A Saga Of A Bengali Family

September 25, 2006

In a prosperous jute trading town called Lakhibasha(abode of Goddess of wealth) lived a Brahmin landowner Kalachand Banerjee.In mid 1860s a son was born to him—his only child—and was named Biharilal.Kalachand was very proud of his son and was keen to make his only child a jewel of the town; and educated him in the best school and upto the highest class then available in the town.

Biharilal matriculated with the highest marks in the school and joined the police department.Quickly he rose up in ranks to head the district police department and madeKalachand very proud and Biharilal was really the jewel of the town.The whole of townsfolk looked upto him for all sorts of help and assistance.He did what ever possible at the best of his abilities; but as the country was under the British rule his power was limited but that did not stop him from doing his best when or where ever possible.

Lakhibasha was situated on banks of the river Naba Ganga—-like all jute trading towns—in the district of Jessore(now in Bangladesh)about 110 miles by road from Calcutta;the road was a very good(and now even better) and tarred;so the town was connected by both road and river transport to Calcutta(then the Capital of India) so the people visited and studied(for higher standards and colleges and for work in Calcutta) as the transport was good and the distance was only 110 miles;which then even with slower cars or buses took only few hours and there was also the steamer services as alternative mode available. There was a four times daily bus services to and from Calcutta and the service was very good and popular with the townsfolk for visiting Calcutta both for business and personal jobs.
The most important landmark or site of the town was a Kali Temple on the banks of the river.The temple had a big courtyard where all the townsfolk gathered for meetings and discussions regarding the improvement of the town and the neighboring areas also for other social functions.As the Kali Temple was very famous all over the whole country many devotees and visitors all thronged the temple all round the year.The prosperous town always welcomed the thousands who visited the temple and Biharilal was in charge for many years for the upkeep of the great temple.People from far and near were always in high praise of the great temple and the offerings at the temple was always good and was spent for the upkeep and improvement of the holy place.The great Kali Temple is still in good shape though now in Bangladesh the importance of Goddess Kali may have diminished to the Muslim population of Bangladesh as a whole but the Kali Temple of Lakhibasha still remains as popular as ever and people still throng there during the Kali Puja in great numbers from all over Bangladesh or even from India.The town had the unique distinction of having a Bank(Lakhibasha Bank); Post+Telegraph office and more important both a Girls High School and a Boys High School and a big jute trading office of a British company and a health center.These were only bank;schools+the Post+Telegraph office within over fifty miles radius of the town.It also had a big play ground named Mollah’s Maat where many football matches were held even cup tournaments for the whole of then undivided Bengal.The town was divided according to the castes in different areas(paras) like the Brahminpara(Judgespara)for the Brahmins;a Kyastapara for the professionals;a Kumorpara for the artisans;a Jeliapara for the fisherfolks;a Nomosudrapara for the lower manual labour castes and a Muslimpara for the Muslims etc.Even these paras were subdivided according to the financial status etc.But the intermixing made the town rather unique and both the schools had no distinctions in parting out the lessons nor any other castes or creed differences and everyone lived peacefully and with every bodies company.This was very unique at that time in undivided India in last two centuries.Lakhibasha was a model town with great wealth and harmony. The people were proud and loved the town and and even now even after the partition of the country the people of both sides still meet and discuss the activities of the great town.
Biharilal married twice and by his first wife he had three sons,Hiralal;Motilal and Chunilal.After the death of his first wife he married Sarala and with her he had five daughters Indumoti;Charushree;Prafula;Shailya and Shefali and five sons Monilal;Harilal;Maniklal;Bibhutilal and Birendralal.

Like his father(Kalachand) Biharilal made it his duty to properly educate all his children.During his lifetime he also built a big house and bought many acres of cultivatable land both at his town and on the other bank of the river in a small village like town called Baghjhappa.In this small town he had a small plot of land for cultivation of rice and jute and a house with a boundary wall with a big vegetable and fruit garden.

