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there was nothing unusual on the sunday morning. at 6 am, when i was browsing my article published in the sunday magazine of deccan herald, there was a missed call. hoping it to be a wrong number (as it happens on most of the sundays), i ignored it and continued with the internet surfing.

half-an-hour later, i found the call was from kolkata. i rang back. my dear friend ambarish dutta’s wife was on the line. “dada is no more,” said bou di, with her voice choked. i just did not know how to react. having uttered ‘very sorry’ in a feeble voice, the conversation ended. when my wife neena came to know about this sad news, she immediately called up bou di and expressed grief on our behalf.

bou di, as she is fondly known, is a lecturer in kolkata, and had become friendly with my wife during her patna visit. her hubby ambarish dutta was posted as special correspondent, tribune in patna since 2005. since the last one year, he was not well and used to face acute pain in the stomach in the dead of night. later, the doctors detected ailment in his pancreas. the disease eventually became cancerous. but dada, as he was popularly known in the media circle of patna, was a fighter. he took pains to consult the best of doctors in india, be it in kolkata or vellore. the doctors even assured him of a possible heal-up and a fresh lease of life for another 15 years, post-operation. this he himself told me over phone last month and said he was going to resume his duty in patna from july onwards. but destiny had willed otherwise.

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our friendship was not decades old, but in journalistic circle, it was perceived to be akin to jai-viru of sholay. we met almost every week, discussed every topic under the sun, shared news and views, besides discussed family matters. with the passage of time, he became an extended member of our joint family.

my father still remembers his first trip to our house where he had his favourite rice-fish curry. “ghar ka khana ka baat hi kuch aur hai,” he said, while trying to improve his hindi.

all his invitations and press releases used to come to my house before he went on a six-month leave. his office assured him of all possible assistance and even offered to take him to chandigarh for treatment. but dada trusted his kolkata doctors more. eventually, his associate editor mr aj philip went to his kolkata residence to meet him and wished him an early recovery.

last week, i talked to his wife and she said that dada had been operated upon successfully, and he would get well soon. before that, ambarish, too, had told me over phone that from july onwards, he would resume his duty in patna.

his friends including politicians, journalists and some close relatives were anxiously waiting for him. only to know today that it’s an endless wait. our common friend vivek singh, secretary, art and culture, rightly summed up: “a great friend gone.”

for me too, it’s an irreparable loss. after all, my friend in need was a friend indeed!