By Sachin Malhan
Two days back I received word that Saurav Datta was no more. Someone who always had the last word had uttered his own.
Between 2006 and 2008 I had the opportunity to spend many many precious hours with Saurav as he taught at LST (by then a part of Career Launcher) and ultimately became its National Programme Manager.
I know that sometime after 2010 Saurav became better recognized as a journalist and visiting faculty at law colleges but the Saurav I knew is the young man whose photograph is the headliner of the obituaries that LiveLaw and Bar & Bench put out today.
I look at the photograph and half expect him to launch into one of his monologues –
‘You know, Sachin da, Sahir Ludhianvi had written:
खा हैं ज़िंदगी को, कुछ इतना करीब से
चेहरे तमाम लगने लगे हैं अजीब से
(I have seen life from so up close
That everyone’s face seems distorted)’
I remember no interaction with Saurav as a simple exchange of information or a meek update. He vigorously agreed and rigorously disagreed; he demonstrated and remonstrated; and like some penurious magician, only Calcutta can produce he pulled materials from old films, Ritwik Ghatak, Marxist literature and his legal training to weave a conversation out of nothing.
If it was an argument that he was on the losing end of then it would end with a downward turn of the head and a grin that suggested that this was not the last of the matter. If it was a conversation on social or cultural issues then it would often find its way into an evening at some blue-collar watering hole – and he was a card-carrying member of a few – where his repertoire was punctuated by quotes and verses.
Yet you would have to be blind to see that those soft brown eyes carried their deep dark secrets. We all have ours but his weighed disproportionately heavily on him. A few he shared with me, and I hope there were others he shared many more with, but I am certain that most he carried with all too privately.
Saurav was a romantic and romantics risk being misunderstood, misled, mistaken and, often crushed. Yet they live in close contact with the rasa of life – through music, poetry, legends and ideals – even if that means flirting with melancholy.
This man of ideals was also a man of principles. One of his principles was his integrity, especially where the interest of students was concerned. In 2008, shortly after he joined, there was a major crisis with the exit of a couple of legal reasoning teachers.
I had left LST by then but was still advising the faculty and taking a few classes. Hence the faculty crisis came to my door.
‘Sachin-da, I see only one option. Jodi tor daak shune keu na aase tobe ekla cholo re.’
(Where no one answers your call, then walk alone – Tagore).
And so he went, this eccentric and funny and melancholic young man with a flair for the dramatic, to over a dozen cities in a little over a month teaching several thousand students in the peak of Indian summer. Maybe you were one.
More recently, when discovering that my daughter’s name is Leela, he did his Calcutta magician act again and pulled out a black and white photo, from James Ivory’s The Householder, of “Leela” Naidu lying in bed reading a book. He ended that email by quoting his beloved Ludhianvi again:
मैं हर इक पल का शायर हूँ
हर इक पल मेरी कहानी है
हर इक पल मेरी हस्ती है
हर इक पल मेरी जवानी है
मैं हर इक पल का शायर हूँ
(I’m a poet for all the moments
My story will last for all the moments
My existence will last for all the moments
My youth will last for all the moments
I’m a poet for all the moments)
~ Sachin Malhan
If you have any nice photos with Saurav during his teaching years please share them with me at [email protected]
An independent journalist, Saurav Datta had written for several publications including Scroll.in, DNA, Caravan, Al Jazeera, The Quint, Catch News, and Bar & Bench.
Datta was a graduate of NUJS Kolkata. He went on to work with Senior Advocate Kamini Jaiswal.
He served as National Programme Manager for Law School Tutorials (LST) from 2008-9. He also did stints as Visiting Faculty at KC Law College, Mumbai; Symbiosis Law School, Pune; and Sophia College, Mumbai. (Via Bar and Bench)