A Kolkata Tragedy

September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)


On Saturday, February 11, 2012, the Telegraph, a Kolkata daily, carried this report:


The body of a Class XI student of La Martiniere for Boys was found in the Rabindra Sarobar waters on Friday afternoon, two days after he was reported missing. Riju Basak, 17, did not return home on Wednesday after setting out on a city trip programme organised by the Goethe-Institut at Max Mueller Bhavan. His family last heard from him around 6.30pm on Wednesday.

“The post-mortem report confirms that he died of drowning. No injury mark was found on his body,” said Damayanti Sen, joint commissioner of police (crime).


Rhiju Basak

Riju, the only son of Kajal, a businessman who deals in gems and runs a catering business, and Mitra Basak, lived with his parents at 10/1A Chaitanya Sen Lane, near Hind Fame. “I do not suspect anyone and I have no complaint against anyone,” was all that the grieving father could say.

According to police, Riju’s father lodged a complaint with Charu Market police station on Wednesday night after a stranger informed them over the phone that his bag, shoes, school blazer, tie, diary and identity card were lying near Bhavani cinema, off the Rabindra Sarobar Metro station and not far from the Sarobar.

“His mother had received the call and the family began a search in that area with his photograph,” said Arup Kumar Basak, his uncle.

Cops said Tarun Kumar Mali, a local resident, spotted Riju’s belongings on the concrete slab around a tree trunk. Mali found the cell number of his father from Riju’s school identity card and called him.

Riju’s body was found floating in the Lakes around 11.45am on Friday by some gardeners who work there. They alerted the security guard, who got in touch with the police. His wallet and wrist watch were missing.

“For two days we have been searching in the area. Today when we asked a security guard, he said a body had just been recovered. We rushed to the spot and found that the police had fished out the body and kept it on the banks. We knew it was Riju, he was in his school trousers but without a shirt,” said Arup Basak.

On Wednesday, Riju and two other students of the school had gone to Max Mueller to participate in a cultural exchange programme organised by the Goethe-Institut. He had been selected on the basis of an essay he wrote.


On August 29 I received this letter.


Respected Mr. Ghosh,

                                          I, Mitra Basak, have just lost my son, Rhiju Basak forever in the month of February, 2012. He passed ICSE exam from Don Bosco School Park Circus and them bacame a student of La Martiniere for Boys with Humanities. Rhiju was a devoted reader of all sorts of books specially he was an eager reader of your writings.

                               Rhiju met you in South City Mall last year on the day of opening of your book RIVER OF SMOKE and had some dialogue with you, where Rhiju told you that he also writes poems and he has an intention to publish a book of poems written by him. With a smile you told him you would get the book with a signature of Rhiju. It is a matter of deep sorrow that this cannot happen as now Rhiju has gone very far away from us. I wish he will be living in all of us forever through his creations. So I have arranged to publish a book of all poems of Rhiju on his birthday 12th September. Inaugration of the book will be held in OXFORD, Park Street. Title of his book was settled by Rhiju himself as “A BUNCH OF LIES”.

                               It was my earnest desire that you would be present on the occassion and will put your auspicious hand on my head and Rhiju could be happy by witnessing the scene and i shall also be happy. As this is not posiible, So if you kindly write few lines which we can treat as a “Preface” of the book. If and otherwise we will include your writing in the book(not as a preface). I will treat your writing as a grace to a bereaved mother.

                               A quick response from your end will help us a lot. Awaiting eagerly for your reply.

                               I pray for your better health and peace.

                               Thanking You.

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Yours Sincerely,

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Mrs. Mitra Basak



I was moved by this letter and I asked Mrs Basak to send me Rhiju’s poems. Afterwards I sent her these lines, for the book’s preface:

There is something about Rhiju Basak’s poetry that reminds me of the young protagonist of my novel The Shadow Lines. It is strange to think that the two of them had walked the same streets and sat in the same classrooms. But their commonalities extend beyond the shared experiences of a Kolkata adolescence. There is something similar also in the nature of their response to their surroundings. It is evident that Rhiju was acutely aware of the poverty and suffering that he witnessed every day. Thus these lines of his poem ‘A Cold Man’:




            I walk through the city…

            Right through the middle of a death parade…

            Electric guitar hanging from my shoulder…

            I stop at a corpse lying on the ground…









I was moved to learn from Rhiju’s mother that my work had meant a great deal to him. She tells me that he had attended one of my public events in Kolkata and that we had exchanged a few words. After reading Rhiju’s poems I am saddened that we could not speak at greater length: I know that we would have had a lot to talk about.  

My heart goes out to Rhiju’s parents, relatives and friends at this time of grief. It is evident from these poems that he had great promise: his tragic death is a loss for us all.


Amitav Ghosh

September 2, 2012


On September 6 Mrs Basak sent me the photographs that are posted here and this message:


Rhiju Basak

Respected Mr. Ghosh,

                                 I have received your brief and nice “PREFACE” and it has already been sent to proper place for printing. On this context i would like to express my gratitude temporary relief brought to my heart with the above message. Though it is an irrepairable wound that can be cured fully with my death. Once more I would like to thank you for the pain you are taking and spending your valuable time for my son Rhiju.
                                 Lastly, I would like to tell you that you have every liberty to quote any portion of my letters written to you for your purpose. I enclose herewith two copies of photograph of my only son Rhiju for your choice and action. For your information the proloque  the title of the book (A BUNCH OF LIES) and layout of cover was done by Rhiju himself.
                                                                                                  Thanking You.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ever Grateful,
Mitra Basak.






Rhiju Basak’s book of poems is to be released at the Oxford Bookstore, on Park Street, in Kolkata on September 12, at 6 pm.  His parents have extended a welcome to all who would like to attend.




2 Responses to “A Kolkata Tragedy”

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  1. Comment by seema rathore — September 24, 2012 at 6:16 am   Reply

    And they say, humans do not care for poetry, because poetry does not care about humans.Amitav, i could not hold back my tears at this thoughtfuL AND TOUCHING blog.It opens a wide consciousness window and i come one step closer in understanding and thoughtfulness. I am going to continue here regularly. Take Care.

  2. Comment by Sandipan Bhattacharya — October 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm   Reply

    Deeply moved…May God bless the bereaved soul!

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