Supratik Bose

Supratik Bose

July 14th, 1939 March 19th, 2020

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Jinah Kim

I first met Supratik in person in January 2018 with Dr. Laura Weinstein of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He had generously helped Laura and me get a fuller biographical account of late Professor Pramod Chandra from his wife Ms. Mary Carmen Lynn in preparation for the American Council for Southern Asian Art biennial symposium held at MFA and Harvard in October 2017. From the first meeting, it was clear that Supratik was kind, affectionate, and full of brilliant ideas for bringing people together. Thanks to Supratik’s interventions and generous support, we were able to invite and host Professor R. Siva Kumar to give a talk at Harvard in April 2018. (He even paid for Prof. R. Siva Kumar’s accommodation at the Harvard faculty club.) He also introduced me to Dr. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty who since then has played an instrumental role in making introductions and connections for me in India. If it wasn’t for Supratik, it would have been extremely challenging to prepare the memorial minute for late Professor Pramod Chandra: at Supratik’s suggestion, Dr. Kalyan Chakravarty prepared a detailed biography and shared it with me, which provided the backbone of the official memorial minute of Prof. Chandra. Although Supratik’s intervention is not officially acknowledged on the memorial minute, I owe him this acknowledgement. It is also through his introduction that I met with Mrs. Mary Carmen Lynn. Supratik would occasionally call me at my office and ask how I was doing. He was such a kind soul. During one of our last conversations, I recall him excitedly telling me about his upcoming plan to situate the archive of his grandfather, Nandalal Bose in a museum in India.

Although I haven’t known him for too long, I benefited greatly from his infectious enthusiasm, generosity and what I now recognize as a kindred spirit. When we last had lunch together in Fall 2018, I told him that the next lunch should definitely be on me. I thought we would get together again soon thereafter. I realize I never responded to his last email in March 2019 in which he shared essays relating to Nandalal Bose archive’s auction. I thought we would catch up and chat about the result. It deeply saddens me to realize that I won’t have that chance to take him out for lunch and thank him properly. Supratik will be greatly missed.
Comment | Posted at 10:13pm via Condolence

Kalyan Chakravarty

I met Supratik Bose last in 2018 at Boston and he told me that his days were numbered. He did not want to go on dialysis and felt that it was better to be resigned to his end. Yet, he found time to set up appointments for me with Prof. Michael W. Meister at his home, Laura Weinstein at BMFA, host a lunch meeting with Prof. Jinah Kim at Harvard, invite me to lunch at the Senior Resident Facility where he was staying, and, escort me in his car around the city. I have also enjoyed his hospitality during my stay at his ancestral home at Shantiniketan in India, where he showed me his priceless collection of Nandalal Bose, his legendary grandfather. He mentioned that the house was slowly subsiding in the soft ground. I wrote to Ms. Mary Carmen Lynn, wife of my teacher, Prof. Pramod Chandra, at Harvard, asking about him, when I couldn’t get any response to my communications, to learn about his demise, with great sorrow.

I have been meeting Supratik over the decades, conversing and corresponding with him about his myriad minded interests, including de fragmentation, de specialization and de institutionalization of learning; his efforts, with Amartya Sen, to create a global fellowship of savants, in fulfillment of the unfinished mission of Rabindranath Tagore, at Visvabharati; his unrealized long term plans for renovating and reorganizing Harvard University spaces; and, his abiding commitment to a Swaraj of ideas, to complete the political Swaraj of India I also witnessed and engaged in his efforts to showcase Nandalal Bose’s work, specially, in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, in USA. He shared with me his work, published and unpublished, on the reorganization of University education, architectural and landscape planning, and presented me with the books he brought out on Nandalal Bose.

During my sojourn at Harvard for a Ph.D in Fine Arts, I took courses with Prof. Eduard Sekler, the Founder Director of the Harvard School of Design, and Supratik was then in the full brim of his youth, always around to help me with educated suggestions. I have met Supratik and his wife, Linda, along with the Chandras, at lunch in Cambridge, and he used to visit me and my family in Delhi. I could not see him again after I shifted from Delhi to Kolkata at the end of 2018.

