Book Reviews

Sumit Sarkar, Chakri-Centric Kaliyuga

-Scholarship & Shri Ramakrishna - I

A Review of “‘Kaliyuga’, ‘Chakri’ and ‘Bhakti’: Ramakrishna and His Times”

Muula khele muular dhenkur othe (If one eats radish, one belches radish)”
- Shri Ramakrishna

Sumit Sarkar’s “‘Kaliyuga’, ‘Chakri’ and ‘Bhakti’: Ramakrishna and His Times” [1] based primarily on his Reading of Shri-M’s Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta is an enjoyable and enlightening read – and I recommend it to readers particularly to those who have already read Shri-M’s Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta (or, Swami Nikhilaananda’s English translation “The Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna”) and now, particularly wants a hearty dose of supplementary refreshment and entertainment to see a real-life and contemporary demonstration of Shri Ramakrishna’s caution against Shukno paanditya (Dry Intellect) in action!

The very first question that arose in my mind on reading Sarkar’s paper is: has Sumit Sarkar read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta at all?

Well, let us find.

1. Has Sumit Sarkar read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta?

This question is not to question Sumit Sarkar’s vast informative paanditya – to which, I have no hesitation to acknowledge I am a child. This question pertains entirely to the present discussion on Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta because Sumit Sarkar bases his Theory on this Reading of this Text – regarding which, I must add, the Adult-Child matter remains undecided for readers to decide it.

Now, what is Reading a Text? Is it just glossing over Words? Or, going Beyond Words, to seek and find the Bhaava or Dhvani (in Anandavardhana’s sense)? Since Sarkar himself admits that Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta is not a mere diary but also a literary Text (having “authorial strategy”), then it must have Bhaava and Dhvani too. Shri Ramakrishna would often say, “Dive deep to find the treasure,” and “egiye pado (move forward)” – and that applies to Reading-Strategy of any Text too.

One symptom of what I call Kali Yuga Scholarship is superficial reading – a phenomenon that Vyasa and Bhishma called “trade in learning” symptomatic of Asurik nature – that Krshna too found in superficial use of language. (No, this Asura is no Devil or fictitious being, or our yearly entertainer in Durgaa puujaa festival; but in his superficiality and Alienation, and thirst for Power through Language-manipulation to unleash Discourse-Maatsyanyaaya, he presages Marx’s Bourgeoisie)

In The German Ideology, Marx said: “Language is as old as consciousness; language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men … language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men.” Elsewhere, Marx saw in language the danger of creating an independent world of its own Alienated from Human Essence.

In “Grundisse” Marx said that “Ideas which have first to be translated out of their mother tongue into a foreign language in order to circulate, in order to become exchangeable, offer a somewhat better analogy” with “money,” because “foreignness of language” in translation provokes that analogy. Thus, according to Marx, translation having an exchange-value like money, involves the probability of Bourgeoisie-mentality, more so, when one mistranslates deliberately with an Agenda. That is why, Vyasa, Bhishma, and Krshna had seen trader-mentality in superficial use of language.

This discussion becomes relevant because Sarkar begins his paper with a translation (actually mistranslation as we shall see), and also provides translations of Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta at various parts in his paper.

In this article, I will offer instances to show that Sarkar has not read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta, in the sense Reading should truly be, and his misreading, mistranslations and misrepresentations (that is, “foreignness of language”) along with his theme of chaakrii (therefore, money), distorted notion of Bhakti, and poor concept of Kali Yuga, prompt reminder of Vyasa, Bhishma, Krshna, and Marx’s sayings, and also an examination of Sarkar’s “the need, the necessity” in such deliberation.

Initially I will offer two evidences that Sarkar has not read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta properly, and where he has read, he mistranslates deliberately. More other instances of his deficit in reading and mistranslation will be evident in course of our discussion.

1.1. Brinde, the Maid-Servant’s words

Sarkar begins his essay with the translation of the following conversation between Shri-M and Brinde, the Maid-Servant as follows:

“[Head]-master: ‘Tell me, does he read a lot of books?’
Brinde [servant-girl]: ‘Why should he need books? Its all in his words’
The master had just come from his books. He was amazed to discover that Thakur Shri Ramakrishna never read books.”

Now, let us verify from original Bengali Text:

Shri-M – ini ki khub bai-tai paden?
Vrinde – aar baabaa bai tai! Sab onr mukhe
Maashtaar sabe padaazunaa kare esechen; Thaakur bai paden naa zune aaro abaak halen.

