Oral history interview with Satyesh Chakrabarty

Chakrabarty, Satyesh

Manjapra, Kris


  • Interviewed in Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kris Manjapra
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Testing 1,2,3 ....1,2,3,4,5,6,....you also test
Hello, ask your question, I would like to know.
This is a Oral History interview on August 22nd, 2009 with Professor Satyesh Chakrabarty in Calcutta in the morning. And Professor Satyesh Chakrabarty thank you very much for your time. I wanted to first begin by asking you some biodata; when you were born? And little bit about your childhood, so could you begin by just saying when and where you were born?
Well I was born in a small town which is now in Bangladesh which means really I am a refugee during partition in India. I was born in 1931 and my father was in the judicial service British Government and the English rulers had the passion for keeping the officers detached from the masses. So no government servant was kept in a station for more than 2 years and that is particularly...
Just one second? Okay fine.
***[01:30] thing I don't do.
Yes. Yes. That's fine.
So I had the good fortune of traveling a lot with my father, getting my school education from 13 different schools.
Between the age of when you began and college?
Yes. And then I went to the college, as in the school, college and I studied...
And this is actually better... so 13 different schools?
So different schools but after the school education was complete. In fact I completed my school education in Calcutta and then I got admitted to Presidency College which was at that time known as the premier college of India. There were some comparable colleges like Madras Presidency College or Saraju College in Pune or St. Stephen's in Delhi but always the place of pride was Presidency College, Calcutta as center of liberal education. So this college turned out lots of politicians who wanted the British to go. It also turned out lot of administrators which ran the British government and we did not fight that.
This continued till the '60s and after that something happened. After completing my studies in the graduation course and master degree course from Calcutta University I went to London School of Economics and Political Science for my Ph.D. studies.
And what year did you enter Presidency College?
And what year did you enter - travel to LSE for beginning of your Ph.D?
'55 I see.
So in 1952 I got my masters degree but the results were out by the early 1953 and I started with the fellowship in the University of Calcutta and then decided that I will quit that and go out.
The reason is very simple. At that time it took ages for the Ph.D. degree results to come out in Calcutta University that is true even today but at the European and the American Universities are much more well organized. So you don't have to wait for days and months you get the report of the examiners.
What is the name of the town in East Bengal that you grew up in before you came to Kolkata?
Is called Comilla. C-O-M-I-L-L-A. It was at that time it was the part of the Chittagong Presidency but you know I don't remember much about Comilla, my infant age because very shortly afterwards my father was transferred to Barisal. As a matter of fact I covered whole of Bengal, undivided Bengal and my father got transferred from one place to the other. And one of the reason and it played a very important role in my life. I became aware of the variations of what we now call ecological systems but at that time we used to call it environmental setting and that prompted me to go in for geography.
What was the culture of education in your home was?
Well you see my great grandfather was a master degree holder in mathematics. He was the first batch of graduate students of the University of Calcutta 1856. Then my grandfather was a master degree holder in history and bachelors degree holder in law. I guess the great grandfather was a judge but he did not have any formal training in law. Then my uncles, my great uncle you know, eldest uncle was a medical practitioner and two other uncles were judges, my father was a judge.
Then when you come down to the our generation among the cousins, first one is the medical practitioner, second and third one were judicial service. And one of them retired as a high court judge and then the my next that is the fourth one was in NADL but he did not go in for law. Next one died rather young. I am a geographer and I have one younger brother. I had one younger brother who unfortunately died. He was also a graduate in Geography. So there was a tradition of learning. To quote my father, "In our family," you know he used to say "graduation is the minimum qualification that you need to declare yourself an educated person and not matriculation not writing, reading."
Was there something of the - I think I have read some? Would you say that even though your family - older generations of your family may not have grown up in Calcutta but many of them I think were educated in Calcutta?
Oh my great grandfather was a Presidency College student, my grandfather was a Presidency College student. All my uncles started their education in Presidency College my cousins done Presidency College. My sons are in Presidency College. So Presidency College is our family institution. We looked at it in that fashion.
And created.... did your family feel that it was somewhat different for example from other families in the areas that your father may have traveled through because it was connected to the metropolis or to the city of Kolkata?
Well the contribution of liberal education is most prominently revered, you know, attitude towards the other members of the society, neighbors. We were made to learn and admit that even a person doesn't have any school certificate the school leaving certificate he should yet because an educated person because he knows how to make tools. He knows how to deliver goods.
So the distinction between the artisan and the scholar was not in us as we never thought that artisan is inferior species of the human beings, no, and that was a great contrast with the contemporary educated person, the literary elite of Bengal of that time. You know, somehow the Hindu elites. It's a Muslim Hindu in our country the Hindus...There are more educated, Muslims are less educated percentage wise literacy. The Hindu literacy in East Bengal before partition now what higher much higher than the Hindus in Western Bengal. And if you take the two communities together then East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh was more educated than what are West Bengal.
So I don't know whether that played any important role in shaping the course of the artistic ideas of the people of my previous generation but later on I realized that they were alienated.
And alienation was self inflicted. It's not an alienation of being like a Black American being hounded out in America, not that kind of alienation. I don't love my country. I miss my mother. You know this kind of feeling wasn't there but alienation means I don't belong to them and this is something which made many of us turn towards Western Europe to look for higher education.
When you came to Calcutta for your studies did you feel a sense of familiar recognition that even though you were not grown up here that this was an intellectual space that was more akin to your way of being, or was more?
My father getting transferred from place to place I had the occasion of coming to Calcutta and also there were my other relations in Calcutta so the streets of Calcutta were not unfamiliar, the people of Calcutta mattered little because those my family members are also educated members, so it formed a kind of and we were self compensating, okay?
I didn't have to search for friends or [unclear] outside the family group but there were a quite number of students in the classroom whom I remember with all reverence and they did not - not a single one of them had a background which is different from my background.
In the sense that?
All were parents were educated. They had traveled a lot and therefore was capable of admitting stranger and in my family for example we never say that -- we had a German visitor - we had - my father had friend who has come from Germany this is the exposure and visited so there are a number of person addressed as Aunt Pauline, Uncle Norton they became members of the family and these are the very element of eastern culture. Once a person is admitted he is given a status in the family kinship and you should be able to understand because West Indies still retains this culture.
Same culture.
Yes that's very true.
So when you came to Calcutta you came as a student in school still?.
Before you matriculated in Presidency College?
What school was that?
Mitra Institution, Bhawanipur. It's the famous school at that time.
That was English or Bangla medium?
Bangla medium.
Okay. And what was your experience of the Bangla medium school. And Mitra Institution is very famous?
Excellent school. Excellent school it was when I continuously referring to the past as we higher educational achievement of Bengal I think I should explain to you why I consider it has gone down. You see somehow the institution of democracy that was adopted by the constitution writers of India was I think a premature action. Because you cannot take decisions of equal importance by literate and illiterate person. The illiterate person will be taking correct decision about his way of life, the way he can make money, can develop his skill but intellectuals are quite different. They will think of the ideologies of equality, fraternity and all those things.
