The dictionary meaning of “Turning Point” is an event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depends. Turning Point can happen to the life cycle of any Person, Organisation, Institution, Company, etc. It is used mostly to describe a situation when someone / some outfit who / which was on the verge of collapse suddenly comes back not only to normalcy but also does not look back. In other words, it is a complete U – Turn. Here I am going to tell you a real life story of one of my uncles, the fourth brother of my father.

To start with, I need to tell you a little background of the family of my grandfather (As told by my father). When my grandfather died, my father (the eldest son) was only 18 years old. Younger to him, there were four brothers and three sisters. My uncle about whom I am going to talk in this article was just four years old. It was certainly a horrible condition both emotionally and economically. My grandmother was a pious lady (I enjoyed her affection for around 12 years) and the only asset of the family was a few bighas of land, mostly in non-irrigated area. It was a very hard time for the family. As a result, my grandmother and my father had to toil a lot to feed nine members of the family. It needs no elaboration that study got hugely affected as everybody used to remain busy with household chores. However, the uncle concerned could complete up to matriculate. In those days, there was hardly any scope for service in rural area. Moreover, nobody was ready to leave the village to take up employment elsewhere. I shall now concentrate on the short biography of my uncle (On his active working life but up to the turning point of his life). This is a story of “Rag to Riches” which you may like to go through.

His name is Shri Dol Govinda Sinha and he is around 78 years old now. I have been tracking him and his endeavours for almost 50 years now. At first, as I saw him, he used to purchase and sell paddy but subsequently I came to know that earlier he along with a few of friends used to guard standing paddy crop at night. In exchange, they used to get some paddy from the land owners. Anyway by dealing in paddy, he earned some money. He, then in addition to the paddy business, started the activity of traditional brick making (Not by Kiln).  The major portion of financing was done by borrowed money from friends. Fortunately for him, the demand for such bricks was huge and I saw his burned fingers and palms (because bricks were being sold even when they had not been cooled down completely). Both the activities ran for three / four years. During that time he got married. It was a peaceful life but his destiny had something different in store.

My family with my uncle and aunt

From those businesses, he saved around Rs. 6000/- (as told by him). He decided to purchase a tempo (a three wheeler: six seater excluding driver’s seat). The cost of it on road was Rs. 9500/-. The payment term was – Down Payment: Rs. 5500/- and Twenty monthly Instalments of Rs. 250/- each (inclusive of interest). As he was driving the vehicle of his own, the earlier activities had to be abandoned. Everyday morning he used to go to Rampurhat, the nearby Sub-divisional town around 15 KM away and come back at night. It was a tedious task but he was doing it with proper zeal. The activity continued for a little over four years. Though I was busy with my studies, I could gather that my uncle was in talks with a fleet owner to purchase a second hand truck and soon it became a reality. The selling price of the truck was fixed at Rs.30000/-, if paid in one go. But uncle did not have that much money. As such, he proposed to pay Rs. 12000/- (By disposing of the tempo and own savings) and 24 instalments of Rs. 1000/- each. Accordingly, he sold the tempo and after signing the Hire Purchase Agreement, he took the truck in his possession.

The truck started moving day and night. While my uncle used to drive during the day, a driver used to drive at night or vice versa. Though very tiring, uncle was happy as the earning was sufficient to take care of operating expenses, monthly instalments and expenses relating to his family. It was going well for almost a year but suddenly some mishap happened. One day while trying to save a person, the truck met with an accident – it fell in a 15’ ditch. But luckily enough for him (as he was driving) and the helper, nothing happened to them. It took almost two days to bring the vehicle out of the ditch and another two days to get it fit for road. A sizeable amount of money was spent in the process. Though it caused some hardship, uncle somehow managed to pay the instalment. Again it was a smooth running phase but didn’t continue long. A horrifying episode happened thereafter which had shaken the stamina of my uncle (who had and still have rock solid stamina).

