The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Last wish denied, last rites await son’s arrival

Bikas Chatterjee remains as lonely in death as he was during the last few years of his life.

Despite the dying request made by the 80-year-old on Monday, that his body be spared a post-mortem, before he jumped from a Gariahat highrise, the police said that legally, they had no option but to follow procedure.

“There is a law in the land, which is uniform for all. Since Chatterjee’s death was not natural, we had to send the body for a post-mortem. It revealed that there was no foul play. He died from the internal injuries sustained after the fall,” deputy commissioner of police (south) Harmanpreet Singh said on Tuesday.

The octogenarian’s body now lies alone in the SSKM Hospital morgue, awaiting the arrival on Wednesday of his son Asis from the US.

The retired chief engineer of Calcutta Port Trust lived alone in his apartment in the Meghamallar complex. On Monday morning, he jumped to his death from the landing between the eight and ninth floors.

On Tuesday, relatives requested the police to hand over Chatterjee’s body to them for the last rites. “We, however, told them we cannot hand over the body to any other relative, as Chatterjee’s son will be reaching the city on Wednesday at 9 am,” said officer-in-charge of Gariahat police station Tapas Kumar Basu.

Chatterjee had been suffering from various ailments for the past few years, police said. “He wrote in his note that he could not endure the suffering alone any more. For the past few months, he was keeping completely to himself,” Basu added.

Chatterjee had been living alone ever since his younger son died several years ago of brain cancer, and then wife Anjali died of a heart attack. Neighbours said he had decided not to go to his son in the US, choosing to stay on with the memories of his wife and son. “His elder son used to visit him once a year. He would to tell us days in advance about his son’s arrival,” a neighbour recalled.

Gradually, the fear of living became tougher to deal with than the fear of dying, and loneliness was too much of a burden to bear, recounts P.K. Banerjea, who had met Chatterjee through a companionship programme for the aged, a couple of years ago. The septuagenarian remembered his brief encounter with the “tall, slim, fair and stately gentleman”, through the Indian Association or Retired Persons (IARP).

“He had been suffering from loneliness for quite some time. He talked about his family, which made him sad. He had a relative living with him at that time, but he, too, was leaving soon. That upset Chatterjee a lot, because he couldn’t cope with the idea of living alone, with no one to look after him,” said Banerjea, now an active member of Dignity Foundation (Phone: 2474-1314), an organisation of the elderly that holds out some hope for the aged and alone.

Not quite sure how to deal with the distraught but “soft-spoken” older man who was “very polite”, Banerjea had decided to help him out through subsequent meetings. That never happened, and they lost touch.

“It’s such a waste,” Banerjea sighed, after learning how Chatterjee ended his life.

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