
(mutton, goat meat). Many did not eat mutton then and
the non-vegetarian dishes were prepared in a different
fireplace (chuli). It was unwelcome in the kitchen of a
Brahmin’s house.
A pond in the village
33 A lone pathfinder
Preparation of food at home was daughter-in-law’s task
which was carried out by the careful guidance and
instruction of the mother-in-law, in which the taste of
father-in-law was absolutely honoured; and it is still the
rule in many households in India.
He had a liking for discipline during meal time. He meant
that food should be enjoyed in a calm atmosphere,
unhurried, without any distraction. However, he did not
like long hours spent during lunch or dinner with gossips
and idling around the finished plates. If the family
members spent lot of time eating he would remark ‘khai
basile somabar, uthiba sukrabara?’ (Starting to eat on
Monday, are you finishing on Friday?). He ate in time,
mostly alone, and avoided invitation for occasional
community dinner in the village unless the host was very
close. His wishes and adherence to this etiquette were
respected by the family.
Days in Bhaktibrahmapur
Taking care of the cultivation was basically a
managerial role for Bhabagrahi. People worked in the
field for paddy and black-gram crops. It continued year
after year.
The fields are ploughed in summer through bullocks.
Seeds (usually paddy) are sown after the field is
ploughed enough, say two to three times, just before
rains. Then the plants grow. Rains and more rains come
because of the south-west monsoon. The fields become
A lone pathfinder 34
green till horizon. Paddy fields are always a joyful sight.
Gradually the paddy ripens and it turns golden yellow
towards winter. Some cultivators sow gram (pulses)
crops at that time.
Khalaa (paddy harvesting place)
Paddy fields with plantations by Bhabagrahi
35 A lone pathfinder
In winter, paddy is harvested (dhaan-kata), brought
to khalaa (a cleaned portion of field, closed by fence)
near home. The stack yard khalaa surface is painted
and pol i shed by cow-dung i n hand to gi ve a
rel ati vel y even surface. The process i s known as
khalaa-lipiba. After the crops come home, the paddy
bundles are arranged in a highly structured heap
(badadi) looking like a pyramid on a cube. Harvesting
continues in many very labour-intensive processes.
A bunch of paddy plants (bida) are securely fastened,
which is hit (pita) on a pedestal made of bamboo or
wood. The paddy grains get separated this way from
the plant. Then the grains with dust is taken up high in
a kula (winnower, a type of flat container prepared
from bamboo blades) and dropped gradually to
ground from a man’s height; over around three meters
di stance whi l e two other persons ai r (udaa) the
dropping grains and dust by moving two kulas widely
in synchrony (jhada) from high above in one side to a
lower position in the other. This process separates dust
and chaff from the paddy grains. Then paddy is taken
in relatively big containers (tokei) made up of canes
covered with mud and cow dung to make it pore-
proof and is kept in a secure place (amaara) in the
home to tackle infestation and robbery.
In another month or two, towards the end of winter,
gram crops are ready. The dried plants are uprooted,
dried, hit and cleaned till the gram is harvested. With all
the harvest at home winter brings rest and time for
festivities. People idle in sun in the afternoon, took their
meals in khala; usually pakhala (boiled rice in cold water,
A lone pathfinder 36
some times kept overnight for fermentation) a common
food item in Odisha. Many items are kept directly on
the surface moulded (lipa) by cow-dung and now dry:
salt, onions, even the burnt dry fish (shukhua). Non-
vegetarian diet is not taken in khala proper as it is a
place of worship; Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth is
worshipped there.
While people worked in his fields, Bhabagrahi took care
of them. He carried pakhala to men-at-work in the
paddy fields. For the rainy days he kept the pakhia (palm
leaf umbrella) ready for himself and others. He mended
them in time. Once inside it, men would look like a giant
bird, only their legs uncovered. The palm leafs stretching
from front to end give a feathery look. Pakhia rests on
the head, so that both hands are free for work.
