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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 46

Two Messages

Remembering N.C. on his Birth Anniversary

Saturday 3 November 2007, by P.B. Sawant, Subrata Banerjee

These were sent after N.C.’s demise and published in the Mainstream issues dated August 29, 1998 and August 1, 1998 respectively. —Editor

The condolence resolution passed by the Press Council of India on the 4th of this month (August) must have reached you by this time. In addition, the individual members expressed their own feelings and narrated their reminiscences of Dada who was also associated with the Press Council as its member for three years from 1995.

I had the fortune of having him as a senior member of the Council when I took over as its Chairman. I had never met him before that except through his writings. It was a case of friendship at first sight which grew more endearing and enduring with the passage of time. I remember distinctly his sage advice at the first personal meeting with him. He told me not to get bogged down in the routine work of adjudication of the complaints; there was other important work to be done, he said. The advice was after my own intentions and when thereafter the Press Council started undertaking non-routine activities, he supported them heartily by taking personal interest in them. His moral support, sober, mature advice and, above all, his weighty contribution to the deliberations in the Council brought solemnity to our work.

To me, he was more than a tower of strength. He had an unusual warmth of affection for me, and always words of experience couched in his grave but soft voice. To listen to him dwell on any subject, to his reminiscences of the past, his personal experiences with the big and the small in public life, his accurate analysis of the events, past and present, and of his intimate knowledge of the role played by many dominating the political scene in many crucial developments, was education by itself. One got clues to many events which no amount of literature on the subjects can provide. He was a living history of the past. I was hoping to have a long association with him and to learn more from him. But that was not to be.

His departure has created a void in my life which I am unable to describe in words. I feel that I am torn away suddenly from my near and dear one.

The world of journalism has, of course, suffered an irreplaceable loss. The likes of Dada are rarely born. He was first a gentleman and then a journalist. The rivalries, enmities and jealousies which are not unknown to the profession of journalism, never came his way. He was loved and respected in all quarters, and even those who did not see eye to eye with him on some issues had always a ready smile and esteem for him. He was Ajatashatru. The Press and the people will always miss him. His friends, like me, have now to find a solace in his writings and in memories of him which are, of course, ineffaceable.

P.B. Sawant
- Chairman
- Press Council of India
- Faridkot House
- Copernicus Marg,
- (Ground Floor)
- New Delhi 110 001

I have been wanting to write to you ever since I heard the sad news. But I could not. I have been trying to grapple with my grief.

My immediate reaction when I heard the news was a sense of relief for Nikhilda. He had ceased to suffer. Can anyone imagine the pain that he must have been suffering all these days? A pain which had no outward expression because of his state of coma.

I always find it very difficult to accept the death of a dear one. I am afflicted with a numbness. It takes time for the reality of the loss to dawn. And then the anguish of the loss grows day after day.

How can I grapple with this sense of loss? From a relationship of a close acquaintance our bonds reached a state of kinship. I have for long felt a part of the family.

It is a relationship of nearly six decades. It has had its peaks of closeness and troughs of distance, as is usual in any intimate relationship. But ever and ever again I have wondered at Nikhilda’s sudden expressions of affection for me, concern for me. I remember how he gave me support after my heart attack.

Now, we have to live with memories. And those memories are so many, so varied, so rich, so full of warmth. Nikhilda has somehow been associated with many experiences of my life. I had my first lessons in journalism from him, just after I had finished my university studies. My involvement with the communist movement too, in its early phase, was in association with Nikhilda. It was he who had encouraged me to join the army to experience the war against fascism. During my days on the staff of People’s Age, it was his style of what I would call ‘narrative’ journalism that attracted me most. It set a new trend which is beginning to come into its own only today. Nikhilda had been associated with my Bangladesh experience. And later we had shared many moments together in those awful days of the Emergency.

I do not really know why I am recounting all this. But I do not know what to say to you. I can only share my memories with you. Because I have no words of consolation for your grief, as I have none for mine.

My thoughts are so much with Uma. She is a very brave woman, but how can one cope with one loss after another? Karuna is not in a state to write to you. But I do not need to tell you that she shares my feelings.

Subrata Banerjee
- Ground Floor, 164/7/1
- Lake Gardens,
- Calcutta 700 045

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