It wasn’t a usual Sunday for me. No ritualistic waking up at 12 am; no listening to Frank Zappa; no romantic walk with my wife to the second hand book store at PVR that we do oh so religiously, every Sunday; no cans of beer!
Surprisingly, I saw the 6 0 clock morning sun after a really long time. Felt good to see the Sun God at his early innocence of, 6 am - bright, sunny, happy, and positive. I couldn’t help but wonder at his transition from innocence to fiery vengeance by 12am!
There was something about that morning that was giving me some impossible vibes. I felt fresh, good and nice. I put on my jogging tracks and started to run. Run Lola Run! Run. Run. Run. I ran and ran. And with me ran, everything. Billboards, trees, ATM Machines, Subway, dogs on the street, parked cars, buildings- everything. Soon I left everyone behind - Billboards, trees, ATM Machines, Subway, dogs on the street, parked cars, buildings -everything. Wow what a victory I thought! And why not? Perhaps some positivity has already begun to rub off on me! Possibly meeting achievers does this to you. Yes, it was a day to meet a Bishnupriya Manipuri achiever - Mr. Joysen Jit Rajkumar. The meeting was scheduled at 1 pm. But before I meet him, here’s a brief background on how the meeting actually came off.
On the 25th of March, www.bishnupriyamanipuri.org received a post from Mr. Sandeep Rajkumar. The post claimed that the First Bishnupriya Manipuri on the website list had an information which wasn’t accurate. According to the post, it is Mr. Joysen Jit Rajkumar who is the first Bishnupriya Manipuri pass out from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and not Mr. Amar Sinha who passed out two years later. A telephone number was given to us to call up and clarify. We called up a few times but couldn’t get through. We all had a discussion – Bramhananda, Jyotirmoy and me for around an hour on this. Finally we arrived at a decision. Let’s not call up and just upload the name on the First Bishnupriya Manipuri list. Let’s call up and meet him. It’s not about being the first or the second Bishnupriya Manipuri. It about a Bishnupriya Manipuri achiever.
Finally it was decided that I would meet Mr. Joysen Jit Rajkumar as both Jyotirmoy and Bramhananda would be busy working on the Kungo Ami campaign. Next, I call and fix up the schedule with Mr. Joysen Jit Rajkumar, the first Bishnupriya Manipuri pass out from Indian Institute of Technology at 1 pm, March 29th 2009, at his residence at Green Park, New Delhi. Finally! What a day it was! Read on.
BM Org: How are you Sir? Thanks for inviting me for lunch.
Mr. Rajkumar: (Looking smart in his elegant tie, pin striped shirt and neatly combed grey strands. Understated but a striking personality) Welcome. You are pretty much on time. Care for some Scotch?
BM Org: No thanks Sir. (Feeling slightly shy at his offer. Hell with my Eastern Indian upbringing I thought! I missed the Scotch!) Plain water would do. Would like to get on to the interview.
Mr. Rajkumar: (Smiles and says) Sure. Carry on.
BM Org: It’s strange but for someone who has achieved such a feat, there are very few people who know about you. Why is that? I am sure Bishnupriya Manipuri youngsters would be really happy to know that our community can produce minds like you. Is the low profile just an accident or is it an ingrained trait?
Mr. Rajkumar: I never believed in propaganda. Probably it’s because of my grooming. I was lucky to have a father like Bhimsen Jit Rajkumar. He was a simple school teacher in Jorhat, Assam. But as an academician and an individual he was a modernist in his approach. For that he was extremely respected both by his peers and his students. Most of the high ranking officials, leading politicians of the region were my father’s students. So basically my house was a hub of the movers and shakers from all walks of lives. So being successful was never a concept that went to my head. To me it was just a normal phenomenon of life. I am not over awed by any success, even mine.
BM Org: That’s a great thought Sir - Not to be carried away by success. I guess lot of nonsense begins from getting carried away. Tell us more about your father.
Mr. Rajkumar: Well he was simply great. Always gave us the freedom to think wide and beyond. He never compelled us to be studious as many parents do to their children. You can imagine back in 1936-37 he introduced Lawn Tennis and Basket ball to the Jorhat Government High School! Those days it was a big thing.
BM Org: Oh sure. It’s not just the game. It’s about introducing a whole new upscale, elite sports culture not just to a school but to an entire region.
Mr. Rajkumar: You bet it was indeed a great new culture. And I was hooked on to it. Specially Lawn Tennis. Just loved to play the game! In fact Lawn Tennis was my first love.
BM Org: Now that surprises me a bit. Given your profile I was expecting a studious childhood from you. A studious, bright child buried into theorems, theories and all the Calculus of the world!
Mr. Rajkumar: (Laughs) All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! My father believed in this theory. So did I.
BM Org: So how were you exactly as a child?
Mr. Rajkumar: As a child I was not studious at all.I was never a book worm.I just believed in a systematic and consistent study pattern.