At home, Bhabagrahi spent time in reading, listening
radio, making jute ropes. Majority of chores at home,
as usual, were performed by the ladies. There were lot
to do for them, getting water from well for cooking,
checking rice for sand grains, cutting vegetables,
preparing meals on earthen fireplace using dried
bamboo leaves, dried cow-dung cakes, serving the
food, cleaning the dishes in river banks, taking care of
cows and bullocks of the house, milking the cows are
just some of the works the ladies did. Sometimes they
would start the process of preparing rice from paddy
grains, by first boiling the paddy grains (unseiba), drying
them in sun or on the maatu in the evenings or rainy
days, then to pound it to separate the dusk (dhaan
kutiba), cl eani ng i t by j erki ng kul a rhythmi cal l y
(paachhudiba). Most houses used this way to prepare
rice from paddy, as the rice mills were not around and
37 A lone pathfinder
buying rice was not a usual option. Sometimes ladies
helped growing the vegetable garden in the house;
beans, chilli, tomatoes, leafy vegetables are the usual
ones. Ladies would engage in rituals and festivals
preparing for them elaborately following the traditions.
Along with her mother-in-law, Yashoda was busy in these
activities. Later her daughter-in-law Dikhita Jhia was
very much involved in carrying forward the baton.
Photo of acknowledgement letter from office of the Chief Minister
A lone pathfinder 38
Love for environment
Bhabagrahi planted many trees in the garden
around house and in fields. In the periphery of the
paddy fields palm, kia and baburi (hardy draught
resistant) trees not only make beautiful green hedge,
but softly remind his love for environment.
He wrote many letters to the then chief ministers of
Odisha like Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab to encourage
social forestry and planting trees. He specially mentioned
ever green Neem (Azadirachta Indica) and Karanja
(Pongamia Glabra) a hardy drought resistant plant.
These plants have medicinal qualities too. Many of
these trees not only shade the roads of state capital,
Bhubaneswar but also add to the natural beauty.
Cattle: other members of family
Besides managing cultivation, Bhabagrahi was
taking care of the cows and bullocks in the house. The
family had more than half a dozen of them. They were
like family members with specific name (e.g. Nali, Kan-
chiri, budhi-gai, Mani, Gurubari, station-wali). He took
them to a nearby field (Ma-naa pa-di-aa) around half
a kilometre away in the morning for them to graze. The
cows were tied with a long rope, which was bound to
a bamboo peg (khunta) that was stuck to the ground.
This was necessary, as otherwise the cows would eat
up the crops in the nearby fields. Often while going on
the hida the mouths of the cows were covered by a
specially designed net for the same reason above. He
had to go again in the midday to change their place,
as they might have grazed that bit of land; and he would
39 A lone pathfinder
return before evening to bring them back home. He
typically put a gamuchha (napkin) on head to cover it
from the Sun. He loved the animals. Along with others in
family, like Dikhita-Jhia he would give them feed. He
took care when they were ill. Even in odd hours of night,
he would frequently check and comfort them; during
their illness or if the cows were expecting calves.
Arnapal haat
Bhabagrahi was shopping for the family at
Arnapal haat (market) every Thursday and Sunday. It
was one-and-half-kilometre walk one-way. Often he
took his grandchildren along and bought chu-chu-ma
(sweets) for them. Besides vegetables, spices, cloths,
and many household things, kerosene was bought from
Village scene - Escorting cows to grazing fields
A lone pathfinder 40
the haat. Kerosene was needed for lamps, as there was
no electricity in the village then.
Haat is an important aspect of the village life. Not only
people shop there, there is the scope of meeting friends
and relatives of nearby villages, conveying messages, a
scope for many villagers to sell their surplus agricultural
product, or to enjoy snacks and tea away from home with
friends. People in villages eagerly look forward to haat.
Besides Arnapal haat, Bhabagrahi occasionally would
go to Bhadrak or Puruna bazaar usually walking all the
way to get some thing special like hilsa or vecti fish and
Evenings needed preparation. Ladies cleaned
the lamps, removed the shoot from the glasses of lantern,
adjusted old wicks or fitted new ones if needed, every
afternoon. Most lamps were just open flames (tina; some
were innovatively designed on small glass bottles with
the cap punctured to allow the wick). One had to be
careful with these lamps in thatched-roof houses for fire
hazard. In the evenings lamps are lit. Ladies put lighted
ghee soaked wicks before every room of the house,
before tulsi plant, in the temple before idols of God and
prostrate. Children sang prayers or devotional songs
(praa-rtha-naa) to be blessed. It was a ritual in almost
every house in the evening.
On many evenings there were religious congregations,
invited by a household. In these, a particular God was
41 A lone pathfinder
worshipped and the devotional songs recited or read.
