One Bisuddhananda Purkait

Rabin Mazumdar

Bishuddhananda Purkait did never hit the headlines of newspapers. He had retired, eleven years ago, from Indian Posts and Telegraphs and last served as a head postmaster of a post office of South Kolkata. He was bachelor and lived with his mother in a far flung village named Sultanpur, which could be reached on a van-rickshaw in about half an hour from Laksmikantapur Rail Station of South 24 Parganas. His all-time attire was a long khadi shirt/punjabi and coarse dhoti of deshi cotton mill. His cool, composed and smiling personality made him approachable by everybody at any time and people never hesitated to consult him for help and advice. When such an ordinary man living a very ordinary life died after a few days' sufferings of heart attack on 31st May 2014, there was a spontaneous sensation in the locality-people of Sultanpur and other villages along the track Purkait traveled everyday, gathered and walked in a silent mourning procession which extended to about five kilometers. Such was the love of the man by his neighbors.

Purkait was not associated with any particular political party, but he was outspoken in his own way and never spared them the necessary criticism. All political parties in the area knew him very well.

His concerns were the people, the society and the environment around him. He passionately engaged himself in acting, writing, directing and managing plays involving the very people around him.

On 21 June 2014, an evening was dedicated to the memory of late Bisuddhananda Purkait at the Students Hall (College Square), Kolkata. Friends and associates of the periodical Bigyan O Bigyankarmi remembered his unique role in developing a bond—an effective one—between people of two cultures. In the magazine was published in 1986, an article which expressed deep concern for the sensitive and fragile ecosystems of the Sundarbans in the long run, if the Sundarban Fertilizers Company approved by the then State Government was really established within the notified Sundarban area. One fine evening, entered the shared office-room of the periodical, a dhoti-clad simple-looking person that was Bisuddha (as he later became familiar in the magazine circle) with the copy of the magazine in his hand.

A journey started—the village activists against the fertilizer plant arranged seminars at their places, the Bigyan-karmis of the magazine with their well-intentions of doing Science for the People were invited to participate. The villagers, attending by hundreds, articulated questions unfamiliar to the academia-oriented urban scientific workers. Communication was not easy at the beginning but the good senses and intentions prevailed—the interactions continued for quite a few months to the mutual benefit-said one of the Bigyankarmis at Students Hall. The audience at the Students Hall was further informed that the rural activists at Lakshmikantapur developed a strong resistance against the Fertilizers. They talked, argued, recited and played their own short plays—mostly written and directed by Bisuddha and urged the villagers not to sell land for the factory which, they were convinced, would destroy their habitat and sources of livelihood in a few years. Even threats and lures did not work. The Company left the area in search of a new place. "This was 20 years before Nandigrm-Nayachar and the State Government did not try to acquire land for industries at that time. Perhaps this is an important bit of history which we should not forget in our endeavor towards development without destruction"- reminded one of the participants paying homage to the memory of Purkait. Bishuddha later became a frequent contributor to Bigyan O Bigyankarmi. His artcles like Kakdwiper Ek Ma, Surjogrohoner Diary can be considered as ideal examples of communicative writings. They contain lots of information- social, scientific, demographic, health, education and much more, and yet they are highly interesting and fully enjoyable for the readers. Amalendu Bandyopadhyay, the noted Astronomy authority once wrote in Desh that among the many articles written in Bengali on the Solar Eclipse in 1995, Surjogrohoner Diary published in Bigyan O Bigyankarmi was the best.

In the native village of Purkait, he will be remembered at Sundarban Eye Hospital run by Sundarban Social Development Center (Sultanpur), through the whole day of 20th July starting at 9 am. The group who came all the way from Sultanpur-Lakshmikantapur to participate in the Students Hall program staged a short skit entitled Kongso Panchoi June O Baidyanath—written by Bisuddha-nanda Purkait. They invited all well-wishers from Kolkata to participate in the 20th July Program.

Vol. 47, No. 1, Jul 13 - 19, 2014