Monday, June 07, 2010

Farewell Anjan

Anjan Ghosh, social scientist, passed away suddenly on Saturday, 5 June 2010. He was 59. He had been diagnosed for leukemia about a month ago and was in hospital for chemo-therapy. He suffered a cardiac seizure early on Saturday morning. He leaves behind his mother, wife, Sweta, and daughter, Ragini.

Anjan was a professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), one of the premier institutes in the country. But more than that, for over 30 years, Anjan had been a public intellectual in the true sense, and a supporter of people's struggles. He has written, but perhaps more significantly he also worked to keep alive well-known activist journals, like Frontier and Annya Artha.

Anjan graduated in English literature from St Xavier's College, Calcutta, and then did his MA and MPhil in sociology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. He taught at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, before joining CSSSC in the early 1980s. He completed his doctorate from the University of Michigan in the mid-90s.

It is also a personal loss for me. Anjan was a friend and also my wife, Rajashi's, uncle. Such a host of memories ...

I had received his spontaneous warm acceptance as a prospective newcomer to the family and to the domain of public activism in Calcutta. He had encouraged Sandip Bandyopadhyay and me when we wrote a report on the working conditions of labour on the Calcutta Metro project in 1985. It was from him that I learnt about the book Orality and Literacy, by Walter Ong. He was one of the few friends of mine who attended my marriage ceremony. When I was trying to ensure that the ceremony be a simple civil one, shorn of rituals and customs and the usual expenditures, Anjan had supported me wholeheartedly, He attended the house-warming get-together in 1986, when Rajashi and I first moved to rented premises in the city fringe. For several years I used to drop in at his house on 10 November, his daughter Ragini's birthday, whether invited or uninvited. We travelled together to attend a memorable seminar on "Development & Displacement" in 1987, organised by Prof RS Rao, at Sambalpur University. We both attended the farewell party hosted by a friend in 1988 for his CSSSC colleague, MSS Pandian. He also attended the important seminar on "Development Not Displacement", in Bokaro, in 1990, which I had helped to organise. At my request, he gave a talk to a group of students from Hong Kong University on a study visit to Calcutta in 1990. More recently, he had encouraged me when I took up translating the Bengali writer, Subimal Misra. He too had actively participated in two recent conferences organised by the CSSSC which I'd attended, one on "Migration, Diaspora & the City" and the other on "Muslim Situation in India".

So many common friends, shared jokes and hearty laughs, unforgettable discussions ...

Anjan was much loved as a teacher and friend, and was a mentor to many young researchers. A condolence meeting was organised at the CSSSC today afternoon. His colleagues and students, all of whom are still in a state of disbelief, spoke about his unique and endearing qualities. Anjan was a bibliophile, with a bibliographic-encyclopedic memory, which his colleagues came to rely on. He was totally committed to the CSSSC, as a knowledge institution, and served it as a loyal foot-soldier. He exemplified the Socratic tradition. For him, pursuit of knowledge was essentially a collaborative endeavour. He personified the engaged intellectual. The Bengali word aantorikota - intimate nature - describes him. Like a good Bengali, he loved adda (relaxed, free-flowing discussion). He was a scholar and a gentleman, a good and decent man, a caring and affectionate person. He was always ready to help his students and fellow-scholars. He was accessible and disarmingly friendly, with a generosity of spirit and warmth. A team man. A genuine and authentic person, with a love of humour, mirth and banter, a mischievious twinkle in his eyes.

He leaves behind a large number of teachers, friends, colleagues, fellow-activists and students who deeply mourn his untimely and shocking demise.

There will be a condolence gathering in memory of Anjan Ghosh on Sunday, 20 June, at 5 pm, at Jadunath Bhavan, Lake Terrace, Calcutta (former location of CSSSC).

Read Ramachandra Guha's tribute to his former teacher here.


Firoze Jal Kapadia said...

Anjan was my classmate in St Xavier's School finishing Senior Cambridge in 1967. I heard of his death today and went on the net to find out some details. We had not been in touch for very long after school but I have very pleasant memories of him being a extremely gentle dignified person. It is heartbreaking to hear of his death at such a young age. My deepest and heartfelt condolence to his family.

Firoze Jal Kapadia

Bonbibi said...

Such a heartfelt obituary.. he was such a generous man and will be missed by the many who knew him..