Sujit Deb, or Sujit da, as we fondly used to call him, passed away last Monday (17 September 2012) in Kolkata.
Both Sujit da and I worked in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, during 1977–1983. He was the Librarian, and I was Secretary to Mr C.R.M. Rao, Editor, China Report.
Sujit da was a carefree character, the come-what-may-I-don’t-bother type. He did not care about the cloths he wore, the food he ate, the chair he sat on, nor the bed he slept on. He was at home on a cosy chair attending a conference or on the floor in the library with books or in the lawn chatting during lunch break. His main and only pastime was spending time in the office. He was a nice and kind human being, though occasionally I have heard him talking loudly to some of his colleagues. Though he was elder to me, we were friends. He was a down-to-earth man.
Sujit da was not married. I heard that Sujit da was a revolutionary in his heydays. Mr Bejoy Bhattacharya was also my colleague in CSDS during those days and he too was a bachelor. He also used to be a revolutionary (he changed his name from Vijay to Bejoy to Banglicise it!) in his youth. (I propose to write about Bejoy Babu in these columns in due course.) Is it a norm for revolutionaries to remain single?
We used to discuss several things. However, I have been quite averse to discussing home or relatives or enquiring such details from colleagues. This habit remains with me to this day. While I did not ask about his home or relatives, I did ask him why he chose to remain single. His answer was a big laugh. Then he said he had several girl friends and he used to ‘print’ (from letter press, since computers were not common then) love letters to all of them! This was his way of brushing aside personal queries.
Even after I left CSDS, whenever I used to visit there, library used to be my first port of call, to say ‘hai’ to Sujit da. He never acted busy and was always in a relaxed mood. The only thing which I didn’t agree with him was his habit of smoking. He smoked beedies, several of them every day. While he was not particular or regular as far as food was concerned, he didn’t forget his beedies and cups of tea.
After his retirement he worked as Consultant at CSDS and continued to spend most of his time at the Centre till a few months ago. When he realised he was suffering from an irrecoverable illness, he chose to return to his own people, who, it seems, failed him cruelly. Neither do I know the details, nor am I comfortable with writing what I heard. I can only say that he terribly misunderstood those whom he loved and trusted. He passed away nearly unattended and uncared for in a palliative care home.
Sujit da, you will remain in our hearts for many many years! Let your soul rest in peace!
Next update on Monday next