Monday, January 11, 2010

I will rise up from my ashes!

Dr. Bikram Dasgupta ended his journey in life at 10 pm on 9th January 2010 at Goa Medical College at the age of 54. He was founder of Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST) and faculty at Department of Chemistry, Goa University, Goa. He hailed from Sundergarh, Orrissa and had purchased a house at Pandavadda, Chorao, Ilhas, Goa. He was widely traveled and active in public life for nearly 35 years in various parts of the Country. Ideologically his affiliations rested with the left but he was not member of any political parties and in fact was fierce critic of existing left parties. Though a firm admirer of Karl Marx and his ideas, he considered Gautam Buddha superior to Marx.

I was lucky to have been associated and collaborated with him from 2001 up to 2008. After that our collaboration ended due to political disagreements on the use of violence in transformative movements like the one I am involved with related to resistance to mining industry in Goa. He held that violence has to be the way forward for the movement while I disagreed with him totally and stopped my collaborations with him for the later six months of 2009. He often participated in GOAMAP monthly meetings and last time he was active on field with me was on February 07, 2009 on a Solidarity visit to Gauns family whose house access has been blocked by Aldeia de Goa real estate project in Bambolim, Goa.

I came to know him while pursued my M.A in sociology at Goa University during 1995-97. I saw him very often in University canteen in his Fidel Castro/ Che Guevara uniform with cigarette moving between his figures and lips. During this time I also got to know Amiya Bhusan Sarkar, a Bangladeshi student studying for his M.Sc in Mathematics at Goa University. It is from Amiya that I first got invitation for informal group of student and teachers that would meet irregularly on Saturdays at physics department to deliberate and discuss various socially relevant themes. I remember once attending one of those sessions in Physics department facilitated by Sa of Physics department on the topic of ‘Primary Education’. Dr. Bikram Dasgupta was present here sitting very quietly on the last bench. Later, after many years I came to know that this was an exercise ignited based on Dr. Bikam Dasgupta’s experience of conducting Saturday study group that met every Saturday in Jadavpur University for five years without interruption. Large number of students and teachers came there to deliberate and exchange ideas. Dr. Dasgupta narrated several times his experience here to me. He invariable made reference that Amartya Sen who was teaching there then had refused to participate here because he lacked foundation in his economics. Amartya Sen’s motivation to get Nobel Prize developed during this time and Dr.Dasgupta was a sharp critic of Amartya’s economics and his lure for Nobel Prize. According to Dr. Dasgupta, Amartya Sen put in all his energies then to get himself a Nobel Prize rather than work for welfare of Poor in India. Dr. Dasgupta however admired Amartya Sen’s book “The Argumentative Indian”.

I rejoined the Goa University as a research scholar at Centre for Latin American Studies (CLAS) in June 2001. By this time I had already associated myself with creating awareness on mining ills afflicting Goa and moving about sharing my poem “I love Pissurlem” to various people. Sometime later 2001 there was book release function of Dr.Dilip Loundo’s book “Tropical Rhymes, tropical reasons” - translation of Brazilian short stories into English. I was invited there as Dr.Dilip Loundo has been my teacher and inspiration to go for higher studies on Latin America. After the function I started distributing my poem to all the delegates present. Dr. Bikram Dasgupta too was present here and he too accepted my poem. It was here that Dr.Dasgupta gave his comments on my poem and advised me to read more poetry. He was great advocate of rigorous study. Amiya Bhusan Sarkar was still at the campus. Then Amiya one day took me to the residential quarters where Dr.Dasgupta was living. It was sometime in September of 2001. I came to know about the organization that had initiated – Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST).

Life of Dr.Bikram Dasgupta has been intimately linked with ideas – he was a genius - with expertise in the field of music, carpentry, Chemistry, Physics, Life Sciences, Applied Sciences, History, Literature, Philosophy – more command over western philosophy, Economics, Sociology, Film critic, Art Critic, linguistics, etc. He could speak number of languages – English, German, French, Spanish, Hindi, Oriyya, Bangla, Marathi, Konkni and Kannada. He was a poet who wrote his poetry in Oriyya and English.

