Source : The Shillong Times
During the 1960s, English Literature graduates from Shillong had to flock to Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati to complete their post-graduation in the subject. It was in the year 1973 that things changed. This was the year North Eastern Hill University was established at its old campus Mayurbhanj in Nongthymmai.
The university’s founding Vice Chancellor CDS Devanesan felt the need for introducing post-graduation in English Literature. At its inception, he invited Professor Noorul Hasan from Allahabad to be the department’s first faculty member.
Professor Hasan’s specialisations lay in nineteenth century English novel, Shakespeare Studies and modern English literature.
Before joining NEHU, Hasan had taught in St John’s College, Agra, Kirori Mal College of Delhi University and Union Christian College, Umiam.
Hasan was born in 1942 in the town of Rasra, Ballia district, in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Having lost his mother, brother and sister at a young age, he was raised by his father and aunt who were from a working class family. Professor Hasan faced a difficult childhood as they struggled financially.
He understood this.
Hasan had a passion for language and literature. He would purchase paperbacks and visit the library to read books. It was when he joined Allahabad University as a post-graduate student that he realised that this very passion could pivot him into another universe.
He topped the exams finishing high in the merit list in both BA and MA in Allahabad University. Professor Hasan completed his PhD from University of Manchester, England, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar under the supervision of Professor CB Cox.
In his time of service to NEHU till retirement in 2004, he had taught many personalities of Shillong and the Northeast — poets Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, Robin S. Ngangom, Ananya S. Guha, politician Paul Lyngdoh, IAS Frederick R. Kharkongor, Professor Moon Moon Mazumdar, to name a few.
“He was a brilliant teacher who could anatomise a text subtly, bring the craft into it and deftly use the background studies. He taught each genre with originality,” says Guha.
Hasan was known as a man of integrity who never compromised on his principles. He was unassuming but intimate and confident. He was a person who mostly opened up to friends he felt closest to. But as a teacher, he was warm, gentle and sincere who could empathise with each and every student’s intellectual capacity.
“There was a lot of conviction in his lectures and he had the ability to make even difficult things sound simple. He never fumbled for words and always searched out the arresting, intricate and profound elements in literature,” says Mazumdar.
The news of Hasan’s demise took everyone by surprise, especially the literary community of Shillong. He died on August 19 at the age of 75.
Adil Hasan, his son, reflecting on it now, says, “I still feel lost and confused as my father was always there. Sometimes, I wonder where he has departed.”
Hasan was a family man. He would help his sons Adil and Nafis and daughters Anjum, Daisy and Bulbul with studies as they grew up. He would tell his wife Santosh Hasan to rest while he would cook chicken curry for dinner.
Tributes were showered on him by his friends, colleagues and students in various online publications fondly remembering him as a very upright and trustworthy person.
“His stories about how he overcame adversity to achieve scholarly ambition and recognition, the friendships he formed throughout life were always a source of inspiration to me,” reflects daughter Daisy.
“It is hard to believe that one so present and so much of this world had now passed away. I hope he has found peace that passes all understanding.”
If one were to look back on one’s life, one would have no regrets as in the case of Professor Hasan. Both his daughters are well-established novelists who had been nominated for various literary awards.
“I think my father’s relationship with the English language has affected me deeply. He was always encouraging with my writing,” says Anjum.
“His appreciation of literature and of how a novel should, as he put it, ‘sing itself out’ had an influence on my writing,” reflects Daisy.
Hasan could have shifted to any metropolitan city with his family, but instead chose Shillong as his home. The atmospheric beauty of the rolling hills and rivers, the innocent warmth of the Khasi people changed his perspective of life and society.
“I think he found a pastoral connection with Meghalaya’s natural beauty which is also present in Thomas Hardy’s novels,” says Adil.
Professor Hasan had authored many books, articles and essays that won international and national acclaim. His book Thomas Hardy: The Sociological Imagination (Macmillan, 1982) was based on the sociology of Ferdinand Tonnies.
Hasan had also written a scholarly annotated edition of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (OUP, 1984). His The Selected Poetry of Firaq Gorakhpuri (Sahitya Akademi, 2008), an English translation of the Jnanpith winner’s Urdu poetry, captured its original essence and spirit. Another translation Meena Kumari, The Poet: A Life Beyond Cinema (Roli Books, 2014) had been praised by Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan.
Hasan’s contributions to literature and English teaching in the city are immense. He had taught, mentored and guided many students and research scholars. His love and passion for literature and language brought success and fame in his career. He was there for his family and friends throughout experiencing life’s “twist and turns” of joys and sorrows, like Hardy once said.
In 2014, Professor Hasan received a lifetime achievement award from the Government of Meghalaya at the Creative Arts, Literary and Music Festival.
Hasan was a creative and liberal thinker who inspired everyone who came in contact with him.