Farewell, my smiling friend

Srikumar Bondyopadhyay, one of the finest financial journalists in Kolkata, passed away on Friday. Loved and respected by many for his professional dedication and caring nature, Srikumar has acquired a band of followers and admirers in the past three decades. A student of economics, he specialised in banking, finance and investments, and created a niche for himself in “personal finance” management writing. Core Sector Communique in a series of articles is attempting to figure out this precious journalist’s life and work. 

This is not an intro I was prepared for. As professional journalists, we have all done our bit of writing obituaries and memoirs. But I never thought that I would have to sit down to write about one of our own. 

 Sriku — as most of us liked to call him — sat next to me for a good six years in The Telegraph Business room. His gait was of a Kumar for sure. He did not look 55, which I discovered much to my surprise only Friday afternoon. But that surprise paled in the shadow of utter disbelief when the ‘news broke’. 

 We fondly recalled, collectively in the TTBus team, present and former, Srikumar’s stint with us. Before joining TT in 2005 or thereabout, he was with the Indian Express in Delhi. But he wanted to move back to Calcutta to look after his family and an opportunity opened up in our bureau. The senior leadership was looking for someone to work at the desk and also write on personal finance (PF). Sriku fitted the bill.

Srikumar Bandyopadhyay
Srikumar Bandyopadhyay

Everyone soon realised that his real passion lay in PF. He moved out of desk and focused on the Monday special page on PF, apart from reporting on banking, finance and insurance. He continued to do so with astute skill till the very end while masterfully switching to vernacular later in life. 

He was our go-to man in February when the Union Budget was presented, to make sense of how the tax tweaks will affect our monthly take home. We would all seek his advice in planning tax.

 He professed an equity cult — Sriku’s advice was not to invest in dud insurance schemes or in post offices to save taxes. He would tell us to invest in SIP when it was relatively a new idea. If we did — and some surely had — the rally from 2014 onwards would leave him/ her in good stead today. 

He left TT in 2011 to join then soon-to-be-launched Ei Samay and our contact waned over time. But whenever we met up at press conferences, Srikumar would greet with a broad smile, as he used to when he entered the TTBus room. In fact, when I broke the most unfortunate news to a friend on Friday who had briefly worked with him, she referred to him as the “always smiling” person. 

 The pandemic made meetings rare. The last time we met was probably a few months back. I wish it was otherwise. Farewell, my smiling friend.

(Sambit Saha is the Associate Editor (Business), The Telegraph)