At his younger days, he often told me he would grasp half page at a time rather than one word at a time. He also told me about Swami Vivekanda's reading capacity of full page grasp rather than one word or line at a time. He was intellectually gifted. He wanted to make his living through writings of his own from earlier days but could not surmount pervasive discouragements all around him and got into teaching. He shared some admiration to Swami Vivekananda's ideas. Particularly he often quoted Vivekananda saying "Children must play football rather than deep into cramming of books." He had detail understanding as to how Vivekananda was liberative in his perspective and was intellectually was capped by the religious forces of his time after he gathered fame and popularity to his radical ideas.

Most of this is unpublished so far. He never pushed for publishing his work until cajoled hard. He also intimately linked with organizations. He was subtle inspiration behind setting of nearly dozen organizations across India. Through his discourse ideas would get generated and these would become seeds for rise of organizations with life and form of their own. Those who are aware or part of organizations with Dr. Dasgupta are urged to write in your reflections and insights and share. In Goa too soon after joining Goa University sometime around 1990 he got involved with group of people and formed an organization called “Anushthan” that had people like Vedang Dharasive and Rudra P. Pradhan. It organized programs around theory and practice of music. In 1999 another organization came up after earlier one faded away. This new organization came to be called ‘Nature Society and Transformations (NST) co- founded with his hostel friend from Basel University Peter Dietz during his post doctoral years. Peter Dietz wanted to form Indo-Swiss Friendship society with Dr.Dasgupta’s support. But Dr.Dasgupta vehemently argued against it as it would have readily opened entry into the organization to Swiss pesticides companies like CIBA. After two years of the organization after prolonged deliberations and insights the name of the organization got changed to its current one “Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST)”. Dr. Dasgupta distinguished between Nature and Environment. Nature is a state of affairs without human intervention. Environment is nature with human intervention. Dr. Dasgupta dedicated last dozen years of his precious life to NEST. The nature of NEST could best be captured with phrase that I quote from its long time participant Advocate Jatin Naik “It is an organization involved with demolition of ideas!” It’s so imaginative and so apt to what it is in theory and practice.

He was extremely good mannered and respectful of the common man of the street and villages. He would strike a conversation from anything but gradually penetrate deep into political economy and make usury of the system visible and then urge to fight. I had one such experience when he took me to Nauxi village near Goa University on Zuari river coast and entire village rallied around him to speak and share. It was an amazing experience. NEST has in its component something vary special in this regard. Not only it a discussion platform for people across the disciplines and fields, it is also a space where common people came together and interacted with intellectuals and also take the role of intellectuals! Couple of example I know of, one is of security guard at Goa University Dinabandu Barik. At one of the NEST meetings he made a presentation on his native state of Orrissa. He was speaking about take over of Chilika lake by Tatas. In the course of presentation Dinabandu raised very key question that even political scientist shy to ask: Why police is firing on people who are doing fishing in Chilika lake? From where do they receive their power to shoot people? What right does police have to fire at public? These questions coming from an ordinary daily labourer struggling for his daily bread and butter stunned the highly learned gathering Economists and Sociologists. Dinabandu further asked “How come you are a professor in the University and I am the Security guard?” Sociologist got swarms in his stomach and answered that “I am professor because my parents has given me education!” I was not present at this meeting but this has been told to me by Dr.Dasguta several times pointing out the pathetic levels of academic levels in Goa. He pointed out that Orrissa was no different either. The common people figured top of his priority list. He had tremendous faith in their ability. After Dinabandu, Rekha Revadikar is another example where in from the depression lass from Belgaum he transformed with such a magnificent support and encouragement till her death two years ago. She not only completed her B.A, M.A but had also enrolled for her M.Phil when tuberculosis cut short her life. It is not just the degrees that mattered for Dr. Dasgupta but dedication to society. Rekha, in his company got transformed into one of the frontal organizer with NEST and also companion to him while she stayed him. She made presentation of papers on various themes. Two of them I remember. The first one was “Flora and Fauna of Latin America”. Under Dr. Bikram Dasgupta’s guidance she prepared paper and power point presentation on Flora ad Fauna of Latin American origin but found in Goa. The second paper is Life and ideas of Rosa Luxemburg presented during Pune annual conference of NEST.

