The Man, the Artist… my Dadu

Dadu and I

It’s five years to the day. That’s how long it has been since he left.

I remember the day I got the news. I was in Professor Ruth Knechtel’s satire class. I received a call from dad, and ignored it. Later, when I called back, mom gave me the news. Dadu had passed away the night before.

A lot of people don’t know this. But it was Dadu who  instilled in me the love of storytelling. The earliest stories I can remember were told to me by Dadu. They were tales of his childhood in his ancestral village, located in current Bangladesh, formerly a part of British India.

Dadu is the reason I am who I am. He dared to follow his dreams, and broke away from the family business. My ancestors were traditionally traders of paan, a leaf that is popular in India as a mouth freshener post-meals. He came to Calcutta as a young man to become an artist. And today, I can dare to follow my dreams of becoming a writer, thanks to him.


He worked for Bombay Photos, and perhaps, his most popular art piece is the Nirma Washing Powder dancing girl.

Nirma Washing Powder dancing girl

I was his favourite grandchild. And, I am not even the youngest. He had an unshakeable belief that I was his mother, reincarnated. Sure, it’s true that my face shape and bone structure bear an uncanny resemblance to my great-grandmother, but that could very well be because we share the same genes. That is what I tried to tell him. He brushed it off. Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with me, my great granny came into Dadu’s dreams and told him, “Son, I am coming to your family.” That’s the story he firmly stuck to.

We were close. I dreamt of him often after he passed away. He would come into my dreams and impart bits of wisdom to me. I wonder whether those dreams were a projection of my own desires, or whether it was Dadu coming to give me a sort of closure. I would like to believe the latter.

But he hasn’t been coming into my dreams for over two years now. I think he has either passed into that place where all souls go to, or if there is reincarnation, then he has been reborn already.

I know I will feel a familiar vacuum when I visit Calcutta this year.

I miss you, Dadu. A lot.


Filed under anecdote

10 responses to “The Man, the Artist… my Dadu

  1. Wonderful post, I must say! Good to know who the artist behind the iconic drawing was. However, I felt compelled to tell you that there is another story that says that the girl (who died in an accident,) was the daughter of Karsanbhai Patel who manufactured the washing powder. Is there any truth to it?

  2. tibetencore

    It was great to come across your page. And its quite surprising to know small things that has inspired many people like Nirma Dancing Girl. It is still the most popular advertisement that you can see on television. I hope you remember me. I m kilgore Trout. Your twitter friend. I have been trying to find the books that you have recommended. South-Asian Writers. Take care and looking forward to tweet with you soon. Keep writing. Would love to read more blogs. Cheers.!

    • Hey there,

      Of course, I remember you and our long conversation! I am not much of a tweeter (is that the right lingo?) so haven’t been tweeting much. Thanks for stopping by and I am glad you enjoyed it!


  3. I simply love the Nirma Girl..
    May sound cocky but as a kid I would actually wonder who must have drawn it. God..May god bless your Dadu! *teary eyed*

    • I am glad! 🙂 Thanks for your kind words.

      By the way, his name was Dhirendranath Sur. However, the Nirma Girl is probably attributed to Bombay Photos, where my dadu worked. Such is the irony of being ghost artists and working for an agency.

  4. Shin

    I’ve always been sightly jealous that you were his favorite grandchild. This story is something you have to tell my kids some day.

  5. Derek Johnson

    Very touching story. He would be proud to read what you’ve written here. – Derek

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