नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी (जन्म- 23 नवम्बर, 1897)
नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी (जन्म- 23 नवम्बर, 1897, किशोरगंज, पूर्वी बंगाल; मृत्यु- 1 अगस्त, 1999, ऑक्सफ़ोर्ड, इंग्लैण्ड) भारत में जन्मे प्रसिद्ध बांग्ला तथा अंग्रेज़ी लेखक और विद्वान, जिनकी अंतिम पुस्तक 'थ्री हॉर्समेन ऑफ़ द न्यू एपोकैलिप्स' (1997) का प्रकाशन उनके सौवें जन्मदिन से कुछ ही दिन पहले हुआ था।
नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी का जन्म 23 नवम्बर, 1897 को पूर्वी बंगाल (आज का बांग्लादेश) के किशोरगंज में हुआ था। वकील पिता और निरक्षर माता के बेटे नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी का शेक्सपीयर तथा संस्कृत के शास्त्रीय ग्रंथों पर समान अधिकार था। वह अपनी संस्कृति के ही समान पश्चिमी संस्कृति के भी प्रशंसक थे। वह एक पांडित्यपूर्ण, लेकिन जटिल व सनकी व्यक्ति थे और उनकी सबसे सटीक व्याख्या ग़लत स्थान पर ग़लत समय में जन्मे व्यक्ति के रूप में की जा सकती है।
भारत के साहित्यिक परिदृश्य पर नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी का आगमन विवादों से घिरा हुआ था। वह ब्रिटिश शासन के प्रति वफ़ादार थे और उन्होंने अपनी पहली पुस्तक 'द ऑटोबायोग्राफ़ी ऑफ़ एन अननोन इंडियन' (1951) को ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य को समर्पित किया था। उनका दृढ़ विश्वास था कि "हममें जो कुछ भी अच्छा तथा जीवंत है, वह दो सौ वर्ष पुराने औपनिवेशिक शासन के दौरान ही पोषित और विकसित हुआ है।" अपनी असुरक्षाओं से जूझने की कोशिश कर रहे नव-स्वतंत्र राष्ट्र में, जहां उपनिवेश विरोधी भावनाएं चरम पर थीं, उनकी कृति का स्वागत नहीं हुआ। वह अस्वीकार्य व्यक्ति बन गए और उन्हें बौद्धिक यंत्रणाएं झेलनी पड़ीं। व्यवस्था ने उनके प्रति काफ़ी कड़ा रुख अपनाया और उन्हें ऑल इंडिया रेडियो से बाहर निकाल दिया गया, जहां वह प्रसारक तथा राजनीतिक टिप्पणीकार के रूप में कार्यरत थे।
नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी को 'अंतिम ब्रिटिश साम्राज्यवादी' और 'अंतिम भूरा साहब' कहा गया। उनकी कृति की लगातार आलोचना की गई तथा भारत के साहित्यिक जगत से उन्हें निष्कासित कर दिया गया। स्वनिर्वासन के तौर पर 1970 के दशक में वह इंग्लैंण्ड रवाना हो गए और विश्वविद्यालय शहर ऑक्सफ़ोर्ड में बस गए। उनके लिए यह घर लौटने के समान था। लेकिन यह घर उस इंग्लैण्ड से काफ़ी भिन्न था, आदर्श रूप में चौधरी जिसकी कल्पना करते थे।
इंग्लैण्ड में भी नीरद चौधरी उतने ही अलग-थलग थे, जितने भारत में। अंग्रेज़ों ने उन्हें सम्मान दिया, उन्हें 'ऑ'क्सफ़ोर्ड विश्वविद्यालय' से मानद डॉक्टरेट की उपाधि मिली। उन्हें महारानी की ओर से मानद सी.बी.ई. से सम्मानित किया गया, लेकिन वे लोग उनकी दृढ़ भारतीयता के साथ ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के पुराने वैभव की उनकी यादों के क़ायल नहीं हो पाए।
चौधरी भी इंग्लैण्ड में कुछ वर्षों में हुए आमूलचूल परिवर्तन को स्वीकार नहीं कर पाए और मूल्यों के प्रति प्रतिबद्धता के पूर्ण अभाव से काफ़ी निराश हुए, क्योंकि इसी विशेषता ने एक समय में इंग्लैण्ड को महान राष्ट्र बनाया था। उनकी ये भावनाएँ उनकी कृतियों और उनकी आत्मकथा के अंतिम खंड 'दाई हैंड', 'ग्रेट एनार्क' (1987) में प्रदर्शित होती है, जो उन्होंने 90 वर्ष की आयु में लिखी थी। उन्होंने लिखा कि- "अग्रेज़ों की महानता हमेशा के लिए समाप्त हो गई है।" उनके निबंधों की अंतिम पुस्तक 'थ्री हॉर्समेन ऑफ़ द न्यू एपोकैलिप्स' भारतीय नेतृत्व और राष्ट्र के पतन के बारे में टिप्पणी है।
बाद के वर्षों में नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी को अपने देशवासियों की प्रशंसा मिली, जिन्होंने पहले उन्हें ग़लत समझा था और उनकी अनदेखी की थी। एक अधिक परिपक्व, सर्वदेशीय और आत्मविश्वास से युक्त उच्च वर्ग ने उनकी आत्मकथा के अंतिम खंड की प्रशंसा की। उन्होंने फिर से बांग्ला में लिखना शुरू किया और बाद में उन्हें कलकत्ता (वर्तमान कोलकाता) में एक साहित्यिक पुरस्कार से सम्मानित किया गया।
नीरद चन्द्र चौधरी का निधन 1 अगस्त, 1999 को ऑक्सफ़ोर्ड, इंग्लैण्ड में हुआ।
Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri (23 November 1897 – 1 August 1999) was an Indian Bengali−English writer and man of letters. He was born in a Hindu family in 1897 in Kishoreganj, then part of Bengal in British India, now in Bangladesh.
