Published:  12:31 AM, 29 September 2018 Last Update: 12:33 AM, 29 September 2018

Subrata Kumar Das' first 5-year in Toronto

Subrata Kumar Das' first 5-year in Toronto

Dr. Dilip Chakraborty

Subrata Kumar Das, a writer, organiser, literary activist and editor immigrated to Toronto, Canada, a country of superb multiculturalism about five years back.

A profound scholar and a former teacher par excellence, Subrata was in his early fifties when he came but by then had already published (authored, translated and edited) more than two dozen books in Bengali and English. His literary achievements are highly appreciated. 

He is an M.A. in English from Bangladesh and has a command over both English and Bengali.As Canada patronizes cultures in general, and Bengali culture in particular, Canadians, both Bengalis and non-Bengalis had welcomed Subrata to the new society of North America.

He has a lucid pen, dipped in Bengali culture and tradition, and has mastery over many subjects, his unassuming nature notwithstanding. His books have earned love of commoners and accolades of scholars, who are astonished having a feel of his range of studies in various genres.

His books speak volumes of his profound knowledge, deep understanding and penetrating insight. On top of that, when he attained the age of fifty, two books were published in Bangladesh about him.

One was by various scholars, who knew him personally or through his writings and the other one, by a rookie writer who, with the passion, devotion and tenacity of Johnson's biographer, James Boswell, has tried to capture Subrata, the scholar, the teacher, the friend, philosopher and guide and, last but not least, the man.

Formerly a teacher Subrata has done yeoman's service to the cause of Bengali novels (literature as such) of Bangladesh by creating a website named Bangladeshi Novels (bdnovels.org).

Needless to say, he was the pioneer in providing Bengali literature online. In it he has incorporated almost the whole gamut of the novel genre of Bangladesh throwing light on the literary figures of Bangladesh, both major and minor. This is no mean achievement, we must agree.

Subrata's prose has no rhyme, but it has rhythm. A serious reader is glued to his book till the back flap. All his books are worth-reading, especially five of his signature books -on Chaitanyadev, on the Mahabharata, on Rabindranath Tagore, on Kazi Nazrul Islam  and  his autobiographical novel 'Ontorbaho', as well as the two books written about him by men of letters, young and old.

A cursory look on his research-oriented book, on the Mahabharata, the oldest and the second longest book in the world, as well as the most ancient of all the epics, developed in Subrata a life-long quest and an urge for a sustained study of this literary marvel.

His study of the Mahabharata crossed the border of literature and ventured into the realms of religion, mythology, history and culture. The end result was the fruition of a few superb short articles, culminating in this wonderful book, which is a store house of knowledge and a gold mine of information.

Subrata has not only read Rabindranath Tagore, he has read him line by line, in between lines and beyond the lines. That has enabled Subrata to see RNT in a greater and clearer perspective. That is why he could write a book about little known, even unknown facts of RNT's literature.

Subrata has made painstaking efforts to bring out the global recognition and appreciation of RNT bringing to light various articles written by scholars all over the globe on the occasion of RNT's getting Nobel Prize in literature in 1913.

Subrata has rightly hinted that RNT was born and brought up in Bengali milieu but that did not stand on his way of becoming a true cultural spokesman of modern India and the latter identity did not stop him from being a World Poet.

Even a child in Bengal knows that Kazi Nazrul Islam is the rebel poet there. But Subrata has placed Nazrul on a higher pedestal, and rightly so.  Subrata has internationalized Nazrul's stature as a rebel poet by drawing parallels with the poems of Lakshmi Prasad Debkota, the rebel poet of Nepal, placing Nazrul's signature poem BIDROHI with that of  Debkota's PAGAL (Mad, Crazy).

Subrata  has further drawn our attention to the hitherto neglected aspect of Nazrul's that, though Nazrul's physical presence outside India was meagre but his works transcended international boundaries and was very popular with right-thinking western scholars like  Winston E. Langley  and others.

His book on Lord Chaitanya was published in 2016 from Toronto. It was the first book that he produced in his Canada life. In the book Subrata has encompassed the life and teachings of the historical soul who created a formative impression on the Bengali minds for centuries.

Subrata has endeavoured to compress later five centuries, following the demise of Sri Krishna Chaitanya in 1533. Cultural activist and businessperson Manik Chanda's support in the publication of the book will be remembered for long.

The overwhelming news is that the book has got a Dhaka edition in last February book fair. I fondly remember the memory when he and his friends organised Chaitanya Mela at Bangladesh-Canada Hindu Mondir which was attended by about five hundred people of the community from different religions. The date of 12 March of 2016 is no doubt a sweet memory for many Torontonian Bengali.

Afterwards, Subrata and his literary friends came up with Bengali Literary Resource Centre (BLRC) which created a tumult among us. The new organisation headed by Prof Dr Rakhal Sarker has published some books, organised two Bengali Writers' Conferences, and hosted many events to promote Bengali literature in the foreign soil. To speak the truth, my first book was a production of BLRC which I had written being encouraged by Subrata.

I do have three books now to my credit which I must admit those would not have come out if he was not in the inspirational role. I express my deep love and gratefulness to the team comprising Akbar Hussain, Sujit Kusum Paul, Sheuli Jahan, Surajit Roy Majumder, Chayan Das, Tasmina Khan, Arka Bhattacharjee, Aditi Zahir et al for their lofty thoughts and unprecedented literary initiative.

At the moment Subrata has started publishing his writings on Canadian literature which he has been studying for more than three years. He has also made a good number of his literary friends to work on CanLit during the recent years. We believe all of them will exhibit their endowers and thus enrich our horizon of CanLit in a broader perspective.  

It is a well-known fact that behind every successful man there is the subterranean support of a woman. Subrata's wife, Nilima Datta, is no exception.

Hard-working Nilima has always been with her husband in all his literary and social initiatives. Their only daughter, Brotee, is a writer by her own right. Now a going-to-be Engineer, Brotee's book was published when she was in her early teens. Kudos to her also.

Subrata is not only a prolific writer of lucid style, he is also a good orator and a social activist, over and above he is a good organizer. All the major problems in our society create a resonance in his mind and he gives expression to his thoughts in his singular style, which creates vibrations in the minds of the audience who listen to him in rapt attention.

Since last year Subrata has been inseparably working with NRB television, sponsored by the reputed Bengali clothing shop Saree House, to present many community events of merit which no one had ever thought of before. Along with that, since the inception of CBN24, he has been advising the weekly to run on and contributing to enrich its content. 

I heartily wish that Subrata stays here and enriches Bengali literature and culture and gets involved in the right kind of activities of Torontonians in general and Bengalis in particular.Long live BLRC! Long live NRB television, Saree House and CBN24!


Dr. Dilip Chakraborty, a former Principal of Shri Nawalgarh Girls' Post Graduate College, Rajasthan, now lives in Brampton, Canada.

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