And quite a number of political decisions of the government has to take verge on those values. Do you need this kind of aam aadmi deshi[?]? It is a debate even the common man living in the cities will not be able to participate and realize what is the problem with the city. But you have to take a decision on that and what happened the democracy made the government made another great mistake, great mistake committed by Jawaharlal Nehru himself which is that they put emphasis on higher education and establish large number of institutions of repute, research and teaching but neglected primary education, school education. So this neglect created a kind of a filter to take out those people from the society for training who had money to buy the education.
Okay there again the distance between the poor and the rich, rich included middle class also because English education is very, very expensive. Now so the ruling class came from those are [Unclear] and those are left behind they joined the other milieu and since a great demand for teachers in the higher institutions artificially created therefore most of the best brains left school education. Okay for example our teacher, one teacher Narayan Sarkar.
This is in the Mitra Institution?
No, no it's in Bihar, Berhampur in Murshidabad district Viswanath College and other things institution. I am very lucky I have the opportunity of studying in very good schools of the time again all of Bengali medium. Okay we had to go to learn English without ever meeting an Englishman.
So you learnt your English at home then?
At home and school.
And at school?KM: Within the Bengali medium school?
But the pronunciation was different.
Yes. Now there Narayan Sarkar was my father's classmate but he was teacher in school. His educational career says first class in English, the honors. First class in MA in English and he decided to quit a job that was offered to him by the Scottish Church College said no, I have to go to the base to the roots that kind of this kind of teachers are no longer available.
They are not looking upon teaching as a devotional affair. They are looking upon teaching as a money earning affair. Okay. Then came the rule we call leftism in 1977 and a terrible thing happened as far as school education is concerned, college education later on which is that they put emphasis on affiliations, over qualification so unqualified persons throwing affiliation to the Communist Party of India- Marxist were given jobs others and that led to corruption. Corruption means that the University committee members expected bribe and that had to be given only those persons who were ready to turn coats. Okay.
They will say "I am with you now" but anytime they will betray.
So on one side education became more professionalized and the other side it became more politicized?
And both of these had the effect of taking teachers away from as you are saying commitment to devotion to particularly the school?
And then these boys came to the college and got educated into the college and they had a formal degree of graduation or a master's degree so they looked for jobs. So like a capillary that corruption started moving up and I am calling it corruption because education is something where no compromise with competencies permissible and that is one area you can take incompetent person of the clerk in a business office. The others will manage and the responsibility of the managers are very important whereas in the case of the teacher is his own manager.
Well this is what is so fascinating in that you went to Presidency while you were in school and went to and then Presidency College right in the cusp years when the movement from the colonial to the post colonial so to speak. So what was the culture of Presidency College at that time perhaps you could mention scholars, teachers that you were deeply affected by other students or colleagues that really informed or that you informed through your conversations?
Well you know yeah the great teachers and also incompetent teachers it happens. It happens in any educational institutions.
I noticed them in various American universities I talk later on they are brilliant and not so brilliant. Okay. Those who are brilliant and incomparably brilliant you will hardly find them even in the best institutions of the world. Okay. And intellectually India has a long tradition and they are capable of thinking abstract. And abstract thinking is absolutely necessary if you are teaching social sciences and other sciences. Anyway Professor Susobhan Chandra Sarkar he was a historian. He was a BA graduate from Oxford University. He got a job in the Government of India higher education service straightforward. He was great teacher. Politically he was a communist but it never crept into the studies.
He never talked about "Marx as superior to Adam Smith, no he talk about the Adam Smith, he will talk the Marx's the contribution how they led to social changes. There was another person in political science my brain is you know betraying me.
We'll come back later.
He was also a graduate from London School of Economics not a master degree holder, not a Ph.D. and he was great teacher in Political Science. Okay. Then in English literature Ahmed Ali, fantastic, as a teacher. They are very great scholarly persons who wrote a lot and wrote something very meaningful but they were not good speakers. You require gift of the gab to be a teacher. I attended chemistry classes also. Ask me why, because I was interested to understand the interfaces between the subjects. This is a contribution of the life experience with my father traveling from one place to the other from the Himalayas down to the oceans why one does not require any formal training to distinguish between the physical landscape. Okay. So Why I became interested, why is the soil saline this was my first question.
And if the ocean is saline why the rain is not saline. You know the combination of fixed physics and chemistry was there. So was there [Unclear] then he my great in Pakistan. I mean there were lots, lots. Geology was another my favorite subject. So you can have a feeling that I neglected geography. If you judge my commitment to this subject by my attendance to the class then you will be correct that I neglected geography but my entire passion was to see how the physical landscape and the cultural landscape are related. Okay. These have lead me to read history, sociology, economic, geology, botany.
And you were able to attend lectures and find teachers at Presidency College at all of this different fields. There was no restriction
On you?
No, no it's a question of getting the permission of the teacher. I have also found similar students who attended my class but he took the permission say in Duke University it required a permission. I found one student without who is in the classroom and I aren't familiar I said are you new? Well no sir I attending your class well in future take my permission.
So how about some of the early scholars like Radha Kamal Mukherjee who were contributing to social or cultural geography at that time? Or another sociologist who became Vinod Kumar Sarkar or others amongst the Bengali scholars knew who were developing new theories did they affect or influence you, interest you and other names and maybe these two were not that important. Were there others that were?.
I mean Vinod Sarkar his understanding of political sociology was the foundation of the department of sociology that Calcutta University ultimately created what was he not that is the question. Did he study history? Yes. Did he study economics? Yes. But he went into political sociology. Then our Susobhan Sarkar he studied geography. Yes he was one of the rare historian who would say that it was impossible to understand history unless you related to geographical setting. Fantastic. And he did not teach us in the honors class. I attended this class whenever in the pre honors level. Pre graduation level, transition from the school to the college.
He had that kind of a thing that was ruined by this party. So from school straight jump into college university training you can't it's a fathomless chasm it's very difficult jump unless you try to learn by rote not by understanding.
Anyway so Nirmal Kumar Bose was my teacher in geography. He was a geologist he was ancient historian he is an archaeologist. He knew architecture. He is very famous book on Temples of Orissa. He is still a basic reference but he taught human geography. So to my heart's liking fortunately I had such teachers who are also intellectual see the interfaces between the subjects.
Okay. Now Vinod Sarkar in the classroom was not a political man. Vinod Sarkar immediately after the classroom was a political man so was also Nirmal Bose and Susobhan Chandra Sarkar but they were not divorce from their political ideology but they never mixed up the curriculum study with political idea which the affiliates to the party nowadays do... And they say that --Tagore was denigrated leader, literary because he was a Zamindar that's the argument. What he did to the Bengali literature they did not consider and after that when took people they said I regret the fact that I made a mistake. So they are continuously regretting the fact of having made mistake in the past.
