Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ashok Mitra - End of an Era

Ashok Mitra passed away today. I met him a few times, given his proximity to my paternal grandmother's side of the family (especially, her elder brother, Sachin Chaudhuri, the founder-editor of EPW) but didn't know him well.
I remember him giving a guest lecture at Presidency College when I was a second-year undergraduate student. I still remember how unassuming he was despite his obvious fame and stature, and being impressed with his ability to quote statistics from memory. Of course he was very critical of mainstream economics but to be fair, there were grounds for being so.
We are all familiar with his opinionated columns in English and Bengali. Whatever one's political views (and, in all honesty, I disagreed a lot more than I agreed with his political opinions - from the left and the right depending on the issue and the evolution of my own thinking) there is no doubt Dr Mitra was one of the last great bilingual intellectuals of post-Independence Bengal - equally fluent and powerful in English and Bengali.
I loved his biographical sketches of various political and cultural personalities, his autobiographical writings, and especially his writings on poetry and writers (and completely shared his admiration for Samar Sen and Buddhadeb Basu).
His voice will be missed. And I will keep reading and re-reading some of his writings.

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