| Bapi Sen’s body in the hearse that carried it to Lalbazar, his home and the crematorium. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Jan. 6: Calcutta Police traffic sergeant Bapi Sen died today the way he lived. After five days of fighting.
Doctors gave up the battle this morning to save the man who took on five New Year revellers — all policemen — teasing a girl, and was kicked, punched and hit with an empty beer bottle till he fell on the tram tracks of Nirmal Chandra Chunder Street. Thirty-two-year-old Bapi was declared dead at 6.30 am.
Admitted a few hours after his last fight on January 1 when he was at the “last level of the coma scale with extensive brain damage” (as doctors put it), the medical board saw the futility of trying to keep Bapi breathing on the life-support system.
“He was admitted when he was in a medically hopeless state but the situation deteriorated further on Sunday night,” neuro-surgeon Ajay Agarwal said.
“We tried everything but had to declare him dead around 6.30 am,” he said, admitting that Bapi’s case had left him “emotionally drained”.
The unsuccessful medical team’s cries found an echo in every corner of life as everyone — from the chief minister to his principal political foe and from mainstream parties like the CPM and the Trinamul Congress to women’s fronts like the All-India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan — lamented the death of a man who taught a city, apparently inert in the face of increasing crimes against women (the last high-profile victim was none else than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Presidency College-going daughter), how to stand up and fight.
Bhattacharjee took time off his Writers’ Buildings responsibilities to see Bapi off at Lalbazar at four in the afternoon.
Mamata Banerjee reached Keoratala crematorium in time, after finishing her Brigade Parade Grounds rally where she demanded a CBI probe into the death, to do what Bhattacharjee did at Lalbazar.
A few hours earlier, Ganga (the sweeper who keeps Bapi’s neighbourhood clean every morning) had his last see of Bapida’s lifeless body; he had come without finishing his morning’s job so that he could pay his — flowerless — tribute.
In between, there were many like Tamal Deb, neither a minister nor a friend/neighbour, who first saw Bapi handling a “difficult situation” at the Park Street-Chowringhee crossing a year ago and could not help but come to the Kantapukur morgue.
Bapi, who usually manned the Park Street-Theatre Road-Chowringhee belt, travelled from morgue to Lalbazar (where he started his career in the control room) and then to his Parnasree home, where he had helped build a concrete structure for the local club when he got time off overseeing Calcutta traffic.
At home, Bapi left behind 75-year-old father Narayan Chandra Sen, himself a former policeman, who kept coming back from rare moments of remembering to ask why his wife, daughter-in-law, sons and daughters were weeping.
Sen (Sr) has been in such a state since he suffered a cerebral attack.
Wife Soma — a neighbour who married the sports-loving youth — always an introvert, withdrew further into her shell.
Bapi’s siblings handled the situation as best as they could but the family was not the only one weeping.
Friends like Bapi Haldar and Subrata Mukherjee would not stop recounting Bapi’s “deeds” and how they used to tell him not to “expose” himself to unwarranted risks.
“That was how the end came but I am proud that he didn’t listen to us,” Mukherjee said.
It was left to the neighbourhood to demand what every Calcuttan has had on their mind since the last incident showing how unsafe the city is blew up in its face.
“Will there be death penalty for the rogues'” asked one neighbour.
“Now that Bapi is dead, we hope there will be less scope for the police to protect the guilty by diminishing their punishment,” said another.
No one will possibly bear the punishment more than Bapi’s seven-year-old elder son Dobo who has not stopped asking where his father is. Or younger son Dingo who, at 14 months, is far too young to realise that his father returned home for the last time today.
They lost their father young. But when they grow older they will not lack for a role model.