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14 July, 2017 10:22:47 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 July, 2017 10:49:55 AM

My teacher Prof Karunamaya Goswami

His sudden demise created a vacuum in Bangladesh’s literary and cultural arena
Saidur Rahman
My teacher Prof Karunamaya Goswami
Prof Karunamaya Goswami

There are very few teachers who can leave a lasting impression in the minds of students. Very few teachers can play the role of a mentor, guide, philosopher and friend. Eminent educationist, writer, researcher and musicologist Professor Dr. Karunamaya Goswami was one such person. He died of cardiac failure on the night of June 30 last at the age of 74. Dr. Goswami was my teacher at Tolaram College in Narayanganj in the mid seventies. A young man in his thirties he was an English teacher at the college. Fair-complexioned, handsome with youthful exuberance and vivacity, he could easily charm students with his lectures. Singing songs of Tagore and Nazrul was his additional quality.

   There is a short background behind my admission into IA Class at Tolaram College. In fact, I studied ISC at Dhaka College. I belonged to the first batch of students at Dhaka College after the liberation of the country. I was an HSC final examinee in 1974 from the college. But unfortunately I could not sit for the examination due to illness. In 1975, after appearing at exams of five subjects, my father died of heart attack. I could not appear for the remaining exams.  Loss of two valuable sessions played havoc with my academic life. With the stigma of ‘break of studies’ I got admitted into IA Class at Tolaram College. Naturally the former enthusiasm for studies was absent in me. I would sit on the last bench in the classroom to escape notice of teachers. But I could not. I caught the attention of Karunamaya Goswami on the first day in the classroom.

He asked us to translate some Bengali sentences into English. After uttering the sentences he was about to leave the classroom on the first floor of the college building. He had the habit of sauntering on the spacious verandah of the college building for a few minutes crooning songs of Tagore. As I raised my hand, he looked askance at me.

“Have you missed any sentence?” he asked me.

“No sir”, I replied with confidence.

“What then?”  He asked.

“I have already translated the sentences into English. Would you please see, sir?” I replied.

“How could you do it so quickly? Didn’t you write the Bengali sentences?” He asked with an air of surprise.

“No sir, I didn’t have to”, I replied and went near him and showed him my exercise book.    

Satisfied with my performance, he enquired my name, address and everything within a few minutes. He gave me the location of his residence and told me to meet him the next day.

I met him at his residence at Jamtola the next day. He was residing at a tin-shed small rented house at that time. I spent about an hour at his residence. From that day onward my intimacy with him grew. He resided at Narayanganj for long 40 years. During the long period of time I met him on many occasions. I met him at his residences at different places in Narayanganj-- at Sudhijan Pathagar, at Bose Cabin, at the railway station and at the Poura Pathagar. Since I also reside in Narayanganj, it was not difficult for me to communicate with him. We talked about literature, art and culture. From the very beginning, he was hard working. In the beginning he was confined to translation. ‘Afrikar Golpa’ was his published book. Later he made his mark in different branches of literature.    

From the mid seventies I used to write regularly for the ‘Young Observer’ page of the now-defunct The Bangladesh Observer and ‘Junior Times’ page of the now-defunct Bangladesh Times respectively. Karunamaya Goswami Goswami would read my write-ups and would encourage me a lot. I have a host of memories with him. As I recall, it was the late seventies. I was honours final year student then. I met him at his residence in the afternoon. It was summer and sizzling heat dominated. He was clad in lungi and was bare-bodied. He was engrossed in writing something. There was no fan in the room and he was sweating profusely. Beads of sweat from his forehead were dropping on the white sheet of paper. But he continued working defying the sultry weather. What a devotion to work! I wondered. From that day I developed the notion that he will be a celebrity in future.

Karunamaya Goswami spent about half a century in teaching profession. He was associated with ‘Sahitya Bitan’, a prestigious literary organization of Narayanganj. Other members of the organization included poet and novelist Prof Bulbul Chowdhury, poet and academician Prof Dr. Selim Sarwar, poet Amjad Hossain, Sharif Sarwar, Shahed Ali Majnu, etc. The organization inspired him to carry on with his literary works. He was also associated with ‘Sudhijan Pathagar’, a library with a huge collection of books in Narayanganj. I have been immensely benefited from reading the books borrowed from the library. My first book came out in 1988. Karunamaya Goswami was very much pleased. It was in the early eighties that he wanted me to take up the editorship of a weekly newspaper published from Narayanganj but I politely declined the offer as I was looking for a job in a daily newspaper based in Dhaka. However, I had to contribute regularly to the weekly due to his insistence.          

Born in 1943 in Mymensingh, Karunamaya Goswami passed MA in English from Dhaka University in 1964.  He did his PhD on Kazi Nazrul Islam in 1987. He started his professional career as a teacher of English department at Narayanganj Tolaram College and retired from Narayanganj Govt. Women’s College as a principal. Later, he joined Cambrian International Study Centre and Cambrian Cultural Academy as principal and held the positions till his death.

During his lifetime, he did a lot of research work on music including writing a music encyclopedia in Bangla titled ‘Sangeet Kosh’. He authored 68 books. Titles of some of his books on music are Bangla Ganer Bibartan, Bangla Gaan Swaralipi-Itihash, Rabindra Sangeet Parikrama, Rabindra Sangeet Swaralipi (in two volumes), Nazrul Geeti Prashanga, Rabindra Natya Sangeet, Abbasuddin, Atul Prasader Gaan, Bangladesher Uchango Sangeet Charcha, Rabindra Sangeetkala, Nazrul Sangeet Janopriyotar Swarup Sandhan, Bangla Kabyageetir Dharay Nazrul Islamer Sthan and others. He also wrote two novels on the partition of the Indian sub-continent.   

Karunamaya Goswami would write regularly to The Independent newspaper on music. ‘The Art of Tagore Songs’, a massive book, is the compilation of the write-ups.  He has done extensive research on Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

His research works were duly recognized. He received Bangla Academy Literary Award in 2008 and Ekushey Padak in 2012. North American Nazrul Society invited him to speak as the main speaker on the occasion of the three-day conference on Nazrul marking the centenary celebration of Nazrul in 1999. He spoke at a number of universities in India on the invitation of Indian Council for Cultural Relations in 2002. In 2007 he delivered lectures at Rabindra Bharati University. In 2014 he delivered lecture at the Columbia University on Tagore as a Tagore scholar. After two months he delivered lecture at the California State University on Nazrul. In 2016 he delivered lecture on Nazrul at Toronto in Canada. The Bengali community in New York accorded him a rousing civic reception.

Karunamaya Goswami was a dutiful husband and caring father. His son Sayantan Goswami had his degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and his daughter Tithi Goswami did her honours and masters in economics from a reputed Indian university. Both are happily married and are staying in Canada and in the United States respectively with their spouses.

Streams of people from all walks of life paid their last respect to the body of Karunamaya Goswami in Narayanganj, a town where he spent long 40 years of his life. Many of his students and admirers broke into tears as they were placing wreaths on the coffin. Let his departed soul rest in peace!   

The writer is Assistant Editor of The Independent.




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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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