Jaladhar Sen writes to Manindranath at Surendranath’s death, c. Nov-Dec 1929

In the days before radio, Bengali society had literature and the arts to keep itself company (besides politics). Writing and reading poetry was a common hobby.  Three principal literary journals were Bharatvarsha, Probasi and Bichitra. The long-standing editor of Bharatvarsha was Jaladhar Sen, and it was he who had introduced Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya to Manindranath when Sarat had returned (in impecunious circumstances) to Bengal from Burma, probably with a request that Sarat be supported and sponsored.

This was a letter received by Manindranath from Jaladhar Sen expressing condolences at the passing of his father, Surendranath, who died on November 11, 1929. (Surendranath likely died from his injury sustained along with Ardeshir Dalal from Bhagat Singh’s bomb on 8 April 1929.  https://independentindian.com/2008/06/17/surendranath-roy-1860-1929/)

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“Brother Manindra,
I have just returned to Kolkata and cannot express how heart-rending is the news of your father’s demise. You know what a genuine well-wisher he had been for me. God alone knows how shocked I am to lose such a friend who stood by me though thick and thin. May you be strong at such an hour and may the departed noble soul be blessed.  An article by the late Surendranath had been printed already in ‘Bharatvarsha’ before he passed away. But that edition has not been published yet. It is going to be published next month. So please send me a photograph of him before that. I shall be visiting you soon.   Your well-wisher,  Jaladhar Sen.”  (Translation by KM.)

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Sarat writes to Manindranath 1931, Sarat visits Surendranath 1927, Death of Sarat 1938 (sraddh invitation to MihirKumar)

Sarat writes to Manindranath 1931

These three little documents give slight glimpses of the relationship between Saratchandra Chattopadhyaya and his friend Manindranath Roy.  In reverse chronological order, the first is a 1931 note from Sarat to Mani on a  domestic matter about the transport of a table (or perhaps a  writing-desk?) by rail; the second is a 1925 diary entry in English by Manindranath that speaks of travel to Shibpur and Sarat coming to breakfast, and then  of going with him to the “Ram Mohan Library” ;  the third is a 1919 letter to Manindranath from Sudhindranath Tagore (son of Rabindranath’s elder brother) which makes reference to the literary journal Bichitra and also asks of news of Sarat.

The 1931 note (translation by KM):

“Mani, I have asked Tulu to bring the table by train. If by this time the man Bipin has already taken it away that makes it more problematic. Unfortunately, this man intervened unasked and created all the trouble. If you can, please retrieve it from Bipin and deliver it at Howrah station. The rest will be done by Tulu.  Dada (Elder Brother) 23 Ashar 1339  P.S . If there is no chance of getting it back for whatever reason please let me know . I will ask carpenter to make another one as soon as possible.”

The 1919 letter (translation by KM):

“My dear,
Have received your letter. How can a great friend like you be forgotten! I can hardly say how happy we are to have met you.  But you know the difference between Hazaribagh and Kolkata. The hazards we face here are as stressful as those in the  brick-and-mortar jungle!  I have so many worries to attend to that I have had no scope  thus far to invite you to my place to enjoy your peaceful company. I do not have the necessary peace of mind yet. I shall obviously contact you as soon as I get a little bit settled. Please, never think otherwise even if I am silent for a while. I shall never forget you.

You are still a member of Bichitra but there has been no meeting for a long time. I have also got no such information. However, if there had been one or two it might have been missed due to postal irregularity. I have informed Bireswar about it.   I  hear you have joined Grace Brothers, is it so? How do you find things there?  I hope all is well at your end. Do you meet Saratbabu these days?    We are so so .  Yours, Sudhindranath Tagore”

Sarat visits Surendranath 1927

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https://independentindian.com/2008/06/19/sarat-chandra-vists-surendranath-roy-1927/

Death of Sarat 1938 (sraddh invitation to MihirKumar)

The novelist had been a family friend. He died 15/1/1938; my father, then with the Tatas, invited to his sraddh 26/1/1938

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Young Manindranath Roy’s poetry c 1914:1936

We have made a literary find today, October 6 2008,  of a notebook of Manindranath Roy’s  that he had titled Mandakini.  It contains some 51 poems and poetic songs composed between 1914 and 1936,  from when he was  aged about 23 to when he was 45.  He has been dead fifty years now and no one knew of the existence of these poems until today.   Nor had he told anyone of the work (perhaps because some of the poems are especially candid, and erotic too).  Between about 1933 and 1943  Manindranath had found himself facing trials and tribulations  of such gravity and magnitude (caused in part by his own foolish squandering of his inheritance from his father) that he may have wished to  forget, ignore or even regret his creative  period.

Many of the poems are recorded  as having been published in literary journals of the time, like Bharatbarsha and Bichitra, and some are recorded as having been sung or performed  on the new radio service of the time, especially around 1931.

Here is poem number 48 titled “Saratchandra” in honour of his friend, the novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.   Manindranath as a poet would have been certainly inspired  in his modernity by his association with Sarat  — while Sarat benefitted economically by the association and also may have found characters and plots for his novels (he apparently dedicated one at least to Manindranath’s wife, my grandmother).

When all of Mandakini is published in due course, it is not impossible Manindranath  will come to  be recognised  as among the finest modern   poets of his era in Bengal.

Subroto Roy, October 6 2008

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The Bangla date translates as 16 September 1915 – ১ আশ্বিন ১৩২২ (1 Ashwin 1322) Thursday – বৃহস্পতিবার  (thanks to http://www.pallab.com)

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Sarat Chandra visits Surendranath Roy 1927

see also https://independentindian.com/2008/10/12/sarat-writes-to-manindranath-1931/

 

 

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya (1876-1938) was one of India’s greatest literary geniuses and a marvellous novelist. This is a 1927 photograph of his visit to my great grandfather Surendranath Roy. There will be more about him here in due course.

Oddly enough, the sofa on which they sit has survived and is one of a set of four (much re-upholseterd) that we use daily today more than 80 years later!

Manindranath Roy 1891-1958

My grandfather, Manindranath Roy (1891-1958) was a quiet enigmatic literary figure and artistic benefactor in Calcutta; he wrote very well and had excellent taste and manners (though was of foolish judgement in money and friends). This photograph is from about 1922 at Allahabad where he used to take his family on annual holiday. (The little boy to the left behind his mother would grow up to become my father.)

My grandfather is dressed in fine post-Edwardian fashion; at the time, his father, Surendranath Rai, was at the peak of his political career as first Deputy President and then President of the new Bengal Legislative Council. Surendranath was an orthodox Brahmin and chose never to wear Western-style suits and neck-ties, and he was thoroughly averse to the idea of dining with Europeans. Manindranath was the first to wear Western clothes, as well as to dine in Calcutta’s Western restaurants. There was tension between father and son due to such matters.

My grandfather came to visit us in Ottawa in May 1958, and here we are on a day’s outing to show him the sights. I recall it well though I was three years old. My mother had stayed home to arrange our meal.

Manindranath Roy died in Ottawa on September 3 1958, the first Hindu gentleman known to have done so, it was said; he had to be cremated in Montreal as no one was cremated in Ottawa back then.

There will be more of his eventful and interesting life here in due course. For example, he was a benefactor of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and many others including Uday Shankar, and he was a close friend and colleague at Grace and Co of Rabindranath Tagore’s son-in-law, Nagen Gangulee. Rabindranath apparently visited the Swaraj Party’s political meetings where Surendranath was an old friend of CR Das. Another close and respected friend of Surendranath’s was Jagdish Chandra Bose.