Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ganga Lal’s last day with his family

Ganga Lal’s last day with his family

Bijaya Lal Shrestha

Ganga Lal Shrestha was born to Bhakta Lal Shrestha and TulsiMaya Shrestha in 1919. The family was well off with Bhakta Lal’sposition as the Chief of the Revenue Offi ce in Chautara. Becauseof the feud in the joint family, he denounced his right of propertyin respect of the Chhetrapaty house. After residing in a hiredhouse in Om Bahal, he bought one in Pyaphal Tole. This house, Iremember, was quite big enough having a big garden. It was fi vestoried house; the length of which was about 40' and the width,about its two-thirds. Ganga Lal’s room was in the fi rst fl oor.

But this house had a place assigned for the Goddess Kumari,which, in other words, means unsafe for occupants, if the goddesscouldn’t be kept in good humour. Bhakta Lal bought it any wayas he wasn’t superstitious. But it proved disastrous for his familywhen considered that three family members were lost within threeyears of purchase of this house. A gompa (earthern vase) used onthe right side of the kitchen in the niche to appease the goddess.A nag (serpent) was supposed to live in it to appease the goddess.But even this couldn’t prevent the calamity.

Tulsi Maya, literate as she was in Bengali too, used to recite thestories of Ramayan and Mahabharat to her son for his proper upbringing.Naturally, Ganga Lal became well versed in Gita as was later known when he consoled his father, a day before his execution,when the family was allowed to meet, reminding him of theverses from Gita with regard to the inevitable death, after birth.

It is presumed that Ganga Lal’s ancestry may be connected tothe administrator who fought Prithvi Narayan Shah. Possibility existsthat the descendants, to escape torture meted out by PrithviNarayan Shah, migrated to other city states with the mistaken identity.But much research is needed to ascertain the truth.*

A glimpse of Ganga Lal’s will power, dedication and determinationto his principle may be had from a conversation (ref DwarikaMan, Ganga Lal’s brother-in-law) between him and his eldest maternaluncle-in-law when he advised him to shun politics. He toldhim then that “only if the frog or fi sh can be weighed in the balance,it is worth to be engaged in politics”. To this his answer wasthat “one should die one day, why should one die as a street dog, butdie as a hero.” He also asked him to watch the difference in deathof his own and that of the uncle. It was when he went undergroundafter his fi ery speech at Indra Chowk on 28 November 1938.**

“God Save Ganga.” This was written by him in the beam of thedoor of his room in Pyaphal Tole. Ganga isn’t the river that he meanthere. It is his own name signifying his awareness of the impendingdeath for his role against the Ranas. But he preferred this fate to thatof fl eeing away and then to fade away. He appears fully convincedthat his sacrifi ce won’t go in vain. And he wasn’t wrong.

The capital was buzzing with the news of the Ranas’ decisionof arresting the political activists. It appears the piece of informationwas leaked by Rudra Raj Panday, a teacher who had access tothe Ranas, through his friend Janak Lal Singh of Yangal who wasalso a teacher. The moment Dharma Bhakta was arrested, Hari Krishna Shrestha of Jhochhen rushed to Ganga Lal’s house at Pyaphaland threw the typewriter into the well. Ganga Lal had already,days before, stuffed one Karuwa (water pot) with papers andstones and threw into the garden well. Eventually, the police cameto arrest Ganga Lal. The same morning his wife had gone to herparents’ home at Bangemudha. I was sent to call her back. I wassurprised to fi nd her with her mother and her son, Ravi, returning.My young mind didn’t understand that the sensational news travelfaster than anything else. So, I met them at Dhokatole just in frontof the Kampacoat gate where there existed a public sprout. Ourwoman folks used to fetch water from there.

I remember the whole house was cordoned off and the policewere guarding. No one was allowed in or out. Because Ganga Lal’sshare of ancestral property was also to be confi scated, there wereefforts on the part of the family members to conceal as much propertyas possible. In this connection, I remember an incident told bymy step mother. She had hidden a pair of silver kalli, (footwear ornament)It was hollow and stuffed with some hard materials so thatwhen the wearer walks, it heralds her arrival. It happened with hertoo. She had a sigh of relief only when she started walking slowly.

