From Assam with Love is about all aspects of Assam from the viewpoint of a Proud Assamese.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dr Kabin Phukon, a life dedicated to literature and teaching(updated)

Dr Kabin Phukon sir was a dedicated teacher, and it is a blessing of God that I am one  those who were lucky to have Phukon sir as their teacher. When the news of Phukon sir flashed in the news channels it was 9 pm. There was nothing to confirm because sir was fighting with the deadly disease already and he seems to be hearing the footsteps of the god of death. And this was quite obvious from his last creations ('Mukhya Sachib Teun Mrityur Devatar' published in Prantik).

On 24th May Assamese language and literature have lost this great personality whose integrity and honesty was never questioned. Dr Phukon sir was a Professor of English literaure at Dibrugarh university in Assam. Dibrugarh University was itself considered to be blessed enough to have  a teacher like Dr Phukon sir considering the kind of people now it is associated to, who are under scanner for corruption. Of course there are many other good and honest teachers now for whom the unversity can still demand some respect.

The sad news of Phukon sir's untimely death reminded me of our first encounter with this great teacher. It was a cold january day. The smart teacher with dark complexion wearing a dark coloured coat stepped into our classsroom when it was sharp 10 am, not a second prior to 10:00 or at 10:01 am. He came put off his coat and kept it on the shoulder of his chair. He use to take less than 4 minutes to complete the roll call. He started reading from MacFlecknoe and his carefully trained voice transformed the otherwise boring class of satire  into one of the most awaited class. We could not find out who this attractive gentleman was untill someone said that this is Dr Kabin Phukon sir. And we considered ourselves lucky.

Sometimes he would ask ourselves casually about Assamese literature too and he seemed to be very happy when he could know that we keep ourselves abreast with Assamese literature too. And when it happened otherwise we could gauge  his anger which he could not hide. He was also against any kind of hypocrisy, and with very few words he made us understood that we are caught.

About Kabin Phukon's works
Dr Phukon sir's academic career was brilliant. He graduated from St. Edmond's College of Shillong and then Post Graduated from Guwahati University with the first class first rank. He achieved Ph.D from Leeds University of England for his research work on TS Elliot's work. He received Fullbright fellowship to research at Yale University too where he researched on Ezra Pound. He worked as an honorary lecturer in JB college Jorhat. My father(Girish Neog) was one of the first batch students of Dibrugarh University Englsigh dept. And since they were from JB college they are asked by the authority to invite Dr Phukon sir to teach in newly opened English dept. But Phokon sir denied vehemently because he was still awaiting the result of M.A Final exam! ( Dibrugarh University was established in 1966, and Phukon sir joined in 1968. He got Professorship in 1986).

The perfect English gentleman Phukon sir at classroom  transforms into an immaculate Assamese person with his perfectly chosen Assamese diction which was unadulterated. No trace of his being a pundit of English literature was found while he was speaking in Assamese. He continuously researched Assamese rural style and diction and used words in his writings. But at the same time he insisted on using the words derived from Saskrit language which he considered unavoidable.

Prof Kabin Phukon sir's literary works
Enekoiye Din Enekoiye rati(1991)
Tok Dekhi Na Jone
Kone Koy Nupuwabo Aauxir Rati(1992)

Prose works are Manilal Gandhir Samu Jiboni(Brief biography of Manilal Gandhi)
 and Panipot. His critical work is  Asomiya sahityar Juti Bisar.

The height of Phukon sir's knowledge and command  over both Assamese and English language and literature but he achieved very few awards during his lifetime. Perhaps his works are still to be evaluated by critics.

Phukon sir  always supported those who fought against corruption. In his last days he had seen severe financial mismanagement in Dibrugarh University and he offered help to students who stood against these kind of corruption and dictatorship.

Updated:
Dr Kabin Phukon sir was awarded with the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award posthumously on Dec 2011. As a noted critic, poet, academician and translator this award is somehow a national recognition to his great works even it comes a bit late. 

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