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Sen Guptas of Darjeeling - A journey that continues.........

I have been researching the roots of my family for over 2 decades now. However estranged I'm from them since they never approved of my choices and my lifestyle, I take pride in my lineage. Though it may sound pompous, this is my humble effort to record my family lineage for the next generations of Sen Gupta and extended families to take pride in our heritage, language and culture. I hope it re-enforces bonding with the roots in times where we are losing our roots in our attempt to be more 'American' in the name of globalization!

Sharing the story of my family, based on information I have been able to gather so far. The margin of error should be less than 10 %.

.Gonga Gobindo ran away from home. This was just after one of his relatives had gone out in a Bajra (a houseboat in Bengal) to collect Khajna (Bengali for Taxes) but was shot from the banks and died in the middle of the river.

The year should be 1887 and Gonga was all 18. His father Golok had died and Gonga was under pressure to take up the family titular job. The job of running a patta and collecting taxes for East India Company. A little glamorous name for this is ‘Zamindari’.

Golok’s father, Shalob, was involved in managing his estates and collecting ’Khajna’; its believed he practised Vedic medicine.
Dr Jogendranath Sen Gupta & Parul Sen Gupta in Darjeeling

Gonga’s ancestors were Vedic scholars who were originally from a warrior class called the Senas. Its believed that they lived around the Indus-Swaraswat Basin. When this class of people migrated to the banks of the Ganga, they began to teach Vedic Sciences and the surname ‘Sharma’ soon got added to ‘Sena’. This happened in Kannuaj in modern-day Uttar Pradesh where the surname Sharma is still very common.

The Nawab of Dhaka, who originally had a Kashmiri lineage, had invited these scholars to come and teach Vedic Sciences in Bengal around 200 years back. Amongst them was Gonga’s forefather.

In time, the scholars were given pattas and were bestowed with the tile of ‘Guptri or King of sorts’. Later, this too got incorporated into the surname and Sharma got dropped. Though on religious occasions and family matters, ‘Sharma’ is still used. Guptri later became Gupta. And Sena became Sen.

Amaira Sen Gupta, Arsha Ghosh, Bikram Ghosh, Malini Kathuria Sen Gupta & Nandini Sen Gupta in
New Delhi

The Nawab of Jalpaiguri who was aware of Gonga’s antecedents offered support. With the power of hundreds of strong tribal men from Chalsa and tens of elephants, forests were cleared for tea estates. Later, he also invested in estates in Haldibari in North Bengal.

Rajendra Gonga Gobindo Sena Sharma Guptri was my great-grandfather. He would write his name simply as Gonga Gobindo Sen. No suffixes or prefixes.

His only son, Jogendranath Sen Gupta decided to study medicine. He become an M.D. and all his life served people without charging a single penny. His source of income was from family estates and investments. When South Bengal had severe floods followed by famine, he migrated from his winter home in Darjeeling to the villages of Midnapore to help people who were dying every day.

Dr J, N. Sen Gupta, my grandfather, set up medical camps and stayed back for a few years before returning to the comforts of his Darjeeling home.

When I was growing up, I never knew these stories. Actually, we were never told. Why? Heaven knows!

My grandfather, as I know him now, was involved with certain landmark events. He was in the panel of doctors for the Bhawal Raja case when the King had returned as a sanyasi. This went on to become a long battle in the court. Legendary movies have been made on this subject.

Or be it Tenzing and Hilary climbing Everest. Be it the reception committee in Darjeeling or medical intervention, Dr Sengupta played his part.

On 13th April 1928, when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Jalpaiguri, he spent his first night at Dr Jogedranath Sen Gupta’s home.
Ashoke Sen

I always knew that my grandfather was involved in raising funds for INA but we were never told. Why? As I said, Heaven knows!
I remember, when in 1979 my paternal grandmother died, and there was huge chaos. The wooden chest that had the family’s ancestral jewellery was empty. We were very young and if my understanding is correct, there was a misunderstanding in the family because of that.
I know that a lot of it was given to Indian National Army’s fight against the colonist rulers under the British crown and the rest, that had accumulated over the decades later, was given away in charity by my grandmother, Parul Sen Gupta.

