ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Asok Mitra and Sachin Chaudhuri

The following is an extract from the autobiography of Asok Mitra (Teen Kuri Das: Chaturtha Khanda, Nehru Juger Dwitiardha, 1956-1966, Volume 4) which I have translated into English:

“In April 1956, I visited Bombay on some official work. Before I left Calcutta, Debu Chaudhuri wrote to his elder brother, Sachin Chaudhuri, who was the editor of the Economic Weekly about my impending trip to Bombay. Consequently, Sachinda picked me up at Victoria Terminus and drove me to his flat on the second floor of Churchill Chambers on Merriweather Road, located a block behind the Strand. The flat faced the street with a veranda out front. The street was quiet, shaded by enormous verdant trees. The only problem was that almost every night, between midnight and half-past twelve, a jolly, inebriated Goan gentleman would climb the wooden stairs to the next flat, either singing or cursing, and knock loudly on the door to awaken his wife. Needless to say, I slept undisturbed. “One of Sachinda’s closest friends was Ram Manohar Lohia, who whenever he visited Bombay, stayed in Sachinda’s flat. Lohia had one great passion in his life: his intense aversion to Pandit Nehru. Lohia would usually spend all evening having adda with Sachinda before he retired for the night. It was his bed that I occupied in his absence. On the very first night, I realised how great was the attraction of the bed’s resident bed-bugs to Lohiaji. I guessed that he was not as put out by their deep attraction as I was.…On that same visit to Bombay, Sachinda took me to the Bhatkal Book Shop at Horniman Circle. I was enchanted. He also took me along to the Reserve Bank of India. “…. Even more enjoyable was Sachinda’s introduction to Ramesh and Raj Thapar, who lived in a secluded lane near Bulabhai Desai Road, as well as to Patwant Singh, whose flat was nearby. Sachinda was very fond of Raj… Ramesh and Raj were then planning their move to Delhi where they later started publishing their wellknown journal, Seminar. Patwant, the editor of a small journal named Design, was a wonderfully open, articulate, well read, young Sikh of refined taste. This was the first time that I became aware of and immensely attracted to the Sikh qualities of friendship and sincerity – an attraction I harboured all my life. Sachinda used to tease me about my affection for Patwant: “Patwant does not conform to the social temperament you are familiar with – that’s why you are so attracted to him. …” “Years later, Sachinda came to stay with us (in Delhi) for a few days. He was planning to fold the Economic Weekly into a larger publication, the Economic and Political Weekly. At that time he relied heavily on the advice and support of, among others, Prof Amiya Kumar Dasgupta, D N Majumdar, and, despite his illness, Prof Dhurjatiprasad Mukhopadhyay (also known as Mukherjee); among the younger crowd of supporters were K N Raj, R K Hazari, and several other economists in the Reserve Bank. He also needed financing for the venture. “At this juncture, an opportunity for me to contribute to Sachinda’s fund came about in a rather roundabout way. At that time, there was not a single motormechanic in Delhi who could tune my old Sunbeam Talbot; as a result, the car’s engine used to heat up all the time. In those days, government employees, at middle levels and above, could obtain government permits, every four years, to buy new cars with government loans at low rates of interest. (The rule then was that government cars were only to be used for official work, not for personal use, not even to ferry officers from home to office.) I took advantage of this opportunity to sell the Sunbeam Talbot and contribute some of the proceeds to the fund for the EPW. “Consequently, I became one of the founder-members of the EPW and ever since then would receive a free copy of every published issue. Considering the small sum I contributed, goodness knows how many times that sum I got back with interest, not to mention what I gained in professional knowledge from every issue of the weekly.”

Jayati Datta-Mitra

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