Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri, former Head of Department, Physics, Presidency College, died at his residence in Kolkata on October 24th at the age of 75.
Born in Calcutta to a traditional family from East Bengal in 1944, DRC (as he was known to his students) was schooled in St James’ and, having stood first in the Senior Cambridge Examinations, studied Physics at Presidency College (1961-64). Widely known, even as a student, for his brilliance, Dipanjan was destined to follow the footsteps of his teachers, such as Amal Ray Chaudhuri and S. N. Ghosal.
However, in the turbulent 1960s Naxalbari was a clarion call to Rai Chaudhuri and he joined the line of ‘annihilation of class enemies’. In the end-1971, Rai Chaudhuri — who by then was married to Arati and had a daughter — was arrested with another prominent Naxalite leader, Asim Chatterjee in Deoghar. After having spent 11 months in jail, Rai Chaudhuri was released on the condition that he and his family leave the country. In August 1972, Rai Chaudhuri was taken straight from jail to Dum Dum airport to board a flight to London where he went on to complete his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Queen Mary College, London University before returning to Calcutta.
For more than 10 years he served in the Department of Physics, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose College, Kolkata, and was instrumental in the conversion of this college from Birla College of Science and Education.
In the late 90s, DRC returned to his alma mater, Presidency College from where retired as the Departmental Head in 2004. As a teacher DRC was much loved and admired as he ignited the minds of young students, many of whom have gone on to have illustrious careers.
Alongside his more formal role, DRC had a rare passion for improvising and improving teaching methods, especially in science and mathematics, which left its mark on places such as Sramajibi Pathsala in Belur.
Rai Chaudhuri’s interests, passion, and scholarship spanning across literature, history, politics, economics, and movies, apart from his training as a physicist, makes him unique and quite without parallel. Indeed he was one amongst a cross-section of people whom the Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul profiled in his book, “India: a million mutinies now”.
While Physics and the fight for democratic rights alternated as the dominant themes all his life, the poet and writer slowly emerged from the background. He has authored several books in English and Bengali – “Triptych”, “Triolet” and “Prabas Jiboner Katha” (4 volumes)– apart from his many poems and essays analyzing scientific methods of teaching as well as commentaries on society, politics, and economics.
He is deeply mourned by his children, Aparajita and Diptiman, his grandchildren, Arka, Alokita, Sruti and Deepro, and his sister, Anjana. His wife Arati, a much loved professor of Physics herself, died a few years ago.