Pranab avoided going to school, says elder sister

As a child, President-elect Pranab Mukherjee did not like to go to school but liked to play a priest, his elder sister Annapurna Banerjee said here Sunday.

"Oh! He was always reluctant to go to the primary school in our village Mirati. It was difficult to take him to school. He got beaten black and blue. Once my mother thrashed him so severely that he fell unconscious. But still he won't go. I don't know why,' Banerjee, 83, said, sitting in her home in this small town in West Bengal's Birbhum district.

Kirnahar, adjacent to Mukherjee's ancestral village Mirati, is about 170 km from Kolkata.
"My father (Kamada Kumar Mukherjee) then asked him whether he had any intention to study. Pranab said: 'Admit me to the Kirnahar Shib Chandra Boys School'. My father then met the headmaster there and got him admitted," said Banerjee.

She said right from childhood, Mukherjee was religious and fond of conducting the puja.
"During Nabanna Puja (the festival of eating newly-grown autumnal rice), he would see from close range how my father conducted the ritual and then offer freshly grown fruits and molasses to the household deity. He would then make a makeshift room with bamboo twigs and stone and keep the deity there and worship," she said.
Till date, Mukherjee comes to Mirati every year for the annual Durga Puja and dons the priest's robe for four days.

But she said despite his stern image in public life, her brother was fun-loving and gave good company to children.

"He smiles a lot. After 11 p.m., he plays with my grand daughters, jokes with them, taunts them, recites poems and sings with them."

Though she is not in a position to go to Delhi and attend his brother's swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Banerjee is waiting for him to visit to her place and Mirati.
"When I talk to him, I'll ask him to pay a visit. But even if I don't tell him, he will come here to seek my blessings after becoming the president.

"He is fond of vegetable dishes such as 'mocher ghonto' (minced and spiced banana cone cooked dry), 'shukto' (bitter vegetable curry) and 'danta chachhari' (dry dish of spinach stalks). He was fond of my cooking. But now I can't cook. My daughters-in-law will do the cooking," she said.

Asked whether she planned to give him any gift, Banerjee said: "What can I give him? The entire nation is giving him gifts. I will give him my blessings, love".

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