Voyage on the SS Ivernia, Feb 4?-Feb 10 1957

From Facebook:

Subroto Roy  has the faintest recollection of arriving in New York on his second birthday (en route to Ottawa) on this great old ship….

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My mother & her two daughters, my sisters, Bombay c. 1953

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This is from about 1953 in Bombay, two years before I arrived in the family, with Tunu (Sucheta) holding the teddy-bear and Buju (Suchandra) looking sober and responsible on my mother’s left.   There seems to be a radio in the background as well as a small bust of the poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Tunu lived August 12 1947 until January 26 1990.  This is how I recall her last, c. 1988,  after she had lost one breast to cancer and suffered other tragedies.

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She, seven years older than me, was really my first teacher, telling my infant mind about the world it found itself in even before I ended up at Lady Evelyn’s kindergarten in Ottawa.  There will be more of her here in due course — building a snowman together in the Canadian snows and other escapades.   I wept much, far away in Honolulu, when she died in Calcutta aged 42.   She would have been a  happy grandmother today, enjoying her three grandchildren: GetAttachment.aspx3

Buju lived February 14 1943 until January 10 1998. She was 12 years older than me and loved me dearly and I wept much at her tragic passing — she had no children and I cremated her with the full honours that she might have received had she left a son.

I shall write more of her in time. Meanwhile, I remain grateful for Nana Mouskouri’s rendition of  Amazing Grace as there is an uncanny resemblance.

December twenty years ago is when I last saw Tunu, having returned from Honolulu to say what we knew was our last goodbye; December twelve years ago was when I last saw Buju. “The wise grieve not for those who live or for those who die, for life and death shall pass away, and I and thou and those kings of men, shall live for ever and ever” advises the Bhagavad Gita as I recall; but perhaps the advice is wrong since the wise like the unwise do grieve and should.

My grandfather’s death in Ottawa 50 years ago today

Manindranath Roy, my grandfather, died at Civic Hospital, Ottawa, fifty years ago today, September 3 1958.   He was the first Hindu gentleman to die in Ottawa and no cremation  was possible there at the time, so we had to go to Montreal.   I was three years old and my grandfather was the first person I knew who really “died” (as opposed to die from fake gunfire on TV in a cowboys-and-indians serial).  His death meant something very sad and foreboding, the room where he slept at our home at 73 Riverdale Avenue becoming empty, and very scary indeed as if he was still there though he was not.  Death meant leaving the living corporally  — though obviously not  leaving their memories or their consciousness, or we would not have been remembering him today.

The photographs below were at the funeral-home in Ottawa.  My father was reading from The Bhagavad Gita.  My mother and sisters were distraught as they had known him and loved him well.   I only knew him as someone who urged me to fight back when bullied by an older and stronger boy who was our neighbour.  “Dadu, mere dao, dadu, mere dao!”, (“Grandson, hit him back!  Hit him back!” )  my grandfather would urge when he saw me being pummelled into the lawn — crossly tapping his walking-stick on the ground.   And fight back is,  I suppose , what I have done when attacked or attempted to be tyrannised ever since.

Manindranath Roy 1891-1958

My grandfather, 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.

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.