I could hardly wait for my last exam of class VI to get over… I was so excited. Tomorrow, we – my mom, my dad and my brother Sumeet – would leave for Nasik for two whole months! What fun! Papa would be starting a book, a thesaurus, whatever, I didn’t understand much. We children would have a lovely time living in the Times of India’s bungalow there – cycling, playing badminton, eating, and sleeping in huge four poster beds!
Early one morning in Nasik, the four of us made our way to the Godavari river. I slipped my hand into my mom’s as we waded in… For a long moment, the four of us stood there, looking out at the river stretching before us till it seemed to meet the rising sun in the distance…
Later, we bought a copper urn (lota) and had the date engraved on its rim – 19 April 1976. 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.
As papa would remark many many years later, “On that day, we became a team!”
Though I would appreciate the true significance of that day only twenty years later on 13 December 1996 when my parents – Arvind and Kusum – presented the first copy of the first-ever thesaurus in Hindi or for that matter, ANY modern Indian language, now renamed Samantar Kosh, to the erstwhile President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma at the Rashtrapati Bhawan!
Who would have thought that day on the banks of the Godavari that papa would dedicate his entire life to Hindi, overcoming hurdles, physical, financial and personal, in his unabashed pursuit of a dream?
That my mom would prove to be the ultimate partner in life and support my dad unconditionally through thick and thin.
That my brother Sumeet would be instrumental in realizing papa’s dream? 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.
That from a little girl who only understood that her father was working on a ‘book,’ I would take it upon myself to take his work to the people.
YES. We did become a team on that fateful day in Nasik. It is now 25 years since the release of Samantar Kosh in 1996. And the glow in my heart remains as warm as ever.