 I do remember that Ganga Lal was quiet and calm throughout,sitting in his father’s room on the second fl oor. An unusual silence,bustled with activities, though with difference, pervaded the atmosphere.He took me in his lap when I approached him once. It wasthe lull before the storm. From hindsight it may be said that hemight be thinking about his family and the education of his youngerbrothers when I still recollect how he evaluated days before that.Mahila (Puspa Lal) is smart and can manage himself. Sahila (GauriLal) is intelligent and he shouldn’t be a problem. But Kahila (DeviLal) is hara hure (good for nothing).* I later realised that he requested his friends, Badri Narayan Shrestha of Kilagal and GambhirMan Singh of Bhote Bahal, to help them in their studies. And theyappeared to have kept their promise. It was around late afternoon,I remember, he was taken to the lorry and seated in the frontseat.He wore his famous sweater (off white with collor) in the lorryitself, I still recollect.

All together seven and a half of jute bags stuffed with papersof any kind - written, unwritten, horoscopes, school text booksetc - were dumped in the lorry. Consequently, Ganga Lal’s youngerbrothers didn’t have any books for their examinations. I had tobe deprived of celebrating my birthday for decades because thehoroscope was also not spared. But surprisingly, when I was workingin Bangkok under WHO assignment, there came the news in1977 that my horoscope was found. What might have happenedwas that in the haste for hiding anything, it was forgotten what washidden where. And, by accident after about three decades, it felldown from where it got stuck. It was only since then my birthdayhas been marked.

A day before his execution Ganga Lal was presented for his lastmeeting with his relatives in front of the Jagan Nath temple, oppositeto central jail. As soon as he appeared, Puspa Lal took offhis shoes and hugged him. This was when Ganga Lal asked himto carry on with his mission. This writer was a silent spectator. Ishudder at the recollection how my father was standing speechless,how his soon-to-be-executed son trying to console him recitingverses from the Gita, how my sister, maternal grand mother andothers were willowing in the grass, how Kamakshe Devi presentedthe pan and how he took hold of me to give a piece of that pan. Itwas a touching moment – tragic, pathetic and patriotic. And fromthat patriotic tragedy was born quite a number of political activistswho silently vowed vengeance against the oppressive regime of theRanas. And Puspa Lal was one of them. Puspa Lal’s political journey then begins. Charged with passionto keep his promise, he ate politics, drank politics. He thought ofpolitics, talked of politics and dreamt of politics. Politics used tofl ow in his veins. Tales of torture – infl icted on the body of hisbrother evidenced in the blood-stained clothes brought home forwashing – have all the more reinforced his and the family’s determinationto terminate the Ranas. Though tender in age at 16/17years, he started wandering in his political wilderness like a saintwandering for an appropriate berth for his meditation to the solutionof unsolved riddles of life. This wandering took him to Sarlahi,Birgunj, Benaras, Calcutta, Darjeeling, Palpa, etc to explorepartnership in his political mission. After repeated wanderings, hewas seen on 29 April 1947 leading procession from Tri ChandraCollege. Thousands of people followed him until it was terminatedin Naxal by the speedy vehicle of Nara Shum Shere Junga BahadurRana. He was imprisoned and when released, disappeared fromNepal and reappeared in Benaras. This journey came to an endwhen the Communist Party of Nepal was founded in April 1947.

It was, universally acknowledged now, his policy of putting upthe joint resistance by all the democratic parties to defeat the autocratsthat the Jana Andolan I and II were successfully concluded.The fruits, however, remain denied. But let’s be optimists.

Ganga Lal had the last look of his house only on 28 January1941 when he was driven to Shova Bhagbati via Pyaphal Tole whenhe called out to his beloved wife from the speeding lorry – Hasina,O, Hasina!!

source :

No comments:

Post a Comment