PRDG At Shantiniketan

My father, who had never had to build his own house, having inherited a largish mansion from his father, my grandfather, decided that he indeed needed to have his own space and built a tiny but a picturesque cottage off the limits of Shantiniketan. This cottage with gardens and rose beds all around it, shingle roof on top and deodar lines for its boundary looked an absolute fairy land. In this cottage he was to have his own parties and entertain his own friends, cook the way he liked his food to be and enjoy fried stuff for his evening snack and eat soup for each dinner. The cottage was bare, with rather basic furniture but beautifully done up lights. He has a caretaker with who there has been a constant struggle over how to grow vegetables and tend the lawn in the long twenty years that we have built the house and had the caretaker around. Long ago, while the house was still quite new, a smart alec vaastu expert predicted that the house was of bad geometry because it has eight sides to it with two vast open doors in the line of the wind. My parents named it Dishari meaning the compass. I refused to believe him because my father is so happy in the house and everyone who happens to visit it is overwhelmed by its beauty, a beauty that is in its simplicity, much like my father himself.
This tiny cottage that my father built had a die-hard fan who we called PR Kaku, a.ka. P.R Dasgupta. PR Kaku and Prasun kaku were my father’s constant companions in all stages of the house; they stood over while the foundation was being laid, supervised the lintels, and instructed the shingle laying of the roof. When my mother fixed the lights, P.R Kaku gifted my parents with a rare photo of Tagore in a dhuti and Panjabi to be placed below the focus light. When the house was being painted, P.R Kaku himself drew a thin red border along the white exterior of the house giving it a very smart and yet a soft look. The house has always been full of P.R Kaku, his bottle of brandy, the vegetables he would buy to finely chop them for noodles, a dish that would take hours for him to cook. But together with my father and Prasun Kaku, P.R had a great picnic. P.R Kaku supervised the caretaker quite a bit, standing over his head, making him dig out the weeds and pull out the wild grass among the tended ones. To think of Shantiniketan without P.R Kaku is impossible.
Slowly the home at Shantiniketan had its own tribe; my cousin Neela would drop in with over two dozen visitors from all over the world to partake in the Basanta Utsab. Sometimes, on poush mela, the house would be teeming with Neela and her guests. P.R Kaku was also there often, helping my parents to serve the guests, talking and listening to the variety of humanity with Chinese, French, Italians, and Spanish among them. But unlike Neela, who the house claimed on festivals, P.R Kaku was one who the house would have for the quieter moments. In the first bloom of the kamini, in the first rains of ashadh, in the first dew of ashvin and in the first thaw of phalgun when the dew smelt of ice, the house at Shantiniketan had P.R Kaku with it. When I used to be in Shantiniketan and P.R.Kaku happened to be there as well, we often would stand outside the house and watch the lights glow softly from inside the window panes making Dishari look like a dreamland.
Last month, P.R Kaku went to the house at Shantiniketan; he went with a large party of people, his wife, his children, their friends and his attending physicians. He had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer and had not many days to live. He insisted that my parents, their friend, Daliamashi also accompany the party. This, he said, would be his last visit and in his last moments he wanted to be in his favourite place upon this world, the house at Shantiniketan. My parents and Daliamashi came away early and P.R. Kaku stayed on with his team. This time on Mamata Kakima, his wife and the others of his family treated my parents as their guests, pampered them to the core. They did all the spending, did not let my father reach out for his money bag even once so much so that my father in his age related forgetfulness actually forgot whether he ever carried any money! He came to our house in Kolkata to return the keys and gave a full report how he got the lazy caretaker to clean out the house, crop the trees, tidy the weeds and settle the lawn. He thanked my father profusely for such wonderful last days of his life at a house he always thought was out of the world.
This morning of the phalgun purnima, P.R. Kaku died. There is still Neela’s party laughing, running, panting and charging about with cameras and recorders, notepads and mobile phones at the house and enjoying the basanta utsab blow by blow and amidst the imagination of a grand party in Dishari, P.R. Kaku leaves our world very silently this morning. I do shed tears because I was very fond of him, and I cannot bring myself to believe that he will never walk through the gravel path, the soles of his sneakers crunching the pebbles beneath them yet this is the moment I do not lament P.R. Kaku’s demise; instead I congratulate my father. It is not for Neela’s rave parties, nor for the large number of guests, nor for the admiring relatives in the house that building the cottage at Shantiniketan is a redemption for my father; the success of my father’s efforts lie in the fact that a quiet and an affectionate soul like P.R. Kaku thought that my father’s home was his first step into Heaven, the wonderful afterlife. There are not many who can actually create a Heaven on earth and I am proud that my father is one to have done that. There are a few who have the blessings to recognize good fortunes while they have it and P.R Kaku was definitely one of the blessed ones P.R Kaku found his Heaven while he still lived upon this earth is a blessing and that the Divine chose my father to have created that world is a greater blessing. Today,amidst his last rites, I will bow in humility to the benedictions bestowed upon us by the Great One.

About secondsaturn

Independent Scholar. Polymath.
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