Tension and anxiety gave way to relief and smiles as the Dutta family of Ahiritola in the city received news of police officer Atindranath Dutta's release from Maoist captivity on Thursday evening.
After being tossed between hope and despair throughout the day, which saw the Maoists at one point of time threatening to kill Dutta in protest against police firing on them on Thursday morning, it was joy at last for the cop's father when Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty broke the happy news to him.
"He said my son has been freed and is on way home and I can speak to him after some time," the senior Dutta exclaimed, surrounded by close relatives. Soon sweets were distributed to the mediapersons and others present in the house.
However, media persons gathered at the residence of the Duttas had been claiming his release for quite some time. The chief secretary's phone call only put the official seal on the development.
But the morning had not started off well for the family, as news came that the police were engaged in an exchange of fire with the rebels at Lakhanpur in West Midnapore district, where Maoist leader Kishanjee had promised to release the kidnapped Dutta.
"The way the situation developed in the morning, we all fell sick with worry. Kishanjee threatened to kill Atindranath if the police forces were not withdrawn within ten minutes. Then we spoke to Kishanjee, who said the government is responsible for the happenings. After we spoke to a government representative, the operation was stopped," Dutta's father said.
"Around noon, when we heard that the 14 women Maoists had been released, we became certain that things were moving in the right direction," said the police officer's father-in-law.
Asked whether they still wanted him to continue in the police department, Ashoke Dutta replied: "He had got five or six other jobs in the central and state government. Even after joining the police, he got an offer from the Food Corporation of India, but the police department did not release him."
"He was a meritorious student. He holds a Master's in economics. We have told him so many times to join some other service. He can even make a living out of teaching students."
"But he is a grown up man. He liked this job. He says this profession has more glamour. We will go by his decision," said Ashok Dutta, a retired bank employee.
However, he complained that Atindranath was being given only tough postings. "In all other jobs, like in bank, easy postings are given after a tough one. But not in his case. He is being shifted from one dreaded zone to another."
"The pay packet is nothing compared to the risk involved," he said.
Atindranath's mother Chhanda said: "I don't want him to continue in police. But he is a grown-up and responsible man. He will decide."
Atindranath's wife Indrani said; "I feel as if I have got a fresh lease of life. I am waiting for the time when I will be able to see him again."
The police officer's two-year-old child Oindrakshi has virtually been without food since the time her father was kidnapped. "We could not make her eat anything. She was constantly crying. She was restless. When I told her now that dad is coming back, she immediately ran towards the door. She said she will kiss her father and then eat," said Indrani.
Sankrail police station officer-in-charge Dutta was abducted from his quarters near the police station under West Midnapore district on Tuesday.