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Home they brought the unseen lady

- Hidden on the fourth floor

Ruchi Sureka’s wish of seeing her neighbour and telling her how big a fan she was will never be fulfilled.

For 10 years, all that separated Ruchi, a resident of Vedanta at 52/4/1 Ballygunge Circular Road, from Suchitra Sen was a flight of stairs.

“I have seen her movies. I kept in touch with her daughter to enquire about her health whenever she was admitted to hospital. But I could never see her in person. This regret will remain,” said Ruchi, as she waited in the parking lot of the apartment block for the hearse to arrive.

Neighbours, domestic helps and drivers waited for one last glimpse of “Suchitra di”, who lived on the fourth floor of the building with her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.

None, however, could claim to have seen Suchitra Sen. “Whenever she stepped out, it was in the family car. Whenever she arrived from outside, she would immediately disappear into the lift,” said Parama Mondal, who works as a domestic help in one of the flats.

Friday was no different. Moments before the hearse carrying Suchitra arrived at 12.49pm, police cordoned off the area and not even the neighbours were allowed to get close to the vehicle.

“There was always a veil of secrecy surrounding her. As neighbours, we respected Suchitradi’s privacy,” said a neighbour who did not wish to be named.

Most neighbours came to know of her death when cops arrived on Friday morning and got busy securing the area.

The police turned the entire lane opposite Ballygunge Science College into a fortress. Trucks carrying guardrails arrived and the lane as well as the road leading to it were barricaded.

“Strict instructions to sanitise the entire route leading to Suchitra Sen’s house have come from the very top. So we are not taking any chances,” said a deputy commissioner overseeing security arrangements outside Vedanta.

Some of the neighbours had decided to approach Moon Moon Sen with a request to allow them to pay their last homage to the matinee idol. But Moon Moon left for the hospital in minister Subrata Mukherjee’s car almost immediately after she arrived from Belle Vue around 11am.

She returned, along with daughters Raima and Riya and husband Bharat De Varma, in a car following the hearse. In another car came Subrata Mukherjee and the commissioner of police.

The hearse and the cars left for the crematorium exactly five minutes later. Moon Moon turned towards the crowd gathered outside the house and greeted them with hands folded.

“We all loved her. We wanted her to return home healthy,” said Ruchi as many a moist eye followed the hearse carrying their dear neighbour till it disappeared from sight.

Pictures by Pabitra Das