Chaudhuri authored numerous works in English and Bengali. His oeuvre provides a magisterial appraisal of the histories and cultures of India, especially in the context of British colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Chaudhuri is best known for The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, published in 1951. Over the course of his literary career, he received numerous accolades for his writing. In 1966, The Continent of Circe was awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Award, making Chaudhuri the first and only Indian to date to be given the prize. The Sahitya Akademi, India's national Academy of Letters, awarded Chaudhuri the Sahitya Akademi Award for his biography on Max Müller, Scholar Extraordinary
In 1990, Oxford University awarded Chaudhuri, by then a long-time resident of the city of Oxford, an Honorary Degree in Letters. In 1992, he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Chaudhuri was educated in Kishorganj and Kolkata (then, Calcutta). For his FA (school-leaving) course he attended Ripon College in Calcutta along with the famous Bengali writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Following this, he attended Scottish Church College, Calcutta, where he studied history as his undergraduate major. He graduated with honors in history and topped the University of Calcutta merit list. At Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he attended the seminars of the noted historian, Professor Kalidas Nag. After graduation, he enrolled for the M.A. at the University of Calcutta. However, he did not attend all of his final exams, and consequently was not able to complete his M.A.
After his studies, he took a position as a clerk in the Accounting Department of the Indian Army. At the same time, he started contributing articles to popular magazines. His first article on Bharat Chandra (a famous Bengali poet of the 18th century) appeared in the most prestigious English magazine of the time, Modern Review.
Chaudhuri left his position in the Accounting Department shortly after, and started a new career as a journalist and editor. During this period he was a boarder in Mirzapur Street near College Square, Kolkata, living together with the writers Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee and Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder. He was involved in the editing of the then well-known English and Bengali magazines Modern Review, Prabasi and Sonibarer Chithi. In addition, he also founded two short-lived but highly esteemed Bengali magazines, Samasamayik and Notun Patrika.
In 1932, he married Amiya Dhar, a well-known writer herself; the couple had three sons.
In 1938, Chaudhuri obtained a job as secretary to Sarat Chandra Bose, a political leader in the freedom movement in India. As a result, he was able to interact with political leaders of India: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the brother of Sarat Chandra Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose (also known as Netaji). A growing familiarity with the workings of the inner circle of Indian politics led him to be skeptical about its eventual progress, and he became progressively disillusioned about the ability of Indian political leadership.
Apart from his career as a secretary, Chaudhuri continued to contribute articles in Bengali and English to newspapers and magazines. He was also appointed as a political commentator on the Kolkata branch of the All India Radio. In 1941, he started working for the Delhi Branch of the All India Radio.