BM Org: That’s interesting. Tell us how did IIT happen to you?
Mr. Rajkumar: Well can’t say how it happened. But I was clear since the beginning that I had to do something which satisfied my cerebral thirst. So after my I. Sc my father advised me to go to Calcutta. It was 1952, I was only 17. Traveling alone was a big thing during those days. Communication was really tough. But anyways, I set out. Reached Calcutta and then Kharagpur. I applied for a test at IIT Kharagpur. I cracked it.
BM Org: (Amazed at the understated tone of narrating one’s achievements). Were you sure you would crack the grueling IIT test?
Mr. Rajkumar: Yeah not just IIT. Any examination I had gone for, any test, any interview- I have always been confident that I would succeed. I always carried a positive attitude. Never has it crossed my mind that I would not succeed in a test or an interview. Never, ever. (All that he said was minus an inch of vanity or self trumpet. To him it was just a matter of fact! )
BM Org: How did it feel being an IITian? What was the reaction back home?
Interviewed by the Editor, www.bishnupriyamanipuri.org
Mr. Rajkumar: Obviously it felt great. Making it to the nation’s most prestigious institution was a great achievement. My family was overjoyed. I was also invited for breakfast with the then Chief Minister, Mr. Bimal Chaliha and the Education Minister of Assam Mr. Debeshwar Sharma. It was an honor for me.
BM Org: How old were you?
Mr. Rajkumar: 24.
BM Org: 24 and breakfast with a Chief Minister! Now that’s something. Not many 24 year olds have the privilege to do that or talk about it!
Mr. Rajkumar: Well after that, I took up Geology and Geophysics on the advice of my teacher, the great Dr. Gyan Ghosh. During those days Geology was completely a new stream. I studied under the tutelage of Dr. JI Hough (Head of the Department of Geology & Geophysics I.I.T Kharagpur) on Deputation from Illinois University, USA. In 1955 I passed out from IIT Kharagpur B.Sc with Honours in Geology and Geophysics. But behind all this, I would like to thank one Bishnupriya Manipuri, Mr. Anando Sinha, a gentleman from Badarpur, Assam. He helped me tremendously when I reached Calcutta. I can never forget that gentleman.
Then I did my M Tech in Applied Geology. Again, from IIT Kharagpur in 1957.
BM Org: Well that makes you the first M Tech from Assam!
Mr. Rajkumar: You may be right. I am not sure though.
BM Org: How was life after IIT?
Mr. Rajkumar: Life was good. From 1959 to today I have enjoyed every bit of my professional life. Traveling, meeting new cultures across the world. It’s been a great experience over all.
BM Org: If I were to ask you, which was the most beautiful phase of your life? The single phase of your life that you would love to go back to.
Mr. Rajkumar: (Looks up for a while and replies…) It has to be the 70s. The time I was deputed to Edmonton, Canada. Canada, well what a country! The weather, the skiing, the people, the integrity – that period I must say was the most beautiful part of my life.
BM Org: Was it before you got married?
Mr. Rajkumar: No. It was after I got married. I got married in 1966. The beautiful lady got me great luck you see! (Laughs)
BM Org: Did you in anyways feel away from home during the course of your life?
Mr. Rajkumar: Well my work never let me miss my home much. You don’t miss things if they are deep down your heart.
BM Org: What do you think of today’s Bishnupriya Manipuris?
Mr. Rajkumar: Well Bishnupriya Manipuris are intelligent. I mean it. But somewhere I feel we need to get the habit of winning in life. I firmly believe we all have a strong cultural background, a strong base which very few can boast of. I remember what my father said when I was a child, ‘You belong to the King’s family in Manipur ‘. That means my ancestors belong to the royal family of Manipur.
BM Org: What do you think is our way ahead? We don’t have a district. We don’t have the ballot strength. We don’t have the financial backing like Marwaris or the Gujratis? What is the way out?
Mr. Rajkumar: Well a defined geography would certainly help. But that’s tough. The only thing now is see is individual growth. Just as the Jews did.
BM Org: Yes. Perhaps you are right. Individual excellence can nullify the political and financial bankruptcy that the community suffers. Perhaps more education would do us a good lot. Probably we need our own Einstein, Spielberg or a Rupert Murdoch to deliver us from non existence.
The mind is now the most potent growth engine of the Bishnupriya Manipuri community.
Mr. Rajkumar: Very true. Very true.
BM Org: Well Sir. It was indeed a pleasure meeting you. And thanks to you, your wife and your daughter in law for the lunch. It was terrific.
(It was 6:30 pm. After 5 hours I stepped out of the Rajkumar household. I called up both Bramhananda and Jyotirmoy saying ‘Guys it was one of the best Sundays I ever had.’ They knew, I meant it. Mr. Joysen Jit Rajkumar is a genius who sweeps you away with his trembling mix of confidence and modesty. We only hope we can expect higher community participation from minds like him. It surely will do a hell lot good to all of us.)
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