And the tolerance of the mediocre citizens where comes in my first issue democracy, is amazing. They know that this people cannot be trusted at the same time they do not remember the reason why they cannot be trusted.
Okay. Don't think that I am not. I am anti Marxism no, no, no. I can challenge these political leaders to come and have discussion on Marx what is really meant what why did you like this? They shun me off because they know that their idiocy will be immediately exposed and I am also not interested at the same to educate them. They are beyond redemption. Where was I?
Speaking of some teachers and the fact that they kept the politics away from their teaching? How were in terms of your core students, fellow travelers at Presidency College? Were there any that come that popped to your mind now as particularly important in your development or?
Of course. Of course. Let me give you a quick reference to how did you study? Classroom was important but we are very choosy about it. If a teacher was there who was not interested in the sense that interpretation of the subject was not hitting we didn't attend the class. We did not attend the class.
[Unclear] Coffee House that was established around 1945 and we are in college in 1946 like the coffee house called Cupola in Paris, served as an intellectual hub, and there we discussed the following things: A. What is new in this latest edition of Times Literary Supplement that was a regular material to read then our what the great name of the paper... Observer from England, New York Times.
The New York Times.
Then Christian Science Monitor the conservative mind you see those used to come maybe 7 days later delayed we used to read, we have to keep ourselves abreast of that. Sometimes we corner a teacher by talking about something read in Times Literary Supplement and quite a number of my friends agreed with me when you say what you are learning in the classroom and what did you learn in the college. My feeling is I learnt more by talking to my fellow students. Not that they were brilliant but they kept me abreast.
And was there is a culture of debating or challenging one each other's views was it an aggressive debating culture, was it to people tend to come to consensus more than emphasize disagreements or what was that?
Well our students union in college, Presidency College ....and one section called debating society. Every 7 days there will be a debate and that attempted to the curiosity one could not pull any more but the audience remain patient and chairman never made the mistake of taking the consensusvote from the audience never. That's unimportant instead talked about emphasized upon substantive values of debate.
We came to know Socrates and his contribution in the development of philosophy. Epistemology of Agamemnon when a professor taught us. Ghosal and now I remember that political scientist name Ghosal explained it that why the class was called the gymnasium, rest of your mind polishing about and why did Plato say dialogue because you see through exchange of ideas and then from there I could not - I did not face any difficulty when these issue came from the Latin Americans that the medium of the objective of educations to find out where you can conscientize that's the term they use with the students and the meaning that unless you start building up your theory from the life experience of your student and they will never realize it's relevance in their life.
conscientization to arrive at the conscience that this is the reality and on which we are talking. All these things you know we were exposed to when we were students.
And your sense is that this kind of education was not only unparallel in India but you are saying some of these great teachers you have mentioned probably wouldn't find elsewhere in Britain?
I will not say absolutely unavailable. In school of economics, in the university college, in the imperial college all under University of London or so. I met with brilliant mind, you know think of Gordon Childe giving lectures on what happened in history and shows how the archaeologist evidences coming up and one day he asked me why are you so interested? As it is you see I am in geography so I am interested in archaeology I could not see the connection please help me. Please help me this is Aristotelian dialogue not Platonic dialogue, not Socratic dialogue I said half of the information that I gave it's through observation not through talking or reading. So unwritten evidences is the basis of the starting point of geography so is archeology.
So the technique appeals to me. I made use of archaeology in my writings, in my teaching and all my students even when I was teaching in Indian Institute of Management that please try to observe what word the boy is saying or your client is saying. Consult the idiomological [ph] dictionary, Merriam-Webster is a good source, find out what was the origin of that word and from that you'll find how the meaning changed you will be able to understand what really means by using that word. And it's not that easy you take the obvious meaning of a word used by your client or by your student. The student is a client of course is one kind of client.
What when you were before you left for London, did you and your colleagues in college and graduate post college so in the graduate program did you have a sense that you were of a special generation that you would be the leaders, intellectual leaders of a independent India and therefore there was an extra burden on you.
No, no there was no great urge to become leaders that's the part of the answer. The other part of the answer was I am different from them. Therefore if they are saying something which appears stupid learn to tolerate it. You have no capacity to educate everybody. Okay.
One of my teachers said Jaisi Sinha said you must set your tasks in terms of your capabilities, fascinating statement, you see? Later on I found that his application is very, very valid in management science. Do not accept an assignment where they do not have the resources I need and custom and that I learnt with Jaisi Sinha maybe 1948.
What did you find that you mentioned a couple of names amongst these great teachers who were Muslim?
Muslim, Hindus.
And was there any were you impressed with having these great Muslim teachers? Did you view them with particular admiration because Presidency College created a space in which there were Muslims and Hindus amongst the brains what was that not something that one reflected on?
I know for example I am a Hindu and we experienced a great Calcutta killing 16th of August 1946 our classes began on the 12th of August. In the course of those days I learnt two great things. One is the meaning of the German word lumpen.
The lumpen?
Lumpen, yeah. Absolutely lack of responsibility and not knowing what they want to achieve. Okay. And another great thing I learnt from a person who became my life's friend was a Muslim we were living in the hostel.
This is Hindu Hostel?
Hindu Hostel. Hindu Hostel. Eden Hindu Hostel. I mentioned Eden because Eden section one could admit Muslims, Christians, Hindu section not, because of the donors we had. This fellow asked the Presidency College student...
What his name?
Kaza Abdul Razak. Now late Kaza Abdul Razak.
And one day we found in the middle of the riots a person is coming with a gun in hand [Unclear] off people with utensils, huge utensils as head load as he came closer and he was my Kaza Abdul Razak. He said "master what are you" --he will speak like that-"master what are you eating?" You must be starving so I couldn't manage anything but some biryani pulav for you. He came within [Unclear] residence that was his devotion, attachment it's not the Hindu attachment it's the college attachment. The college
That was the time when rioters were coming previously we were throwing brickbats to keep them away from the. We suddenly found that they were carrying wooden cot taking it as a shelter - umbrella.
So all the bricks were falling on their wooden cot and it would not hit them. At that moment Kaza Abdul Razak kneel down not kneel down, took his gun outtwo shots three or four of them down not killed injured him and everybody left okay. Is this an example of devotion to college or devotion to Hindus? It came out immediately one person said "sir may I ask you a question do you know that those people who were coming to attack us were Muslims?" "I know." "That you are a Muslim?" "I know." "Why did you shoot Muslim down?" He said "you are a stupid man, it is not a fight between Hindus and Muslims.
It is a fight between haves and have-nots." Right, a fight between the cultured and uncultured. It's the fight between the educated and uneducated. And that was 1946 we were in the first year.
And he was a student as well?
