Quizzing in Assam is never going to be the same again. Eminent litterateur and economist Dilip Kumar Barua, known as the ‘father of quizzing in Assam’ breathed his last at the age of 73 today morning. His demise has left an irreparable damage in the intellectual sphere of Assam.
Dilip Kumar Barua was born to Swarnalata and Satyanath Barua in Sipajhar in Darrang district. His father was a government employee who was transferred frequently. When he was posted to Shillong, Prof. Barua was admitted into class 3 at the Shillong Government High School at Maukhar as a private student. He began attending regular classes at the school from class 4 onwards.
Prof. Barua passed his matriculation from Shillong Government School in the year 1957 and joined St Anthony’s College, Shillong as an Intermediate of Arts student. He joined Cotton College to his graduation in Economics in 1959. He came into contact with some great minds during that period. His teachers included Asraf Ali who later on became the DPI, Assam, Ikramuddin Saikia, H. N. Das who later became the Chief Secretary, Ram Kumar Das, Nagen Sarma and Dhiren Sarma. His classmates were Madan Prasad Bezbaruah who later joined the IAS, Pradip Mahanta who joined the IPS, Bhuban Baruah, Nirupama Phukan who retired from Guwahati Commerce College, Darpa Bora, Dilip Kakati and Prabhat Ranjan Bhattacharjee, Registrar of Assam University and Mamoni Raisom Goswami.
Becoming an economist
After passing from Cotton College, Barua Sir moved to Delhi University to do his Masters in Economics. He was trained by the best there including the likes of Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagawati (now an international trade expert at Columbia University), H. K. Manmohan Singh, K. N. Raj, Padma Desai and A. N. Agarwal and also guest lecturers like Joan Robinson, Milton Fredman, Ichimura, I. G. Patel (the first Asian director of the London School Of Economics).
On November 17, 1966, he joined Cotton College as a faculty in the Department of Economics. Despite having a very hectic schedule, Barua Sir joined all the events from literary events to cultural events, debating, quizzing etc. Quizzing started in 1966 and has been an unending story ever since. In the early seventies, he along with Gauri Deka of Education department was the Teacher-in-charge of the team sent to Nagaon to take part in the inter-college sports meet.
Some of the most renowned politicians of Assam like Ripun Bora, Pradyut Bordoloi, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bhubaneswar Kalita, Bharat Narah, Kirip Chaliha flourished their debating skills under Baruah Sir.
He became the Principal of Cotton College in 2000 and retired as Principal of Haflong College in 2001. After retirement, he was a member of the 2nd Assam State Finance Commission and State level study group of Administrative Reforms, Government of India which conducted a study on contrasting districts in Assam, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Foray into quizzing
Baruah Sir was pioneer in bringing the concept of quizzing in Assam. He was joined by fellow enthusiasts like Prabin Gogoi, Dilip Kakati and Pabindranath Dutta (the younger brother of Birendranath Dutta), Amarjyoti Choudhury, Robin Kalita, Pratul Baruah. At point of time, he used to conduct three to four quizzes per month.
He had very strong views on quizzing and its importance. In an interview given to Shalim M Hussain and Bhrigu Talukdar, he said, ‘Many people criticize that quiz gives only fragmentary knowledge. I don’t agree with this view. Quiz is an introduction to knowledge. It opens the doors of knowledge to students. Besides, it prepares them for other things like appearing for interviews, viva examinations etc. Quiz is a very good game in a way because it encourages students to go home and dig out more information by themselves. And nowadays, quiz has branched out to subject-related quizzes. A quizmaster also has a lot to gain from quizzes, especially while framing questions. It requires the patience of a gold miner, the exploration, examination and cross-examination of facts. I myself would not have ventured into so many fields had it not been for quizzing.’
Apart from his excellence in many facets, Prof. Barua was also known for his amiable nature, which made him a favourite among his students. His ever smiling personality and his treasure trove of knowledge will be missed gravely. We are not going to get someone like him again.