Classmates

Above: Maharaja with some of his old classmates of the Applied Chemistry Department, at a recent alumni function, Calcutta University

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Prof. S. N. Gupta: Born on Jan 23, 1941, received his M. Tech (1964) and Ph.D. (1969) degrees from Calcutta University. He was a research fellow at the University of Glasgow, U.K.; Institute of Polymer Science, Akron, USA; and Bowling Green State University, USA. Presently he is a professor in the department of Polymer Science and Technology, University of Calcutta.

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T. K. Banerjee: After graduating from Calcutta University in 1964, he joined Durgapur Steel Plant and worked there for 6 years. Thereafter he served as a Metallurgical and Engineering Consultant for 28 years until his retirement as Deputy General Manager in 1999.

My Friend Thoudam Damodar Singh

It was the latter part of 1961, we were moving from one classroom to another.

“Which way to go?”, a question in broken Bengali made me turn back. I saw a smiling face with bright eyes radiating coolness, joy and simplicity. That was the first time I met Thoudam Damodar Singh, whom we later called only Thoudam.

We were admitted to the post graduate class in Applied Chemistry, a flourishing department of Calcutta University. As this kind of education was not available at that time in many parts of India, there were seats reserved for students from various parts of the country including North Eastern States, Eastern States and states even as far as Kashmir. Thoudam Damodar came from Manipur. The bubbling proud young students that we were then, we did not care much for the handful of students from the other states. But soon, Thoudam’s superb mental faculty, especially his simplicity, his direct approach, honesty and friendliness placed him in a very important position among us. We became more familiar with him during our educational tour in late 1961 that covered a large part of southern India. He made a great impression on me by his uncomplaining, selfless attitude. He was happy with what was available, always ready to share everything, pleasure or sufferings, at the same time infusing peace and happiness in all his friends.

After college we were separated and for some time there was no contact. But, when I came back to Calcutta and joined the Calcutta University as a Professor our contact was reestablished. I was surprised to find that by then he had become a great spiritual leader and his work was spread all over the world. However, to us he remained the same old friend ‘Thoudam’.

I still remember his first inquiry, “Which way to go?”, but in reality I still do not know which way to go, but probably he knows the answer.

Flash Back (1961-64)

I met Thoudam Damodar Singh nearly four decades ago when we were students at the University College of Science and Technology, Calcutta. It was a pleasant surprise for me when I recently saw him in saffron robes, as one who has renounced this worldly life and dedicated himself on the altar of sacrifice under his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. When I first met him in the year 1961, he enchanted me by his innocent smile. Such was his nature, pure and sacred, that he was loved by all his teachers and colleagues and in fact, all were his well-wishers.

Rarely do we find people who are born to live for others. Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami is a member of that rare family. I have all faith in his will to contribute towards promoting religious wisdom for the welfare of the human society at large.

May the Almighty Lord Sri Krishna shower His choicest blessings on him.

Thoudam Damodar Singh – a friend forever

In 1961, there were thirty-six of us in our first year Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) class of the Department of Applied Chemistry, University of Calcutta. Among us, only three students were from the States outside West Bengal – Thoudam Damodar from Manipur, Basanta from Assam and myself from Bihar. Acquaintance among our classmates turned to intimacy through the passage of time. Thoudam had a short stature with an ever smiling face and he was soft-spoken. We used to converse in English and later he could understand Bengali and could speak the language slowly. He was very compassionate and cooperative. I never saw him expressing annoyance or behaving rudely.

In 1963 we obtained the degree of Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering and Chemical Technology and in the next year the Master of Technology. Thoudam specialized in pharmaceutical technology in his M. Tech. Then, we all dispersed in search of a career in research, teaching or industry. I heard later that Thoudam was involved in research in the U.S.A.

Then after a long gap of eighteen years I met him in our Alma Mater, Department of Applied Chemistry. He was not expectedly like us, leading a normal life. I saw him, a sadhu, standing before me. His body was covered with saffron-colored cloth and his face glittered with divine radiation. I heard from him, his lesson, his passion and his mission.

He dwells in the spiritual world. But his hyphenated smile, his accentual conversation and his sense of humor remain the same as before. I adore him not only as a friend but also as a true human being.

He is the global ambassador of his religious faith – the faith that science does not shun but shape together with spirituality.

Reminiscence

After getting our degrees from college, we were admitted in the Applied Chemistry Department, Calcutta University in the year 1961. Now we are all in our sixties and when we look back there are so many wonderful memories which we cherish.

At that time, there was a quota for admission in post-graduate studies in Calcutta University for students from other states of India and Thoudam Damodar was one of the gems from the north-eastern state of Manipur.

I was basically introverted in my boyhood days and I would not mix freely with my colleagues. But I discovered Thoudam Damodar, always smiling and full of life. He would participate in all discussions with his friends with a big smile on his face and would laugh profusely, sometimes not being able to complete the sentence he initially started. He was so simple in his appearance and behavior and his face was so innocent. I used to wonder what his source of so much spontaneous internal joy was.

Since Thoudam Damodar hails from the Northeastern part of our country, I had the initial misconception that he might be Christian by religion. Though I never discussed this issue with anyone, I carried this misconception for a long time. Prabir Gupta, my colleague in the truest sense, once told me “Thoudam Damodar has received his doctorate degree from an American University and has become a monk of ISKCON.” It was a total surprise to me to hear this news. Although, when he was a student in the Applied Chemistry Department, his innocent face, full of laughter all the time and his love for all his colleagues did give some indication for this future development!

After a long time, I met him again this year (2002) at the Reunion of the Applied Chemistry students of Calcutta University. I immediately felt that Thoudam Damodar is a source of inspiration to many and will lead many souls towards a serene, pure and simple religious life.

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Prabir Kumar Gupta: Born in 1942 in Chapra, Bihar; B.Sc. Honors from Rajendra College, Chapra; B.Tech and M.Tech in Applied Chemistry, University of Calcutta. He worked as a chemist in Calcutta (1964-1971); in production management, Cleveland, USA (1971-1977); as a researcher on tea chemicals and as a guest lecturer at University of Calcutta (1977-1984). Presently working as Executive Editor for the Indian Chemical Society since 1984. Has published over seventy-five articles in various scientific periodicals.

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S. P. Sarkar: After graduating from Calcutta University, S. P. Sarkar served as Covenant Officer in a British Farm in Calcutta for about three years. He then joined as Class One Gazetted Officer in a Central Government Organization and was posted as Assistant Director, Chemicals, in Ahmedabad. He served there for five years and then worked in a Public Financial Institution for more than 25 years until his retirement in 2001.