More than four decades ago, the cat’s fate was torn apart. I arrived at Exeter College in Oxford, England, for the first time in my life, to do some work on world-renowned playwright Harold Pinter (who later won the Nobel Prize).
We know that there are two world-famous ancient universities in England, one in this city of Oxford and another in the city of Cambridge. Oxford’s reputation was mainly for the Faculty of Arts. Cambridge had a reputation for science. Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge is world famous. By the way, the river Isis in England is so narrow and shallow in one place that beasts of burden could easily walk across it. The place was called the ford of donkeys or oxen. From that idea the place got its name Oxford.
I have many sour-sweet memories of my trip to Oxford. First is the high table dinner. For the first time in my life I was sitting in the middle of a big meeting. The program at Exeter College was attended by many dignitaries and I can say that the High Table Dinner was an honour. I sat in the middle of that high table. On my right is a member of the cabinet and on my left is a famous scholar. Later I heard that the old learned man was very well known to Jawaharlal Nehru and on Nehruji’s invitation he had come for a few days as an advisor to the Education Department of India. Minister didn’t care about me at all. There was no special conversation with him. But that old gentleman is very naive. He fell down and talked to me. I talked a lot. He was speaking very simply. He was very curious about India. He said to me after words, “Look, you are all good, but this education system of yours is big. He said jokingly, you know, in India, “Aim of Primary Education is to spread ignorance. Secondary Education teachers are not honored for their academic excellence, but for their capacity to maintain law and order in the class, as if they are intellectual Chowkidars”. He later said with a smile, “Indian Education System is equal to British System, minus efficiency. , plus corruption”. It means, remove the efficiency from the British system and add corruption, then it will become the Indian system.
I didn’t like his words very much. I know, what he is saying may not be a lie. But I’m a little heartbroken. I then told him, “Look, I agree with you. But the fact is that the British are responsible for the mess in our education system. They did not make any good provision for education. They did not make any effort to really educate the Indians. The budget was too small. And you are talking about corruption?
Lord Maclay – your own man, on whose report the English Government introduced the education system in India – you will see in his report. Initially, he traveled a lot in India. But he has seen very few dishonest people, corrupt people. So, it is not true that we were dishonest. Of course I am now, and to tell the truth, English rule is largely responsible for that.” The gentleman fell silent. Gentlemen? Didn’t say anything. I understand, he could not digest the words.
Meanwhile, the gentleman on the right has been ignoring me since the beginning. The program is almost over. Many are just chattering away. It was a conference hall. Cynics say, “Conference Hall is a place, where everybody speaks, nobody listens and everybody disagrees later.” That’s the nature of the conference hall, so it is here. Everyone is talking, no one is listening. However, once the time has come for me to speak. I am in a difficult situation. My knees are shaking. So many learned people in front! What a contradiction!
Well, I thought I’d do something. Instead of going into a very serious conversation, say it in a light mood. At first I said, “Normally, I do not like to speak, because my speech has a moving effect. The moment I start to speak, audience starts to move out. I only speak out my mind, when there is no other way out, as it is today.” There was a lot of laughter. Then I said something more opposite. I don’t remember what I said. I ended with humor again. I said, “I know, the members present here are all outstanding in their respective fields. With all apologies I may tell you that I was also outstanding throughout my student life. Of course, in a different way. When the teacher asked me a question and I couldn’t answer it, as a punishment, he turned me out of the class and kept me standing outside the class. Thus, I was also out-standing.”
People are very happy. Then there is eating and drinking. Very informal conversation. Then the old gentleman who was sitting next to me, was saying to the other, “This chondato is quite challu (made me a chandra), telling me that we have corrupted them!”
This is my high-table dinner experience.
The learning environment there is quite simple. Not like our country. No one hesitates to express an opinion. A gentleman who is a great T. S. Eliot scholar. Eliot’s famous poem “The Waste Land” ends with “Peace Peace Peace”. Shanti means peace. He said that’s why the ending of this poem did not appeal to him. He is such a great scholar that I am nothing to him. India would not have dared to say anything. But seeing the atmosphere there, I stood up and said, “Sir, if you think that peace means only peace, then, I am sorry to say, you have misunderstood.” He got angry. He said, “What do you mean”? I said, “Peace in Indian context does not mean peace, it is much bigger than that. T. S. Eliot knew this. Here peace can be said, “Still point, eternal calmness, profound peace, such a thing. For which he just quoted from the Upanishad, “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.”
The gentleman fell silent. A few seconds. He said, “Let me think over it”. Then he said, “I think you are correct”. The next day, at the beginning of his speech, he said, “Yesterday, my Indian friend, Chakraborty, corrected me.”
I was very shy. I don’t have the courage to correct him. He could have defamed me by asking ten questions on Eliot if he wanted. I used to keep quiet. Instead, I felt ashamed of what he did and also grateful for his scholarship, politeness and honesty. It does not say, “vidya dadati vinayang.” A tree that bears fruit leans. I saw how modest a gentleman, despite being such a scholar.
Let me tell you another story.
