s o m d e v a . o r g




Research Papers

Photo Gallery

Herbarium Somdeva
Vijaya Sharma
Dr. Gopal Singh Rawat
Dr. Anil K. Goel
Dr. Sachin Biswas
Dr. S. K. Upadhyaya
Arun Gupta
Dr. Wazahat Husain
Madhulika Choudhry

Dr. Govind. S. Rajwar
Dr. Ravindra Chibbar
Surgeon Commodore (Retd.) Dr. A. K. Verma
Dr. Mahesh Bhandari
Dr. M. A. Rau
Sandeep Puran Singh
Pradeep Sharma




Down the memory lane
Arun Gupta

It was sometime in July 1945, that we met at the small dhaba at Pilani in Rajasthan, just outside the hostel we had taken refuge for the day as the mess was yet to be shifted. We all came for our admission in B. Sc. The daal, at the dhaba, had a peculiar smell and that was our first initiation to garlic tadka. Som Dev did not mind it but I did, as I was not used to even eating onions. Shri Sukh Dev Pandey, a scholar from Benaras Hindu University, hailing from Kumaon Hills, was the Principal, a very genial and noble soul, who later became the chairman of the Birla Education Trust. After a short interview we all were admitted to the B.Sc. (Biology). We were about 12 to 13 young lads. Som Dev hailed from Western U.P., Churiala to be precise. He was a strange combination of rural rustic and urban cultivated. he could fluently talk in the colloquial dialect of western U.P., a flavour which he kept till the end. We were allotted the same hostel, Ram Bhawan- Krishna Bhawan, built very well and comfortable, single seated rooms. One wooden cot, a table and armless chair -that was all, just to our requirement. The college was a mile away and we all used to go together and return the same way in the evening. Some of us including Som Dev used our solar hats in the scorching sun and raincoats when it rained. The monsoons were the most pleasant season in the Shekhavati. Veer Bhaooti, in velvety colorful coats, a sort of coats(a sort of mite - arthropod) came out from nowhere. We took keen interest in our surroundings, we used to discover something new every day and gave it to our college museum.

Som Dev was a heavy smoker, except for the college time, he had a cigarette on his lips. He, I remember, had a parker pen with a diamond shape mark- a luxury those days. Our Professors were most able and qualified. Among them were Dr. Beri Charan Mahindra, the famous authority on reptiles and Dr. K. P. Bhargava and  B. V. Ratnam in Botany department. Dr. Bhargava went to England in 1946 to work on viruses, a new subject at that time

The atmosphere was very cordial in the college and the hostel, except for the fact, that there was no cinema, but the college library was good enough to compensate it, besides we has many social- cultural activities. The Shiv Ganga canal was one, where we used to go and bathe naked in a community fashion. The canal was a circular one- five feet deep filled with sweet fresh water of a hundred feet circumference. We had never any shortage of water in the desert, probably ours was an oasis. In hostel also, we also took bath in a modern European fashion. Alas, there was no girl student in our science group - despite the co-education. In the Arts faculty there were several and the professors were equally renowned like Dr. Bhagwat Sharan Upadhyaya, Bal Krishna, young Bhattacharya, K. L. Sehal and others. We were a funny lot, once we all biologist decided to learn painting and joined the evening classes of Professor Bhoor Singh Shekhawat- a very talented artist indeed. Som Dev was very good at drawing, I was not so.

Som was very jolly, always laughing, a tall fair colored - with scanty hair on his chin- a Chinese like face, so we announced that a young Chinese professor would be visiting our college and attend the cultural programme also. He wearing a night gown and a pointer in his hand appeared on the stage, I was his interpreter. He spoke- ting  fung, chou chung chingling- ho chi and I translated this in Hindi in free style. This went on for about 15 minutes. The whole house was agog. Nobody could recognize him, all were much amused. Once we went on foot in the desert and discovered a beautiful skeleton of a camel, all cleaned by the vultures and the sand. It was shining bright when we brought it to the college museum. We also caught a small cobra and a viper, a common poisonous  snake, collected wild flowers and leaves, we even went to the small a small town nearby and admired the beautiful wall frescoes of Shekhawati. Som was always a part of field investigation team, called expeditions. We were all very studious. When the new comers joined the hostel we, at 10 or 11 in the night searched the rooms, posing as wardens and took away the sweet halwas and ladoos. This was all in the name of ragging, no dirty ,manhandling. Prem Nath Meherotra was also his close friend who later became a leading doctor of Etawah. Once he put up the ' Tandava Nritya' of Shiva with no clothes with a Trishool and a Damroo in his hands.


Our classmate, Shiv Kumar Sharma, was a good debater and was elected the Prime Minister of the college Parliament. Som Dev was made one of his ministers. I happened to be anither debater and founded the Progressive People's Party (P.P.P.) with Navroze Akruwallah and Leela Dhar Joshi as my deputy leader. Naturally I became the leader of the opposition. A question was asked about the college urinals and Som Dev was to answer. He gave a very witty reply. The urinals, he said, were provided urea which we needed to boost out agricultural production. Indeed in post independent India, urea fertilizer became the top priority of the country.

