I was first introduced to NiCad C Chaudhuri when I was in college. After reading his 'The autobiography of an unknown Indian ‘I was convinced that no writer had greater command of the English language than Nirad Chaudhuri in India. He courted controversy and perhaps that is what went against him. He was an unabashed admirer of English rule and his opening passage of dedication to English rule angered many Indians. I reproduce in full that dedication.
“To the memory of the British empire in India
Which conferred subjecthood upon us, but withheld citizenship
To which every one of us threw out a challenge “Civic Britannicus sum”
Because all that was good and living within us
Was shaped, made and quickened by the same British rule “
Writing well about the English could not be tolerated and Nirad Choudhry was denied his pension and hounded out of India. He was also asked to give up his job with All India radio as the Government had promulgated a law that prohibited an employee from publishing his memoirs.
Nirad Choudhry was however unfazed and in 1955 was invited by the BBC and the British council to visit England for a series of lectures. These were published later in “Passage to England’.
Choudhry was a prolific writer. His ‘Continent of Circe’ was much acclaimed and earned him the Duff Cooper Memorial award. No Indian before or after him has ever won this award. Nirad migrated to England and produced some excellent books. In 1992 he was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the title Commander of Order of the British Empire (CBE). Earlier the Indian government awoke
Chaudhuri lived to the age of 101 and when he was 100 published his last book Three horsemen of the New Apocalypse. Choudhry was a prolific writer and his Clive of India is a landmark book about Robert Clive.
Nirad Chaudhuri is now recognized as among the greatest of Indian writers in English. He put the British rule in perspective and used his prodigious command of the English language to write some superb books . Born in 1897 in erstwhile Bangladesh he died in 1998 at the age of 101. He was a man dedicated to writing and what he believed in passionately. His comment on the demolition of the Babri Masjid is revealing. He wrote” I say the Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about discretion of the one Mosque. From 1000AD, every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to Vindhyas had been sacked and defiled”
He was a man who would call a spade a spade. He had strong views, but now we realize at heart he was an Indian and a staunch Hindu. Nirad Chaudhuri is now consigned to a status of a great writer, but one the new generation seldom reads. I wonder if some young men can open the pages of India’s greatest writer of English prose now.