(See endnote for two English translations – one by Swami Nikhilaananda, and the other by Shri Dharma Pal Gupta)[2]

Here is my (attempted) translation or ‘transcreation’ (to use Prof. P. Lal’s word:

Shri-M – does he read much and a lot (khub) of books and such like things/etc. (bai-tai)?
Brinde – what books and such like things/etc., son! All books are in his Tongue
Master has just finished his studies; hearing that Thaakur does not read books, he becomes more surprised/amazed.

I am not claiming my translation to be perfect – no translation ever is – and I welcome critical comments on this from readers, and also observation on which translation is better – Sarkar’s or mine.

Now let us see how Sarkar manipulates the translation. I call it ‘manipulation’ because Sarkar is not humble about his translation (and therefore, I consider it deliberate), and in fact, builds his thesis on that mistranslation.

We find here, both Shri-M and Brinde say “bai-tai” (difficult to translate in English – something like “books and such other things” or “books etc.” – a Bengali speaker or knower will understand the Sense; see endnote for a brief suggestive discussion)[3] .

Sarkar translates bai-tai as “a lot of books” and in the second case “books” – that is, Sarkar eliminates the Sense of ‘something other than book’ implied in “bai-tai”, as also the complexity in the utterance.

Next we see Sarkar translates “Sab onr mukhe,” as “Its all in his words;” that is, he translates “mukhe” as “words.”

Can “mukhe” be translated as “words” in this context? In Bengali, “mukh" connotes “face,” “mouth,” “verbally” etc. In the latter two cases, “tongue” is always implied, in fact, Tongue is the actual signified, because Tongue has dual function – to ‘taste’ (Rasa, food etc.) and ‘articulation of language’ (both Speech and Words, and also Non-Verbal 'language')[4].

In this case, both Swami Nikhilananda and Shri Dharma Pal Gupta are right to translate “mukhe” as “tongue” because what Brinde suggests is Vidyaa – and in Hindu Philosophy and Culture, Goddess Sarasvatii resides in tongue - at the tip of the tongue to be specific, and her other name is Vaak (literally Speech). Accepting Sarkar’s logic of Shri-M’s ‘authorial strategy,’ it is quite obvious that Shri-M would be using the word ‘mukhe’ in the sense of tongue – because being already knowledgeable in Hindu Scriptures – (Sarkar admits that about Shri-M) – Shri-M must be using the word in its cultural sense, more so because ‘Tongue’ is an important metaphor for Shri Ramakrishna in the same dual sense of ‘taste’ and ‘Vidyaa’ (See Yaajnavalka-Suurya-Sarasvatii episode in Mahabharata; also we have to remember that Vaak is a Goddess in RgVeda).

So, at the onset Sarkar misses the cultural significance of “tongue.” Perhaps, in translating “mukhe” as “word” he has the Bible in mind – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Sarkar, of course, cannot but look westward (similar symptom is evident in Partha Chatterjee, Ranajit Guha, and Narasingha Prosad Sil – I will come to that point later), because elsewhere we see, in commenting on Rammohun’s ideology of “social comfort” he considers it “Baconian.” Why Bacon only? The same Ideology is quite prominent in Hindu Scriptures that Rammohun frequently referred to!

Ironically, if Sarkar has to show Rammohun as Bourgeoisie, he himself betrays Bourgeoisie-symptom in hushing up information and manipulating Source-Text.

Then, in original, Shri-M is “aaro abaak halen”- that is, ‘becomes more surprised/amazed’ – but Sarkar translates – “He was amazed to discover” – now, where is the “aaro” or “more”? This very word (“more”) suggests that Shri-M had already been surprised/amazed – which further implies, his surprise/amazement about Shri Ramakrishna was not conditional to “book etc.” only. Thus, Sarkar’s mistranslation is an attempt to misguide the readers that Book-Reading is the all important and “only” issue here.

Further, Sarkar takes the “khub” as modifier of Book and translates “khub bai-tai paden” as “read a lot of books” – clearly this is grammatically absurd because an adverb cannot modify a noun, whereas “khub” (very/much) is an adverb that connects with “reading” (the verb in this sentence); therefore, it does not connote “lot of books” [5], rather “much reading” in the sense of quality-reading or deep-reading though including the sense of “lot of books”. Needless to mention, Sarkar’s Construction of Shri-M becomes erroneous thus because he makes Shri-M sound like focused on “lot of books” than on quality-reading or deep-reading as suggested by “khub pada” (much reading). Reading “lot of books” is another symptom of Kali Yuga Scholarship – akin to “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” – a point I will further elaborate later.

