What, or who is a good human being? A father’s cryptic yet simple words for his daughter.
Shri Manuj Kanti Bandyopadhyay was summoned by Sister Mercy D ‘Souza, the Principal of Loreto Convent, Ranchi. Sister was curious as to why he writes his surname as Bandyopadhyay while his daughter’s surname is Banerjee. Mr Bandyopadhyay humbly submitted that both the surnames are the same and that Banerjee is the anglicized version of Bandyopadhyay. Sister’s curiosity was sated by the good conversationalist that Mr Bandyopadhyay was. By that time his daughter was called to the Principal’s office and she looked quite surprised because Sister was all smiles, which probably happened once in a blue moon. Sister looked at her and asked her father:
“So Mr Bandyopadhyay what do you want your daughter to become?”
Mr Bandyopadhyay smiled and said:
“I would be happy if she turns out to be a good human being.”
Sister smiled again and said to the young girl:
“Off you go girl, you are sorted, you have a great father, and remember what he said.”
The girl remembered, she later asked her father, “Papa, bhalo manush mane ki?” (Papa what does being a good human being mean?)
Father replied, “Jaar mon bhalo sei bhalo manush” (one who has a good heart is a good human being)
Here one is advised against thinking that the heart and mon are one and the same.
Pop came another question from the girl, “Papa ei mon ta kothay hoy? Heart er kachhe?”
(Papa where is this mon located in the body,is it near the heart?)
Father laughed and said,”Na re Maa,mon toh chokhe hoy, kaane hoy, mukhe hoy, haate hoy, paaye hoy,bhalo manush toh gotatai ekta mon”(No my darling, mon can be found in one’s eyes, ears, lips, hands and legs, in fact a good human being is nothing but a mon, all in all, a beating heart)
“Mane ki?”, the girl asked.
Her father smiled again and explained:
“Jokhon tomaar onyer koshto dekhle chokhe jol ashe kimba taar khushi dekhle aanondo hoy…tokhon mon tomaar chokhe” (when someone’s distress causes your eyes to well up, or their joy makes you happy that is when your mon is in your eyes)
He continued, ” Aabaar bhalo gaan shunle jokhon aanondo hoy kimba onyer koshter kotha shunle jokhon koshto hoy tokhon mon kaane (when you hear a beautiful song and that brims you with happiness, or when you experience pain hearing of someone’s misery then your mon is in your ears)
“Jokhon tomar duto bhalo kotha karur jonno uposhom hoy uthe, kimba ekta bhalo chhobi dekhle jokhon tumi onayaashe ‘baah!’ bole otho kimba onnay dekhle jokhon gorje otho tokhon mon tomaar mukhe”(when your words provide relief to someone, or when you exclaim in joy at having seen a beautiful picture or when you express anger when you see injustice around you then your mon is in your lips)
“Aar tumi jokhon karur dike haath bariye dao kimba mathaye hath buliye dao tokhon mon tomaar hathe, jokhon doure jao kaoke bipod theke uddhar korte tokhon mon tomaar paye…ebaar bujhle Maa bhalo manush gotatai ekta mon” (when your hands reach out to help or when you gently caress somebody then your mon is in your hands when you run to help somebody then your mon is in your legs…so my sweetheart a good human being is, all in all, a mon)
The girl said, “Hmm”.
The girl is a mother now and one balmy evening asks her now old father:
“Papa tumi je cheye chhile je aami bhalo manush hoyi sei asha ki tomaar puran hoyechhe?”(Papa you wanted me to become a good human being, have I been able to live up to that dream of yours?)
Her father smiled and said, “Have people called you pretentious or immature when your eyes welled up at someone’s misfortune?
She replied, ” Many times, they have even offered a bucket at times…and that hurts Papa .”
He continued, “Have people of their own accord advised you to be practical?”
She nodded a big nod.
Father now asked,” Have people told you sarcastically ‘aren’t you trying to be a bit too good!’, when maybe you have gone out of the way for someone?
His daughter smiled and nodded a big yes.
Have you been called foolish in many different ways, at times blunt other times subtly, sometimes by near and dear ones or friends or colleagues?
The foolish girl laughed with tears in her eyes.
Her father gave her a pat on her shoulders and said, “so did you learn the synonyms?”
Also read: Getting to know books: Beyond the stories
(Nilambara Banerjee is a former professor of St. Xaviers College Ranchi.)
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