Supratik will remain with me always, a gentle, gracious, self effacing and enveloping presence, and, as a niggling, throbbing pain of some shared and unfulfilled aspirations.
Comment | Posted at 04:18am via Condolence

Michael Meister

A man of great merit and a great friend! MWM
Comment | Posted at 02:40pm via Condolence

Priya Natarajan

I first met Supratik at a party at Amartya & Emma's home about 6 years ago or so. We hit it off immediately with common interests in architecture, art, design and ideas. His enthusiasm for life was infectious and his child-like curiosity was remarkable. We became close friends and he was very supportive of everything I did. He would always congratulate me when an essay was published in the NYRB; when my scientific research results made a splash in the media and when I was featured in some BBC documentary or PBS show talking about my work. He has enormous faith in my intellectual capacities and was a source of strength during moments when I felt shaky. He was a gentle, generous soul. We met for lunch and dinner and argued about all manner of things - elements of the educational system that stifled creativity; the injustice in the world; growing income inequality and bad design! I miss him greatly, his wonderful stories and warmth.
Comment | Posted at 06:58pm via Condolence

Megan Marshall

I first met Supratik Bose in November 1975, at Thanksgiving dinner in the Cambridge apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Linda Lord. Like me, Linda was a new transfer student at Harvard that semester and an English major writing poetry. Bose and Linda were generous hosts, and I fell under the spell of their hospitality: relaxed, yet far more civilized than the communal households of Central Square where I’d lived for the past few years. I was grateful to know both of them, happy when they married a few years later.

When that marriage ended and Linda moved away, I wasn’t sure I would stay in touch with Bose, as he insisted his American friends call him, never expecting any of us to master the pronunciation of his first name. But I learned that friendship is one of Bose’s gifts. Our connection strengthened as we began to realize this about each other—neither of us liked to give up on a friendship.

Then, over the years, as we both turned to preservation of our family histories, we discovered a deeper, almost familial relation, which made it seem as if our friendship had been predestined. I’d grown up in Southern California, Bose in India, but my paternal grandfather, Joe T. Marshall, had been a Harvard senior in the spring of 1913 when Rabindranath Tagore delivered the lectures that would become Sadhana. Those lectures on Indian philosophy changed my grandfather’s life. The following year, rather than attend law school as planned, he traveled to India to meet Tagore, becoming the first American to observe the small school at Santiniketan that would become a university—where, six years later, Bose’s grandfather Nandalal would start an art school at Tagore’s invitation and raise his family in the remarkable household in which Supratik Bose grew up. The only grandchild to bear Nandalal’s family name, Bose was given his unusual first name by Tagore himself. My grandfather never met Nandalal, but his diary entries from his August 1914 visit to Santiniketan persuaded us he’d met the grandfather of Bose’s great friend Amartya Sen, the Sanskrit scholar Kshiti Mohan Sen, on the fledgling campus.

I always hoped to visit Santiniketan with Bose, to close the circle opened by my grandfather’s visit, the promise of which went unfulfilled when world war broke out. Perhaps I’ll still get there, to sit in the now-famous meditation spot, Chhatimtala, where my grandfather had his photo taken. When I showed Bose the photograph, he assured me that the marble altar was still in place, although the ancient chhatim trees that shaded it, that had inspired Tagore’s father to acquire the property, had come down. Bose recited for me his own translation of the prayer inscribed on the altar:

He is the pleasure of my mind
happiness of my life
and peace of my soul.

The lines seem an appropriate benediction for our departed friend, with his active mind, his delight in the physical world, and remarkable capacity to find peace as he left it and us behind.

Megan Marshall
Comment | Posted at 11:09pm via Condolence

Why light a candle?

This is why you should light a candle..

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