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INTERESTING FACTS: JOURNEY OF DWARKA NATH KOTNIS

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Dr Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis

    Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis, was born in India on 10th October, 1910. He sadly died in China on 9th December, 1942. He is even known by his Chinese name Ke Dihua. Kotnis was one of the five Indian physicians sent to China to provide medical assistance during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938. Known for his dedication and perseverance, he has been regarded as a shining example of the Sino-Indian friendship. Along with the Canadian Dr. Norman Bethune, he continues to be revered every year by the Chinese people during the Qingming Festival, which is also known as the ‘Tomb-Sweeping Day’ in English, and sometimes also called the ‘Chinese Memorial Day’ or the ‘Ancestors’ Day, is a traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of mainland China, a day used by the Chinese to commemorate the martyrs. Dwarkanath Kotnis was born in a middle class Marathi Deshastha Rigvedi Brahmin family in Solapur, Maharashtra. He had two brothers and five sisters. He studied medicine at the Seth G.S. Medical College under University of Bombay.

    In 1938, after the Japanese invasion of China, the communist general Zhu De requested Jawaharlal Nehru to send some physicians to China. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress then, made an appeal to the people through a press statement on 30th June 1938. He arranged to send a team of volunteer doctors and an ambulance by collecting a fund of Rs 22,000, on the All-Indian, China Day, and China Fund days, from 7–9 July. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose even wrote an article in Modern Review on Japan’s role in the Far East and denounced the assault on China. The key aspect of this mission was that, it was a helping hand from a nation that was itself struggling for freedom, to another nation, that was also struggling for its freedom. The mission was reinforced with Nehru’s visit to China in 1939.

    Though Dwarkanath Kotnis was preparing for his post-graduation. He took his family’s permission to volunteer for service abroad. Dwarkanath’s younger sister Manorama recalls that her brother always wanted to travel around the world and practice medicine at different places so it was like a dream come true. She said “most members of the family knew little about China at that time. We only knew that people used to come and sell Chinese silk.” While Kotnis’ father Shantaram encouraged young Dwarkanath to venture out, his mother was very sad because he was going that far, and that too, into a war zone.

    A medical team of five doctors, comprising of M. Atal from Allahabad, who was the leader of the mission, there were M. Cholkar from Nagpore, D. Kotnis from Sholapur, B.K. Basu and Debesh Mukherjee from Calcutta. They were despatched as the Indian Medical Mission Team in September 1938. Sadly, all except Dr. Kotnis, returned to India safely.

    The team first arrived in China at the port of Hankou, Wuhan. (in lighter vein when Covid was not born).They were then sent to Yan’an, the revolutionary base at the time in 1939, where they were warmly welcomed by Mao Zedong, Zhu De and some other top leaders of the Communist Party, because they were the first medical team to come from another Asian country.

    28-year-old Dr Kotnis came to China as a part of the five member team and stayed there for almost 5 years working in mobile clinics to treat wounded soldiers. In 1939, Dr. Kotnis joined the Eighth Route Army, also called the National Revolutionary Army led by Mao Zedong at the Jin-Cha-Ji border near the Wutai Mountain Area, a sacred Buddhist site, after working across, the northern China region.

    His job as a battlefront doctor was very stressful, as there was always an acute shortage of medicines. In one long battle against the Japanese troops in 1940, Dr. Kotnis performed operations for up to 72 hours, without getting any sleep. He treated more than 800 wounded soldiers during this battle. He was eventually appointed as the Director of the Dr. Bethune International Peace Hospital named after the famous Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune.

    In the 1940, Dr. Kotnis met Guo Qinglan, a nurse at the Bethune Hospital. They had first met at the inauguration of Dr. Norman Bethune’s tomb where Guo was immediately attracted to the Indian doctor. Kotnis could write and speak Chinese fluently which amazed her. The couple got married in December 1941. They had a son on 23 August 1942, who was named Yinhua – meaning India In (Yin) and China Wa (Hua), at the suggestion of Nie Rongzhen, a prominent Chinese Military leader.

    Dr. Kotnis wrote regular letters to his family. He sounded quite happy in his letters. Many people came to him, to thank him, for all the help. He was always telling the good part in his letters, says Manorama, his sister. Every place he went in China, he described it in great detail, in his letters home. The whole family found them to be great fun because what he described was so different from the life in India.

    But the hardships of a stressful job, as a front-line doctor, finally started taking its toll on him, and severely affected his health. Only three months after the birth of Yinhua, epilepsy struck Dr.Kotnis. A series of epileptic seizures killed him on 9th December 1942, leaving behind his widow Guo Qinglan, and the baby boy.

