Vol. 5 Num 184 Mon. November 29, 2004  

In Memoriam
Poet Tridib Dastidar's flamboyant belligerent life is over

It's too late for you to arrive now, love
It's too late for you to come now, life
It's too late, it's all too late…

Tridib Dastidar's poem

circa 1984

POET Tridib Dastidar's death heard on TV came as a shock because I was out of touch with him for long. Otherwise it was almost predictable. He was slowly running out of health, money and reasons to live for. Poet Belal Chowdhury, friend and consoler of lost souls was there along with a few other writers and admirers at his cremation but he went out like a snuffed candle leaving behind a life which was so crushing miserable that maybe he could take no more. He was 52. .

I don't know whether to feel glad that it's finally over or whether to mourn such a flamboyant life full of poetry and pain.

Belal bhai said that his last days had become wretched. " He had diabetes, blood pressure and abscess on his body. His heart was only half functioning. He was drinking, smoking and led a very careless life."

He could have hardly led a careful life. He was not a bohemian, he had no home. A scion of the fabled Dastidar family of Chittagong, many in politics, art and culture in Bangladesh and West Bengal, he had no one left he could call family. After his mother's death early in life, the family began to disperse. His father, according to Tridib became a rootless man who left home, his sisters married away. He really cared about them, now probably gone away to India. I remember one visit home after he got his first job, buying gifts for all. When he was having problems getting leave in his new job he angrily resigned, his body heaving in rage and tears. He later returned in a calmer mind to his job and Dhaka.

We were colleagues at the History Writing Project and Poet Hasan Hafizur Rahman had hired him out of affection. Tridib cared only about his poems but did do a job, no better or worse than many. Without a salary he would have starved. He was rapidly facing that prospect in the last year or so of his life.

There was no one left. The ones who cared had no clout and those who had probably felt nothing but pity for this fabulous human being. But he would have gone anyway. It was already too late even as he begun.

Belal bhai mentioned that he was selling whatever he had to survive. He had a fantastic collection of sweatshirts and dungarees that he could have dumped but sold his books instead. He would of course try and steal them back driving his book buyer crazy.

Other than selling off his personal stuff, he had nothing else left to sell. And what would have happened after that?

After the History Project folded he joined an insurance company courtesy Mahbub bhai- the poet of the famed 1952 poem " kandatey asheenee fanshir dabi niye esechhee'. Both Mahboob bhai and his wife Jowshan apa were fond of him. They were also from Chittagong. That was his city, his home, where his family once held property which was stolen by the powerful. He held this naïve belief that the politically powerful of Chittagong would come to his aid and build him a house. He never got the joke.

Marriage, poetry and wine

While he could be jolly, he was mostly angry. Angry at this life that had denied him practically everything except few saving graces of moments when he had pleasures. Like when he had married a Chittagong girl of mixed ethnicity, when his poems were being read by more than a few, when he would get a letter from an admiring female fan, the publication of his books, endless food and liquor at some fancy feast thrown by a wealthy patron of literature where Tridib felt equal to all...

He had eloped to marry. The bride's father refused to accept Tridib as a groom and shipped her away to some foreign land and he never saw her again. He tried to find her but one day gave up, accepting that terrible situation like all the other terrible situations that happened to him. He spent a lifetime getting used to bad luck.

"Why don't you track her down?"

He would giggle jauntily. " It's better this way. She would have left me maybe. Listen, I have written a poem. It's fantastic. Why don't you listen?"

His poems were fresh, full of surprises and musical. The early years were his happier moments because the future held promise and he was healthy and young and writing and already famous.

It was better that he went away in his sleep after suffering a cardiac arrest. I think he sort of just stopped living.

So dear old Tridib, it's time you went home. Maybe all that you love awaits you in the great oblivion.

Afsan Chowdhury is a free lance columnist.

Tridib Dastidar: 'It's too late for you to come now, life'