The most important places that Biharilal built at his home and maintained with his sons was a SHIVA Temple and a Mandap for Durga Puja.This Durga Puja was being held for generations—started in 1753 by the forefathers—at the home of the Banerjees at Lakhibasha and Biharilal with the help of his sons built a big and a better Temple and a Mandap and continued the Puja both at the Shiva Temple(daily) and the annual Durga Puja held in grand scale when all the sons and the daughters with their families gathered and had a grand time and there was a feast for the whole town on the last day of the grand annual festival at the Banerjee Bari of Lakhibasha. This annual festival was the meeting place for the whole Banerjee family and looked forward to very eagerly by the big Banerjee clan and others who came every year.
Hiralal after schooling in his home town studied law and started practicing in Faridpur a district town not far from his home.Slowly he built up a good practice and was a popular lawyer in the town.He had two sons Jagadish and Ranjit and three daughters.Jagadish like his father became a lawyer and had a very good practice in the Bankshall Court in Calcutta and even became the President of the Bar Association.Ranjit worked for the food department of Govt.Of West Bengal. The family of Hiralal bought a big house at Maniktolla area in north Calcutta and during the World War II Hiralal came over to Calcutta and stayed there with his sons and daughters(all were married by then) and died in his sons’ home in Calcutta. Both sons of Hiralal are now dead and their siblings now live in the house at Maniktolla and in constant touch with Bowbazaar home.
Motilal stayed with his father to look after the cultivation of the big land in the home town and also worked for sometime with the jute trading house.Though married had no issue;he came over to Calcutta in 1930s and stayed in the Bowbazaar home with Harilal.

Chunilal after his schooling in his home town came over to Calcutta and finished his college and obtained a law degree and started practicing in civil and criminal law.He bought a big and lovely house at Kalighat in south Calcutta area, which became the hub of the Banerjee family during their visits to Calcutta for various jobs and studies in the early 1910s. Chunilal had four sons Jitendru;Dipendru;Gunendru and Khokan and four daughters.Jitendru and Dipendru were both doctors and were popular in the area.Gunendru and Khokan worked in Govt.of West Bengal offices.The daughters are all married and live their own lives with their families in and around Calcutta.

When Biharilal—the fountainhead of the Banerjee clan— died in mid 1910s and it was then, Chunilal,who took over the responsibilities of the well-beings and guidance the both at Lakhibasha and the brothers who came over to Calcutta then for studies and other jobs of the Banerjee clan.

Harilal took over the full responsibilities from Chunilal; in mid 1920s when he became a prosperous lawyer and started looking after the goodwill and well-beings of the whole Banerjee clan both in his home town and the brothers and sisters who had been sifting to Calcutta for studies and jobs .
Monilal also stayed back in Lakhibasha and looked after the the cultivation of land producing rice and other produce mostly cash crops and helped to maintain the Shiva Temple and the Durga Mandap and do necessary jobs to upkeep the big properties Biharilal with his sons help bought subsequently the holdings of Biharilal and his sons was very big and prosperous with big produce of rice and other cultivations.

Monilal had two sons Chittaranjan(Gaur) and Niharanjan(Kallu) and three daughters who are married.Niharanjan lived and worked in New Delhi and had his family there;he is now dead but his family still lives in New Delhi.Chittaranjan is married but has no issue.He worked in the Food Corp.Of India for many years and now living with his wife at the Behala home.
Harilal like his brother Chunilal after finishing his schooling in the home town came over to Calcutta and stayed with his brother(Chunilal) to finish his college and then passed his law degree.After getting the law degree Harilal worked with the Income Tax department but left after a couple of months and started practicing by himself specializing in Tax Laws.Within only couple of months he started earning enough to leave his brother’s home and rented a house at Beniatola, near the present home at Bowbazaar.In early 1920s he married the eldest daughter(Nonibala/Bivabati) of Dr.Madhusudhan Mukherjee;a Civil Surgeon—the Chief Medical Officer of the district—-he had the rare honor of being the ONLY Indian Civil Surgeon in the state of Bengal as then(during the British rule) NO Indian was allowed to hold that post as it was then equivalent to the rank of the District Magistrate and ONLY Britishers were allowed to hold these two posts.But as Dr M.Mukherjee was an very officiant doctor and a superb surgeon and an exception was made for him.Dr.Mukherjee had three daughters Nonibala(Bivabati);Bimala and Kamala.Bimala married a postal employee and was posted at Benaras;where they lived their whole life with their children.Kamala became a widow in a very young age with a very very young daughter—Shyamoli—and Harilal and Bivabati brought them to their home and they became the part of family members of Harilal and Bivabati.