Not a first year student at that time third year. But for the third year student to arrive at that kind of wisdom something surprising.
Was that year very fearful? Did you live in great fear?
Oh yes.
Because the riots were happening right on the street next door?
All of that, you know. You have been [Unclear] in the hostels [Unclear] inside on the other side of it which is a tall building called a Muslim Medical hostel.
From there we faced gunshots but the distance was so much not a single bullet came and hit us, but the fact that the students were voluntarily participating in riot was a terrible shock.
Presidency College students?
No, no these are Muslim medical and "how can a student be involved?" that was our reaction. How can a student be involved? A student is not supposed to get involved in mundane activities.
This activity of the lumpens. We must hear their objective. So we sent a delegation with white flag to tell them that "what objective are you trying to fulfill by using a gun against us?" Because you see if we wish we can get [unclear] but we are not doing it, because we think that the student have a different purpose
So during that year I mean the year in which the rioting was happening?
'47 after '47.
After '47 did the university continue as usual that the coffee house continued as usual or was there some shift in how students would live and study?
More or less normal but we were always alert if something happened in our neighborhood we prepared ourselves to take protection. And I'll give you one example. Mohammed Baqi, philosophy teacher he used to live somewhere near Chitpur and took the tram, he used to take a tram which would come via Bowbazar Street and then turn on College Street, he'll get out at the gate of the college .
Mohammed Baqi that day came to the classroom flustered face "can you imagine that they tried to shoot at me without knowing who I am." What a statement and what were they gaining out of that? Nothing.
Even if I have died there they would have found not more than Rs.15 on me. Is it not madness for what happens? We were coming and on the street some gunman from the footpath started shooting at the moving tram and by that time got back composed, so let's get back to our class, subject.
They would allow the students to have private interactions, not private tuition, interactions. I remember Sushoban Chandra Sarkar, "sir I have a question.", "well what is the question?" Spartans never liked the Athenians and I find the difference Athens [ph] could not produce its own food. Spartans did. Athens dependent on trading and Sparta did not...
Through trading they came into contact with many people who are non-Greeks. So question was debated within Athens whether non-Greeks could be given citizenship but it was resisted by the Spartans. Sparta had a large flat land that they could cultivate and produce their own food. Is that the difference? "Is that-- it's a very good question I will come back and try to answer you."
Next day he call me. "Here, read this book, J.B. Bury's history of ancient Greece there it is written like that."
The geographical setting played a very important role in the Greek history and one Lionel W. Lyde, whose book I read, book was published in 1905. It said Europe is a peninsula of peninsulas and the peninsula has one constraint. It shuts you out on three sides by ocean so your connection with the land is limited.For survival you go across the ocean and that is European history.
Fascinating. Very fascinating.
Another quotation from [Unclear] like the Asia. It is a continent of plateaus where guard by mountains where one foot was in the surrounding planes and another up on the plateau. You can imagine see. Up on the plateau so when we read Anatolian geography or Italian geography the mountains did not look great mountains from the plateau because if the leg which is up and the whole torso is down from outside it looked like a great wall, barrier.
So invaders always came from the plateau down to the planes that was his statement and ancient history is littered with instances of plateau men coming down to the planes. The linkages between geography and history was at that time seen very clearly by the European geographers. And this really started in University of Strasbourg and later on spread into Paris and...
And at the University of Strasbourg who was or who were the main contributors to this?
At the University of Strasbourg main contributors what's the name of that great historian who wrote about Mediterranean?.
The-- Braudel. The great Braudel. He was the one.
One. He was a student at that time.
I see. I see. Yes.
And then I forget - my retrieval system is collapsing.
It's already better than mine, but then so were you reading?
Lefebvre, yes. Were you reading Lefebvre and a but I am not sure if they might have been a bit later they were writing in the '40s I think.
They were writing in the '40s.
so you were reading them and...
yes, yes.
It's because of the Times Literary Supplement.
I see.
We knew about it. At that time books were not very expensive and my father had enough money to give me Rs.5 per month. Rs.5 which is roughly about Rs.500 of this time. And I had an account with the Das Gupta and Company booksellers I will go and order a book it doesn't matter if there is money or not they will give it to me on trust. I will pay them back that's how I got with books.
So you could get Braudel and Febvre and other books all of these other books that you have mentioned many of them have had recently come out in Europe. Did you ever considered going to France or Strasbourg to study?
Well my terrible, terrible experience with France I must tell you which expose my limitations of language. Before going to England I decided to study French, learn the French language.
Partly becauseof your interest in geography?
Interested in the French intellectual thought.
French intellectual thought.
You know the role of the frustrating role of Robespierre. I wrote an article and I was reading in class, third year and Sushoban Chandra called me. "It is a very good point you have made. Not all points are good but these are the very important points, that if you threaten the people with your power then you will be hit back. that's Robespierre's experience."
So this I thought that more or less learnt irregular verbs and other thing but I still carried the books. At Marseilles I got down and I hired a taxi I noted [Unclear] and said it in French. The fellow stopped turned and said "do you know English sir?" "a little bit" "speak in English to me. I couldn't follow what you said in my language." that greatly shocked me and...
And how old were you at this time when you had arrived in Marseilles?
That is in 1954 that will be about 23 years old.
You were a young man?
Young man yes. But it was a shocking experience and I got more shocked when I came to England because the common man speaks speeches very different from the reputed man's speech but I came to learn again you have to tolerate and gradually learnt what they are meaning.
How did you what did you have a fellowship to go to the LSE or how did you receive the funding that allowed you to go?
I applied for scholarship from the Government of West Bengal and I got one it's called state scholarship, very poor, but because we became poor because prices were rising at that time before that when this amount was settled decided quite 400 pounds a year and that was a great amount of money say in 1945, 1947 not in 1954 and I applied for a Rhodes Scholarship. So I have select about four people and they interact and I asked permission the government could I? No we can't do it.
Because you had already received the state scholarship?
And not only that I have to pay the price the...pound of flesh, five years of teaching.
Did you ever consider I mean you went to you took the boat to Marseilles? How long was the boat ride?
The first boat ride was 15 days, second boat ride was 14 days, third boat ride was 18 days and last one was...
And did you were you all interested in traveling to Central Europe to Germany or Austria or maybe even Soviet Union?
Oh no money we finished our money by the time we reached Munich.
So you did go?
Yes, yes by car the only car we bought it at 5 pounds then it's fixed [Unclear] and I was a tailor and I made the inevitable mistake. It could cover from the front glass or the back it was short by four inchesbut that in summer time without [Unclear]. France then Holland through Belgium and through Essen into Germany up the Rhine then Esslingen and then to Munich. I wanted to go to see the great jail where the Jews were kept near Munich.
But we were not given permission.
To go. So could you tell me more - little bit more about your graduate studies at LSE who your advisor was and what you got from so many things I am sure ?
