The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hope burns bright in candles of silent prayer

The mood was grim, but hope was in the air. While sergeant Bapi Sen lay in a coma at Calcutta Medical Research Institute, people gathered outside the gates of the hospital on Saturday evening to pray for the young police officer’s recovery.

An hour-long candlelight vigil, organised by Trysis, brought together Bapi’s well-wishers of all ages and from all walks of life. While some had found out about the meeting from the media, a few heard of it through word of mouth. Others were just passing by and joined in because they wanted “their hero to get well”.

The assembled crowd ranged from children to college students, professionals to stage personalities — all brought together by an act of courage. Policemen in uniform, too, had joined in the silent prayer for a colleague who had done the service proud. Though coming from different backgrounds, they melded into a unit, as they stood or sat side by side, holding candles, united in their prayers for Bapi and his family.

Soon the organisers proposed a two-minute silence and all words and actions came to an immediate stop. Even the handful of toddlers as well as a year-old boy remained still. The only jarring notes in the sombre moment were struck by passing vehicles and cameramen, running around trying to capture the perfect frame.

Members of the band Krosswindz, guitars in hand, led the crowd through a series of soulful songs — John Lennon’s Imagine, Tagore’s Ekla Cholo Re, Negro spirituals and Hindi bhajans — that had everyone humming along, with bowed heads and joined hands.

A poster with a message to the sergeant and his family was passed around, to which people added their personal wishes —“God bless you”, “I am proud of you”, “We need more people like you”, “We are with you and your family”...

A police officer doing his round on a bike stopped for a few moments to hold a candle and pray. But there was also anger. A cyclist, who had paused to inquire about the gathering, was in no mood to mince words. “What happened to the lad was terrible. I hear he is dying. Miracles are possible, and he deserves one. But the five who did this should first be severely punished,” he fumed.

Ranadeep Chakravarty, in his 20s, had come to the vigil because he felt “inspired by Bapi’s valiant attempt to help a girl being harassed, with no regard for his life”. There are so many echoing his thoughts for whom Bapi is a role model now, even as he sleeps a sleep that may know no awakening.

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