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Nobel Laureate bats for ‘humane fairness’

Economist Amartya Sen attended the golden jubilee celebration of Bengali little magazine Samatat at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre auditorium on Sunday

By Sudeshna Banerjee in Calcutta

  • Published 11.01.19, 8:56 PM
  • Updated 11.01.19, 8:56 PM
Amartya Sen chats with cousin Kalyan Dasgupta (right) at the programme at EZCC on Sunday. Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri is at the left.
Amartya Sen chats with cousin Kalyan Dasgupta (right) at the programme at EZCC on Sunday. Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri is at the left. Sudeshna Banerjee

Economist Amartya Sen attended the golden jubilee celebration of Bengali little magazine Samatat at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre auditorium on Sunday.

His arrival was publicised weeks in advance through hoardings put up on the islands approaching the venue and on the day, the police were on the alert, refusing to let cars get parked in the service lane next to the venue. But due to a delayed flight, Sen would reach two and half hours behind schedule.

“This is a day of celebration, not lectures. But lectures can escape those of us who teach any time,” Sen said, tongue in cheek. He drew attention to the need for “humane fairness”. “We are duty-bound to the persecuted Bengali Muslims from Rakhine and it would not be fair to drive them back to Myanmar if they seek our help. Samatat stands for such human values, not just literary ones.”

The president of Samatat, 87-year-old Kalyan Dasgupta, who happens to be Sen’s cousin, spoke of their childhood years in Santiniketan where they would regularly see Rabindranath Tagore walking by maternal grandfather Kshitimohan Sen’s house in Gurupally, his beard swaying. “I did not go to meet him first; he had come to see me,” he said, referring presumably to the time when he was born.

When Mahatma Gandhi visited Santiniketan in 1945, 14-year-old Kalyan was given the job of guiding him around. “I ran under the pretence of walking to keep up with him.” Gandhi, he recalls, used to charge Rs 5 for each autograph. “He influenced Tagore to do the same. So Tagore started charging Re 1 to raise money for a poor fund. When I sought his autograph he asked me to come surreptitously, lest someone spotted him giving the autograph for free and charged me Re 1.”

Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, the expert on epics and Puranas who was the special guest, fondly recalled the first paycheque he received for writing as having been from Samatat.

Arghya Kusum Datta Gupta, the 85-year-old founder-secretary and editor of the magazine for 50 years, could not attend the event due to ill health. The programme started with a recorded speech played on a giant screen where he recounted how seven friends got together to start Samatat, to give a platform to writers with different opinions.

Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta and municipal commissioner Pritha Sarkar felicitate Amartya Sen at the Samatat event.
Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta and municipal commissioner Pritha Sarkar felicitate Amartya Sen at the Samatat event. Sudeshna Banerjee
Samatat vice-president Arun Chakraborty gifts a thread-on-canvas portrait he had made of Amartya Sen to the Nobel laureate.
Samatat vice-president Arun Chakraborty gifts a thread-on-canvas portrait he had made of Amartya Sen to the Nobel laureate. Sudeshna Banerjee
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