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Idiom of Care and Affection: Remembering Mihir Kar Purkayastha

Idiom of Care and Affection: Remembering Mihir Kar Purkayastha

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Mihir Kar Purkayastha

This narrative reflects on a warm Christmas in Silchar and introduces a poignant reflection on the recent loss of Mihir Kar Purkayastha, a central figure in the establishment of Cachar Cancer Hospital. The narrative delves into personal memories and experiences, highlighting the extraordinary life of Mihir dadu, emphasizing his leadership, kindness, and significant contributions.

“This year it is a warm Christmas”, I tell my father. I want to say that Silchar hasn’t yet experienced its sharpest cold. He’s forgetful of the weather around as he is unaware of the loss of his close companion, mama as he’d call him. We haven’t been able to tell him that Mihir dadu has passed on. On Sunday I attended his commemoration service telling myself that I was carrying my father’s presence along. How does one mourn in absentia? I also carry within me the echo of Mihir dadu’s last conversation with me over phone just after the covid wave of 2021- ” ekbar dekhiya jaiyo dadu re” (“come and see me once”) which I never did.

As an audience, I was moved by what his friends, colleagues and followers shared about his life and his remarkable contributions. His leadership in composing a team and building a hospital from nothing is very worthy of attention and admiration. I wanted to go and say something as my Baba’s proxy, more than ever. But my shyness – as it often did – stopped me. Also, I realized my remembrance of dadu would essentially come from my personal archive that is gravitated towards preserving only the unimportant and the seemingly insignificant remnants of life.

Sitting there I tried to compose a definable geography of my association with dadu via dadu and baba’s closeness with each other. I used to imagine them as characters I would come across in a Bengali novel or a short story – mama-bhagne partnership. I knew they worked together, walking miles together with other team members collecting not just donations for the hospital but also assembling hope and courage to carry on. More than that, what I remember well and heartily is his widening smile, also his shining eyes pouring affection as he conversed with us when he’d visit our house. He always made room for my brother to hold a different, but no less urgent,  dialogue with him. Many years later when brother was severely ill and all hope seemed lost, dadu had ensured his doctor brother’s intervention to bring my brother back to life.

Whenever I think about my brief stay in Delhi in the past, I remember dadu and his fish box. On a hot summer evening in Malviya nagar– khidki extension, Mihir dadu arrived with a tiffin box full of cooked fish, unexpectedly. Perhaps baba told him about my frequent hunt for cooked fish meals. Hence during his visit to his sister residing in Delhi, he made possible that I had a share of fish meal. I realized how he was a proponent of affection.

As I have grown  older, I have surrendered myself to the truth – what Thoreau had reminded us of – death is as common as life. I feel troubled by this thought in an unexamined way.  With this truth, I’m interested in another truth, how the ordinary and the extraordinary in Mihir Kar Purkayastha’s life always held each other in strange and sublime ways. In his life, both abounded.


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Profile of Mihir Kar Purkayastha:

Mr Mihir Kar Purkayastha was one of the chief initiators of Cachar Cancer Hospital Society which eventually led to the establishment of Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. He was Central Government Officer under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He was fully functional and active with the NYK( Nehru Yuva Kendra) with social activities. He was a social worker doing his duties for under privileged section of the society.

Shy of fame and adulation, he lived a remarkable life dedicated to social care and cancer treatment ventures.

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