Friday, 1 April 2011

Edmund Candler and the Indian Revolutionist

Edmund Candler went to India hoping to turn into a second Kipling. Sadly, India turned him into the author of 'Siri Ram- Revolutionist'.
Candler was a headmaster- like Fielding, in Foster's Passage to India- but Candler thought people like himself were in India not because they liked it but because they owned it, it was theirs, in the same way that a zamindar owned the land from which he collected taxes for the Government.

Candler opens our eyes to the horrors of the English system of education in India- as this passage illustrates-

'  His students had unearthed a Hindu annotator who had analysed the ingredients of English humour, and who pointed out all the passages in the text-books which came or seemed to come under this head, so that they could tabulate them to a nicety.
   Skene came upon the scent of the mischief when he was reading Adonais with them. He had set the clearest tongued to read the stanza beginning

" He hath outsoared the shadow of our night.
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight
Can touch him not and torture not again."

when Banarsi Das rose darkling from his seat and said— "Sir, are not these lines humorous?"
"Good God," Skene began, but the youth caught him on the recoil.
"The humour lies in incongruity. Poet speaks of ' that unrest which men miscall dee-light.'

The joke here is, of course, that Banarsi Das is quite right. Translate rasabhasa as comic incongruity and we see the kid has hit the nail on the head. Shelley writing 'and that unrest which men miscall delight...'- Shelley... not fucking Southey... and that too in an elegy on Keats- Keats gerrit?...this is the shallow and seditious Platonist drowning in one whose name is writ in water- it's fucking priceless! But, precisely for that reason, so howlingly sad- proof positive that rasabhasa as hasya includes and is the apotheosis of every rasa-  you gorra larf, intcha? Eh? Eh?
In any case, the whole point about Banarsi Das's cohort was that they took as Gospel the proposition that Unrest, Miss, is that which real Men call the Light.

Candler might have seen it for himself if he hadn't been a fucking school master- doomed by his attempt to imitate the inimitably amphibolous Kipling as Ind's Hayy ibn Yaqzan to becoming a 2 dimensional fossil of a fucking E.M. Forster character- and doing it in fucking Godhulia Gorrrrmint Coll. or wherever. (He'd run away from Bengal after getting a death threat around the time of the Alipore Bomb Case).

Why is Siri Ram- a dim fellow- attending this College? His dad is a Jat peasant with perhaps 300 Rupees p.a. If his son matriculates he immediately earns more. If he gets a B.A, much more. But, even if this weren't the case you have a full blown 'credential crisis' in the pipeline- itself fed by the relaxing of Malthusian checks on population. That's why these kids are being taught Shelley and Stevenson and other such shite rather than stuff about precautions to take against the plague or raising agricultural yields and so on.

The odd thing about Candler's book is that it seems rather to confirm than deny the notion that Bengali Swamis like Vivekananda and Mohini Chatterjee actually had supernatural powers. Strangely, Sri Aurobindo, not to mention his younger brother, on his ultimate release from jail, both abandoned conspiratorial power politics for an even more esoteric overreaching supernaturalism. Even Shubash Chandra Bose was believed to have become a Swami- of the 'Hidden Master' sort- in India after the War. This raises the question- was this trope really an Indian thing or some projection of a congenital weakness within the half-baked Evangelical./Utilitarian Anglo-Indian psyche which, by reason of Ind's emptiness as object of Girardian mimetic desire, incarnated its scapegoated alterity as immortal rival?

Candler rose to be Director of Publicity, Punjab, at the time of Jallianwallah. He retired to England a couple of years later. Literature, it seems, is its own reward.

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