Monday, 9 June 2014

Zuleika Dobson at Cambridge

After all the undergraduates at Oxford killed themselves for love of her, Zuleika Dobson- Max Beerbohm tells us- set off for Cambridge.
What happened to her there?
English Literature supplies no clue but Bengali Poetry does-
Chilo onek rajar bari - chok milano, hajar gari
ebong jole shonali agonon,
hNasher dol dolay pakha, tobu tomar shonge thaka,
chomotkar Zuleikha Dobson.
Ishankone omonojoge - megher tNuti dhoreche roge,
dumre pore probola shalbon,
chNad utheche ontoreekhkhe, monosthapon kori bhikhkhe,
tomar jonno, Zuleikha Dobson.

I have previously mentioned that Zulieka married Rajni Palme Dutt and eventually settled down to be an instructor in Econometrics at the L.S.E. 
What I didn't explain was how that came about. You see on her first arrival at Cambridge, she fell among Bengalis all of whom, for they are a most obliging and gentlemanly race, did in fact fall madly in love with her and vow to kill themselves to testify to their passion.
Sadly, when it came to writing out their suicide notes (for which Zuleika was a stickler) the regrettable Anglo-Bengali predilection for uchchvaas go the better of them and so their suicide notes turned into immense dissertations which, in the fullness of time, earned them Professorships at Jadavpur and Yale and every where in between.
It is in this context, that the Hungrealist poet, Shakti's poem, quoted above, should be read.
Zulieka's long vigil at Cambridge, though taking its toll on her looks, nevertheless much burnished her intellectual equipment and constituted her an excellent helpmate for her ideologically inclined husband in his many and voluminous works.

No comments: