Somesh Chandra Bagchi was born in Bangladesh (in what was East Pakistan) in a town called Gouripur, in the Netrokona Sub Division of Mymensingh District on 11 September 1946 to Minati and Dinesh Chandra Bagchi. He passed away in Kolkata on 5 October 2012 at the age of 66, after half a year of brave and tough battle against lung cancer and its consequent complications.
Somesh’s family continued to live in East Pakistan, even after independence and the partition of Bengal into East and West Bengal, and moved to India (Kolkata, then spelt Calcutta) only after Somesh completed his matriculation in Mymensingh Zilla School. In Kolkata, Somesh completed his Pre-University at Jaipuria College, B.Sc. in Physics from St. Xavier’s College, M.Stat., and Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) for his dissertation on Vector-Valued Stationary Stochastic Processes under the supervision of Professor M.G.Nadkarni.
Somesh married Ratna (daughter of Sabita and Gopal Majumdar of Raiganj, North Dinajpur) and has a son Ramanuj. He is survived by his widow and son.
Soon after his Ph.D., he spent the years 1973-75 at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, before joining the faculty of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, where he remained until he retired as a Professor of Mathematics in 2011 at the age of 65. In all these years at the Institute, he took sabbatical leave only for a year which he spent at the University of Puget Sound in Tacomo, Washington State, USA.
Although his Bachelor’s degree was in Physics and his Master’s degree was in Statistics, his passion was Mathematics, which he did and taught with a great deal of commitment. Even after retiring, he taught at the Vivekananda University in Belur across the Hooghly river from Kolkata. Besides teaching regular courses at the ISI, Somesh taught regularly in various summer schools for researchers or refresher courses and nurture programs for undergraduates, all over the country, whether it was organized by the ISI or other organizations.
Somesh was a fabulous teacher at all levels. He was inspirational. His own passion for Mathematics was conveyed to his students. His lectures were lucid and extraordinarily clear. Scores of students from other institutions, including doctoral students would drop in to get his help, which he unhesitatingly gave. Despite his busy teaching schedule in the ISI and outside, he actively collaborated in research in harmonic analysis with his colleagues and guided three very good doctoral dissertations. He was a reluctant publisher of research papers, even when he had good results. He contributed to the national efforts for improvement of research and training in Mathematics as a member of the National Board for Higher Mathematics, in which capacity he participated in organizing the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad in August 2010. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Ramanujan Mathematical Society (2010 -- 2012). He never shirked administrative work and in fact carried out much more than his fair share of it, both academic and general. He was the Dean of Studies, Professor-in-Charge of the Theoretical Statistics and Mathematics Division, and he was even the Acting Director of the ISI for a brief period. Besides a great deal of teaching, he participated whole-heartedly in the admission work of setting up test papers, conducting selection tests, evaluating tests, and interviewing candidates. He was also a member of the Works Advisory Committee, Library Committee, etc. from time to time and carried out these tasks with promptness, efficiency, and good cheer and zeal.
Somesh was a great and popular story teller. He specialized in amusing his friends with witty and humorous real stories conveying the idiosycracies of our colleagues in the academic world in general and mathematicians in particular. Many a story used to get repeated on different occasions to different audiences but he had this uncanny ability to render them in precisely the same way with exactly the same words every time he repeated them! He was great company and he enlivened the great Bengali institution of adda.
Generations of grateful and admiring students, friends and colleagues spread all over the country and abroad mourn the loss of Somesh Chandra Bagchi and share the grief with his family. The memories of Somesh, shared by some of you, appear below on this page.