20 Lathbury Road, the former home of Nirad Chaudhuri, with its blue plaque.
Chaudhuri was a prolific writer even in the very last years of his life, publishing his last work at the age of 99. His wife Amiya Chaudhuri died in 1994 in Oxford, England. He too died in Oxford, three months short of his 102nd birthday, in 1999. He lived at 20 Lathbury Roadfrom 1982 until his death and a blue plaque was installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board in 2008.
Student historian Dipayan Pal wrote of Nirad C. Chaudhuri in The Statesman in 2016:
Why was he always in love with England, though he had never visited the land before the age of 57? These questions perplexed me and the only answer I could decipher is that perhaps Nirad Chaudhuri was in search of a home that he could call his own.
And perhaps this street in 1980s took him closer to the novels of Hardy and Austen. Lovers of literature not only see texts through their lives but also sculpt live through the texts they read. His textual affinity was coupled with the colonial aura he grew up with- we must remember that he spent his first 50 years in an empire where the sun never set.
His England was a realisation of certain dominant sensibilities and visions he idealised but they were far from reality. Places like 20, Lathbury road makes me wonder why people choose to migrate and why certain places receive more sanctity than others. For Nirad Chaudhuri, England was sacred and for some America is. The solution to this onerous puzzle cannot be found in better living standard or socio-economic conditions of higher wages.
Furthermore, certain places celebrate certain people. Nirad Chaudhuri would have been immensely happy if he knew about the blue plaque as it would fit his sensibilities perfectly. Even Oxford County Council was happy enough to remember this “an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.
His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (ISBN 0-201-15576-1), published in 1951, put him on the long list of great Indian writers. He courted controversy in the newly independent India due to the dedication of the book, which ran thus:
To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
But withheld citizenship.
To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge:
"Civis Britannicus sum"
Because all that was good and living within us
Was made, shaped and quickened
By the same British rule.
The dedication, which was actually a mock-imperial rhetoric, infuriated many Indians, particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment. "The wogs took the bait and having read only dedication sent up howls of protest", commented Chaudhuri's friend, editor, historian and novelist, Khushwant Singh. Chaudhuri was hounded out of government service, deprived of his pension, blacklisted as a writer in India and forced to live a life of penury. Furthermore, he had to give up his job as a political commentator in All India Radio as the Government of India promulgated a law that prohibited employees from publishing memoirs. Chaudhuri argued that his critics were not careful-enough readers; "the dedication was really a condemnation of the British rulers for not treating us as equals", he wrote in a 1997 special edition of Granta. Typically, to demonstrate what exactly he had been trying to say, he drew on a parallel with Ancient Rome. The book's dedication, Chaudhuri observed, "was an imitation of what Cicero said about the conduct of Verres, a Roman proconsul of Sicily who oppressed Sicilian Roman citizens, who in their desperation cried out: "Civis romanus sum".
In 1955, the British Council and the BBC jointly made arrangements to take Chaudhuri to England for eight weeks. He was asked to contribute lectures to the BBC, and wrote eight of these. His impressions of England and Europe were later collected in A Passage to England. The Continent of Circe, published in 1965, traces Chaudhuri's doggedly independent-minded ideas on the social, geo-political, and historical aspects of sub-continental India across millennia. An extended sequel to his famous autobiography, titled Thy Hand, Great Anarch! was published in 1988. His last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, published in 1997, coincided with his hundredth year.Nirad C Chaudhuri is accused of being in secret connivance with the British and leaked information about the whereabouts of Sarat Chandra Bose. This may have led to arrest of Sarat Bose in 1941.Dr. Radha Nag showed the conflict of the 'writer' Nirad C with the 'person' Niradbabu in her Bengali book আত্মঘাতী নীরদ চৌধুরী 'Atmaghati Nirad Choudhuri'(Suicidal Nirad Choudhuri).
Nirad C Chaudhuri is accused of being in secret connivance with the British and leaked information about the whereabouts of Sarat Chandra Bose. This may have led to arrest of Sarat Bose in 1941. Dr. Radha Nag showed the conflict of the 'writer' Nirad C with the 'person' Niradbabu in her Bengali book আত্মঘাতী নীরদ চৌধুরী 'Atmaghati Nirad Choudhuri'(Suicidal Nirad Choudhuri).