Khemchandji, IAS (Retd): The enigma that he was

Author: 
Subhash Mathur

Subhash Mathur was born and brought up in small towns in Rajasthan. During his school and college education at Jaipur, he was keenly involved in sports, journalism and public speaking. His civil services career has given him a platform for spreading his ideas about modernising tax administration to benefit the common man. Post retirement he is devoting his energies, along with his wife Tilak, to public and humane causes.

When I agreed with my wife Tilak’s suggestion to write about my father, Shri Khemchand ji, I didn’t realise what I was letting myself in for. Let me straightaway away state it's one of the toughest tasks I have undertaken to write so far.

Khemchand ji (1911- 2004)

Khemchand ji (1911- 2004)

No doubt it’s challenging. No doubt it’s one sided. No doubt it will always be inadequate. No doubt it will appear distorted, perhaps even prejudiced. Why?

Because assessing one’s father in public domain is like committing hara-kiri. And if that father happens to be Khemchand ji one can be rest assured it is sticking one’s neck out. The axe will fall.

Thus I chose the soft option of looking at such a towering figure in the administrative circles of Rajasthan from the eyes of his children and grandchildren, with occasional references to his official persona.

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Legend has it that Khemchand ji did not spare even the most powerful Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Mohan Lal Sukhadia, from his sharp tongue and ready wit.

Sukhadia sahib was slated to chair a coordination meeting of PWD, Health Dept and Urban Housing departments. Khemchand ji waited for the CM to arrive for precisely 15 minutes before starting the meeting in his absence. Tea was served at the appointed hour. Sukhadia Sahib entered the Conference room just as the cups and snack plates were being cleared off.

Khemchand ji welcomed the Chief Minister but pointedly told him that he would be served lukewarm tea as he was late as tea had already been served at the scheduled time. Hushed silence descended upon the conference room. The attendee officers waited with bated breath for Sukhadia Sahib to simply turn around and storm out.

But Sukhadia Sahib was far too mature and sophisticated to respond ‘normally’. He knew Khemchand ji well. He rose to the occasion.

“Khemchand ji, knowing you for the past so many years as a stickler, I am ready to drink whatever you have on offer.”

With that exchange of words the attendees heaved a sigh of relief and the conference went back to work.

 
Khemchand ji (3rd from left) with Sukhadia Sahib (4th from right).

Khemchand ji (3rd from left) with Sukhadia Sahib (4th from right).

 

❉✼❉

For the children, meaning us eight siblings (six brothers and two sisters), Khemchand ji was Daddy. For his fourteen grandchildren, he was simply Babaji.

While we the eight siblings never had much courage to pick up a conversation with Daddy (except for most essential purposes), the grandkids were all over him and immune from his stature and standing in the family and the society.

 
Babaji with Grandchildren.

Babaji with Grandchildren.

 

To our shock and horror, Daddy didn’t seem to mind. The grandkids conjured up new pranks and didn’t hesitate to play them out. They had a free run of his prized possessions.

His head came in for special treatment too. Neha, his granddaughter, didn’t like her grandfather going around with white hair. He looked so childish. Neha, in cahoots with Tushar, dare-devil grandson, simply used Kiwi boot polish and painted his grey hair jet-black with the shoe polish brush. The transformation was complete!

Babaji didn’t flinch an inch while Neha and Tushar went to work. It took him several weeks to remove the boot polish with sustained shampooing.

❉✼❉

For the children, meaning us eight siblings, dinner time was also general knowledge test time. Daddy asked the questions and we had to answer with knowledge and insight. And he could pick any topic.

One night I was the singled out as the target. He lobbed a few at me but I fielded them easily and confidently. That didn’t go down well with him.

After a bit of contemplation he threw the bombshell, “What’s the new movement ‘The New Left’ all about?”

That stumped me. I had not even heard of the New Left. That evening I got the wrong end of the stick. Imagine, here I was, a student of political science, with a not a clue about such a powerful political movement launched by university students in France in the 1960s.

That encounter was enough for me to keep away from the dining table for the next few days.

 
Khemchand ji at home.

Khemchand ji at home.

 

❉✼❉

One day, the grandkids decided that Babaji’s prized possession, the two-in-one radio was being bitten badly by the mosquitoes. They had to rescue the two-in-one from this invasion. It was their bounden duty.

A two-in-one radio.

A two-in-one radio.

The Gang of Four, Gaurav, Tushar, Rajat and Rakshat, managed to smuggle the two-in-one out of Babaji’s room, along with his tube of Odomos, a popular mosquito repellent with a foul smell.

They smothered the two-in-one with several layers of Odomos paste. One could sniff the foul smell from afar. When Babaji used it next, he never noticed the difference or the smell. He accepted the two-in-one with that foul smell without a word in protest.

This mischief came in handy to locate Babaji’s two-in-one from the hundreds of two-in-ones recovered from Ramchander, a serial robber who was operating freely in Bapu Nagar and Tilak Nagar area for several weeks.

Ramchander would recee each potential house for three days. He then selected the easiest entry point, then break in and enter comfortably.

He had broken into our house twice in quick succession quite easily as Babaji kept his back door open for fresh air and also thieves. (In those days, it was more important to breathe fresh air and allow good sunlight than maintain security.)

Ramchander was eventually trapped, not by the police, but by the Tilak Nagar all-night vigilante group.

Babaji’s two-in-one stood out in the long line-up of stolen goods due to the strong odour it emanated. We immediately returned it to Babaji. He was happy to be able to tune into the BBC and hear John Arlot running commentary on the Ashes series.

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Khemchand ji was born and brought up in Alwar. He went to Mission School at Alwar in Munshi Bazaar, near our ancestral home. The house has since changed hands but the new family has retained it as it was.

The new owners told us a few years’ ago that they will preserve the house as the property belonged to an illustrious family. We were humbled.

 
Our ancestral house in Munshi Bazaar, Alwar.

Our ancestral house in Munshi Bazaar, Alwar.

 
 
Mission School, Alwar.

Mission School, Alwar.

 

Khemchand ji did his under-graduation and masters from St. Stephens at Delhi where the famous Mr Monk was the Principal.

 
St. Stephen's College, Delhi. 4th Year Class. 1929-30. Khemchand ji kneeling in the front row (5th from left).

St. Stephen's College, Delhi. 4th Year Class. 1929-30. Khemchand ji kneeling in the front row (5th from left).

 

He began his career as Naib Nazim after his selection in 1935 with Alwar state services.
With sheer hard work and copious output Daddy rose rapidly in the hierarchy. Within no time, he was picked up to work as Secretary to the Prime Minister of Alwar.

 
Khemchand ji as Secretary to Prime Minister, Alwar.

Khemchand ji as Secretary to Prime Minister, Alwar.

 

Khemchand ji became the first Collector of the newly formed Alwar District in December 1947. At that time, Alwar was still part of the Matysa Union but had joined the newly independent Indian nation.

 
City Palace, Alwar that housed Khemchand ji's office as Collector and District Magistrate.

City Palace, Alwar that housed Khemchand ji's office as Collector and District Magistrate.

 
 
Jagmohan Niwas, Alwar that served as Khemchand ji's residence as Collector and District Magistrate.

Jagmohan Niwas, Alwar that served as Khemchand ji's residence as Collector and District Magistrate.

 

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Nearly ten years after Khemchand ji retired in 1969, one family retainer Kaluram approached him to request the Collector Alwar to post him, Kaluram, to a particular department in Alwar itself.

Kaluram’s request had been turned down by the Collector as it did not meet the guidelines of the transfer and posting guidelines. Kaluram was due to be transferred out of Alwar on tenure basis.

Khemchand ji made the call. The Collector told him that he could not budge from the guidelines and, in any case, he did not know who Khemchand ji was. This incensed Khemchand ji. The subsequent conversation went something like this:

“Mr. Collector, are you sitting on a swivel chair in your office?”

“Yes sir, I am. What’s the point?”

“Please swivel your chair with you sitting in it 180 degrees and face the name board on the wall behind you.”

“Ok. Yes sir, I have done that. Now what?”

“Now, if you still desire to know who I am, then please look at the first name on the board.”

 
Name board of Collectorate Alwar.

Name board of Collectorate Alwar.

 

“Yes sir, I get it. Now I know that you are The Khemchand ji. Thank you for my first lesson in Being Humble. Sir.”

Kaluram to this day cannot forget that favour. At the drop of a hat, he can recount the entire sequence of events. Verbatim. Proudly.

❉✼❉

Khemchand ji went on to be the District Magistrate and Collector of Bharatpur, Udaipur, Jhalawar, Bikaner and Ajmer. He became Alwar Collector again for two years from 1949 to 1951.

Khemchand ji's passion for outdoor life from early life continued into his service days. Being the Collector of a District did not curb his style. On the contrary, in Bikaner he even took the District SP along a for an all night vigil on a ‘machaan’ for a tiger shoot.

