The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death from loneliness at eighty

Calcutta, July 21: An 80-year-old resident of a high-rise complex in Gariahat jumped off the landing between the eighth and the ninth floors this morning, ending a solitary existence after the deaths of his younger son and wife.

His only other son has settled in the US.

Planning his death to the last detail — he took a stool to scale the hole in the landing after sending out the three domestic helps on different errands a little before 9 am — former Calcutta Port Trust chief engineer B.R. Chatterjee hoodwinked the liftman into leaving him alone at the spot.

He left behind a poignant note that blamed no one but his solitude-induced depression. “There was none that I could go to,” the note said.

The end came immediately after his body hit the concrete cover over the garage shared by the two buildings of block A of Meghamallar, doctors at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital told police. Chatterjee had even spared a thought for what his lifeless body would have to go through; he requested in the note that it should not be put through the rigours of a post-mortem examination, Gariahat police said.

Like every other day, the old man, who would try to keep to himself since the past few months, finished his breakfast by 8.30. He then sent the domestic helps out and — after locking his flat — told the liftman, Shankar Das, to hand over the keys to caretaker Sukumar Ghosh.

“I will take the bunch back after I return,” were, according to Das, Chatterjee’s last words.

A few minutes after this conversation, Chatterjee carried out his final act. Neighbours, attracted by the loud thud, informed the police, who took the evidently lifeless body to hospital.

Chatterjee’s wife, Anjali, died six years ago following a massive heart attack in the middle of a dinner. His younger son died a few years before that, after a brief fight with brain cancer. In between the two incidents, his IIT-graduate elder son Asis left for the US.

Neighbours said the loneliness was probably too much for the octogenarian to bear, a condition not uncommon in a city, from which the young who will take care of the old are increasingly being driven away for lack of opportunities.

Asis would take annual holidays to spend time with his father — the last time he came was during the 2002 Pujas.

“He was a very sociable character, becoming the chairman of the cooperative a few years ago, but used to keep to himself in the more recent past,” next-door neighbour Chaitali Mukherjee said.

Chatterjee made the situation clear in the brief suicide note. No one should be blamed for his death, he wrote. It was simply the torment of living alone.

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