I mean at that time when I went to England the utmost thought in my mind was to get my degree and job okay. So England was a choice to get degree in the shortest possible time. Shortest means 3 years okay. And you was certain they will not take more than a month to evaluate your contribution.
I entered the School of Economics because [unclear] the great tradition and I was given two supervisors. One was a New Zealander he was an expert in [Unclear] another was a expert in what I don't know but he was expert in bullying and then liking him then become fond of him.
I see. Yes.
He was in the army and stayed in Bengal that was his claim to know about India. He admitted it later on. Then I started writing I went there and they said you have a good academic career why should you waste your time going to courses why don't you give me a synopsis of what you propose to write as a thesis. Well I told it might take 3 days well take a week then I wrote it and gave it to him. Buchanan came and reviewed it and said go ahead with writing so you see I was put in a position, a situation where I was not supposed to learn anything and that was not acceptable to me.
Okay. So I said I am spending my country's money and you are demanding that I profit you, not profit myself.Buchanan said "how do you mean?" "well there are great teachers I would like to interact with them and based of interacting to take up studies in the subject he is the specialist" so one way or other they helped me to choose what discussion it. People from archeology, geomorphology, sociology then statistics. Little bit of economics I learnt nothing - big ego men there was nothing in place at all on economics then history that time [Unclear].
You know to interact with the teachers on the subject is something which I considered to be most [Unclear] in a classroom you cannot establish that intimacy for example Professor Wooldridge, who became Lord Wooldridge later on would expect me to his office at 8 o'clock in the morning. And there was a secretary Agnes. "Miss Agnes Chakra has come." So here will come steaming hot black coffee and we'll start talking "what do you think the reason for formation of the single [Unclear] he never went out of the England...
...never talked about India but made me learn geology and geomorphology of England and made me understand the logic of the subject. Okay.
Raymond Firth, one day I told him that you are called functional sociologist "all damn bullshit tell me why do you think I should be called a functional-" I am asking that question."Well you see what happened I joined the army and started writing great book was Malay Fishermen.I said "I read your Primitive Polynesian Economy and Malay Fishermen,both . They are so different. Primitive Polynesian Economy talks about kinship and all those things, and in Malay Fishermen . you are writing about the lifestyle of the people how do they eke out their life existence.
So this is really talking about the functions of the society and that is talking about geneaology of the society I didn't like that. I like this. Why? Because geography is that. My responsibility is to understand the physical environment, understand the social environment and see the connection if any which is that. That's geography. Then he said "does that not expose you to the open ground theory?"I said yes.I am exposing myself to the challenges of sciences which I have not read because the question that was raised at that time by the academia is that geography has not ever existed. Talk about something in geography and that was been discovered either with physics or chemistry. And that used to dampen us.
Did you feel when you did come from such a different background then many of the students that you interacted with later on the professors was this something that you are aware of on a daily basis or was it the case of because there was in some ways an international universalist discussion of academia with common reference points that you were engaged in that those differences of background were dampened down or subdued so to say?
Well it was not allowed by the teacher. For example Professor Wooldridge, I am doing a last day with him. It did take me 5 months and over ... "I had done a damn mistake Chakra!"
"What it is?" "I am supposed to evaluate you and send the report and today is the only day out and I evaluate you I have thought of something you come with me" and yes there was another door. He opened it and took me to a dais. It was a gallery full of students, teachers and he said today we have with us an Indian scholar named SC: and he will tell you about effect of glaciation on the Chiltern Hundreds?
The effect of?
Glaciation on the Chiltern Hundreds.
I see.
Chiltern Hundreds is a moraine, a mound, north of London north west of London. That was a flabbergasting thing I was not prepared at all. So I started slowly, slowly and talked for about an hour and I got a lot of clap, clapping. Then one graduate student stood up and said "Professor Wooldridge don't you think you have been very, very unfair to this Indian scholar?
if you had put a question to him about India I would thought that you are testing his power to observe." Immediately he said "you are wrong. I had been with him to Chiltern Hundreds. What he observed something more than what I have observed." Okay. So the student was never treated as a subordinate species.
Even though this was in Britain in which there was this particular relationship, politically, historically
Historically, politically Indians on the street they would say Blacky Indian, dirty Indians
You had this happen, you would experience
Yes, of course for example the newspaper vendor on a very bright day I said "isn't it a lovely day? spring has come."He looked at me [unclear].
This fellow talks like [unclear], Ok look at the use of words "the fellow" which is a derogatory word in the academia but not is a familiar with the lord of familiarity with the knowledge, if you see Ravi the idiomology of the rather I would say the idiocy of the word you know the origin of the word fascinating how the mind works but you know the distance was very clear but I was not worried about the distance because as I was accustomed to this distance. We [unclear] to England and in my own country.
Sure, How was is did you mentioned you had memories of Laski?
No I had read about Laski and Laski created that school, Keynes, Laski they all created that school so I had a great expectation of that school. If you ask me did my expectation get fulfilled? Not quite.
Why is that?
You see I have been to Oxford and interacted with the teachers, it is a different kind of a interaction.
This was in Oxford in London School of Economics you come from your home and have limited contact with the private. There was a senior student's common room, according to the rules these are the common rooms of the teachers and these graduate students but I have never found any teacher going there. But you know going to a dining hall in Cambridge or to Oxford, Delhi also we had to sit with the teachers high tables and low tables that's the difference. You have been to Oxford?
I have been to both
Much different cultures and system
not completely...the radically different atmosphere I found in Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh and University of Strathclyde. You can ask me why did you visit all these places not during when I was studying necessarily.
I was at Leeds, not very impressed, I went to Cambridge very impressed, I went to Oxford very impressed. Later on I went to the Edinburgh, Manchester, Strathclyde this was much better than Univerity of Glasgow. So if you talk about do I know anything about Universities education outside India I think I will be not blind you can say I know
When you returned to Calcutta it was then 60's I think
I was given a permission to give my thesis at this span of 2 years and then a question was raised that you have not reached the age to get the degree. Why didn't you put that to me earlier well I said that is a good question, i would be with the chancellor so I applied to the Chancellor and the Chancellor said it was our mistake that we did not permit so the chancellor give's a special permission for me to appear for the examination and you wouldn't believe it who the chancellor was [unclear] an illiterate person but he was going by the advice you see from the academic registrar
This is something I learnt in England how to respect your own team mates and work together. My visit to... to travels to Japan to Canada to United States were equally thrilling. But of a different kind. Because of my export in England, I did not face any difficulty going to France or Germany or Norway or Sweden or New Zealand or Australia. I have traveled over the whole world you see and then again you see. To accept no stranger in your life, there is no stranger in my life.