One night while my uncle was driving the truck, he encountered a person and his aides who stopped the truck by putting some boulders on road. He asked (with harsh tone) my uncle to transport some goods to a particular place. He then told that he would pay proper freight charges for that and further added that if he (my uncle) refused, they would throw him out and take the truck in their possession. My uncle could very well understand (as narrated by him) that something was seriously wrong but he had no way out. Incidentally, by the time the goods were loaded, he came to know that the main person was a dreaded wagon breaker and police were in search of him. It also was very much clear to him that goods forcefully loaded were high quality Darjeeling tea, the gang had got by breaking the wagon only then. He was paid the freight charges and was told about the destination. However, before he could start the truck, the gang came to know that the police force was approaching near the place. He was, however, forced to start the vehicle and was instructed to go anywhere and to avoid the main road. Though he used to remain calm under any circumstances, he became nervous at that very moment (as told by him). Without much thought, he reached our village and requested one of his friends to keep the goods for a few days for some consideration. The gentleman agreed or he was made to agree is a big question even today. Anyway, around 25 wooden boxes containing high quality tea were downloaded thereat and my uncle left the place immediately, possibly with the hope that police would not be able to locate either the truck or the goods but exactly opposite had happened on the very next day itself.

The notorious wagon breaker, one Md. Manjur Mian, (by then we came to know his name) was on the radar of one Mr. Tripathy, the Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Rampurhat. He had his informants who used to pass on the whereabouts of Md. Mian. Once he was almost caught but somehow managed to escape. On that particular occasion, on the basis of the information Mr. Tripathy cordoned the area to capture Mian and his gang but as the situation went beyond his control, he had to resort to firing. It was gathered that Mian and a few members of the gang were killed in the encounter. As that was not the main story, I shall stop it here. In the morning, the SDPO got some indication which helped him to locate the route through which smuggled goods were transported. (How it happened was that tea came out of one of the broken boxes and fell on the road and there was light rain on previous night.) So, he could easily reach the place where the tea boxes were kept. Seeing police personnel in front of his house, the house owner told every detail to the SDPO including that the boxes were kept in good faith and without the knowledge of their being smuggled goods. But as per rule, he was arrested for the crime of keeping smuggled goods. Getting the news of his arrest, my uncle (who shifted to Nalhati, a Block town, a year back) by parking the truck in a garage, went for hiding. A few days later, he surrendered before the police after consulting a lawyer. Simultaneously, the truck was taken on symbolic possession by the police.

Though my uncle and the person from our village got the bail almost after three weeks, the case continued for almost four months and as a result, the truck remained static during that period. It needs no elaboration that my uncle failed in his commitment to pay the instalments to the owner of the truck. He waited for two months but finding no hope of recovering the instalments, he wanted to take his vehicle back as per terms of Hire Purchase Agreement. So as soon as the truck was released by police authorities, he asked my uncle to return it to him. My uncle requested for a month’s time as he had made up his mind to sell the truck. Meanwhile, after minor repairing, the truck started plying day and night. Within a span of 15 days, he could pay one out of four defaulted instalments to the owner and find out a prospective buyer for the truck, a moneyed man from neighbouring village. My uncle was very much upset but he had no choice.

A date was fixed for the inspection of the truck. Accordingly, the truck was brought to the village where would be purchaser used to live who in turn, requisitioned the services of an experienced mechanic. After a thorough examination of the engine, he told the purchaser that there was a crack in a particular part of the engine. On getting the information, the purchaser refused to purchase the truck. It was a bolt from the blue to my uncle and he was totally lost. But my uncle, a strong willed person, got back to his self and left the place with full vigour. From that day, he never looked back. He is now a multi – millionaire man having interest in a number of areas in business. However, that day proved to be a turning point for him.

This is the same truck that has been preserved with my uncle and son in the foreground
Pulak Kumar Sinha

Pulak Kumar Sinha

I am a retd. General Manager at State Bank of India. I am a Certified Associate of Indian Institute of Bankers and have a P.G. Diploma in Management from All India Management Association (AIMA).
I joined SBI as a Probationary Officer in 1981. Since then, I have worked in various capacities as Branch Manager, Regional Manager and Deputy General Manager at different places. My specialised areas are Credit and General Banking.
I also was Chairperson of Reserve Bank of India Working Group on Evaluation of Feasibility of Aadhaar based Biometric Authentication as Additional factor of Authentication for card present transactions and related issues.
Pulak Kumar Sinha

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Turning Point – the Unforeseen Future
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