Pandit Jia Lal Chowdhury (Jee Chowdhury)ry)
One of the greatest and illustrious sons of the soil who lived graciously
Good to see a piece on Pandit Jia Lal Chowdhury, a leading advocate of his time, in today's 'Kashmiri Uzma'.
Written by our friend and colleague Zahir Din , the latest in his 'Gumshoda Sitare' series, in the end, says it is not known how and where Jia Lalji spent the last days of his life nor is it clear when and where did he pass away.
Just to say, Jia Lalji was our neighbour at Raze Kadal (Sokalipora). The Chowdhuries had a couple of huge houses on a vast piece of land on the western bank of Nallah Maar, just in front of the Mirwaiz Manzil. A part of the land known as 'Ba'ta Bagh' had virtually been abandoned by the Chowdhuries and we used to play there. We lived in a modest dwelling just across Nallah Maar at the tail end of Saifuddin Pora (western side) and facing ‘Ba’ta Bagh’ and Moulvi Masjid.
Jia Lalji was the father of renowned physician Dr. K.L. Chowdhury who lives in Roop Nagar area of Jammu for the past over two and a half decades. The eldest among the six siblings is Chaman Lal Chowdhury who graduated from London in mid 1960s and worked as a Civil and Environmental Engineer in the UK where he lives presently. The next eldest is Robinder (Robin) Chowdhury, who was in his childhood known to neighbours and friends as Bushan. He lives in Australia where he had been an academic for more than 30 years and is now an Emeritus Professor. Dr. Kundan Chowdhury is third in line and next is a daughter- Dr. Vijay Chowdhury, a specialist (obstetrics) who served for many years as a specialist (obstetrics) in Srinagar including as Medical College staff now lives in Delhi. Youngest son Dr. Surrinder Chowdhury, who graduated from REC ,Srinagar, and did his PhD in electronics in Liverpool, lives and works in Silicon Valley, California, and youngest daughter Dr. Usha Chowdhury (Kaul), a graduate of Srinagar Government Medical College, has been for many years a paediatrician working in Buffalo, New York State.
One of the Senior Chowdhury's cousins was Shamboo Nath Chowdhury who was a clerk in judicial department and presently lives in Gurgaon. All the Chowdhuries had shifted from Raze Kadal to various areas of Srinagar in 1960s and 1970s. The sole Pandit family headed by one Raj Nath, an agent of Jia Lalji, and which lived in one of the houses within the premises and stayed put even after the outbreak of insurgency, also left Raze Kadal and subsequently migrated out of the Valley in 1990s. Even Raj Nath's family would be known to many people as 'Chowdhuries' because of their close proximity to Jia Lalji.
Jia Lalji had shifted to S.P.College Lane (Barbar Shah) from Raze Kadal in 1963. He practiced law at the J&K High Court until about four months of his death in 1989 at the age of 76. He was suffering from bronchogenic carcinomas (lung cancer) and was taken to the USA for advanced treatment but to no avail. After returning home and a couple of months before the end came, he visited the court premises to bid goodbye to his former colleagues-lawyers, judges, judicial officers, petition-writers, etc. Among his agents was Gulla Gurkoo, often referred to as Gulla Choudhary- of Budhgeer, Ali Kadal. After Jia Lalji’s demise, among those who visited his Srinagar house to offer condolences was Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq. This happened few months before the Mirwaiz fell to the bullets of the assassins at his Nigeen residence on May 21, 1990.
Jia Lalji’s illustrious son Dr. Kundan Lal Chowdhury and the most well known among his offspring back home is a medical graduate (M.B.B.S.) from Punjab University and postgraduate (MD) from Delhi University. He did fellowship in Neurology from London. He started his career as a faculty member in Government Medical College, Srinagar, as a clinician, teacher and researcher, rose to become a Professor, and pioneered in Neurology as a subspecialty in the Medical College.
Following shifting to Jammu in 1990, he started a charitable hospital, the Shriya Bhat Mission Hospital and Research Center, which provides free multi-specialty consultation and treatment to the poor and indigent patients and conducts medical camps, surveys and research. He is engaged in multifarious activities as a medical professional, social activist, journalist, poet and writer, essayist and reviewer and is author of several books
A portion of the Chowdhuries’ property at Sokali Pora, Raze Kadal is now owned by a Muslim trader of Srinagar and the remaining part of it was acquired by the government for road-widening a couple of decades ago.
P.S.: Why should the performance and other activities of Jia Lalji’s offspring be of any interest in a piece on him? Just to say, a person will prosper or ruin due to his/her own deeds. He/she has to select what he/she wants. If you are good and helpful to the people particularly to the needy it is not just your good nature which everyone immediately thinks of when they speak of you- that even after you have gone- but your children can also benefit from your deeds. As we say in Kashmir, your next seven generations will reap fruits from the prayers the beneficiaries of your good actions and demeanour may have made for you. Equally important is; good parenting and positive interventions in early childhood can work best as it evidently did in the case of Jia Lalji’s family.