Again, we find in original – “Thaakur bai paden naa zune aaro abaak halen,” (…more surprised that Thaakur does not read books), but Sarkar translates - “never read books”. Where does the “never” come from? Thus, Sarkar invents a “kakhano” (in Bengali – ‘never’) where there is none. It is the same symptom of Source-Text Manipulation I have noted in Sumit Sarkar’s paper on Raajaa Raamamohana Ray. Sarkar has to Construct Shri Ramakrishna as “never read books” for reasons we shall soon see.

Not only does Sarkar betray here “shallow” or superficial reading of the Text, but also misguides the readers on what Book-Reading is here in reference. (See 2.2)

The Brinde-Shri-M dialogue is crucial in Sarkar’s paper – as we shall see – and also in understanding Shri Ramakrishna; that is why I am discussing this elaborately.

My point is: if Sarkar begins his paper with misquote and mistranslation to misguide the readers, what can he deliver us next? He has already falsified the Text and its context! He has already betrayed his Pre-Programmed Script about Shri Ramakrishna!

The Objectivity that is expected from a historian is belied even at the very first lines! We will soon see that Sarkar is more a novelist, nay, Script-writer, than a historian in his present discussion.

1.2. Mention of Brinde (Maid-Servant at Dakshineshvara Kali Temple)

Sarkar detects an authorial strategy in Shri-M’s Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta – and he bases his premise on his finding that Brinde has been mentioned only once in Kathaamrta: “We never meet Brinde again: her one appearance was clearly to set the scene for this contrast (throughout, of the learned literate knowledge/ unlearned oral wisdom polarity).”

However, we find in the original Text, Brinde is a fairly constant presence and mentioned at least thrice in Kathaamrta.[6]  How can we say Sarkar has read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta?

Now, we also understand why Sarkar translates “mukhe” as “words,” because he has to establish “unlearned oral wisdom” as polar opposite of “learned literate knowledge.” As we have seen, his mistranslation of Source-Text has already weakened this foundation.

Though Sarkar could not count correctly the number of Brinde’s “appearance,” elsewhere in his paper we find that Sarkar appears to be apt in counting episodes, because he counts Shri Ramakrishna’s mention of Shambhucharan Mallik – 6 times (another of Sarkar’s ‘proofs’ that Shri-M has an ‘authorial strategy’, and another of Sarkar’s ‘premises’ that Shri Ramakrishna condemned Social Activism); however, why has his counting gone wrong in Brinde’s case? Since Sarkar gives so much importance to Brinda episode, how can we say it is his mistake in counting? Isn’t it deliberate misrepresentation then?

Enough to say that Sarkar’s Strategy to label Kathaamrta as a Strategic Text on the foundation of ‘singular mention’ of Brinde episode collapses thus. Not only that, even if we go by Sarkar’s logic that the ‘singular’ mention of Brinde is Shri-M’s ‘authorial strategy’, then how can Sarkar mistranslate and therefore, misrepresent the very Brinde episode at the beginning of his paper? Clearly, from the very beginning, he has an Agenda, and in his endeavour to abide by that Agenda, ironically, his very Agenda collapses.

2. How Sumit Sarkar distorts and manipulates the Source-Text

If the above two instances suggest that Sarkar has not read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta ‘properly’, yet we cannot say he has “not read at all” – after all, he cites from Kathaamrta many a times. The inevitable conclusion then is: well, he has read, at least as much required to write this paper (akin to the “Search-Find Copy-Paste Mode of Kali Yuga Scholarship”), but he deliberately distorts and manipulates the Source-Text – and I will offer here two such instances – more to be revealed in course of the discussion.

2.1. Sarkar quotes:

“Look, how many educated people trained in English, with so many degrees, accept chakri, and receive kicks from their master's boots every day. Kamini is the sole reason for all this”

Sarkar quotes this to make the point that in Shri Ramakrishna’s teachings, “the central link is between Kaaminii and the Daasatva of Caakri (bondage of the office-job), mediated by Kaancana.”

Now, let us check from Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta.

