The city’s literary and cultural circles will miss Narendra Kumar Oberoi, a feisty intellectual and former head of the Department of English, Panjab University, who passed away here on Wednesday after months of illness. He is survived by his wife Hemlata and daughter Vandita. He was 75.
For the past decade he had been fighting diabetes and failing vision, yet one would see him at many of the art and literary events, helped along by a former student.
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However, the past two years saw his health fall further and the sad news today brought back many memories to his friends, students and admirers. Satyapal Anand, professor of Hindi, said, “Oberoi’s was an exceptional contribution to research in comparative literature by his students because although a professor of English, he was constantly in touch with contemporary literature in other languages. He encouraged research scholars to take up offbeat subjects for research.”
Oberoi taught Indian writing in English. His interests, though, went beyond literature, spanning several disciplines from the humanities to the scienecs. Books were a passion with him, and he made it a point to devote a few hours of reading everyday on subjects other than his own. He was a towering figure at the university, from where he retired in 2002.
A well-loved teacher, he mentored many poets and painters in the city. He was a one-time film reviewer for The Tribune.
Oberoi was educated in Ludhiana and in his college days he came in touch with the Communist movement as well as the radical poet Kumar Vikal. Vikal and Oberoi enjoyed a long friendship till the former’s death in 1997. While Vikal dedicated poems to Oberoi, the latter translated many of Vikal’s poems.
The cremation was attended by his relatives, friends, students and many artists and writers. The funeral pyre was lit by his only child Vandita. His family is organising a memorial meeting on the university campus on Saturday where his friends and others will share their memories.