S.P. Barooah in the Grand Hotel

 "After having his dinner he went to the counter to pay the bill. Taking the cash memo from the manager Sashi Prasad said, 'Hello, am I not the same person you hackled just an hour ago?" 

By Avinibesh Sharma, Contributor

 

Most of us have must have heard the story of Maharaja Jai Singh Prabhakar Bahadur of Alwar. He was snubbed by a salesman of the Rolls Royce showroom in London because he came humbly dressed. The Maharaja took a sweet revenge by buying a fleet of seven Rolls Royce cars and using them as garbage collecting vehicles! Interestingly, Assam had her very own Jai Singh Bahadur – the dynamic tea planter, Late Sashi Prasad Barooah .

Sashi Prasad Barooah ((1903-1980)) has been described by noted author Arup Kumar Dutta as "a poet by temperament and an aristocrat by nature”. Tall, handsome and dashing, Sashi Prasad was a striking presence in the cultural and sports scene of Assam. Posterity will remember him for his single handed contribution towards development of sports In Assam. Infact, no single individual in the state (except R.G. Baruah perhaps) has done as much for sports as he has. It was due to his untiring efforts that the N.S.C.A. Stadium in Jorhat came into being (meeting most of the expenditures from his own pocket!). The stadium once hailed by the English cricketer B.A. Barnett as “my beautiful Old Trafford” showcased the talents of world’s finest cricketers like C.K. Nayudu, Mustaque Ali, Barnett, Worrell, Emmet, Crap, Gibbs, Marshall, Meulemon, Loxton, Sobers, Ramadhin, Hall, Gibbs, Holt , Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan and so on.

Sashi Prasad was a true aristocrat, one who did not hesitate to spend vast sums of money in causes he believed in. He was the younger brother of one of the richest tea planters of British India, Shiva Prasad Barooah. Barooah himself owned four huge tea estates. He loved expensive cars and whatever he did, he did grandly. A man of tremendous self-respect, he had a strong individualistic streak in his character. A single instance will suffice to reveal the kind of person Sashi Prasad was. Once, before independence, he was denied entry into the Grand Hotel, Calcutta, because he was not in Western clothes. True to his nature he did not remonstrate with the management for this humiliation. Instead, he retaliated by dressing up eight taxi drivers in formal suit and tie and sending them into the Grand. Sashi Prasad spent a fortune in buying them the tuxedo jackets and paying for the meal. He then himself got dressed up in a formal suit and went inside the Grand. After having his dinner he went to the counter to pay the bill. Taking the cash memo from the manager Sashi Prasad said, “Hello, am I not the same person you hackled just an hour ago? The chaos that resulted in the Grand can well be imagined, but he had made his point.

 

*This anecdote has been collected from Arup Kumar Dutta's 'Khongiya Barooahs of Thengal'.

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