First, here is the quoted line in original Bengali (transliteration by author) -

Ar dekha, ata paaz karaa, kata imraajii padaa Pandit, maniber caakri sviikaar kare taader but jutaar gonjaa dubelaa khaay

And see, so many examination qualified, so much English educated scholars, accepting caakrii of masters, receive kicks of their boots twice every day. (Tr. Author)

As we can see, Sarkar hushes up several crucial facts here –

i) Shri Ramakrishna mentions the word Pandit that is of utmost importance in understanding his discourses; but Sarkar does not even mention ‘scholar.’ Certainly, “many educated people trained in English” and Pandit are not the same thing.

ii) Shri Ramakrishna says, “maniber Caakri sviikaar kare” that is, “accepting caakrii of master” (implied is the Sense of an English educated Pandit knowingly taking service of a manib master – fully aware or semi-aware that he would have a servant-role) – but Sarkar merely says “accept caakrii”, (implied, that the Subject is here unaware of his impending servant-role); thus Sarkar generalizes the word caakrii as if it is any service. Whereas, Shri Ramakrishna’s mention of ‘manib’ or master implies, he uses the word caakrii here not only in the sense of ‘service’ but also in the sense of ‘servant’s job’ carrying the significance of servant’s mentality and the stigma that the word ‘servant’ usually carries in Society. In Bengali, the word caakrii is a derivation of caakar (servant), and it carries dual significance (just as Sarkar is a surname, and also means ‘government’) – service [7], and servant-role (in this case one is aware of one’s loss of dignity)

iii) Shri Ramakrishna laments the Pandit’s – scholars’ – accepting servant’s role, but Sarkar manipulates that to suggest that Shri Ramakrishna’s lament is about ‘anybody (English educated) taking any service.’

Now, on studying the context we find, Shri Ramakrishna tells that to Vijaya following Vijaya’s own confession: “I so much desire to come here but I am not free. I have accepted work in the Brahma Samaj,” following Shri Ramakrishna’s question to him: “You used to come here so often, why not now?” (KA, 1.4.4; Diary of Thursday, 14 December 1882)

So, we see here that the context of Shri Ramakrishna’s speech is Vijaya’s job at Brahma-Samaj, but Sarkar misrepresents that as “office-job.” Needless to mention, job under Brahma-Samaj, and “office-job” in an English office are two separate issues.

Even accepting that Shri Ramakrishna makes a general statement based on Vijaya’s particular case, if Shri Ramakrishna laments a Pandit’s knowingly taking servant-role, then he is actually envisaging and wishing a more independent role for Pandits; in other words, Shri Ramakrishna has a positive attitude to Paandits (as also evident in his dialogues with Pandit Shashadhar Tarkachuudaamani, Bankim Chandra etc.) – whom he distinguishes from Shukno Pandit.

However, Sarkar with his Pre-Programmed Script on Shri Ramakrishna, must hush up Shri Ramakrishna’s positive attitude to Pandits’ role in Society to bring home his Theory that Shri Ramakrishna was against Book-Reading and scholars. (More on this soon)

2.2. What ‘Book etc.’ Shri-M is speaking about: How Sarkar misrepresents that

With his mistranslation at the beginning of this paper, Sarkar tries to Construct Shri Ramakrishna as one who “never read books,” and is “disdainful of book knowledge.” In other words, Sarkar does a “Flat Treatment” with Book-Reading.

Question is: Book-Reading includes any type of books – be it ‘secular’ books, books as in Social Education, and also Shaastra (Scriptures etc.). By his Flat Treatment, Sarkar tries to Construct Shri Ramakrishna that he was opposed to all these types of Book-Reading.

Is it so? Let us check what Book-Reading is here in reference.

In Shri-M’s next meeting with Shri Ramakrishna, Shri-M thinks: ‘He says to himself, “What he says is indeed true. What need have I go about preaching to others? Have I myself known the Lord? Nor have I developed bhakti for Him. ‘Bidding my friend Shankra to lie down on my bed when I have nowhere to lie upon.’ Knowing nothing, listening to none and yet going out to preach to others! It would indeed be shameful, a great folly. Is this Mathematics, or History, or Literature that you can teach to others? It is the science of the Lord. Whatever he (Thakur) is saying s fully appeals to me.’

