Jagannathji Goenka, my grandfather, was the eldest son among nine brothers and several cousins. His father was also the eldest son. Thus, dadaji became the de facto head of the extended family. Back in the ‘60s, there were over a hundred members in the household and while they were all engaged in businesses of their own, when it came to a family dispute, crisis or matrimony, everybody consulted him. He was my hero and till this very day is my greatest teacher.
He would carry along a pocket diary all the time and would jot down details of youngsters who’ve reached a marriageable age wherever, he went. Matchmaking was his favourite pastime. He even undertook measures to ensure every girl who received a proposal stood a good chance to be picked. So when a suitor would visit our home, he’d insist that no other girl more attractive than the one proposed to, be present.
With transport in those days not being as efficient as it is today, people would end up coming to our place in Hisar for a halt during their travel. Dadaji would ask me to massage the feet of the elders and I enjoyed the chore due to the entertaining nature of the conversations that transpired. When alone at bedtime, he’d narrate stories of the people he dealt with — their relationships, attitude and mannerisms. And that was my biggest source of learning as he would not deliver long sermons on life otherwise.
I was only 12 years old when he first assigned me the task of accompanying trucks ferrying our produce to nearby markets, where I was to collect money from the commission agents we catered to. Soon after that, I was allowed to travel to Delhi to oversee the grain trade along with Munimji and other employees. I enjoyed the trip that included