I was fortunate enough to have met Professor Naren Biswas, eminent recitation and phonetics expert, during my early days of university life. I was so moved by his selection of magical words and his conversation style, the way he talked that I didn't even realise my class was over. That day I walked all the way back to my dormitory with a sense of love and pride. No wonder this had a profound impact on me. Encompassing the periphery of the classroom, he was at the centre stage of everything happening around; be it a recitation workshop, drama or phonetics class. I believe anyone who had an opportunity to attend his recitation programmes or hear him delivering a speech would agree to this.
Biswas devoted his entire life to the Bangla language, literature and culture. He was an expert in presenting difficult subjects in a simple, lively and interesting way. He could easily turn any piece of dull, boring poetics, art of rhetoric, grammar or pronunciation into something very interesting one for the audience. He would usually recite something that was relevant to the class lecture. A man of exceptional intellect, he could easily memorise voluminous literature like Meghnadbadh Kabya by Michael Modhusudan Dutt, let alone writings of Rabindranath or Nazrul. Perhaps the greatest display of his rare ingenuity was on July 19, 1998 when the visually impaired Biswas enthralled the audience with his solo two-hour long recitation programme "Kathon O Priyo Pongtimala". Here his list ran from "Charjapad, Srikrishnakirtan" to contemporary poetry by noted poets from his memory.
Biswas' absence could rarely be thought of in any recitation, drama or phonetics workshops. He delivered speeches related to recitation, drama and accent even in remote areas, let alone Dhaka and other divisional headquarters. Though he authored numerous books like Alonkar Onwesha, Kabbotottoaw Onwesha, Bharotio Kabbotottoaw, his greatest achievement was the compilation of Bangla Uchcharon Obhidhan, where he painstakingly described the actual accent of more than 30,000 words. His remembered work is a set of cassettes "Oitijjher Ongikar". He unveiled 13 audio cassettes in between 1991 to 1996, named Oitijjher Ongikar with selected part from Bangla literature where he picked parts from 1,000-year-old poetry, ranging from Charjapad to Meghnadbadh Kabya, Bangla prose as old as 400 years, five dramas from Lebedef to Dinobondhu Mitra, plays like "Neeldarpan" and Krishnokumari, 1,000-year-old songs from Charjageety to Lalon Geeti, dramatic poetry of Tagore, selected poetry by Tagore and Nazrul, post-Tagore modern Bangla poetry, Liberation poems, plays "Profulla" by Girishchandra and "Shajahan" by Dijendralal.
The nation owes him a lot for his audio cassettes such as "Bangla Uchcharan Shutra", "Bangla Uchcharan Bishoyok Boktritamala" and "Prio Pongtimala" in his own voice. Though he didn't receive any national awards, he was honoured with the "Anando prize" from Kolkata for his "Oitijjher Ongikar" cassettes.
Working tirelessly for the promotion of Bangla literature, Biswas often neglected his own health. Afflicted with diabetes, he lost his eyesight, developed kidney problems and eventually died on November 27, 1998 at the age of 53. Even in death he made a contribution--by donating his body to the Department of Anatomy of Dhaka Medical College. My deepest respect for the famous Professor Naren Biswas on his eighth death anniversary.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006