R.I.P. Prof. Somesh Bagchi (ISI Kolkata) .... I am so sad to know about the demise of Bagchi sir.... He was really a great person with vast knowledge in mathematics... I was so fortunate that he interviewed me during my NBHM interview at ISI kolkata on 27th November 2009 ... He gave me so many useful hints and tips and because of this I could achieve the scholarship !! In 2011, I had a chance to meet him again ... He was one of the interviewers during the PhD selection interview at ISIK ... he always used to explain things so nicely and provide clues ... but my preparation level was not up to the mark then ..... I am forever indebted to Prof.Bagchi!! May his soul rest in peace in his heavenly abode!!!S Kumaresan Jan 29, 2013
I have known Somesh since 1974 when I joined TIFR. He was a post-doc at that time. Due to my interest in Harmonic analysis, I got in touch with him and were discussing various topics, though with no idea of collaborative research. I remember having seen a paper (about 10+ pages) either in Pacific Journal or Duke journal. When I saw the main result, I thought I had a simpler proof (less than half a page). I showed the paper to Somesh and told him of my idea. He immediately grasped the idea and vouched for its correctness. Somehow it never occured to me or to him to send my proof in the form of a note on the article. I find surprising today is that we did not even write to the author! Remember that I was in the beginning of my first year at TIFR and has no idea about what a professional does in such circumstances. With hindsight, I believe that Somesh did not suggest to me to write to the author, as it might have been `disheartening' if the author found that such a simple proof was given by a beginner in the subject. (We never discussed this episode later!)
After his joining ISI, we have been in touch with each other through professional meetings such as Instructional schools, MTTS, NBHM. In all such meetings, whenever I got worked up, I was able to discern a subtle restraining influence of Somesh on me. Very interestingly, I have never seen him do anything similar to anybody else. In some sense, Somesh was my `da' taking care of his younger brother.
I wrote him a brief email when I heard of his illness. He might have sensed my distress and called me the same evening to comfort and calm me for about 20 minutes. This is the last time we spoke to each other.
It is very few people who leave their imprint on the development of human beings who came in contact with them. Somesh is one of these rarest.M G Nadkarni Jan 20, 2013
Somesh Bagchi was one of the four first year research scholars interested in mathematics at the Indian Statistical Institute when I joined there in 1968. He attended and participated in research level courses, study seminars, and other activities which some of the faculty initiated. He was very highly regarded by all his teachers who had either occasion to teach him or have him participate in continuing seminars. As it turned out he chose to write his thesis under my supervision on linear prediction theory which was an advanced area of research at that time.
Somesh had very wide interests, both in mathematics and outside, and he preferred broad scholarship and humane outlook to confining himself to a narrow area and competitive publication. He was a very influential teacher, and his views on academic matters were always sought and valued by colleagues within the mathematics community in India. As a professional mathematician, he served very ably on many committees, including the National Board of Higher mathematics. He died too early. He was active. His services were very much in use, and indeed very much required for some time to come, especially for establishing an important center of mathematics in Kolkata by the Department of Mathematics, RKM Vivekananda University.David Scott Jan 4, 2013
I remember Somesh fondly. I first got to know him when, at the invitation of my friend and fellow graduate of the University of Washington (Seattle), Alladi Sitaram, I was able to be a visiting scholar at ISI Bangalore for the good part of the 1986-87 academic year. Somesh had come from Kolkata to Bangalore to participate in seminars and deal with other academic and administrative tasks. I recall many pleasant walks around the grounds of ISI with the faculty. It was during these walks, where the discussion ranged far and wide, that I was introduced to the story telling side of Somesh and learned that he possessed a dry wit that frequently came to the fore when he was commenting on the political scene.
I got to know Somesh better after I was able to work with my home institution, the University of Puget Sound, to have it offer Somesh a visiting professorship for a year. Somesh was quickly welcomed into the university and the math department where, in addition to taking on the standard course load of courses, led a math department seminar on stochastic differential equations. Long after Somesh had returned to India, the faculty who attended that seminar let me know how much they appreciated his lectures.
While the Bagchis were in Tacoma, my family got to know them better because, at the start of their stay, we would visit to help them get settled. After they got established, we would still visit them from time to time. Not long after the Bagchi’s arrived in Tacoma, my wife and I took them to Mt. Rainier National Park, one of the scenic wonders of Washington State. There, in the flanks of the tallest mountain in Washington State, I watched Ramanuj as he repeatedly climbed up and slid down a snow bank that had lingered through the summer. I noticed Somesh and Ratna looking on with a mix of wonder, pride and just a touch of anxiety. Ramanuj - on a snow slope - in August - is it safe?
