The Enigma

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Friday, March 17, 2006


Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

There have been very few people whom I looked up to, apart from my parents and people I have known in close quarters. I dislike Gandhi, haven't read Martin Luther King nor do I appreciate Che Guevera. But, there is one man I have literally prayed ever since I knew about him, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.

A man, or should I say a boy, who made a difference where it should be done. One of the main reasons behind Bengal Renaissance, Derozio was a force to reckon with! One of the reasons I idolise Derozio is because I want to be what he has been. He was a poet, a writer, an editor, a teacher and made a difference more to peers than sub-ordinates. At an age of 17, he was a professor at the Hindu College (later rechristened Presidency College), Calcutta. He inspired the youth there. With his Eurasian background, and strong depth of knowledge in English literature and free-thinking, he motivated them to think beyond the set paradigms. He showed them how to mend the borders and make a map for themselves.

Probably it was the Eurasian background or it was the schooling at Drummond's Academy, Derozio had a knack for English literature and wrote excellent poems. From patriotic poems to romance (often emulating Byron), Derozio seemed to ace it all. Derozio was appointed the professor of English Literature and History at the Hindu College in 1826. He propelled the students to think beyond the orthodox realms and always encouraged debate of opinions on all topics. He founded 'The Academic Association' where students and liberal thinkers would meet and discuss on rational ideas. But, people despised it in that era and finally he was dismissed from his job.

Two of Derozio's fire-brand teachings were:
  • 'He who will not reason is a bigot, he who cannot reason is a fool, and he who does not reason is a slave.'
  • 'Cast off your prejudices, and be free in your thought and actions. Break down everything old and rear in its stead what is new.'
Derozio made such huge an impact on the Bengali youth that he is considered one of the pillars of Bengal Renaissance. He was also an editor of The East Indian and contributed to Indian Gazette, The Calcutta Magazine etc... His shot to fame all across India is the long poem 'The Fakir of Jungheera: A Metrical Tale' which he built upon his childhood memories at Bhagalpur.

Then, the main reason why I idolise him is the fact that he did all this and much more before he was 22 itself, because he died of Cholera when he was 22. I, and most of my readers, are around the age of 22 as of now. So, what are we? Are we anyway closer to him? Have we made any difference like him? He did things in a rush, that did not mean he left his dreams. He pursued his dreams in a rush. So, what should we do? Rush to our goals or go easy and realise our dreams slowly, but steadily. Can't we try to be someone like him doing so much in so little time?

The best part of Derozio is that he is also considered a flash in the pan by some thinkers, they attribute all his teachings to his readings which included greats like that of David Hume. But, I, and many people who still believe in this lesser known Hero, beg to differ. He was indeed great!

One for the readers:
This is a piece by Derozio for his pupil at the Hindu College:

Expanding like the petals of young flowers
I watch the gentle opening of your minds
And the sweet loosening of the spell that binds
Your intellectual energies and powers
That stretch (like young birds in soft summer hours)
Their wings to try their strength. O! how the winds
Of circumstance, and freshening April showers
Of early knowledge, and unnumbered kinds
Of new perceptions shed their influence;
And how you worship truth's omnipotence!
What joyance rains upon me, when I see
Fame in the mirror of futurity,
Weaving the chaplets you have yet to gain,
And then I feel I have not lived in vain.

I want to do something that would assure me that I have not lived in vain! I know its too soon to ask, but what is the right time to achieve something good?


At March 17, 2006 6:52 PM, Blogger Saraswathi said...

Awesome to read abt Derozio!
Am at a stage where am really unsure what i ll be doing the next moment,its always inspiring to read such things..
Unsung heroes like him sure need to be saluted..

At March 17, 2006 6:59 PM, Blogger Saraswathi said...

Rush to our goals or go easy and realise our dreams slowly, but steadily..
Hmmmm...let me think...

At March 20, 2006 9:15 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Nice blog. will be visiting more often. :)

At March 21, 2006 4:08 PM, Blogger Game Over said...

very informative ..i was only aware of his poetic abilities n achievemnets....his teachings nicely captures imp. of reasoning n being unprejudiced

At March 21, 2006 5:41 PM, Blogger Rahul said...

There is no wrong time to do a right thing. The only wrong time to do a right thing would be when the villains have kidnapped the heroine and surrounded her in the big bad fellow's den, armed with AK's and you try to do the Bollywood hero part jumping in through the pigeonhole :p which is of course the wrong thing to do. So what was I saying ? :o

I like Derozio as a poet :D

At March 22, 2006 1:52 PM, Blogger Rahul Bhaskar said...

The unsung hero. All we Indians know of him is from the 50 word paragraph in class X history book, and that too I guess very few people know of since he is not a pet of the people who set the question papers.

At October 16, 2011 8:53 PM, Blogger Semanti said...

I admire him much! Liked your reverence to him! You are so right, we are nothing compared to that great & noble personality! We had done nothing within our youth as he did within so short period! I bow to that loving teacher, that free-thinker, that efficient journalist, that patriot poet, & that truthful embodiment of goodness! May his life inspire all!


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