A UNIQUE TRAIL - Twist in the tale of the search for an elusive book

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By Ramachandra Guha Das Gupta & Co., College Street ramguha@vsnl.com
  • Published 27.10.07
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On my last trip to Calcutta, I had what can only be described as a uniquely bhadralok experience: I bought a book by a Dasgupta about another Dasgupta, which was sold to me by a third Dasgupta, after he had been guided by a fourth Dasgupta. To explain how this came about, I need to go back 30 years, to the time I was an undergraduate at the University of Delhi. The university had an award known as the Rector's Prize, which had the same sort of caché as the Premchand Raichand scholarships in Calcutta. One first took a written exam, where one was quizzed on facts of 'general (sic) knowledge'. If one made it to the short-list, then one was subjected to an interview by a panel headed by a professor legendary for more things than holding a chair named after the greatest of modern Bengalis. Known (as I was to discover later) as Rabi babu in his native land, in the University of Delhi he was referred to as RKDG, the initials spoken (or whispered) with both fear and admiration. In my first year, I got through the written test comfortably. At the interview I was asked to declare an interest. "Cricket and especially cricket history," I answered. That winter, India was in the middle of its most exciting Test series on home soil - against Clive Lloyd's West Indians - and I had been weaned on Wisden anyway. "Every young man is interested in cricket nowadays," said the Tagore professor, and showed me - none too politely - the door.