On the first day of May, my uncle, Jagadanand Prasad Singh Deo, transited to the world of eternal peace.
I know him as a very generous man. He loved everyone, unconditionally. Very simple in his habits, and very happy with very little, something very difficult to practice.
He was also an outstanding sportsman. As a child I remember he would come to play tennis championships at the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad, and then come to our house in the evening. And win them too.
Sometime during my childhood days, I had the job of selling lottery tickets and on one of those visits, I requested my uncle to buy some. He replied, show me how many tickets you have, I will buy them all. My father had to intervene, so I did not get greedy after his offer!
In his school, Rajkumar College at Raipur, he broke the High Jump athletics record. Later his sons broke his record!
I learnt from Deep (his younger son) he was a good hockey player while in Calcutta studying at St Xavier’s College. So good that Olympic medallist Vece Paes fondly recalled his hockey skills many decades later.
He was an excellent shikari too. In 1983, he was invited by the West Bengal Police to kill a leopard that had entered a village and mauled a few people. They went to the village outskirts and saw the villagers had surrounded the animal. My uncle moved ahead to have a good view of the leopard; the waiting leopard caught him unawares and charged on to him within seconds. He fought the leopard with bare hands while his brother, Kamakshya who was accompanying him could not shoot, worried that the bullet might hit his brother rather than the leopard, given that they were interlocked in battle. In midst of this battle between man and animal, a local policeman who was supposed to control the crowd, fired at the leopard, and unfortunately the bullet hit my uncle just below the left knee. This made my uncle lose balance and he fell down with the animal on top of him. Now my uncle, Kamakshya, realised there’s no choice – the leopard will eventually overpower his powerful but bullet-hit adversary. With a prayer in his lips, he took his chance and shot at the leopard and fortunately found his target.
Jagadanand needed an year of expert medical treatment before he recovered from the battle with leopard and the bullet.
Such feat usually wins a President’s Medal at Republic Day. All while deputed in government duty, too. He is a hero easy to admire, but difficult to imitate.
He would always be very happy when I will call him – respond with a very cheerful voice. I last called him a week before his divine call, and he sounded happy as always.
He was a passionate farmer too who thought ahead of his time. Loved agriculture and commercial pisciculture, and enjoyed experimentation. He started a small rice revolution in the local farming community, being the first person to Introduce Taichung variety of rice (a short variety of Rice found in Taichung in Taiwan) to Purulia district in the late 1960s. Today Taichung is synonymous with high quality rice in the entire eastern India. He was also the first to introduce wheat farming in Purulia district way back in the early 1970s. This was unheard of till he set a precedence and now diligently followed by progressive farmers in the district. He also introduced Broiler chicken farming and mushroom farming in his home district in the early 1980s. A pioneer in such agro and farm initiatives who led by example, he was one of the early members of the Bharat Krishak Samaj, the leading farmer’s forum of India founded in 1955.
While still active at his farm, in his pre-leopard days, he was one with the farmers, and they saw him as one of their own.
During my first trip to US, he told me to get a remote controlled boat with a long range, that he can use at his pond to exercise the fish. I could not find, and didn’t know how to search.
In a world where aggression commands respect and so many are just racing in the fast lane, he was the great harmoniser, caring for the privileged and the deprived alike, equally at ease with the big things and the unglamorous, happy and cheerful with the world.
He leaves behind an example very difficult to follow. The world will be richer with more people like him.
Credits: Debjit Prasad Singh Deo, for his contribution, and his encouragement to write this.