In Search of National Bourgeoisie
While the classical Renaissance in Europe was
accompanying values of Industrial Revolution in Europe, in case of India, British colonial rulers by tooth and nail opposed Industrial Revolution. In most violent form, they hanged the first Assamese Tea planter and with sound political strategy introduced Permanent settlement to create a neo-Feudal class of Zamindars & in same stroke to improve land revenue. Trading counterparts of Indian origin making a trading intermediary fortune of British business in the big Asian subcontinent, acquired 'Raja' status by investing or rather sinking money in land becoming Zamindars instead of founding industrial units of import substituting products in state of art manufacturing industries in India. Avoiding any encounter with Britain was the complementary cunning motive. Irfan Habib, the noted historian, researched assertively the potential of Capitalist development in India in Mughal regime. But British colonization of India thwarted nationalist capitalist development in their big Asian colony, their best gold egg laying goose. India was plundered to provide basic mineral, industrial and agricultural inputs as fodder of Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and conversely a wide captive market for selling the mass produced commodities churned out by these steam powered big industries therein.
For lighting the first lamp which will enlighten many more such industrial enterprises, Upendrakishore on the one hand pioneered process industry in India founding U.Roy & Sons, producing his own advanced version of blocks for printing press industry. On the other hand, he floated a children journal called 'Sandesh' with an aim to nourish creativity in new generation who can blossom into entrepreneurs of innovative nationalist industries like him with a spirit of research &development. Nurtured skill of imagination is mother of research. It is symbiosis of art and industry.
Noted Nuclear scientist Richard Fineman told to his friend James Watson upon reading the final script of the famous book 'The Double Helix', 'When you were describing how your thought process was working in Brain, truth was crawling toward its reveal to you, after which it was ultimately clear, then you were actually telling how science studies are really done'. (Quoted from article of Pathik Guha 'How to Reach Truth Riding on Too Many Stairs of Mistakes' (Anandabazar Patrika,dt 12.11.14).
Upendrakishore Ray was the earliest Indian scientist to make great innovation in printing technology for publishing photograph in mass media. Publication of newspaper once it becomes mainstream mass media is competing still with latest audio-visual live sight & sound mass media in versatile TV & Mobile Phone. It was dependent for over one hundred years for publishing photograph on Halftone Block before arrival of technology of Offset Printing.
But very few are well aware of the fact that Upendrakishore Ray, grandfather of famous film maker Satyajit Ray, made significant advance in preparation of this Halftone Block of camera photography. He never took patent right of his great innovation though published a paper in a British journal on printing.
This enterprising intellectual started on his own fund a children journal namely 'Sandesh' with a mission to make children eager for knowledge beyond school education which mainly encouraged cramming as introduced by the British colonial ruler in India. British govt. needed English literate tens and thousands of persons run its governance from Himalaya to Kanyakumarika. British merchant offices opening in India also needed Indian English literate employees with knowledge of three R's i.e.—reading, writing and Arithmetic.
It is in the basic of the science of Linguistics what are core quality in creative writing. Man can make organized thinking in a language. What are the building materials of the critical path of advancing a contemporarily modern language in its written form? The Bengali word 'shabdo ' has two meanings. First is sound in spoken form and second is words (alphabets) that configure the spoken sound. Form of written Bengali for modern age as conceived earlier by Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was provided in first Bengali grammar book 'Byakaron Koumudi'. While it paved way for writing classroom texts in Bengali, it did not guide how to write reading materials for pleasure. More difficult is developing a soft modern language for publishing a children cum teen age magazine for readers who have not either started or matured in reading regular classroom texts even for careers and courses. Walt Disney, the best innovator of 'tiny tots' & children's pleasure, said that his cartoon animation can capture and visualize anything that any one can imagine. So communication in either language and picture (still or moving) specially for children demands appropriate tools. Based on halftone block in print, animation could arrive in movie. In due course, invention of photography played key role in both these inventions & innovations.
When, one goes through all available writings of Upendrakishore who had accepted the responsibility & challenge as noted above there appears a large volume of both fictions and non-fictions. He wrote a handsome number of interesting scientific articles in both his favourite techniques of printing as well general science. People find still today, the Pseudo-Science of Astrology is patronized by so called highly educated/qualified intellectuals for their having certificate of being qualified in higher level University education. But Upendrakishore born in 1863 and expired in 1915 , himself being an innovator in Printing Technology, had also contributed several recognized scientific papers in International journals, had the scientific temper evident in all his writings—both fictions & non-fictions.
He was a pioneer in embryonic stage as stated above, of easy to read Bengali magazine writing, what and how to write for Bengali children and teenagers. Late versatile both adult & children literature writer Sri Sunil Gangopadhyay upheld that in the footsteps of Upendrakishore, the Roychowdhury family has had taken the bulk of responsibility of developing Bengali children and total span of the teenagers' literature. It has not been only in content development and enterprise of regular publication staking family silver but also setting standard of the focused domain, their credibility remains high.
