Chaiti Basu, Heidelberg
Panchu Thakur: Indranath Bandyopadhyay’s (1849-1911) Response to the Colonial Cultural Encounter in Late 19th Century Bengal
In the Eurocentric colonialism of British India, the cultural interaction between the colonizer and the colonized was often asymmetrical and mostly hierarchical [Chatterjee, P. (ed.) (1996): Texts of Power: Emerging Disciplines in Colonial Bengal: 26]. In 19th century Calcutta, the new urban Bengali cultural elite, emerged as a result of their acquaintance and interaction with Western education, tried to come into terms with the socio-cultural repercussions of the time and thus forming a relation of “alienation and affection” [Osterheld, C., Zoller, C.P.(eds) (1994): Of Clowns and Gods, Brahmans and Babus: Humour in South Asian Literature] with their colonizers and paved the way for the emergence of the feeling of a national identity. In this respect, satire was perhaps the ablest literary tool to explore the asymmetries in the hierarchical relation as, “during the transition to nationalism ....it [satire] can coordinate and even transcend the interests of diverse social groups.” [Knight, A. C. (2004): The Literature of Satire: 79]
From the various forms of satire in the public spheres witnessed in Bengal i.e. prose narratives, novels, poems, farces, dramas, cartoons, caricatures, theatres etc., I concentrate mostly on the investigation of satires of Indranath Bandyopadhyay (1849-1911), who represents the more conservative but hugely popular faction of the late 19th century Bengali intelligentsia. His satires [Utkrsita Kabyam (1971), Kalpataru (1874) etc.] often attempt a reversal of the colonizer-colonized positions in the colonial hierarchy, question the functioning power-relations and insinuate doubt the validity of colonialism itself by overturning the justification of the claimed ‘superiority’of Europeans over the colonized. His imitation/ inspiration of the British ‘Punch’ in the serialized comic pieces of Pancu Thakur (The Reveler in the Punch), where his wit and humour find the most spontaneous expression paves the way for such challenges. Indranath is also claimed to be the author of the first satirical novel proper in Bengali (Kalpataru) by some recent literary historians [Sen, Amiya P. (1993): Hindu Revivalism in Bengal: 242 and Sen, Sukumār (1956): Bangla Sahityer Itihas, Vol II. 224]. Keeping in mind these considerations, his works seem to be apt for analyzing the reactions of, and repercussions among the middle class Bengali intelligentsia, especially towards the constant cultural flows taking place in late 19th century Bengal.
These are some of the questions which I investigate in my thesis:
· What are Indranath’s instruments/methods which he engages in his resistance/criticism of the colonial power?
· Which side of the colonial society has been attacked the most and why?
· Who were the target readers?
· Who were being attacked and why?
· What was his motivation?
· Which role does the narrator’s character (Panchu Thakur) play? Etc.