Prof. Gouri Prasad Ghosh: An Obituary

Anirban Biswas

Professor Gouri Prasad Ghosh (1928-30. 4. 2020), a versatile- minded intellectual as well as a celebrated teacher of English literature, passed away on 30 April at his Kolkata residence. His wife predeceased him by several years. He is survived by his son, daughter and daughter-in-law. At the time of death, he was almost ninety-two. During this long life, he taught at several colleges in West Bengal, at the University of Calcutta, and in the mid-sixties of the last century, was at the St. Stephens College, Delhi for two years.

He was associated for long with Frontier and other radical journals like Aneek, Purbataranga (now non-existent) etc. He was the chief editor of Everyman’s English-Bengali Dictionary, which received the Ananda Prize immediately after publication and has over time come to be regarded as the best effort in this field. In the world of educated Bengalis, he is mostly known as the creator of this dictionary, but this is by no means an adequate measure of his achievements. He wrote an analytical work on Shakespeare entitled ‘The Insubstantial Pageant: A Study of the Evolution of Shakespeare’s life-vision’. This was not a text- book, but bore the stamp of originality in every chapter. He also wrote a book entitled Ravindrakavyer Silparup (Artistic Form of Tagore's Poetry) at a relatively young age. Besides, he wrote two books on astronomy in Bengali, the first of which won the Tagore Prize. He grew to become an astronomer without any formal training. About his contributions as a radical intellectual, mention must be made of an article published in Frontier under the nom de plume Dick Wainscott in three parts. This particular name was chosen obviously in order to mislead the police. The article attempted a reinterpretation of Mao Zedong’s On Contradiction and its title was ‘Development of Contradictions in Modern Chinese Society’.

Two other articles -- both were sharply against the ruling powers of the Soviet Union -- drew the attention of the Soviet authorities, and an officer of the Soviet consulate in Kolkata once came to Frontier office and purchased copies of the issues in which the articles were published.

For his convictions, he suffered more than once. Once he lost his job for trying to fight what he thought as a case of corruption by a principal. He fought a legal battle against this dismissal and after two years, got back the job. In the intervening period, he taught at the St. Stephens College, Delhi.

Again, during the internal emergency of 1975-77, he was transferred from Maulana Azad College to Barasat College. Again, in 1979, he was transferred to Durgapur. In both cases, the transfers were engineered by the powers-that-be. When the Legal Aid Committee was formed in the early 1970s with Jayasri Rana as secretary in order to help political prisoners, he was an active patron of it. It was certainly an act of rare courage on the part of a professor of a government college. Since the 1980s, he gradually developed scepticism about the future of the Indian communist movement and prospects of the Indian revolution. His intellectual mind turned more to astronomy and Shakespeare study. This was not a crime, considering that he never tried to degrade others; he never believed in the precept ‘opportunism for myself and Marxism for others.’

Back to Home Page

May 4, 2020

Prof. Anirban Biswas

Your Comment if any