He did not discuss much about his death with me except very briefly in metaphorical form. He told me “I will rise up from my ashes!” He was a man with invincible determination. If it was not for his addiction to Cigarettes and Liquor he would have lived much longer before descending into Ashes. However he did share his desire with Advocate Jatin Naik to have his dead body donated for the purpose of learning of medical students.

What does rising up from ashes means to us in the context of death of Dr.Dasgupta? It essentially means distilling his ideas and reclaiming them as they are pearls of wisdom and very often uncomfortable truths that are to be further fueled in the method that he propounded – dialectics – and carry on the process of generation of ideas for the betterment and liberation of society that he stood for till the last moment of his life. I am attempting here to do exactly this is exactly what Dr.Dasgupta would like to happen after his death I am merely a channel in this service. I am also aware that you too have several ideas that flowed while in conversation with him at different time and I invite you to add and debate these further.

Lets take the sweeping look at the themes of conference of NEST that took place over the past dozen years. Dr. Dasgupta’s suggestions were ultimately responsible for these themes. In fact most of them were his exclusive suggestions flowed from fertile and concerned mind. Here is the list of themes:

1. Nature Society and Transformations (1997)

2. Development and Consequences (1998, 1999)

3. Institutions, Ideologies and Knowledge System (2000)

4. Science and Education in Historical Perspective (2001)

5. Dynamics of Order and Disorder in Nature and Society: Chaos, Systems Theory and Chaocomlexology (2002)

6. People Resources and Resistance (2003)
7. Indigenous People (2004)

8. Political Economy (2005)

9. Women Worker and Humanism (2006)

10. Multinational Corporations (2007)

11. Protected Areas and Heritage (2008)

12. Blue Planet, Green Movement and Red Politics (2009 - did not take place due to collapse of Health of Dr. Dasgupta)

The above themes are only indicative of the direction of Dr.Dasgupta’s orientation and concerns . It is in no way an exhaustive list that is yet to be compiled. There used to be thematic program almost every three months over the past dozen years in the State of Goa. Beside he went and organized programs – in collaboration with various people, institutions - in the state of Maharastra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Orrissa, Jarkhand, West Bengal and Kerala at least this much I am aware of, it could be more.

Dasguta as epitome of Sincerity, Simplicity, Humility and Mercy

Besides his genius intellect Dr. Dasguta was very sincere. He never cheated anyone of material things. In fact few times he got robbed. Once the couple who stayed with him in Chorao robbed him of his electronic gadgets like dvd player. Advocate Jatin Naik caught the robber husband and brought before Dr. Dasgupta. Dr. Dasgupta instantly pardoned him and prevented retributive action. He was very honest. In fact one thing he always said to me was “I have no friends, I have no enemies”. He kept himself aloof from human bondages and lived life that is far higher in terms of values and commitments. He never married and died bachelor. Dr. Dasgupta’s birthday March 30 used to be observed as Student Day amongst the university students – a tradition that began while he was doctoral student at Jadavpur University, Kolkata where he was a “Phenomena, a walking encyclopedia”. Dr. Dasgupta held that observing his birthday as student day at Goa University was not advisable and preferred to live that is away from glare and media.

His sincerity did not limit only here. He considered himself at par with ancient Greek Scholars like Socrates and far above Karamchand Gandhi in political practice.

I learned my first lesson of academic honesty from him. He gave scolding to me in 2001 because I had not acknowledged people that helped me to write the paper at NEST annual conference. One of them was Dr.Dasgupta himself. His scolding was for more reasons than merely to get his name listed on my then paper Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire applied to African context. It was scolding and smelting of selfish and self-centered habit patterns of our society that that was shaping its intellectuals like me. His scolding was directed - in a profound sense - towards changing this habit pattern of society. And he was living his values of recognition and selflessness with example of his life. Later on the very next year in 2002 at NEST annual conference Dr. Dasgupta acknowledged me in his paper on ideas of chaos in literature for encouraging to get him to write his paper. Subsequently he did this on another three occasions. These acknowledgements were not the trade-offs like between Rabindranath Thakur and Karamchand Gandhi– what I learned Dr. Dasgupta – Rabindranth Thakur (Tagore) gave title of ‘Mahatma’ to Karamchand Gandhi, while Gandhi reciprocated by affording a title of ‘Gurudev’ on Rabindranath Thakur – a sort of feudal practice. Dr.Daggupta’s criticism were directed with sharp focus and precise target with complete courage. He was marvelous combination of courage and knowledge – something that got transmitted into me almost infectiously within few months of interacting with him in 2001! In fact he and Amiya Bhusan Sarkar together are responsible to mine intellectual growth in leaps and bounds since 2001.
Dasguta and his uncompromising principles

