Sunday, June 8, 2008

The legacy of a great man....or two...

I’m sitting in a train, looking out my window as the lush landscape of Punjab (the agricultural state of India and home to my ancestors) rolls by. They’re great, train journeys. In my fast paced life with flights up and down the same day, I had forgotten the good old charm of sitting in a train and doing absolutely nothing.

The cacophony of people’s chatter fills my ears. There is an extended group playing Tambola (a game played in India where you have to tick off numbers on your ticket and win prizes). Another group chats away like there is no tomorrow. The pantry boy walks by giving us soup and bread to start with. And I have the urge to write. If Rowling’s genius found its form in a train, should I miss the opportunity?

I’m reading this book – Dare to dream, A life of M.S.Oberoi by Bachi J. Kakaria. Not usually taken by biographies, this one has caught my fancy like few books do. Written in story-telling form, it’s a riveting story of how a village boy left his village in what now is Pakistan and made his way to become one of the richest and greatest hoteliers of the country if not the world. As I read more and more, my admiration for his guts increases. All was not pure and innocent. He made his crooked deals, courted many a women and had enough faults. But for a man to single handedly do what he did and sit in his farm, 91 years old and tell the tale, it is indeed commendable.

The story also takes me back to my ancestors. My maternal grand father whom we fondly remember as ‘Daarji’ followed a similar but modest path. Born in Shahid Village in Punjab, he would walk kilometers altogether to go to school in the next town. Such was his determination to get out of the village and make a life for his family, that he went on to study engineering in Roorkie (now called IIT Roorkie) – one of the premium institutions in the country and served as a high official with the engineering department that built dams. He was even associated with the famed Bhakra Nangal Dam. He and my grand mother had 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. He passed away one night at a very early age, I think my mother was not even 8 leaving my grand mother to raise 7 children all by herself. And she did – but that’s another blog, would not do her justice to force fit her into this one.

Oberoi may have left behind a legacy…and a chain of hotels. My grand father left a legacy in his own way. Of his children, 3 would eventually go and settle abroad. The eldest ran a successful factory generating employment for many. Another son joined the army. All married into well educated families and blossomed into a big, warm and successful group.

I wonder how he would feel if he saw us today. Me tapping away on my laptop, my brothers driving to work in a BMW, a sister buying houses left right and centre in Canada, another sister roaming the world in style. I never knew the man, but I feel proud to be his grand-daughter. We are his legacy and he is why we are where we are today…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yes he left behind a legacy and everyone rose from the ashes so as to say. mom was 4 when he passed away on 5th May 1955. to see the world at the time when he was around and raising his family in Nangal first and then in Ludhiana read a book called 'what the body remembers' it has striking similarities to darji and biji's life in many ways (both canal engineers, both left pakistan in the middle of the night with the help of the army).
but its also strange that with each generation the distance between families keeps widening (a sister's kids become 1st cousins and their kids become 2nd cousins etc etc) but the relationships and ties can be and are kept strong thru communication, keeping in touch, and meeting as much as you can. Life is just a blink - all that matters is how you lived it and the memories you leave behind with those whose lives you touched-in any small miniscule way.

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