    Dr. Kotnis was buried in the Heroes Courtyard in Nanquan Village. At that time, Mao Zedong, mourned his death by observing that, “The army has lost a helping hand, the nation has lost a friend. Let us always bear in mind his internationalist spirit.”

    It is said that he joined the Communist Party of China on 7 July 1942, just before his death, but the same could not be verified. During his mission, he had also become a lecturer at the Dr. Bethune Hygiene School of the Jinchaji Military Command, and the first director of the Dr. Bethune International Peace Hospital, in Yan’an.

    The Martyr’s Memorial park in Shijiazhuang city of the Northern Chinese province of Hebei is a famous attraction point. The north and south sides of the park are dedicated to the veterans of the Korean and the Japanese wars. The west side is dedicated to Dr. Norman Bethune, who fought for the Chinese, and the South side to Dr Kotnis. There is a great statue in his honour. A small museum that has a handbook of vocabulary that Kotnis wrote on his passage from India to China, some instruments that the surgeons used in their medical fight for life, and various photos of doctors, out of them, some with the Communist Party of China’s most influential figures, including Mao is also present there.

    A memorial of Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis was installed in his birthplace in Solapur too, on 1st January 2012. The memorial, at his old residence, was built by Solapur Municipal Corporation with efforts of Sushilkumar Shinde, who was Union Power Minister at that time. In the year 1967 Dr Kotnis’ son Yinhua died at the age of 24, shortly before he was to graduate from a medical college. His death has been attributed to medical negligence. In 1949, Guo remarried a Chinese man with whom she had a son and a daughter. Guo Qinglan has been an honoured guest at many high-level diplomatic functions between China and India, such as, the banquet by Dalian Mayor, Bo Xilai, hosted for the then Indian President K.R. Narayanan in June 2000, and during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to Beijing in June 2003. In November 2006, she accompanied the Chinese President Hu Jintao on a state visit to India. She died on 28th June 2012, at the age of 96 in Dalian, in Northeastern China.

    The story of Dr. Kotnis’ life was captured in a Hindi film, titled ‘Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani’ produced in 1946, scripted by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, and directed by V Shantaram, who himself portrayed as Kotnis in the film. His life was also the subject to a Chinese film Kē Dì Huá Dài Fū produced in 1982, with a screenplay by Huang Zong-jiang.

    Both China in 1982 and 1992, and India in 1993 have honoured him with stamps. The Chinese government continues to honour his relatives in India during every high-level official trip. His relatives (primarily sisters) were visited in Mumbai by Premier Zhou En-Lai in 1950. When President Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996, he sent flowers to the Kotnis’ family. Premier Li Peng honoured the family in 2001 and the same was done by Premier Zhu Rongji in 2002 and Premier Hu Jintao in 2006. The current President Xi Jinping – who also holds the positions of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making him China’s paramount leader also met Dr Kotnis’ sister Manorama during Sept 2014.

   In 2017, China presented the University of Mumbai, a restored handwritten condolence note written by Mao Zedong to Dr. Kotnis’ family in 1950 upon his death.

    Such were the ties that India had with China and see what has become of it today. I only hope our relations with China will improve again and that’ll be done by many Dr Kotnis’ on both sides of the border.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our Publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai and Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, India)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K.)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; Indica, 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; Happy Days, November 15, 2020; The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15,2020; Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021;

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

INDIA’S GREATEST SPEECHES compiled by Nitin Agarwal

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

     The publisher of this book is Grapevine India Publishers Ltd, published in 2014. The price of this book is Rs 195. It comprises of 325 pages. Most of the speeches are available in the archives. Yet, I would say Nitin has done a good job of providing them in a readymade platter.  The selection of speeches and the introduction of the personality before each speech is also quite absorbing. Friends, at times we all feel we know a celebrity quite well but when you start reading about him you feel otherwise.

    Overall, it’s a stimulating collection of thoughtful speeches delivered by some of the most prominent personalities of India. But then, one view point could be, why, read these speeches at all? And, what do you gain out of them? Well, let me tell you. Behind every speech lies the covert and overt accomplishment of the personality. Rather, the essence of the orator’s personality, which knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly comes out for the betterment of the common man. There is a verse in Gita that says, ‘Masses follow the classes.’ Moreover, speeches often silhouette the inveterate mindset of the orator. It at times even doubles up as a mini biography of the personality.

    Set to inspire, the book includes some of the most stirring and eloquent addresses by Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mother Teresa, JRD Tata, Abdul Kalam, Narendra Modi and many other influential Indian leaders.

