J N Bhattacharya- Freedom Fighter to Gambler #A-ZChallenge2018

Jadu Nath Bhattacharya was apparently a freedom fighter who took part in Quit India movement. He used to get pension from Indian Government, however his later life was not as glorious. He lost a lot of money in the Kolkata Race Course. He was a regular gambler in all famous Kolkata casinos. He was alcoholic and ever since he became a widower he stopped socialising and kept himself confined in his house. His only companions were 10 cats, 2 dogs and a live-in maid.

My dad met him accidentally. He lived opposite the main road. One day my father had gone to his neighborhood to meet a friend. Suddenly, it started raining heavily and dad took shelter under his portico. Dad was completely drenched and shivering. Mr. Bhattacharya saw this from inside and sent his maid to call dad inside. When Dad went inside Mr. Bhattacharya offered not only hot tea but also some dry clothes. As it was raining heavily dad couldn’t leave and they started chatting with each other. He spent almost 2 hours there and left for home borrowing an umbrella from Mr. Bhattachrya.

Next day dad went back to his house to return the umbrella and again spent close to two hours chatting. That day he left after borrowing a book. I forgot to mention, Mr. Bhattacharya’s house had more than 3000 books. A few days later, dad went to return the first book and again sat for 2 hours. He came home after borrowing the second book. He again went back a few days later to return the second book and returned borrowing the third book.

Gradually, this became a ritual. Dad being a bibliophile loved visiting his place. Even though Mr. Bhattachrya was almost 20 years older than dad, they developed a unique bonding. Actually, they had quite a thing in common, both loved books, politics, and sports. Therefore each day their conversation meandered from books to politics to sports to the films of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Godard, Kurosawa, and Truffaut over endless cups of tea. They also had another thing in common, both of them were widowers and lonely. Mr. Bhattacharya found a son in my dad and dad probably found a father figure.

Dad became his confidante and he told him stories of his life. How he met his wife, how he was disillusioned after independence, how they lost their only child to pneumonia, how he got addicted to gambling and alcohol and finally how his friends and relatives abandoned him. Dad was a teetotaller; in fact, he always had strong opinions against people who consumed alcohol yet he was strangely sympathetic towards Mr. Bhattacharya.

Every evening Dad used to go and meet Mr. Bhattacharya. Together they used to drink quite a few cups of tea and enjoy the quintessential Bengali adda. If on a certain day dad couldn’t make it to his place, he used to immediately call. When my grandmother fell sick and Dad got busy taking care of her. Most of the days he missed going to his house and on those days our telephone used to ring at 7.10 pm in the evening, it used to be him. He used to sound sad.

After my grandma recovered, dad again started visiting Mr. Bhattacharya’s house. Gradually over time, Mr. Bhattacharya became frail, his alcoholism took a toll on his health (he used to never drink in front of dad though). He became bed-ridden. Dad started taking care of him almost like a son would do.

One day, Mr. Bhattacharya asked dad to come to his house at 10 in the morning. This was not their usual time of a meeting. Nevertheless, dad went and found Mr. Bhattacharya’s lawyer sitting. He was making his will and wanted Dad to be his beneficiary. As he was childless he considered dad his only heir. However, dad was a man of strict morals. He refused the offer and coaxed Mr. Bhattacharya to form a trust. Mr. Bhattacharya requested dad to at least inherit his books. It was no doubt a tempting offer but in our house, we honestly had no place for 3000 books. Dad took about 100 chosen books from his collection and asked him to give the remaining to the trust that he created in his beloved wife’s name.

Mr. Bhattacharya died within a year. Dad lost a friend, philosopher, and guide. It took dad quite some time to get over the trauma. His house was later occupied by one of his distant relatives. The relative claimed that Mr. Bhattacharya loved him a lot and he was the one who took care of him in his last days but dad said he had not heard about this relative from Mr. Bhattacharya and in his long association he had not seen this relative even once. Even though Mr. Bhattacharya was a tainted man today a school and library is still running under his trust. Many poor children benefit from the trust.