I was able to attend the conference in Bangalore in 2008 that honored Somesh and Sitaram. I was very glad to see Somesh again, but I did not suspect that it would be the last time I would do so. I extend my heartfelt condolences to Ratna and Ramanuj. I know Somesh will live on in the hearts of his family, his colleagues, his students and all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Asha Ramachandran Jan 1, 2013
My husband and I visited the ISI Kolkotta Campus in July, 2012. We expressed a wis
h to see Somesh Babu.On learning this he promptly came to the campus to meet us despite his failing health.We spent a good half hour reminiscing -he had been my husband's student in the 60s We had been meaning to keep in touch,but sadly,as is always the case,we failed to do so.It was a chance encounter with a friend that we learnt of his passing away. The impression he has left behind is one of being a really wonderful human being.May his soul rest in peace.Chiradip Chatterjee Dec 10, 2012
Kaku (Uncle). I always called him Kaku. I am a friend of Ramanuj (his only son) and that is how I came to know him. Therefore, I got the opportunity to see him from the eyes of a son or someone like a son. I have seen him talking to different people and everybody seemed to be so comfortable. It raised a question in my mind. How everyone can be so comfortable talking to such a scholar? He was very down to earth and too polite. He used to politely answer anything I asked him, as if I was making so much sense.Although I did not have a chance to know him as a teacher, I am sure that Mathematics IS his passion. I used to visit Ramanuj's place quite often, particularly during the weekends. Every time, I found him reading all day. If he fell asleep, the book (or article) used to rest on his chaste. One day I asked him, “Kaku, haven't you finished reading all the books by now?” He smiled out of surprise and said, "ki je balo, ki je balo. (What are you saying?)" I know what he meant. There is so much to learn.His humor was really practical. Aunty (Ramanuj's mom) used to cook a lot. One day, when we were having lunch together, I got confused what to eat and what not. So I asked kaku, " How do you decide?" I will never forget his answer. He said, "Continue eating for 5-10 minutes and you will be done."Once he came to our college to visit Ramanuj, since it was a residential college. He gave Ramanuj one big Dairy-Milk chocolate and asked him to guess why he chose that size. I learned it from Ramanuj. Kaku said, every time Ramanuj sees someone he can offer him a piece and get him a piece too. That way, he is good with everyone and gets a fair share by himself.There are many other things I remember. As I said, I don't know him professionally. But, I have an idea what he was capable of. His love for studies always inspires me and will keep me inspiring.M S Raghunathan Dec 6, 2012
I met Somesh for the first time sometime in the early seventies when he came to TIFR as a Post-Doc. I took an instant liking for him - his obvious enthusiasm for mathematics was perhaps the reason - and we had been good friends since then. I ran a seminar on harmonic analysis in which he participated and apparently enjoyed it. Since that time I would meet him off and on.
He was a fine scholar. He was soft-spoken but was firm in his convictions and principles. He was gentle in the way he interacted with colleagues and students, but would not compromise on standards. He was an excellent raconteur with a fine sense of humour and so great company. He contributed a great deal for the advancement of mathematics taking on voluntarily many responsibilities and executing them very well. He was for some eight years member of the National Board for Higher Mathematics which is where I came to see that his abilities at organization were superb. He was self-effacing without any kind of false humility. His passing away is a great loss to the mathematical community, to say nothing of the great many friends he had. Always, cheerful and helpful, it is indeed difficult to come to terms with his passing away.S G Dani Dec 10, 2012
I consider it one of my privileges in life to have known Somesh. I admired him greatly for his intellectual breadth and his attitude to knowledge and society. Ours was a long association, though inevitably sporadic, starting with his post-doc years at the TIFR in the mid-seventies. It was sustained during my numerous visits to ISI, Kolkata (for many of which Somesh was responsible in good measure) and his, less frequent visits to Mumbai. I enjoyed, together with my family on a few occasions, the warm and homely hospitality extended to us by Somesh, his wife Ratna, and also their son (I vividly remember one occasion when for some reason I was staying at their home overnight when it turned out that they had to leave Kolkata in the middle of the night on account of a family emergency, leaving me to the care of little Ramanuj in his early teens, which he did marvelously, ensuring in particular that I got back to ISI without difficulty the next morning.)
