|“Understanding is a process which brings in acceptance rather than the need to change anything,” say Champa and Hariprasad Kanoria – a much-loved and well-respected couple in Kolkata. This interview was first featured in our column, SoulFood and SoulMates, for the Harmony – Celebrate Age magazine.
Also enjoy the famous Bengali sweet, Rose Petal Sandesh, shared by Champaji.
To see for ourselves a couple who have the intrinsic capacity to nurture their entire family. Champa (69) and Hariprasad Kanoria (72) – a Rajasthani couple who have settled in Kolkata. Deeply spiritual and affectionate, romantic and hospitable, well loved and admired – they made us feel a part of their family with absolute ease. An industrialist of high repute, Mr. Kanoria established the Bengal Flour Mills, he then headed the Srei group of companies, founded the IISD (Institute for Inspiration and Self Development), and is now the Editor in Chief of the Business Economics magazine and one of those rare business tycoons who give away what they have with such magnanimity.
Jigyasa and Pratibha: Thank you for meeting us. Tell us about your origins?
Champa Kanoria: We are from Rajasthan, but have been living in Kolkata for decades now. Ours is primarily a business community where the families work together as well as stay together. We have always lived in a joint family.
Hariprasad Kanoria: I am an Indian first and then a Rajasthani, Bihari and now a Bengali. The term ‘global Indian’ is more apt. My forefathers were from Rajasthan, the land of desert, hardship & bravery. They were enterprising, patriotic as well as unafraid of taking risks. They were also people of a generous spirit. As you may be aware, our community is well known for its charitable service to humanity.
J&P: Tell us how you got married?
He: I was doing my final year of graduation in 1961 from St. Xavier’s College. My family wanted me to get married as they believed that traditions should continue. They convinced me to meet a girl who had a strong astrological birth chart with wealth and fame. Both of us were charmed by each other & said ‘yes’.
J&P: What is the one factor that unites both of you?
She: I think being inclined to spirituality is the fundamental thing which always kept both of us rooted and connected.
J&P: Have you both always been spiritually inclined? What keeps both of you so busy? ?
He: Champa has always been deeply spiritual and inculcated those values in our children. She used to teach them devotional songs. I too was born in a highly religious family. We have our own temple for public viewing in Bihar. My mother, though uneducated, was an avid reader of the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. I grew up reading scriptural texts and the writings of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda and poems by Ramaprasad. My wife moved towards spirituality in 1995 when she became free from the fetter of household duties.
She: Apart from bringing up my four sons & daughter, I have also enjoyed drawing and painting, singing devotional songs as well as dancing. I was popular as an Odyssey dancer during my school years and continued the same at home in my private space. To me, there is no greater bliss than dancing to Meerabai’s songs; I become engrossed and oblivious of my surroundings. Now, I travel a lot to visit my children who stay outside Kolkata. I am also a part of the Brahmakumaris group and that gives me immense will power and mental peace.
J&P: That is so inspiring to hear, but given a choice, what would you like to change in each other?
He: We understand each other now, it is a journey traversed in decades. Understanding is a process which will continue & which brings in acceptance rather than the need to change anything.
She: I do not want to see any change. I believe that by living together, we have changed according to the likings of each other.
J&P: Together you have made a beautiful family. How have you been successful in keeping all your daughters-in-law and grandchildren so happy?
He: Family matters more than money, fame and power. By God’s grace we are happy with our family despite having daughters-in-law from different cultures. Our pleasure lies in their happiness. We give time to our grandchildren. They are our priority. We have to be the role models for our children. The philosophy of Swami Vivekananda prevails in our family. I am happy to have sons who have imbibed our spiritual values.
She: I believe that a happy family is one which is a spiritual family. Faith in love and God has kept all the members of my family together. We laugh together, pray together and eat together.
J&P: What are your favourite home style foods?
He: Traditional Rajasthani food is a top favourite. In our family, each family member’s taste is kept in mind while preparing food. Earlier, Champa used to do the cooking herself. But now she cooks only when she visits her grandchildren.
She: I enjoyed preparing Rajasthani dishes as well as pizzas when the children were young. I still remember how excited they would all be when I would make kachoris, samosas & pani puris.
He: Occasionally we like eating out with the children, but both of us prefer meals prepared at home. I enjoy cooking and have my own recipes for making soups, pastas, kheer and vegetable dishes. During my trip to Boston, I was delighted to discover that my grandson enjoyed my preparations.
J&P: Having completed 50 years of togetherness, share a tip with youngsters on love and commitment?
She: Life always brings ups and downs, but if there is an explicit understanding of each other in any situation, then happiness is bound to be there. Views and perspectives may be different, but common values and interests will help come together.
He: Every individual has his own personality and individuality. Minds and souls are different and so are we. But in a marriage, love is the binding factor. I believe there must be unity in disagreements too. We can manage our disagreements if we never forget our ultimate goal of love for each other and the family. All disagreements will burn in the fire of love and disappear in the camphor of tears. Give time to family. First comes family, then society, and then nation.
Interview by Jigyasa & Pratibha. Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine
(P.S: There may be some minor editing changes before this article was printed in the Harmony Magazine.)