Sandipta, A Sister I Lost


Sandipta Chatterjee (1978-2012)
Sandipta Chatterjee (1978-2012)

NEW UPDATE. As of June 12, 2013. — She did NOT die of a heart attack. At least, that was not the primary reason for her sudden death. Recently, I found out through talking to Sandipta’s family members and friends that she died of a preventable health crisis, that she was not looked after properly by people who should have looked after her, and on the day of her death there was major negligence by a very small number of people who surrounded her. Plus, the shabby nursing home where she was taken for treatment was a major scam. Sandipta died of all the above reasons. I keep thinking and writing about her not only to remember her, but also to warn others like her who could fall victims of such a horrific social situation and massive medical malpractice. I hope you join me on this awareness mission. Save many more Sandiptas by spreading the word. Thank you. -Partha Banerjee, New York.

On a Calcutta cable channel we follow from here in New York, I heard a few minutes ago that its news anchor Sandipta Chatterjee suddenly passed away.
She was only 34 years old. She died of a heart attack, according to ABP-Ananda where she worked since 2005.
I knew Sandipta. The absolutely unexpected news of her death shook me to the core.
Sitting here in the U.S., ten thousand miles away from Calcutta, we often don’t know how to react to such news. I have written about it at length. Death of the people we knew. Death of the people who we cared for, admired and respected. Death of authors, poets, singers and filmmakers we worshiped. Death of friends, relatives, loved ones. Sometimes it seems like the news is not real; perhaps it’s just a bad nightmare and would pass as soon as we wake up. I have written about our very surreal feelings and our unnatural ways to deal with them.
Some deaths are expected. Some are not. Some are too close. Some are a little distant.
She was so full of life. She was so full of love.
She was so full of life. She was so full of love.

How do I describe this emotion right now? I don’t have much. I don’t know what to say, and how to say it. The scrolling lines at the bottom of the TV screen when they were airing news of some other politics, violence or cricket match were simply too unreal. They said one Sandipta’s body would be taken tomorrow morning at nine to Calcutta’s crematorium.
I read the lines a second time. And then a third time. Who is Sandipta and why is her body being taken to the crematorium? Why is ABP-Ananda airing the news, and why is the Sandipta I knew absent on the news screen tonight?
What is going on here? — I restlessly asked myself.
Then at a half-minute break between news segments, they showed her picture. It was Sandipta I knew. Sandipta Chatterjee. She suddenly died of a heart attack on Sunday.
Sandipta died of a heart attack on Sunday??
I knew her. I came to know her through sharing some common interests on Facebook about five years ago. One interest was Tagore: she was a graduate from Tagore’s university Vishva Bharati. The second common interest was Satyajit Ray: on Facebook, we shared notes about our love for Ray and his movies and short stories.
We shared other interests too: we were both from Calcutta, and that too, from North Calcutta. Her Facebook pictures showed that she came from an average, middle class family. In fact, photos she posted on her Facebook from before her marriage reminded me of the neighborhood where I grew up: dark, dingy, dusty, crowded. Her premarital home was just as middle-class North Calcuttan as the home where I grew up. Her friends looked like my friends.
I told her a number of times she reminded me of one of the sisters I left behind in Calcutta.
A dear sister from Kolkata
A dear sister from Kolkata

In early 2012, after I recorded my Tagore songs, I called her up and went to meet her at her workplace. That was the only time we met. She came out of her first-floor studio and we greeted each other with a warm smile. She was very busy. Still, she found time to sit down in the studio’s lounge and took time to talk to me for about half an hour. I gave her a copy of my Tagore album “Aro Ektu Bosho.”
We shared some ideas about how to work with like-minded Bengalis — especially those who love Tagore and Satyajit Ray — on the rapidly-engulfing quicksand on the cultural front. We thought it would be good if we put up a pragmatic plan to work together in the coming days. Sandipta was not nearly as political as me; being a news anchor at a very demanding, private cable channel, she probably didn’t have any time to spare on anything else except for her work and family. And I told her she worked too hard, way too hard. I would see her anchoring news at every possible hour — practically every single day.
A thirty year-old, beautiful, young, married woman, she obviously gave up a lot of her personal time — to satisfy her workplace demands. Yet, she did find a little bit of time to talk on and off Facebook about shared interests, shared passion: especially Tagore and Bengali language and culture.
Did she take care of her health? Did she find time to have medical check-ups regularly? Was there time for her to look after herself? Did she eat well, rest well, or exercise? Did she know she had a life-threatening heart condition?
At 34, Sandipta worked through December 1 for seven years at ABP-Ananda, until recently known as Star-Ananda. She did not come back to work on December 2. News broke that Sandipta had a massive heart attack, and died at a North Calcutta hospital.
Sandipta died of a heart attack??
I am still not sure how to react to this news. It has not sunk in.
But she is gone.
I am going to miss her. She was like a dear sister. A young, vibrant, beautiful, hard-working, art-loving, music-loving, Tagore-loving, Ray-loving, Calcutta-loving sister.
RIP, sis.
Sincerely (and Very Sadly) Writing,
Brooklyn, New York


