This summer, I was wandering in an ancient university and quite absent mindedly landed near the gate of a shrine. The house of Nirad C Chaudhuri in Oxford. It was a tranquil summer evening and the lane was lonely and dark.
The plaque records in most laconic manner a journey that started from Mymensingh, East Bengal and culminated into this address in Oxford.
- 20, Lathbury Road, Oxfordshire
This bitter and acidic genius of Bengal, in one of his inspired moments defined scholarship while admitting his own failure of becoming a scholar by his own standard. He admitted : I always wanted to be a scholar but could not become one. But every true scholar would forgive me because he knows as well as I do that without this sentiment, all scholarship is some sort of career.
No Bengali ever paid such a price for becoming a scholar as he did.
And No Bengali has the blue plaque bearing his name in Oxford.
And very few Bengalis of Bengal propre have the mental faculties and
the sensitive heart to at least penetrate his works.
While standing in a balmy summer evening in front of the plauque as Lathbury Road was quiet and some foreign birds cooing from unknown poplars and elms, the idea of making a documentary on Tagore as a Bengali Pip (of The Great Expectations) came upon my mind and thanks to my colleague Mr. Soumendu Chakraborty, the video essay was made.
In retrospect, I felt that any Bengali of substance in some way or other is like Pip – born with Great Expectations but rarest of the rare make conscious attempts to explore and attain that.
Nirad seriously and sincerely attempted that. Lesser man but high-career men of Bengal mostly made fun of him as if it was a Don Quixote’s fight the windmills. But, to the eternal credit of currently ossified English Civilization, Nirad was recognized.
I am tempted to paraphrase Warren Hastings, an Englishman who had far greater first hand knowledge of Bengal of his times compared to the most vocal, most anti-imperialist and perhaps ‘communist-intellectual’ professor of a Government University in Bengal. I have first hand interactions with such ‘intellectuals’ in Calcutta and their forefathers had a reason to denounce and reject Nirad : The greatest defense of a Government servant living an unexamined life is to declare that such a life is worth living and Socrates never lived !
Paraphrasing : As the age of WEM (White European Men) seems to receeding in a wholesome manner in the world stage and even the mother countries – Old Europe and its transatlantic implant both committing cultural suicides through the path of war, unbridled immigration, mammon worship and breakdown of the calculus of nation : family, we need to look beyond the war for dominance. The contribution of WEM (European White Men) would endure long after all the talk about Rise of Asia would be a forgotten memory for our generations, far ahead.
Only if we dont choose to go back to caves after a global suicide through some stupidity : slow or quick.