While maintaining a simple and laid-back personality, he influenced the mathematics in the country in many ways, as a teacher, administrator and, through his role in the National Board of Higher Mathematics, the last one being the one that I know best. He unhesitatingly took charge of many aspects and situations which was a great help. He also contributed key insights on many issues.
Recently I had an opportunity to interact with him on yet another front. At the RMS conference at Allahabad last year he presented a nice talk on a partial history of ISI. Being Editor for Ganita Bharati, Bulletin of the Indian Society of History of Mathematics, I took the opportunity to suggest to him to write it as an article for Ganita Bharati. It needed effort to prepare a more detailed version suitable for the purpose. While still working on it he was detected of the malady which was to finally take him away from us. He however persevered on it and it is a matter of great joy for me that he completed a nice version which is now to appear in the forthcoming issue of Ganita Bharati. It is a pity however that he is no more to see it in print.Farrukh Mohsen Dec 4, 2012
Bagchi (we never called him Somesh) was my classmate from Calss VII through X in Mymensingh Zilla School. Even though, at that time he did not bloom into the extra-ordinary academician everyone has described, he certainly showed all the signs for it. Coming from a village school with virtually no knowledge in English, he mastered the language within a period of 2 years without any serious help from outside which still awes me. And of course he was the best in Math. But it is not his talent in academics that keeps his memory in my heart, it was the extremely friendly, witty thin little guy who brings all the rush of childhood memory to me. In 2011, we caught after 50 years and made great plans to catch up. But fate had different plans. I know Bagch is secure in God's arms.J K Ghosh Nov 30, 2012
These very well written pages, saddening, warm, almost bring him back, with his gentle, wry smile, and a deep scholarship displayed only when a problem had to be settled. How often have I gone to him, as I have also gone to BV, to have a question answered or a counter-example produced, or just to bask in the warmth of his good humor, enlivened with his latest sly dig at human folly parading as wisdom. He will be missed by all who knew him.Neena Gupta Nov 28, 2012
Professor S.C. Bagchi (SCB) was really a GOD sent person on earth. His loss can never be forgotten.
He was an amazing person, a brilliant teacher, a wonderful narrator, very very kind and helpful person.He was highly encouraging and patient. We could always see him smilling.SCB Sir taught Representation theory in our M.Math course (2006-08, 3rd Sem).I remember how exciting that course was. We were seeing Group Theory, Topology, Functional Analysis,Measure Theory, LInear Algebra in just one course. This course showed me how beautiful and deep mathematics is. He also took Partial differential Equations in our 4th sem.
I wish he could have stayed a little more with us.R V Ramamoorthi Nov 28, 2012
This is my third attempt to write in these pages. I had tried earlier but could not write anything --it all seems unreal so here I am, trying again. How does one express the loss of someone who was so much a part of oneself? He was, as many here have mentioned, a man of great kindness, generosity and complete absence of malice. The world is certainly a better place because he lived.
My sense of loss goes beyond the tragedy of losing a good man. My association with him goes back to the days when he was a research scholar, albeit senior to me,sometime in the early 70s. In those early years we developed a friendship, a friendship cemented by many a cups of the stuff that cheers but does not inebriate and many of those that cheers and inebriates.; a friendship sustained through the years and through the changing states of our life. Many memories, shared experiences and of course lot of stories.I met him last in Feb, 2011. I had spent the previous night at his place in Sod
epur sipping what Somesh called a gift from Ramanuj . Next day was the convocation. He saw me off, we agreed to spend more time together in the coming years and he went back to his responsibilities. Everything went along as usual till SCB called me to say that he has some health problems and under some strict interrogation confessed that it was fairly serious. The news was bad but things seemed to improve. Once, we were discussing the severe side effects that he has had after a chemo session. He said, “ Not to worry. I have been assured by the most knowledgeable people that more side effects means the treatment is working well”. Of course, neither he nor I believed it. But then this was vintage Somesh – even in a scenario this somber, this was his way of assuring me that he was not worried and that nothing has changed. However, soon after, the decline set in. About ten days before he left, I had called him and he tried to talk, it was somewhat incoherent. The first and only time I could not understand what he said.
