My earliest memory of Mukul Dadu is a slim frame, curly hair, flat forehead, fair and translucent skin and an ever smiling face. I always saw him in white crisp dhoti and a long “panjabi”. He used to have a light step and moved fast. Whenever the bell rang and I found Mukul Dadu at the door, I would run down the stairs and open the door for him. His coming to our house was like a festival. There would be laughter, conversation, encouragement and inspiration. Dadu who had prolonged spells of depression after Thama’s death and his own retirement would get charged up as soon as he heard Mukul Dadu cheerfully calling out “Chhobuda” at some distance before he actually entered Dadu’s room.
Sometimes Dadu invited his relatives over at our house and insisted that they sing Rabindra Sangeet. Mukul Dadu’s favourite song was “Hey Malati Didha Keno”, and to this day I have never heard a better rendition of the song that his.
Mukul Dadu encouraged me to no end. He appreciated my essays, my discussions and notwithstanding that I was only a school going child inspired me to be an independent thinker. I could never be assured of my performance till Mukul Dadu had a look at my writing and cleared it with lavish praise. He heard with interest my counterarguments against most established thoughts that usually appalled Dadu. But Mukul Dadu never talked me down and instead suggested to Dadu that it was important for children always to learn through arguments than by rote.
Mukul Dadu was briefly away at Nagaland from where he used to write to us. In short and nippy sentences he described his home in Kohima, his work, his colleagues and the change of seasons in the hills. I remember Baba read the letters several times for their poetic tone yet chatty style. When he heard that Dadu had died he sent us a telegram saying that the demise was an irreparable loss. Baba said that he had never heard of a better way to condole the loss of a loved one than this.
Today I teach University teachers under the UGC programme, I give after dinner talks at University Hostels, and lecture at Seminars on how to look at the world differently than what we usually do. I invariably think that these are just the things that Mukul Dadu predicted that I would do. I often mention Mukul Dadu, who himself was a teachers’ trainer to the teachers who I train and give examples from my conversations with him in those evenings when he, Dadu and I used to have tea with thin arrowroot biscuits sitting out in the balcony of Dover Lane.
Ma taught me that people never end when they die. No one really has died in my life. Thama is not dead, Dadu is not dead and Mukul Dadu, the third of the trinity of my favourites in the grandparent’s generation is not dead either. Whenever I think about Mukul Dadu I discover him anew. Each time I think about him, I hear the assured laughter, I see the confident bearing of the body, and I feel the vivacious energy of a very active mind. A large part of me is what he encouraged me to become and as I think, write, speak and argue his inspiration unconsciously and consciously always works within me.
Happy Birthday, Mukul Dadu,