Manjulika Mukherjee, BA graduate, Calcutta University, 1969

“Manjulika Mukherjee was the first college graduate from my entire extended family combining my maternal and paternal side. She has been my inspiration since I was a child. “Mamoni” as I called her, was the first born child of my maternal grandfather, Late Sri Krishnadhan Mukherjee, who was an idealistic non-violent Gandhian freedom fighter and was honoured by the Indian Government after independence. Though he belonged to the Zamindari landlord Mukherjee family of Jonai, which is now in the modern North-East Indian state of Assam, right at the foothill of Himalayas, my grandfather gave up his Zamindari (landownership) according to post-independence call for abolition of Zamindari (land ownership) and never took interest in protecting family wealth dreaming about a new India devoid of colonial and feudal exploitation. His seven children grew up in the old family home at 39 Mahendra Goswami Lane, Calcutta-700006 with very little financial resource coming as his freedom fighter’s pension from the Government.

Even while growing up within a family of social aristocracy but poor financial resources with everything “gone with the wind” because of historic political movement, Mamoni excelled in education and also in classical North Indian music being tutored at home by my grandmother, Late Smt. Amiya Mukherjee, who was herself a highly educated woman compared to other women of her times, having studied till the intermediate level in school. She was a poet (not published), painter and accomplished player of the musical instrument, Esraj. Initially home-schooled in music, later Mamoni received some professional training at the Bengal Music College and became a “Bisharad” (scholar) in music. She also passed as B-high vocal artist at the All India Radio Calcutta, the same year as famous singer and music director, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay. However, due to live broadcasts late at night during those times she could never perform for AIR as her father did not give permission. She graduated with a BA from Vidyasagar College, Calcutta University to become the first woman in the family to not just be a college graduate but also have a professional career. She worked as a teacher at the Kharagpur South-Eastern Railway Girl’s High School till she passed away on 3rd May 1995. The best thing about her is that even till today her students remember her with great fondness as a loving and caring teacher. As a family we also miss her very much.”

•contributor’s name: Ms. Mousumi Mukherjee (niece)

•year the photo was taken (approximate year acceptable): 1969

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