Ramesh Chandra Chaudhary (whom I affectionately called Moha) was born this day in 1917. On his birth centenary this is my personal tribute to Moha whose proximity I enjoyed and of whom I have pleasant recollections. He died young at the age of 69. But he lived an eventful life. He distinguished himself in many ways and stood tall not only physically but also in professional and social stature. He was the third of the eight siblings of the well-known Chaudhary family of Uzan Bazar, a large joint family under the patriarchal wings of Manik Chandra Chaudhary, one of the illustrious early settlers of Guwahati of yesteryears.
My acquaintance with the ‘Chaudhary House’ was through my Pehi (Labanya Chaudhary) who was married to the eldest of the Chaudhary brothers, Bhuban Chandra Chaudhary. Labanya Pehi was an epitome of gentle affection and old world wisdom. But Bhuban Peha had a stern and intimidating presence and we all kept a distance from him. We, however, remember his histrionic talent in the role of ‘Mill Sahab’ in ‘Maniram Dewan’ brought to celluloid by his younger brother, the quiet and sensitive Apurba Chaudhary, who also gave us the soul stirring song ‘Buku hom hom kore’ by Bhupen Hazarika in the same film.
Ramesh Chaudhary grew up amid the din and bustle of a joint family resonating a contagious bonhomie and happiness. Moreover, in that day and age his proximity to the educated and elite citizenry of Guwahati raising its collective voice for an independent India certainly impacted his life and helped shape his career. After his early education in Guwahati he proceeded to Calcutta for higher studies. Many today may not be aware that a man who chose his career in law surprisingly did his post graduate degree in Comparative Philology (a stream of literature dealing with phonetics) in which he excelled with a first class first position and a gold medal from Calcutta University. He then changed course and studied law, which he completed with flying colours. He began his legal profession in Shillong and subsequently in Guwahati Bar. As a young lawyer, he was highly regarded and respected by the legal fraternity. He was appointed Law Secretary of the Government of Assam and Secretary of Assam Legislative Assembly. He later shifted to Guwahati in 1967 and was appointed Advocate General of Nagaland in 1973.
Justice Surjoo Prasad, the then Chief Justice of Guwahati High Court who pioneered the Rotary movement in then undivided Assam, being impressed by the passion and ability of Ramesh Chaudhary brought him into the Rotary fold. In fact, in his later years he proved to be an passionate Rotarian and in 1976 he rose to the position of District Governor of RI District 329, comprising all the states in Eastern India along with the North Eastern states. He was the first to hold that position from the North Eastern Region - no mean achievement at a time when Rotary movement was nascent and its presence minimal in this part of the country. A senior Rotarian of Shillong, Shankar Singhania, whom I met recently, had this to say about Rotarian RC when I informed him about his birth centenary: “It was a pleasure to have associated with Rotarian RC. His wife Lakhimi and he was always a delightful Rotary couple. His interactions with Rotarians at all levels were very warm and friendly.”
Nurul Laskar, who was a young Rotary volunteer at that time and now well-known Rotarian himself, recalled the unique ability of Rotarian RC of relating to them who were many years junior. He fondly recalled that Rtn RC was always an inspiration and a source of encouragement to youngsters. Rotarian R.C. as he was known in the Rotary circle, formed a prominent ‘brothers – duo’ with his younger brother Rtn. Dipu Chaudhary whom many would recall also as an avid sports person and a lively football commentator.
Ramesh Chaudhary had keen understanding of public issues and matters of community concern. Toward the end of his life he rendered very distinguished service to the All Assam Lawyers’ Association, as its president and played a significant role as a senior citizen in the formation of the Asom Gana Parisad (AGP) in the first convention held at Golaghat in 1985. For me personally Moha was a delightful company when and wherever we were together and discussed and debated issues ranging from politics to theatre, education to governance. After his retirement he divided his time with his son (Late Pankaj Chaudhary) in Digboi during Christmas, at our home in Dergaon during Rongali Bihu with his daughter Anurupa and son-in-law and my brother (Jiba Hazarika) and, during Bhogali Bihu with his older daughter Anuradha and son-in-law Biru da (Sashi Barua) in Bhergaon Tea Estate. What an intelligent way of connecting places and festivals! That was also his way of keeping up family ties and at the same time finding wonderful relaxation! It was a great privilege to know him and I consider it my good fortune that I was a part of his extended family.
–– K. N. Hazarika