A grieving daughter's anger and anguish stunned the city's police commissioner into silence on Tuesday.
"I will not allow you to take my father's body out of the hospital until you arrest the person who killed him," 20-year-old Tanushree Chowdhury screamed the moment her eyes met R.K. Pachnanda's.
He stopped in his tracks. Everyone else stopped with him.
Someone standing nearby whispered something into her ears. He appeared to be reminding her that the man in front of her was the police commissioner. It didn't matter to Tanushree.
"All of us can see the face of the youth who shot my father. All the TV channels are showing it. Then why can't you arrest him right now?" she demanded, tears streaming down her cheeks as she held younger brother Tamal tight.
Pachnanda paused before finding something to say. "Our officers are looking for him and he will soon be arrested. You don't worry…. If you need any help, do meet me," he said before briskly walking towards a room where industries minister Partha Chatterjee and mayor Sovan Chatterjee were waiting for him.
A posse of police officers had escorted the commissioner to the lobby of the ground-floor emergency ward at the Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) seconds earlier, little knowing that a volcano of emotions was waiting to eject.
Slain sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury's wife Minati was in a room adjacent to the reception counter. Tanushree was with her 15-year-old kid brother, trying hard to put up a brave face.
Then she erupted.
After the police chief had left, joint commissioner of police (headquarters) Jawed Shamim took relatives of the Chowdhurys aside to persuade them to allow the slain officer's body to be moved for post-mortem without his daughter knowing it.
Tanushree stood a few feet away, seemingly unaware of what was happening around her. "I don't think I did anything wrong," she was overheard telling a relative about her outburst in front of the police commissioner. "My father gave his life for the department. He is a hero to me. Why haven't the police been able to arrest his killer till now?"
A bout of food poisoning from Monday morning had prompted sub-inspector Chowdhury, attached to the Special Branch, to ask for a change in his duty schedule for Tuesday. His seniors asked him to report for duty at Harimohan Ghose College in Garden Reach in the morning and take the second half of the day off, family members said.
Chowdhury set out of home at 7.45am, promising to be back home in Thakurpukur latest by 4pm. "He wasn't feeling well and had telephoned one of his seniors to ask if he could take the day off or go for work late. But the officer said that the roster had been finalised and he would have to report for duty even if he was unwell," wife Minati recounted.
"He called me twice between 9.30 and 11am, saying that tension was building up in the area and he might be late in returning. An hour later, my brother-in-law called to say that my husband had been shot dead," she said, choking on her tears.
Chowdhury, who spent most of his life at Saradapally in Thakurpukur, had joined the police department in 1984 as a constable. Over the years, he sat for several departmental examinations to rise up the ranks and become a sub-inspector in the Special Branch. He had been posted as the divisional officer of West Port and Behala police stations before being transferred back to the Lord Sinha Road office last year.
Colleagues described Chowdhury as an earnest policeman. "He was a very sincere officer. Unlike many who often join the service and retire as constables, he regularly sat for exams so that he would be promoted. His death is a big loss to the department," colleague and friend Apurba Chakraborty said.
Daughter Tanushree, a first-year student at Vivekananda College in Thakurpukur, was with friends on the campus when her mother called to give the news.
Son Tamal, a Class VIII student at Arya Vidyamandir, was in school when one of his cousins arrived to take him to the hospital. The teenager, still in his uniform, apparently didn't know his father had died until his sister's screams in front of commissioner Pachnanda gave her away.