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