    Book starts with a short insight from Bhagavad Gita. It then goes on to cover twenty five speeches of 23 cynosure personalities of India. One will find, a good amount of historical perspective in some of the speeches. Almost all speeches are loaded with aspects of challenge, failure, success struggle, decision making, telling of tough tales and life lessons and in the ultimate, the making of those towering personalities.

    An interesting pattern that unknowingly emerges out of the book is, the feel, of what India, or the bigwigs of India were, towards the end of the nineteenth century, when Swami Vivekananda delivered that famous speech in Chicago in 1893 up to almost a decade and a half after independence say 1965, and how India changed after 1965, and with that, the personalities, the viewpoints, the values and even the ambitions. The world of today has become more complex, competition has intensified, struggles have become long and even tougher. Globalisation has taken over issues and nothing is isolated and everything is known to everyone. The speeches post 1965 reflect that in some way or the other.  So, times have changed. The span of speeches is from 1893 to present days.

    There are two speeches of Mahatma Gandhi delivered in the years 1912 and 1922. When you read these speeches you get an eerie feeling, as to how different, India has become, since then. Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s famous daring statement before Lahore High Court Bench exhibits his jasba … his passion for his motherland—India.

    In the year 1937 Veer Damodar Savarkar then president of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha delivered a speech in Karnavati defining Hinduism which is very interesting. There are other master pieces too, namely Tagore in 1941, and Dr Radhakrishnan in 1947.

    Then you have the famous speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose—Give me Blood and I promise you Freedom, and Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny.’

    In the year 1948 Sardar Vallabhbai Patel delivered his famous speech at Calcutta Maidan on unification of India. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya a very important leader of Jana Sangh, (now morphed into BJP) in the year 1965 had addressed a full house on Integral Humanism. One is really moved by the humbleness of Mother Teresa when one goes through her address that she made in 1979 in that historic speech at the time of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and JRD Tata’s, superlative speech in the year 1982 on his Historic Flight Re-enactment and that famous speech of Mrs Gandhi, her last one in 1984 after which she was assassinated.

    Who can forget Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous 2001 address in United Nations General Assembly. And, Narayana Murthy, in his 2007, Pre-commencement address at New York University describing his volatile journey.

    There are two Speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered in 2014, one at FICCI Ahmedabad and the second on Independence Day that outlines India’s future and what he intends doing for the country. Then we have President Abdul Kalam’s par-excellence speech that he delivered in 2011 which is so very educative.

    On the creative side there are AR Rahman’s 2009, Oscar Awards Acceptance address and Shahrukh Khan’s famous, ‘Courage in Success’ delivered in 2013.

    Lifetime Achievement Awards don’t come easy. Everyone knows about the struggle Azim Premji took to erect his mighty Empire. He speaks on the occasion in the year 2013, at the Economic Times Awards.  And last but not the least the making of the world champions. Sports achievements are one of the toughest where you start alone and if you’re not successful you go into oblivion followed by depression. There are three wonderful speeches. One is by Viswanathan Anand, 2007, Speech at NIIT Chennai, second is by Abhinav Bindra, 2013, at GoSports Foundation Conclave and the third is by Master Blaster Sachin Tendular, 2013, A Farewell to Cricket.

    Overall it’s an interesting read, if you want to know about these personalities and their tedious journey to fame.

    A list of speeches follows:     

  1. Swami Vivekananda 1893 The Chicago Address (Opening Day)
  2. Mahatma Gandhi 1912 Banaras Hindu University Speech
  3. Mahatma Gandhi 1922 The Great Trial of 1922
  4. Shaheed Bhagat Singh 1930 Statement before the Lahore High Court Bench
  5. Veer Damodar Savarkar 1937 Presidential Address, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha defining Hinduism.
  6. Rabindranath Tagore, 1941, Civilization’s Crisis, The Last Testament of Tagore
  7. Subhas Chandra Bose, 1944, Give Me Blood and I Promise You Freedom
  8. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, 1947, Speech as First Vice-President of India
  9. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, 1947, Tryst with Destiny
  10. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, 1948, Speech at Calcutta Maidan
  11. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, 1965, Lecture on Integral Humanism
  12. Mother Teresa, 1979, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance
  13. JRD Tata, 1982, Historic Flight Re-enactment
  14. Indira Gandhi, 1984, The Last Speech
  15. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 2001, United Nations General Assembly Speech
  16. Narayana Murthy, 2007, Pre-commencement address at New York University
  17. Viswanathan Anand, 2007, Speech at NIIT, Chennai
  18. AR Rahman, 2009, Oscar Awards Acceptance
  19. APJ Abdul Kalam, 2011, Vision of India
  20. Abhinav Bindra, 2013, GoSports Foundation Conclave
  21. Shahrukh Khan, 2013, Courage in Success
  22. Sachin Tendulkar, 2013, A Farewell to Cricket
  23. Azim Premji, 2013, Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance, Economic Times Awards
  24. Narendra Modi, 2014, Speech at FICCI, Ahmedabad
  25. Narendra Modi, 2014, Independence Day Speech

