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Dr. Swarup K Mukherjee (1955 - 2002)

Tribute from Sushanta Banerjee (Shellykaka) - SKM's paternal uncle

These are a few recollections of my dear nephew Swarup K Mukherjee. It’s very painful when I think of Swarup K Mukherjee as having passed on but my memories of him are some of my sweetest memories.

He was born in late fifties of the last century. Unfortunately, he became an early victim of Ricketts, which took him a couple of years to come round. Sadly the disease left its mark on him for the rest of his life. He had to live with an infirm body - in spite of this he did every thing possible in a short span of life.

In childhood he could not participate in out door games but he always stood by and enjoyed all the action and his group of friends felt and yearned for his presence. His sense of humour and penchant for well-timed comments were an added attraction for them.

In spite of his illness he could start his schooling on time like other children and even went on to become a National Science Talent Scholar. His short stature never stood in the way of him doing anything he wanted to. He had the inner strength to accept any challenge. All these recollections are coming to me like a movie in my mind – some of my recollections include a scene when he appeared for National Science Talent Scholarship interview in Calcutta – while most boys attending the interview were busy consulting books with grim faces, our Swarup K Mukherjee was deeply engrossed in his Readers’ Digest. It was difficult to judge him from his outward looks and actions. Whatever he did had deep devotion from within.

Swarup K Mukherjee never stayed long with me. When circumstances and environments changed I have never seen him unsteady. In his college days I have heard him recount about an incident when authorities asked students to immediately vacate hostels, notwithstanding his physical disability he headed for Nainital on foot with other able bodied boys. On another occasion in Delhi my son was with him for a day roaming around the city, at the end of the day when it was time for him to be dropped back at the hostel he asked my son to drop him at his Lab, as he had not done his quota of lab work for the day - this was how conscientious Swarup K Mukherjee was.

When his parents died, on both occasions, it was I who took him from Calcutta to Jamshedpur. There was no lament and no tears all he wanted was for me to be at his side. His sudden decision to return from the US was prompted by the fact that his mother wanted him to be in India as he was the only son and she needed to be taken care of. He complied forthwith without any consideration for himself and his future in the US.

His mature friendship was sincere, deep and dependable, that prized him with his friends like (i) Raju Barwale, who had great respect for Swarup K Mukherjee’s scientific knowledge (ii) Ramakant Singh (R K Singh) – I saw him spending all the days of mourning with Swarup K Mukherjee at the time of his fathers’ death (iii) then I have seen Sailendra Bhaskar from Chennai and Sushil Chandani from Hyderabad (now in the US) come to attend Swarup K Mukherjee’s marriage in Calcutta and stay on for the whole ceremony with us at Jamshedpur as members of our family.

Swarup K Mukherjee’s expression of appreciation was never loud but always deep. He was completely methodical – I recall an incident when he returned from the US, he had consigned his luggage to me in Calcutta by sea. The papers were sent to me by air mail. The Customs authorities in Calcutta could not find any fault with the paper work and were so impressed with the paper work that we did not have to spend a single paisa extra to have Swarup K Mukherjee’s luggage Customs cleared. He impressed the Customs officers so much that they did not even check his luggage.

His affection and feeling towards me is a matter beyond expression. I have some interest in agriculture so anything new in agriculture was my priority. Knowing this he would send me the latest mustard seeds from Pusa even when he was a student. He organized for his friend Rao to send me IR8 x Dehradun Basmathi cross bred seeds even before they were made available to the public. He also organized to send me F-13 mango seedlings (cross of Alphonso x South Indian mango variety ) - these mangoes have never been seen in my area and I have named it 'Swarup' after my dear nephew. He once carried tissue cultured banana plantlets for me all the way from Bangalore. He also carried so many thoughtfully selected things from America for me when he returned for good from Pullman.

Lastly let me say that for him I was next only to his father and in turn I call him my pride. Am I wrong? No more tears.

Tribute by Mr. Rathiraj Banerjee , SKM’s maternal uncle

My Nephew

The great British explorer and mountaineer, George Malory, when once asked why he was taking so much of personal risk for attempting to scale the Mount Everest, the mountaineer simply said"Because it is there". My nephew, Tukun or Late Dr. Swarup Kumar Mukherjee,in his early boyhood often asked me this question and I found George Malory’s reply was very much to his liking.

Tukun, in his short span of life, showed what a man, not quite in the fitness of his health, could achieve if one had that steel in his frame. Born to an affluent family in Jamshedpur, where his grandfather and father were engineers in TISCO, he could well get a job at the Company itself, if he had so desired. No, he was fixed by a desire to achieve something great and sat for the NSTS Examination and after being successful, proceeded to Pantnagar to study agriculture so that he could serve his motherland in this respect. His subsequent contribution in this field by and large, is known to his friends and well wishers; what might not be known to others is that as a boy of ten(1966), he took great interest in aeronautical engineering, so much so that, were he not to go to Pantnagar to study and pursue research work on agriculture, he could well become an aeronautical engineer.

He was gifted with a beautiful voice and sang some of those songs of the musical movie "Sound of Music" very well, took great interest in sports and games, where his previous generations left marks, his father and uncles, all being good football and cricket players. Science fiction and English literature were his cup of tea.

Whatever he studied, he went through them thoroughly and with interest, so that he could speak on those subjects. Soft spoken, he lived a very simple life. His food habits and dress were also very simple. This is not to suggest that he did not savour good food; of course he did. While his research papers and other documents were always kept tidily and were always at his fingertips, lesser items like wearing apparels etc. were all in a topsy turvy state, till his wife, Asmita joined him at Bangalore after their marriage. He died young. It is said that those whom God loves, die young. Would we find solace in these words?