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Tears & tokens for braveheart
- Strangers, friends throng memorial meets

A curious rule — denying any award for an act of courage ‘off-duty’ — may prevent Calcutta Police from honouring Bapi Sen.

But friends and neighbours, not restrained by such quirks of the rule-book, have lined up a posthumous award for the sergeant who died while doing his duty — trying to stop five drunken constables from harassing a girl on the last night of 2002.

At two separate condolence meetings that ended late on Saturday, two clubs of Behala’s Parnasree, where Sen lived, decided on their next course of action to help the bereaved family. The intended private gatherings, however, remained anything but private as over 2,000 people — several from outside the area — turned up to remember and do their bit for the braveheart.

Skyline Club, one of the three in Behala, has decided to host an annual-day function with a difference this Republic Day. Leading singers like Haimanti Shukla and Indrani Sen will take the stage, but centrestage will be reserved for a cheque being handed over to Bapi’s family.

The amount will be collected as donation from neighbours and friends. “This will be a posthumous award for Bapi’s act of bravery and his commitment to his work, even when he was off duty,” said Skyline Club vice-president Subrata Mukherjee.

Another organisation, Parnasree Club, has already given a cheque for Rs 5,001 to the Sens of 27/164 Parnasree Government Quarters. That was at the first condolence meeting of the weekend organised by the Parnasree Government Quarters Recreation Club, of which Bapi was vice-president.

More than 1,500 people turned up on the grounds in front of the club building that Bapi had helped transform into a concrete structure from a mud-and-tiles one. The dais had a heavily-garlanded picture of Bapi, but his presence was all-pervasive. “There were so many people sobbing and many of them had never known him,” said one of the club members.

Among the ‘uninvited’ attendees were officials from the two schools from which Bapi had appeared for his Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations. The headmaster of Barisha High School was there with the assistant headmaster, while Behala Higher Secondary School was represented by its headmaster.

The second condolence meeting of the evening, organised by Skyline Club, turned out to be an even more moving affair. Over 400 people assembled inside the club hall to pay homage to the young man who would always go “out of his way to help people in distress”.

There were ‘uninvited’ guests there as well. The entire teaching staff of St Joseph and Mary School — principal Bhakti Sharma is the only one associated with the club as vice-president — turned up and stayed put for over 90 minutes as club members deliberated how best to stand by Bapi’s family.

Support has also come from a somewhat unexpected quarter, with the Behala branch of the Life Insurance Corporation having handed over Bapi’s cheque to his family. At Bapi’s Government Quarters home, preparations are on for the shraddh of one of Parnasree’s — and now Calcutta’s — favourite sons, later this week.

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