From the Memory Lane
I continue from my memory lane and write about yet another Seth family of Bootan Mandi. It is the family of Seth Munshi Ram. They used to have a vast complex of residences, shops and huge godowns located in the vicinity of Guru Ravidass Chowk. Seth Munshi Ram, who knew me very well when i was a young student, was a good and easily approachable person. Since my father and grand father was also situated in one of the shops, for the bread and butter, owned by Sethji's family, I often used to be around. Seth Munshi Ram along with one of his brothers had their business in Kanpur and were doing well. He used to visit Bootan Mandi, quite regularly and often, to be with the family which generally stayed back in Bootan Mandi. Dr. Om Prakash Bhatia, Sethji's son, was an up-start. Even in the late 60's, he used to flaunt the packet of 555 cigarettes and living an extra-normal life. I exactly remember his sarcastic remarks ( on my lowly position to earn a few hundred bucks) in early 1970 when I told him that I have joined the Ministry of External Affairs as a Clerk. Shiela, the daughter of Sethji, was my class fellow and we used to exchange notes as good friends. The family had a big name and an established business in Kanpur with a sprawling Kohinoor Tannery. My grand-father visited the Tannery in Kanpur along with a few more invited guests at the time of its launch in the mid 60's. He used to talk about Seth Munshi Ram's empire in Kanpur which was enviable among the dalits. Seth Munshi Ram was the only family who had an Ambassador car in the 60's in Bootan Mandi. Let me come to the point which I have laboured in telling the story. The family got dis-integrated. They lost their bearings. They lost the business and the status. Dr. Om Prakash Bhatia, I am told, ended up in small clinic at a non-descript location and died. Other brothers also could not save the situation. The reason, to my mind, and I say with some pain, as I liked Seth Munshi Ram, was that he could not provide the requisite up-bringing to his children and made them worthy of the great heritage. It is a pity that still, perhaps, many Seths of Bootan Mandi have not learnt any lesson from this great fall and degeneration. The community do require more Munshi Rams' with a sound business sense and calibre.
The time does not stop. Seths of Bootan Mandi cintinued to do well in the traditional leather business. They made their off spring to join them but without educating them to take over with a modern outlook. Some of them survived and some, who could not sustain, vanished or changed track. One family requires special mention, the family of Shri Surinder Mahey who rose to the coveted position of the Lord Mayor of Jalandhar. He belongs to an ordinary and poor background with little education. His uncle Shri Ram Lal, who came back from the UK after many years, provided financial back-up and support to the family. It was a wise move and appreciable action. But the young boys Hussan and Surinder, sons of Shri Rup Lal, availed off the god sent opportunity and proved their worth in establishing themselves in the leather business. I was not aware of Surinder's political inclinations. He got himself elected as a member of The Jalandhar Municipal Council sometime in 1985. He made good contacts in political set-up. I remember meeting the then Union Minister Yogender Makwana, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Chaudhary Darshan Singh Kaypee and some Congress leaders at the residence of Surinder in early 1986, the occasion was the marrage of Surinder, if my memory is correct. He gained further strength and could succeed in occupying the prestigious position of the Mayor of Jalandhar. It is not a mean achievement. Bootan Mandi shall be proud of him. I understand that Surinder still enjoys a good standing in political circles. Apart from his good work as the Mayor, he also contributed considerably to the betterment of the community. I am told that he is the main force behind the project of the magnificent Guru Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi. The project is not yet complete and would require further efforts to bring it to completion. Surinder also did a good job in constructing a new building for the school in Bootan Mandi and handed over the Government to run the school, as usual. It would, to my mind, have been better if the school is run directly by the Guru Ravidass Education and Welfare Trust, with a view to provide quality education to the children of the area. It was feasible but the Trust itself, to my knowledge, unfortunately is not fully functional because of internal problems and personal ego of the Seths. I pray that some better sense prevails and Bootan Mandi retains in the lead in the affairs of the community.
( to continue )