Main Article Content
Nirad C. Chaudhuri has always been the sentinel of abounding controversies especially pertaining to his autobiography’s dedicatee. But there exists a rich corpus of his works in Bengali where he succinctly explores various themes pertaining to Bengali life in the early and late nineteenth century. This work of his, ‘Bangali Jibane Ramani’, serves as a point of converge in the women’s question in Bengal (as Partha Chatterjee had masterfully enunciated) primarily in the scenario of literature and cross-cultural literary influences. Through this particular text of Chaudhuri’s, the question about the nascent transvaluations about the engaging transformations of the alternating role of ‘as the alter ego’ of her male counterpart emerges in contrast to the rather restrictive inclusionary secluded mode of patriarchal domination which pervaded the feminine microcosm before the advent of modernity. This work does not exactly touches the women’s question as such but rather the changing contours of the literary portrayal of the ‘feminine’ in a society which had been entangled under the reels of a colonial ages just a century ago. In a co-incidentally equivalent scenario, the portrayal of the feminine, though gushing forth in sublime beatitudes, still is in the process of reeling underneath the patriarchal values, enunciated by her male counterpart. The cardinal purpose of this study is to offer an alternate feminist reading of a work pertaining to late modernity wherein a fundamentally poignant structural episteme was enunciated so as to provide a new framework for approaching this question. Chaudhuri’s approach to the question reveals his dependence on literature as a mode of understanding the changing contours of feminist consciousness and also the drawbacks of such a kind of over-reliance on a literary constructs and its innuendoes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Chaudhuri, Nirad C. Bangali Jibane Ramani. (Women in Bengali life). Calcutta: Mitra &Ghosh, 1968. P. 6.
Ibid. 8-10. Chaudhuri is very clear and emphatic about what constitutes ‘civilization’ and what does not and sets upon himself the task of engaging the subject a publicist engaged in a subtle polemical discourse so as to reinforce his point of view.
Ibid., p. 46
Ibid., pp. 39-40. Chaudhuri draws forth some descriptions of some amorous scenes from Bharatchandra’s poem ‘Annadamangal’ and takes the author’s description of domestic conjugal relations as a single benchmark through which an entire societal realm can be judged. Chaudhuri’s absolutist notions of a plague like all engrossing vulgarity affecting the entire pre-colonial society seems to merely ignore the historical narratives of the period.
Ibid., pp. 102-4. Here he brings forth the enunciation of the idea of courtship and how this peculiar custom secured its place among the educated Bengalis. He draws forth numerous references from Tagore’s novel ‘Gora’ where to illustrate his point, the conversations between the characters Benoy and Lalita are held as quintessential instance of the beau ideal of courtship when done by natives.
Pp. 105-11. Here, Chaudhuri lays emphasis on the Bankim Chatterjee’s role in creating the stage for the advent of a romantic hero and heroine in the native literary scenario on the lines of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. In fact, Chaudhuri calls Chatterjee’s maiden Bengali novel, Durgeshnandini, as the best and prime examplar of the nascent robust beginnings of the advent of romantic traditions in the vernacular Bengali prose literature.
Ibid., pp. 98-99.
Ibid., pp. 105-6.
Levine, Philippa. ‘Reconstructing Feminities: Colonial Intersections of Gender, Race, Religion and Class, Feminist Review, No. 65, (Summer, 2000), pp. 6-7.
Chatterjee, Partha. ‘Nationalism and Colonized Women: The Contest in India. American Ethnologist, Vol. 16, No.4 (Nov., 1989), pp. 628-29.
Ibid., pp. 630.
Chaudhuri. Pp. 28-29. Chaudhuri’s vision seems to preclude the dire predicament of the lesser privileged females and he imbues them with every passable attributes which he considers socially damnable.
Almond, Ian. The Thought of Nirad C. Chaudhuri: Islam, Empire and Loss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Chaudhuri, Nirad C. Bangali Jibane Ramani. Calcutta: Mitra & Ghosh. 1968.
Chatterjee, Partha. ‘Nationalism and Colonized Women: The Contest in India. American Ethnologist. Vol. 16, No.4 (Nov., 1989), pp. 622-622.
Levine, Philippa. ‘Reconstructing Feminities: Colonial Intersections of Gender, Race, Religion and Class, Feminist Review, No. 65, (Summer, 2000), pp. 5-21.