“You all make up an entire football team”. Noted soccer coach P.K. Banerjee said in the 1970’s when I met him and he heard that I had seven brothers and three sisters. My eldest brother, Asok, who we called ‘Sejda,’ left us rather unexpectedly on June 14, 2017. Our soccer team is now sans our center forward.
When parents pass, the ground beneath shifts, the shelter above cracks. When our parents passed away, we sought solidarity among our siblings, we became each other’s pillars of support, shared the loss. Now, the loss of our first pillar has shaken our core.
Our ‘Sejda’ was handsome, quiet, intelligent and athletic. As a child, I thought that he knew everything; my grandmother always praised him - “Nilur moto cheley hoy na”. My parents doted on him, and all who knew him loved him dearly. His brilliance was legendary. We never remember him getting any extra help with schoolwork, yet he aced every exam. He was a role model for us, and for other kids in the neighborhood. The first in the Datta family (originally from Dattapukur) to become an engineer, his sharp mind and problem solving skills impressed everyone around him. He made math problems look easy, always had simple ways to solve them.
His path to academic success may not seem out of the ordinary, but it was for our family. In a traditional joint family setting my parents would often face malevolence implying that with a large family, they would not be able to afford to properly raise or educate their children. In the face of many struggles, my parents taught us to value education, and to share whatever we have. As a child, if one of us got a treat, we would be desperate to share it with other siblings. As we grew older and set on our different journeys that took us near and far, we never gave up that deep caring we have for each other. Despite our many struggles, we are forever grateful for all of life's blessings we have received as a family.
By gaining admission to a reputed engineering college through a competitive examination, and later becoming a successful mechanical engineer, Sejda was our parent's pride and our beacon of hope and inspiration to value education and caring for others. Throughout his life, especially in these past two weeks, his colleagues and friends have recalled his brilliance as an engineer, sharp intellect, and sportsmanship.
Yes, there was sports. In our family, his generation was more into football (soccer), and as a child, I remember some of Sejda’s prowess on the soccer field. What I remember more is his artistry as a badminton player. His game was spontaneous. He was calm yet nimble on the court – it was a delight to watch him on the badminton court, how he made his opponents run all over the court, while his game was gentle, mischievously and strategically placing the shuttle out of his opponent's reach. He would win matches and tournaments without a sweat, always with a smile.
When I was little, I was a sickly child. Since my parents lived outside of Calcutta, our older siblings took care of me whenever I fell sick, which was often. The very trip to the doctor’s office on Sejda’s bicycle would cure me of half my ailments, in the security of his presence. He called me ‘Gurguri’ referring to my short, sickly stature and curious nature of exploration.
A well-accomplished professional, athlete, soft-spoken and witty, our Sejda was a gentle man, a family man, much loved and admired. All who knew him are heartbroken and saddened at his sudden passing. He leaves behind his beloved wife Swapna, beautiful and loving daughters Rakhee and Soma, son-in-law Kalyan, and the now incomplete soccer team of siblings and their families. As we grieve as his family, I send a silent prayer for the peace of his soul and gratitude for his life and accomplishments. Even as I weep in the sorrow of separation, I also join the celebration of his life. The physical ending of which came suddenly, but the memories of which will be with us forever. Dear Sejda, we hope you find peace and solace in the embrace of Ma, Baba, and the Angels of the Almighty. Your ‘Gurguri’ will miss you.
[Rekha Datta, youngest sister of Asok Datta] - June 26, 2017