Samir Kanta Gupta: In Memoriam

Samir Kanta Gupta 1

Dear Friends,

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 7 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,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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Samir Kanta Gupta 2

Samir Kanta Gupta 3

Samir Kanta Gupta 4

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13 Comments

  1. Surendra Singh Chouhan said,

    July 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

    An irreparable loss …a gentle and unassuming golden link with the past.is gone
    A very dear friend and we shared many wonderful moments .of conversations whenever I called on him…
    Your tribute beautifully sums up the the many sided personality that our beloved Ronju – Da was… He was an efficient editor and proflicient spokeperson at once blunt and at the samw time soft spoken

    Surendra

  2. July 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Reblogged this on The Mother's Lasso.

  3. suresh tyagi said,

    July 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Dear Anurag ji
    Thanks for this short introduction of Ranju da.
    I met him during my last visit to Pondicherry .
    Respects to the memory of Ranju da
    suresh tyagi

  4. Srikant J. said,

    July 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Ranju-da had definitely changed in his out look and consciousness after the passing of Nolini-da. In fact, Nolini-da blessed him on his birthday at about 13 -14 hrs and then within a few hours the father breathed his last. That was a very poignant moment for Ranju-da.
    My last contact with Ranju -da was when I asked for his permission to take all the old Advents and put them on net. He readily agreed .
    – Srikant.

  5. Suranjan Chaudhuri said,

    July 8, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Perhaps his last work was a collection of Bengali translation of Greek plays published in the last Calcutta book fair. His book on the temple architecture of southern India opened my eyes about the intrinsic spirituality of Indian architecture…came into his contact for a few times…will cherish his word of appreciation forever. can’t forget the way he looked at me at Calcutta airport.

    • Gopa Basu said,

      July 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      It is inevitable that one must leave this mortal body one day, but still it is hard to believe that we won’t be able to see Ronjuda with his loving and welcoming smile in the Ashram reading room every time I visited the Ashram! He didn’t speakin much, buthis minimal conversation and expression of the eyes conveyed it all! Sadhaks like him are becoming rare and we have to wait a long time before someone like him appears again! I must thank Anurag for the excellent tribute he has paid to his departed soul, in a nugget. -Gopa Basu

  6. July 11, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Whenever I visited the Reading Room during last few years for finding some references, I used to look at him with respectful awe and wonder simply because he was a son of a great spiritual personality Nolini Kant Gupta. He always appeared a reserved person.

    Occasionally, we exchanged a few words. When he knew that I was from Auroville, he seemed to take a note of it. It was pleasure to offer a few years’ subscription of The Advent in his presence to his assistant. I did not guess his age at that time but surprise that he was close to 91.

    It is only now, thanks to this tribute by Anurag that I came to know the life history of those nine decades. Remarkable indeed.

    Following is the link that will take to the photograph of him and Nonilida during Auroville inauguration, putting perhaps the final seal on the Urn, 45 years ago.

  7. Narad said,

    July 12, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Dear Anurag,

    Thank you for this special article and for all the work you are doing for Sri Aurobindo and Mother.

    With my love and prayers,

    At Their Feet,

    Narad

  8. Dhanavanti said,

    July 12, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Dear Anurag,
    You are just unique in your understanding of the worth of a human being. We have now a succinct, compact, beautifully warm write up on our dear Ranjuda. You know intuitively what to pick up from a life and how to wrap it in simple smoothly caressing words, almost in the manner a mother wraps a new born baby.

    It is absolutely the right picture of Ranjuda. He had a wonderfully soft heart, I would not mind saying it was always a melting one. Doubled with an intellectual make up sharp, clear, independent, he could, if he chose to speak, convey in a convincing manner. And he did so when he wanted to, but he knew also when and where to pour.

    Anurag, my dear brother or shall I call you child, you have a wonderfully soft heart and a transparency of outlook. Congratulations for the obituary so beautifully drafted, and for all that is behind. Just keep it up and grow. All my love.

    Dhanavanti

  9. July 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    An erudite, linguist and a Yogi, Sri, Ranju Gupta stands unique amongst the disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother- no doubt a jewel. His demise is a lose to all of us..

  10. beni said,

    January 8, 2015 at 2:17 am

    within a year of the 3 Gupta brothers leaving us for the Mother’s abode , Nolinida’s magazine ADVENT which Robida edited after Ranjuda left us , closes down with the nov issue…not yet out….so sad to see its demise ..started in 1944…10yrs in Madras edited by Anantaraman then handed over to asharm and Nolinida edited it till 1984 …then Ranjuda took it up till 1013..and Robida had made 4 issues of 2014 ready for publication and left….

    • Surendra Singh said,

      January 8, 2015 at 5:05 am

      I share Benni’s concern with equal sadness on the sudden closure of ” The Advent “…What is happening ? what is the reason or the reasons ?

      Is the present editor too busy to hold on to this privileged position in editing this

      Ashram heritage journal ..

      Surendra s chouhan – SAICE ‘ 69

    • surendra singh chouhan said,

      January 8, 2015 at 6:50 am

      I share my concern with Benni as well . however , there can always be its resurrection or the re – advent of the Advent ..which had its own unique personality nurtured and nourished by countless authors and luminaries and editors …
      Surendra s chouhan saice ,69


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