A Nation in Making: Being the Reminiscences of Fifty Years of Public Life. Front Cover. Sir Surendranath Banerjea. Oxford University Press, – India – Sir Surendranath Banerjee (Bengali: সুরেন্দ্রনাথ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়) (10 November – 6 Banerjee was soon dismissed for making a minor judicial error. and he went on to write the widely acclaimed A Nation in Making, published in In the end, Banerjea lost his job by committing a serious judicial mistake. Sir Surendranath Banerjea (), a foremost political leader of Bengal, dedicated his life to opposing colonialism through moderate but.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. I have been encouraged in the idea by some of my friends, who think and I share their view that they may throw light on some of the most interesting chapters in our current history and help to elucidate them from the Indian standpoint. I belong to a generation that is fast passing away ; and I have been in close touch, and I may add in active association, with some of its most illustrious men, devoted workers in the public cause, who by their labours have largely contributed to our own Province and to foster the beginnings of a real national life throughout the country.

Their work lies buried in the forgotten columns of contemporary newspapers. Per- haps a generation hence it will all be forgotten. I hope in these pages to do some justice to their honoured memories ; and these Reminiscences will not have been written in vain if I am able even in part to accomplish this object.

The need for Reminiscences such as these has become all the more pressing in view of recent deve- lopments in our public life, when unfortunately there is a marked, and perhaps a growing, tendency among a certain section of our people to forget the services of our early nation-builders — of those who have placed India on the road to constitutional freedom to be achieved by constitutional means. Local Self-government in danger— Congress at Lucknow: Govern- ment circulars— Bande-Maiarant forbidden— A pan-Indian cry: Bande-Mataram a point at issue- police attack the procession: I belong to a Kulin Brahmin family which, since the creation of Kulinism by King Ballal Sen, had maintained their purity with proud and inflexible consistency.

Neither the allurements of wealth nor the prospects of an easy and comfortable living diverted them from their firm and traditional resolve to uphold the integrity of their status.

The rich Brahminical possession of plain living and high thinking gave them a dignity that no wealth could confer.

My grandfather was a Brahmin of the old school, rigid in his orthodoxy. He had, however, given his eldest son, my father, the best kind of English education available at that time. My father was brought up in the Hindu College, where he greatly distinguished himself, and was a favourite pupil of David Hare, one of the pioneers of English education in Bengal.

The memory of David Hare is still adored, though more than two generations have elapsed since his death ; and on the first of June every year, the anniversary of his death, the unpretentious monument standing on unconsecrated ground for orthodox Christianity in those days would not permit his burial within consecrated precincts is covered with flowers and wreaths by those who never saw him in the flesh, but who enshrine his memory in their grateful hearts.

The story is told and it is a tradition in our family that he came to see my grandmother, to comfort her in her sorrow, when my father ran away from home to avoid the displeasure of my grandfather for an outrage upon Hindu orthodoxy.

Sir Surendranath Banerjea | Indian politician |

His culture had dispelled from his mind the orthodox ideas fostered by his domestic environment. It was with this new spirit that my father was saturated. Thus, in our home, the two conflicting forces of those times met, but in no spirit of an tagonismThe predominant influence, however, was that of orthodoxy, represented by my grandfather, for the authority of the head of the family, even in matters of belief, was still paramount.

Nevertheless, an atmosphere of controversy was generated, which stimulated a spirit of research and enquiry. It was amid this conflict of opposing forces that my earliest years were spent, and what was happening in my sirendranath was symbolical of the strife and contention sursndranath Eastern orthodoxy and Western culture that was going on in natio educated home in Bengal.

The guru mohashoy teacher treated me with the consideration due to my Brahminical rank and the fame of my father. But he was a strict disciplinarian and on one occasion he called me mara Brahmin a sheepish Brahminand I refused to go back surendranafh the pathsala.


I was oljducgte and my parents had to yield. I was then sent to a Bengalee school to complete the study of my mother tongue. Here I stayed for a oouple of years, and. My real work as a student now began. When I joined the school I did not know a word of English.

I had just finished the alphabet and was crawling through a spelling-book in which I had made very little progress. Thus equipped, I was thrown among boys who spoke nothing but English.

My difficulties were great and my position most uncomfortable. But l muddled through somehow ; and in a short time managed to speak the language, I presume not very correctly, and without knowing a word of the grammar. The fact illustrates the truth, which is now recognized, that a language is best learnt through the ear and not with the aid of the grammar and the dictionary. In these days, and perhaps rightly.

Throughout my career in school and college I never had a tutor, and had to depend entirely upon myself in learning two such difficult languages as English and Latin.

Occasionally, when the situation seemed hopeless, I had to appeal to my father, who had himself been a teacher. My career in school and college and in the University was fairly distinguished. I was a prizeman every year. I presume it is tenacity of purpose that is the crowning quality of life. My Anglo-Indian and European teachers and professors were 1 throughout very kind to me, and they did not show a particle of racial feeling in their treatment of me.

In that temple of learn- ing, in which I passed some of my happiest years, I was never allowed to hear the faintest echo of those racial and sectarian controversies that sometimes distracted the country. From those early days the levelling influence of knowledge was presented to me in a concrete form, which in itself was a part of my education ; and when, after having taken my B.