  1. yes sometimes some news seems to be not real, just cannot be acceptable, since the time i saw the news i keep asking myself how ?? and i cudnt found the answer. we were from the same school shyamnagar balika vidyalaya and from the same town shyamnagar a small town in north 24 parganas, WB. she was sandipta di for me. may her soul rest in peace.

  2. The news shook me too. I knew her as a ABP ananda news anchor only. Still the news is so shocking for me. HEART ATTACK!!!!! At 34!!! WHY? A fews years to go – I will also be 34. I have so many responsibilities to take care – both at home and workplace. How is it possible to leave everything and go all of a sudden at 34? How could she go? Why that damn heart attack had to happen?

  3. yes, Partha, alogwith u myself alone now,sitting in my office trying still to come in terms with her loss. Unlike u she was not personally known to me..but her vibrant presentation often kept me(like others) glued to the set..I was dumbstruck for some time. Now I share my feelings with u…But how did she die at such a tender age? Did the enormous presuure of media world take the toll on her?How could a 34 yr old bubbly girl die of cardiac arrest with only one day’s sickness..

  4. Yes, am merely a viewer, but sitting back in my ofice yesterday when I got the news , I was shocked, I was sad, I didn’t know much about her but a lively smile, twinkled bright eyes and warm look reminded me of those days when she would relentlessly cover news……. Will miss u dear

  5. she joined star ananda in 2005, not 1995….. anywayz….. left heart broken by sandipta’s sudden demise….. still can’t believe it… RIP Sandipta Chatterjee !!!

  6. very nice wordings describing her ..really sad to read the news of sandipta’s sudden demise.But wish to say that it is not a matter of her not taking care properly /spending too much at work without break /or working for family etc.,If that was the case lakhs of women construction workers and other females(like maid servants etc ) who work from dawn to dusk just for few hundreds of rupees in India must be dying daily..So it is not like Mrs Sandipta did not take proper care..She cheeerfully did her work … Some times such things like sudden massive cardiac attacks just happen..We do not know the reason…neither can we find one..May her soul rest in peace

  7. Sandiptadi was one of the best anchors. I cannot believe that she is not among us. I am extremely hurt by the shocking news. May her soul rest in peace.

  8. I think without knowing specific reason behind this accident, it will be foolish to comment and blame on ‘workpressure’. Now a days disease are no longer age bounded. I only watched television to see news only. So I almost know every news readers of the popular channels. Sandipta didi were working on this channel most probably from their beginning. I felt very sat when I heard this. Like other I will miss your every nuances. RIP didi.

  9. deeply shaken on hearing the news of her untimely demise..i liked her very much…she was one of the best anchors amongst all the bengali news channels..cant believe that a life so young and unfulfilled is no more.RIP beautiful lady!

  10. very Very heart breaking news for us the viewer. She was just nice presenter. Well written by Partha. We will remember you Madam !

  11. I feel like loosing a very close relative of mine. I am so sad, I can not express in words Anyway, we will see her some place some time again in next world.

  12. It was a great shock for me and my family. Someway, somehow we bonded with her intimately….
    maybe by her style of presentation.., maybe the way she carried herself.., maybe how she resembled a popular bengali actress.., maybe after all she was a very nice person. Her going has indeed left
    a big void, and we are sorry we could not do anything for her in any way. Maybe writing this bit will somehow release a fraction of a huge loss.

  13. Thanks Partha for remembering her. I also met her up on Facebook and used to chat every evening almost .. such an empty feeling and no one to share with ….. her messages in my inbox are like treasures to me … I never thought that they would ever be of so much value to me… I am still in shock… and still believe that she will come back soon

  14. It was a great shock for me and my family. Someway, somehow we bonded with her intimately….
    maybe by her style of presentation.., maybe the way she carried herself.., maybe how she resembled a popular bengali actress.., maybe after all she was a very nice person. Her going has indeed left
    a big void, and we are sorry we could not do anything for her in any way. Maybe writing this bit will somehow release a fraction of a huge loss.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here