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    Posted on 26 June 2012

    No surprises here, it’s a staid First Family

    Arkadev Ghoshal offers a glimpse into the personal life of Pranab Mukherjee, the politician who always put service to the Congress before family

    Pranab Mukherjee on the last day of office as the Union Finance Minister

    Our would-be First Citizen has come a long way from his birthplace in a district in West Bengal that, some say, means land of the brave. But the other root of Birbhum too seems to have had a bearing on Pranab Mukherjee’s life: Bir, in Santhali language means forest, and Mukherjee has had to navigate several of those, both political and personal in nature. That’s why it’s of little surprise that Mukherjee, born on 11 December 1935 to Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee and Rajlakshmi, today stands poised to become the titular head of the largest democracy in the world.

    In a way, politics was in his genes. After all, Mukherjee Sr, a freedom fighter who was imprisoned multiple times, was active in the Congress since the 1920s, and was a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). He was also a member of the legislative council of West Bengal in 1952-68, besides being the president of Birbhum’s District Congress Committee. It was probably due to his influence that one of Mukherjee’s double MAs from Suri Vidyasagar College in Birbhum was in political science.

    By the time the young man had started working as a teacher of that same subject at the Vidyanagar College in South 24 Parganas district in 1963, he had also acquired an LLB degree. His marital life, meanwhile, had flowed smoothly with wife Suvra. The couple has two sons and a daughter. The harmony continues to this date, evident from how the would-be-First-Wife said she wants to feed Mukherjee his favourite Bengali food with less oil and spices when he gets elected President.

    As inheritance, the Mukherjee couple seem to have passed on not only the flair for politics, but a love for the arts. Suvra, herself a talented Rabindra sangeet singer, nurtured daughter Sharmistha’s talent for dance from a tender age. Sharmistha grew up to be an accomplished Jaipur gharana Kathak dancer in her own right under the tutelage of Padma Shri-awardee Pandit Durga Lal and his disciple Uma Sharma.

    Meanwhile, Mukherjee himself is a much published author, having penned five books— Midterm Poll (1969), Beyond Survival: Emerging Dimensions of Indian Economy (1984), Off The Track (1987), Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice (1992) and Challenges Before the Nation (on Indian National Congress) (1992). He has passed on the love of politics and economics to both his sons—Abhijit and Indrajit. Of the two, Abhijit seems to have followed more in his father’s footsteps, having already been elected as a member of the West Bengal legislative assembly from the Nalhati constituency in the same Birbhum district that his predecessors have called their home.

    With more than 26 years of corporate experience, having worked in firms like the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and the Steel authority of India Ltd, Abhijit jumped onto the state election bandwagon only in 2011. For all intents and purposes, this 52-year-old is the one who acts as a bridge between the soon-to-be-President and his home district. Abhijit is also the one who performs the Durga Puja that his great-grandfather Tarak Nath Mukherjee had initiated at their ancestral home in Mirati nearly 120 years ago.

    Arkadev Ghoshal is chief sub-editor with The Financial World.

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    Posted on 26 June 2012



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