When my younger sister was growing up, there was a retired gentleman in the neighbourhood who ran a monimela for them in the local park, a children’s self-recreational community, and thanks to his long and untiring efforts many of them not only enjoyed engaging in a lot of healthy communal activities – from picnics to Saraswati pujo to Holi – but developed lifelong friendships. Indeed, my sister married one of the kids she grew up playing with. So here’s remembering Mukti Banerjee with deep regard and thanks: he was one of the most socially valuable human beings I have met in this town.
I had social instincts of the same sort, and I wished very badly that my daughter would enjoy the inestimable benefits of such socializing during her growing-up years. Alas, no father can give his daughter everything he wants to, and I couldn’t give her the experience that I would have liked. There was no Mr. Banerjee around in her childhood years, and the parents of her generation of kids did their damnedest to prevent them from making friends. Let’s bypass that subject: it’s too unsavoury to discuss. But I tried everything I could. So on Kali pujo/Deepavali nights, I have been calling over current and old boys every year to have fun together with lights and rangoli and fireworks and snacks. This year too the tradition has been maintained, but this was the first time in twenty years that Pupu was not with me, and it felt strange, though the children enjoyed themselves as always before. I wonder what the years ahead have in store – until grandchildren come.