A very interesting man called it quits last Sunday. He was in his eighties and in a lot of pain, being in the last stages of throat cancer, so it was merciful for him, but the rest of us lost a fascinating raconteur.
Listeners of Hindustani classical music might remember Pandit Kumar Prasad Mukherjee's singing. Those who read Bengali will perhaps know his books, which are mainly memoirs of his eventful life. My father knew him through both, but I only knew him as my university professor's brother-in-law who she asked me to look up in Madras last summer, when I went back home after the M.A.
He was staying in a guest-house, and his students were taking it in turns to run down South and keep him company. He was far from home and in a land where he didn't like the food or the women. Where other men would grumble though, he used it all as food for an enjoyably acerbic tongue. He came to visit us once, and it was a treat for my father, who does not get to discuss the things he enjoys with the people he usually meets. (That includes us, the family. Hmmm...)
When he returned to Madras last month because the cancer had set in once more, we all knew this might be the end. And now that he's gone, I'll think of him when I pass his residence in Golpark, because I found him fascinating to talk to. In his rough, papery voice, as he lit up one cigarette after another -- the way he saw it, at his age they didn't make any difference -- he would frequently rebuke me for my lack of knowledge, but he would also smile gently and be happy I came to visit. In my world there are very few old people left who I enjoy visiting, so his absence will be felt.