Usually these were Panchanana or Trinath melas
(congregation). Young and old gathered, sought
blessings, took prasad (eatable offerings) and sometime
even bhang (ganja, cannabis). These melas are still
prevalent in villages. Bhabagrahi was not interested in
these religious congregations. He would listen to radio,
tell stories to grandchildren or retire early as soon as the
dinner was over. In those days most people slept early,
and were getting up early too.
Village nights
In the villages it becomes dark soon in the
evenings and it turns pitch black gradually as the night
grows, especially under big trees. In darkness the path
vanishes soon inside the village woodlands; like in
absence of true knowledge man looses the purpose of
life. Though the darkness might be scary to small children
with many ghost stories around, elders are used to it.
The darkness is severed with lights from small kerosene
lamps or lanterns in homes and those swaying along the
path with some pedestrians. This makes the nights in
villages fascinating and beautiful. The moon and stars
do add to the glory over head. Along with the typical
sounds of night crickets and occasional hoots of owl
amidst the vast silences, the nights in villages appear
very pregnant and mesmerising.
And that was how the nights were in villages before
electricity, an era in which Bhabagrahi spent most of
his time.
A lone pathfinder 42
A valued grandfather
It is as if life was preparing Bhabagrahi for his new
role as a grandfather. In April of 1965 he became one,
at an age of 53. Not too young or old, just right to be a
brand new grandfather. Did he tell how he felt; his
actions did. He walked more than 50 kilometres taking
a cow and calf to Jajpur, for his eldest grandchild to
have cow’s mi l k, fresh, at home. That was a
grandfather’s first gift!
He soon had more and more grand children. They
addressed him budha-bapa (old-father). As if the
grand father has to be old. He was a very affectionate
and caring grandfather. He was a great company.
He washed them, massaged oil, even cleaned their
bottoms (Kuni, his third grandson would demand that
only budha-bapa was entrusted with this work, even
in night; and his budha-bapa did it happily whenever
there was an offer!). He kept guard when they
bathed in the river Nalia. He would tirelessly fan the
grandchildren with the palm-leaf fans when it was
hot. He gave sweets, and gifts. He kept a stock of
chu-chu-mas (sweets) in his room for the crisis hours,
to consol e the grandchi l dren. When the si bl i ngs
fought, he woul d pose hi msel f as a buffer, and
calmed them suggesting ‘brothers don’t fight’ in a
very cajoling, coaxing voice ‘saa-na bhaa-ia ba-da
bhaa-ia… (small and big brother) … naa naa’ meaning
perhaps ‘one is small and one is big, just that, you are
one, do not fight’. But brothers do fight; sibling rivalry
is perhaps one thing he did not experience!
43 A lone pathfinder
His grandchildren always wished to inherit many of his
belongings when he would be no more; amongst them
was his beautiful Germany made razor, though it was
really very old and rusted. Like that there were many
more countless nameless things in his bundles which
were so desirable to his grandchildren. He would agree
to all their requests smilingly; as he perhaps knew and
understood he would be leaving behind with them
more meaningful, non-worldly invaluable assets.
He sang lullaby and recited songs for them. Many of
these songs were extremely meaningful: ‘Udija udija
damara kau re,’

(fly, fly away, dear cawing crow) in
which a little boy requests a crow to fly off to distant
land where his father has gone to work, to beseech
him to come back as soon as possible as he misses his
father (see appendix). Those days, many fathers were
away working in distant lands for example in Kolkata
and Assam. Pain of missing each other would be there
with both fathers and children. The meaning of absence
of the father while the children are growing up is subtly
described in the poem from a child’s point of view. The
song exemplifies the richness of children’s literature in
Oriya and its sensitiveness. Ironically Bhabagrahi himself
lived away from his father in his childhood days and had
to work.
Another poem which he often mentioned was:
^ò R \ê üùL G ^d^ê ^MWê ùfûZK
_e \ê üùL Kû¦ò ]^ý ùjC G aûkK
Let not tears roll from these eyes in sorrows of self
Crying in others’ distress let this boy transcend
A lone pathfinder 44
He used to hel p Kuni i n wri ti ng essay l i ke paddy
cultivations (dhana chasa), festivals of Odisha (odisara
parba parbani), etc. Kuni remembers some of his
favourite idioms:
a|-a -& ·¸ a¸ c| -|&
. c ·¤| aJ| -|&
-¸ o a| -&| ¤· ~|o
It means, ‘if you involve yourself in cultivation, you get
full, if you coordinate you get half, if you give it to the
workers to do it for you, it leads to nothing’.