 
Khemchandji on a shikaar or tiger shoot.

Khemchandji on a shikaar or tiger shoot.

 

Yet a simple drive back home in the family car, a Morris Minor, with my sister and I on the front seat, produced startling dividends.

Panther trophy.

Panther trophy.

As we climbed uphill for the next turn we found a panther sitting on the side parapet, staring at us nonchalantly.

The driver halted the car immediately. Khemchand ji took out his .12 bore gun, inserted two BG cartridges, took aim and fired. The panther was hit but merely injured. The big cat slid off the parapet and disappeared down the hill in the thick forest.

Eventually some villagers found the panther after a week nearly 5 kms away from the road. The panther head trophy adorned our drawing room for several decades till it withered away.

❉✼❉

We, the siblings, never went to Khemchand ji's office chamber in the Collector’s office to meet him and talk to him. He would have been outraged.

Even top politicians did not show such courage either. We often found stalwarts like Kumbha Ram Arya sitting patiently on the sofas in our foyer waiting to meet Khemchand ji for a tete-a-tete over kebabs and more.

One day Khemchand ji was driving from Ajmer to Jaipur in his private car. He was Member, Revenue Board at that time.

About 40 kms from Jaipur, a police constable in Uniform flagged the car down and requested for lift to the outskirts of Jaipur. After due permission, the driver asked the constable to hop in.

Just as the car reached the outskirts, the constable requested for a halt so that he could get off. Khemchand ji instructed the driver to drive on to the residence of the Inspector General of Police, Shri Hanuman Prasad ji, on Ram Singh road.

Suddenly the constable became nervous and pleaded furiously for forgiveness. He swore not to do such a thing again.

But the car rolled on and reached the gates of the official residence of IG, Rajasthan.

When the car stopped Khemchand ji did the unexpected. He allowed the nervous wreck constable to get off and go home. But with a warning, “Respect the uniform and be proud of your actions.”

It would have been grossly inappropriate on Khemchand ji's part to have ‘hung’ the constable for such a measly favour.

The constable simply ran away at a speed faster than that of Usain Bolt.

❉✼❉

In many ways, Daddy was a pioneer. He agreed to marry our mother, Dayawanti, who came from a Radha Soami background of pure vegetarianism and abhorrence for wines and drinks.

In 1937. In a civil ceremony.

 
Khemchandji and Smt. Dayawanti, ready for the wedding bells.

Khemchand ji and Smt. Dayawanti, ready for the wedding bells.

 

Consequently, we did not have a puja room or puja nook in our house. My memory tells me that puja with everyone participating happened only once a year on the occasion of Lakshmi Pujan at Diwali.

I distinctly remember a glass of Black Label whiskey being passed around for a sip. After the brief puja ceremony involving the worship of instruments of choice like writing pens and newly-bought utensils, the family got down to playing Chaupad, a board game similar to Ludo, and Ganchua, a card game handed down to Kayastha Mathur parivars from the Mughal times.

 
Mummy and Daddy raising a toast.

Mummy and Daddy raising a toast.

 
 
Game of chaupad

Game of chaupad

 
 
Game of ganchua.

Game of ganchua

 

Thus we siblings never got familiar with the rituals of daily darshan or daily puja, prayers and other ritualistic traditions associated with Hindu religion.

We knew more about cricket, world politics, Indira Gandhi and doing good to others.

For the family, cricket was like religion. The family followed the matches everywhere — on radio, in the newspapers, and on television. And they played cricket everywhere. Wherever they went with instant set rules framed on the spot.

During a family get-together at Gwalior in 1995, the grandkids were even able to coax Babaji at age 85 into an on-drive.

 
Khemchandji with a cricket bat in an on-drive.

Khemchandji with a cricket bat in an on-drive.

 

❉✼❉

Post retirement in 1969, Khemchand ji lived a happy and contented life at his residence Ram Kutir, B-87, Ganesh Marg, tending to his plants. He loved watering the garden. He had a special love for grafting roses.

 
Ram Kutir at Jaipur, with the family car, a Hillman, parked in front.

Ram Kutir at Jaipur, with the family car, a Hillman, parked in front.

 
 
Khemchandji happiest in the garden.

Khemchandji happiest in the garden.

 

On his 100th birth anniversary in 2011, the family paid a tribute to him by organizing a Mushaira at Ajmer. It was a fitting tribute as he could read, write and speak both Farsi and Urdu fluently. Most of his private noting in his diary was in Farsi. He often hosted a mini Mushaira at his residence.