There is been an interesting move I think in scholarship on South Asia since the late 70s that is focused quite a bit on the cultural divide or a notion of cultural divide between east or west to between Indian and British and European but it's sounds to me as if this is this sense of being culturally different as Indian or as Bengali or as Hindu did not really figure terribly strong in your intellectual, academic and professional life? Is that correct I mean did you and do you see yourself more as a kind of world traveler part of a International discussion as supposed to an Indian who is contributing in Indian perspective to this discussion
[unclear] of mine,old piece of writing, and I was talking about identity of man and what are the national identities of man? Because he does not understand self to start with he understand mother, father and community. Hierarchically then at one point the political concept of a nation. O.K. Most people get bound by that most people nation. I am an Englishman, I am a Scotchman and etc. Problem is when these people try to live together in a metropolitan city of New York or London. If that notion of identity of nationality--it becomes a barrier and that barrier creates Ghettos and the Ghettos create social problems tensions its etc... etc. then I say that Urbanism is creating another kind of an identity which is called cosmopolitan society.
Do you permit me to use that I think I am a cosmopolitan and i have no difficulty in having raw fish with the Japanese or crocodile meat with the Congolese students. No problem, anything can be eaten by civilize human beings... should be acceptable to you not talk like you know I should not mention the name one boy called Indendu who came I don't like this messy curry, ha, you may not but you must not say this.
It's interesting that you mentioned your Urbanism something you worked very much on and you have also mentioned your sensitivity to physical environment, to geographical spaces. So when you came back to this metropolis of Calcutta and what I have read I know that you got deeply involved in problems of the city of Kolkata particularly the immigration, the emigres coming from East and so forth. How did your interests your scholarly interests in terms of the diverse geographies in Bengal, the rural geographies of Bengal, the study of that relationship in the rural context and also the very specific questions about the city like Calcutta and how to run and how to plan in a city like Kolkata?
[unclear] reconcile all these diverse fields, one thing I realized after coming here that the country and become a teacher that India has not reached that level. That specialization in any branch of geography is marketable
Mean within academia, within the professional?
professional in general and then my learning that my interest really interfaces with subjects. So I decided to venture in to each field and go deep in to it.
From there I will come back again to [unclear] and see what kind of support I get from another field of study. That is my personal mission I still pursue this. That in this old age i am nearly eighty where was I? yes. I should tell you that when I went to England, I was most interested in Agriculture.
Agriculture and Geography, yes, and my thesis really was considered a paradigm supported by empirical resources.
They had a country which *[1:28] have normal disposition of topography highland, lowland and a population which is multiplying. But the technology of production remains frozen. What will happen to land use? that was my thesis which very praised but I was told to publish it I decided not to publish it then I told my teacher why I can not publish it because I said story is not completed. There should be a compulsion feeling of compulsion to change the technology. Then all the para2.19 contortions can then be validated. But as a piece of deductive logic this is an excellent work I think [2.28]. Yes, then London's university has a system they microfilm your thesis including the illustrations and they have the courtesy of telling send it out you know leaving the author of the work.
There how many people and who taken microfilm copies of I am very proud to tell you I think twenty-five persons name *[3:05] including important people in geography and also agricultural geography. I only got one "very much impressed by your work" that's all.
So did you ever publisher your thesis
No I did not
No I did not
You did not
I know, I regret it I will go to London one day and ask for the copy
And perhaps publish it
Thinking the publishing revising, not revising making an editorial comment that this is dated. But my agriculture in my interest in agriculture and geography continued. I came back in '57' even in 1963 that in an institution in CMPO, Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization has made it the core foundation of America and also the stimulant that Calcutta has to be planned or changed but you cannot plan unless you know what it is and where can you go. Then one geographer Berry, Brian Berry who was a mathematician really he was a core foundation, ex pat, had spoke about Calcutta [4.43] but with all kinds of stable jargons. Then I got hold of those jargons rather he got hold of me Norton Ginsburg and remained life long friend.
Norton Ginsburg hated statistics, he said don't get me these [0.08] stories I said all right so we are having shot of whiskey and he said with your curiosity it's a great shame that you are not interested in it and I said I am interested in it but I am not trained. I have never studied Urban Geography that's "dive into it" the way to learn swimming that is how I got the about the Urban phenomenon and still have continued, I have still continued my Urban culture many others. One historian of South Asia who remained the Editor of a South Asian journal of history Robert Gray he became my great friend and academically.
Then in terms of family, he was responsible for putting to me a question why is it that the Bengali intellectuals fail to transmit their ideas in Bengali language? I said the only possibility logically you can construct alienation and proof of alienation is that the language you that speak and the British are also facing the same problem but with their Empire they are managing it. Here this squeezing of no economy right so that is historical geography. I sent this book Radha Kamal Mukherjee's book to be printed and then I have to review it
What do you think of Radha Kamal Mukherjee's work?
[2.36] that were in 1936, 59 he gave series of lectures in Calcutta University, put together around his book The Changing Face of Bengal . It was a great work and I am not over counting work of my review of this book. I am just mentioning my early adulthood experience 1939 was the year of beginning of the world war. 1946 I was in the College, in 48 I was getting the graduates studies and that was probably the time 48 I became aware of Radha. He was an economist but he could understand the of the urban economy or Economic great word which is close to home sciences that is light. Light of geographical we have our evidences in the economic structure as well as physical and geographical.
Here was an economist who brought to the fore the importance of understanding the physical environment. At that time he did not get any support for his thesis that when river courses started changing. Later on one boy Anand Bagchi he is a professor at Calcutta University Geography, he is PHD in I don't know ganges [4.42] delta. First thing he did tectonically most active North Bengal was left out, therefore his explanation was all [4.58] He talked about Radha Kamal but did not learn anything from Radha Kamal.
Radha Kamal was he had collected lots of maps and showing how the rivers had changed and you know he was a Hindu also, I am saying it in a map one map he said it the orientation of the drainage of Eastern Bengal before the Padma started drifting the map shows the point from the arrows reminds me of kabirath's attempt to bring Ganga to bring back the life to the husband [1.03] always tend to upward lap you know erosion and capture. He was not getting any support the geology because the geologists of that time did not study tectonics ok in India. Tectonics became interesting in America; you know that is a great American contribution only around 1936 -37 Tectonics you know build of the Earth is not permanent.
For example a German Scholar
Wagner found a on the drift getting up about the instability of the Earth but long before him Dudroff an Argentinian Geographer had talked about continental drift but wrote in Spanish not known to the teutonics so Wagner got the credit writing should give credit to Dudroff and post Wagner there was an Englishman David Stairs who wrote a book whose title is very, very easy reading Power that stays in Mind that these are the fore runners and based on that the Geological Survey of the United States of America started developing this and do you know who contributed it to [unclear] Geomorphologists of Geological Survey of America. They were saying this is how the landscape is changing and all that is changing cannot be explained by [unclear]
That was in 60's. 1860s and later on I will call that these are the fore runners on how to raise a question and around 1937 the Geological survey of United states of America decided to open a branch called geotectonics. This is a very interesting comment there: why do they call it tectonics? Tecton: built and that is what you have to study. If geotectonics was there, Radha Kamal Mukherjee [unclear] [3.52] the reason for changing the course
So the last actually one very quick question the question that I had in mind simple question is after you finished did you live in Hindu College for all the years of your Presidency College time or did you move out?
no no in Hindu
Hindu Hostel...
