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Amiya P. Sen

Edited by Biswamoy Pati , Bhairabi Prasad Sahu, T.K.Subramanian 
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 335, Rs. 595.00


This compilation of essays is dedicated to the memory of an individual whose life and work, at least for his numerous students, colleagues friends and admirers, hold ample material for creating enduring legends. For some of us, I imagine, recollections of Parthada the man is likely to somewhat obscure the intrinsic worth of his scholarship for, ultimately, the man is greater than his work. Some of my other peers and teachers I have known and understood largely through their work. With Parthada, however, the depth and versatility of his historical interrogations becomes more intelligible in the light of what one saw of him inside classrooms. He was a teacher who himself practised and encouraged among his students, attention to detail but also exactitude, solid empiricism more than even modest flights of historical imagination. Now that pure theory and a distrustful distancing from archival sources have come to be widely accepted in historical scholarship, Parthada’s neo-Rankean propensities might appear unfashionable if not entirely misplaced. And yet, if I recall correctly, it was this very investigative rigour that left the deepest impressions on students of history some thirty years ago.   Of course Parthada was much too human to be infallible and students of my generation are apt to recall the incident of Krishna Mohan Shrimali, also sometime my teacher, correct his own teacher on a matter of factual infor-mation. But Parthada handled such failings with grace and humility as he handled voices of disagreement. I vividly remember how upon learning that he and I had conflicting opinions on Bengali literary history, he promptly quoted a Sanskrit couplet the substance of which was that it was indeed a joyous day for a teacher when one of his own students could bring himself to disagree with him.   Happily, there were also some jokes in circulation. In the early ‘80s, when some of us were seeking jobs with the university, the advice we carried with us was that with judicious provocation, Parthada himself could be made to copiously answer all questions directed at us. Sadly, I did not heed such time-tested, professional advice and remained an unemployed candidate for an uncomfortably long period.   Parthada could be indulgent and kind, sometimes to a fault. I recall that when in 1993, on the eve of my first journey to Oxford, I called on him with questions about the English weather, he promptly gifted me his warmest overcoat, ...

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