Dr. Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri, the famous Indian historian and an authority on ancient Indian history, was my maternal uncle or "Mama" in Bengali.
The epitome of the classic scholar, he pursued a life of reading, writing, research and teaching throughout his life, with very little, I am afraid, of physical activity. Probably, as a consequence, he developed high blood pressure and heart problems rather early in his life. In keeping with the medical custom of those days, he was advised bed rest. So, most of my memories of him are associated with him lying in bed. However, though physically frail, I remember him as one of the most affectionate persons, with a tremendous attachment not only for the immediate but his extended family. My mother, the younger of his two sisters, was a major recipient of Mama's abundant love, especially after their older sister had an untimely death. But my mother too passed away quite young and this caused Mama to be even more affectionate towards us, as if trying to give us the love that his sister no longer could
Mama's familial attachment including the extended family, his concern for every single person that he had any relationship with, was incomparable. It was Mama who had bought the plot at 6, Mysore Road, off Rasbehari Avenue, and had a truly modern, beautiful, three-storied, spacious house built there, though when the house was built, you could hear jackals howling in the evening!!! As a small child, I did not realize what a great scholar he was, but I was always impressed with his big library. Oh, I remember something else. The one time Mr. Universe Monotosh Roy used to come sometimes to help Mama get some exercise. He also used to give Mama therapeutic massage.
In true close-knit family tradition, Dr. Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri though he himself had only one child – a son - but was to be able to accommodate every family member who needed to be in Kolkata for education, for a career, for family visits, for medical treatment – or for whatever reason. And at times as many as over 20 members of the extended family used to live in his Mysore Road house in Kolkata. Actually, I don't think there was a phrase called "extended family" in my Mama's vocabulary. Family meant family, and that included everyone, and he loved them all – from the bottom of his big, magnanimous heart.