 
Mushaira organised on the occasion of Khemchandji's birth centenary year in 2011 at Ajmer.

Mushaira organised on the occasion of Khemchandji's birth centenary year in 2011 at Ajmer.

 
 
Top shayars at the mushaira organised on the occasion of Khemchandji's birth centenary year in 2011 at Ajmer.

Top shayars including Zanab Wasim Barelvi, Mohtarma Naseem Nikhet, Zanab Manzar Bhopali, Zanab Justice Shiv Kumar and several others regaled the audience with thought, wit and humor.

 
 
Specimen of Khemchand ji's personal diary.

Specimen of Khemchand ji's personal diary.

 
 
Gatherings of the Literary Circle at Ram Kutir, with Khemchand ji as the President

Gatherings of the Literary Circle at Ram Kutir, with Khemchand ji as the President, turning our home into a hub for shayars, old and new.

 

Khemchand ji passed away in February 2004, sitting on his favourite moodhaa in his beloved garden, 35 years after superannuation.

 
Khemchandji seated on his favourite moodhaa in the garden.

Khemchandji seated on his favourite moodhaa in the garden.

 

❉✼❉

The month of April was a very important one in the life and times of Khemchand ji. He was born in April. His wife Dayawanti was born in April. They got married in April. His wife passed away in April.

For him, April was not the cruelest month, as opined by the poet Eliot, but a most happening one.

Comments

As said he had an enigmatic personality, you had penned down some of the narrative incidents of his life. The incident of giving lift to constable was more intrigued...if at all if it was not for his liking to give lift, he would have refused at first, but he wanted to give a lesson to that constable that an uniformed officer shouldn’t ask a favour and demean his authority.

I had a chance to meet him and gauge that a person who lived every single inch of his life of his own way and enjoyed his beautiful life.

If CM had tolerated his admonishing, means that personality was great and wielded an no nonsense authority. You should be proud to be son of that great personality.

wonderful write up with lots of kissas

Fantastic

super fun to read

very nice to read , with relevant pictures and the right dose of humor

very comprehensive n enjoyable. wish you could write about Daddy's special relationship with Dadi, Chachaji and his accomplished daughter in laws.

awesome

Brilliant piece Subhash . Brought it all alive . Relished reading . thanks

Very well written Subhash Mama. Brought back old memories.
I was quite fascinated with the panther-head trophy but did not know how or where Nana ji shot it. The pranks which grandchildren played on him made an interesting read.
All in all, a very comprehensive and balanced piece with the right dose of humour !

Very well written Subhash Mama. Brought back old memories.
I was quite fascinated with the panther-head trophy but did not know how or where Nana ji shot it. The pranks which grandchildren played on him made an interesting read.
All in all, a very comprehensive and balanced piece with the right dose of humour !

very fascinating narrative . i salute the great soul! well done Subhash ,proud son of an illustrious father

Very interesting. Khemchand hi was uncle (Tauji). In fact my grand father and his mother were brother and sister. He had lot of love for my father Bhagwan @ Satya Narain ji Mathur. When I grown up I used to go to him at B 87 and enjoyed long conversations. Whenever I met him, I learnt a lot specially o Administrative issues ( Though this type of administration is not found in Govt Insurance companies where i work ).
He was a man of strict discipline, hard honest, intelligent beyond anyone's imagination. He told me many incents ;
* Main hamesha kotwali me hi sota tha. ( I used to sleep in Police station every time). Actually when he was Alwar Collector, Alwar was very troublesome and had frequent communal riots.
* I learnt a lot from Farnandis Wayle in Alwar state. Mr Wayle was a British officer posted in Alwar and was expert of Land and Revenue matters so as Khemchnd hi was.
* my son Satish has become DIG . He was promoted out of turn due to his out standing performance.

I cant forget that incident when he told me the conversation between him and His Highness Maharaja of Alwar Tej Singh ji. I will write that word to word :

महाराजा ने मुझे बुला कर पुछा
"हमने सूणी है तुमने मकान बनायो है?"
जी, मैनें जयपुर मेँ मकान बनाया है ।
" तो फिर फर्नीचर की कांई पोज़ीशन है ?"
जी, मेरे पास पैसे खत्म हो गए फर्नीचर खरीदने को ।
" हम जाणे तुम खोड़ला हो । जाओ"
After this he allowed to go and later after few days Maharaja sent a truck full of furniture .

I do remember the truck arriving with loads of furniture one early morning

I used to keep asking him ‘aap kis khet ki muli ho’ and he used to find it hilarious and laugh loudly.

