Dawn heralds the beginning of a new day, a new opportunity, a new hope. For my family – my mom, dad and brother and me – the rising sun will always hold special significance.
I remember the morning almost 48 years ago when my brother a lanky teen and I an eight year old, had tagged along with our parents on their usual walk in the Hanging Gardens. A quiet solitude bathed the garden, the animal figures carved from hedges barely discernible in the morning haze. As mummy and papa took their customary five rounds, bhaiya and I hung around, examining spider webs, hunting snails and caterpillars, playing hide and seek, and then tired, sitting at the far end of the park, enjoying the view from our vantage point atop the Malabar Hills ~ the steep slope of the rocky hillside, the high rise buildings in the distance, the Arabian sea down below.
Little did we know that at that very moment, our parents were making decisions that would change the course of our life. That my dad would decide to work on his dream of making a thesaurus in Hindi, a vital resource for the language not yet conceived and created by anyone. That my mom would begin saving in earnest so that my dad could give up his job as editor of the film magazine Madhuri and devote himself full-time to the thesaurus. That we would move to our family home in Delhi to escape the high cost of living in Bombay.
The sun was coming up as mummy-papa joined us. Together, we watched the rising sun bathe the sky a purple-pink, turning the gulmohar trees on the hillside a golden tangerine and the sea a mass of twinkling blue in the distance.
Mesmerized, the four of us stood there, hands resting on the garden railing, silently taking in the vast expanse of openness around us… Looking back, I realize, the rising sun had been a harbinger of hope and hard work in the times to come… forging the paths of our lives.
Two years later. 19 April 1976. The day my dad wrote the first card of the thesaurus.
Since their decision in the Hanging Gardens, my parents had actively begun to give shape to their dream. Preparations were afoot ~ reference books purchased, cards for writing the words printed, trays for housing the cards customized… Papa decided he would launch the work in Nasik, a city in Maharashtra on the banks of the holy river Godavari, where his company, the Times of India, had a guesthouse. We could stay at the guesthouse, a comfortable bungalow with huge gardens and compounds, for the entire summer while papa began work on the thesaurus.
Rising early that day, the four of us made our way to the Godavari for a dip. Everything seemed special that day. The glow from the rising sun, the near-empty banks, the pigeons on the banks, the ring of temple bells, the whoosh of wind in the trees, the sound of our feet as we went down the steps to the river…
The water rippled as the four of us waded in. I slipped my hand into my mom’s… For a long moment, the four of us stood there, looking out at the river stretching before us till it seemed to meet the sun in the sky, and in that moment, the river became a molten gold, blinding us to tears. It was magical. A perfect morning to launch a dream.
Later, we bought a copper urn and had the date engraved on its rim. Returning to the bungalow, papa wrote the first card of the thesaurus (then titled Shabdeshwari) and all four of us signed on it, date and all.
Though I would fully appreciate the true significance of that day only twenty years later, when mummy and papa presented the first copy of Samantar Kosh, the first ever thesaurus in Hindi or any other modern Indian language, to the erstwhile President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma.
Today, forty five years later, I wonder: Was it fate? Or destiny? Or the will of a higher power that my dad’s dream became a family enterprise over the years? And that Samantar Kosh came to epitomize togetherness in its truest sense and became the binding link of our family?
Who would have thought that day on the banks of Godavari that papa would dedicate his entire life to Hindi, overcoming hurdles, physical, financial and personal, in his unabashed, undefeated and undeterred pursuit of a dream?
That my brother Sumeet would be instrumental in making papa’s dream come true. That he would organize funds for a computer, and despite being a surgeon, learn programming himself to create software for the database, and then teach papa how to work on it… and that he would become an integral part of all papa’s works for always.
That papa would not rest on his laurels even after the stupendous success of Samantar Kosh but continue to improve and update his database, and most importantly, link it to the English language making Arvind Lexicon the only bilingual database of its kind in the world.
That my mom would prove to be the ultimate partner in life and support my dad unconditionally through thick and thin. That she would be there alongside him ~ building the database, looking after his health, taking care of us.
That from a little girl who only comprehended that her father was working on a ‘book,’ I would take it upon myself to take papa’s work to the people. And that my husband Atul would encourage and support me completely in my efforts.
Last week, Samantar Kosh brought our family together once again. As part of our venture to document papa’s contribution to the Hindi language in a film, we came together at Rock Beach, Puducherry, a town where my parents and Sumeet spent many years working on the database. And the four of us, decades later, witnessed yet another glorious sunrise.
A cool breeze blew in from the sea as we made our way to the black rocky path jutting into the sea, the blue water stretching endlessly before us. And the orange disc of the sun becoming visible through the clouds above the water, tinting the sky a bright orange, outlining the clouds with a vivid pink. And brilliant rays of light fanning into the sky!
It was simply divine.
Wordlessly, we watched as the magnificence of the moment filled us with wondrous joy, transporting us to another realm, drawing us still closer. It took us back in time to the sunrise at Hanging Gardens when the four of us had begun our journey almost five decades ago. We stood there now, each one of us silently acknowledging the vital forces of nature that had been inspiring us, guiding us, urging us, all along. Each one of us happily aware that togetherness along with devotion and dedication are key to realizing dreams, however unattainable they may seem!
We turned back, revived and revitalized, with another dream in our eyes, the vision of linking the Arvind Lexicon database with global languages to create a World Bank of Words… the rising sun our witness once again.