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By Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee
Born in 1970 at a tea garden near Silchar at his grandfather’s place, Nabarun Bhattacharya was brought up in Shillong where his father worked in the AG office. His early schooling started at All Saints’ Cathedral School. After a brief stint in Bhutan where his father was posted on deputation, he returned to Shillong and was admitted to Laban Bengalee Boys’ School from where he passed his HSLC examination. After that, his father was again posted out in Imphal on deputation. So, he passed his Higher Secondary Exam from DPS, Imphal. As his studies were frequently getting disrupted, it was decided that he would be sent to me in Kolkata where I was working in those days. I put him in Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission College from where he graduated with Honours in English. Unfortunately, his father succumbed to cancer in a hospital in Kolkata when he was a final year student. So, he decided not to pursue his Master’s and started writing competitive exams. That is how after a couple of years he got a job in the Customs Department and was again posted in Shillong for a few years and later transferred to Guwahati.
While preparing for competitive exams in Kolkata he perfected his natural aptitude for computers by taking a course in NIIT. Later, he turned out to be quite a wizard in computer. Once he told me that if he had wanted, he could even hack into anybody’s email account. He used to do all his writing directly in computer and was well versed in photo-shopping and other multi-media activities.
While in Shillong, he earned quite a reputation as a school cricketer. He was an ace fast bowler and also a dependable middle-order batsman. He represented his school team in many inter-school tournaments and also played in inter-district competitions. Every cricket lover in Shillong in the mid and late eighties would remember him well, of course more as ‘Pappu’ (his nickname). While staying in Shillong again during 1995-2007 as a customs officer, he revived his cricketing activity and took regular part in Saturday-Sunday cricket matches.
In Imphal, there was not much scope for cricket. So he took up table tennis as a regular sport and honed his skill further in Narendrapur college. He was the table tennis champion of his college.
After his father’s death, he took care of his mother with exemplary fortitude and affection. She was a widow of just 43 years and needed support and care. Young Nabarun stood behind her like a rock and since his posting in Shillong in 1995, she stayed with him. In 2002, he married a Guwahati girl and fathered two children. For the last 12 years in Guwahati (from 2007 onwards), it was a happy family. Nabarun was a loving husband and affectionate father. I have noticed that as an employer too, he was quite generous and would take care of his cook, maid-servant and driver. That is why they worked with him for years together.
Nabarun died of a rather rare disease called Acute Pancreatitis. Doctors say it is caused by very long neglect of one’s diet and irregular food habit. Yes, he was a sparse eater and often fastidious in his choice of food. His regular smoking habit also did not help. On April 26, 2019, he came home from office with complaint of severe pain in the stomach. Their house physician examined him and suggested immediate hospitalisation. On the fourth day he went into a coma and was put on ventilator. I rushed from Delhi on getting the news. After 4-5 days’ observation and consultation with doctors, I shifted him to Delhi with full ICU simulation within the aircraft. He breathed his last on May 5, 2019.
As the book on Ladakh tells you, he was an ace photographer and a regular trekker. He specialised in landscape and wildlife photography but was also interested in portrait photography of people in remote places. Apart from visiting Manas, Kaziranga, Pobitora and other sanctuaries a number of times, he would come to Delhi every year with a group of like-minded friends and proceed to Garwal Himalayas for combined trekking and photography expeditions. In the North East too, he was a regular trekker in the eastern Himalayas, especially in the Sikkim range. I have noticed that he was a meticulous planner and would pack everything — not only suitable clothes and equipment, but also essential medicines and other props — before undertaking a journey.
Nabarun was an avid reader with a special interest in the War History. Often, he would request me for a book on war, not available in Guwahati or in Amazon. I have noticed in his shelf at the Guwahati residence an eclectic collection of books including Liberty of Death by Patrick French, Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Arushi by Avirook Sen, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Muffled Dawn by Saadat Hassan Manto, Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss, The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra, A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohamed Hanif, and others.
(The author is the uncle of Nabarun Bhattacharya)