Professor P Lal passes away
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 4 NOV: Teacher, poet, translator and publisher ~ P Lal (in picture) died at a city nursing home late yesterday. He was 81.
Born in 1929, he joined St Xavier’s College as Lecturer in the Department of English, immediately after passing M. A. in English Literature from Calcutta University in 1953. He is the recipient of the Padma Shri in 1970.
Lal was an honorary Professor of English in St Xavier’s College after he retired. A short prayer service was held at St Xavier’s College today to pay last respects to the departed teacher.
He was also special Professor of Indian Studies at Hofstra University, New York (1962-63), and lectured widely on Indian Literature in English, American and Australian Universities. He was a delegate from India to the P.E.N. International Writers’ Conference in New York in June 1966 and visiting Professor in the University of Illinois for the spring semester of 1968.
He transcreated the Brhadarankaya and Mahanarayana Upanishads on a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship Award in 1969-70. He was a distinguished visiting Professor and Consultant, Albion College, (April to May 1972); Prentiss M. Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor, Albion College (January to May 1973); Robert Norton Visiting Professor, Ohio University (September 1973 to June 1974); visiting Professor of Indian Culture, Hartwick College, (September-October 1975), Eli Lilly Visiting Professor, Berea College (February -May 1977); Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Western Maryland College, 1977.
Lal wrote many books of poetry, over a dozen volumes of literary criticism, a memoir, books of stories for children and possesses several works of transcreation from other languages, mainly from Sanskrit into English. He also edited a number of literary anthologies. He is best known as the transcreator of the English version of the epic Mahabharata which he did in the 1970s.
He founded a publishing house ~ Writers Workshop in 1958. The conceptual genesis of Writers Workshop was in 1955. Among his students in the 1st year BA at St Xavier’s were Kewlian Sio and Deb Kumar Das, both writing poems and stories. Lal decided to form a writers’ group. The plan materialised in 1958 when Pradip Sen, Jai Ratan, Amita Desai and William Hull joined, and a formal ‘constitution’ was drafted by Deb Kumar Das. A next-door Lake Gardens neighbour, PK Aditya, installed a hand-operated treadle printing machine.
Author Ms Nita Vidyarthi, who was also Lal’s colleague in St Xavier’s College, said that his death was a great loss. He has always been a very dignified person and open to all forms of discussion. “We used to reach college early and often I would ask him to read my article once before I send it for publication. He used to do that most willingly. He would encourage people to write for Writers Workshop,” she said. His body was brought to St Xavier’s College at 9.30 a.m. today where a large number of his students gathered to pay him last respects.