anit mukerjea
At 91, he has no intention of quitting and resting well ‘after life&’s fitful fever’ as Shakespeare would have us believe. Most other nonagenarians are disposed to be inactive, leading sedentary lifestyles limited by crippling, physical incapacities of the aged. But not he, not by the slightest stretch of the imagination, he prefers to fight for survival, no matter what the odds are. He prefers to remain alive and kicking, and is presently preoccupied as the Vice President of the Lions Club of Thakurpukur Aid & Care.
Such is the zest for life of Captain Sudangsu Bhusan Dutta. He is not yet prepared to cross the border between life and death, although he crossed borders from Burma to India at the tender age of seven to settle down in his native village at Noakhali.
He is a Bengali who is adept at spouting fluent Burmese, being born in August 1922 in Lashio, on the borders of China that was once a part of Burma. With eyes moist, he goes down memory lane, tracing golden moments spent in the august company of the late Amiyo Bose, the nephew of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sushila Debi Ranga, the daughter of an eminent MP Prof N.G Ranga.
They were instrumental in making Captain SB Dutta the secretary of the All India Student Federation of India in Kolkata. In 1939, when World War II broke out, Capt Dutta addressed a meeting at Wellington Square as protest spokesman of the Quit India movement and courted arrest.
His mind races back to the time when the Noakhali communal riots flared up in 1946; he accompanied Mahatma Gandhi and Sucheta Kriplani to the district. Apart from rubbing shoulders with political luminaries, Capt Dutta also takes great pride in his personal achievements, dotted as they were, with a whole range of activities.
After his marriage, he joined the 20th Pilot training course conducted by the Royal Indian Airforce in Pune. But his mother&’s sudden demise led him to resign. After a few months, he joined the Army as a Commissioned Officer in the Burma reserve owing to of his command of the Burmese language. He was subsequently posted in Myaung Mia as District Administrator under the British administration. During his stay in Burma, Dutta met U Aung San, father of the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Chi, who is at present the opposition leader in Burma.
“My wife was the first Indian lady to re-enter Burma after World War II,” he says. On his return to India, he joined as General Manager of Central Inland Water Transport Corporation under the Ministry of Transport & Shipping.
He recalls a landmark event after his retirement in 1982. He was serving as Chief Commandant of the Salt Lake Refugee Camp, where he had to manage 3,000 riot-affected refugees from the 1971 Bangladesh war.
At present, Dutta is fighting for his property rights and keeps fit with regular workouts. With his mental faculties still quite sharp, he potters about on his own steam, without the crutch of human support. What sustains his zest for life is his burning desire to survive come what may, and hit a century. To him, aging is purely mental.