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Sunday, April 4, 2010

* A Memoir as a Tribute

To Dr. Chinmoy Guha on his Knighthood

It was a day in the early summer of 1991 between the First Gulf War and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi when I first read that article. Remember it was also the year when there was a massacre in East Timor and civil war in Somalia; the year when Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize, Ben Okri the Booker and John Updike the Pulitzer; and the year when Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands was first published. And it was a time when Calcutta was still called Calcutta and The Statesman was still read more than The Telegraph. In the Miscellany supplement of The Statesman of 12th May, 1991, the article appeared titled “Tagore and Perse By Chinmoy Guha”. I was then a dreamy-eyed teenager in school quite unaware of the toil of the man clearing away the fog that shrouded the literary bridge between Bengal and France. So when I encountered Rabindranath Tagore and Saint-John Perse on that bridge arched in newsprint my imagination was seized. Fascinated and with an uncanny prophetic insight for a thirteen-year-old, I collected that piece of paper and stored it discretely.

Almost a decade and a half passed by in the innumerable vagaries of life that smothered all precociousness. But that other man by the name of Chinmoy Guha went on to lecture in the universities of Paris, Oxford, Manchester, Warwick, Lyon, Avignon, and Maison des Sciences de l’ Homme; to translate Moliere, Flaubert, Gide, and Rolland; and write many books including Where the Dreams Cross and The Tower and the Sea. Until suddenly by a quirk of fate, in 2006 at a seminar in Calcutta University that name got a face. It pricked the grey cells but the well of the mind was too deep to draw out from it the watered memory of years ago. But once fate had started conspiring there was to be no stop. Many a machinery was perhaps put into motion to produce the circumstance that brought to my hands the book Tagore and Modernity in the British Council Library. There it was in that book the almost-forgotten newspaper article, miraculously recreated in the form of an essay titled “The Golden Harp: Tagore and Saint-John Perse By Chinmoy Guha”. It prodded the warmth-giving but hidden ember in my mind to burst into flame and in its light was retrieved the sepia-ed newsprint.

It has been nineteen years now and still that piece of paper has not ceased to delight. And ever so more, whenever I chance to see that man, who wrote that article, I feel simultaneously a teenage awe and a mature affinity. The thick black hair, the wide-rimmed glasses, the bright-eyed glance, the welcoming demeanour, and the baritone voice all seem to invite and yet it is the stature of the man that daunts. So now when he has been conferred the Knighthood of the Palmes Académiques by the French government, he appears like a colossus placed in my vicinity. But for me, and maybe for many like me, he will rather remain a bust of inspiration through his writings. How privileged are those students who get the chance to study under him in Calcutta University! Today I pay my tribute to him through this memoir. My best wishes go to him. Mes salutations et mes félicitations à vous.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the warmth of that article.
Best wishes and thanks,
Yours sincerely,
Chinmoy guha

Anonymous said...

We are proud and honored to be his students.We know how fortunate we are to get a chance to study under the legendary professor!We salute you Sir!
Anurag sinha roy

amit said...

I am honoured with your comment Professor Guha. It is me who should be thankful to you for gracing my blog.

And thanks to Anurag Sinha Roy too for your comment.

Amit Shankar Saha

Unknown said...

You have done a commendable job with this particular article of yours.

Project Fellow,
DRS, Department of English.
University of Calcutta.

amit said...

Thanks Saptarshi.

debadrita said...

I consider myself very lucky, i have been blessed to study under him for a span of five years. three years under him at college, he then was the head of the department and then two years at the university. he is the greatest inspiration of mine life, not only through his writings but also with his encouraging words and warmth of affection.
Thank you Sir.

debadrita said...

typo:- my life

amit said...

Thank you Debadrita for your comment.