Sarat Chandra visits Surendranath Roy 1927

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya (1876-1938) was one of India’s greatest literary geniuses and a marvellous novelist. This is a 1927 photograph of his visit to my great grandfather Surendranath Roy. There will be more about him here in due course.

Oddly enough, the sofa on which they sit has survived and is one of a set of four (much re-upholseterd) that we use daily today more than 80 years later!

https://independentindian.com/2008/10/12/sarat-writes-to-manindranath-1931/

The Roys of Behala 1928

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This is a 1928 photo of the male members of the Roy Family of Behala, south of Calcutta, along with the children. Adult women would have been behind an effective “purdah”. The bearded patriarch in the middle is my great grandfather, the Hon’ble Surendranath Roy (1860-1929), an eminent statesman of Bengal of his time  https://independentindian.com/2008/06/17/surendranath-roy-1860-1929/ (We did not know until recently he was present and badly injured, along with Ardeshir Dalal, by Bhagat Singh’s bomb thrown in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929 during the Simon Commission deliberations. He died seven months later.)

Surendranath was the eldest son of Rai Bahadur Umbik Churn Rai (1827-1902). The Golden Book of India published at the time of the Victoria Jubilee said Umbik was the twelfth descendant of one Raja Gajendra Narayan Rai, Rai-Raian, a finance official under the Great Mughal Jahangir.

Surendranath’s second son, my grandfather, Manindranath Roy, is seated second from the right in the second row with spectacles and moustache.

The bright lad fourth from the left in the last row, with his hand on his knee, would grow up to be my father.

 

 

Manindranath Roy 1891-1958

See

https://independentindian.com/2008/10/06/a-literary-find-modern-poetry-in-bengali-1914-1936/

https://independentindian.com/life-of-mk-roy-19152012-indian-aristocrat-diplomat-birth-centenary-concludes-7-nov-2016/

Manindranath Roy (1891-1958) was a quiet enigmatic literary figure and artistic benefactor in Calcutta; he wrote very well and had excellent taste and manners (though was of foolish judgement in money and friends). This photograph is from about 1922 at Allahabad where he used to take his family on annual holiday. (The little boy to the left behind his mother would grow up to become my father.)

My grandfather is dressed in fine post-Edwardian fashion; at the time, his father, Surendranath Rai, was at the peak of his political career as first Deputy President and then President of the new Bengal Legislative Council. Surendranath was an orthodox Brahmin and chose never to wear Western-style suits and neck-ties, and he was thoroughly averse to the idea of dining with Europeans. Manindranath was the first to wear Western clothes, as well as to dine in Calcutta’s Western restaurants. There was tension between father and son due to such matters.

Buju was my parents’ firstborn, Manindranath’s first grandchild and the apple of his eyes.  MK Roy tho’ the second son of Manindranath had wed before his older brother: Buju brought new life to everyone around her. SN Roy’s death in 1929, six months after being injured by Bhagat Singh’s bomb, left a vast personal estate inherited from his father but with unclear succession.  His brothers took control.  His younger son Manindranath, a poet keen only to broadcast his poetry on the newly created radio and win the love of his beautiful angry wife, came to be  quickly and foolishly entangled in the grip of unscrupulous relatives and vicious business acquaintances; incredibly, the vast inherited fortune was purloined or dissipated through egregious frauds within a handful of years, leaving Manindranath broke and broken.  A decade went to discharge him from insolvency, a police team travelling from Calcutta to Singapore to bring him back under arrest. My parents’ wedding in the blackout of Calcutta under Japanese aerial bombardment in May 1942 coincided with the end of Manindranath’s pathetic ordeal.  Manindranath a broken man when Buju, his first grandchild, brought him joy:

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My grandfather came to visit us in Ottawa in May 1958, and here we are on a day’s outing to show him the sights. I recall it well though I was three years old. My mother had stayed home to arrange our meal.

Manindranath Roy died in Ottawa on September 3 1958, the first Hindu gentleman known to have done so, it was said; he had to be cremated in Montreal as no one was cremated in Ottawa back then.

There will be more of his eventful and interesting life here in due course. For example, he was a benefactor of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and many others including Uday Shankar, and he was a close friend and colleague at Grace and Co of Rabindranath Tagore’s son-in-law, Nagen Gangulee. Rabindranath apparently visited the Swaraj Party’s political meetings where Surendranath was an old friend of CR Das. Another close and respected friend of Surendranath’s was Jagdish Chandra Bose.