Remembering Professor Dawa Norbu
Syed Ali Mujtaba
I am writing this as I have to unburden myself with the task of penning an obituary note about someone who is very dear to my heart. I owe to this man a great amount intellectual debt for interactions with him in the formative stage of my academic life. Well I am referring about Professor Dawa Norbu whom I had mentioned in the preface of my M.phil dissertation a friend, philosopher and guide and death has snatched away some two years ago.
Well some one had mentioned to me about this news earlier and since then shock and disbelieve had rattled my nerves. They were calmed when I met Pofessor Ganga Nath Jah at in Tiirupati for an international seminar and he gave me blow by blow account of the untimely demise of a very learned man and a noble soul.
Well Professor Dawa Norbu was a Tibetian, born and brought up in India . He had gone to St Stephens College in Delhi where as a student he wrote his first book “Red Star over Tibet .” He went to Berkley , Californian for PhD and spent a considerable time there. There he was in relationship with a white lady and had a girl child with her. After completing his PhD he taught there for sometime but having no permanent position had to shift to India.
He had told me it was a very hard decision , his friend did not wanted come to India and he did not like to stay there jobless or do some non-academic job. He taught first in North Bengal University and then came to JNU where Late Professor Mateen Zubari (disarmament expert) spotted him and gave him a teaching position.
It was at this point of time I was starting my M.phil/PhD work and met Professor Dawa Norbu. A Mongoloid looking person who always always wore boyish look, a great guy indeed. He use to laugh aloud so high that no one thought he was a professor. He was very well mannered and extremely popular with the students. I use to enjoy long walks with him discussing various issues. He was always seen smoking pipe and was a wondering and thinking person. A fine schloar he very quickly produced few books and one of them i remember was published by Rutledge.
At this point of time he got a wife from Dhramshala, a young Tibetan lady who knew no English and just bits of Hindi. I was there when they had their first son and Professor Norbu nick named him Lalu, after the politician Lalu Prasad Yadav. I left JNU at this point of time in 1994 and lost contact with Professor Norbu. I use to regularly inquire about him when I use to meet someone from the JNU. I was told even after getting full Professorship he remains at his jovial best. I was told he had added one more child in his family.
Now at Tirupati, when I met Professor Ganga Nath Jah who was one of Professor Norbu's great friends, I got the complete picture of his death mystery. It seems Professor Norbu had gone alone to Berkley to teach for two years on a sabbatical leave. There his old girl friend joined him with their daughter they started living together. It seems when he returned from US, he was completely a changed man.
A person who cannot shut his mouth use to remain silent, he seemed to be heavily drugged, Professor Jha said adding that whenever he use to visit Norbu's house, he saw him sitting in his room alone smoking cigar. He stopped coming to the department and after sometime confined himself to his house. His wife too seems to unable to understand his abnormal behavior.
Here I can relate an account of one of my friend who told me that once he had called Professor Norbu inviting him for a seminar and his wife who picked up the phone shouted at him slamming the phone. Well I know his Tibetan wife was a simple woman and was quite incapable to understand all his metal problem. I wondered why Professor Norbu was not taken to any sanitarium by his colleagues and given medical attention. Professor Ganga Nath Jah simply told me that one day when Professor Norbu was sitting in his room he had a massive heart attack and he passed away.
Well how cruel death can be and how tragic this end was. I am writing this note because I know what a fine human being, Professor Norbu was. I can only pay my respect and tribute to this high caliber person saying; His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, This was a Man! Professor Norbu May your soul rest in peace. Amen
Please check these links on him
http://tibetan. review.to/ dtn/dawa_ norbu_info. htm
http://tibetan. review.to/ dtn/d_norbu_ profile.htm
http://www.phayul. com/news/ article.aspx? id=13010&t=1&c=1
http://www.phayul. com/news/ article.aspx? id=12714&t=1&c=1