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MY CINE-MENTOR IS NO MORE – I became a writer… thanks to Dilip Kumar

PAHLAD RAMSURRUN

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It was the gloomiest day in my struggling life in 1961, as I had lost the day-to-day labourer’s job at Sainte Croix Botanical Nursery. To distract myself, I went to watch a movie at Luna Park. By chance, the movie was ‘Paigham’ (1959) – meaning message in Hindi – whose hero was Dilip Kumar. He was a rickshaw-driver and in his free time, he read a book. Somebody came and asked him: “You are reading the book, for what?” The reply was: “I am reading the book to become an engineer,” and took the passenger to his destination.

That incidental reply of Dilip Kumar and the art of acting of the latter gave me a clue that became a guideline to my dejected mind. If a rickshaw-driver can become an engineer, why can I not do something to alter my life destiny? I had a bicycle. I borrowed some money from a friend and started selling loaves in the morning at Sainte-Croix, Riche-Terre and Roche-Bois. Besides, I enlisted myself to follow Form Four classes in Port-Louis High School, recently opened by Heeralall Bhugaloo. There, Heeralall Bhugaloo, Gunnoo Gangaram and Boodram Pratab became my English, Health Science and History teachers respectively. The following year, I followed Form Five classes and sat for G.C.E. (Ordinary Level) Exams and passed in two subjects, Hindi and History. 

In 1964, with my two subjects at G.C.E. (Ordinary Level) ‘Parichaye’ and ‘Prathama’ Hindi Certificates, I became a student-teacher, selected by the Education Department and entered the Teacher’s Training College at Beau-Bassin. After following a crash course with Prof. Ram Prakash, Jairood Dossia and Gopaul, I was appointed a full-time Hindi teacher at Gustav Colin Govt. School at Beau-Bassin in January 1965. But while working as a primary school teacher from 1965 to 1970, I went on taking tuitions from several persons and through correspondence courses from Wolsey Hall, and in this way, passed the S. C. Exams in 1970.

In 1968 and again in 1970, I won two essay dissertations on the local Arya Samaj Movement organized by Arya Sabha Mauritius. The notes from the Archives and the interviews from veteran Arya Samajist-leaders helped me to produce my first book of 130 pages, “The Illustrated History of Arya Samaj Movement in Mauritius” in 1970. Moreover, in 1969, I took part in an international essay dissertation to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth Centenary, organized by the Indian Council for International Corporation whose seat was at New Delhi, and in that I bagged the third prize. I received an invitation in April from that institution to come to Delhi to receive the prize scheduled in July 1970.

With my successful results at S.C., I decided to proceed to New Delhi with 30 copies of my first printed book. After receiving the prize from the hand of the Minister of Railways, Gulzarilal Nanda on 17th July 1970, I joined Sri Venketeshwara College to pursue my tertiary studies. While studying for BA degree for three long years, I produced two Hindi books, “Folk Tales of Mauritius” and “SSR visited Rajesthan” and contributed scores of articles in a dozen of Indian papers and journals. Moreover, in 1972, I participated in another international essay dissertation to mark the ‘25 Years of Indian Independence’ and again bagged another prize, that led me to go on Cashmere Tour for a month organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

Meeting with Dilip Kumar

I came back with my BA degree from India in July 1973, worked as a primary school teacher at St-Enfant Jesus Govt. School in Rose-Hill for six months and from there I was appointed Education Officer at Royal College Curepipe in January 1974 to introduce Hindi there. From then onward, I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to teaching, writing books and doing research in history. I retired from service as Head of Oriental Language Department from Royal College Port Louis in 1997. By then, I had produced 30 books and edited 15 special issues of Indradhanush magazines, published exclusively in Hindi as from 1988.

As all my books and magazines were published in India, I had to go to India regularly for supervision. In 1999, before proceeding to India I wrote a letter to the High Commission of India, requesting to make arrangements so that I might meet Dilip Kumar and Mulk Raj Anand at Bombay and the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at New Delhi. My son Avinash, who was studying in New Delhi, had come to join me in Bombay.

When I reached Bombay, my meeting with Mulk Raj Anand had already been fixed and we met him as scheduled, but that with Dilip Kumar was not. Every day, we went to the ICCR office to inquire where the matter stood. On the third day, I told the officer to phone Dilip Kumar and to tell him that an author from Mauritius had come and intended to meet him, because in his youth he had watched the movie ‘Paigham’, got inspired by his acting and nowadays had become a writer. On hearing this, Dilip Kumar instantly gave a positive reply and the date of appointment was fixed.

On that memorable day my son Avinash and I went to Dilip Kumar’s residence. He received us warmly in his drawing room. We had tea and snacks, accompanied by cordial talks regarding a few Bollywood emerging actors, such as Shah Rukh Khan and others. He was pleased to learn that after watching the movie ‘Paigham’ I was so impressed by his personality that I did whatever was possible to achieve what I had wanted in my youthful days. My earliest and confused life-journey – from a labourer to a Primary teacher, then a graduate to Education Officer, finally an author to a research scholar and editor – was not easy. Hearing this, he was elated and blessed me so that I might go ahead in my authorship journey. Before leaving, I presented him a few books of mine. My son Avinash took a few photos, which are preserved in my album as a token.

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