[The Review is the work of three generations of the Bhattacharyya family of Purbasha, Silchar. The grandfather Mr. Pranab Bhattacharyya has written the review, the son has edited and the grandson has typed and formatted the text. The book was presented to the Reviewer by Ms. Bhattacharyya, Masters in History, summa cum laude, University of Pune.]
Having gone through the book, I convey my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Bhattacharyya Jr. (Lili) for presenting me this book. The book has enriched my knowledge about the historical institution established by the then intellectuals of Greater Bengal of the 19th century. I cannot call the book a masterpiece but it is a brilliant work. It is not a book of history in the real sense of the term but a worthy book for research works for students of history. The author deserves high appreciation for undertaking such a work of history although he has been a Professor of Physics in Presidency College, Calcutta.
While I was reading the book, I remembered two works of that period. One is সেই সময় by Sunil Gangopadhaya and another is a Bengali tele-serial called আলোকিত ইন্দু। The subject matter of the book is so vast and complex and the author has taken a methodology that did not provide the same taste one gets when one reads a wholesome and comprehensive type of historical work. This aside, Mr. Sengupta has done a lot in this regard for coming generation.
The language of the book is not appropriate as the book has collation of reportage and chronicles but does not meditate enough on the creative literary works by Bankim, Sarat Chandra , Vidyasagar and Tagore and this has made the overall literary quality poorer. Not only that, this has somewhat affected the comprehensiveness of the book.
The author has clearly expressed the social impact of Hindu school towards the organization of Young Bengal. He illuminates various interesting ironies and contradictions connecting patriotism, religious thoughts and English education.
As a reader, I have also observed the book’s relatively less emphasis on women’s education and the social impact thereof. Here again, creative (and imaginative works of high order) literary works illuminate contemporary time better than journalistic documentation. Let us consider the following from a short story of গল্পগুচ্ছ
“ফণিভূষণের স্ত্রী মণিমল্লিকা বিনা চেষ্টায় আদর, বিনা অশ্রুবর্ষণে ঢাকাই শাড়ী এবং বিনা দুর্জয় মানে বাজুবন্ধ লাভ করিত।.. তাহার নিরীহ আর নির্বোধ স্বামীটি মনে করিত, দানই বুঝি প্রতিদান পাইবার উপায়। একেবারে উল্টা বুঝিয়াছিল আর কি !
Or Nirad C Chaudhuri’s grand historical summary in “আত্বঘাতী বাঙ্গালী” – বাঙ্গালী ইংরেজী ভাষার মধ্য দিয়া গ্রহণ করিত কিন্তু আত্বপ্রকাশ করিত বাঙ্গলা ভাষায়।.. সে সব লেখা (বাঙ্গালীর ইংরেজী লেখা) টেঁকে নাই বা তার প্রভাব-ও জোরালো হয় নাই।
In both of these works, one of fiction and another of non-fiction, the readability and recall can be attributed to the literary quality of these works and not because of the “facts” or “documentation”. Considering Nirad’s argument cited above, the greatest vindication is the case of Madhusudan Dutta.
In summary, the content – the denser part will be of immense help for researchers (i.e. those who have immediate, direct /indirect and tangible/intangible interest and material gain) in this subject but for a reader who is reading solely for pleasure, the book will be somewhat disappointing. This is not an observation on the overall value of the book in this genre but a specific and prejudiced opinion of a specific kind of reader.
The Production Team