Haribhajan Dutta with his family at their Ranchi residence on Sunday, the eve of his birthday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
He compares every day of life to each leaf of a tree.
Simple but profound philosophy of a healthy and smiling man born on September 1, 1914. “Do not compare the days of your life. All have their own contribution to make life beautiful,” Haribhajan Dutta tells The Telegraph on Sunday, a day before he turns a full 100.
Born in Dhanbad and an alumnus of Bankura Christian College in Bengal, Dutta started out as a chemist in Dhanbad in 1938, at the now-defunct boiler’s office. He joined the Directorate-General of Mines Safety (DGMS) from 1954 and finally ISM, Dhanbad after he retired in 1974. He worked at ISM till 1994, for 20 long years.
Now living with his son in Ranchi, Dutta is aware of huge transformations in the past 10 decades. “We bought chicken for 10 paise per kilo, now it comes for Rs 100. But, back then we couldn’t have dreamt of seeing our relatives abroad on a screen at home (referring to Skype).”
His wife Durga, in her mid-80s, added: “In my youth, an expensive Benarasi sari came for Rs 20 and the finest pure silk sari for Rs 10. But, we also need to see the difference in salary then and now. Your dadu (referring to Haribhajan) retired with a three-digit salary but his pension is in five digits!”
Dutta and Durga celebrated 60 years of wedded bliss on August 14 this year.
“My marriage was arranged at 40 because we were a large family with six cousins in queue before me,” Dutta wisecracks, smiling toothlessly. “But, I wanted to see her once before the wedding. Durga is from Hazaribagh. I requested two of my friends from Hazaribagh to somehow arrange a peek. They took me to a garden near her house and I caught her glimpse from behind the bushes. I still cherish the moment,” he said, face lighting up.
The couple has two children, Subrata Dutta (55), an engineer working with a leading corporate house in Ranchi, and Rita Dutta (57), married to doctor in Chhattisgarh.
Asked to recall an anecdote related to his married life, he twinkles mischievously. “Once, when I needed money for my sister’s marriage, I took a loan from my provident fund and cited my wife’s illness as the cause because it quickened the process. But, as I returned home that evening, I saw 30-40 people, colleagues and their spouses, consoling Durga for her supposed illness. She was completely puzzled! Finally, I had to tell everyone that she was fine and I needed the money for my sister’s marriage,” he said.
Did he ever mull joining the freedom movement? “In the pre-Independence era, everyone contributed in their own way. I worshipped Subhas Chandra Bose,” he said.
On his birthday, what gift does he want from the family? “They have arranged a grand get-together on November 8 at Gymkhana Club. Some 60 family members from across the globe will come down to Ranchi to celebrate. I do not wish for anything more,” he said.
Asked about the secret of his good health, the sprightly centenarian said: “Simple living and tension-free life. I have always believed in simple values.”
Do you have a birthday message for Haribhajan Dutta?