The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Picture of poise, sound of silence

She was soft and gentle, with a sad smile that belied an inherent strength. Piyali Chakraborty was deaf and mute, but she could sew and embroider, paint, draw and dance. The 23-year-old model lived in a silent world, with the hope of some day being able to hear and talk. But in the meantime, she set about chasing her dreams.

On Saturday evening, the “rising star” of Calcutta’s modelling industry allegedly committed suicide. All who knew Piyali in the industry, from Calcutta and Mumbai, agree that despite being around for only a year, she was already a quiet sensation, on and off the ramp. Warm, affectionate, intelligent, dedicated and a symbol of silent strength.

Although not hot property yet, she was destined for big things, say people in the fashion industry. “She was tall, fair, slim, pretty and a great person,” according to Ashish Banerjee of Rampedge. “Communication was never a problem. In fact, I found it easier to work with her than with a lot of others. I do four shows a month, and Piyali was in at least two, sometimes as the central draw. She also did a lot of still ads. She always attracted attention.”

Never one to give up easily, Piyali, helped by her constant companion, mother Protima, set out to conquer all obstacles with such ease that people often didn’t realise she was impaired. “The last conversation I had with her — she communicated very efficiently through lip-reading and sign language — I told her she was very brave,” says model Koena Mitra.

Calcutta model and friend Sanjukta Das echoes: “She was such a lovely girl. I can’t believe she would do this. She was so strong.”

Make-up artiste Prabir Dey feels Piyali was just starting to make a mark. “In a year, she would have struck it big. Some people had reservations about her impairment. But Piyali was very dedicated. She would practise for hours in front of the mirror. She wanted to be in big advertising campaigns. She would have got it, too. Soon.”

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