"To err is human. One must not take that into account. It is harmful for oneself. One gets into the habit of finding fault," Saradamani Mukhopadhyay, better known as Sarada Devi or Maa Sarada, had said. But even in her wildest imaginations-the spiritual leader, who was Ramakrishna Paramhansa's wife-must not have thought that Sudipta Sen, the chairman of the Saradha group, which has allegedly defrauded thousands of depositors, would take her words so seriously.
Bengal's most wanted in one of the biggest financial frauds, Sen's biological parents were Nripendra Narayan Sen and Ranu Kana Sen (so says his passport). But that's not interesting enough. In an 18-page "suicide note" to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Sen has declared himself as the only son of Maa Saradha (that's how he spells the name).
"I am a strong follower of Maa Saradha (wife of Sri Sri Ram Krishna Paramhansa Deb) and I have fully dedicated myself to her and I have always treated myself to be the only son of Maa Saradha and have started my business not for becoming a rich man but to establish the ideals and ideologies of Maa Saradha, to help the poor and the needy, and to give a better life to the people of rural and semi-urban area of India," the letter said. That thousands of people from villages and small towns are now baying for his blood, courtesy his business, is another story.
The name of his business bears testimony to his belief in "Maa Saradha". The group's more than 165 companies listed with the registrar of companies across West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, all start with the name "Saradha".
Agents, too, vouch that their branch managers would always tell them how devout Sen was. Apart from the higher commission and proximity to the state dispensation, agents had put their faith in "Saradha" companies. It was all in the name, for them.
But Sen's conduct belies the facade of a Sarada disciple. After all, "Maa Saradha" couldn't possibly approve of running a fake motorcycle factory, where workers were paid to put up the act of portraying the factory as operational every time depositors and agents paid a visit.
Sen's empire was pretty expansive, but even after doing business in Bengal for more than two decades, and being in the limelight for the last three years, a handful of people can claim to "know" him. His identity is shrouded in mystery. Sen's passport gave a residential address, where no one knows him as "Sudipta". His erstwhile neighbours in Survey Park know him as "Shankar". But they have not seen him in the last 18 years, as he had to flee the area after he got involved in a scandal.
Even the number of wives that Sen has ranges from two to six. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says, he has three. It is believed that Sen's dalliances actually gave away his details to the police out of spite over his relationship with Debjani Mukherjee, Saradha's executive director, who was caught with him.
Mukherjee, who had joined Saradha Tours and Travels as a receptionist and telephone operator, rose to the rank of executive director in little time. She would even screen the people Sen met.
Most people who have worked in the 10 media outfits of Sen-that include Channel 10, Tara channels, Sakalbela, Bengal Post-have never seen him. Senior journalists have probably met him once. That's hardly surprising, given that Sen would hold meeting with his key people in the wee hours of the morning!
It was Sen's media foray that made him a household name, pretty much as it ensured his presence in the corridors of power, more importantly the Trinamool Congress. Ironically, it also brought him down.