Few very strong principles he never let away from his life. The first one is his uncompromising position on irrelevance of religions. He viewed all the religions as agencies of control and domination of mind meant for subjugation of society. He never believed in God, nor worshipped any deity ever. In fact he was powerful exponent of Atheist ideas and legitimacy science. He differed sharply with creationist views.

The second major principle of his life that remained steadfastly uncompromising is his ‘never bending to boot leak politicians’. In fact it is precisely because of these reasons he turned down offer from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi during his tenure as Prime Minister had written to Dr. Dasgupta as a young scientist to contribute towards his policies. Dr.Dasgupta refused to do so. His position was clear and stable. Scientists had to be with people fighting shoulder to shoulder for liberation and justice. Dr.Dasgupta lived this in his life and I have been a witness to it. This principle remained active in his life right through and would get activated even in the smallest of affairs in most unlikely places. I would like to narrate one incident here. Dr. Dasgupta used to drink liquor. In order to get his quota he used to frequent liquor outlets. One such was very close University campus on Bambolim side. The owner of this liquor outlet started praising North Goa Member of Parliament Shripad Naik. Dr.Dasgupta immediately reacted and got into heated argument with the owner. It could not be resolved in the bar quarrel. Dr. Dasgupta could not tolerate the boot leaking practices of common people either. He gave entering in that liquor outlet ever after that and till death he never entered it again. He advocated strong, dignified and self reliant villages free from political bootlicking.

His third major principle was hard work in building organizations. He slogged very to this till very end. He would personally go about locating, contacting and finalizing logistical arrangements for NEST programs. He gave equally intense care for NEST as any caring mother would give to her new born baby. NEST became his baby. His address in Chorao became the address of NEST. I have been a witness to all this. I remember, in July 2002 when NEST annual conference invitation was just out and I was supposed to help out in organizing. But the theme was so complicated – Dynamics of order and disorder in nature and society: Chaos, Systems theory, and Chaocomplexology – I could not understand a thing on it. So approached Dr.Dasgupta and he had a solution! He conducted classed for me and Rekha Revadiker on every Saturday night for two months. The class would begin at 6.00 pm on non-linear dynamics and go on till early morning at 6.00 am on next day Sunday morning. I would then take a first bust coming to Panjim early morning and head towards home. I realize that this was his favorite theme in which he had offered elective course in the department of Chemistry but due to some jealosy and departmental politics he was not allowed to offer the course during subsequent years. This is something that concerned him deeply and upset him often. In the meanwhile I learned the theme and was fit. It got me and Vilasini Morajkar – that took so a good care of Dr.Dasgupta when used to stay in Santa Cruz village in 1990 still 2002 - to Chennai for preparation of annual conference two weeks prior to the conference on the invitation from Elijah Mathew. His lectures were delightful and he incredibly simplified complex concepts into lucid and understandable capsules. I realized then as to why he was so popular amongst his students and shy his ex-students continue to remember him fondly from far and wide in the world. In fact even without much publicity on the work he was doing the word about this amazing man has escaped far and wide. US based TIME magazine wrote to him of their intention to declare Dr. Dasgupta as their Man of the Year in 2005. Dr. Dasgupta turned down this too but like letter from Rajiv Gandhi, this letter from TIME magazine he showed me and Rekha Revadiker. This behavior pattern makes me believe that he belonged to different league of humans and having none from his league he found on planet. He got liquor to dip his sorrows in and cigarettes to smoke out his stress.

Dasgupta’s key political ideas

1. Development as Violence: Dr. Bikram Dasgupta on several occasion defined existing paradigm of development as “Violence”. He never bestowed legitimacy on any of the development projects meant for so called progress. He believed that there is inherent inbuilt aggression in development that is pushed on people and nature. He remained opposed to this development model.

