"absolutely necessary for the statue to have a realistic facial expression."
An Indian spent £2,500 on a lifelike silicone statue of his late wife, who passed away due to Covid-19.
Retired civil servant Tapas Sandilya had been married to Indrani for 39 years before her untimely death on May 4, 2021.
She passed away alone in hospital as Tapas was forced to isolate at their home in Kolkata during India’s second wave of Covid-19.
In memory of his late wife, Tapas commissioned a sculptor to create a silicone statue of Indrani.
Weighing 30 kilograms, the statue now sits on the sofa, adorned in a saree and gold jewellery. Tapas even combs the statue’s hair.
Tapas said that a decade ago, he and his wife visited a temple and could not stop admiring the statue that was there.
It was there that Indrani expressed her wish to have a statue made in her likeness when she dies.
Tapas said: “We visited the Iskcon temple in Mayapur a decade ago and could not stop admiring the lifelike statue of the order’s founder, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami.
“It was then Indrani had told me of her desire for a similar statue (of hers) if she happened to pass away before me.”
Tapas said his family was against the idea, but he argued that having a statue made in her image to remember her was not much different from people who keep photographs of their late loved ones on display at home.
A few months after her death, Tapas searched for a sculptor and eventually found Subimal Das.
Subimal, who usually creates figures out of wax, fibreglass and silicone for museums, calls this one of his most challenging projects.
Explaining why the project took more than six months, Subimal said:
“It was absolutely necessary for the statue to have a realistic facial expression.”
Photographs of Indrani’s face from different angles were collected. A clay model was then made to form the basis of the fibre moulding and silicone casting.
Tapas worked with Subimal for the clay-moulding phase as nothing less than Indrani’s real facial expression would do for him.
He also went to a tailor for the statue’s saree.
Tapas said: “My wife would always get her clothes done by him and he knew the exact measurements.
“Everything had to be a perfect fit.”
Subimal said the colour pigmentation process, the hair-grafting, and the placement of the eyes were critical factors.
The grafting of hair took almost 30 days to complete and Tapas also wanted a few grey streaks to make the statue look lifelike.
The statue has attracted neighbours and other visitors. But some have claimed that Tapas is seeking attention.
Dismissing the claims, Tapas said he just wanted to fulfil his late wife’s wishes.
“I am, strictly speaking, fulfilling my wife’s abiding wish.”
Although he now has a statue of his late wife, it does not lessen Tapas’ pain of losing his wife.
He said: “I was in isolation at home while Indrani was taken to a hospital in south Kolkata. I can never forget that.”
But the statue gives the feeling that “she is always with me”.