It is a rare opportunity to be acquainted with a scholar of the stature of Professor Jahangir Tareque in the prime of his career. It was the mid-1960s. Chittagong College had been selected for offering Honours level teaching in a few subjects, among which were Bangla. As it was a degree pass teaching government college, the number of teachers for the department was raised to eleven from the previously sanctioned strength of five as a degree pass teaching college. A number of freshly recruited teachers were inducted into the college to equip the department for the new course. Jahangir Tareque was one of those joining the department. Among the others, Professor Mamtajuddin Ahmed, Maniruzzaman and a few others became famous as teachers and later on made their mark in research and creative writing. I am speaking of a time when Abu Rushd Matinuddin was the principal of Chittagong College and Professors Abdar Rashid, Alauddin al Azad and Hasna Begum were heads of the Bangla Department in close succession.
The department of Bangla was already humming with literary and cultural activities. Jahangir Tareque's joining the department infused fresh energy into an already vibrating environment. The department used to arrange seminars, symposiums and cultural soirees under the banner of its Bangla Samity. Such activities were in fact extended programs of the department. Teachers were directly responsible for organizing these activities with the participation of teachers and students of the department. Students and teachers of other departments were welcome as audience and sometimes as active participants. Thus, these cultural activities and literary competitions were all college events open to all.
As mentioned above, this was a time when literary figures like Abu Rushd and Alauddin al Azad were on the staff of Chittagong College. Jahangir Tareque, on the one hand, drew inspiration from their presence and, on the other hand, made his own contributions through active participation in the college as well as the department. He wrote a few dance plays and musical sketches which were received with warm applause in those days by his peers in his discipline. Radio Pakistan broadcast some of these from their Chittagong station and Jahangir became a regular contributor.
In the late 1960s, Jahangir Tareque left Chittagong College for higher studies abroad. Literature was his subject and he attempted to achieve mastery over a wide range of European languages. To fulfill his endeavours, he chose France and went to Paris. He obtained an MA in English from the University de Paris in 1973. Earlier, in 1971, he obtained an MA in French from the University de la Sorboune-nouvelle, Paris, from where he completed his Doctor de Troisieme cycle in 1976.
On his return from Paris in 1977, he became associate professor in the Department of Bangla, Chittagong University, where I had the opportunity to enjoy his close companionship a second time. Jahangir by now was a much accomplished scholar and teacher. While in Paris he acquired command over a wide range of European languages viz., English, French, Dutch, Latin, German Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. He already had good grounding in Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. His new position at Chittagong could not provide him with sufficient scope for the use of his newly acquired knowledge in comparative language and literature .Thus, when the opportunity came, he joined the Modern Languages Institute of Dacca University in 1980. The new position opened up a world of opportunities for him.
Jahangir Tareque published a number of valuable works on literature and also translated some important works on semantics, literature and philosophy from French, German, Latin and English. At a later stage in life he was selected as a member on the dictionary project committees of Bangla Academy in recognition of his versatility and command over many European and Oriental languages. He was known for his interest in mathematics, philosophy, history and theology. He spent the closing years of his life in deep inquiries in these fields.
M. Sekandar Khan is Vice Chancellor, East Delta University.