Television journalist Sandipta Chatterjee’s life ended abruptly on December 2, 2012 as she succumbed to a sudden illness. She was only 34. A lively and intelligent presence on the screen, Sandipta graduated in History from Calcutta University, before obtaining a diploma in Mass Communication from Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. While in Santiniketan, she regularly filed news and feature stories for Aaj Tak and Ekhan Khabar. She also had a brief stint with a local FM channel.
She joined Tara News as an anchor in February 2005; on this channel, she also scripted a women’s show named Priyo Bandhobi. Later that year she joined Star Ananda (now ABP Ananda) where she worked till the end as an anchor and deputy producer.
Apart from presenting news bulletins, she regularly hosted a whole range of shows on news and current affairs, sports, culture as well as science. During the run-up to the 2011 Assembly elections in West Bengal, she produced a three part series titled Annyo Vote which looked at the offbeat side of the campaign such as political cartoons, songs and dramas.
A professional to the core, Sandipta always endeavoured to improve her skills. On the personal plane, she was intensely in love with life and had a wide array of interests including an appetite for literature and a passion for classical music. Her friends remember her as a soft, passionate and caring soul, a bubbly girl who always had a witty remark which brought a smile on the faces of those around her.
It was very early in the morning and I was deep asleep. The message tone on the mobile broke the silence. It was yours. It said… ‘Osama killed’. You were on air, so I could not call you. But I texted a few lines and during ad breaks you replied. So when my boss called me to discuss plans, I was fully prepared!
Another morning. I woke up and realised Ajmal Kasab was hanged in the wee hours. I called you and we discussed various angles of the story.
There were sudden calls or text messages after brief yet long silences –‘do you know what mulayam singh yadav said this morning’ or ‘can buddhists be violent? whats happening with rohingya muslims’? It was a hot noon, buddhists and rohingya muslims were nowhere on my mind, for you I had to rezig myself to end in a heated debate with you.
Then it was the penultimate day. The night before you left us. As usual, you suddenly texted, ‘whats happening between … news and industrialsts? seem very interesting…how much do you know about this’? BOJHO!!! You were watching a current affairs show, excited about what you are gathering there and so on. But I was enjoying a quick nap!
You were a very hard one to please. Professionally I mean. You were not satisfied with one-liners or shallow answers, you were no takers of comments like BHALOI TO HOYECHHE (it was a good show, you know). You used to say, ‘‘show-ta mon diye dekhoni, na? (you are so casual, aren’t you)’’ and snapped the phone line immediately.
You watched every anchorperson minutely, from Christian Amonpour to even ones on dangling tv sets at the metro stations. I do not. So I lagged behind and received your harsh comments. No quick-fix answers, no adulation. You were ready to admit your drawbacks and work hard to excel. A girl from Shyamnagar, (you sent texts to your headmistress on Teachers’ Day always) you nurtured yourself in Santiniketan and then came to Kolkata with big dreams.
But I am making mistakes here.
I should not write I. I should have said We! Since we, all your friends have the same experience, more or less.
I should not write were/was/did etc either and I don’t want to. Because you are there and will always be. Always. Passionate, caring, soft. A little girl you are, nurturing your small rooftop garden, calling your man to save an old, ailing person on the footpath, caring for the puppies, kittens, birds, singing (mukti amar bandhanodor, one of your fabourite lines… you wrote on facebook once) Rabindrasangeet and classical raagas, longing for a room of your own with a tanpura, some CDs and books.
Sometimes you are not there! Whenever there is a breaking news, we miss your tweets, your messages, your calls. And you know, you miss what? General election in india and aftermath, panchayat election in West Bengal, Whatsapp, net neutrality debate, so on and on. Maybe you don’t miss all this. Because, we update you regularly and will do so.
In ‘Jyotsna rate sabai gyachhe bone’ (When all gone to the forest on a moonlit night), Rabindranath says, ‘amare je jagte hobe, kee jani se asbe kobe, jodi amay pore tahar mone’ (I’ll have to stay awake, for I know not when she might come, should she remember me again)
So we are doing this…
But not without you.
Tribute to sandipta by ABP Ananda:
[Video courtesy: ABP ANANDA and Suman De, Senior Executive Editor, ABP Ananda]