Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, the most famous of all Bengali scientists who laid the foundation of modern scientific knowledge and learning in India, was born on 30 November in 1858 and died on 23 November in 1937. It was a most tumultuous period for Bengal and India which it was part of at the time. The year of his birth witnessed the fallout of the Great Rebellion of India, which began in the previous year against the colonialist British rule. He was one of the greatest torchbearers of Bengali renaissance and yet had to witness many historical downsides like the Hindu-Muslim enmity and others in the national struggle for freedom from the colonial masters. This national political environment shaped his mind and set him into a struggle that was hard to win. The unexpressed pains can be felt while reading Abykta, a collection of essays by him in Bengali.
He was born in Mymensingh and studied in Faridpur. His ancestral home was at Rarikhal in Bikrampur (today's Munshiganj in Bangladesh). He went to Calcutta (now Kolkata) for further study and from there to Cambridge. Having studied Physics abroad he came back to Presidency College in Calcutta for teaching science. Throughout all this time he always remembered his childhood days passed in his motherland.
His devotion to his motherland is revealed in a speech delivered at a literary conference in Mymensingh in 1911. Here he said in the speech entitled Biggane Shahitya (literature in science), "None can deny the power of gravitation. I have come back to my birth land after so many years being pulled by that invisible power. This literary conference is carrying a condensed spirit in Bengalis' hearts from one corner to the other of the land and is awakening the determination of success everywhere in Bangla Desh."
Coming back to Bikrampur in 1915, he said in a speech entitled 'Bodhon' (awakening), "This Bikrampur is the birth land of sons of great strength, not of weaklings devoid of humanity. Maybe she has accepted my devotional offerings, so with this courage I have come back into my mother's lap after spending a long time abroad."
He had great love for his mother tongue Bengali. In this regard, he had similarity with his lifelong friend Rabindranath Tagore. In Jagadish's childhood, it was fashionable for elites to get their children admitted in English schools. Yet his father Bhagawan Chandra Bose sent him to a Bengali school to study in the native tongue.
Becoming a scientist he began to put Bengali names to the machines and devices invented by him. But his device kunchonmaan turned into Kanchon-Man in the mouth of an American university professor while Jagadish was visiting there. So his initial plan of giving crescograph a Bengali name like 'Bridhimaan' was dropped in fear of it turning into 'Burdwan' in the English tongue.
Abyakta (Unexpressed) is Jagadish's book of science and literature written in Bengali. Beyond scientific materials, this book has many precious materials that express the unexpressed pain, rebellion and dream of the people of his nation he felt so proud of. The inner heart of the poet scientist is also revealed in this book of the unexpressed matter.
He not only had to research in a financial and technical poor condition, also had to fight against the British structure of hostility towards natives and colonial mentality of his scientific contemporaries. An element of rebellion against these and other colonial hostilities always shined in his personality and writings in Bengali. It is worth mentioning that he believed in education through mother tongue and worked for it, too.
When Jagadish joined the Presidency College, he was given much less salary than the British white teachers because of his being native and colored in skin. In protest against such colonial injustice, he refused to accept salary for three years until equality was established. This negligence toward the Indian people by the colonial masters gave him pains throughout his life.
Jagadish's burning anger against colonialism is evident in one of his write-ups in Abyakta about a war against the British colonial army in Nepal. In Agniporikkha (trial in fire), he has described the longstanding courageous fight of the Nepalese hero Balbhadra Thapa with only 300 soldiers against the strong British East India Company's force of 3,500 soldiers in 1814. In the Khalanga war, the British commander was killed, but they kept the hill fort under siege for more than a month during which the British force blocked water supply to the fort in order for the Nepalese men, women and children to die of thirst. Yet the Nepalese army under the command of Balbhadra did not surrender. He later left the fort and joined the army of Ranjit Singh and later died in a war in Afghanistan. Paying tribute to this Nepalese hero the British army erected a memorial at the battlefield of Khalanga.
The story is historical, but one can identify the deep patriotic love and anti-colonial hatred of Jagadish in passionate narration of this story. Bangladeshi scientist Ashraf Ahmed living in the USA say that this story evidently shows the protest in the heart of Jagadish Chandra Bose against the British occupation of India. The Bengali scientist living under the British rule in India clearly took shelter behind narrating an anti-British struggle in Nepal while keeping the miserable condition of his nation in his heart. The scientist evidently wanted to inspire his countrymen to rise against the colonial rule of the British in India.
Reading Agniporikkha one might be tempted to go to the extent of innocently thinking that if Jagadish Chandra Bose had been alive during the liberation war of Bangladesh, he would have wished to join the 1971 war as Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad had wished to do in his quite old age.
The writer is Editor of Biggan O Sangskriti, a Bengali little mag on science and culture.
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