There were these roof hanging lights in the B87 dining room that Nanaji was very proud of ( looked old may have come from the Alwar maharaja sent collection ). Now the grand children were allowed to play cricket anywhere in the house. Sometime we played in the dining room itself. On one such occasion Nanaji walked in. He immidiately warned everyone about making sure that the lights remained safe as they were precious. Three minutes later he asked for the ball as we all needed to learn how to bowl proper off-spin. First swing of the arm and the ball slips out of nanajis hand and like a laser guided missile hits one of lights. It achieves total target destruction. There is a moment of total silence. Nanaji sits down to have some tea and asks us to continue as he really cant scold himself! Two minutes later he wants to bat because we must learn the proper execution of a straight drive. The first ball he misses and the ball just misses the improvised stumps. Obviously it was the balls fault for not being in the correct line. And so he punishes the next one with an aggressive shot. But the ball wins again, as like a laser guided missile it hits the second and last fancy light in the dining room and achieves total target destruction. This time with a spectacular display of glass flying everywhere. All of us grand children just start laughing. And its contagious. Nanajis expression changes from shock to a smile to unbridled laughter. And the game continues. The fancy lights are no longer an issue.

Nanaji loved cricket.

ubhash ji, what a fabulous tribute👏👏! Simply mind-blowing!!
Of course, I will need a while to read/reread and enjoy it fully, and much longer for the details to seep in! Painstakingly put together, it is clearly a labour of love. And a lasting gift, not just to the family, but to anyone who cares about probity, integrity and fearlessness in the civil services.
I don't think they make men like Shri Khemchandji any more 🙏🏼🙏🏼.
Congratulations, and many thanks for sharing this astonishing piece with us 💐💐.

A great, impressive and laudable effort to pay tribute and carry forward the family legacy, by a worthy son of a worthy father.
Our association with your family is more than 50 years old. I very distinctly remember meeting your father in your Bapu Nagar home. In fact, I had even met your mother, grandmother, uncle, PC sa’ab, Mohini, Ashok, Subodh, Meenakshi, Satish, and also heard about your brother based in Germany.
With the passage of time, out priorities change but we never forget our old friends. I cherish the sweet memories of our time spent together on the university campus and in Vivekanand Hostel and recall those good old days every now and then! Kuntal joins me in fondly remembering Tilak and Meenakshi as well and, of course, you too !
May god bless the family. Let’s stay in touch.
Take care 👍

Dear Subhash,

Read your father's biography. I feel it is an account, maintaining a delicate balance between the attachment of a loving son and detachment of an accomplished author ! That's in my view, the beauty of your father's lovely biography; writing in third person for a person so close to your heart, your own 'father' !

Anecdotes of deep & abiding family love & affection,; coupled with the strict disciplinarian streak in public service are it's hall marks ! Soft and kind at heart as a family man, fully alive to his duties as a public servant at the same time. Your father comes out as a lively person with moorings in Art, poetry, sports !

You have given great joy to your family and friends ! I am sure you must have relished and relived every moment, while writing it !

Congratulations !

Kamlesh, Allahabad.

Tare jiji's son Manoj called up this morning after reading the Daddy story . He's so delighted to read the anecdotes. He told me that he had heard a few kissas from his mother but they he had never understood them fully . In particular he mentioned about the constable episode ,the panther episode and Sukhadia episode . And surprisingly he has given me two of his experiences which I will use in the next episode . His elder son Naman is in Australia finishing his studies to become a doctor. And perhaps work there itself.

Ruumi Daruwalla
I always have said that India has survived and continues to survive because of some excellent and conscientious administrators (bureaucrats) at the highest level to which they grow inspite of corruption. Late Shri Khemchandji was certainly one of the best officers India was blessed with. Thanks for sharing life or such a honorable man who led a glorious life in serving Mother India. I am blessed to have known many stalwarts from Rajasthan not only in bureaucracy but otherwise and have the highest respect of these high achievers. I must mention that women here have high level of intelligence and support their men to to the hilt. Wonderful wonderful people. One thing that stands out is Late Shri Khemchand Ji studied at catholic institutes. Did it have any bearing on his education and outlook? And if these mission schools and hospitals have helped Indians, why are non-Catholics against the Catholics? Thanks Subhash ji for sharing your illustrious Daddy’s life story with us. Certainly very motivating and inspiring. Salute to him.
· Reply · 41 m

It’s none the less than a live description of a great personality. As I go through the write up it runs like a movie in front of eyes. You have nicely brought out various moods (ras) of him.

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