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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 29, New Delhi, July 4, 2020

Jolly Mohan Kaul (22 Sept 1921 - 29 June 2020) | Aditi Roy Ghatak

Saturday 4 July 2020


by Aditi Roy Ghatak


Photio: Jolly Mohan Kaul | Credits: The Statesman, 30 June 2020

Jolly Mohan Kaul would have stepped into his 100th year on September 22. That he fell a trifle short of his century does not detract from the scintil­lating innings that he has played, nor the stout defence" "against death that he put up at Bellevue, where he breathed his last at 5.55 pm.

Having begun his public life as a Marxist, Jolly Kaul, a Kashmiri Brahmin, ended up spending his last 30 years as a devout Gandhian, prior to which he had turned to Ramakrishna Paramhansa Dev and Swami Vivekananda" for spiritual strength. Add to this is an alliance with Chris­tianity during his school and college days at St Xavier’s and
his deep engagement with Islam and its teachings as a trade union leader in the Calcutta port area amongst oth­ers and later as the Calcutta District Committee Secretary of the Communist Party of India, he was a man of many faiths founded on an abiding faith in humanism.

The inner urge to help humanity must have been stoked by the experience of having watched the extend­ edam1ofabeggarboythrough the rolled-up window of his father’scar and to have the car drive away when he was a boy of eight. Thus when the fam­ily believed that he was well on his way to qualifying for the Indian Civil Service in 1941, no more than 19 years of age, he convinced himself that only the Communist Party could fight the fascist and imperialist forces and estab­lish a fairer society. Jolly Kaul went underground.

Later, on 4 May 1997, he pledged his body along with all organs, skeletons and tissues for the promotion of medical science and wrote in his will: "I stand by this pledge and desire that the Executors of my will should see to it that this is carried out". It is for Marx­ian experts to discuss his contribution to the ’party’ along with that of his remarkable better half, Manikuntala Sen. For someone who has been an inti­mate part of his life since 1980, when he came to edit the Capital, where I worked, after a very significant stint with lndi­an Oxygen as the head of communications, Jolly Mohan Kaul was a friend, a father fig­ure and even the boy next door, for whom age, status, stage of life meant not a whit as he embraced those around him with the warmth of a bear hug and often a wicked or gentle sense of had taught Jolly Kaul well.

Reviewing his memoirs, In Search of a Better World, his equally illustrious friend and also a former editor of this newspaper, Sunanda K.Datta­ Ray wrote: "Not for Jolly, who doesn’t talk Left and walk Right. He isn’t Bengali either though he went to school and college in Calcutta and mar­ried the indomitable Manikuntala Sen who gave an impres­sion of cold hauteur until the radiance of a sudden smile illumined her entire features.

! remember as Sethji in Ahmed­abad, which we visited in 1964, telling us he had happy memories of Calcutta and would like to meet the Ben­gali in our group. Mischievously, I pointed out Jolly,"calling him ’Jaladhar Chat­terjee’. It worked. Both chat­tered away in Bengali, Sethji brokenly, Jolly, with his sense of fun and gift for mimicry ­ his take-off of P. C. Joshi amused even the target - fluently."

It was surely his sense of humour that helped him over­come his parting with the ’party’; his last days with hav­ing been quite traumatic she was to recall later in private con­versations. Suffice to say that his politely-drafted resignation letter at the end of January l963 said that "a neighbouring Communist country" was behaving "in a manner which weakens the democratic and progressive forces in the coun­try" leaves one in no doubt about his agony over the sense of betrayal of the country that he could no longer suffer.

He used his smiling visage with disarming effect on those that he interacted with from a managing director to a maz­door, as he seamlessly wove together several careers, using effective communications as the skein, from a political leader to journalist to a cor­porate communicator to edi­ or of an economic journal, Capital, before a final stint in social activism at the Gandhi Labour Foundation at Puri.

Jolly Kaul was generous with sharing his experiences from every facet of his career, even as a nonagenarian, equal­ly happy to interact with peo­ple from the pastor teenagers with whom he could engage on their terms and talk of building a better world. The optimism slowly fading over the last few years as he warned: "I have seen the ugly face of fascism and what is happen­ing in the country fills me with fear".

(Courtesy: The Statesman, Tue, 30 June 2020 This article appeared earlier under the title ’I have seen the ugly face of fascism’ )

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