Digha therapy beckons

Calcutta, Feb. 11: Mamata Banerjee will spend two nights in Digha but only the chief minister can tell if she will heed doctors' advice and treat the seaside retreat as a soothing holiday.

The chief minister will attend a government programme at Nandigram on Tuesday afternoon and then head to the holiday town. "I will go to Digha (tomorrow)…. and return to Calcutta on Thursday, ahead of Saraswati Puja," Mamata told a programme at Bhangar today.

Two government lodges have been put on the ready in Digha and officials said the chief minister could choose either Saikat Abas or the irrigation guesthouse. Both facilities offer a view of the sea, though Saikat Abas is closer to the beach.

Mamata's manic schedule ' the chief minister had once said she had to work bhooter moto (like a demon) ' has been in the news of late because of her outbursts. Some doctors had seen a link between the pressures of ceaseless work and the display of temper marked by an admonition to her guards that they "should be whipped".

A source described how doctors took pains over the past few days to explain why she needed a break from work.

"They said her schedule was gruelling. To protect herself, she needs to take a break of four-five days every three to four months. She urgently needs spells away from all her work, they told her," the source said.

At Bhangar, Mamata did not use the word "holiday". But doctors have "earnestly" advised her not to carry work along. "She has been asked not to take any bureaucrat or party leader with her. Otherwise, she won't be able to relax," the family source said.

Knowing Mamata, it is easier said than done, though a break will offer a chance to recharge batteries before the panchayat poll battle. She has travelled frequently in her 20 months in power but the movers and shakers of Writers' Buildings ' not to mention reporters ' had trailed her all the time.

When she was in the Opposition, Mamata would stay awake till dawn and then sleep almost till noon. After becoming chief minister, she was forced to change her sleep pattern. She still goes to sleep late but circumstances force her to wake up early most days, sources said.

Doctors said a sudden and prolonged change in the sleep schedule could result in stress. In case of chronic stress, the body undergoes several biochemical changes and irritability is a fallout.

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, a doctor, had also advised Mamata to ensure adequate sleep. "She needs a proper balanced diet every day and at least six to seven hours of sleep," said another doctor.

Mamata, not known to be keen on breakfast, has a light lunch before she leaves home for Writers'. At work, she hardly eats except for the odd telebhaja and muri.

Mamata's predecessor, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had taken only one holiday in his 10-and-a-half years in office. He went to Shankarpur, a fishing harbour not far from Digha, with his wife and daughter.

However, Bhattacharjee went home for lunch every workday and spent some time every evening at his favourite haunt, Nandan, seeing films, reading and chatting.

Jyoti Basu scored better on this front. He visited London every once in a while and then he went off to Holong in the Dooars closer home. Even when he was in Calcutta, Basu kept time for himself and his closest friends in the evening.

Mamata, on the other hand, shuttles between her Kalighat home and Writers'. Then there are the district visits, which are anything but a holiday, however beautiful the locale.

"Doctors may have asked her to keep party colleagues and bureaucrats away during the break, but Didi is unlikely to listen," a Trinamul leader said.

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