Rajendra Babu (later the President of India) often visited Pilani and stayed at Birla's guest house. As he suffered from asthma, the dry climate of Pilani was soothing to him, but we were hell bent upon criticizing the big capitalists, Birla, Tata and Dalmia and ghereoed him as well on this score. How foolish was it on our part, now I realize. Hari Prasad Paliwal, another colleague of ours wa a good singer- dramatist and photographer, he had developed a studio in one small room of the college. Once he took a group photograph of all the B. Sc. Biology student. Som Dev was tall, so quite conspicuous. I and M. M. Payak were the shortest. Once I scripted the mad house play and Som Dev took the leading role as one of the lunatic asylum inmates. Jagdish and Purohit N. Jodhpur was a master flutist- a very good bansoori player. We all enjoyed his melodies on flute. He later became a chief Engineer in Rajasthan.

We used to go to our homes only on two occasions in the year- once during long Dusherra vacations and the other after the college sessions were over in April- May. There was no rail connecting the Pilani town, The lst railway terminus was Chirawa ten miles away in the desert. Sometimes, there was no college bus and we all crossed the sandy path on foot. It is difficult to imagine now, but we enjoyed it. It was like a commune that we lived. However, hostel facilities were excellent, including the rooms, the toilets, the mess and the milk supply from the college dairy. Water and electricity were available all the time. Now after 60 years, after seeing several top Universities, I can say that our Pilani stay was best in all respect.

After B. Sc., he took admission in M. sc. Botany in Allahabad. I at M.Sc. Zoology at Lucknow and then at Allahabad. We met but not so frequently. I was living away in the university hostel


In 1956, I was posted as Information Officer at Dehra Dun (in the state government). I put my luggage with another childhood friend Ramesh Chandra Sharma, a station home officer in police in Clement Town. A few days house I visited Soms house in circular road who was now a lecturer and Head of Botany Department in DAV college.When he came to know that I came from Clement Town (5 miles away) on Ghora Tonga a fare of Rs. 3 or the full Tonga. Then he said, why don't you come and stay with me, till you get a suitable accommodation. I stayed with him for about a month or so in May ( as in April I was at the Ardha Kumbh, Haridwar) He had a very good domestic help- Dilaram or Hriday Ram and Som's wife was away at Meerut. So our old college life was renewed. During this period, I realized that Som had matured not only as A good Botanist (taxonomist) but also a good gardner, a photographer, and a connoisseur of art. He accompanied me on my official tours ( as I had an official staff car, a Ford pickup) and took photographs of the countryside including Mussoorie, Chakrata Hills and Jaunsaar Bawar. Soon after we discovered a Kothi, on 24, Circular road which was locked but vacant and got it allotted in my name. I and Som broke open the lock and took possession of it. Another friend of Som was his colleague in Botany department was Banerji, and they both used to come to my office together at Astley Hall. Soon we three became great friends. Som had a knack for dicsovering and collecting plants. He was a man of many talents. But his first love was Botany. He developed a herbarium with several thousands specimen, a rare one indeed. He had become a great taxonomist, specialist in classification and nomenclature. Even FRI named  one Bamboo variety after him which he had discovered. He was my reference book as faras plants were concerned. I have met and seen many great scientist but he was one of the greatest. He collected materials from Ladakh and other far away places. He had a nose foe queer objects. Even for his house he collected the jet black stones from river Song near Doon and formed a pattern of a dancer in abstract, on the face wall of his new home, which always fascinated me. Once he showed a painting of a creeper- Ipomea and its bell shaped blue flowers. I asked him where he got  it form, the answer was- the kabari shop. It is still on the wall in his study. We often visited old shops and kabaris for rare and old books

Som was not only a field man but was also a voracious reader. Very few in India could match his caliber. I never saw him morose and angry in very adverse condition of his village property matters. He was always smiling and treated his wife with dignity, love and respect at equal footing. Sometimes even showing that he feared her and mischievously whispering into my year. Only in November- December 2004 did we meet , not knowing that it would be our last meeting. He made his wife, Vijaya, also a botanist, a gardener and a bonsai specialist. He was very warm and affectionate and I think his wife is equally talented. It was a mutual give and take between the two. She is not only a good housewife  and  an interior decorator but a real life partner in every sense of the word. One of them were destined to be left alone and so it as Som Dev's turn to go. In one line -he was a great botanist, a connoisseur of art, a good friend and an ideal husband. I still cherish the days we spent together. Som Dev deserved much more than what he got from the world. He was liberal, democratic, and secular in his outlook- a very rational one- such persons are now an extinct species. I am sure his talented and youthful son Vivek will carry his legacy and keep the flame aglow.

14th March, 2005

Arun Gupta
Keshav Lila
502, South Civil lines
Meerut Road

Phone: 0131-2421568