My point of entry with Soumitra Chatterjee was through one of my written stories that he fell in love with. The story was about an aging man’s fight with a losing mind. As a full time physician and a part time author, it wasn’t surprising that I would dwell on such esoteric fluctuations of fortunes. To Soumitra Chatterjee, it knocked a different door. He drifted to a human mind, at once sensitive and sensible, capable of touching a horizon that will not know any challenges.
In a God driven world, he challenged the status quo in fearless disrespect. He preferred the clenched fist to the folded hand. Dreamed of working side by side with Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Leprosy patients in the deep jungles of Africa. Took exceptional pride in his writing abilities. Found solace in his pencil sketches. Together we reveled on a world, refreshingly away from the trappings of a make-believe, celluloid world that doted on his immeasurable talents as an actor.
In the ensuing months and years, as I, on his behest endeavored to translate his two volumes of non-fiction writings, it became my turn to fall in love with his written words. Sometimes fast and furious, as if in a rush to reach the finishing line. Sometimes slow and gentle, like an autumn in mood.
He wrote in one of the chapters, “How was my youth like? It was like an open book by the window, where the pages flew in joyful abandon.”
I was thoroughly objective when I told him, “Your writing talents have suffered immensely at the hands of your acting prowess.” Lending a wry smile, he had answered, “Really? That’s an interesting observation. But to tell you the truth Dr. Sen, I have more pride in my writing skills than in my acting!”
In Mr. Chatterjee, I found that quintessential renaissance man. Someone ready to take on literally everything that life could offer. An inexhaustible appetite to dance on a world arena where legs and hands mattered little. Only the hunger to live and love.
I had asked him once, “Don’t you fear death?”
He had questioned back, “Don’t we all?” And then had added, with a lingering smile, “I only wish death would come to me when I am on stage, performing…as a small mercy.”
For some time now, the world will reverberate on his ever-unfolding talents. A talent, an all-mighty Satyajit Ray found hard to ignore. A talent, unchallenged in world theatre.
I instead will take refuge in his quiet recess from where he had whispered to me, not once, but twice, “My best is yet to come. My best is yet to come”.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.