18 January 2015

Will he? Won’t he?

My trips to India usually are very short but very hectic. Partially because I have not yet learnt how to stay put in one place and partially because I can’t stop setting goals for everything. Reaching them is a completely different story altogether.

This time, reaching my top goal is precariously hanging in a balance. You see, for the last two years, I have been trying to convince my dad that we should go visit the village he was born in. He has steadfastly rejected the idea citing his poor health. What he would not admit is the emotional baggage that he might be carrying.

In 1940, when he had barely crossed his second birthday, he suddenly lost his dad. My grandfather was survived by my dad, grand mom, his elder sister and his eldest brother who was 11 years elder to him. Things are a little murky after that. My grand mom and my uncle (his elder brother was the respected patriarch in our family) were very reluctant to discuss this topic with me. My dad was too young anyways.

What I had pieced thru some of the information that was let out was that somehow my grandmother got thrown out of her house. My conjecture is that my grandpa’s brothers eased her out of the inheritance. (In India, at that time, society did not offer too many rights or much support to widows).
That led my grand mom to traverse about a hundred kilometers to a village where her brother resided. Her brother and his wife – who were struggling themselves, nonetheless, took the family in. Again, the details of the journey is murky but I know at that point my dad lost his elder sister too.

In any case, that new village is where my grand mom and family settled down and even reached a semblance of prospering (which means they had their own land to till and had their own hut). You might have seen the picture of that thatched hut made of dirt where I was born in a blog in 2012. That hut still does not have electricity or running water.

As I grew up, I realized that my uncle and grand mom never wanted to discuss their life prior to coming to my birth village. The memories of that phase of life is something they simply did not want to revisit. My uncle never took his wife or kids to his own village where he was born. Likewise with my dad.

But for the last two years, I have been pressing my dad. He was too young. He remembers nobody (although he had heard some names from his mom). I suspect he simply followed what his elder brother and mom did. I have been trying to explain that before dying, he owes it to himself to visit the place he was born in. Certainly, I want to see the place my dad was born in. I know he has no grudges (again, he was too young), but he is emotionally connected to his brother and mother’s example.

After two long years, this time when Sharmila visited him a couple of weeks back, it appeared that he has relented. He is willing to consider. Ever since I heard that, my brother and I have been talking to him everyday and making plans. Every alternate day he has been switching between “Let’s give it a try” to “No way, Jose”. The last couple of days, he has held steady at “Let’s give it a try”.

I have about 48 hours in hand. I land in India in 36 hours. After sleeping that night, my brother and I want to pack our parents in his car and hit the road. Before he gets a chance to change his mind. Assuming he has not already.
That was the larger problem. The smaller problem then was answering “Where is this place that he was born in?”. Google maps is showing nothing by the name he has always told us. I have a vague recollection that grand mom had once talked about a large village she had gone to for a fair from her inlaws’ house. That place can be easily located on Google maps. For three days, with an ever increasing radius I had been scanning from Google Satellite maps, the names of the villages. (sometimes, I had to spot what looked like a few huts and then kept zooming till Google would give a name; btw, Apple maps is worthless in this regard). Eventually, I hit a village whose name comes close enough.

My grand mom and uncle always called it “Deripur”. There is no such place in the whole district. There is a “Dwariapur” that is close to the larger village. Startlingly enough, there is a Wikipedia entry for Dwariapur. There are only 5 lines about the village. One of the line says that it is also referred to as “Deriapur” by locals. I am quite sure “Deripur” is the same name colloquially. Otherwise, I am totally out of alternatives.

So there it is. After a long trip to Kolkata, a few quick hours of sleep later, I am hoping against hopes that the my dad will still be agreeable to making the trip. And of course, that my joining the dots has indeed led me to the right village!!

Wish me luck!!

Posted January 18, 2015 by Rajib Roy in category "Family in India", "Vacations


  1. By Sibapriya Dasgupta on

    Wish you all the luck! Is it in Barddhaman district of West Bengal? BTW you had earlier mentioned that thatched roofed house you were born had been unfortunately burnt down! Going back to your roots as in Alex Haley’s’ “Roots” brings about a huge emotional catharsis which might not be beneficial for certain individuals.But in this case he has indirect unpleasant memories! So go full steam ahead! Happy and safe journey!

  2. By Rajib Roy on

    Sibapriya, it is in Burdwan district and that caused some confusion. I had always heard that our ancestral village was in Birbhum district. That elongated my internet search. However, now I realize that the village is close to the border. It is in Burdwan district. Although it is part of Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency. Great memory of my own birthplace hut having burnt down. I have not seen it after that though.


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