John Sime of the University of St. My father readily assented ; and it is due to his honoured memory to state that throughout he was an ever-living source of encouragement and inspiration to me. Great physician that he was, he was an even shrewder judge of men ; and inwhen I was barely five years old, he drew up a will, a copy of which subsequently fell into my hands, in which he directed that I should be sent to England to complete my education.

From the days of my infancy he had formed the idea that education in England would be helpful to me in life. Before I leave this part of my Reminiscences, relating to my school and college life, it may not perhaps be out of place to refer to a lesson which I learnt then and which I have practised through life with great advantage to myself. I was taught when still quite a boy the need of taking regular and daily exercise.

Book review ‘A Nation in Making’: Banerjea’s nation-A man and his history

banrejea My father took a personal interest in this part of my education, for, being a doctor, he realized that health is the basis of all success in life. We had an akra Indian gymnasium in our own house with a palwan trained Indian gymnast to teach us the various forms of Indian athletic exercises. I have often thought of his wonderful physical strength, and it has always struck me that, however much he might have been indebted to the training he had given himself, there must have been a basis, an original fund of physical stamina, to account for it.

For surendrznath than three generations early marriage was unknown in our family. My ancestors were not reformers, but rigid ortho- dox Brahmins; and, strangely enough, it was this orthodoxy which re-acted upon their domestic institutions and prevented early marriage in the family.

Coming from one of the highest Kulin families, it was difficult surebdranath them to secure suitable husbands for their marriageable daughters from amongst men of the same social status, whose number was necessarily limited.

They had to Wait till the girls grew in years and ssurendranath they were married. In the life history of my family I bsnerjea the strongest argument against child- marriage, and I was never tired of repeating it when I had an opportunity in my public and private utterances. The members of my family have always enjoyed exceptional health, and I ascribe the fact largely to the absence of child-marriage for generations among them.

This was the explanation I gave to Lord Hardinge, at one of the earliest interviews I had with him. He expressed his surprise at my physical alertness, which he thought was quite extraordinary for an Indian of my years. An ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. I have placed these facts on record in the hope that baenrjea may influence the judgment of my countrymen in a matter of vital importance to their well-being. For, after all, the health and physique of a nation is the first condition of national progress.


They did not, indeed, acquire the volume and intensity of those that followed them, for they did not appeal to as wide a public and had not behind them the same measure of public support or approval. Surendrxnath result, however, showed that there was the mailed fist concealed under the velvet glove, and that the gentle head master of the Colootola Branch School had been gifted by nature with banerja are believed to be incompatible qualities, a child-like simplicity and a fascinating amiability, combined suerndranath the firmness and strength of a leader of men.

The temperance movement was a great success. We all joined it. We were enthusiastic about it, held meetings and made speeches. Dali, a highly esteemed American missionary of the Unitarian Church, were active promoters of the surendrannath.

It made an abiding maing on the young generation, and helped to stem the tide of intemperance, which had assumed ominous proportions.

There was one other public movement that marked the period of my student life and which deserves a passing reference. It was this last trait of his character that made him the champion of the Hindu widow.

At the time he happened to possess great influence with the Government, surendraanth succeeded in passing a law legalizing the re-marriage of Hindu widows. I well remember the stir and agitation which the movement produced and how orthodox Hindus were up in arms against it. Young as 1 was, I felt an interest in what was going on ; and one of the earliest recollections of my boyhood is the sense of grief that I felt at the lot of a Brahmin girl, a neighbour of mine who had just lost her husband, and how strongly I wished her to be re-married.

I never nafion pass her house as a boy without the liveliest emotions.

The movement, however, made no impression upon the community at the time. My grandfather was violently opposed to it ; my father was as eager in its support. The progress which the movement has made since his death in has been slow. A new generation has sprung up, but he has found no successor. The mantle of Elijah has not fallen upon Elisha. The lot of the Hindu widow to-day remains very much the same as it was fifty years ago. There are few to wipe her tears and to remove the enforced widowhood that is her lot.

The group of sentimental sym- pathisers have perhaps increased— shouting at public meetings on the Vidyasagar anniversary day, but leaving unredeemed the message of the great champion of the Hindu widow. Let me repeat it in the evening of my life. We were all young, in our teens, and a visit to England in those days was a more serious affair than it is now. It not only meant absence from home and those near and dear to one for a number of years, but there was the grim prospect of social ostracism, which for all practical purposes has now happily passed away.

We all three had to make our arrangements in secret, as if we, were engaged in some nefarious plot of which the world should know nothing. My father was helping me in every way, but the fact had to be carefully concealed from my mother, and when at last On the eve of my departure the news had to be surendranahh to her, she fainted away under the shock of what to her was terrible news.

We received the most substantial help from the late Mr. A finer and a nobler man I have hardly ever set eyes upon. It was the last sight I was destined baberjea have of him in this world ; for he died while I was away in England.

I went down with him to his carriage. It was the last word that natiion heard him say. It is now over fifty years since then, but the incident remains graven on my surwndranath as a precious treasure.

Father and son, we parted for ever — I on my long journey onwards in that strenuous life beset with the strangest vicissi- tudes, and he back to the old home and to vanerjea sorrowing mother, to console her as best he could.

We parted, never again to meet, myself retaining through life a more than filial affection and reverence for a father who more than any human being had contributed to my up-building. His disinterestedness, his sym- pathy for the poor, his makinv of sordid means, have left an abiding impression on me, and have strengthened the roots of that filial piety which is one of the cardinal virtues ot the Hindu.