24 November, 2020

Trace Of Wilde

An exploration of the versatility of a free-thinking oddball who rescued 19th-century Calcutta from its drudgery

Trace Of Wilde
Barely 10 days after his death from cholera at the age of 22, a group of European, East Indian (as Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians were then called) and Bengali gentlemen raised Rs 900 for a memorial to Henry Vivian Derozio. Tragically, the money was embezzled. In 1851, the authors of The Bengal Obituary had a difficult time locating Derozio’s dilapidated grave in the Park Street Cemetery, suggesting that the poet and teacher who made quite a splash in his lifetime had been consigned to the footnotes.

It’s a different story after Independence. Derozio has not only been rediscovered, he has been deified as one of India’s early rationalists and appropriated by the Communists. Derozio’s rehabilitation flows from his inspirational role in the Young Bengal Movement: a self-indulgent outpouring of iconoclasm and irreverence among well-heeled young Bengalis, many of whom were his students at Hindu College. In his lifetime, Derozio made himself a social nuisance and was sacked from his job for allegedly promoting atheism. The...



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