Ratna and Ramanuj displayed admirable maturity and stoicism in those trying days – attributes that Somesh would have approved. Somesh had about him a sense of detachment and a sort of irreverence, traits that often allowed him to deflect his worries and look for humor in the most trying situations. Perhaps it is the only way to come to some terms with this kind of loss. May be that is the lesson that I too should learn. I will try. Meanwhile, Somesh, my friend Rest In Peace.B Rajeev Nov 23, 2012
It is a very nice gesture to have a web page dedicated to the memory of Somesh Bagchi or SCB or Somesh da, as he was known, more colloquially, in ISI. Although he worked mainly in Harmonic Analysis, I believe, in his own way, he had a broader view of mathematics, which included probability and mathematical statistics. He once gave a series of lectures titled - if one is not mistaken - `Multivariate Analysis'. He perhaps intended to speak about generalisations of some results in multivariate analysis although the title did not quite indicate what was to follow. The expectant audience on the first day included many statisticians and probabilists . He began his lecture with `` Let G be a Lie group ..... ''. Matters did not improve much thereafter. Needless to say, the size of the audience reduced considerably in subsequent lectures! He also lectured regularly in a series of workshops on Probability and Analysis in the late eighties and early nineties.To us research scholars and junior faculty he was a friendly figure who would go out of his way to help you if you were in any kind of need academic or otherwise; If the problem was of an administrative kind, he would explain the difficulties patiently with suitable mathematical analogies that was perhaps intended to compensate for our lack of knowledge of the real world! He was quite aware of the difficulties that non Bengalis faced with regard to the local language and culture and encouraged our efforts to learn aspects of Bengali culture. He gave me an English translation of the Bengali novel `Raat Bhor Brishti' by Budhadeva Bose.Many years later and having just finished reading the English translation of the Kolkatta high court, I was looking forward to discussing the book with him, on one of his visits to Bangalore. That did not quite materialise. It came as a shock, to know that he had passed away. My heartfelt condolences to Mrs .Bagchi and Ramanuj.K R Parthasarathy Dec 10, 2012
Somesh was one of the most popular and respected members of the stat-math research and teaching family in the Indian Statistical Institute. In every one of my official visits to the Kolkata ISI, I made it a point to knock at the office doors of Somesh and BVR and at their warm and welcoming suggestion give a brief informal seminar in our division and discuss problems connecting groups, measures, stochastic processes, quantum theory and information theory. I never missed the opportunity of participating in the post seminar ADDA over Madrasi coffee and Bengali tea. Somesh, with his beaming smile, never failed to lend his ears to my small mathematical questions, however trivial or foolish they might be. In February 2010, my wife Shyama and I were guests at their modest residence, a few kilometers away from ISI on the BT Road and we were welcomed so warmly that we didn't have an inkling of the disaster that the "Emperor of all Melodies" would strike and snatch away so swiftly a wonderful member of the Stat-Math Family of ISI.
With our heart-felt condolences to Ratna and Ramanuj, Shyama and K.R. ParthasarathyMahan Mj Nov 22, 2012
SCB was there with the RKMVU Maths programme since its inception. It is safe to say that without several of his timely comments and interventions, the programme might well not have taken off. A first hiccup was the syllabus formulation. This had to be done against certain inertia-ridden obstacles. I shall relate an anecdote that showcases two of SCB's defining characteristics: an absence of any form of academic compromise coupled with a gentle sense of humour which helped smooth out any ruffled feathers. A certain retired mathematics Professor had been insisting, in a syllabus-committee meeting, on introducing some aspects of (in SCB's words) "the backwaters of mathematical analysis" in the syllabus of a basic measure theory course. At some point during the meeting, when discussions were on the verge of getting heated, he asked rhetorically: "How will the students learn measure theory without knowing Lebesgue's theorem!" SCB took the question literally and answered it by taking a five-minute class on basic measure theory on the discussion table, starting with: "Let us consider an integral of f from 0 to 1..." As far as I remember, this had the desired effect of silencing the critic for the rest of the discussion much to the amusement of his younger colleagues including me.
