Many Bengalis, perceiving me as anti-Bengali, have made several abusive comments against me because of my views on Subhas Chandra Bose and Tagore. This has deeply hurt me. So I am writing this post mainly for them.
I am not, and I never was anti-Bengali. I am a great admirer of the really great men Bengal produced, and their outstanding contribution to our nation in literature, science, philosophy, social reforms, etc. But I refuse to recognize as great those phony people like Bose and Tagore whom many of you foolishly idolize.
How many of you Bengalis have even heard of Debi Prosad Chattopadhyaya ( 1911- 1993 ) ? He was the greatest philosopher India has produced in modern times ( he is not to be confused with another Debi Prosad Chattopadhyaya, born in 1933, who was also a philosopher ). His books, particularly his ' What is living and what is dead in Indian Philosophy ' and ' Lokayata ' were seminal works and in my opinion the most outstanding books on Indian philosophy. On reading them I was wonderstruck by his clarity and profound erudition, and many things about Indian philosophy, which were earlier unclear to me, became clear.
I am a great admirer of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who led the way to social reforms in India, despite facing tremendous opposition by die hard conservative people who wanted to continue the inhuman practices like suttee..
In the field of literature I have the greatest admiration for Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
I regard the best poetry in modern India to be Urdu poetry ( how many of you have any idea of it ? ), and the best prose to be Bengali prose. And in prose literature Sharad Chandra towers over everyone in India, like a Mount Everest. In fact I regard Sharad Chandra as the greatest novelist and story writer India has produced, and indeed one of the greatest in the world.
Sharad Chandra launched a full blooded attack against the oppressive caste system, women's oppression, and other feudal inhuman customs and practices in India. The first of his works which I read ( half a century ago ) was ' Shrikant '., his longest novel. After beginning this novel, which some say is autobiographical, I was so mesmerized that I could not leave it until I had read all its 1000 pages. Thereafter I read his Charitraheen, Shesh Prashna, Palli Samaj, Parineeta, Biraj Bahu, Devdas, Grihadah, Vipradas etc. What a fantastic writer, what genuine compassion for the oppressed sections of society. !
In my opinion no writer in the world could equal Sharad Chandra's women characterization. I have read great literature of the world in which women characters are central to the theme, e.g. Tolstoy's ' Anna Karenina ', Gustave Flaubert's ' Madam Bovary ', Emily Bronte's ' Wuthering Heights ', Margaret Mitchell's ' Gone With The wind ' etc but no one could match Sharad Chandra's women characters, e.g. Rajyalakshmi, Kamal, Kiranmayi, Chandramukhi, Sumitra, Bharati, Savitri, Rama, Bindu, Parvati, Bijaya, Shorasi etc.
Later when Sharad Chandra wrote his ' Pather Dabi ', the British got scared and they banned it. This novel was about a revolutionary organization wanting to end British rule. After its ban the price of one copy of the novel was said to have become the same as the price of a Mauser pistol.
Since the British became scared of Sharad Chandra's popularity they built up Tagore through Yeats, and their aim was to divert literature from the revolutionary direction .Sharad Chandra was taking it towards a harmless channel. Tagore took Bengali literature towards spiritualism and mysticism, which is nonsense in a poor country like India,.e.g. his poems Gitanjali, Klanti, Agnibeena bajao tumi kemon kore, etc. His novel Gora is meaningless. Graham Greene said that apart from Yeats no one takes Tagore seriously, and in fact later even Yeats turned against Tagore, saying that he wrote sentimental rubbish.
Some say that Tagore was patriotic as he refused Knighthood after the Jallianwala massacre. But why did the British offer Knighthood to him at all. Why not to Sharad Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Subramania Bharati, etc ? Obviously because these persons were not serving British interests. And as for the Nobel Prize, everybody knows that the Nobel Prize in literature, like the Nobel Prize in peace, is often a joke. Of the 113 Nobel prizes in literature given so far, no one even remembers the names of over 90 of them, as they were given to undeserving persons who were serving certain vested interests. Why was the Nobel Prize not given to Sharad Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Premchand, Subramania Bharati, Faiz, Manto, etc. ?
There are broadly two theories of art and literature, art for art's sake, and art for social purpose ( see my article ' The Role of Art and Literature on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in ). Those who belong to the first school believe that art and literature should only aim at producing beautiful and entertaining works, but if it seeks a social purpose it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda. On the other hand, the second school believes that art and literature should serve a social purpose, and help the people by attacking oppressive social customs and practices, and inspiring them to struggle for a better life.
Sharad Chandra belongs to the second school, and many oppressive social customs and practices in Bengal were considerably weakened because of his writings.
In his acceptance speech delivered on 15th Sep 1933 at a gathering organized at the Calcutta Town Hall to celebrate his 57th birthday, Sharat Chandra acknowledged his debt to the poor and depraved. He said :
" My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I am forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice and to the endlessly hassled, distressed (weighed down by life) and helpless people who don't even have a moment to think that: despite having everything, they have the right to nothing.
They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair intolerable indiscriminate justice. It is true that springs do come to this world for some - full of beauty and wealth - with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo's song, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned. This poverty abounds in my writings."
I am a great admirer of the genuinely great Bengali revolutionaries. Like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla, Ram Prasad Bismil etc, the Bengalis produced countless heroes who gave their lives fighting for India's freedom, e.;g. Khudiram Bose..
My greatest hero is Surya Sen ( Masterda ), the tiger of Bengal. After the Chittagong armoury raid when he was caught he was inhumanly tortured before he was executed. Before he was hanged, the British executioners broke all his teeth with a hammer, and pulled out all his nails. They broke all his limbs and joints. He was dragged to the rope unconscious. His last letter was written to his friends and said: “Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity ...At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind you? Only one thing, that is my dream, a golden dream---the dream of Free India "
The British cruelly destroyed his body, but could not destroy his spirit.
These are the real heroes of Bengal, not that man Subhas Chandra Bose, who while no doubt a patriot in his youth, later, due to his vaulting ambition, like Faust, sold his soul to a Mephistopheles. In fact he sold it twice, first to the Nazis, whose collaborator he tried to become by proposing to set up an army of captured Indian soldiers to fight along with the Nazis, and later to the Japanese fascist imperialists.
In science, Bengalis have made the foremost contribution in India. . Praful Chandra Ray is often regarded as the Father of modern Indian science, but there were a host of other great Bengali scientists--Jagadish Chandra Bose, S.N. Bose ( who with Einstein created the Bose-Einstein statistics ), Meghnad Saha, etc
There are other fields too in which Bengalis made a great contribution, and which I admire. So how can I be anti-Bengali ?
At the same time, I refuse to admire a person just because he was Bengali. I am not an appeaser of Bengalis. I am not in politics, and I do not want your votes. I have never sought publicity or popularity ( though many people have accused me of that ). In fact I have a low opinion of those who seek publicity or popularity.
So while I admire the truly great Bengalis, please don't expect me to admire phonies like that Japanese puppet Subhas Chandra Bose or that British stooge Tagore.