If we read the above passage with “silent reading,” (in Sarkar’s words, “that central practice of developed literate culture”) - we can clearly see that Sarkar hushes up the most important point here. Shri-M clearly distinguishes ‘secular’ or ‘social-education’ Book-Reading, and Shaastra-Scriptural Book-Reading, and though Sumit Sarkar insists on Shri Ramakrishna’s “denigration of reading,” Shri-M and hundreds of Shri Ramakrishna’s devotees and Pandits never had a Sarkar-like superficial Reading of Shri Ramakrishna’s teachings on Book-Reading.

From above, it is clear that Shri-M acquires a doubt about Shaastra-Scripture Book-Reading, and not about Book-Reading in general. We know, Shri-M continued in his teaching profession even after becoming Shri Ramakrishna’s devotee, and encouraged by Shri Ramakrishna, he would often read books (like Bankim Chandra’s Anandamath) to him.

This brings back to my point once again – Sumit Sarkar has not read Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta properly, and whatever he has read, he distorts it deliberately.

I personally checked all the references to Book-Reading in Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta and have found that in almost all cases, by Book-Reading, Shri Ramakrishna means reading Shaastra “ONLY” or that Book-Reading has the context of reading Shaastra; in many other cases, Shri Ramakrishna actually speaks against “ONLY” Book-Reading and NOT Book-Reading in general; in fact, in many a cases, Shri Ramakrishna actively encourages Book-Reading – both Shaastra, and ‘secular’ and/or ‘social’. Thus, we find him encouraging Book-Reading to his female devotees (that shows Shri Ramakrishna’s modernity – that he open-mindedly accepted the ‘new’ emerging educated and literate Woman), and expressing concern for child’s social/secular education.

Interestingly, if Sarkar here fails (actually a symptom of Denial of Reality) to understand the difference between “ONLY” Book-Reading, and Book-Reading, or the difference between Book-Reading of Shaastra, and social/secular Book-Reading, he, however, in his paper on Rammohun (“Rammohan Roy and the Break with the Past”), admits the limitation of “purely academic” and calls for “transcendence” of “purely academic”! Sarkar thus exactly echoes Shri Ramakrishna’s criticism of “ONLY” Book-Reading and Book-Learning (also Svami Vivekananda’s similar criticism) – though, in his characteristic self-deconstructive (and self-destructive) style he refuses to understand Shri Ramakrishna on that point and goes as far to say that Shri Ramakrishna was “disdainful” of Book-Learning.

Is it Sarkar’s contradiction? I would rather call it Agenda!


3. Interesting Aspects of Kali Yuga Scholarship: How Sarkar’s own citations Deconstructs his thesis.

Sarkar Constructs Shri Ramakrishna mainly on the following lines:

1. Shri Ramakrishna was disdainful of book knowledge
2. Shri Ramakrishna held rationalistic argument in contempt
3. Shri Ramakrishna’s condemnation of social activism
4. The cult that developed around Ramakrishna remained an essentially bhadralok affair in Bengal

In this part of my article, I will show how Sarkar’s citations Deconstructs his own thesis – not just Self-Deconstruction but Self-Destruction.

3.1. Sarkar Uvaaca: Shri Ramakrishna was disdainful of book knowledge

Let us note one of Sarkar’s observations and conclusions:

“…The limits of Ramakrishna's city contacts and appeal are indicated also by the silence about the middle-class professions of law, journalism' and teaching. The one specifically urban life-situation which becomes really vivid in Ramakrishna's discourse is the life of the clerk (kerani)…”

To substantiate this, Sarkar quotes the following from Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta:

“What a mess! A salary of twenty rupees three children-no money to feed them properly; the roof leaks, no money to repair it; impossible to buy new books for the son, to give him the sacred thread; have to beg eight annas from one, four annas from another.”

I could not help laughing when I read this Sarkarian translation and citation.

Regarding Sarkar’s other observations as above, I will come back later; however, readers please note the ‘bold’ words – “impossible to buy new books for the son”.

What we find here is that Shri Ramakrishna is actually concerned with education (social and secular) of children! If Shri Ramakrishna is really “disdainful of book knowledge”, how can he deplore the fact when one cannot buy ‘new books’ for his son?

3.2. Sarkar Uvaaca: Shri Ramakrishna held rationalistic argument in contempt

Again the same Sarkarian problem of Flat Treatment like he does in case of Book-Reading! Is ‘secular’ and ‘social’ rationalistic argument, and vicaar (rationalistic argument to find God) same?