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

ABOUT AUTHOR: NIRAD C CHAUDHURI

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    Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri – lifespan (23 November 1897 – 2001) was an English-language writer of Indian origin. He authored numerous works in English and Bengali. His oeuvre provides a magisterial appraisal of the histories and cultures of India, especially in the context of British colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Chaudhuri is best known for ‘The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian’ published in 1951. Over the course of his literary career, he received numerous accolades for his writing. In 1966, his work ‘The Continent of Circe’ was awarded, the Duff Cooper Memorial Award, making Chaudhuri the first and the only Indian till date, to be given the prize. The Sahitya Akedemi, India’s national Academy of Letters, awarded Chaudhuri the Sahitya Akademi Award for his biography on Max Muller, Scholar Extraordinary.

    In 1990, Oxford University awarded Chaudhuri, who by then had become a long-time resident of the city of Oxford, an Honorary Degree in Letters. In 1992, he was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Although, he was highly critical of the post-independence Congress party establishment, Chaudhuri was more sympathetic to the right-wing Hindu nationalist movement in India. He refused to criticise the destruction of mosques. He wrote “Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about the desecration of one mosque in Ayodhya. From 1000 AD every temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India. They escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reasons such as dense forests. Otherwise, it was a continuous spell of vandalism. No nation with any self-respect will forgive this. What happened in Ayodhya would not have happened had the Muslims acknowledged this historical argument even once.”

    Chaudhuri was born in Kishoregunj, Mymensingh, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh), the second of eight children of Upendra Narayan Chaudhuri, a lawyer, and of Sushila Sundarani Chaudhurani. His parents were liberal middle-class Hindus who belonged to the Brahmo Samaj movement.

    Chaudhuri was educated in Kishorganj and Kolkata (then, Calcutta). For his FA (school-leaving) course he attended Ripon College in Calcutta along with the famous Bengali writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Following this, he attended Scottish Church College, Calcutta, where he studied history as his undergraduate major. He graduated with honors in history and topped the University of Calcutta merit list. At Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he attended the seminars of the noted historian, Professor Kalidas Nag. After graduation, he enrolled for M.A. at the University of Calcutta. However, he did not attend all of his final exams, and consequently was not able to complete his M.A. degree. From 1937 to 1941 he worked as a secretary to Sharatchandra Bose (Subhas Chandra Bose’s brother).

    After studies, he took a position as a clerk in the Accounting Department of the Indian Army. At the same time, he started contributing articles to popular magazines. His first article on Bharat Chandra (a famous Bengali poet of the 18th century) appeared in the most prestigious English magazine of the time, Modern Review.

    Chaudhuri left his position in the Accounting Department shortly after, and started a new career as a journalist and editor. During this period he was a boarder in Mirzapur Street near College Square, Kolkata, living together with the writers Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee and Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder. He was involved in the editing of the then well-known English and Bengali magazines Modern Review, Prabasi and Sonibarer Chithi. In addition, he also founded two short-lived but highly esteemed Bengali magazines, Sama-samayik and Notun Patrika. Fed up with Bengali insularity, he later left Calcutta to settle down in Delhi, and took up a government job there. He worked for All India Radio from 1941 to 1952. But sadly he found Delhi, too, was full of Philistines.

    In 1932, he married Amiya Dhar, a well-known writer herself. The couple had three sons.     In 1938, when Chaudhuri obtained a job, as a secretary, to Sarat Chandra Bose, a political leader in the freedom movement of India. He was able to interact with political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the brother of Sarat Chandra Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose (also known as Netaji).

    Apart from his career as secretary, Chaudhuri continued to contribute articles in Bengali and English, to newspapers and magazines. He was also appointed as a political commentator on the Kolkata branch of the All India Radio. In 1941, he started working for the Delhi Branch of the All India Radio.

    He was a prolific writer even in the very last years of his life, publishing his last work at the age of 99. His wife Amiya Chaudhuri died in 1994 in Oxford, England. He too died in Oxford, three months short of his 102nd birthday, in 1999.         He lived at 20 Lathbury Road from 1982 until his death, where, a blue plaque is installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Placks Plaques Board in 2008.