·|c -~ª ·¤-c oø i
c·J - ~ & ~- ci
c·J - c|~ -¤·|o|
o ø| -~ ·- -~ ·-
This means, ‘business makes you rich, cultivation gives
you half of that, official work gives you half of that and
begging gets you nothing’.
He was so up to date in science, that he was explaining
Kuni about light years when he was in 5
standard. It
was in connections to a news item that a star has been
discovered few light years away. It is amazing to learn
his breadth of knowledge and the capability to explain
it to a child.
He told stories from history, how the kings ruled and
fought. He had in depth knowledge about the British
Raj. He narrated many freedom struggle events, which
he experienced. He also told many stories floating
around regarding British rulers that time.
45 A lone pathfinder
‘Engl i sh Haki ms (sahi b, seni or offi ci al s) whi l e
travel l i ng i n the vi l l ages were usi ng palinki
(palanquin) carried by four of more men on their
shoulder. There was a Hindu temple on the way.
The devoted palanquin bearers stopped and
prostrated before the Tulsi plant. The English sahib
probably felt this was unacceptable to him; he
pulled out the plant and destroyed it squeezing it
in his hands. Palanquin bearers felt bad but could
hardly do or say anything.
After a stretch of road the palanquin bearers
stopped again and prostrated before another
plant. This time the English sahib felt very upset; he
uprooted it, squeezed and threw it away. Soon the
sahib was in great trouble with itching all over.
Because it was no ordinary thing; it was Bichhuati
(stinging nettle, Fleurya Interrupta), a highly irritant
plant. Sahib got his due for disrespecting the faith
of the palanquin bearers who taught him a lesson.
Bhabagrahi would engage the grandchildren in stories
or interesting activities streamlining their energy. He was
teaching the grandchildren to be brave and fearless.
Jhalli, his eldest grand-daughter, as a tiny girl remembers
how he comforted her and helped her face the
thunders. She soon realised that in front of grandparents,
there were less chide from parents; so being with
budhabapa was one important rescue strategy for the
little Jhalli, when she loved to be a bit naughty. When
she was visiting village in summer holidays Bhabagrahi
would invariably put a rope swing in the veranda of
A lone pathfinder 46
the house and would never get tired swaying it for hours
for the grandchildren.
Ascetic life
As children settled in their own life, Bhabagrahi
in his afternoon years lived an ascetic life in the village.
He was always been much disciplined and peace
loving. He did his own work, hardly depending upon
anybody. He was never seen gossiping. He was a man
of few words. He was upset regarding wasting of time
by others in gossips and kept reminding his family
members about it. Though many of these things that irked
him continued to happen and he did get angry, he never
used foul language. He did not use any addictive
substance. Even though it was very common those days
and almost every body took betel with tobacco, he
did not. Many villagers smoked cannabis (ganjei) in
Trinath or Panchanan melas (religious congregation) in
the name of offering (prasad), but he was above all
these. He was different in many respects from his
contemporaries and other folks of his time.
He was keeping himself busy in many activities; one of
which was spinning jute ropes. This continued from the
days of freedom struggle.
He kept himself up-to-date by listening radio. There was
a Philips radio, for the whole family. It used to get shifted
from its usual place on the stairs that lead to maatu (attic,
first floor surface area below the thatched roof, used
47 A lone pathfinder
as store space or to dry seeds / crops) to his room for
him to listen news. The news usually includes Anchalik
Sambad (regional news) from Aakashbani (All India
Radio, AIR) Cuttack and Oriya news from Delhi at 7.15
every morning and evening.
With no more day-to-day domestic responsibilities he
was having relaxed, unhurried elderly life. Daily activities
had gradually shrunken. He spent most of his time in his
cosy room in one corner of the house. He organised his
things in the best ways he can, in bundles made of cloths,
on the bha-di (bamboo racks) in his room. He dined in
his room, in quiet, in time, alone, preferring to avoid the
hustle and bustle of a village home, although the chaos
of the latter was often pleasant.
Stairs leading to maatu
A lone pathfinder 48
He had a spartan life style. He liked silence and solitude.