2. Anti-Nuclear Energy protagonist: Dr. Bikram Dasgupta has been very strong anti nuclear energy protagonist. He is the one who began commemoration of Hiroshima Day on August 05 every year. He was successful in making Hiroshima Day commemoration very popular. He would take great care to prepare invitations for this day. He would select the pictures of bombs – ‘Fat man’ or ‘little boy’ that were dropped on Japan and print on the invitation. This was became regular activity for NEST. One of his desires was to form anti-nuclear committee in Goa. Praful Bidwai when he visited Goa few years back called on Dr. Bikram Dasgupta in this connection. He stood for Earth without nuclear energy. He sharply critiqued Indian Science Policy. He held that there is a nexus in place between military, industry and sciences that is detrimental to world peace. He did not get support from other colleagues in the University or from other intellectuals in Goa to launch anti-nuclear committee. All India Trade Union Congress Goa General Secretary Christopher Fonseca collaborated with Dr.Dasgupta on this issue on few occasions.

3. In many there is strength: Dr. Dasgupta was a firm opponent of individual based actions. He always promoted teams to take initiatives. He did this in very open manner. Those who are sharp could pick up the message quickly. None of the letter of invitation of NEST program would be signed by any single person. There would always be minimum three signatories. He would work hard to get three or more people to be signatories for the program. And those signatories would not be repeated in the next program. He went about searching for new people to be the signatories. He believed that it is easy for one person to get targeted by the system but many cannot be easily targeted. This actually kept publicity seekers at bay from NEST.

4. Universities for Welfare of People: Dr. Dasgupta believed that universities are meant for the welfare of the people and not at the service of Multinational corporations. He criticized University appraisal questionnaire at his Chemistry department wherein one question to be filled in by faculty was contribution to multinational corporations.

5. Celebrating 150 years of Communist manifesto: Dr. Dasgupta’s university residential quarters at Goa university was the venue for the celebration of 150 years of Communist Manifesto in 1998. He subscribed to communist ideas and few people active in communist movement in Goa took part in the celebration function. One of the participants in this program Dr. Shasheej Hegde remarked that Dr. Dasgupta has been doing at Goa late Narayan Palekar attended this program. He believed in dissemination of copies of Communist Manifesto.

6. Long live May Day: Dr. Dasgupta has special affiliation of workers day and he would get NEST program slotted for this day with all the efforts. Once I too was part of the may day interaction with construction workers in Cacra village in 2003 May 01.

7. No to compensation: In 2001 I was advocating that Japan must pay compensation to Goa for the damage caused to Goa with import of Goa’s Ore. It was Dr.Dasgupta who challenged my position. He held that Compensation is not the solution. Political control over the state by common people was the solution. This drastically changed my involvement in mining industry critique. Subsequently I too gradually began to understand this position and came to oppose compensation.

8. Stop doing “Anti” work: One of the main arguments Dr.Dasgupta would espouse is that it is futile to engage in “anti” activities of any sorts. He believed that there needs to be consistent efforts to understand political economy and how it operated. This he believed that would make ‘anti’ activities unnecessary. People in this way would emerge to rise up to the position of power.

9. Positions on opposition to mining: Dr. Dasgupta favored increased articulation of opposition to mining in Goa. He himself vehemently attacked mining companies like Dempos publicly. He even got in confrontation with his departmental colleague who tried to scare him. Dr. Dasgupta retaliated that he had opposed Tatas in Jamshedpur and he does not care for Dempos. He toured some places in Goa’s mining belt like Mayem in North and Colamb in South for first hand experience. He advocated organized tours to mining belt by young people and other. He also felt that people have to become fearless and speak out loud against mining industry. He came down heavily those who were opposing mining because it was damaging temples while keeping quite at the same time on damage caused to agriculture due to mining.

10. Firm opponent of Dams: Dr. Bikram Dasgupta remained firm opponent of damming of rivers for the purpose of irrigation and power. He held Science-industry nexus responsible for the proliferation of dams in the country. One of his last papers was on Puran Shethi – riverbed agriculture in Mhadei river – submerged due to construction of check dams to flood the river in Sattari, Goa.