Well I stayed there only for about 2 years and then I was expelled from there because I was critical about the superintendent. Critical about the superintendent and the organized a protest against him and got him sacked but the principal decided that he will ban his NGO's lean and hungry looks he said you will not be allowed to stay in the College but you are welcome in the College . Do you know who you are Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis? too dangerous a resident of the hostel because there you do not have any agenda to interact. In college you are a safe person because you have an agenda so you will have to confine yourself to that agenda.
so when you moved into college, is that right? You said you ..
no, no. Hindu hostel..
was the residential hall..
of Presidency College
ok. So he expelled you from Hindu Hostel but not from college.
no. no. he would not.
he couldn't
no. he would not. I mean, he was a fascinating person Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis
he was a fascinating person in a way that you respected or you find slightly off-putting?
I mean his general interest in life you know. He was a professor of Physics but his one of his masterly contribution was predicting the Bengal famine of 1943. That is not Physics. And then he was the founder of the Indian Statistical Institute. That was uncommon. Uncommon things happened with Bengali. Like the mathematician Satyendra Bose or the physicist...
Like the Bose Einstein Equation
Then Jagadish Chandra Bose who was known to us as the person who said that plants also are living beings. ***[01:41]. But now I hear that in Cambridge they have set up a school, Jagadish Chandra Bose School. I asked why did you do it? And they said, "Don't you know it?" He explained there the photosynthetic process, how the sunlight; a band of it is converted by one and then passed away ***[02:05] to another set and in this way all materials were produced and then there was a discovery in Harvard that in all these processes, energy is being released. So there is the interest of the energy producers, interest of the plant physiologists. He was a great man. CV Raman. I mean, when you look at the infrastructure they had, its amazing. Their power of thinking was amazing.
Given how little infrastructure they had.
Little infrastructure. And I say and possibly I told you this time also, Indian intellectual tradition , one component of it which is great, but which is lost, I think many Indians have lost it. Its called power to think in abstraction. That the deductive logic is becomes automatically... anyway, that is who he is... you did not complete the question.
Yes, so when you moved from... the reason why I ask these stray questions is because in someway I would also like to map on a digital map the places you have mentioned to get a sense of where you lived your life as a student. So when you moved from Hindu Hostel, do you remember where you moved to ..
O, in the hostel, you know, I moved out of the hostel in 1948 and in 1947 the partition of India took place and my father had opted for India so he came over to Calcutta and so I moved into his place.
And where did he live in?
In the beginning near Tollygunge but within 6 months..10 months time he was provided with a government quarters which was really a luxurious place on Ballygunge Circular road.
Do you remember the address perhaps?
Yes, 33/5 Ballygunge Circular road. But you know, the entire landscape has changed. At that time, this was constructed for the army the English/ European army. So one storied building with a huge garden and garage. All has been demolished and there they have raised 4 storied building. Sso the ambience you will not be able to catch but Bullygunge Circular Road at that time was pleasure to look at. We didn't have much vehicular traffic, trees were there, you could safely walk from the house within a distance of about 200 yards, there was a club.
which club?
Calcutta Club. Not this Calcutta Club. I am saying ...I am forgetting the name...its still there... you know Saptaparni Building...no... you know Tripura's Maharaja's ....just east of there...yeah.... Cosmopolitan Club. There we used to play Table Tennis, Tennis, Badminton and mixed with you know the business people. So that was a great change.
and your moving out...
and into Deodar Street to Hazra Road
And you take the bus from Hazra road
No. 16, we used to take single storey bus not double decker and get off just in front of the Vidyasagar statue in College street, 10 paisa.
How things change!! And my last question relates to something you said before and that is to do with changes that happened from 50s on...some in the 60s. Two changes you mentioned; one was politicization and the other was the emphasis by the post independence government on higher education and less so on schools. I am wondering about the influence of the international organizations like the World Bank which you had contact with in the work that you did. Do you see anyway in which these institutions like the World Bank or the Ford Foundation or the Rockefeller foundation in establishing norms and establishing research projects, the role that they played in shifting and changing the culture of academia in Calcutta.
Do you see it as perhaps how we can explain the fact that the creativity of the JC Boses' and the SN Boses' and the Mahalonobises'. They seemed to be operating without institutional support almost in a vacuum and therefore had to rely on their almost astounding insight that they had. So when you had these international organizations come in often pouring money I would think but also having their own agendas. What was your sense how this was affecting the way that Indian scholarship was progressing?
You see, I was involved with various international organizations in various capacities and each contact produced flourishing of one kind of experience.
First contact with an international organization was with the Ford Foundation. I was very impressed by the liberal attitude of the decision makers. But very soon I found out that they made mistakes in drawing not so sharp intellectual individuals and therefore stereotyped research projects were more attractive than something the scholar had thought of. If you ask me what is the experience and I say that I have created a stereotyped thing and within 3 days time it was sent and the grant was 300 thousand...In dollars not small amount, for 3 days ok.... That means there was the personal factor of knowing me thoroughly usual one... one... one experience. Then American institute for Indian studies
Is a fascinating institute which a stimulated Histories study... study of history and because it was Indian, therefore it also stimulated all kinds of studies on India like Ralph Nicholas who is... he was an anthropologist and but I had lot of good contact with him. I talked about Gray, Robert Gray, Robert's one we could not attract. This institution has left a mark of change within the academic studies and history and related subjects list of anthropology leave alone political science more of history this has been much more an important institutions as well as academic development is concerned and the Ford Foundation.
Rockefeller Foundation is same like Ford, may be the system of decision making relatively better. World Bank my contact to the World Bank was nothing to do with intellectual reasoning this is a consultancy and there I was disturbed and later on disturbed them. Take for example when you write about most of the assignments that I had taken up to work at home, impact upon the learned project. I always tried to respond that unless you understand the institutional background of the society you would never be able to understand how they count the losses and gains. Are they were not interested in it, they were interested in physical *[3:13] engagement and the road accessibility so what and I have lots of problems with them and they are also lot of love for me because every time they said that we made a mistake in brining win and the next for time would come.
I don't know whether they was in hidden.... Hidden some where was was keeping me out. Asian Development Bank was another institutions with whom I got associated that consulting again and to my regret now I find at become a corrupt organization. All organization were corrupt. African Development Bank in connection with my work African still.... Still very excited, because they are very sensitive to the institutional social references. If you say agriculture to an Ethiopian and said small the mean to difference. Right , that was easier for them because of the Ethnic you know diversity of economy.
