Times Of India Editor Sumit Sen
A great loss to us was the passing away of Sumit Sen, Editor, Times of India, Kolkata. Krishnendu Mukherjee, a Sanctuary Wind Under the Wings awardee, remembers how Sen supported him and other writers to delve into issues surrounding wildlife conservation and climate change.
We were almost half way through our safari on a misty October morning in Kabini, a lush green landscape by the picturesque Kabini river and a key part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in south India, when the Gypsy driver alerted us, “tiger! tiger!”
The next couple of minutes were pure magic. A growling tiger elegantly jumped out of a bush before disappearing into the woods on the other side of the road. I have been privy to several such sightings on official assignments and private holidays over the past decade, but my association was not just about the wilderness… but also about the man who fired the zeal in me and gave me opportunity after opportunity to return to the forest to document and unwind in the lap of nature – Sumitda, my editor.
There are several stories to share from my recent trip – how a tigress walked alongside our Gypsy for several minutes in Kabini, how a tusker’s appearance on the river banks transformed the landscape and how a pack of wild dogs chased a chital. But the man who was my confidant, supporter, inspiration, is no longer there to share my joy. I miss seeing the sparkle in Sumitda’s eyes when he heard of my encounters.
My association with Sumit Sen went far beyond the daily affairs of a hectic newsroom. Our connect was wildlife and a common love for the wilderness. Each time I participated in a brainstorming session, the canvas spanned the Sundarbans, North Bengal (where he spent almost 10 years of his childhood), tigers and elephants. Every such interaction was a learning experience that helped me discover new perspectives.
The day I joined the Times of India Kolkata bureau as part of its news desk, in 2007, Sumitda asked me about my interests beyond the predictable, regular desk work. On hearing that I would really enjoy writing about wildlife issues, he was extremely supportive and enthusiastic. Over the last eight years, he encouraged me to write several reports, some of which were widely appreciated on publication. He would always emphasise the need to offer a unique perspective to my stories, so that even the lay person could relate to it.
I found a mentor in him. An elder brother, a friend and a guide. I will miss him forever.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 12, December 2015.