L to R: Groom 1, Brides' Mother, Brides' Brother, Brides' Nani (grandmother), Bride 1, Bride 2, Groom 2.
At the back: "Tell you later". (Old) Delhi Railway Station. 1958
28th February 1958 Friday, 8.25am, Platform Number 2 (Old) Delhi Railway Station
I, Jatinder Sethi, will be your host and conduct you through the lives of these people who are gathered here at the Old Delhi Railway Station to see-off and say good-bye to two newly married sisters (Bride 1 and Bride 2). They are leaving their parents' hometown, Delhi, to settle down in Bombay with their husbands. They are being seen off by members of their families.
There were no air-conditioned trains then, and one had to travel in ordinary compartment, first, second, or third class. In February, it was still quite cold. One could comfortably travel in second class.
They are waiting for Frontier Mail to arrive from Amritsar, which will take the newly wedded couples to Victoria Terminus at Bombay, their new lives and new places of residence. They would travel by second class.
Who are these people?
In the centre of Photo 1, next to the brides, with the specs and black shawl is the Nani (mother's mother) of the Brides - who are sisters. Nani lived in Kapurthala; her husband, Dr. Maharaj Dass (you will see him later in the story) was the personal physician of the Maharaja of Kapurthala.
On the left is the Brides' mother, and daughter of Nani. She is Mrs. Sarla Sikand, tough and strict looking, but with a heart of gold. She has the temperament and veneer of a royal upbringing because she was her parents' only daughter; her uncle, who had no daughter of his own, also considered her as a daughter. Never a Shiken (crease) on her forehead. Mostly dressed in a silk sari and her Mangal Sutra.
L to R: Mrs. Maharaj Das (Brides' Nani), Mrs. Sarla Sikand (Brides' mother).
Let's turn to the brides.
In Photo 1, next to Nani is Usha Wallia née Sikand (Bride 1). Next to Usha is her younger sister Uma Sethi née Sikand (Bride 2).
The Two Brides/Sisters before they got married.
Left, Uma Sikand, Right Usha Sikand. In their bungalow at Delhi. Early 1950s
The two sisters are about two years apart in age. So, why were they leaving Delhi for Bombay at the same time?
Uma, the younger sister, had fallen in love some time before 1958, and had wanted to get married earlier. However, in those days (and possibly even now), it was the custom that the older sister had to get married first before a younger sister got married. (Editor's note. In 1973-74, my older brother Subhash had to wait until my oldest brother Prakash got married.) In due course, the Sikand family found a suitable groom for Usha, the older sister, using the established Indian system for arranged marriages.
So, the wedding dates for the two sisters were fixed two days apart. As required by custom, Usha, the older sister, got married first on February 20, 1958, followed by Uma on February 22, 1958.
Let's look at the grooms.
On the extreme left in Photo 1, in the buttoned down suit and coloured specs, which he wore till he died couple of years, back is Ravinder Wallia (Groom 1), Usha's bridegroom. Ravinder was from the London School Economics (LSE), and worked as a senior management executive with a big Marwari firm in Bombay.
On the extreme right in Photo 1, open jacketed, wearing loosely fitting suit (Groom 2), is Jatinder (me), Uma's bridegroom. I had nothing much to show at that time, except a small job in an advertising agency. But, then, "love is blind." The younger sister realized it too late in life (perhaps).
And, the little boy, smartly dressed is Deepak Sikand, the younger brother of the two sisters. At that time, he was a student of St. Columbus School, Delhi. Today, he is a successful, well-known architect in Delhi, living in one of the old heritage bungalow.
Where are the men of the families?
They are in another picture - Photo 2 at Old Delhi Railway Station.
In the centre in long coat: Rai Sahib Dewan Mathra Das.
On the left side, L to R: Deepak, brother of brides, Nani (with head covered), Prem Sethi (in cap), Skander Malik (in tie), Uma (in sari with her back to camera), Ravinder Wallia (with face turned).
