Justice Markandey Katju-
Yesterday, I had lunch in Fremont, California with a young Bengali couple. They said they were my Facebook fans. The husband was from Kolkata, and the wife from Delhi. The husband is an IT engineer who has been living in America for about 8 years. The wife is a lawyer. They were married 2 years back, after which the wife also moved here.
I asked them whether they had read the writings of Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya, and was shocked to hear that they had not ( except a bit they had read in school, which, too, they said they had forgotten ).
In my opinion the best prose in the Indian subcontinent is in Bengali, and the best poetry is in Urdu ( of course there is good literature in other languages too ). And the best prose writer in Bangla is Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Hence he is the greatest prose writer in the Indian subcontinent ( like Ghalib and Faiz are in poetry).
I wonder what is happening to Bengalis ? Have these folks who used to pride themselves in being ‘bhadralok’ ( cultured people ) forgotten their own culture ? I was really sad. I am not a Bengali, but I have read most of Sharad Chandra’s novels and stories.
I remember I had begun with ‘Shrikant’ ( in Hindi translation ) when I was about 18 years old ( I am now 73 ). It is a very long novel, of about 1000 pages, but once I started reading it I could not put the book down as it was so gripping.
Sharad Chandra’s novel ‘Pather Dabi’ ( ‘Path ke daavedar’ in Hindi ) was about a revolutionary organisation. It was banned by the British authorities, and it was said at one time that the price of one copy of the book was the same as the price of a Mauser pistol.
Sharad Chandra’s biography ‘Awaara Masiha’ ( the ‘Great Vagabond’ in English ) by Vishnu Prabhakar is fascinating.
No doubt engineers, doctors, scientists, and lawyers are busy people who have to concentrate on their profession, but they should also read some great literature and have some understanding of classical music to have a well rounded personality.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own].