P K Das: Smiling Country Roads


Born as Prafulla Kumar Sadhukan in the summer of 1940/1941, he was the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters in a big joint family in rural Bengal. As a child, he was meritorious student, and could learn much faster than anybody else of his siblings. Having grown up in a country environment, he was almost one with every family in the neighbourhood. Every villager knew him as he knew everybody else. The school at Garbalia, Munshirhat, Howrah, is the school where he did his schooling.
As with most children of rural bengal, he was involved in family business as a teenager. Other than that, he used to love playing musical instruments. His immediately elder brother was known for talent in playing "Khol", a traditional instrument like "Dhol" with one side considerable smaller than the other, and lent music to movies like "Sanyashi Raja" and "Mouchak". Unfortunately, he lived a short life.
In 1958, he completed his Secondary examinations, topping the school. In 1959, he did exceptionally well in his Intermediate Exams, topping the school again and obtaining district ranks. This, despite losing his father, Shri Durga Das Sadhukhan, just a month ahead of the examinations on 23rd January. The loss of father immediately put him in deep crisis. As a good student of Mathematics, he wanted to study engineering. However, he ran short of 6 Rupees (~1.75 USD in those days), to fill up the application form. He finally decided to do his graduation. He joined Amta College, which was not far away, and completed the degree in 2 years. During that time, he was working in a grocery shop to finance the studies.
In 1961, immediately after graduation, he got a teaching position at Bashirhat High School. The school was not big, and the people were friendly. He used to stay at a place near the school. An elderly lady used to take care of him and prepare the meals.
In 1965, he thought that it would be easier to proceed with studies if he is in Kolkata (Calcutta then), and he joined Sahanagar High School near Kalighat. He did his Masters in Sciences, Mathematics from from Ballygaunge Science College of Calcutta University (1967) and second graduation in Education and Teaching Methodologies from Sir David Hare Training College (1971) parallel to his job. During his Masters degree, he got influenced by punctuality and sincerity of Father Goureax and Dr B C Chatterjee. He understood that if a teacher is dedicated, then he can keep the class captive for hours, however boring the subject may seem to be so.
During his stay in Kalighat, his nephews and nieces joined him for their higher studies. Inspite of his tough schedule, he used to do as much as possible for them, from waking them up from sleep, to preparing breakfast.
On 1st March 1974, he got married to Ms Gayatri Chowdhuri. Immediately afterwards, he got a new job near Guwahati, Assam. There he joined Central School (Kendriya Vidyalaya), as a teacher. On 14th February 1975, his first child, Partha Das, was born. The following year, his second child, Kaushik Das, was born.
Life in the tea gardens were fascinating, but in 1981, Assam was no longer a safe place for outsiders. He moved back to Kolkata. By this time, both his children were schoolgoing. Getting an accomodation in Kolkata was a daunting task, so he went back to the same place near Kalighat where he used to stay earlier.
Commuting between Kalighat and Fort William was a challenging job. On top of that, he had two children to keep track of. Once in a while, their mother used to pick them up from school, but mostly he used to accompany the children to school. Fortunately (or unfortunately), he got a quarter at the defence area in 1985. This made life from the commutation point of view a lot easier. On 11th December 1996, he lost his mother. Life continued at Fort William, and his children did not quite come to the expected results. He realised that the life in the area was not really conducive to concentration. However, by 1991, he started building his own house at Thakurpukur, and he decided to move out there as soon as possible. On 31st July 1995, he was heckled and roughened up by defence personnel in front of his children and students of the school. It was too much to bear for him, and he moved out of Fort William to his unfinished house at Thakurpukur on 10th December 1995.
In April 1997, he became the Vice Principal of Central School at Salt Lake. For the next two years, he just kept doing a job. Teaching was his first love, and he didnt really like being a semi-administrator, more so when there were serious differences in opinion between higher ups. Between 1994 and 1999, he was quite fed up with the misuse of money and power at the apex of the administration in school.
In July 1999, he retired from service, completing 38 years of work, having seen many ups and downs in personal and professional life. It was the same week when Kaushik, his younger son, joined service. It is said that you love to be defeated by your child. He didnt get defeated, he just saw responsibilites passing shoulders.
He now stays with his wife at his Thakurpukur residence. Once in a while, he goes back to his native village, where he has a house. He saw many crisises in life, and wants to help children out if needed. He was involved with Chintamoni High School, where the noted Scientist Dr Mahendralal Sarkar was a student. He spends a lot of time in the garden, and when the plants flower, they bring in the smile, the aroma of the Country Roads bringing in the memory of childhood days.