‘Multiplying With Zero’

Subhas is No More

T Vijayendra

Subhas Chandra Ganguly is no more. I and other comrades rarely referred to him with this full name. For us it was always Subhas and Bharati. Now with Subhas no more somehow it feels empty–as if half of what we have known has suddenly vanished. It is not easy for us to send condolences to Bharati.

So as long as I have known them, that is about 55 years, they have always been Subhas and Bharati, even before they were married. In those days with scarce women comrades, lot of us were in love with Bharati, but we always knew it was Subhas and Bharati.

They worked together in everything. When I first knew them Subhas was still in the PG Hostel of Ballygunje Science College where they worked together in building political organisation among students.
Subhas got arrested for his political activities. After coming out he and Sanjay organised APDR [Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights]. Meanwhile Bharati got a government job but she worked almost full time for student organising and APDR.

Eventually they moved to a flat in Salt Lake. In later years Subhas developed a critic about dogmatism in Marxist practice in West Bengal and he published a book about it.

Subhas was immensely well read both in Bengali and in English. He wrote very well in both the languages. He translated RomillaTahapar’s book on Ancient Indian History into Bengali. He also wrote for Frontier and for Bengali political journals, including science journal ‘Bikshan’. He got an award for his work in human rights and his acceptance speech was very profound.

Subhas was also very helpful in sharing his knowledge. Once I wrote him about some reference in Tagore’s writings. He promptly replied with the original quote and an English translation which he himself did.

Subhas had a bubbly sense of humour and he was always ready with a humorous repartee. I have recorded one such anecdote in my autobiography. I am reproducing it below.

I met Subhas Ganguly after many years. Bharati, his wife, told me that Subhas always told one story about me to all his friends. According to her, once Subhas asked me how long should one knead the flour for making chapaatis. I had replied that ‘till your hands are clean.’ This apparently impressed him so much that he followed this practice all his life and told his friends about it.

On hearing this I told Subhas, ‘I taught you so many things and this is all you remember!’

Subhas, who is a mathematician, replied, ‘In my childhood I had a Maths teacher. He once told me, ‘Khoka, jatoibadosankhyahoknakyano, shunyothekegunile, shunyoipabe’! (Young man, howsoever big a number may be, if you multiply it with a zero, you will get only a zero!)

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Vol 56, No. 31, Jan 28 - Feb 3, 2024