Professor Amareswar Mishra, An Obituary

 

Ashok Swain

Uppsala University, Sweden 

On 6 June 2022, Professor Amareswar Mishra passed away, leaving behind his wife and two well-accomplished daughters. The death was sudden due to a heart attack at the age of 74. He had even participated in a television debate a day before. Professor Mishra was a well-known political scientist, was a professor of political science at the Utkal University, and was also head of the department.

He was my favorite teacher when I joined Utkal University for a year in the Master’s program in 1984 before moving to Delhi University. He was an excellent teacher and a wonderful human being. There are many memories from those days. We had gone on a study trip to Mumbai and Goa, and he had accompanied us. I didn’t see him angry even once, even though he was with a group of 20 students doing everything to test their limits.

During that study trip, we were walking inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and suddenly he asked the group of students who were with him at that time to define the British Crown. To my surprise, I knew the answer. Since then, he has had a special liking for me. Only a few months, I stayed at Utkal University after the study trip. I regularly went to his house in the evenings to talk about everything in the world and also for hot homecooked pakoda and tea.

When I moved to Delhi for studies and then to work at Uppsala University, I was regularly in touch with him through writing letters. In 1995, I got another opportunity to work closely with Professor Mishra. We got a 7-yrs research project from the Swedish International Development Agency to examine democracy and social capital in India and South Africa. Professor Amareswar Mishra put together an excellent group of researchers and Ph.D. students to work with us. From 1995 to 2002, Professor Mishra and I worked closely with our research collaborators at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

During that period, we went to many villages in Odisha to collect data and interview people. We also travel to Kerala and Pretoria together. When we were in Kerala, Professor Mishra had difficulty eating foods prepared with coconut oil. He never said that to me, but I could sense that. On our way back, we had to stay overnight in Chennai as there was no direct flight. I took him to a Punjabi Dhaba, thinking he would be happy to get some roti and dal, but the dal in that Dhaba was more like Sambar. He just looked at me and laughed; we both laughed for some time. On our trip to Pretoria, he once got upset with me. Without telling him and others, I had taken a taxi to visit an apartheid-era hostel of male migrant workers, which had become infamous for crime and violence. He was upset that I had taken that risk. Moreover, he wanted to go there too.

Professor Amareswar Mishra had visited Uppsala many times. Those days, it was not easy to find vegetarian food, even summers in Sweden can be colder than Odisha’s winter. But, he has never complained, smiling and accommodative as always. He was a brilliant man, an affectionate teacher, a great friend, and above all, a fine human being. Rarely do you come across someone so accomplished and also such a mild and gentle human being. I have seldom seen a teacher who is so well-liked and respected by his students and colleagues.

His death is a massive loss to Odisha’s academic community and political scientists. He will always be hugely missed by his loving family and the larger family of his students and friends. I lost a great teacher and an affectionate friend. Rest in Peace, Amareswar Sir!

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