The Dragon Slayer – Contd.
Cholera found Nityananda at the age of 43 and his dazzling story was forced to come to a premature end in the village of Kelisahar where his family lived.
By modern standards, Kelisahar which is a part of Chittagong district, continues to be a village. It is hemmed in by Agartala and Aizawl in India and Barisal and Chittagong in Bangladesh. Nityananda’s family comprising of his wife Syama Sundari and her sons (I believe she had three, but that fact may not be entirely accurate) were left orphaned by his death. The eldest son, Sarat Chandra a magnificently handsome man, was my great grandfather. Sarat was just 15 years old when his father succumbed to cholera and the mantle of head of the family fell on his young shoulders. However, his mother was a feisty woman and was determined that her children should not be burdened at such a young age. She used her savings and the family property to keep things going and as a result Sarat managed to complete his law education.
Syama Sundari means dusky beauty and by all accounts she was one. My great, great grandmother was known for her sharp tongue and for being totally fearless, qualities that made everyone stop in their tracks, including her husband who was no pushover himself. Syama’s paternal family was originally from Uttar Pradesh who had settled in Kelisahar. Her marriage to Nityananda produced six sons of whom three survived, my great grandfather Sarat Chandra of the magnificent good looks, was the eldest of her sons. He had inherited the dragon slaying spirit of his father and the fearlessness of his mother and not surprisingly, he led the family to new adventures.
Like most people who are aware that they are made for greater glory Sarat Chandra Chakrabarty exhibited certain tell-tale signs. He was restless, had a large appetite for achieving, didn’t believe in giving up easily and took risks …for a Bengali man of reasonable means living in 19th century Bengal it was seismic.
His name has cropped up regularly during the occasional discussion among family members and distant cousins. A part of his larger than life achievements even finds representation in the Smithsonian. His picture in a pin-striped suit accessorized with a fob watch used to sternly stare back at me from my grandmother’s dresser. He looked like an English lord and I was certain that he rode a horse as well as he wore his fob watch.
The legend of Sarat Chandra Chakrabarty has permeated the family history indelibly and till date we love to hear of his exploits with slack-jawed wonder.