Shekhar Banerjee: A persol recollection
It was a winter month in the mid-Seventies and we were guests of the mager of the Suffry Tea Estate in Upper Assam. I had persol reasons for liking the mager – he was my newly-acquired brother-in-law with movie-star looks and generosity to match. In the course of the few days that Shekhar hosted Sudipta (his sister) and myself in the heady social swirl of the tea community, I saw how his charm, warmth, wit and the ability to engage equally with both the young and the old had won him a wide circle of genuine friends and well-wishers.
These qualities clearly did not escape the attention of a certain individual who, within the next two years, had Shekhar trapped LBW (Love Before Wedding). Shekhar might have preferred a hockey alogy as that was the game he excelled at as a goal-keeper in his beloved school, St. Edmunds, but I think it will appeal to his cricket-loving brother, Lt. Col. Ambarish Banerjee.
We travelled from London to attend the wedding of Anjali and Shekhar in December 1978 and were of the unimous view that Shekhar’s life was complete. With the arrival of their sons, Sayan and Vikram, over the next few years, the family was now complete too.
After he left tea, and still at a relatively young age, arthritis took a terrible toll on Shekhar’s health and fitness. But it did not stop him from achieving success with the tea warehousing business that he established and continued maging until his fil days.
In spite of his physical challenges, he never complained, never lost his warmth or his genuine interest in others.
When at home, the dining table is where he spent most of his time, taking care of his business matters as well as reading voraciously, keeping abreast of everything in the world that mattered. Friends and visitors would drop in regularly to wish him well and leave wondering at the resilience of the man.
Today, the chair at the head of the dining table stands forlorn. The table itself has been cleared of the numerous medicines and medical accessories that sustained his life for the past thirty years. We saw them as clutter before – now we would give anything to see the clutter again if only we could wind back the clock.
Shekhar left us on the 1st of April, 5 days after his 73rd birthday.
But for us who have been left behind, including the next generation of the family, his sons and nephews, his unseen presence will continue to hold centre-stage in our thoughts and conversations for a long, long time.