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152 – The Nightingale of the Station

My mother, Papia Chakrabarti. Calcutta, West bengal. 1971

My mother, Papia Chakrabarti. Calcutta, West Bengal. 1971

Image and Text contributed by Subhrajyoti Chakrabarti, Bangalore

This is a picture of my mother Papia Chakrabarti. She was born to an eye surgeon in a wealthy family of Calcutta (now Kolkata). The family was conservative and girls were not allowed to interact with men outside of their family or even dress up stylishly, as it was considered to be a taboo. At the age of 20, with an arranged match, she got married to an air force officer, my father, Wing Commander M.K Chakrabarti. By then she was a BA in Psychology from Vidyasagar College under the Calcutta University and could speak three languages, Bengali, Hindi and English.

My mother told us that when she first went to my father’s Air Force station posting in Deolali (Maharashtra), she got a cultural shock. All social interactions in the Defense Forces (across genders) encouraged dressing up with style and interactions were more free and joyful. It was the complete opposite of what she had experienced in her formative years. Nonetheless, she adapted to the changes and embraced the Defense Forces culture. She dressed up in style, and hosted perfect parties.

My mother was also a great singer of classical and contemporary Hindi music, and that too without any formal training. She was invited by several people to perform at their events and parties across all my father’s postings. In Chandigarh, she was awarded the title ‘Nightingale of the Station’ at the High Ground Air Force station, for three consecutive years (1983-1985). Despite all the recognition, she was adept at all her responsibilities. She looked after her mother-in-law and brought us all up well. My wife is also

My wife who is also a classical music lover, led to she and my mom sharing a wonderful bond via music, and they would often sing together. A couple of years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and by last July, the Cancer had spread to her lungs. She had the resilience to fight, but unfortunately we lost her. Even in her last days she taught us that one should fight till death and one should always have high thinking, but simple living.


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My parents, Tarun Coomar & Indira Bhadury. Nagpur, Maharashtra. Circa 1940
151 – “He was and still is, by all means, my hero”
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My ancestors Joseph and Wilhelmina. South Parade, Bangalore. Circa 1860
150 – Wilhelmina and her cookbook from India
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My great great grandfather, Vasu Deva Sharma. Berlin, Germany. Circa 1920
111 – One of the three earliest known Indians to have studied at the Royal College of Art, London
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My Bua, Veena Sajnani, winner of the Miss India Crown, Bombay, Maharashtra. 1970
60 – Winner of the 1970 Miss India crown
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My father, Anand Prakash Bakshi as a child with his parents. Rawalpindi. (now Pakistan). Circa 1930
137 – The only valuable he saved while fleeing to India in 1947
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