As the programme evolved over the years, he was always available to teach if need be. But more importantly from a personal point of view, a conversation with him on any topic that was potentially critical or disturbing would have the inevitable calming effect of putting things in perspective. His loss is both personal and institutional.Rumela Nov 22, 2012
Now I know where that upright honesty (iron fist in velvet glove) came from - Mymensingh!Gerald Folland Nov 22, 2012
My association with Somesh began in 1987 when he did me the honor of coming to Bangalore to hear some of my lectures at the new branch of ISI there and continued during his visit to the USA as well as several of my subsequent visits to India, most recently last January. I was always delighted when our paths intersected. I can't add anything very original to what others have already said about his scholarship, modesty, helpfulness, and quiet but lively sense of humor, but I can certainly add my personal testimony concerning these qualities. He was a pillar of the Indian mathematical community and a light in the life of everyone who knew him, and we are all the poorer for his departure.Amartya Kumar Dutta Nov 22, 2012
There is a certain intangible charm about ISI Kolkata and, to me at least, SCB (Prof. S.C. Bagchi) personified this unique character. He is the deepest and the widest representative of the best of ISI.
The breadth of his scholarship was amazing. Too often we come across researchers who, even if excellent in their own field, harbour contempt (or xenophobia) towards other fields on the basis of puerile impressions. But SCB had the feel for the spirit of a whole range of subjects in mathematics, probability, statistics, physics and applied mathematics, and other areas. The consequent catholicity was infectious. Colleagues, at least in the Stat-Math fraternity of ISI, had the feeling of being part of a large joint family with SCB as the head. And he was the person who could be approached for all kinds of difficulties, mathematical or otherwise.
When I joined ISI in 1996, against the advice of several well-wishers, there was no researcher in my area. But that I did not feel uncomfortable or out-of-place, is due largely to the soothing presence of SCB. All my visitors, from India and from abroad, have expressed how they were touched by the warmth of their interactions with him and how they were impressed by his academic heart. Indeed, SCB has been the visible face of ISI Kolkata for the mathematical community of India. SCB served the mathematical interests of not only ISI but the entire Eastern region. I am personally witness to his immense contributions in framing a solid course structure for the mathematics programme of Vivekananda University.
His interests extended to literature, history and all finer cultural areas. If an important letter has to be drafted, a passage has to be checked or improved,an appropriate word or phrase has to be found, SCB was the person to fall back to. By a slight change here and there, by the addition of some phrase, or the omission of another, SCB's magic touch would transform an awkward write-up to something beautiful.
SCB anecdotes: apart from their liveliness and wit, they created a soothing R.K. Narayan-type ambience. Even if a colleague X develops a dislike for Y, on hearing SCB's narration of a humorous incident involving Y,X could not help have some softness towards Y. Antipathies got diluted. SCB, with his anecdotes, had a harmonising influence in the Stat-Math Unit of ISI.
It is beyond the capacity of most of us to emulate his versatile scholarship or his mathematical brilliance. But let us hope that we imbibe his attitudes --- his gentleness,kindness, helpfulness, warmth, understanding, expansiveness,inclusiveness, patience, tolerance, nay acceptance, and his dedication to his subject and the institute, his encouragment to students and colleagues, and help retain the character of ISI Kolkata.Ramesh Gangolli Nov 21, 2012
I interacted with Somesh during my visits to India over the last 12 years or so. On every visit, my wife Shanta and I managed to spend some time with our friends Sitaram and Annu, and many times I gave talks at ISI Bangalore, at which I had an opportunity to interact with Somesh, and enjoy his sly wit. He would often start a story with a very serious mien, and it was only after he was three quarters of his way into the narrative that a sly smile would emerge, indicating that a funny ending was on the way - and the promised ending would appear with its accompanying laughter from his listeners. Somesh was serious about mathematics and was a committed teacher. Although my contact with him was sporadic, I came to be on friendly terms with, and I valued it very much. Together with a handful of other mathematicians of his generation, he contributed in establishing a more rigorous and widespread culture for the teaching of mathematics in Indian universities, which is very significant. We will all miss him very muchAshoke Roy Dec 10, 2012
Some observations concerning Somesh Bagchi:
I would like to describe here some unusual and relatively little known aspects of Somesh Bagchi’s personality. He came to visit T.I.F.R.during 1975 when I was working there as a Fellow. I was preoccupied at that time with a functional-analytic problem the solution of which depended on a fairly good knowledge of the measure theory associated with Polish and analytic spaces, a knowledge that I lacked. Somesh, having been trained at the ISI, which was at that time the Centre of mathematical activities in that area, knew it fairly well and educated me. Armed with this information, I could solve my problem which I wrote up as a paper and, before sending it off for publication, invited Somesh to be a co-author but he politely declined because he felt he hadn’t done enough work to justify the inclusion of his name in the paper, a view that I didn’t agree with. However, one can’t argue with such private sentiments and the single author paper was sent to a well-known journal and got published within a year or two by which time I had joined the ISI.