11. Unreliability of technology: Dr. Dasgupta held that Modern technology is designed to control political dissent by instituting mechanisms of filter and control of information. He was particularly critical of internet. He believed that internet must be used only for the tertiary purposes and never it should substitute on ground direct communication with people.

12. Communal State and Secular People: Dr. Dasgupta assessed that Indian State in various state is communal but people all over the country are secular. It is the State manipulation that is oriented towards creating communal strife. Communalism too has its political economy that is scarcely probed by those engaged in opposing communalism. As a result those opposing communalism end up further aggravating the situation.

13. Adivasi Concerns: Tribal people has been of special concern to Dr.Dasgupta. he was involved in preparation of Mundari dictionary in his State of Orissa. He worked with tribal head of Mundas – Manki in preparation of the dictionary. 2004 Annual conference was also on indigenous people held in Ranchi. He had set of defining characteristics on who tribals are. This did rack up few controversies in Ranchi NEST conference. In Goa he toured various tribal villages in 2005 when NEST visited one tribal village per month for a overnight stay and discussion.

14. Critique of pesticides industry: Dr. Dasgupta has been fierce critic of pesticides industry. In 1970s itself he had prepared and presented a paper on Pesticides industry of Latin America. In Goa too he continued to be critically engaged and offered support to People of Dhulapi, Tiswadi battling pesticides industry.

15. No to apolitical approach of resistance movements: Dr. Dasgupta remained completely opposed to the apolitical approach of Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA). He even public questioned Advocate Satish Sonak on the apolitical approach of GBA. Dr. Dasgupta was of the view that political parties and politicians must be involved in struggles rather than isolate them.

16. Fearless in face of State repression: Dr. Dasgupta remained fearless in the face of State repression. I am aware of at least two occasions when this happened. The first was sometime in late 1990s when Timblos wanted to take over Cacra village for its offshore stockyard and dock. Their plan was to dump 50,000 tonnes of cement in the village. The drilling work had begun on the shores of Cacra. Police were stationed in the village creating situation of terror. In this circumstances Dr. Dasgupta walked on foot into the Cacra village and offered his support to the villagers. Later on he was also part of delegation that called on Chairman of Marmagao Port Trust (MPT) to impress upon them to call off their project in Cacra. Other members of the delegation included Sanjay Pereira, Member of Santa Cruz Panchayat representing cacra villagers, Alito Sequiera from Department of Sociology, Goa University, and Manohar Parrikar, legislator in the Goa Assembly. They successfully negotiated and project was dropped. The second instance is in 2005 when Dr. Dasgupta went physically to defend sex worker in Goa’s red light area in Baina beach in Marmagao taluka. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was involved in demolition of house of the commercial sex worker as well of others. Here we have Dr. Dasgupta’s politics – on one occasion he collaborated with Manohar Parrikar and on second occasion he goes and stands up against him. This is what Dr.Dasgupta is – he stuck to his principles and continued his uncompromising support to the marginalized, rain or sunshine did not matter to him at all. He functioned with single minded determination and inner strength.

17. Life amongst poor: Dr. Dasgupta could communicate with poorest of the poor even complete ease. He was completely at ease. He had de-classed himself. There were no traces of any middle class hang-ups. There were no vestiges of petty bourgeoisie attitudes. He had purified himself. One day he told me as to how did he do that. He said his life changed totally after he lived in India’s poorest region that is located in his home State of Orrissa - Kalahandi.

