The first thought that came to Rabi Nandi’s mind on hearing that a guard had opened fire indiscriminately inside SBI’s Bhowanipore branch was: “It can’t be Sunil.”
Tailor Rabi and bank guard Sunil Sarkar have been neighbours at work since 1995. A break from duty at 6/1 Ramesh Mitra Street would often take Sunil to Rabi’s shop next door for a chat over a cup of tea, their conversation ranging from the weather to the day’s breaking news.
When he needed to get a shirt or a pair of trousers stitched, Sunil trusted his friend to give him the perfect fit.
As Sunil sat in a daze surrounded by people in the branch manager’s cubicle on Friday afternoon, Rabi found it hard to believe this was the man who had just taken two lives. “He is a calm person, not the type to point a gun at anyone...,” Rabi told Metro.
When his friend fired the shots that killed a fellow guard and a cashier, Rabi was in his shop. It was around 12.30pm. He had heard the gunshots but thought they were firecrackers. Then someone dashed past the shop screaming about the incident.
“I couldn’t hear gunshots anymore, so I entered the bank,” Rabi recounted.
An acquaintance pointed to Sunil. “I stared at him seated there with his head down for some time before retracing my steps,” Rabi said, still shaking his head in disbelief.
He isn’t the only one struggling to make sense of Sunil’s act. Tolly actress Koneenica Banerjee, a resident of the neighbourhood where Uttam Kumar used to live, remembers the guard as a “helpful” man who would call her “Didi”.
Actor Gourab Chatterjee, Uttam Kumar’s grandson, is sure he has seen Sunil “sometime or the other because both my mother and I have an account each with the bank, a few minutes’ walk from our house (on Girish Mukherjee Road)”.
Like Koneenica, whose father had walked out of the SBI branch barely 15 minutes before the incident, Gourab is “shocked” that the friendly neighbourhood bank guard could “do something so bizarre”.