Subhadra Kumar Sen, July 3, 1939- September 5, 2009

Manring, Rebecca rmanring at INDIANA.EDU
Mon Sep 14 13:34:54 UTC 2009

Subhadra Kumar Sen, July 3, 1939- September 5, 2009

It is my sad duty to report that Subhadra Kumar Sen, retired Khaira Professor of Phonetics and Linguistics at Calcutta University, died in Kolkata on Saturday, September 5.

Professor Sen graduated from Calcutta University in 1961 and earned his PhD in 1973 from the same institution under the supervision of Prof Suniti Kumar Chatterji.  His doctoral dissertation was entitled "Proto New Indo-Aryan that is Avahattha."

He married Krishna in 1967.  Their daughter Sunritavari (Nupur) Sen was born in 1970, and their son Sunanda Kumar (Som) Sen, in 1976.  Both are continuing the family tradition of academic careers.

His service to the profession included serving as Treasurer of the Asiatic Society in Kolkata; Vice-President, Sahitya Parisad; President, International School of Dravidian Linguistics, Executive Committee Member, Paschim Banga Bangla Academy, Honorary Member, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Honorary Secretary, Federation Hall.

If I may be permitted personal comments...I first met Professor Sen in 1992 while I was trying to find some manuscripts I needed for my dissertation research, that I learned were in Sukumar Sen's private manuscript collection.  My own scholarly career began just too late for me to have met Sukumar Sen himself, who had died only a few years prior to my visit, but armed with letters of introduction from my University of Washington gurus Carol and Richard Salomon, and from Dr. Uma Das Gupta, then Eastern Regional Director of the U.S.Educational Foundation in India (the Fulbright Foundation), under whose auspices I was conducting my research, I went to North Kolkata to meet his son, Professor Subhadra Kumar Sen.  Like his father, this Professor Sen held the Khaira Professorship of Indian Linguistics and Phonetics at Calcutta University and shared all of his father=s other interests as well (including an abiding passion for early to mid twentieth century American detective fiction).

After an initial meeting, Professor Sen invited me to lunch with his family in the old home in Barddhaman, which had remained closed since his father's death a few years previously.

We spent much of that visit hauling stacks of manuscripts out of the library and into a room with better light, where we could peruse them.  "We" here means ABahadur,@ the caretaker of the house; Professor Sen; and his son and daughter, both then university students following the family academic tradition.  Each stack was thickly coated with dust, cobwebs, crumbled bits of paper, and the like, and very few of the materials were labeled.  It was heartbreaking to think of all the time and effort, and thought, that Sukumar Sen had originally put into that library, as we looked at these mountains and mountains of deteriorating and apparently unindexed materials.  We went through every piece we could find, and since they were unlabeled, we had to try to guess the titles of the works by skimming a few folios.  At the very least we could usually tell what sort of work a manuscript was.  But even though we were unable to locate the pieces I had hoped to find, the opportunity to see exactly what was in the collection, to find intricately carved wooden book covers, and block-print-illustrated manuscripts, and sketches drawn in margins by scribes working years ago, made for a very exciting day.
Later, back in Kolkata, Subhadra Kumar Sen and I began to talk about what might be done to save his father=s collection from complete oblivion.  We wanted first of all (lacking his father=s own handlist) to have some sort of record of what was contained therein, and secondly, we wanted other scholars to be able to have access, with the family's permission, to any of the materials they might need for their own research.

For many reasons, the Sen project required eight years to complete.  Although at times annoying, this proved a blessing, as we all became close friends over the course of my many visits during that time.  In 1998 I brought a team of Indiana colleagues to Kolkata, and Prof. Sen generously gave us a great deal of his time, showing us the Ashutosh Museum at Calcutta University, as well as classroom buildings and the beautiful murals in the halls of the Ashutosh building where he had his office.

It was largely out of respect for this generation=s Professor Sen that I came to want to see his father=s place in academic history firmly secured with the microfilming of the manuscript collection.  As will be apparent from the incomplete bibliography below, SK Sen was an accomplished scholar in his own right, a very active member of the Kolkata academic community and of the smaller group of Indo-European scholars throughout the world.
My last visit with the family was on what I now realize was Prof. Sen's (I would never dare to address him any other way, though I thought of him as a favourite uncle) 70th birthday.  I met his first grandchild, Anasmita, clearly the pride and joy of her grandparents and the entire family.

As his name indicates, Subhadra Kumar Sen was both a scholar and a gentleman, and those who knew him will miss him very much.

Professor Sen's publications include


A Gothic Primer.  Calcutta:  Eastern Publishers, 1979.

Muhammad Shahidullah.  New Delhi:  Sahitya Akademi, 1998.

Old Bengali Syntax.  Thiruvananthapuram:  International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 2007.

Proto New Indo-Aryan.  Calcutta:  Eastern Publishers, 1973 and reissued by Shree Balaram Prakasani, 2007.

(with Taracarana Sikadara) Kasiramadasa's Bhadrarjuna:  1852 Khrishtabde prakasita nataka.  Kolkata:  Eastern Publishers, 1966.

 (with Irach J.S. Taraporewala) Hanjamana.  Calcutta:  Calcutta University, 1989.


 "Formation of Personal Names in Indo-European."  International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 34.2(2005):153-158.

"Old Persian Notes."  Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute 51-52(1991-1992):357-359.

 "On *pius."  General Linguistics 41.1(2001):265.

"Suniti Kumar Chatterji's Contribution to Linguistics."  Asian Studies (Calcutta) 8.1(1990):13-23.

 "There is a similar reason..."  Indo-Iranica 41.1-4(1988):91-96.

"Unrequited Love:  East and West."  Journal of Indo-European Studies 25.4(1997):417.

"Word Ordering in the Astadhyahi."  Journal of Indo-European Studies 27.1-2(1999):101-103.

 "Wulfila and Indo-European Literary Tradition.  Journal of the Asiatic Society (Calcutta) 27.4(1985):121-124.

 (with E.P. Hamp, W.P. Lehman, M. Mayrhofer, J. Puhvel and W. Winter) "Proto-Indo-European:  A multiangular view.  Journal of Indo-European Studies 22.1-2(1994):67-89.

Rebecca J. Manring
Associate Professor
India Studies and Religious Studies
Indiana University-Bloomington

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