On the right side, R to L: Jatinder, Surinder Nath Sikand, Dr. Maharaj Das , Rajinder Sethi (behind the big coat), eldest brother of Jatinder Sethi.
Let's start with the oldest person in Photo 2. That is Dr. Maharaj Das, Personal Doctor of the Maharaja of Kapurthala. He was Nani's husband, the grandfather of the two brides. And Nani is also in the picture, though you can barely see her. Dr. Das got an honorary commission as a Captain in the Second World War. He was posted in Basra. He was awarded some medal for recruiting large number of soldiers from Kapurthala.
Also present was his younger brother, Rai Sahib Dewan Mathra Das, Private Secretary to the Maharaja of Kapurthala. Dewan Sahib was given various titles by the Maharaja and the British Viceroy. Rai Sahib travelled the world with the Maharaja, who was a known global traveller and Francophile.
Next, we come to Mr. Surinder Nath Sikand, the father of the two brides, and my father-in-law. He finished his studies from Scotland and came back to India in 1930. He joined as a Personal Secretary to Sir Padampat Singhania, head of JK Group in Kanpur. He got married to the golden heart lady, the mother of the two Brides. Later on, he joined the Government of India, perhaps as director in charge of food supplies to Armed Forces during Second World War. I understand that he was the man responsible for getting the Indian business people to start making Tomato Ketchup and egg powder, first time in India during the war. After he retired, he spent his time with grandchildren.
The man behind Rai Sahib's left shoulder is Rajinder, the oldest Sethi brother, who graduated in 1930 and worked in a sugar factory in Mansurpur, UP till he retired. After that, he settled down in Sonipet to look after the family's agriculture land acquired in lieu of the land lost in Pakistan. He passed away at the age of 93 few years back.
Skander Malik, talking to Uma, is the husband of Santosh (not in the picture), my sister. Skander sahib played a major role in ensuring that Jatinder and Uma's love turned into marriage. Brilliant man from LSE. Always optimistic, positive and ready to lend helping hand to everyone in the family. He became the head of a big foreign company at a very young age. Unfortunately, he passed away also at a very young age - hardly44!
Amazingly, his widow, my sister Santosh, managed to educate all of their three daughters - all of them have PhDs from Cambridge University - while working as a primary school teacher. She now lives in Singapore with her youngest daughter who is teaching in a college there. Spends six months in Delhi also.
In the cap is Prem Sethi, another of my elder brothers.
Let's now turn to man I labelled as "Tell you later" in Photo 1.
He is one of my older brothers. He got his M.Sc. in Agriculture from Agriculture College in Lyallpur (now Pakistan).
This brother of mine, knowns as Prem Bhaji to us all, became a follower of Swami Satyanand ji Maharaj of Shree Ram Shernam. When Swamiji took Samadhi, he passed his Gadi to Prem Bhaji. Then, Prem Bhaji became Premji Maharaj with followers all over the world. In this picture, you meet both Swamiji and Premji Maharaj, who no longer was seen as our Bhaji but accepted as a Guru.
Left Swamiji, Right Premji Maharaj
Premji Maharaj, on becoming the Spirtual Head of the Shree Ram Shernam, took on another follower of his, Dr. Mahajan, who took over his burden when Premji Maharaj left this world.
One thing needs to be mentioned here. Premji Maharaj never took up weaing Bhagwas, because Swamiji had asked him not to fully Tayag (give up) the world, because he had to look after his aging mother-Beeji - which he always did till the last day.
In 1958 and earlier, Prem Bhaji was always on our side. He taught me swimming when I was 6 years in the Chenab Canal at Lyallpur, our place of birth.
His blessings at the ‘Farewell at The Railway Station', where he kept himself away from the camera, have been with the whole family through life.
Only five of the people from those times are alive now: Santosh Malik, Usha Wallia, Jatinder Sethi, Uma Sethi and Deepak Sikand.
I hope this ‘Farewell at The Railway Station' will remind the coming grnerations of all the great people involved in this farewell. Let's not forget them.
© Jatinder Sethi 2016
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