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Rocky inside, repairs outside
- day after bapiís death, roadroller hits bumpy home stretch

Calcutta, Jan. 7: Inside the middle-class home, an old man of 75 does not tire of asking why his son, who would not leave home without touching his feet, was not coming to him any more.

Outside, a roller flattens out a bumpy stretch of road the son had tried to have repaired by the authorities time and again without success when he was alive.

Bapi Senís death has changed some things (like the governmentís response to civic problems outside his home) but has left certain others untouched, like his father expecting his son to touch his feet before leaving for work. Victim of a cerebral attack, 75-year-old Narayan Chandra Sen slips in and out of amnesia.

A day after Bapi ó the traffic sergeant who had to give his life to save a woman he had never seen before from five of his lawless colleagues ó died, his family and neighbourhood were struggling to come to terms with the inevitable march of normality.

Told several times about his sonís death, the father kept forgetting. Too young to realise the full extent of the tragedy, the sons ó Dobo and Dingo ó were immersed in their own world. None of them was allowed to set fire to his fatherís pyre. Bapiís elder brother Anup Sen did that.

Outside, a roadroller was proclaiming with loud clangs the governmentís death-inspired attempt to make something else normal ó an uneven piece of thoroughfare.

A confluence of relatives and friends poured into the modest flat (No. 27/164) on the first floor of one of the assembly-line buildings at Parnasree Government Quarters that house 325 apartments. Neighbours like Tarun Chakraborty, Bapi Haldar and Subrata Mukherjee are standing by the Sen family, some of them giving room to the overflowing relatives.

Today, the disconsolate family had two important visitors ó none of them a relative. Both brought good tidings, nothing to cheer about but to lift some load off the shoulders of a family devastated by the death of one of the principal breadwinners.

The first was the principal of the Vivekananda Mission School where Dobo studies. She left after promising the family that it would not have to worry about his expenses as long as he wished to study there. The second was the life insurance agent. He left after promising the family that it would get its dues in less than the usual time.

There were other visitors as well but politicians maintained a studied distance from the home a day after Bapi was cremated. Some Congress activists demonstrated in north Calcutta, demanding exemplary punishment for the five accused of battering Bapi to death.

If chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee intends to help the family, he has not announced it yet.

n See Metro

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