He was telling: @ûZàmû^ iaðmû^e _eòcû_K ‘Aa-tma gya-n,
sar-ba gya-na-ra pa-ri-ma-pa-ka’ Knowledge of self
(knowing self) is the measure of all knowledge. It was
as if his mantra.
People were unsure about how religious he was. He
was performing the rituals for the temple deity as
needed. But he did these as if he was supposed to
do, j ust as any other work. He di d not appear
emotionally inclined, unlike Yasoda, who was very
devoted and dependent on God for reassurances
and who worshipped from heart. Bhabagrahi was not
having immense belief in rituals of course. Though he
maintained the ‘paita’ (sacred thread) he never
bothered if that was there with his grandchildren. He
helped them always without any fuss with a new one,
whenever they needed one, even if they had lost it
because of their carelessness! And he did not mind
to have the prasad / Thakura Ghar Bhog (offerings)
often in the temple itself in stead of at home, which
was perceived as unusual by many. Anyway, he was
an enlightened Hindu above the ritualistic religious
Probably he was more spiritual than religious; he knew
what was meaningless, and what was important. He
definitely knew himself; which he preached. He was
wel l -read person about Chri sti an scri ptures and
literatures of Brahmo Samaj. He had many Muslim friends,
who came visiting him often. They often remembered
the days when he was collecting money for the treasury,
49 A lone pathfinder
and how fri endl y he was. At that ti me, when
untouchability to Harijans (This name given to low caste
Hindus, by Mahatma Gandhi, which meant, people of
the God; intending to bring them closer to all) was
prominently practised by upper caste Hindus, having
i nterest i n other rel i gi ons and bei ng fri endl y and
comfortable with people from all caste, creed and
religion, was an aspect of his personality which spoke
for itself.
In August 1978, he went on a North India tour with
Yashoda; whi ch was actual l y a teertha-j atra
(pilgrimage). Birendra arranged this tour, in a special
Teertha-Jatra Train. The train was the living place for the
entire journey period; and as cooking was allowed on
it, they did not miss home-food, which Birendra ensured.
They went to Agra, Allahabad, Sitapur, Kurukshetra,
Delhi, Jammu, Varanasi, Badrinath, Gaya and many other
religious places. He was more interested in the history
of these places than their religious importance. Gaya
impressed him the least for its filth. Yashoda observed
that he was keen on visiting the monuments built by the
Mughal emperors than attending rituals at Hindu
Bhabagrahi and Yashoda also went for a South India
tour in June 1980 with Birendra and family. They visited
many places like Chennai (then Madras), Madurai,
A lone pathfinder 50
Trivendrum, Kanyakumari, and Rameshwaram at the
southern tip of India. They visited the Vivekananda
memorial on the sea.
Health and illness
Bhabagrahi’s health was usually fine. He was tall
and thin built. He took adequate care of his health
usually. He had active habits and very laborious through
out his life. He frequently walked miles (going to puruna
bazaar, Bhadrak or villages far and wide) even late in
his age. He massaged himself with mustard oil (applied
that to his grandchildren also!) daily before bath. He
would put the oil into ear (external auditory meatus), in
between toes as a way of skin-care. He had belief in its
Gradually age advanced.
Dental pain bothered him a lot. There was decay of the
enamel probably with sensitive pulp exposed. It was
very painful. He would try to take those teeth out by
using sickles! There would be blood flowing relentlessly
during that procedure, but he would not wince. He
looked so determined to accomplish the task. There
were denti sts, i n the nearby Bhadrak town, few
kilometres away but the scope of attending was
probably rare, it is not known why. Gradually many teeth
started falling off, some on their own and some taken
out by him.
51 A lone pathfinder
Later he started having cough; it became continuous.
It was very di stressi ng i n the ni ght. It was very
productive. He kept a container near his bed for the
sputum for safe disposal. He was eventually diagnosed
to have pul monary tubercul osi s (TB). It was very
common those days and extremely debilitating. It
drained all his energy. Family members were very
concerned and worried. It was very distressing as he
coughed and coughed night after night alone in his
room. He took medicines regularly; however those were
not adequately helpful perhaps. He fought alone, as he
had always done, all his life.
