Tuesday, August 24


My mother's father lived to be 90. Brought up as a fatherless Bangal by an illiterate rural mother, he went on to become a Nehruvian technocrat, one of the post-independence chairmen of Sindri Fertilizer Corp Ltd, India's first public sector company, and one of the movers behind the 'concept' of Sindri. From Wikipedia:

The production of Ammonium Sulphate in the factory was started on 31 October 1951 and the factory inaugurated in March 1952. In his inauguration speech, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru said that he was not just inaugurating a fertilizer factory but he was inaugurating a temple of modern India. The Company Sindri Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited was merged in January 1961 with another fertilizer manufacturing company Hindustan Chemical and Fertilizers Limited floated by the Government of India in July 1959 to form a bigger Company the Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited.

The factory was first in India to produce Ammonium Sulphate (1951), Urea (1959), Ammonium Nitrate-Sulphate, commonly called the Double salt (1959) and was the first fertilizer factory to have its own captive power plant in 1951 and to introduce planning, research and development facilities in 1951. The raw materials used initially for its final products were gypsum, coal and naptha.


The fertilizer plant brought together people from many different locations of India to work in various roles. Sindri was truly the mixing pot for various different cultures and regions in India. It was not unusual to find a Bengali, a Bihari, a Sikh, a Tamil, a Kannada and a Jain family living in the same block of the town. The communal harmony and social acceptance which was instilled in youngsters growing up in the town made it much easier for them to adapt to a diverse culture. The greatest contribution of Sindri Fertilizer Plant may be in creating a generation of Indians born with multi-cultural values.


Today, after the closure of the factory, Sindri is a mere shadow of its past glory. Some parts of the town have been turned over to the Central Reserve Police Force and seems to be well maintained. Many homes remain unoccupied. The hospital is largely shuttered and its grounds quite unkempt. Only one ward is in use. Kalpana talkies has shut down but DVD vendors have popped up at the still bustling market. The butchers have yielded space to jewellers! Bihar Stores is now closed, Ahmad Tailors is mostly selling ready made garments and D. N. Studio has gone digital. Sindri's great spec master, "Dipu Opticals" is still catering the optical needs. The town is greener now. Many more trees have sprung up but Sindri seems to be slowly receding in time. There is a Club famous for its cultural activities and others Sports Competition Sindri Youth Club, is now looks like a bushy garden and there is no one to take care. Sindri Youth Club has produced lot of national & international players in volleyball, badminton and table tennis.

In our last trip to Kolkata I rescued one of my grandfather's several locally-published "pustikas", one that traced out a family history. Here, then, is Biswas Banghser Itihas (Biswas Family History) written collaboratively by my mother's father and one of his first cousins.

This traces our genealogy to the present day down from Basanta Ray, a clan leader of note in village Dhulia/Dhulya (probable coordinates circa 22° 34' North, 90° 33' East, SE of Barishal, now swallowed by the Padma river) who probably lived in the late 1500s. Land records of the region have several mentions of Basanta Ray's clan. Descended from this line was Ramgopal Ray, a minor official in Nawabi employ, who lived in the late 1600s.

Rameshwar Ray (Ramchandra in some accounts), his son, was entrusted with the conveyance of revenue from many 'taluqs' to the treasury of Bengal. Rameshwar Ray's trustworthiness in this task earned him the Nawabi title of Bishwas/Biswas (Trust). He was also given the 'jagir' of Hariya munsa, in what is today Bangladesh, along with one Kareem Khan according to Nawabi records.

Rameshwar's son was Yadavendra. Records dated year 1155 of the Bengali calendar (1748 CE) show the establishment of the mahaal (smallest unit of revenue assessment) of Mandra near village Hariya by Raja Rajballav, who was one of the feudatories of Nawab of Bengal Ali Vardi Khan and later an officer in the army of his grandson Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula. (One of Siraj-ud-Daula's gripes against the Easy India Company was that they gave shelter to Krishnadas, son of Raja Rajballav, who had fled to Calcutta after embezzling government funds in Dhaka; this led in part to the Black Hole of Calcutta.)

Next, we find in the records the name Lokenath Biswas, nicknamed Titaram (c. 1765?), grandson of Rameshwar the Trusted as the revenue officer of this mahaal. Titaram's son is Vaidyanath (c. 1790?), his son Gourishankar (c. 1820?), his son Rasmohan (c. 1850?), his son Ramanimohan (c. 1880?), and thence his son my grandfather Rasamay (b. 1907) trace this genealogy.