Parul was a keen musician and learnt the sitar along with her best friend and one of the Princess’ (name withheld) of Cooch Behar Royal family from an Ustaad (name withheld) who would come home.
Nandini Sen Gupta
She was the pillar of the family who held everybody together. Parul completed her education appearing in the same batch and in the same examination centre alongside her youngest son.

But why I have to run from pillar to post to find such details about my family, I really have no clue. We grew up knowing that our family felt very ‘English’ in their behaviour and taste; being fairly prosperous due to family heritage and individual success in their respective fields. The next stop was always London.

Why we were not told about my grandfather’s involvement with the Independence movement? I am aware that our Jalpaiguri ancestral house was a centre for underground anti-British activities to free India. But again, why were we cousins never told?

Dr J.N. Sen Gupta had one daughter and 5 sons. Meera, Puloke Kumar, Aloke Kumar, Kanak Kumar, Ashoke Kumar and Dipak Kumar.

Meera married Nirmal Kanti Chatterjee, a freedom fighter, three-time Member of the Parliament and a Statistician. He was a member (i) Governing Body, Bose Research Institute; (ii) Indian Statistical Institute and (iii) Governing Body, I.C.A.R.

Capt. Aloke Kumar Sen Gupta

Meera, my aunt, joined active politics. She was also a Principal of a Government School in Calcutta. They both dedicated their lives to the upliftment of the underprivileged. Last, when I met my aunt, she was writing a book about how their sacrifices had gone waste, ‘Amar Oronyo Hara Geche’. But I guess, we lost her before she could complete it.

Dr Hanshi Sen Gupta, Dr Sioban Sen Gupta, Nandini Sen Gupta, Anupam Sen Gupta & Capt. Aloke Kumar Sen Gupta in Ireland in the early 70s

Puloke, who was a voracious reader, was a tea industry expert. A pass out from Tocklai Tea Research Institute, he loved his baked beans on toast and coffee. Puloke married Tapati whose family roots were in Rangoon, Burma. She ran her own garment business and was a very independent lady.

During his school days in Darjeeling, Puloke was the first in the family to ride a horse to school which has followed by the rest of the brothers later. Our Darjeeling property had a horse stable at the back on which grew blueberries.

Once I was feeling down and went over to his house which was next to Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan’s family house and a step or two from mine in Calcutta. This is the same house of the Sarod maestro that probably saw George Harisson of the Beatles a few times.

Anyways, my uncle gave me an EP by Jimmy Cliff and the song was ‘You can get it if you really want…..but you must try….try and try……till you succeed at last”. The lyrics have stayed back with me till date.

Now, Aloke. My father. Like other members of the family, he grew up in the mountains of Darjeeling. Aloke’s dream, as a child, was to become an Engine driver of the Himalayan Toy train. But life had something else for him. He trained himself as a Radio Officer and began flying as 2nd Officer with an airline. Soon, he found himself sailing as a Radio Officer on ocean liners. But with my grandmother’s intervention, he took a demotion and prepared for deck side. Aloke graduated to become a Captain in the merchant navy and the 1st Indian to have migrated from Radio to the Deck.

Sen Guptas & Chatterjees in the 70s in Calcutta

Capt. A. K. Sen Gupta did his extra master later. He also specialsied in Charterparties and Martime Law. After his second son, Ayan was born, he gave up sailing and began his career on shore. In time, he set up his own maritime company, Crown Shipping Co. Pvt. Ltd in 1980. He suffered a severe cerebral thrombosis in 1989 when he went to Dhaka to sign a treaty to utilize river routes for maritime business between Bangladesh and India thereby cutting costs. And he never could recover.

Amongst other businesses, he was a Maritime Arbitrator, Licensed Maritime Surveyor, and Maritime Consultant and also ran a hobby poultry farm. He practised ameatuer phtopgraphy and also had a collection of binoculars, cameras and portable typewriters and a range of Nepali Khukri. All this he'd maintian himself. Aloke, despite being a shippie, was a complete teetotaller.

