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The wrong side of goodbye

Amit Shankar Saha, Saptarshi Mallick |

The sun does not illumine that, nor the moon nor the fire. That is My supreme abode from which those who reach it never return.

(Translated from Sloka VI of The Tree of Life in the Bhagavadgita, edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan)

Dr Santanu Majumdar, professor and former head, department of English, University of Calcutta, passed away on 20 January 2017. For his family, colleagues, friends and a wide cross-section of students and researchers his sudden and untimely demise has created a void that can never be filled. He is survived by his wife, Sangeeta, and daughter Suryadeepa.

Dr Majumdar studied English Honours at Presidency College from where he passed with high first class marks in 1986. He passed his MA in English in 1990 from the University of Cambridge and PhD from the University of Leeds in 1995. He was Sir Rash Behari Ghosh Travelling Fellow and recipient of Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Tetley and Lupton and OFB scholarships. Though he taught at the University of Tezpur, Visva-Bharati University and Rabindra Bharati University, the major part of his teaching career was at the University of Calcutta. Professor Majumdar was the Member, Academic Council, Netaji Subhas Open University from 2002 to 2006 and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sheffield in 2005, at the University of North Bengal in 2008, and RMLA Conference (USA) in 2009. He was a Member of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society since 1990.

Professor Majumdar was an incomparable asset of our department. His scholarship and publications from essays to book-chapters and authored books have been widely commended. His works were published in Essays and Studies (Jadavpur University), Critical Review (Australia), The Calcutta Review, Indian Thoughts on Shakespeare (edited by professor Goutam Ghoshal), Revisiting the Raj (edited by Professor Jharna Sanyal and professor Krishna Sen), India-UK Academic and Educational Network between Department of English, University of Calcutta and School of English, University of Leeds (Monograph edited by Professor Krishna Sen). His comprehensive research was published as books —  Dazzled By A Thousand Suns: Interpretations of The Gita and Whispers of Immortality: Religious Consciousness and the early Modern Bengali Novel: The impact of Canonical English Fiction under the UGC DRS (SAP) programme at the Department of English, University of Calcutta. His scholarship is evident through his various presentations on Hamlet, Middlemarch, Gita, Bacon’s essays and the Vedanta.

Once he remembered reading an article titled Superior People published in The Times Literary Supplement when he was in Cambridge but he could not remember the date and issue of the periodical. He searched for the email address of the author but could not find it. So, he emailed the British Parliament and soon a reply came from the peer Lord Bhikhu Parekh, the author of the article. But the information, which he gave, was found to be erroneous after professor Majumdar searched for the journal in the National Library. He pointed it out to Lord Parekh, who very graciously acknowledged it and expressed his gratitude to our professor. Such was the incisive perseverance of his wide scholarship.

Today with moist eyes, we, as his students fondly remember our association and interaction with our dear teacher, a great scholar who will never be seen anymore to take his classes on William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Alfred Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Horace’s The Art of Poetry, Longinus’s On the Sublime, Pico della Mirandolla’s An Oration on the Dignity of Man, Erasmus’ The Praise of Folly, Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, Seneca’s Thyestes and Translation Theory (MPhil/PhD course work) at the department of English, University of Calcutta. 

We will be deprived of his able guidance as a research supervisor too. One of his close students shared her thoughts on him being “a kind-hearted and simple teacher who could easily be approached with all academic queries”. A former colleague was nostalgic when she said that professor Majumdar was an exceptional scholar and a very good friend. He was an avid reader of thrillers and detective fiction.

A few days before his death, he had ordered a book, which was delivered after he was not there to receive or read it. The book was Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye. Perhaps there lay a prophecy in the book’s title itself.