Editorial: How to create a civil society

My first encounter with pharmacist Tom Sengupta at Schneider Drug was during one of my more challenging moments of parenting: my fourth-grade daughter had lice.

We’d bagged up the stuffed animals and pillows; washed all the clothes, linens, sheets and blankets; and now I was in search of the harshest remedy I could find to tackle what felt like a nightmare.

Sengupta stepped out from behind the pharmacy counter and walked me through the painstaking process of ridding the pest from a child’s head and home. He steered me away from harsh over-the-counter chemicals. Turns out—despite the lack of “scientific evidence,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—a concoction of mayonnaise and tea tree oil seemed to do the trick.

Sengupta spent a lot of time with me that day, something no one who has been in that store would be surprised to hear.

“I try to represent how civil society ought to be,” he told Anne Holzman when she spoke with him for the story about the sale of his store at the corner of University Avenue and Bedford Street in Prospect Park.

A civil society. What does that mean?

For Sengupta, it means “making things a little bit easier” for your fellow citizens as we all travel through our life struggles. If you have the means to do that, he said, “you have an obligation to make a difference.”

It seems silly to write about a childhood case of lice when writing about a man who has spent his life trying to be a voice of hope for all. But that’s the thing: for Tom Sengupta, everyone matters. The mural on the wall outside his store says, “We have the power, opportunity and obligation to change our society based not on greed or selfishness but on a real community where everyone matters.”

Tom Sengupta has made an enormous difference in many people’s lives and we wish him the best as he faces cancer surgery and the sale of his business.

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