A silent game changer

By Willie Gordon Suting
The charming old Assam-style house named Roy Rill in Kench’s Trace has a tale. For in its spacious living room filled with books on history, culture and fiction, there once sat a bespectacled old man. He would sit peacefully reading on the cane chair trying to study and dissect a variety of subjects.
The old man is no more. But he had left a lasting footprint on this earth.
During the 1970s, Piyush Kanti Dutta Roy wrote letters of proposal to State Bank of India and the Government of India for establishing regional rural banks in villages of Meghalaya. Roy always told his close friends, “If we empower our villages, our rural economy will grow.”
It was during Roy’s time of service in SBI as Regional Manager that both the government and SBI were deliberating.
Right from his early years of service in SBI as the first manager of the Police Bazaar branch, Roy deeply pondered on prospects of the proposal. He empathised with farmers and daily wage labourers residing in villages who had to commute all the way to Shillong to withdraw or save money in SBI branches.
Roy was a visionary who saw to it that if the proposal was accepted, it would be most beneficial to farmers and daily wage labourers.
SBI deliberated over the proposal. It then decided to establish Regional Rural Banks or RRBs in all Indian states with different names run by nationalised banks. In Meghalaya, this RRB was run by SBI.
Much is not recorded in writing about the history of Ka Bank Nongkyndong Ri Khasi Jaintia. But it was Roy, the quiet and unassuming bank manager, who was the brainchild behind it.
Ka Bank Nongkyndong Ri Khasi Jaintia was established on December 29, 1981, with Roy being deputed by SBI as its founder-chairman. The first branch was opened in Nongstoin.
Roy was a philanthropist who worked hard to help the poor and impoverished in society, evading any form of publicity. He preferred to work in quietness not wanting people to know that he contributed immensely to charity.
Roy was the son of Jamini Kanta Dutta Roy and Charubala Dutta Roy. He was the third child and had six siblings.
He completed his schooling from Jail Road Boys’ School and BA and MA in Agriculture from University of Calcutta.
Being a post-graduate in agriculture, Roy was fond of flowers, trees and birds. He was a bachelor and is survived by his nephew Colonel James R Dutta Roy and niece Madhuleena Dutta Roy.
His nephew Colonel James remembers him tending the lush garden wearing oversized gum boots and a tattered cowboy hat. “My uncle would spend a lot of time watering the flowers and plants. It seemed like he could talk with nature,” he reminisces.
Roy loved the art of ornithology. He would head every morning to Lawsohtun forest for jogging. He would halt everytime he saw a beautiful bird, using his binoculars to view the creature closely.
“My brother-in-law’s sapling, which he planted in Lawsohtun forest, has now grown into a beautiful tree,” says Sagarika Dutta Roy, Roy’s sister-in-law and Col James’s mother.
Roy was deeply sensitive to the world around him. He empathised with human suffering. For all his professional life serving in SBI and Ka Bank Nongkyndong, he contributed 5 per cent of his salary to Ramakrishna Mission, Cherrapunjee.
Roy would also send money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund every time there was a natural calamity.
As president of the Sylhet Association in India, a now defunct community welfare organisation, he contributed a lot to various social causes.
Roy was known to be a principled and disciplined man. All his life, he was unmarried but gave all the love he had to his nephew and niece. He was stern to them when they were children but this was to guide them well.
“They had to be just a little brave to break the ice. He was an example to be followed,” says Sumitra Ghosh, Roy’s cousin.
Sagarika says Roy treated her like his daughter though being sister-in-law.
“He was just like a father to me. He was a gentleman who valued family.”
Roy’s principled and disciplined lifestyle was evident from the stories Colonel James and Sagarika tell.
“My uncle would lock the gate at 8 o’clock, have dinner at 8.30 pm, watch the news from 8.45 pm and sleep at 9’o clock sharp every day,” says James, adding that his uncle also taught them humility, that most precious and rare of all human values.
Roy would walk from Kench’s trace to his office in Police Bazaar every day. He would return in the evening the same way. Roy never chose to commute using public transport or purchase a car despite his high social standing.
“Though we had two SBI landline phones in our house, yet uncle never allowed us to use them,” says Sagarika.
Roy passed away on January 25, 2018, at the age of 95. He retired from Ka Bank Nongkyndong in 1988.
Reflecting on his demise, Madhuleena says, “I don’t know if there is an afterlife. But I do know uncle is at peace. He left no duty unfulfilled and no loose ends. I am going to miss him deeply.”
Colonel James remembers him as a very upright man. “Uncle was an unflinching but selfless man, always giving to others. He was also a repository of knowledge.”
N Kuki, an old colleague from Ka Bank Nongkyndong, looking back, says, “Mr Roy was very sincere and hardworking. He took all important and necessary steps for Ka Bank Nongkyndong to reach where it is today.”
Roy has contributed a lot to society as founder-chairman of Ka Bank Nongkyndong. His vision has now made every villager get access to banks in rural areas. He was also an unassuming philanthropist who worked in quietness for the welfare of the poor and impoverished.

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