The point of the story is that here was a young man just starting his mathematical career and probably very anxious to increase his list of publications-recall that “publish or perish” was the slogan heard everywhere those days-and yet refusing, for idealistic reasons, to grasp this opportunity to see his name in print. One wonders how many young mathematicians these days would act in a similar manner.
Let me now relate another incident which illustrates a different facet of his character. The incident was rather controversial but since both the principal actors in the drama are dead, I see no harm in recalling it. If my memory serves me right, sometime in the early nineties a senior professor in the Stat-Math Unit at Calcutta was made a class teacher of one of the undergraduate B.Stat. courses in which his son was a student. An unwritten convention at the ISI demands that such a situation is not acceptable but the professor concerned maintained that the Director had allowed him to do so. This unhealthy state of affairs reached a climax when it was discovered, towards the end of term, that the same person had been appointed the Chairman of the Board of Moderators whose function was to closely scrutinize the question papers that had been submitted by the teaching faculty for the final exams. A truly explosive situation but surprisingly there was no protest from any quarter.
However, just before the meeting of the Board started, Somesh appeared on the scene and told the Chairman in a polite but firm way that he should not look at the question papers as his son would be appearing in the examinations. Of course, a violent argument ensued with the Chairman asking loudly whether his integrity was being questioned. Some of us stepped in at this juncture and tried to explain, to no avail, that propriety and decorum justified Somesh Bagchi’s objection. The Dean was summoned but he failed to resolve the issue. I don’t quite remember how the matter ended but the point of all this is that,here was a man with the courage of his convictions,who defied a person much more senior to him in age and rank for violating a sacrosanct code of the ISI. And contrast this with the silence observed by Somesh’s senior colleagues till he intervened………V S Sunder Nov 21, 2012
I wonder if a more cultured, refined, and gentle mathematician than Somesh has ever graced one of our research institutes. I first met Somesh at a memorable summer school in Mysore University (the summer when Kapil's Devils won the world cup) where I met so many people for the first time who went on to become some of the more significant Indian mathematicians of the the second half of the last century : B.V. Rao, Somesh Bagchi, V.Balaji, C.S. Rajan, Sudhir Ghorpade, the first two being the teachers and the others the taught. From then, BV and Somesh became synonymous in my mind with all that was good in ISI. The two of them have gone on to teach and enthuse decades of young mathematicians - and always with such grace and charm. Last summer, I was presented with the opportunity of going to upgrade the syllabus at a University in one of the the North-Eastern states, which can be flown to only through Kolkata. Having just come to learn of Somesh's health problem, I grabbed this opportunity to go and see him while there was still time. I will always remember the wonderful hour we had visiting Somesh and Ratna - with Somesh pulling Ratna's leg for having surrounded herself with patients to look after: him, her mother next-door, and the unwell dog which she went to feed twice a day on the balcony of their apartment building!
If I may use a favourite phrase of Somesh, he was simply `the greatest'!
Here is a photograph I took of four generations (sorry Rudra for having bisected you) of mathematicians at the meeting in Bhubhaneswar a few years ago.