Bhabagrahi left Bhaktibrahmapur again
The first time he left Bhaktibrahmapur it was in
his childhood for a real hard struggle in Kolkata. Time
had changed. He was old, in his seventies. More
than the age, TB made him suffer immensely. His eldest
grandchild, Nilu escorted him to Bhubaneswar in late
October (23
), 1983 as he was not keeping well in
the village. This journey was for further treatment and
to live with his sons and grandchildren who were
living then in Bhubaneswar. He was initially treated
at uni t IV hospi tal and l ater at Capi tal Hospi tal ,
Bhubaneswar for TB.
After decades, for a second time Bhabagrahi left
Bhaktibrahmapur again. Leaving one’s own village
might not have been easy; as it was there his roots
remained. He liked the place; he belonged there. To
A lone pathfinder 52
some extent i t must have been an uprooti ng
experience. However, it happened that way; he left.
Perhaps he had to. He was happy being with children
and grand-children, and regular medical attention
eased the symptoms. Though leaving Bhaktibrahmapur
was better opti on and everybody understood i t
including him; however, he might have still missed it. The
openness i n vi l l age, the sol i tude, and the qui et
unhurriedness are not available in cities. He stayed in
H-196, AG colony quarter at Unit 4 with Birendra,
daughter-in-law Savitri, and their children. He was not
keeping particularly well after the trip to South-India.
Savitri took care in Bhubaneswar. Gradually his health
improved. Jhalli remembered how he sometimes
walked to Ravindra Mandap square in the evening and
had omel ette there. Much to the amusement of
grandchildren he had given omelette a name ‘dima-
During these days an interesting thing happened. A solo
photograph of him was planned by his grandchildren in
a photo-studio in Unit - IV market Bhubaneswar. The
photographer suggested that his beard be shaved. He
and his grandchildren went to a saloon nearby. The
barber took great care as he did not have teeth and
his cheek had sunk in. When the task was complete he
asked the barber where is golap-jala, (rose water, the
water with rose petals) which was being used in big
saloons as scents, in his younger days might be! The
photograph was taken anyway, without it! [How nice it
would have been to have a group photo as well along
with the solo; the idea did not strike then; an opportunity
was lost for ever].
53 A lone pathfinder
He kept him physically active with morning and
evening walks; and up to date in current affairs by
reading newspaper regularly in the morning. He
would sit before the black and white television and
watch it with great curiosity and zest. He just
touched that era when TV became a reality in the
households even in small towns of India. There was
no phone at home. It had not become a necessity
for the common households then.
It was 1984. His eldest grandson was selected for
admission in MBBS in VSS medical college, Burla. The
news thrilled him and his pleasure was discernible. He
was so happy.
From AG colony he moved to 109, Mahatab Road, in
old Bhubaneswar to live with Harish and Dikhita Jhia.
Later they all shifted to Laxmi-Nivas nearby on the same
Last days
Laxmi-Nivas was a dimly lit two-bedroom house
i n qui eter ol d Bhubaneswar. Besi des Hari sh and
Shantilata, there lived their sons, and Surendra. It was
congested no doubt, but families lived like that. ‘Dikhita
Jhi a’ was there, taki ng care. Bhabagrahi fel t
He spent time watching TV. It was a small screen, black
and white TV. His eyesight was pretty fine till the end.
He started a new menu – boiled eggs (‘deem’, as he
mentioned them, the term was in Bengali), which he had
A lone pathfinder 54
not taken previously. He liked it, and felt it gave him
strength, which was being robbed by the TB.
In these days he grew emotionally very dependent on
Shantilata - ‘Dikhita-Jhia’. He was asking many questions,
worrying about everybody, checking repeatedly about
the well-being. Taking care of somebody so frail and
weak was no doubt challenging; no body knew how
to provide best level of care; and as if no body was
prepared. It needed patience, great understanding
and unswerving respect for him. And with her immense
experience Dikhita-Jhia could manage. It appeared as
if the role had changed. It is told that in old age people
delve into childhood again (ba-la bru-ddha sa-maa-na).
And it is easier always for mothers to take care!
He would enquire about many issues. Harish would
discuss and give company. And Bhabagrahi, as a father,
would worry when Harish was late from office and
would keep asking Shantilata. (Fathers perhaps do not
grow out of parental anxieties ever, son’s age remains
immaterial to them.)
At times he would like his son Surendra to take him to
barber’s saloon for a haircut or shave. Surendra obliged
always taking him on his bicycle. Surendra and Manu
(second grandchild) would try to cheer him up; it was
another thing when their extra enthusiasm sometime
gave different result!
