Image courtesy The Hindu
Dr CD Deshmukh conceived of the idea of an international centre, along the lines of the international centre in Tokyo. It was to be a facility for scholars and thinkers, for boarding as well as reflection and writing. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay brought in its spirit, not only the breadth and depth of culture, but inclusion and justice. But it is persons like Premola Ghosh, who has just left this earth, who made all this happen.
Premola was an exceptional programme leader of the IIC. She was endowed with the understanding of both intellectual and cultural domains. She was the third pillar of this institution. Those of us who remain, dread what would happen to the quality and spread of IIC programmes and their implementation with the absence of this pillar, nay arch.
I remember from the 1960s, a tall, slim and beautiful woman always in a sari (she started to wear other clothes only recently as the cancer advanced) her hair either long or short, her demeanour calm, ensuring the events were taking place, but standing outside the room, cigarette in hand – stylish, serious and withdrawn. Yet, ever ready to listen to new ideas for programmes and work with the rest of the establishment to ensure their acceptance.
Especially in the last ten years, I’ve worked with her to make sure that we annually commemorate Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay at the IIC. Like many of those who joined the IIC during Kamaladevi’s life-time, Premola had great admiration and a deep love for her.
As leadership changed and senior administrators came and went, she kept her cool. She was able to earn their respect and maintain the quality and content of the programmes at the same level and include the many domains that the IIC covers.
Nobody can replace her. The IIC is changing. It requires personnel with both intellect and vision, who are scarce at this time . Nor can we find replacements for lived history–Premola was herself a legend, having lived through many of the IIC’s cycles of change, but keeping its quality and leadership intact.
How can we pay our tributes to this woman? The governing body needs to celebrate her, to learn her ways and contributions, so they may inculcate it in themselves and in those who will try to replace a dear friend and comrade, Premola.
Perhaps one of the conference rooms could be named after her. I hope the IIC community keeps the memory of this brilliant leader in their minds as they rebuild the programme office and its work.