Upendrakishore contributed original amazing fictions but at the same time prepared child-teenagers' version on Indian heritage literature like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. His world famous grandson Mr Satyajit Ray transcribed in full length feature film the short story named 'Goopi Gyne & Bagha Byne' in globally adored anti-war film of the same title. To mass of today, Upendrakishore's name & fame is revived in that way.
What Isaac Asimov did in English in most successfully 'popular science' Writing, Upendrakishore pioneered in Bengali 'popular science' writing for Bengali children and teenagers. Ramendra Sundar Tribedi was also having a deft hand in Bengali 'popular science' writing while the written Bengali language was evolving to accept spoken Bengali words in order to reach wider readers' community with information on science.
Upendrakishore was a good illustrator. He used drawings on the bodies of the writings for easy communication and improve looks of the pages. His own process technology firm 'U Roy & Sons' was of his great advantage to make printing blocks of pictures either hand drawn or photographed, economically and just on need.
The epicenter of Bengal Renaissance (a term not agreed by all) was a community of urban Bengali intellectuals around Calcutta. It was an academic catalyst which brought the best cuisine of the dynamic ideas in social and material sciences originated in the then progressive contemporary West boosted by inception of nouveau Capitalism in Europe interactive with the classic concepts of Eastern Indus Valley civilization which lost its motion since the dark ages of Medieval period when centres of excellence in knowledge were vandalized by invaders Shok, Hoon, Pathan, Mughal tyranny over Indus Valley.
Two families of Bengal led the Bengal Renaissance. First was the house of Dwararakanath Tagore .Second was the house of Upendrakishore Roychow-dhury. Significantly both were religiously Brahmo families,—a Hindu religion derivative founded by Raja Rammohan Roy.
The essence of implication of the culture of Renaissance is dawn of an age of reasoning. It is believing in a thing only when it is proved against the culture of custom and faith passed off as religion. Since children are the future of a nation, the Roychowdhury family made it a mission to propel through print media the culture of reasoning futuristically.
Hindu fundamentalist chauvinists in all available opportunities claim that advanced ammunitions as well flying machines mentioned in war episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata are by statement are enough evidence of many modern age scientific instruments at ancient times were invented and prevalent in Indus Valley Civilization. 'Bajra'was nothing but explosive device. Abduction of Sita by Ravana and taken away by air to Sri Lanka across sea proves long distance flying object similar in purpose with Aeroplanes. Hanuman, the son of Air God jumping across the high sky to bring Gandhamadan Parbat in which a medicinal plant 'Bishalyakarani' was there to heal Laxmana who lost consciousness in casualty while there was Ram-Ravana fight going on. It is also a further confirmation of skilled pilots who could run heavy goods i.e. convoy carrying flying objects.
But in no archeological survey, it was ever found as any bona fide historical remains nor any Vedic age book of knowledge mentioned, these levels of scientific and or technological inventions made in war instruments or flying machine. Hence at best these were written to add colours to war episodes. Alternatively, one may liberally denote these as early elements of science fiction embedded in greatest epics of Indus Valley.
While Upendrakishore wrote concise version of the two great epics in titles 'Chheleder Ramayan' and 'Chheleder Mahabharata' and another 'Mahabharater Katha'respectively in Bangabda Aswin 1314, Bhadra 1315 and Aswin 1316, Rabidranath Tagore helped him in first and second books by editing manuscripts and proofreading. While Upendrakishore had no critical approach to myth bursting delineating facts and fictions, it is only in the introduction of the third book 'Mahabharater Katha' he wrote, 'This book is written on irrelevant and fanciful stories in Mahabharata. It is impossible to tell to children all these fictions in exact copies from beginning to end. Nor it seems there is any need to do so, as because in Mahabharata, there are different versions of same stories. So I expect that readers with noble heart will pardon me for the differences here in stories from the roots as told in Mahabharata'.
As a Brahmodharmi intellectual, thus one finds that Upendrakishore handled the epics carefully may be in order to avoid confrontation with Hindu conservatives who consider these epics as religious books. Alternatively, he and the books' Editor Rabindranath both preferred to retain early elements of science fiction in greatest epics of Indus Valley. Rabindranath, a member of 'Scientific American'was well known for his scientific temper.
All the original stories in 'Tuntunir Boi' (Book of Magpie) are having page after page illustrations. This book addressed to early aged children was thus enriched with hard work backing his scientific mind, probably inspired by western children literature illustrated in the same spirit to make definite psychological impact to little readers with cognitive inputs effective at early stage of learning. Pictures convey more than words even for an adult mind, is an accepted communication principle.
Upcndrakishore had written a thirty seven page, as appears in his available omnibus, a 'Little Ramayana' titled 'Chotto Ramayana' entirely in verse. It was obviously for tiny children, as in Bengal before printing press came, bedtime stories for children were told to children by their mothers, unts, grandmothers mostly in verse. It served two advantages for obvious reasons, first the story tellers could easily store in memory these stories learnt by inheritance of family seniors, secondly the listening tiny tots enjoyed song styled story telling as lullabies.