… …
55 A lone pathfinder
Gradually Bhabagrahi spent more time in bed, inside a
mosquito-net. His world had shrunk.
Old age and the illness had their roles to play. Days
became more prolonged. More silent…
On one of those days he expressed his desire to have a
haircut and take bath in Kedar-Gauri Pond. Kuni
promised him that next week …that never came. Two
days later…
Things were not quite right.
He did not return to Bhaktibrahmapur
He was not well. He appeared confused. He was
not able to distinguish day and night. He wanted to see
children. All were worried. A day earlier he declined
‘prasad’ saying –
ªu|.| -¸ ~.c u|.| -¸ ~cc
u|.| -¸ - ¬c --~,
~-cc ~a | ac- co c
~|c¸ »¬ ac ø-c |
--| a|-o a»¬ · ·¤ c~~i
-.|a o¸ ac|a c
-¤ ~a| ¤¸ -c . ·-o c|.|-¸
a¸ ~ · -¸ ~ c¬c |"
Whatever I say, do and think
The creator of the universe,
The supreme Lord knows that always
A lone pathfinder 56
With me, He is there, day and night,
Mahaprabhu, the Almighty
Keeping that in mind,
I will forever worship Him in heart
It was an early September evening. Yashoda was sitting
besides his bed. He asked for milk and puffed rice. He
could hardly take more than a couple of spoonfuls.
Yashoda suggested giving him nirmalya pani (holy
water) and gangajala (water of the Ganges). There was
an uncomfortable feeling, a fear of an untoward
Whether time passed or stood still nobody noticed. A
while later, Yashoda broke the silence, ‘He is no more’.
He passed away peacefully. Yashoda, Harish, Shantilata,
Surendra and hi s grandchi l dren were around hi s
A journey that started on 10-02-1912 ended… … …,
rather early, on 08-09-1986. An era passed into history.
His body was consigned to flames according to Hindu
rites in a nearby cremation ground of old Bhubaneswar.
All the last rites and rituals were conducted by Birendra,
according to tradition.
… … …
… …
57 A lone pathfinder
Bidyadhar and Sadhabani’s son, Bhabagrahi, who toiled
hard working as a child, put a great effort against all
odds to study, who dared to be different from his
contemporary fellow beings, left this world changing
the life of his children and grandchildren to be better -
better than his own.
The path continues to lead
It has been long since Bhabagrahi passed away.
Seasons have changed their colours innumerable times.
His family tree has grown and spread far and wide.
Children, grand-children and great-grand children now
go to Bhaktibrahmapur occasionally. It’s almost a
pilgrimage to visit the home where Bhabagrahi once
His distinguished life and values continue to inspire his
family and community. In many ways, the path he had
chosen is still leading the way.
A lone pathfinder 58
59 A lone pathfinder
Oriya poems Bhabagrahi used to sing to his grand-
KûjóKò eûaêQê Wûceû KûCùe
-.»- -.·¸»¸ c.--. -.a--
c¸».- c¸».- c.~
-.' -.' -.· -¸c --. -c-
~·- o.a» ¤.~1
- -s. -c.»- c» -»·.-¸
- ·.-c. -··¸ -»
-.».-¸ -·-·. a.- c¸ cso
-»ac»¸ c»-» .
·.a. o.-»· ·¸- ·-·--¸
-»c.c ·-c ·¸-
---c ·~ -»c. -¸c~.» c.-
-c. ·-~- -¸» .
aco. aco. c.--. -.a--
-~- -.-c. -·--
·.a. o.-»· -oa -.-~-¸
aco. -¤ ·¸- -·--1
A lone pathfinder 60
--¬. --· ·.a. ---c --.-c
--~ ac¸c» c.».
-.c. ¤ac- -~- ¤-.-
-a- o.-» c.».1
a-·.- ¤·¸ ¤.a acc.c
c¸-c.c ¤·¸ --
~.~ ·.».a- ~-- -»c.c
-.' -.-¤ -¸- -¸-1
-»·¸ ·¸-.- ·-·- ·.»¸c.