    Student historian Dipayan Pal wrote some interesting things about Nirad C. Chaudhuri in The Statesman in 2016. Why was he always in love with England, though he had never visited the land before the age of 57? These questions perplexed me and the only answer I could decipher is that perhaps Nirad Chaudhuri was in search of a home that he could call his own. And perhaps this street in Oxfordshire of 1980s took him closer to the novels of Hardy and Austen. Lovers of literature not only see texts through their lives but also sculpt life through the texts they read. His textual affinity was coupled with the colonial aura he grew up with. We must remember that he spent his first 50 years in an empire where the sun never set.

    His England was a realisation of certain dominant sensibilities and visions he idealized but they were far from reality. Places like 20, Lathbury Road makes me wonder why people choose to migrate and why certain places receive more sanctity than others. For Nirad Chaudhuri, England was sacred as for some America is. The solution to this onerous puzzle cannot be found in better living standard or socio-economic conditions of higher wages.

    Furthermore, certain places celebrate certain people. Nirad Chaudhuri would have been immensely happy if he knew about the blue plaque as it would fit his sensibilities perfectly. Even Oxford County Council was happy enough to remember this person who was, “an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.”

    His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, published in 1951, put him on the long list of great Indian writers. Chaudhari had said that The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is ‘more of an exercise in descriptive ethology than autobiography.’

    The book describes Kishanganj, the country town in which he lived till he was twelve. Bangram, his ancestral village, and Kalikutch, his mother’s village. A fourth chapter is devoted to England, which occupied a large place in his imagination. Later in the book he talks about Kolkatta, the Indian Renaissance, the beginnings of the Nationalist Movement, and his experience of Englishmen in India, as opposed to the idyllic pictures of a civilization he considered perhaps the greatest in the world. These themes remain his preoccupations in most of his works, as does his deterministic view of culture and politics. He courted controversy in the newly independent India due to the dedication of this book to the British Empire that said, ‘To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subject hood upon us, but withheld citizenship. To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: “Civis Britannicus sum.” Because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule.

    The dedication infuriated many Indians, particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment. “The wogs took the bait and having read only dedication sent up howls of protest,” commented Chaudhuri’s friend, editor, historian and novelist, Khushwant Singh. Chaudhuri was hounded out of government service, deprived of his pension, blacklisted as a writer in India and forced to live a life of penury. Furthermore, he had to give up his job as a political commentator in All India Radio as the Government of India promulgated a law that prohibited employees from publishing memoirs. Chaudhuri argued that his critics were not careful-enough readers; “the dedication was really a condemnation of the British rulers for not treating us as equals”, he wrote in a 1997 special edition of Granta a magazine. Typically, to demonstrate what exactly he had been trying to say, he drew on a parallel with Ancient Rome. The book’s dedication, Chaudhuri observed, “was an imitation of what Cicero said about the conduct of Verres, a Roman proconsul of Sicily who oppressed Sicilian Roman citizens, who in their desperation cried out: “Civis Romanus Sum.”

    In 1955, the British Council and the BBC jointly made arrangements to take Chaudhuri to England for eight weeks. He was asked to contribute lectures to the BBC, and wrote eight of these. His impressions of England and Europe were later collected in his book ‘A Passage to England.’ on the other hand ‘The Continent of Circe,’ published in 1965, traces Chaudhuri’s doggedly independent-minded ideas on the social, geopolitical, and historical aspects of sub-continental India across millennia. An extended sequel to his famous autobiography, titled, ‘Thy Hand, Great Anarch’ was published in 1988. His last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, was published in 1997, coincided with his hundredth year.

    At the age of 57, in 1955 for the first time Chaudhari went abroad. After coming back he wrote a novel Passage to England (1959). In this novel he talked about his visits, and an account of five weeks in England, two weeks in Paris and one week in Rome.

    Chaudhuri was deeply distressed by what he saw as the deep hypocrisy in Bengali social life and in particular those that resulted from class and caste distinctions. His historical research revealed to him that the rigid Victorianesque morality of middle class Bengali women was a socially enforced construct, that had less to do with religion, choice and judgment, but more to do with upbringing, social acceptance and intergenerational transference of values.

    His prose was highly influenced by Sanskrit and the older version of the Bengali language, the Shadhu-bhasha. He had little respect for the proletarian language, Choltibhasha, which he regarded as being common in taste and scope. He avoided the use of words and very common expressions originating from Arabic, Urdu and Persian in modern Bengali.

Controversies

Nirad C Chaudhuri is accused of being in secret connivance with the British and leaked information about the whereabouts of Sarat Chandra Bose. This may have led to arrest of Sarat Bose in 1941. He was awarded DLitt from Oxford University in 1990. Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

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