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How Dev ‘slept’ off his broken Bengali
- When Raju meant ‘spin’ but teacher thought ‘sleep’

Mitrasenpur Shantinath Primary School in Chandrakona, where Dev studied from Class I to III. Pictures by Samir Mondal
Dev, then and now
Dev’s teachers Nemai Das (left) and Mahendranath Bishui

Chandrakona, March 23:Ghumney gaya tha,” little Dev blurted out, only to be scolded for sleeping and skipping school by a teachDev’s teachers Nemai Das (left) and Mahendranath Bishuier tasked with improving the Bengali of the six-year-old from Mumbai.

“I was surprised. I thought he missed school because he slept (in Bengali ghum means sleep) all day. I scolded him and asked when he would study if he slept so much. He was perplexed. He could not understand what he had done to be reprimanded,” said Nemai Das, 71.

“In broken Bengali, he tried to explain that he had gone to some place with his family,” added Das, a former teacher of Mitrasenpur Shantinath Primary School in Chandrakona, where Dev studied from Class I to III after his parents left him at his maternal uncle’s home in West Midnapore so he could learn Bengali.

Years later, as Dev, the reigning prince of Tollywood, prepares to don the role of a politician, his relatives, teachers and friends fondly remembered the days the actor spent in Chandrakona. When Dev, who was born in Mumbai, arrived at Chandrakona, he could hardly speak Bengali.

Dev’s maternal uncle Narayan Mukherjee, who admitted him to the primary school, said today: “When Raju (Dev’s nickname) came to live with us, he was six years old and did not know much Bengali. His mother Mousumi told me: ‘Dada, Bangalir chhele ektu Bangla shikhuk. Okhaney (in Mumbai) Bangla school nei. Ektu boro holey niye jabo (he is the son of a Bengali and should learn the language. There is no Bengali-medium school in Mumbai. We will take him back when he grows up a little).’”

Dev, who is contesting the Ghatal Lok Sabha seat in West Midnapore on a Trinamul ticket, lived with Mukherjee for three years.

Mukherjee, 55, the headmaster of Rajbandh Panchagramin High School, said: “After he passed Class III, his parents took him back to Mumbai and admitted him to a school there.”

Das, who taught the actor in the school, said Dev “stood out” in class because he was the only student who spoke Hindi fluently. “To you, he is Dev, but to us, he is Dipak. When he was admitted to our school, he spoke very little Bengali. Initially, we found it difficult to communicate with him because we hardly knew Hindi,” Das said.

Dev’s uncle Mukherjee also appointed a private tutor for him. Bengali tutor Mahendranath Bishui, now 82, recalled the day Dev’s maternal grandmother Kamala Mukherjee brought the six-year-old to him. “She requested me to teach her grandson Bengali,” Bishui said.

“His grandmother was upset because she could not understand what Dev said in Hindi. I started with Vidyasagar’s Barnaparichay and Rabindranath Tagore’s Sahaj Path. These books helped him improve his Bengali,” the teacher said.

“There were occasions when I had to beat him because he was naughty at times. Today, I feel so proud. He has grown up to be such a famous person. He still meets me whenever he visits his maternal uncle’s home,” Bishui added.

Dev today thanked his teachers when told about Das and Bishui. “Yes, I remember them. It’s a blessing. I learnt a lot from them. I want to say thank you to them. And the best part is, I’ll be working for them if I win,” the Trinamul candidate said.

Sanjay Bhattacharya, who took Bengali lessons from Bishui with Dev, said he felt elated when the actor hugged him during a visit to Chandrakona last year.

“When Raju first joined us, we used to maintain a distance because he spoke in Hindi, which we could not understand. But we became friends later,” said Bhattacharya, 33, now a priest.

“When Hindi film songs used to be played on loudspeakers, he explained the meaning of the lyrics. In March 2013, he came to his maternal uncle’s house and I went to meet him. He saw me and gave me a hug just like old times. I want him to win the Lok Sabha polls not for political reasons but because he is a good person,” Bhattacharya added.