Amritanshu Prasad Nov 20, 2012
Someshda was a great teacher. I still vividly remember many of his first year calculus lectures, how happy and excited I was to be learning from him.Sanjoy Pusti Nov 19, 2012
I am Sanjoy Pusti. I did my Ph.D. under the supervision of Rudra P Sarkar. Therefore SCB was my academic grandfather. In fact he was like my father. During my Ph.D. days I got immense help from him. I have doubt if I could finish my Ph.D. without him. Most of the evening time I used to go to his office. "Sir, I could not understand this portion of this paper", "I have done this result, will you please check" "will you give a lecture series on the content of Varadarajan's book".... He was always ready to help me. Whenever I have met him he used to call me "yes, Sanjoy". I could hear those words till now. I met him last in January 2012. He finished his lunch at guest house and I was leaving guest house for Luxembourg. I just wanted to meet him after hearing his lung cancer. But I could not. May his soul rests in peace.Sundaram Thangavelu Nov 19, 2012
Between our first meeting in April, 1988 and the last meeting in July, 2012 twenty four years have passed. But Somesh remained invariant: an affectionate friend with whom I always felt very comfortable, the age difference notwithstanding. In a world populated by the types of Henry Higgins he was a Colonel Pickering: he treated everyone as a friend irrespective of age or position. We have met each other on several occasions at various places. He was always there with his friendly smile and infinite patience to listen to you. I will cherish those meetings and conversations. It is hard to believe that he is no more- I would rather prefer to imagine that he is still there walking the corridors of I.S.I., smoking, sipping tea or cracking jokes!
My family joins me in sending our condolences to his family members.Sarit Ray Nov 19, 2012
To me Somesh was a simple, loving, sincere, soft-spoken, gently behaved good boy. I knew very little about his mathematical excellence and teaching career as I was in the verge of leaving ISI when he joined. However, I had met him many a times as an Alumni member and every time he charmed me with his politely-spoken witty comments. I loved him. May his soul live in eaternal peace and my heartiest condolences to his bereaved family.Subrata Chakraborty Nov 19, 2012
Somesh was a very close friend and continued to remain so. His down-to-earth style of living was something that everybody liked and admired. He could get along easily with people and make a great contribution in any "adda", be it a guha babu's shop or anywhere else. We had wonderful time together, especially during the two years he spent in Bombay (now Mumbai). During week-ends he used to come down to our house where, in addition to adda,, he would occasionally try his hand in cooking. He had his unique ways of doing things. Being a Bong, he often used to have problem with terms like "chhutta"(small coins) as he would invariably think it as "tuta". Those of you who understand bengali language can perhaps easily see the connection. Many hilarious moments with Somesh can be described, but space won't permit. All I would say is, for Mandira(my wife) and I, it is an irreparable loss of a very dear friend. We do not find appropriate words to describe the intensity of our feelings. Our heartfelt condolences to all family members of Somesh. May his soul rest in eternal peace.Ramanathan Subramanian Nov 19, 2012
Somesh was a great friend of mine during my M.Stat and Ph.D days at I.S.I(1967- 73?). He was a very cultured individual and a great intellect. I want to convey my heartfelt condolences to Ratna and Ramanuj. Somesh will be very sadly missed.Alladi Sitaram Nov 19, 2012
Somesh Bagchi was one of my closest friends and I had indeed "grappled him to my soul with hoops of steel". With his death, I feel that I have lost an important part of my own self. I can therefore understand what Ratna, Ramanuj and other members of his family must be going through. My wife and I convey our heartfelt condolences to them. May Somesh's soul rest in peace.T Krishnan Nov 18, 2012
Somesh Bagchi was a honest and straight-forward person and called a spade a spade and was not known to use euphemisms. This trait got him into confrontational situations with the powers-that-be. His faculty appointment was delayed as a consequence. As an academic, he belonged to a by-gone era where academics believed in scholarship, pedagogy, and humility and did not rush to publish. Although the mathematical world recognized his talents, in a system which counted the length of one’s publication list, it took him a long time to be promoted to a full professorship. Just like his academic life, his personal life was one of simplicity and decency. He will be missed by a host of friends and the mathematical community. My condolences to Ratna, Ramanuj and other members of Somesh’s family. May his soul rest in peace.