My Friend Sankha

Some Enduring Memories

I remember vividly my first day in Presidency College in September 1947. A new classmate, a lean and thin boy sat just by my side in our first Sanskrit class taken by Pandit Gourinath Shastri. He asked me my name and I asked his. When he heard my name, he with some surprise in his eyes, asked if I was the same Bata Krishna Dey who stood 7th in Matriculation Exam. Sankha was my first acquaintance in college, and from that moment, we became friends and remained so till now. I think people have nearly forgotten that his real name was Chittapriya! Though lately we could not meet regularly, we remained in contact over the phone.

After I shifted to Delhi, we could meet only when I came to Calcutta, either on official tours or on holiday. He no doubt visited my bungalow whenever he visited Delhi. We once spent a very enjoyable day at a poetry event hosted by Sahitya Academy, where both of us were invited.

Our other friend Chiranjeeb Basu and I last went to Sankha’s house in 2019 (before the Covid pandemic) and spent the entire day together, starting with a sumptuous homemade breakfast, hosted by his wife Pratima. We were all together at Calcutta University for our Master’s degree: Sankha and Pratima studying Bengali literature, Chiranjeeb and his wife Sandhya also studying Bengali literature, and my wife Uma and I studying Political Science.

After the breakfast at his place, followed by adda, the three of us went out to lunch at a restaurant in Salt lake restaurant (photo above). That is perhaps the last time we met Sankha in person.

Yes, I remember with great fondness our student days, in fact years, at the College Street Coffee House, the YMCA or Dilkhusa Cabin. I remember the time when we attended a whole night music conference in Mohammad Ali Park together, enjoying Pandit Ravi Shankar’s brilliant sitar concert, and after it ended in the morning, walking to a restaurant in Sealdah to have a cup of tea. On another day, we created a record by walking all the way from the College Street Coffee House to Deshapriya Park in South Calcutta, chatting the entire way, and had tea in popular Sutripti Cabin opposite Deshapriya Park.

Those were the simple days of friendship, intimacy and closeness with my friend Sankha!