(Foreword: The time is around 29-31st December 1941, or was it 1940. I am not sure, Dr. Bachchan was in the midst of a kavi Sammelan at Abohar. Probably he had just received a telegram from his friend Gyan Prakash Jauhari (Prakash in the story!). These are the translations of the pages 170-172 of the second part of his biography Need ka Nirmaan Phir)
प्रतिधव्नित करता रहा है
शून्य जो तूने कहा है
इसलिये तुमको प्रणय के
एक दिन देगी सुनाई
I had received an urgent long telegram from my friend Prakash, the contents of which insisted that I shall possibly reach Bareilly from Abohar at the very earliest. The words in the telegram were grafted with such an intense request that I could not do anything other than reaching Bareilly. In fact it wasn’t a mere telegram it was a sort of a call of destiny!
There was a Lucknow bound night passenger from Delhi that also went via Moradabad-Bareilly. On 30th Morning I left Abohar fpr Delhi and reached there in the evening, from there took the night train and reached Bareilly on the morning of 31st. Prakash had moved into a new bungalow which was next to electric house. When I reached his bungalow riding a tonga, it must have been around six or six thirty. It is actually quite dark in winters at such early hours and Prakash was still asleep. His servant informed him of my arrival and he directed him to send me to his bedroom (Thinking – who possibly could have arrived at such an early morning!). He was still inside his quilt, a blue shade night lamp on his bedside was on. I sat close to his bedside, he took my right hand into his left and pulled it inside the quilt, pressed it in such a way so as to suggest and express to me – that whatever you have been through in the last two months is not unknown to me, I know everything! I am aware you have undergone multitudes of troubles, I have complete sympathy for that, don’t feel that you are alone, I am with you, try to cheer up, keep your hopes alive.
I said to myself, look who was expressing such great sympathy towards me, someone who had not been happy within himself. Who had hidden all his internal sufferings with his external smile, who was always highly considerate of every troubled soul, who wanted that every person be cheerful and happy on this earth! Atleast so very true for me!
(Here it would be appropriate to tell that Gyan Prakash Jauhari of Bareliiy college was a friend of Dr. Bachchan who had earlier helped and supported him in life in his tough times, that he had his own problems in life which he hardly discussed with others- he always tried to embrace his friends into happiness!)
कल मुर्झाने वाली कलियां
हंसकर कहती है मग्न रहो।
(The buds destined to be on deathbed the next day suggest with a smile remain cheerful!)
Only buds that are indifferent of their own fate can possibly propagate the thought to remain cheerful to others. With the murmurs of my arrival, his wife Prema also woke up in her bed. Aditya and Uma also joined us from their rooms and covered their feet with warmth of the quilt on Prakash’s bed. It was our first meeting since the death of my father, naturally the conversation had to begin with reflections of condolences and picking up of threads from thereon.
Mind is such an extremely wonderful machinery. No one knows, who could initiate it into which directions and at what speeds with what results. My mind took me to the old Allahabad days of Adityas’ room at new katara, All Saints House of Civil Lines, Women’s hostel of university, BaSudha cottage of Bailey Road ( which was thus enchristened by my fellow poet Pantji : Ba – Bachchan, Su – Sumitranandan and Dha – for Dharan which means to holding, i.e. the house of house of Bachchan and sumitranandan in short), the Phaphamau bridge, my father’s room at our katara home, lawan of the girls school where Iris was teaching, the deadbody of my father lying in the room of a flat close to Basudha, yes we are in the midst of expressions over his death, that they are probably unaware of yet another death in my family, that none would like to rake up such issues. All this crossed my mind in a flash of a second and was writ over my face. The condolences offered include substantially condolences for this other death too!
Such is the human nature that it understands and communicates without words being exchanged! What was going on in his mind, I could understand, and what I could understand was equally ably conceived by him quite well. Words sometimes are merely crude way of expressing feelings, when the situation is grave the eyes do conversation, the body language speaks, expressions on our face, colour of our skin - they all portray the state of our mind like no word could ever describe. And whatever was being communicated or expressed did bring to surface the same facts and thoughts that I once pretended that I wanted to erase from my memory that I believed I had left behind! In reality nothing can ever be left behind and forgotten, if we exert forces to expel such thoughts they seem to take deeper roots. I often feel that this exercise of forgetting becomes an object to remember what we like to forget! Prakash grasps the fact that atmosphere has become unduly tense and difficult to move ahead, he call his servant and orders him to serve tea to us. Tea arrives, Prakash indicates to Prema to call Teji as well , she must have been up by now.
I heard this name in his household for the first time. I am told teji, in fact is Miss Teji Suri, she teaches psychology in Fatehchand college of Lahore, where Prema had gone as a principal, Prema stayed with her in Lahore and and had asked her to join us for Christmas vacations. She is put up in the adjacent room.
In a flick of a second, one of the door opens up slowly, and miss Suri enters into our room – smiling, medium height, compact body with big eyes, long nose medium lips neither too full nor too thin, bright shining teeth, the chin only as round as could defy to be termed pointed – nearly a face of a greek woman. She had wrapped a black dupatta around her face that necessarily accentuated her fair complexion a little more. Her eyes were still beset with some tender sleepiness in them. She was wearing a purplish salwar kameez and just hung a woolen coat on her for protection from the cold. The moment she entered the room, I got up from my seat with little uncomfort of confronting a new face. Prema introduced her – my friend Teji, Prakash introduced me – My friend Bachchan. The beauty of the first sight of Teji was enough to attract with gratitude. Realizing the melancholic state of my mind had she not looked up at me with that impulsive impressive look of her tender eyes, I would have definitely turned my focus away from her! She settled herself on the other end of the Bed of Prakash, who had now adjusted himself to a half lying position to accommodate. I was sitting opposite her on the other end. So far there was only the glow of the night lamp in the room, I felt that after Teji entered it appeared as if another lamp had been lit, such was the glow of her presence!
I shall write more of the first encounter with Shrimati Teji Bachchan from the autobiography of our beloved great poet Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan. I wanted to end this first writing with the observation that Miss Teji Suri entered the life of Dr. Bachchan as a source of new light!)