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Professor Prajapati Prasad Sah was born on June 10, 1939 in Almora in the Kumaon region. He grew up in his home state of Uttar Pradesh, completing his Masters in English Literature from the University of Allahabad in 1958.
He taught at the University of Allahabad for a few years before joining the University of York for his D.Phil in Linguistics. Soon after completing his D.Phil, Prof. Sah joined the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Kanpur in September 1971. After a distinguished career spanning nearly 30 years, he retired in June 2001, continuing until 2003 as an Emeritus Fellow.
After his retirement, Prof. Sah settled down in Kanpur and was often seen taking his evening walks in our very own Park 67 until about a year back when he suffered a major health breakdown. Prof. Sah passed away on July 10, 2015 leaving behind his wife Nalini ji and three children.
As we pay our tribute to Prof. Sah, there is little doubt that his is a life that deserves to be celebrated. Prof. Sah was known among his peers for his academic rigour and breadth of scholarship. Although he worked in several areas ranging from theoretical Linguistics to translation studies, it was Applied Linguistics that remained his first love throughout his active years.
At IIT Kanpur, Prof. Sah spent considerable amount of time teaching English to our undergraduate students and writing about English Language Teaching. Very few people know that the language closest to his heart was Hindi. This was also the language he worked on for his D.Phil.
Arguably, the most valued among his academic contributions would be his work in translation. This is also where he showed an artist's mastery over English, the language he wrote in, and Hindi, the language he translated from. The latest in the series of translations came in 2010 when he published his English translation of Prof. Giriraj Kishore's celebrated Hindi classic Pehla Girmitiya. The Girmitya Saga, as the work is titled, is a powerfully told story of the journey that Mohandas Gandhi of early 20th Century India undertook through a life of compassion for fellow beings to becoming the Mahatma that we know today.
Prof. Sah also did some remarkable work on English language as it should be taught in India, producing several text books for Undergraduate students. Some of these books continue to be taught in many universities in the country. To us at this institute, this work has been of immense value.
During his years at IIT Kanpur, Prof. Sah took up several academic and administrative responsibilities including the headship of the department of Humanities and Social Sciences, and many more. Like many of his generation, he was a true institution builder in those heady days of IIT Kanpur in the making.
There was a natural reserve about his persona and in his dealings with people in general, he was known to be formal but friendly. Friends and close associates will remember him for his gentle and affable nature, and his generosity, a certain elegance of manner and, most of all, a subtle sense of humour.
Finally, a word about Prof Sah in the classroom. He enjoyed tremendous respect among his students. Missing a Prof. Sah lecture was a sacrilege no one would attempt. You knew you would not be able to make up for it. The academic rigour that he was so well known for was perhaps at its best in the classroom. The Girls Hostel legend speaks of two kinds of PhD students during Prof. Sah's time ‐ those who did well in his courses and those who did not. And he somehow made sure that whatever he told you in class stayed with you for life.