I worked on Mr. Harold Pinter. He is a world-renowned dramatist. At that time two of his plays were running in London. On the day I read the paper, on him, I did not know, that day he himself came and sat in the back and listened to my lecture. Knowing this, I would have been scared, nervous. Later I heard that my supervisor Professor, Mr. Pinter is his special personal friend. That day Mr. Pinter was going to Oxford on a program, somewhere else. He then said, you are going well, today Dilip Chakraborty will read a paper on you. If you come, that’s fine. He said yes, but he will come for a very short time and not let anyone know about it. He sat back and left, I don’t even know. I don’t know if it’s good. If you know, your chest would tremble. The next day afternoon the supervisor called me. Said “Dilip, I have a good news for you.” I said “What’s the good news?” said “Mr. Pinter has heard your speech.” I am nervous. He said “No, no, he came without everyone’s knowledge, no one knew. He left. He told me on the phone that he has a fund, if you want to stay for a year or two, he will do all the formalities, if you agree.” I could not think like that. I had a little problem then. My wife was alone, in Rajasthan. I said, “Sir, I can’t stay now. I can come next year.” Then he said, “Who will remember you next year? It is now or never. Accept it or forget about it”. Then he laughed and said, mockingly, “You’re a bastard, I knew, but I didn’t know that much. You don’t drink, you don’t have a girlfriend. Mr. Pinter offers you himself and you refuse?” What else can I say, I remained silent.
Let me tell you another story.
In England I have seen many wealthy but unhappy old couples. One day I am sitting in the park. An old gentleman and his wife on the front bench. Both are quite old. But it looks noble. They find it difficult to walk with weight. I went a little further and said “Should I help you?” very happy He said, My house is nearby. come on The lady was asking more to go. i went The lady brought tea with her hand. The gentleman said, “Look, I was in India for a while. You Indians, “You run after our way of life. You want to imitate our lifestyle. Western lifestyle. And we, old men, prefer your Indian system. Look, I’m sitting here. I have no shortage of money. There is a big house. I get pension. I don’t die without eating. But, I am not happy. I have a son and a wife. we don’t care Fulfill responsibility by sending cards at Christmas. Very few come. I want my son’s wife to come. May my grandson be here during the holidays. let’s play turn around But no one comes. He sometimes takes news. And what about Father’s Day – sometimes sending cards. Sends cards on Christmas and birthdays too. And on my wedding anniversary they send cake with other people’s hands. We don’t like this life. A lot more was said.
I said word by word, “What is your idea about our greatest poet, Tagore? He said “Tagore? Who is he? I don’t know him.” I was surprised. He was a learned man, in India, and never heard the name of Vishwakabi? He smiled and said, I know Noble laureate Rabindranath Thakur.
Now I am talking about another experience of my life. When I went to Oxford, three famous Bengalis were in Oxford. One is our Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. He was the head of economics. A Philosophy Professor Bimalkrishna Motilal. Another famous Nirad C Chowdhury. I have not met Amartya Sen. He lived elsewhere. Used to commute. Met with Motilalji. very gentleman Can’t understand so many scholars. He carried his wisdom lightly. Another one was Nirad C Chowdhury. I met him once. Let me tell you a little about that story. One day I went to a place and heard that his house is nearby. I thought, let’s talk a little. I came so close. didn’t know me sat His wife gave tea and some biscuits to eat. Sitting talking. I see him sitting in front, talking, but not looking at my face.
Once he said “Does anyone read my book in India?” Weird question. I said “Yes, read.” “Anybody understand?” I thought “Holy shit!” I thought just kidding. I was young and not very smart.
I said, “You understand?” This is the first time he looked at me. I said, “Your first book – An autobiography of an unknown Indian and your last book The Continent of Circe” – there are many contradictions between the two. He remained silent and said, “Well said, then throw it away.” He also made it throw away! Come on, Then there was some more conversation. I was a little scared. I respected him a lot. He is a very learned man. People say he has encyclopaedic knowledge. There is nothing he doesn’t know. And he has an incredibly sharp memory. Where did he go twenty years ago – he would say, It seems that he visited there two months ago.
These are pretty good. Now let’s talk about a little bad experience. My nature is, wherever I go, I sometimes want to look back. I used to walk short distances as money was less. And when I went out I would look for cheap food. There were many Indian canteens. Cheap food was available there. One day at noon, I was walking along the sidewalk of a street. And I see where food is available. got hungry The road is empty. There aren’t many people. People there walk less, except poor people like me. In the distance I see two young boys and one or two girls standing and talking. In the middle of the sidewalk. OK, I’m moving on. Suddenly one came towards me and said, “You bloody Indian.” I didn’t understand. Thinking that no words were spoken to me, not even a glance, suddenly I was called “Bloody Indian”!! I am very timid type of person. I don’t make trouble and when I see trouble, I run away. It’s my fault, fault I say, I can’t control myself when I get angry. This is my problem. I suddenly got angry. I forgot the space-time-container and grabbed her collar. I would never normally do that. Not in England. He didn’t think I would grab his collar. He is doing “help help”. Then people came. The policeman we call “Mama” has arrived, blowing the whistle. I stutter a little when I get excited. I said, “Look, I’m a scholar. I’ve come here to get so much respect, love. And I’m going, it’s telling me – Bloody Indian? The officer said to him, “Don’t you see? He is a big scholar? Saying that, they ran away. I also gasped.