Even for complete text, such epics as Ramayana and Mahabharata in adult versions of printed books, first appeared in verse form in Bengali literature. As human brain can more conveniently memorise verse more than prose, early composed fictions and non-fictions, both religious and non-religious were in verse form. Songs made on verses made the essential memorising ('Shruti') easier. Knowledge was carried forward at large by memory before writing could be mass produced by invention of modem printing and paper.
Songs even in modern times are based on Lyrics, having a stronger appeal to human being by virtue of melody and pace. Even Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore said that his songs would survive longer than his vast number of poems and prose writings of fictions & non fictions.
'Puraner Galpo' (Stories of Purana) was a book of Upendrakishore compiling age old stories regarding different religious gods & their arch enemies abusively marked as demons and mythical characters popular in Indus Valley Civilization. Source books for him were 18 (eighteen) 'Puranas'. While the language depicting the episodes were easy flowing properly addressed to children but it would strike a reader today that there was not a single illustration in the entire book save and except in the first cover page. Maybe in the mind of the writer, who believed in single supreme God being hence became a Brahmo by religion, he did not like to revive the multiple Gods of Hindu religion. It may also have worked inside his subconscious mind. Thus he asserted his scientific temper in avoiding revival of multiple Godly images which were also vulnerable to piracy by the printing hub of Kolkata at Bottola which catered to popular deity image products in print through bookshops in towns and peddlers in mofussil as well rural areas. Titling the book as 'Puraner Galpo' he quite intelligently marked these as pulp fictions (Galpo=Fiction) expressing his own disbelief.
So on the one hand Upendra-kishore's cuisine deliciously catered in dish of 'Sandesh'( a sweetmeat of Bengal) the buffet of heritage literature and on other hand made developments in modem science in form and content suitable to cater to tender minds to expand their vision from past to future. His commanding success to write fictions was a chemistry of foods for nourishing values, ethics and intelligence offering children happy hours in print media.
Creative writing for children especially tiny tots demands an intuitive skill because babies cannot tell what they need for pleasing their little inexperienced brain and inquisitive tender minds. Everything is new to babies once their sense organs start accepting inputs. Primary inputs are touch of mother, light and sound. But printed words are secondary and advanced inputs that demands interpretation. Upendra-kishore played down himself as a child while writing thirteen poems and four songs for children. Focal themes originated from level of consciousness of babies for their easy cognizance with the little domestic world they are familiar with. Their aspiration and fantasy to grow into adult considering it would be a privilege, was well captured by the author scientifically aware of Child Psychology. Only point of distraction is that here the prolific artist did not draw pictures that accompanied his prose writings. Only plausible explanation is that he might have thought that these will be read out or sung for children by their parents in particularly when target readers are tiny tots providing for them bed time poems and songs as well.
Thus the profound one man army of U Roy & Sons, played a historical role of marching forward informal education for children of Bengal .It was complementary to Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar's initiative to establish schools of formal education which was necessary to spread literacy of three R's e.g. reading, writing and arithmetic. What Vidyasagar's 'Barnaparichay'served for children in classroom, Upendrakishore's 'Sandesh' served for them outside class room. First was food for body & second was food for mind.
Acarya Prafulla Chandra Ray, the internationally acclaimed chemical scientist, the most nationalistic entrepreneur, founded 'Bengal Chemical' producing pharmaceutical and hygiene products for households. Inspired by him, a number of his students also founded industrial units under own devised technology. In brief Sir P C Ray alarmed that unless Indians, in particular Bengalees become entrepreneurs under own spirit, they would be cooleys (porters) in their own city& state. It was a time while comprador bourgeoisie broadly called as Marwaries by origin mostly Rajasthanis (Merchant turned producers) were in collusion with the colonial rulers founding business units in and around port cities like Calcutta, Madras & Bombay as named at the referred period, subserving imperial interest. These kinds of industrialists were termed Lumpen Bourgeoisie by Karl Marx as these people are greedy over short time overnight gain.
Decline and fall of Bengal's economy in subsequent period has become the correctness of Marx's idea. 'Agony of West Bengal', a book written by famous journalist Ranjit Roy had taken into account all economic & political factors causing this decline.
But principal contradiction lies in absence of nationalistic spirit among Bengalee and Indian intelligentia to come up with own technical innovation and enterprise in the footsteps of Upendrakishore and Sir P C Ray, the star performers. Since one or two stars cannot bring a new day, post Independent India could never emerge as progressive nationalist industrial state. The vulnerable section of Indian mass are still paying the price about which versatile Rabindranath Tagore cautioned that ('Poschatey rakhichho jarey, se tomarey poschatey tanichhey') whom you have left behind to suffer in chill penury, are dragging you behind.
Anti-imperialist leader V I Lenin explained that it is the home market that becomes the main stay of nationalist enterprise. It creates steady growing employment opportunity directly and indirectly in allied industries for people of the country. Local trade & commerce also grow in tertiary sector providing steady employment and income. In turn they become big buyers in domestic market inside the own indigenous economy. But export promotion had become the industrial policy of India subservient to MNCs. So when western economies being major importers had crashed in 2008, the malady affected global economy including India for most obvious reasons.
Vol. 47, No. 46, May 24 - 30, 2015