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Doctor & teacher remember actress

K.C. Mitra and Haren Ghosh. Pictures by Kundan Yolmo

Siliguri, Jan. 17: Around 40 years back, the doctor bid farewell to the lady in veil and wished her a happy journey as the Sealdah-bound Darjeeling Mail chugged out of the New Jalpaiguri station.

Today, K.C. Mitra, who is in his mid-eighties now, reminisces about his encounters with Suchitra Sen.

A prominent gynaecologist in Siliguri now, Mitra was a post-graduate student at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in the late 50s when he first met Sen.

“I had accompanied the then head of the department of gynaecology of Calcutta Medical College to Woodlands as I was asked by him to assist him in an operation. Upon entering the operation theatre, I was taken aback to see that the patient was none other than Suchitra Sen. The operation was conducted successfully and from that day, I visited her in Woodlands to check her health status for around 10 days,” Mitra recalled.

After this meet, over 10 years passed. Mitra came to Siliguri and started practising as a gynaecologist.

“The second encounter with Suchitra Sen was equally interesting. In the early seventies, I stumbled upon the actress as I took my wife to the airstrip at Ambari (located around 20km from Siliguri) so that she could board a flight to Calcutta,” said the doctor.

“The Indian Airlines flight was cancelled in Bagdogra and so was the Dakota plane, which used to operate from Ambari. As we heard about the flight cancellation in Ambari, I suddenly noticed her sitting in a chair in the lounge.”

Mitra then went to Suchitra Sen, who, to his astonishment, could identify him.

“She could easily identify me and mentioned that she was here on a film shoot and returning to Calcutta. Bijoy Bose, a known Bengali film director, was with her. I requested her to come to my house,” said Mitra. The actress, however, politely refused, mentioning the inconvenience Mitra and his family would have to face if people came to know about her stay.

“I then proposed that she could stay in a hotel. She agreed to it. I arranged a room for her at the third floor of Airview Hotel and spoke to the owner. She was assured that her identity would not be revealed,” said the doctor.

“I managed to reserve a seat for her in Darjeeling Mail so that she could leave in the same evening. She visited my house in the evening, clad in a burqa to avoid public attention.”

After having snacks and tea, the doctor took her to NJP. “My wife also travelled by the same train. The actress boarded the train and I waved her goodbye. She was still in veils,” Mitra said.

There was bedlam on the station premises, the octogenarian recalls, minutes after the train had left. “Somehow, people came to know that the actress was on the train. All were expressing disappointment that they couldn’t catch a glimpse of her,” said Mitra.

Haren Ghosh, another senior resident of Siliguri, recalls the time he had spent with Rama Sen, whom he still prefers to address as “Ramaboudi.”

Born and brought up in Kurseong, Ghosh had his ancestral home at Hosenkhola, a locality in the hill town, next to the house of Adinath Sen, the father-in-law of Suchitra Sen.

“I was a student of Kurseong High School in the late 40s. In those days, we would find Ramaboudi visiting Kurseong ahead of Durga Puja every year with her husband or her father-in-law. They used to stay for about a month,” said Ghosh, 81, who retired as the principal of Siliguri College of Commerce.

“In those days, it was a tradition that local Bengali families and those coming to spend vacations would jointly sit and chat. It was in 1948 and a couple of years after that, Ramaboudi was a regular visitor to Kurseong during Puja days.”

Ghosh, who left for Calcutta to pursue his graduation in the 50s, was surprised to learn that “Ramaboudi” was Suchitra Sen and she had joined the film industry.