So I have contract with them on 2 countries, One of which was Mauritius, several program's i have done for them and another one in Ethiopia and not a just *[4:54] college in come *[4:57] geographer has to be
walk I cannot, so these are the institutions that came to operate over India. Not in the Development bank but nevertheless Mauritius [0.18]. We interacted with Mauritius African countries, east African countries a lot, I was supposed to be in Kenya but I decided not to go because by that time my arthritis had shown
You couldn't walk well enough
Well very difficult to walk a car is not a solution in Africa. Roads are not there. And then I was greatly disappointed with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Sciences. They have their own agenda there they do not have any particular concern for India.
And the Germans, particularly the west Germans
Oh fantastic.
And did you have interactions?
Oh yes
And what did that consist of?
The interactions were you know the Germans were very very practical people.
They did not come to advise anything they came to be educated by people so they were scholars sent from Germany to work with me. And similarly I have been invited to their University and there I interacted with the scholars. Mainly on Urbanization
Mainly on Urbanization and in connection with that Environment and Road Building etc. and infrastructure building. All infrastructures related to
Was that a part of particular projects or programs or was that over the years you had interactions with
No, I had committed myself to NGO, right and there was a group of NGO group in Europe and also later on in America who were interested in improving Artifacts produced in India and introduce them to the American consumers and hoped that their interest about India you know would be aroused. In America it did not, in Germany it did because the style of work the operation of the NGO they created small write ups loaded with words which would lead you to ask questions at a particular point. This is coming from India
This particular Artifact or product
This is made of sandstone, the same sandstone that was used for the foot of Chuna a similar kind of sandstone for Agra fort but the work that you see is massive and is highly refined work, requires very gentle handling of the art and the improvements that they used you see the photograph ask you for photograph about the improvement that you see. I will give you one example my interaction. They used to make tumblers [4.28] absolutely stupid idea, reason is the the sandstone is a perforated stone so you can't put in any liquid in it it will come out and that's not the objective of the tumbler so he went there and said come on lets do one thing.
Let us create holes and this is the geometric results and they created
Non geometric not floral but the geometric designs who very.. very attractive American buyers and they said how did you know Indians understand their mind. The urbanism has created fascinating geometry. Then I said do one thing cut the bottom fast then it will not be a tumbler, don't worry about I am not creating tumbler I am creating a sieve . what the Bottom that you have cut of on which use put... put one can.. can do *[0:42] now light a candle put it there shadows why. Later on i improved upon it by putting in a mall *[1:00] saucer but better was agate and in that *[1:07] saucer I would put some perfume.
So the perfume under heat will spread over the room and there are lots of religious people in... in... in America and they are started buying it
Which is through this German Group or this is American
No... no...no NGO, my NGO group
NGO that's it. I am just given you an American example but you know this also happen with a Germany and Europe. As a matter of fact, in the University of Iowa where I was invited as a distinguished professional. There the people were so impressed to these thing that they setup one NGO, the whole idea was to understand the life and ambitions of people. Do you saw *[2:04]
Is it made of ivory?
Looks like it
It is not. It is made of pith. Ivory work has been banned and there was a great centre of ivory culturing in Murshidabad. What would they do? They can't do any work any other... any other material that was suggested to that and go there about some entrepreneur immediately took to idea, away to tell then look here you can use now plastic glue and thereby make it moral and final. So they use fevical so combining modern technology with the ancient Aloe vera.
This is the kind of role you played with in
Various kinds of role
As a consultant linking the on the spot knowledge of materials and of people and of the geography with the what should I say the international and distant
Now that you have put this question, let me give you it clarify you pardon me. I am not suggesting that you are unclear but I am suggesting is that level make it point it. A I wanted to know about my artisans, that was my passion. You know the understand the artisans I understand this grateful work. How they relate. In their relationship raw materials of the local ...what are attributes of it? Then comes a design part and then the design related to India movement between India international India movements. What about name of that, Fair Price, you know. So I have to study what is the chairman pleased, what is Swedish tea what is the. For example I started selling tea in Germany and do you know where north western Germany and north western Germany is habituated to drinking coffee and we are selling tea there.
[unclear] Institute that we created and I am no longer with them. But put in lot of ... lot of industries which would give you very dark, strong liquor and the found of that so [unclear] restaurant and said you make an offer. If you wish, I would give you money, would you care for black tea or black coffee? This is the question. And they would say, "oh!! Black tea is obvious." And we would try and then it had become a popular drink. Can the artisans make it now...who is making the profit... by the manufacturing sector...the organized sector...doesn't matter...it is question of the country.
In Sweden, I found, you know, on a railway station they were using a brush to clear out....so I went to the station master and told him that use the stems of the coconut leaves is a wonderful material for sweeping. They said get us some samples and I got them some samples. And they said can you show me and so I went and showed them and they said that this is more efficient than ours because they were using a small brush which looked like a shoe brush and here I had a long thing to sweep more area. And now Sweden is a buyer of this thing from me, coconut leaf. Or got various kind of brushes from different parts of the world and brought them over, at least 3 pieces.
***[2:00]... so when you place an order, know the sample you have one with you and you know the technology to produce it. Newton became a buyer of brushes, why not? Who told you that artisan of handicraft is a dying art? It need not be, you have to know the market. This was the basic intention of my life. For 10 years I worked with them without any monetary compensation. Then I told them that you are becoming too dependent on me, try to do it yourself. If you face difficulty, I will come but I will come for two more years, if you call. Fortunately, once or twice in the first year, once in the second year and from third year they had become independent.
Do you feel comfortable on this recording, recording the names of the NGOs you have played particular important role in.
who? Where? Which?
either in United States or in Germany..
I will take a little time because you see my memory and my papers.. so I will ask the NGO for whom I worked and give you the names of the organization.
that's fine. That's very good. Just for the records so to speak. There is no rush for that. Thank you so much for....
and when I went to Germany, Holland or all these European countries or even America or Canada, one condition was that they should make the arrangements for my ...and I would prefer to have family to live with and I will not stay there for more than 2 days and no fees. That gave me enormous opportunity of understanding the country and people of the country and they were not different.
ok I see right
So in America I lived in a family in a farmhouse 0.12. All those rigid Christians who wanted no change in technology inbred because technology collapse. What is the name of those, A it begins with A
Amish, then the German groups you know I also you know near Iowa, Amish is in Illinois Indian and near Bellingham in what do you say where I have enjoyed staying with them
And perhaps this is also part of your cosmopolitanism, your life was a cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan, what I mean the value of attachment is for CV Das generalist that is not National work anyway CV Das [1.29]. Language is a great barrier but attitude is not a great barrier , attitude should not be a barrier.. Ok
When you are half Indian and half bahan so what
I do not know and your reference to Indian knowledge
It's not necessary
I think the world should be better as more people were
Let me end the recording again I say Thank you for your time, really