Brother Tamal sees off Tanushree Chowdhury outside their home on Monday morning. (Bishwarup Dutta)
I never wanted to end up doing this; I aspired to be a teacher… But I don’t have a choice now.
Tanushree Chowdhury spent her first day at work as a lower division assistant with Calcutta police brooding over what might have been had a bullet not turned her life topsy-turvy a week ago.
“I was handed the offer letter before I could decide whether I wanted to take up a job or not. But I am the head of the family now and I cannot shy away from responsibility,” the 20-year-old told Metro before heading for the Lord Sinha Road office that used to be her father’s workplace until last Tuesday.
The eldest of slain Special Branch sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury’s two children is a first-year student of botany at Vivekananda College in Thakurpukur. She has always wanted to be a teacher and her late father would always encourage her to follow her dream.
“He used to say that he had toiled his entire life and taken orders from his seniors. He did not want a similar career for me,” Tanushree recalled.
Not only has circumstance forced Tanushree to accept a job her father probably wouldn’t have approved of, she will be just two rooms apart from where he used to sit in the Lord Sinha Road office.
The first question Tanushree, wearing an ash-coloured sari with a copper border along with a green shawl, had asked while being shown around was: “Where did Baba sit when he was here?”
The officer changed the topic lest she broke down.
A couple of Special Branch officers had been waiting outside the Chowdhury family’s Thakurpukur home to escort her to work in a police Ambassador. Two maternal uncles accompanied her and they were joined by an aunt of hers outside the Lord Sinha Road office.
The presence of familiar faces and helpful police officers may have eased the first-day jitters, but Tanushree knows hers is no cushy job.
The clock was showing 10.57am when she entered office, 27 minutes later than the stipulated entry time. A senior gently reminded her that she would have to report for duty by 10.30am and leave after 5.30pm from Tuesday.
Mother Minati had told her when her daughter stepped out at 10.10am that she would be eagerly waiting for her to return. “Your father left home six days ago and didn’t come back. You are going to the same office. Please come back safely, I will be waiting,” she had said, holding her daughter tight.
Minati called her daughter twice while she was in office trying to understand what her job as a data operator in the “top secrets wing” entailed. A colleague told her she would need to maintain provident fund records, check verification forms and regularly update the database of files and folders.
The joint commissioner of police (crime), Pallab Kanti Ghosh, personally escorted Tanushree to her desk. “He suggested that I attend night classes... He also told me that I must come to office on Wednesday and Thursday, irrespective of the (Left-backed) general strike,” she said.
Tanushree was also eager to find out the easiest way to commute to and from work. “My father never allowed me to go to the market and now I will have to go to work and come back alone… My mother is very panicky as well,” she said.
Tanushree’s first day at work ended at 2.30pm, her seniors taking care not to let her feel intimidated by the prospect of working in an office. As she stepped out of 14 and 15 Lord Sinha Road, near Emami Mall, sub-inspector Chowdhury’s daughter looked more at ease than she was in the morning.
She and her uncles took a taxi to reach home, stopping briefly at her college on the way. “My principal said he would make special arrangements for me. He told me I would only need to attend the practical classes for now. I have to complete my graduation at any cost, otherwise I won’t be entitled to any promotion,” Tanushree said.
Throughout his career, sub-inspector Chowdhury had cleared various departmental exams to rise from the rank of constable to sub-inspector. Tanushree’s struggle too could be her family’s pride someday.
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