Image: Pixabay

54 thoughts on “J N Bhattacharya- Freedom Fighter to Gambler #A-ZChallenge2018

  1. Moon says:

    A beautiful story and great storytelling, Balaka.
    Call me old-fashioned but I do believe in destiny when it comes to meeting people that transform into a life-long bond. I loved the friendship between your father and Mr Bhattacharya that transcended age difference and your father’s reservations against alcohol . I loved the stories within your story. I admire your father’s lofty morals and how he suggested and helped Mr Bhattacharya to establish a trust for the underprivileged.
    Superb work, Balaka.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Storyteller says:

    Mr. Bhattacharya… I loved his character despite of the fact that he was involved in gambling and alcoholism… I guess it was becoz of his family dismissal to the other world leaving him alone in this. Your dad is an amazing man too, he is just like my dad ” man of principals”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pythoroshan says:

    I felt sad reading this. We should be doing more for those who fought for us, to help them avoid this lonely descent in their later years.

    In that regard, I truly respect your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. anuragbakhshi says:

    Wow, that was such a great story, and such great storytelling. The old man seems like such a fascinating character. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the endless conversations between him and your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Even I would have loved to fly. You know my Dad took me to his place couple of times. But his house used to stink a lot as he had lots of pets, I used to get allergic so I stopped going. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • anuragbakhshi says:

        I had a book mentor like that when I was in school. He used to stay in the building opposite our house. He was around a decade older to me, and I used to call him Raju Bhaiyya. For more than a year, I used to go every evening to his place, and sit with him in his books room. Yes, he had an entire room filled with shelves and stacks of books, which I then used to borrow from him.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Natasha says:

    This is such a beautiful story. Tugs the heart. I could almost see vivid images of your father and Mr Bhattacharya and their endless conversations. Your father is indeed a wonderful human being.

    Another slice of life story that blew me away.


    April Anecdotes

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anagha Yatin says:

    Balaka you are blessed to have such a noble man as your father! My respect for him grew thousand folds.
    As for Mr Bhattacharya… In spite of all the heavy handed luck, he remained a gentleman, speaks volumes about him.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shilpa Garg says:

    While I loved reading this post, it made me sad. Life dealt with a few bad cards but Mr Bhattacharya had a heart of gold. 3000 books is awe-inspiring and love that your father got a few of his favourite books too. This is some awesome story-telling, Balaka. Great going!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shalzmojo says:

    So sad to hear that a freedom fighter was disillusioned after getting what they fought for. But it’s a reality that governance hasn’t been a key strong point in Indian history. Lovely ending Balaka… the thought of poor kids receiving education from the trust is just brilliant. Your dad deserves a special mention here. You must be so so proud of him. I just wish he had space for all the books. That’s some treasure he gave up.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mammaspeaks says:

    What a great character! Also goes to show that some relationships are not bound by blood, and still stand as thick if not more than blood. How wonderful is life – we met strangers by coincidences and soon they stop being strangers but important people. This is a beautiful post, Balaka!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. knightofsteel says:

    Reminds me how we can never know a person completely. Mr. Bhattacharya seemed like a fallen hero in the beginning but the end made him sound like a tragic figure. We are capable of doing even in our afterlife. Your father and Mr. Bhattacharya ended up helping many needy people. Respect to both of them for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. writershilpa says:

    I am so loving your theme for this A to Z, Balaka. Everyday I get to read a real life story about a person from your world – their joys, their sorrows, their idiosyncrasies, their likes and dislikes. It will be superb if you could put it all together into a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sonia Chatterjee Banerjee says:

    What a heartwarming story. This goes to prove there are so many layers beneath a person’s image. Your father is an amazing person to have looked beyond the apparent problems and discovered his heart of gold. And that 3000 books sounds so lucrative. I would have rented a place just to have those to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. SeemaMisra says:

    A beautiful story about genuine human connection; its become rarer and rarer.

    A friendship over books and one that lent comfort to a man’s last years. Both men come across as large-hearted people … especially your dad, to look beyond rumors at the person. I’m glad you captured this friendship with your words.

    Liked by 1 person

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