18. Tracking Western Ghats: Dr. Dasgupta loved tracking. I had a privilege of tracking with him in western ghats evergreen forest from Nerse village in Khanapur, Karnataka up to Sonal village in Sattari, Goa. We trakked for five days with two other youth in Nerse – Raju Havaldar and Pundalik Amrut Desai. Dr. Dagupta would take great delight to take cold water bath in flowing streams of Mhadei. One night stayed at Povazhar the steepest high altitude waterfall on Mhadei. Dr. Dasgupta had some extra sensation and in the dark of the night he informed us that there was a tiger somewhere close to where we were staying. In the morning Raju Hawaldar confirmed that indeed there was a tiger cub around at the distance 7 meters from where we had our dinner and slept for the night. I remember that night singing for hours together. Raju and Pundalik cooked chicken that we got from a Dhangar house on our way in the forest. This Dhangar’s name was Kalu and was suffering from tuberculosis. He was taking treatment from Goa Medical College, Bambolim. Dr. Dasgupta took great interest in Kalu and after some time of looking around suggested his family that they must live in separate house from their goats. That time goats and humans were living together under one roof. That was generating tremendous amount of dust from the ground. On one occasion all four of us got lost in the forest. It was evening time. We had lost our path. We could not see anything else other than hundreds of butterflies surrounding us. After few hours of wild wonderings we managed to find our path again and also found glimpse of sun set. We shared tremendous comradeship throughout our trekking time. Dr. Dasgupta had done special preparations for this track. He had gone thorough Karnataka State gazetteer and found out the topography of the region. He had also found out that the word Belgaum originated from the thick bamboo shoots in the region. These are special kind of bamboo shoots that flowers once in 80 years and then all of then die together. This happened in December 2008 latest. We saw all the bamboo shoots flowering while we headed towards Dandeli Wildlife sanctuary for the NEST annual conference. Dr. Dasgupta would initiate long discussion with the houses that he would be visiting and staying for the night. All his discussion was free from complications and they were straight from the heart. I would very often feel very insecure from within while he got in his free flow discussions. I was getting touched on my uncomfortable zones. Today when I turn back around and reflect I find that it was more of my immaturity rather than anything else at play then. My time with NEST has made me tremendously sensitive to nature around me. My life would have been different without NEST for sure. The combination of theory, study from books and knowledge gathered through practical exposure sites made me very sharp agile in my perceptions. Dr.Dasgupta has a huge role in this.

19. Fisheries: Dr. Dasguta’s another very important concern has been the fishery. As soon as he landed in Goa he noticed dead fish floating around in Mandovi river. He wrote a poem “Mackerels and the Sea birds”. He has written couple of research papers and presented at seminars. One of them was at Tirucherapally, Tamilnadu.

His readings were vast and reflections deep. It is from him that I learned that Vedas have a recipe for beef preparations and beef eating was common in India during earlier times. According to him ban on beef eating and cow slaughter came about as the nature of economy changed predominantly into agriculture wherein cattle played key role.

Dr. Dasgupta's hero was 21 year old black boy he met while doing his post doctoral studies in Basel, Switzerland. The special feature of this boy that attracted Dr. Dasgupta is that in freezing cold Switzerland he would move about comfortable with no clothes on top of his body.

Dr.Dasgupta was a tremendous admirer of late Phulan Devi's one particular life episode wherein she was touring rural areas in Bihar region with western media. She defended children engaged in work while speaking to media. Media became furious and asked her to retract he comments and and denounce child labour. She refused. Western media team refused to continue film on her life. Dr. Dasgupta believed that problem of Child labour in India is inherently due to economic exploitation. It cannot be overcome by targeting of children and denouncing them or legally banning children from working. He felt that deep rooted economic change is needed to do away with child labour.

I find no better way to conclude this tributary note to our beloved Dr. Bikram Dasgupta than to quote an sms that Advocate Jatin Naik has sent in today January 11, 2010 “Revolutionaries will come and go in the natural course of life. But the Revolution has a life of its own. We salute the memory of Dr. Bikram Dasgupta and pledge to uphold the line of critical inquiry in all matters of Revolution."

Sebastian Rodrigues

Note: Photograph of Dr. Bikram Dasgupta in this post is by Shaweta Anand, New Delhi taken during the NEST annual conference 2008 in Dandeli.


Shaweta said...

I am very lucky to have met Dr Dasgupta, briefly though, at one of the NEST conferences in 2008 at Dandeli, Karnataka. Today, I can say that he left a deep impression that no other can live up to. Had heard about him earlier but found it difficult to relate with him instantly but when I met him and saw him in action, I could see the man's genius.
Remember him looking so 'red' in his bright red shirt and cap . He came across as such a lively person that all the very energetic, enthu ppl I know can probably come together and match his level of passion and love for new ideas and thought processes. For instance, while we sat for lunch on the day one of the conference, when few of us met up for the first time, he started off with an impromptu quiz, not sparing anyone on the table! At first, I was a little embarrassed and amused at what he was doing but later on realized that his basic questions about ants and elephants were meant to challenge our mundane, rigid thought patterns...once I understood that, then it was easy to let go and participate in every dialogue, or discourse he wanted ppl to think abt and participate in in the days that followed...So all in all, Dandeli was a very enriching and memorable experience, thanks to Dasgupta and all others who invested themselves in it.
Btw, it doesn't feel like the man wearing bright red is no more. He lives on through the impressions he left in our hearts.

