On Thursday, 6 June 2013, the Aurobindonian community has lost another bright jewel. Noted scholar and author Samir Kanta Gupta—lovingly addressed as Ranju-da—whose creative writings have captivated the innumerable hearts of three generations of readers has passed on to the Beyond at the age of ninety-one. He is survived by his younger brothers Subir Kanta and Robi Gupta.
Born in Mymensingh on 8 February 1922 to Indulekha and Nolini Kanta Gupta, Samir Kanta’s early years were spent at Nilfamari (in the district of Rangpur, Bangladesh) in the loving company of his mother and paternal grandparents. Nolini Kanta had shifted to Pondicherry in 1926 to serve Sri Aurobindo when Samir Kanta was only four years of age. At her house, Indulekha would meditate in front of the photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother after decorating them with flowers, hence, right from an early age there was an influence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on young Samir Kanta. When he grew up he began to correspond with Nolini Kanta who guided him through their epistolary exchanges. After passing his Matriculation and Intermediate Arts examinations in 1939 and 1941 respectively, he joined Ashutosh College of Kolkata to pursue his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in English Literature. He visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram in April 1942 with Indumukhi Bhattacharya (whose house at Bakulbagan Row had become a major centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram), Pratibha Dutta (an aunt of Satyajit Ray, the legendary filmmaker), Sunil Bhattacharya (Indumukhi’s youngest son), his cousin Anil and Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya (who would later become the Mother’s attendant and Director of the Physical Education Department of Sri Aurobindo Ashram). After reaching the Ashram main building, he was taken to Nolini Kanta by Sahana Devi. Nolini Kanta asked Samir Kanta to make his obeisance to the Mother first and then come to him. After receiving the Mother’s blessings at the top of the staircase in the Meditation Hall, he went to meet his father. Both of them met each other after a long gap of sixteen years.
During the one month he spent at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Samir Kanta assisted a sadhak named Nirmal in plucking and cleaning the vegetables grown in the Ashram garden, arranging them on plates and keeping them in front of the door leading to the Mother’s room. He also started learning French from Nolini Kanta. In one of his autobiographical writings, Samir Kanta had admitted that he was immersed in delight after visiting Pondicherry. The Mother had noticed it and remarked: “He seems to be happy!” She had also asked: “Does he want to stay?” Though he was keen to become an inmate of the Ashram, Samir Kanta was desirous to complete his education first. Though he left for Kolkata in May 1942 he returned to Pondicherry towards the beginning of 1943 after appearing for his Bachelor of Arts examinations. In the morning he worked in the Ashram Library under Prithwi Singh Nahar (who taught him the art of cataloguing books and proof-reading) and in the evening he worked with Nolini Kanta and assisted him in his correspondence and other activities. During his stay at Pondicherry, he came to know that he had passed his Bachelor of Arts examinations successfully. With the view of enrolling himself for Master of Arts degree, he returned to Kolkata. However, he changed his mind soon and joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an inmate in April 1943 at the age of twenty one. He was joined by his two younger brothers and mother after a few years.
Samir Kanta taught English to the students of the Ashram School for several years. Later he became (and remained till his last day on earth) the Head of the Reading Room located in the ground-floor of the Ashram main building. He became the editor of the Bengali quarterly Bartika (which he was associated with ever since its inception in 1942) published by Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, Kolkata, after the demise of Nolini Kanta in 1984. He also became the editor of the English quarterly The Advent published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram after the demise of M.P. Pandit in 1993. Despite his advanced age and failing health he continued to work tirelessly for these two journals till the end.
Samir Kanta was a scholar in Bengali, English and French. He was also a prolific writer with more than fifty titles to his credit. His articles have been published—apart from the Ashram journals—in several reputed Bengali magazines like Prabasi, Bharatvarsha, Uttara to name a few. His published works in Bengali include titles like Parijatok, Moner Mon Mukur, Kabyaloke, Albar Padabali, Satabdir Puja, Sadhanar Jibon, Katha Upanishad, Antigoni, Forasi Probeshika, Antarango, Nilfamari Theke Pondicherry, etc. Leading Lights and Songs of Chandidasa are his notable works in English. Awards and recognitions came to him in a steady stream. He was the recipient of the Emeritus Fellowship of the Government of India from 1986 to 1990. He was a member of the Senate of Pondicherry University from 1986 to 1992; his nomination being made by the President. In 1986 he was felicitated with a special award in a ceremony organized by the Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan (All India Bengali Literature Conference). He was also the recipient of the prestigious Sri Aurobindo Puraskar awarded by Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata.
Samir Kanta probably had a premonition that he would have to leave his body soon for he was heard remarking that his end was near. A few days before his departure he had offered all his savings to Sri Aurobindo Ashram where he had spent seven decades of his life. On Wednesday, 5 June 2013, he worked as usual in the Reading Room. When he left for his residence in the evening, no one had the slightest idea that he would not return to his workplace on the following day. That night he went to bed as usual. In the early hours of 6 June, when he did not come out to have his morning tea, it was observed that he had left his body in sleep—peacefully and quietly.
His was a life well-lived with a number of impressive achievements. His physical absence would definitely hurt his admirers but his presence can be felt in the pages of his published works for he has immortalized himself through his writings.
With warm regards,