The Not-so-well-known Stories
Posted by bangalnama on September 23, 2008
Around the 1920s, the push for women’s education had begun in a big way in East Bengal. At the forefront of this movement was Barisal, in the south of the country. The late 1880s had already seen a blazing star with Barisal roots, in the form of Dr. Kadambini Ganguly, the first woman physician in South Asia to be trained in European medicine. Inspired by the likes of her, women surged into the field of the educated.
However, it was not possible for every girl and woman, in that era, to step outside the home, in order to study. So the problem was resolved by the ingenuity of those remarkable women, by having women teachers, who were willing and able, to come into antahpur – the very heart of their homes – to teach.
One such teacher was a Mrs. Dutta – an amiable and determined woman, who undertook this task with enthusiasm and a great deal of zeal. She began to teach the daughters of a police officer called Aukkhoy Coomar Gupta in Barisal town in 1930. The girls were avid learners, who looked forward to Mrs. Dutta’s visits. But there was a problem, in the form of her rambunctious and very loud, large infant son, of about a year of age, who would accompany her. He would disrupt their lessons with his constant crying and extremely demanding behaviour. At their wit’s end with this tantrum-throwing brat, the girls bullied their young brother, a lad of about eleven years age, to play with him and keep him quiet.
This proved to be quite a challenge for the young man, because the younger child insisted on being carried around in the older boy’s arms constantly. They would be on a patrol of the compound of the house and the neighbourhood, with the child beginning to bawl in an unusually deep and loud voice, every time he remembered that his mother was not within his earshot. Compounding the young baby sitter’s misery was the fact that the child was rather large and heavy; so much so, that the first time he picked up the little one, the big one almost fell down with the weight! However, the young baby sitter valiantly carried on with his duties for about two more years, passing the baton thereafter to his younger brother.
Now to divulge the identities – The baby sitter was my father Ajit Kumar Gupta, and the insufferable child? The noted thespian Utpal Dutta!
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[Ajit Kumar Gupta – photo courtesy D. Sen]