Freshly Brewed

A rag to riches story cut short by the Kolkata bridge collapse

Kolkata: The road that leads to his house in Silpara, Behala, is narrow. And with the rain gods showering their blessings, or is it their sorrow, it is a tricky stretch to cross. Between two rooms is a narrow sitting space. On a regular day it was perhaps merely a link between the two room at each wing. But now, despite— days after the accident it is crowded with media persons prodding the family for more information and to keep abreast with the latest developments vis a vis government help or to see which politician came to pay their condolences to the family.

As you step inside the small room that Soumen shared with his dadu (maternal grandfather), the sight of the octogenarian lying on the bed looking vacantly at the ceiling makes you choke. The family politely asks him to sit up and meet the ‘guest’. He sits up looking gaunt and spent. Just a mention of Soumen’s name and his eyes well up, tears roll down. “He used to do all my paper work. We used to chat about books and songs. He would read till  late in the night. Now it is all over,” his grandfather’s voice chokes with emotion. His eyes bear a haunted look of a man who has lost everything he had. Basanta Kumar Ghosh, used to work with the Kolkata Port Trust. One of life’s ironies that the Majerhat bridge which collapsed and killed Soumen on… was build by KoPT.

Soumen Bag, the 27-year-old young man is the first victim of the Majerhat Bridge collapse. Soumen, a commerce graduate used to work as a medical representative (MR) and had come to live with his grandparents when he was barely one-and-a-half-year old and never went back to live with his parents in Shyambazar. This was his home. His mother stayed with him at her paternal home when he was younger. His maternal family being slightly better off raised him as their own as his parents struggled to earn two square meals on a daily basis. The parents would come to visit whenever they could. They last spent time together in this very house on Independence Day. That’s the last his parents saw him though they spoke nearly daily over the phone. Soumen’s books lie on a table in the room, neatly arranged, next to photos of the gods and goddesses and his late grandmother who passed away three years back.

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Parents of Soumen Bag

“I called on his mama (maternal uncle) number just to check on him after seeing the news on TV. He told me that Babai had taken the day off from work and was supposed to go to College Street. I called on his number. Someone else answered the phone. I rushed here and was told to go to PG hospital. I thought maybe he has lost a limb or so. But once I reached the hospital I knew within two minutes that it was all over,” Prabir Bag’s voice drains off.

The parents and the rest of the family looked visibly exhausted, drained out of all emotion answering numerous queries about Soumen, who used to work as a medicine distributor. They repeat it to the next media person almost mechanically. The mother’s tears had dried up despite the loss of her only child. Who will feed the family or look after them in their old age is playing on her mind. “Amar sob shesh hoy geyche (I have lost everything),” she laments wiping her tears, her voice barely audible. Then she is stoic again, talking about her son as if he is somewhere around, just not visible to the eyes right now. The family has a roadside chop er dokan (tea and snacks stall) at the corner of the road leading to the house, run by his grandfather’s younger brother, Ajit Bose.

His father is hopeful that all this media coverage will help the family get a job to replace the loss of the only earning member. His father never really had a regular income. His in-laws supported him and since the last five years his son had started earning things had started bright for them. His mother wanted to get him married but Soumen declined saying he had a lot of things to do for his family, especially his dadu, and have some saving before he marries. Whether he liked anyone or had any girlfriend they did not know, because Soumen was the sort that spoke little, loved reading Bengali literature though he was a commerce graduate from Sarsuna College.

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Soumen’s collection of books

Just a few days before the accident, while the world celebrated Janmasthami, Soumen celebrated his 27th birthday on September 2. Friends and family cut the cake in that same sitting area between the two rooms and the brother sister duo had non vegetarian food for dinner. A small birthday indulgence allowed to the non veg loving cousins even though the rest of the family adhered to vegetarian food, as is the norm during Janmasthami.

His favourite deity was Goddess Saraswati and he invariable took the lead in organising Saraswati Puja every year. He loved to eat and would frequently succumb to his doting cousin sister’s demands to bring food from outside. “Home cooked food is so boring to eat every day. Dada would bring whatever I demanded and fed it to me himself,” says the little girl, yet to apprehend the loss. He used to help her with her studies. Chowmein or biryani from the eateries nearby were their favourite.

Moumita, a student of class seven, shared proudly that her brother was not like any other regular guy his age. “He has written two books. One which is apparently already published is on Epar Bangla, Opar Bangla” she shared. Meaning the book is on India-Bangladesh relations. And another is yet to be published. Both he supposedly co-wrote with a friend.

The family, all not being well educated had little inkling of all this. “It is the media people who told us,” said Moumita, trying to google and show the details while the internet connection played spoilsport. “He dropped his surname in the book because his friends used to tease him about his surname. Bag, the tiger,” smiled his mother, Anita, at the sweet memory of days of laughter and fun in this ordinary but once happy, lower middle class household.

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