Sajo said...

I was a student of Dr. Dasgupta at Goa University in 1990-1992. I attended his courses on solid state and materials chemistry for my MSc. His teaching style and overall demeanor was different from the rest of the teachers at GU. The boundaries of syllabus, examinations, portion-completion, etc. did not bother or confine him into narrow spaces. He would rather encourage self-learning, asking questions, informal discussion in his class. He challenged the conventional system of teaching-learning and probably was the reason was heavily criticized at GU. It is unfortunate that the society cared more about his attire rather than the human in Dr. Dasgupta or his ideas.

Dr. Dasgupta was against oppression, especially the poor and the weaker section of the society. He believed in fighting strongly for one's rights. One day while he was a teaching a class, he saw two students arguing about something. He asked what was going on, and one of the students said, ‘we are fighting’, to which he replied, ‘if you fight, fight strongly’. He was also a great proponent of world peace and was vehemently against nuclear technology and its proliferation and worked to create awareness in this area.

In the early 90s, he would talk about new scientific ideas such as self-organization, chaos, fractals, etc. and their influence on future research. Today in 2010 we find that self-organization, chaos and other concepts are being applied not only in fundamental sciences but also in applied and commercial fields such as nanomaterial synthesis, electronics, computation, optics, etc. He had several original ideas in science and other fields.

One could discuss on any topic under the sun for any amount of time with Dr. Dasgupta. Science, arts, music, philosophy, sociology, religion, etc., he was a master of all, and a genuine, sensitive, humble thinker with a deep concern for society, environment, and people-- especially the oppressed. Often I visited him at his house in St. Cruz village; there I saw that the villagers had a lot of affection and love for him. The organization NEST started by him and its activities speak volumes about his concern for society and environment.

Dr. Dasgupta was a ferocious reader and had a big collection of books, monographs, papers on various subjects. In the 90s many times I would accompany him to various book exhibitions and book stalls around Goa. By then he was already a well-known figure with the book sellers in Goa. During that time he would spend much of his monthly salary (sometimes more than 50%) on books. He would tell me that every person should spend at least a few thousand rupees on books every year.

Unfortunately for the last six years I didn’t have any contacts with him. I am beginning to believe that his premature death must be the result of the torture he inflicted on his body all this long. I remember in the 90s he would remain hungry for days just because he was busy working on some idea or deeply engrossed in reading, and had no time to cook his food. And being a life-long bachelor didn’t help much. He was also a very heavy smoker which could have further contributed to his death.

Dr. Dasgupta’s passing away is a loss to science and society as he had the potential to provide solutions to pressing problems of society. The best tribute from his friends and ardent admirers would be carrying forward his ideas and projects to glory.

I will miss you dear teacher.

Sajo Naik

Susan Deborah said...

That was a lovely and detail tribute of Dr. Dasgupta. I feel honoured to have been associated with him. I must say that I did not have enough conversations and deliberations with him but whatever I have had is stored in memory.

We, in Chennai had a special bond with him. The news of his passing on had left a strange melancholy within us.

Thanks Seby for this write-up.

Joy always,

elijah said...

i seby, i was shocked to hear about old friend Prof. bikram from Peter Dietz with whom Prof. bikram stayed more then a year in Basel, Switzerland during his studies. in fact we lost touch with him since the NEST conference we had in our village project of LEED near chennai ( Dynamics of Order and Disorder in Nature and Society: Chaos, Systems Theory and Chaocomlexology (2002)where i had presented a paper on M.C Escher. there is lots of personal discussions we had with this great man which never ends with Bikrams words which rings in my mind "an activists never sleeps, he is available anytime when the need comes" there were many discussions which often ended in serious arguments and once he made me cry. it was a great write up seby and if you have any idea of writing about the times each one of us spent with him it would be great. he left lots of memories in our heart and lets make these memories useful for the society.
regards elijah and