Struggle for India's reedom : Defeat of Netaji's Dream by Sagar Simlandy & Swapan Kumar
Sarkar page 85

He married Nandini Sen from Lucknow who was from the lineage of Raja Ballal Sena of the Sena Dynasty of Bengal. Nandini, my mother, taught English all her life and was also on the Management Committee of my school. A trained Kathak and Ballroom dancer, she taught me the Waltz, Fox Straut, and Viennese waltz when I was 3.

Kanank died due to an ailment in Darjeeling while my grandfather was helping people in Midnapore. Due to his commitment to saving lives in famine-struck land and his oath, Dr J.N. Sen Gupta couldn't attend his son’s funeral. My grandmother single-handedly did his last rites.

Ashoke. The uncle I was closest to. An extremely handsome man who loved to act on stage. He even did a small stint in Bangla cinema but his heart was in theatre. As I understand, he ran a theatre group with his friends and colleagues.

He wrote his name as Ashoke Sen and was a Bureaucrat with the Government of West Bengal. My father would take us often to North Calcutta Rifle Club on weekends which was almost next to where my uncle lived. And another memory is a train line running at a distance from his home. The view of trains passing by from his balcony is a strong memory that has stayed with me. Every time I see the Metro at a distance from my terrace in Delhi, it reminds me of my uncle’s balcony. Actually, as a child, much like the moving sound of a steam engine, I would call him ‘Chook Chook’ Uncle.

Anupam Sen Gupta
Ashoke married Nellie. She had a strong interest in politics and would often discuss strategies with my Aunt and Uncle who were politicians. She, I remember, cooked brilliantly.

Dipak. A pass out of the Guy’s in London, Dipak specializes in ENT and is an established surgeon with business interests in Kolkata and London. He spent a lot of time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he was one of the royal physicians and a Professor at the medical college. Before that, he lived for almost a decade in Kingston, Jamaica, and then went back to London. Dipak has spent most of his life in the UK; travelling from Dublin, to Belfast before settling in North London.

Dr. Sioban Sen Gupta

My earliest memory is that my mother and I flew from Liverpool to Belfast. In front of us, at a distance, was a pickup truck with Irish soldiers. In a fraction of a second, a mortar landed from nowhere and blew the truck into smithereens.
Dipak married his classmate from medical college in Calcutta and London, Hanshi. A double FRCS, she lived most of her life in England.

Meera never had a child while Puloke, Ashoke and Dipak all had daughters. The eldest in the family is Monique, who I last knew was working with Singapore Airlines. Ashoke’s daughter Aparna, as I understand, is an entrepreneur after having spent lots of time in the telecommunication industry.

Dipak’s daughter, Sioban is a Ph.D. scholar, and a Senior Lecturer and is researching genetics at the University of London.

Aloke had 2 sons and a daughter. Anuradha, Ayan and Anupam. Anupam is the eldest and the estranged ‘scion’ of the family !!
Ayan started his career in shipping but soon left to dabble in the transport business. Anupam started his career in shipping but after 11 years in the maritime business in the Bay of Bengal, he left his career in Calcutta and ‘next stop London’, home, family, friends, inheritance, and city in 1997 to pursue a career in creative arts. He is an award-winning Filmmaker and Music Producer; Author, Script Writer, Sonic Branding Practitioner, Speaker and Corporate Trainer. Anupam is a Limca Book of Records holder; recipient of Aparna Sen Gupta
Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival Special Festival Mention Award and United
Nations instituted Karmaveer Award & Fellowship.
We lost Anuradha in the early 70s and was buried in Calcutta. Anupam is estranged from the Sen Guptas because of his rebellious and experimental approach toward life that’s caused quite a few family embarrassments. But all he wanted was to live his life his way and own it as well, like any other Sen Gupta !!!

Well, the legacy continues with Meghna and Dr. Soubhagya Lakshmi Dutt in Calcutta, Amaira in New Delhi, and Arsha in Tasmania.

This page will get updated from time to time as and when  I get more information and photographs.


Rajendra (Dr) Jogendra Nath Sena Sharma Guptri @ Dr J.N. Sen Gupta



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