Kolkata: The brutal murder of Sushmita Banerjee in Afghanistan has left people in Kolkata asking just one question: why did she go back, knowing that she may incur the wrath of the Taliban? Of course, her Afghan husband was there, they say. But given the political climate, wasn't the author of A Kabuliwalah's Bengali Wife taking a huge risk? She didn't think so. But it cost her life.
A hush has fallen over the Diamond City housing complex in north Kolkata's Dum Dum area. Ms Banerjee lived in flat 5B for two years till she went to Afghanistan in January. Her only belonging left over here is a handwritten poem stuck on the wall. Her neighbours are in shock.
"It's a brutal killing ...horrific...we Indians believe in peace...not brutal killing," says AK Sanyal who lives on the second floor of the same building. "She was a lady who always smiled. I cannot believe she is no more."
According to her neighbours, Ms Banerjee's ailing father would often come and stay with her. An Afghan gentleman also visited. Most believe he was her husband. Ms Banerjee has two brothers who did not visit her. We could not contact the family but there are reports that the family wants her body back.
Young Pallav Dutta moved into the flat next to Ms Banerjee's three months before she left for Afghanistan. He has not read her book, Ms Banerjee had told him she was a writer but little else. So he had no idea who she was till news of her death on Thursday.
"It was shocking news for us. I knew her and she was a nice human being... This is completely unacceptable," says Mr Dutta, shaking his head in disbelief.
There are also tears. Chandana Mukherjee was Ms Banerjee's closest friend and also editor of her books. She hasn't stopped crying since she heard of Ms Banerjee's death. "Sushmita used to joke that I am a large person, one bullet will do nothing to me," Ms Mukherjee says. "Now we are hearing they pumped 20 bullets into her."
Publishers of her books, including the popular Kabuliwalah's Bengali Wife, and poems are also at a loss or words. But one thing everyone has to say about Ms Banerjee: she was a brave woman, unafraid.
"She was a very gutsy woman," said her neighbour Dipak Deb. "Once she had told me, had I been in Afghanistan, I would have shown the Taliban a thing or two."
A daring woman, a daring comment saying had she been in Afghanistan, she would tackle the Taliban. But sadly the Taliban seems to have got the better of her.