“This book has three morals for three kinds of men?for rulers, individuals and writers?, the author declares cogently at the onset. This autobiography is imbued in a didactic tenor though not strait-laced nor is it a shibboleth work that stands derelict today. Most intriguingly, this book, second part of his autobiography relates to his life-story beyond twenty three years of age that was written by Nirad C. Chaudhuri (NC) as an octogenarian having reached the ripe old age of 81 and got completed on reaching 89 mortal years. So it'sevident that this autobiography is not a compilation for the heck of it. The reader needs to attune to those times to feel the pulse of the then society that very well stands relevant even in modern times.
This book is replete with allusions and allegories drawn from round the globe and aphorisms in Greek, Latin and French, himself being a polyglot. So to the hoi polloi certain portions are likely to remain incorrigible.
This book cites populist measures, hypocritical stance of society, the fallacy of de rigueur obligations tending to subjugations and et cetera for the lucre of crass philistinism. His passage through multitude of situations ushers in a panoramic vista of an entire gamut of mundane affairs compelling upon the reader to look into his scourged soul singed by actions bereft of conscience. NC makes his readers implore with?wither art thou Weltanschauuug? Harping on parochial mindset with obliterated views, can mankind exult over its success by its own demise??
Chapter 3 is termed ?the scholar gypsy? in allusion to Matthew Arnold'spoem highlighting the futility of academic learning that hardly trickles any gleanings of wisdom. NC remains in this transient state for a paltry 3 years but manages to amass true wisdom, prudence for a pragmatic effect. He asserts, ?I?d decided not to try for the MA degree a second time.? He narrates several travel experiences undertaken extensively in India and abroad that correlate riveting anecdotes spanning this planet. His wanderlust heaped a discerning insight into things and happenings.
He makes a graphic portrayal of his vintage memories. And he rolls down vignettes of such experiences to uphold the plight of society. He chastises social evils of his time like the child marriage drawing ludicrous incidents like that of mother-in-law philandering with son-in-law being of similar ages. He achieves to reconnoiter upon recondite societal intricacies. NC takes umbrage to lambaste the societal edicts of guise and guile pervading in every strata of society, acquiescing NC to acquire ?unconquerable emotional repugnance?. He depicts ins and outs of Bengali life, its legacies and fallacies with a brashness and yet coyly. He mentions the literary movement of Bengal, its voids and fallouts. He talks of some acrimonious scenes prevalent in joint families. In Calcutta he was ?violently repelled by the narrow provincialism of fellow-Bengalis?. We also get to know NC'sconcern over dwindling vegetation, shriveling rivers and ecological imbalances. NC remains a spectator of the spectre of human malevolence.
NC stands on a pedestal of humanity with a formidable bulwark of conscience. This becomes resplendent in??Ever since the war had begun,??I regarded the actions of the Congress as a betrayal of civilization and humanity, and I decided that I would never seek any advantages for myself from it, which I could do by resuming my contacts with the nationalist leaders.? He was well known to both Sarat Chandra Bose and Pandit Nehru and both of whom would have genially accorded him a plum post. But NC would not bandwagon the gravy train. NC remained a renegade, a man with beatnik sense perceptions who voluntarily accepted a roller-coaster passage of life with equanimity. A man who gave up the ghost of a cushy government job, readers may call him a rolling stone or a harangued person who hopped on five jobs before relinquishing once and for all. NC doesn'tshy away from making candid confessions of shirking and malingering from his job and the artful ploys he used therein. He speaks of his profligate ways of art collection despite his penury. In a chapter titled ?Written in despair? , NC recounts the aphorisms he had laid down for himself. The reader after trolling down the maxims can well adjudge NC'sprobity of character.
On politicos politicking, NC casts frantic indignation over weltpolitiks. ?The loyal servants of the British at once became loyal servants of the Congress. Their new masters wanted nothing more? – spills out the beans. As a master historian raconteur, NC rolls down events of national importance that transpired to upheavals and faux pas. NC casts aspersion on the Non-Cooperation Movement spearheaded by Gandhiji. NC quotes Tagore in his defence who too felt Gandhiji had made overtures. ?I?was only irritated by certain features in it which offended my political and moral susceptibilities.? He stokes in the spitfire by observing, ?My historical view of British rule in India, which I regarded as the best political regime which had ever been seen in India, in spite of its shortcomings and positive evils?.I remained ambivalent between a nationalist (Indian) and an imperialistic (British)?..However, this has not made me overlook the shortcomings of British rule or of the Indian nationalist movement either.? Thus NC adopts absolute objectivity. But NC, a self-confessed Anglophile has drawn flak from his irate countrymen who have often misinterpreted Nirad'scogitations.
NC strove to remain sacrosanct by having ?no worldly prospects?. ?In the last days of the British no Indian who was not an opportunist could proper, and under Indian rule the same thing was seen. Thus I remain free by giving upworldly prosperity. Nonetheless, with its continued poverty and other vicissitudes, the life has been worth living.? This lets out NC'stravails, tribulations and as well as triumphs over mundane obduracy. NC flings open his knowledge arboretum laced with oodles of witticism and raillery often sending readers into peals of laughter. This rare insight of events transcending timeline, geographic and political boundaries, all adopting a non-partisan stance relegates the book to an exalted classic. And quite so, his then editors branded his writings as ?intellectual whippings of a very high order?.
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