-»c.c <s- -c-
·.a.-¸ -»·¸ ·-· ~--
c.¤-· a--¸ -c-1
-·- c.¤·¸-- ---c c.--
--.-< ~¸».- -.a
aco. aco. c.--. -.a--
·-· ~-- c.a .
a ¤.c -»c. <-· ac-- ¬~
ac-- ·.o.-c ac ·»~
acc.c-- ·.·¸ -.- --.--
c¸- -c.c -.» ~- c«.-
---~ a- -cc -·· ca~
-,- c.¤. -·- a.- --~
c.¤· a¸··-¸ »¤ »¤ -¤
---c cac c.». -¤ --.¤. ·--
61 A lone pathfinder
a¤.-c ac -¸ -.c. --¸» ~c.c
·c --.-c -¸¤·¸« ·c ··e.~
-.».- c~¤ -·. ~ a-¸ --. --~
-.».- ~¤. -o¤-~ ~--- -¸ ×-c
c¸o --.- -»¸s.a ¤·. ¤c·.c
-.~ --.- -¸c¸ -.c. a¸c- -.».c
c¸-o.a ¤o --.- ·· -»a -e
a.-c ·.~ ac¸ ¤·. c.~¤ ¤ac
c¸¤-¸ --c -.- »-· ·¤ ¬-
-- a-s -co.< c.~ ·- a-
~~ ·¸·-- < ~o~¸ ~-c¸ -c.c-
a- ·¸·-- -.¤ ¬~ -»a < ·.--
·c- ~ o.a c.~ ·~- --.»-
a c.-.c. --c-- <» ¤ ×. --.-1

A lone pathfinder 62
Late Bhabagrahi Kar is my grandfather; I called
him ‘Budha-bapa’ (old-father) as many grandpas are
called in that part of the world. I miss him a lot.
I found his life an extra-ordinary for various reasons. Even
being the only one child, he had to work in his childhood,
far away from his family, leaving his studies in school.
But he grew up taking the challenges of life, without
being succumbed into it. He studied, worked as a tax
collector, raised a family in difficult times, was a good
father and a valued grandfather (I know this), published
book, was accommodative and flexible to change, and
in many ways different from his contemporaries.
I thought I will write his story for my son Shreyan. He
should know his roots, and all the great-grand children
of my budha-bapa. I also wished that my grandfather’s
life-history may make a good reading for many who are
not related to him. At the least as a biographical story
of a common (or uncommon!) man who lived in 20
century Odisha, pre and post Indian independence.
So it began.
Majority of these was written between 2 to 4 January
2005, in Wolverhampton, while I was grieving the
massive loss of human life by an earthquake and
tsunami on 26
December, 2004. May be the massive
emotions connected me to my own loss, to the death
of my grandfather. At the time of his death, I was
away in medical college, and came to know about
63 A lone pathfinder
his death days after by a letter (postcard) from my
I had spent many years with my grandfather in my
early childhood, in Bhaktibrahmapur before staying
with my father in his work places. Later I stayed with
him only during vacations. I have many indelible
memories of him, about his grand parenting. He was
so caring. I learnt that many child-rearing activities
he did as a grandfather, pleasantly surprised his
Besides my personal experience most of the information
in the book was told to me by my father (Harish). My
grandmother al so gave many i nformati on and
anecdotes, (as late as January, 2009) about marriage,
about stresses and strains of early life. I sent the
manuscript to other grandchildren who knew him;
talked to my mother, Bau (Dikhita Jhia), Chhuabapa
(Birendra), Kaka (Surendra), Manu (Rajaballav), Kuni
(Brajaballav), Jhalli (Sanghamitra) in order to get more
information and anecdotes, and to improve factual
correctness. Kulkul (Sarojballav) gave creative input into
the photographs. Mani (Sumati’s daughter) helped in
preparing the genealogy data.
I wondered whether to write the story addressing him
as my budhabapa all through out. It would give
personal touch. But as the contents were put into
perspecti ve, I t seemed to me l i ttl e awkward to
describe his childhood, young days, being addressed
as budhabapa. I felt, this is all about his life, he should
not be personified as ‘my budhabapa’; he had many
A lone pathfinder 64
roles, he belonged to all. It would be difficult for some
body who is related to him in some other way to relate
to the story mentioning him as a grandfather. There
was another reason; and I may put it this way. He has
achieved the divineness, free from worldly bondage
and like ‘Krishna’, and ‘Ram’ he be known to the world
by his first name, rather than as my budhabapa. He is
anyway and will remain MY budhabapa.

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