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Silent Samaritans of Bengal

The Officer’s Choice Anandalok Salaam Bengal award saluted “unsung heroes” who have contributed silently to society in various fields. The first edition of the awards was given in four categories — bravery, education, medicine and sports — to four persons from the city. Eight achievers were also felicitated in north and south Bengal, and the ceremonies were held in Siliguri and Durgapur.

The city event was held at Kala Mandir on Friday evening, which included performances by singers Raghab Chatterjee and Subhamita. The judges panel comprised writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, singer Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta and cricketer Sambaran Banerjee.

Bravery: In the field of bravery, the award recognised the efforts of Gautam Poddar. The 35-year-old spends his mornings collecting garbage in ward 104, though at night he might be seen running about a hospital, arranging for medicine or blood for strangers. Poddar is a conservancy worker by profession, but helping people is his passion.

Poddar has helped countless people over the years. His efforts reunited a mother and child, one-and-a-half years after eight-year-old Nandu Mondol went missing. Poddar once took a patient for treatment to Bangalore but landed up in the ICCU himself after donating too much blood. That didn’t diminish his spirit in the least.

What pains Poddar most is the apathy of people who will not spare a glance for a fellow human being in distress.

“I do not have enough resources to help them financially and my only hope is that others would come forward,” Poddar said after receiving the award.

A few have recognised his worth. One of his neighbours, Haren Pal, has gifted him a motorcycle so that he can travel with ease.

Education: Octogenarian Mohini Lal Majumdar walked away with pride with his silver trophy in this category. He is the second Indian author to pen the postal history of India. His book, titled Postal History of Zamindari Dak, published in 1984, had come more than a century after the first one, which was written by Ananda Gopal Sen in 1875.

Majumdar, who was the organising secretary of the Postal Museum and Philatelic Library at Calcutta GPO, is currently working on a more comprehensive version of his book, he said.

Sports: Ashish Bhattacharyya was honoured for his award-winning feats in both table tennis and badminton despite a disabled arm. Ashish’s playing arm was injured in an accident, which led to sensory and motor nerve problems.

“I have even played against those without problems in their playing arms,” said Ashish. His wins include two international golds for badminton for the disabled at Chennai in 2008 and silver at the national level for table tennis for the disabled in 2009.

Medicine: Orthopaedic surgeon Sumanta Thakur was honoured for his unique therapy of using music to de-stress patients. Thakur believes in not just treating people, but giving them relief. “Music therapy is effective for all kinds of patients — pre-operative, post operative and even those suffering from depression. The kind of music to be played should be decided after assessing a patient’s intensity of pain,” says Thakur, who has a collection of 1,700 instrumental music CDs. “Hyper-rhythmic or sad songs should be avoided in music therapy,” cautioned the surgeon who has been working in this field since 1996.

Thakur’s latest achievement was teaching the basics of anatomy and physiology to students of performing art therapy at Rabindra Bharati University.

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