“Here am I, a retired school headmaster, and my brother, four years younger, is now His Excellency the President of India,” 80-year-old Piyush Mukherjee from Bolpur in West Bengal’s Birbhum district said on Wednesday.
Not too far away at Kirnahar village in the same district, the new President’s elder sister Annapurna Banerjee reminisced on how she used to look on as her brother Poltu got caught up in one of his childhood games during pre-Independence times. His friends used to form two groups – representing the “British” and “Indians” – and fight each other. The “Indians” always won.
Like countless other citizens, the two siblings watched on television the ceremonies marking the elevation of their brother Pranab Mukherjee as the 13 President of the country. Emotions ranged from “unbelievable” to “pure joy.” Their Poltu has made the long journey from a remote Birbhum village to the hallowed portals of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“We were like friends in childhood, very fond of each other. When someone praised me for my studiousness I would always say that Poltu is a better student and he would do the same when he was complimented,” Mr. Piyush Mukherjee told The Hindu over telephone.
The retired headmaster vividly remembers Mr. Mukherjee’s determination and conviction to continue his political career when he asked him about his decision to join the Bangla Congress in the mid-1960s.
“Politics was in our blood, something we got from our father, freedom fighter Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee. Poltu was inspired by him and after joining politics he never looked back. I too was, but I did not move too far and opted for teaching.”
On July 22, when the results of the presidential election were declared, “I told him I was considering putting up a board of sorts outside my house saying ‘Long Live the President’. My brother was quick to correct me. ‘The President is an institution, not an individual’, I was told.”
While Annapurna Devi expects the new President to help in setting up a hospital and laying better roads in her village, Mr. Piyush Mukherjee wants his younger brother to fulfil his duties exemplarily. “I hope that as President he helps in building a more secular, democratic and socialist India.”