Maniklal has five sons Ashoklal;Ashislal;Somnath; Shibnath and Vibek and two daughters(both now dead)Maniklal after the partition of India came over to Calcutta and lived in the Behala home with his children.

Bibhutilal after staying with his brother Harilal for a sometime both at Bowbazaar home and Behala; got a job in New Delhi and started living there and retired and returned to Calcutta.He has three sons Arun;Barun and Tarun and a daughter(now married) Bibhutilal also after staying for sometime in the Behala home; built a lovely home with a big pond near the Behala home and shifted with his family to his own home;where his children now stays.

Birendralal(Narayan) first stayed in the Bowbazaar home and was running a very profitable cloth business but stopped the business and shifted to Behala and after sometime he also built his own house near the Behala home and sifted there with his family of one son Sanjay and a daughter Baku who is now married. Birendralal later became a very popular homeopathy doctor in the locality as well far and near his home and earned handsomely.
Harilal’s legal practice became very big and within a few years he became the topmost Tax lawyer in Calcutta and then the whole of India.He was staying at a rented house in central Calcutta at Beniatola.This house became the main center of the whole Banerjee clan in Calcutta.It was here his first legal practice began and prospered. He then bought an one storied house at then 69/A,Bancharam Aukur Lane(now renamed Dhiren Dhar Sarani ) very near the rented house he was then living with his wife.By early 1930s the old one storied house was transformed into a big four storied home of the Banerjees Of Bowbazaar-Kolkata.Then this home became the hub of all the people of Lakhibasha.Each and all were welcomed and was treated as a member of the family.

Harilal and Bivabati had four daughters Bani;Uma;Subhadra and Maitrayee and six sons Satyan;Arnab;Saumen;Sudhir;Gautam and Sudam.Like his father and grandfather; Harilal gave the best of educations to his children and made sure that every wish or demand of his children(and Shyamoli’s) were always fulfilled.

His duties were not only to see that his own children were looked after but also to see the his brothers and their siblings were also looked after equally well. All the brothers were either provided with proper jobs or helped to start some business so that they also can be self sufficient.Their children were also educated and provided with jobs etc. The daughters of the brothers were brought up and married off by him to suitable grooms. Harilal first arranged marriages of his all five sisters to good grooms and even arranged marriages of the sons and daughters of his five sisters just like he did for his brothers.All the brothers and the sisters and their siblings grew up and Harilal was ever happy to see that the sons and daughters of Biharlal were well settled and even the siblings were settled.

Bani(Manti) the eldest child of Harilal married a civil engineer Mr.Narayan Chandra Mukherjee;who after obtaining a n engineering degree in the premier institute in India;went to Chicago for higher studies with his wife.While in Chicago he was invited back to India by the Govt.Of India to start the big project Damodar Valley Corp.He joined from the new project from the day one and completed various projects mainly dams and power projects.After retiring from DVC he was requested to head the Durgapur Power Project as the MD and then joined the Haryana power department as an adviser. And after many years of service he retired and came back to his home at Dakhineswar.He and Bani have three sons,Kalyan,Dhiman and Sreeman.

Kalyan is an engineer who worked with Steel Authority Of India for many years and rose to a very high rank and retired and built a house at Durgapur where he lives with his wife Parvati.They have a daughter Binky now married.

Dhiman is the MD(C.E.O.) of a Govt.Of West Bengal Undertaking and lives with his wife Rita with his father at Dakineswar.They have no issue.

Sreeman is a very successful lawyer in the High Court in Kolkata and is married to Ruby and have two school going daughters Megna and Teesta.They also live with parents.

Uma is married to