November 15, 2014 2 min read
In Indian schools we read a bit of Shakespeare & Dickens & many classics written by authors from far far away.
But did we read the classics written in India? Did we read books by Saratchandra or Ashapurna Debi? Did we even hear about them? Did we idolise them and revere their minds like we did Shakespeare?
We can argue endlessly about ‘whose fault is that’ and ‘why were our educators still slaves to the imperialist mentality even after 1947’ but that will not eliminate the loss that most people of my generation do not even know they have endured – the loss of amazing literature written in the local languages of India.
I heard a wonderful friend talk about Gujarati classics a few months ago. Sadly – there is no translation. Why?
Why are all these great works facing slow obliteration simply for want of a tiny last step?
Anyway – through other highly respected friends I have come to discover the joys of reading translated Bengali works and they have delighted me endlessly for the past 4-5 years.
Currently I am pursuing the thoughts of Ashapurna Debi who taught herself to read and write and later won some of the most prestigious awards in Indian literature.
Beginning her literary career in 1936, she wrote Subarnalata roughly 50 years ago.
As I read the book in a moment of leisure I came across these heartwarming paragraphs written about the making of Kanthas that lovers of these textiles might enjoy:
[I cannot really convey the mood of the era or the character of the people with even a fraction of the charm that the story contains but here is a very clinical summary of the context: Subarnalata is married to a wealthy man and is an extremely enlightened woman yet has very few opportunities or freedoms causing her to be unhappy. She is currently living with relatives from the village who are very poor. The story is set in the period of the Swadeshi movement prior to India’s independence from the British Rule.]
A pretty glimpse into the simple lives that created these works of art!
By Jaina Mishra
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