–Amitabh Kumar Das
The poet-journalist Samar Sen is a forgotten figure in an India, obsessed with Rhea Chakraborty’s WhatsApp chats. But Samar Sen was an intellectual giant who strode like a colossus in Calcutta. When he was 16 or 17, Samar Sen wrote poems in Bengali. And his poems were translated into English by the great Rabindranath Tagore himself. Imagine Gurudev translating poems of a teenager.
Samar Sen was a sensation. The Bengali bhadralok (gentry) saw in him the next Nobel Laureate. But strange are twists of fate. One fine morning, Samar Sen announced that he wouldn’t write poems anymore. Writing poetry is a most boring task, declared Samar Sen to a shocked Bengali literary world. Sometimes later, Samar Sen left for Moscow, got a job there and lived there for five years. I can imagine Samarda sipping vodka in Moscow pubs with his comrades in ill-fitted suits.
Back to Calcutta, Samarda joined a magazine run by Humayun Kabir. But left soon after having a big fight with Kabir who was a staunch Congressman and detested communists. (Humayun Kabir’s daughter Laila later tied knot with George Fernandes. But that’s another story.)
Samarda soon launched his own magazine: Frontier. It was a high-brow journal fit for intellectual eggheads. Frontier was banned during the Emergency. It was ultra-left in its leanings. Once it so happened that an American diplomat, in his pin-stripped suit, arrived at the Frontier office. Samarda was amused. A capitalist sitting at the office of a communist journal. Samarda offered him “cha” (tea). The American diplomat told him sheepishly that he was briefed by his seniors at the State Department in Washington before he came to India. His seniors asked him to read old issues of Frontier to understand India better! Samarda gave him some old issues and saw him off.
Samarda lived at a modest apartment. He didn’t have a car and he commuted from his home to office in a tram. Ashok Mitra, an eminent economist, was a regular visitor to Samarda’s humble abode. Their “adda”, over jhhal-muri and cha, lasted for hours. Ashok Mitra was made the Finance Minister by Jyoti Babu. But Samarda refused to get any help from his old buddy and continued to travel in the good, old tram. Samarda was a scholar-warrior. One of my role models. I too live at a small apartment named NUTSHELL. I have learnt only two things in my life: “Padhna aur Ladna” (to study and to fight).
I am high on the mafia hitlist. And I never step out of my flat without my bodyguards. But when I look upto the sky, I see Samarda smiling benignly from above. Dhonyobaad, Samarda. You inspire me continuously.
(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer.)