Death of a charming doctor

Manas Pal




T S Eliot was prophetic. April is, indeed, the cruellest month. The poet wrote his Waste Land after the Spanish Flu pandemic and he sought to tell us that nothing could be crueller than the hopefulness. A dark irony of disappointment, desperation –and devastation would just follow with ‘a heap of broken images’ that would be floating by.


These were the  broken images of a perfect gentleman, a charming soul  lying haplessly somewhere in a Kolkata hospital under heavily depressing smell of medicines and all those electronic gadgets blinking and showing some digital numbers fluctuating on the screen. He is covered and isolated from the world—and, yes, lying far from the Window. Outside the window the dawn came and dusk followed. Fresh air softly breezed by. But he could not feel it, he could not breathe it.  

Doctors said, his lungs seemed tired fighting the virus- a trillion years old unseen life, that does not actually live, but suddenly entered into the dehumanized world of the humans like a monomaniac incarnation of all the malice and hatred like that of Moby Dick –the worst of nightmares.

A former army Lieutenant Colonel Dr Kinshuk Datta was fighting his last battle on his own and, alone—but with a determination of Captain Ahab. There was no comrade in arms around him. As a doctor he had seen pain, he had seen agonies and he had seen deaths. He had also seen life smiling back once again defeating the total hopelessness, time and again. But now, he was alone and, perhaps, as a doctor himself he could see what the poet Eliot had said - his shadow at evening was rising to meet him… And here we who were close to him were constantly monitoring the reports that were pouring in intermittently about his fast deteriorating health in our Whatsapp group that left us in the thick of helplessness of our uncertain life.

Lt Col. Dr Kinshuk Datta passed away today (Friday April 23, 2021) after fighting the Covid in Kolkata. Born on March 15, 1963,- his father late Prof B Datta and mother Ratna Datta- he studied medicine and then joined the Indian army. After his stint in the Indian military he joined the Tripura Health Service and continued with it till his last breath. After Covid infection as his condition deteriorated Kinshuk da was shifted to Kolkata in air ambulance on April 12 last. But inscrutable terror, pain and agony of the breathlessness –as his lungs got severely damaged by the Covid virus -did not leave him.

And then the end came today afternoon. Kinshuk da was popular, perhaps, more for his soft spoken, charming and extremely gentleman like demeanour than his expertise in his chosen field of medicine. Anyone who knew him would invariably come out with one line statement: His charm and elegance were simply incomparable. Not many, however, are aware that he was a fierce student activist while in school and college. He was an SFI leader who even represented the organization to their national meet. His interest was more into theoretical areas of Marxism which he had studied deeply.

In fact, after his MBBS degree he wanted to become a full time CPM cadre in Bardhaman areas of West Bengal to work for the poor. But the political leaders wanted that as a qualified doctor he should pursue his professional career and helped the party from his medicine field. But as the fate would have it, he joined the Indian army as a medical officer and served across the country and also in Kargil. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and then returned to civil life. His military training and his experience might have moulded him considerably.  He became an elegant, upright and straight speaking man and continued to carry the military aura of ‘’an officer and a gentleman’’.

His preferences in personal life – which experienced some cold winters too- were not much, except, perhaps, a good old Single Malt and neatly ironed attire.

Kinshuk da was full of wits and had lots of funny stories in his kitty, which he would reveal only when he would be with his close friends and his mood was high. He used to tell us the stories, traumatic days of Kargil war time – as the wounded soldiers were brought down to his makeshift field hospital. Those stories would come alive vivid and would give some ideas about the devastation that a war would entail.

But he mostly remained silent on his political inclination. He would, nevertheless, sometimes express his dissatisfaction at the way both the Leftists and the Rightist were getting the things ‘wrong’ and ‘misplaced’. But then, his displeasure was also expressed in a very soft and polite way that could come only from Dr Kinshuk Datta. Yet, he had his own brand of sarcasm too- though not usually expressed often.

In one incident during Left Front government one neo- Leftist unaware of his past once tried to teach him some A B C D of Marxist way of life.  He listened the long lecture of the neo Marxist in complete silence --without uttering a single word. At the last moment he just told him—“long ago in early 1980s when I represented SFI in a national meet I saw Mr Sitaram Yechury arrived in the venue carrying hugely costly Samsonite suitcase. I saw how he was different than many, in fact, all of us, even then. And whatever you said, I think I read them all, and perhaps much more, while in school days itself”.

When I asked what was the reaction of that gentleman?  Kinshuk da just took a sip on his Glenfiddich and smiled : “The man stared at me for some seconds and then hurriedly left. Well, that was the end. After that none ever came to teach me Marxism, anyway. I was happy .””

Today Dr Kinshuk Datta left us forever in Kolkata hospital. He is survived by his elderly mother who went there as his condition deteriorated, daughter Sayantani is in Japan – an ELT professional and son Shiladitya, an engineer currently pursuing Masters in Philosophy from Hyderabad Central University.

The loss is unbearable for us—his close friends especially in our close group of Dr Tarun Guha, Dr Jayanta Roy, Dr Parthasarathi Choudhury, Dr Abhijit Datta, Dr MJ Panicker, Dr Subhrangshu Datta, Arindam Nath, Parthasarathi Chakrabarty, Dr Debshish Barman, Tapas Bhattacharjee,  Nandu Panicker and I. Kinshuk da’s demise is a personal loss for us. But more to it is now the absence of a hugely charming personality who helped all –in every possible manner.

Rest in Peace Kinshuk da—in your own elegant style.