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A Village Boy’s Rise To Raisina Hill Poltu To Become Prez

Updated: July 21, 2012 3:51 pm

One day while looking at horses in Rashtrapati Bhawan, Poltu said to his elder sister Annapurna, “See didi, how comfortable and respectable these horses are. I wish I would better be a horse here.” At that time his didi replied confirming his ability, “why are you thinking like that, rather think that one day you will become the President of the country. So that you can stay here comfortably and respectfully.” His sister remembers this incident, during early days of his political career, when he was first selected as Member of Parliament from Bengal and he took his beloved sister to Delhi. The whole nation may know him as Pranab Mukherjee but for his dear ones he is still Poltu.

He may be the stingy finance minister, trouble shooter, Chanakya of Indian politics for critics, but for his village he is an ideal.

An 82-year-old Annapurna Mukherjee, elder sister of Pranab Mukherjee, can tell you thousands of such anecdotes about her beloved younger brother Poltu, sitting in her two-storey house in Kirnahar, a small town about 30 km from Bolpur (Shantiniketan) in Birbhum District of West Bengal.

While remembering Pranab Mukherjee’s childhood days, she said that she knew that her brother would become a big man someday but she never imagined that he would touch the sky while still on the ground.

On being asked, how it feels when her younger brother is going to become the President of India, she replies: “He is my younger brother, he can be President for the outside world, but for me he is a younger brother.”

About his behaviour and character, Annapurna says during his school days he was very naughty but later during college days he became calm, studious and good. She further added that he always used to disturb her when she used to play with her dolls.

Reminiscing about his childhood, Annapurna says: “He was a mischief maker. He was so naughty; he would often spend hours swimming in the ponds or climbing trees. He would hardly study and I often ended up beating or scolding him.”

Few kilometres away from Kirnahar is now the first stopover for Pranab Mukherjee as his elder sister Annapurna stays there. The house at Mirati, where Pranab was born, is quite different. The house preserves the fond memories of Pranab Mukherjee, since his birth and early childhood to a grown-up lad as a disciplined and responsible gentleman, it has been a silent spectator to the moulding of a great hero.

The house is a two-storey building, the hay stacks are scrattered around, by which the idols of Durga and gods and goddesses for coming Durga Puja this year will be built. They all are stacked at the entrance on the courtyard. A new mandir is being built. It will house the Durga idols as well as the ancestral deity of the Mukherjee family, Kuladevata Naranarayan.

Pranab is a devoutly religious man, who visits his ancestral house every Durga Puja to personally oversee and participate in the worship of Maa Durga. During the puja he performs “Chandipath” by chanting the slokas.

Son of Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Rajlakshmi Mukherjee, Pranab Mukherjee was born on December 11, 1935, in this village, around 170 km from Kolkata.

Pranab Mukherjee’s father Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee was a freedom fighter and was a respectable person of the area, who later became a well-known Congress leader in the area and had been a member of the legislative council for 10 years. His father taught him to live a struggling life.

In those days, it was a very different world in other ways too. Going to a school was an uphill task—as old people of the area speak so. Pranab Mukherjee used to walk for 3 miles to reach school amid jungles, mud and crossing over a small river. Sometimes, he and his friends had to wear gamchha (towel) while crossing the river and then changed back to school uniform before entering the school.

Pranab Mukherjee got his education from Kirnahar Shib Chandra Boys School. When Pranab was a small boy, there were no roads and people had to wade through the water over long stretches to reach somewhere.

Today, for his school teacher, who taught him the lesson of life, it is more than a happy moment. His school teacher Amarnath Dutta still remembers him as a “brilliant student, he was a good debater and elocutionist. It was the initiative of Pranab who first started the school magazine. A boy Ayub used to stand first in his class and Pranab either second or third”.

After school Pranab went to Shiuri Vidyasagar College, where he studied Bengali, after which he studied in Calcutta, to complete his M.A in Political Science and History.

The places that were covered by water today stand a smooth road, going past Pranab’s house “Mukherjee Bhawan”. The credit for building the road goes to Pranab. He is also thanked for bringing electricity to every house, building a school and a hospital, and bringing government presence to the area. Although many in his village, rejoice the moment but there are some critics as well who feel that a lot more can be done for his village.

Today, every child of Mirati and Kirnahar dreams of becoming President of the country, as now they also believe if someone from their own village can make it to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, why can’t they? This is the ever highest an achievement so far for a hamlet like Mirati where Pranabda the president comes from.

By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata

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