Shri Ramakrishna thought vicaar (rationalistic argument to find God) futile, though necessary as initial step – and he always suggested vicaar with Viveka-Vairaagya; however, he actively encouraged both vicaar and rationalistic argument (social and secular) as essential in Existential Reality.

Two examples will suffice here to show how Shri Ramakrishna actively encouraged paanditya and Rationalistic Argument as Social Necessity in the Existential Reality of Social Living.

Shri Ramakrishna told Pandit Shashadhar Tarkachuudaamani:

“He who has to education to people needs much power (ye Loka-Shikshaa debe taar khub shakti caai). In Calcutta there are so many Hanuman Puris (wrestling clubs) – you will have to wrestle with them.” (KA, 1.11.3; Diary of Wednesday, 25 June, 1884)

We must remember that “sword” is Shri Ramakrishna’s metaphor for “Book-Reading” and also of Jnaana and Karma. Janaka is his central Cultural Symbol for his Grhastha (householders) disciples, and in his imagination, raajarshi Janaka wields two swords in his hands – which are metaphor for Jnaana, Karma, and Books.

Sumit Sarkar has no idea of Shri Ramakrishna’s metaphors and the value of Cultural Symbol like Janaka, not only in Shri Ramakrishna's teachings but also in the minds of great personalities of Bengal Renaissance – he says, “metaphor is rare” in Shri Ramakrishna – again, pointing to Sarkar’s deficit in reading Shri Ramakrishna Kathaamrta. (More on this later)

To Shri Ramakrishna, a true Pandit must fight against Shukno Pandit (scholar with Dry Intellect) and for that he needs Power – both from Book-Reading and from his own Heart, and Bhakti is Shri Ramakrishna’s prescription for that.

On many occasions we find, Shri Ramakrishna actively encouraging vicaar – rationalistic argument and debate on God – one such case is when Shri Ramakrishna initiates a debate between Naren (Swami Vivekananda) and Girish Chandra Ghosh (the famous dramatist). When Rama (one devotee) says, “What is the use of this idle discussion?” - Sri Ramakrishna stops him sharply saying “No, no. It has a special significance” and encourages the debate. When at the end of the debate, the debaters reach nowhere, Shri Ramakrishna expresses his dislike for such vicaar – that is, only through practical demonstration Shri Ramakrishna teaches how vicaar is futile to find God. (KA, 1.14.7; Diary of March 11, 1885)

I will show in a separate article how Partha Chatterjee too misreads and misrepresents this episode in the same Flat Treatment with obviously self-defeating result.

A more interesting fact emerges here. If Sarkar does a Flat Treatment and thinks that Rationalistic Argument includes both vicaar (to find God) and rationalistic argument (social and secular), then he actually admits that God is a subject matter of Rationalistic Argument! In other words, God cannot be excluded from the rational faculty of Human.

Well, well, we find here Sarkar ‘perilously close’ (a favorite Sarkarian phrase) to believing in God!

How Sarkar goes on deconstructing himself in this way is comical, if not farcical, and ludicrous.

(To be Continued …)


1. Sarkar, Sumit. Renaissance and Kaliyuga: Time, Myth, and History in Colonial Bengal. Writing Social History. Oxford University Press, 2009; or, in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 27, No. 29 (Jul. 18, 1992), pp. 1543-1559+1561-1566

2. For those who do not Bengali, here is Shri Dharma Pal Gupta’s translation:

Vrinde — Yes, he is inside the room.
M. — How long has he been here?
Vrinde — Oh! many many years.
M. — Well, does he read many books?
Vrinde — Oh dear, books or such like that! They are all on his tongue
M. is fresh from college. He is all the more surprised to hear that Thakur Sri Ramakrishna does not read books at all.

Here is Swami Nikhilananda’s translation from the “The Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna”:

M: "How long has he lived here?"
BRINDE: "Oh, he has been here a long time."
M: "Does he read many books?"
BRINDE: "Books? Oh, dear no! They're all on his tongue."
M. had just finished his studies in college. It amazed him to hear that Sri Ramakrishna read no books.

3. A Bengali speaker says “bai-tai” to convey several moods from which the following States of Mind (simultaneous States of Mind that the speaker betrays despite himself) are decipherable (the list is of course not exhaustive, because several mixed feelings are also possible) –

i) Cynical attitude to books
ii) Trivializing attitude to books
iii) Self-Doubt about books
iv) Apparently Exaggerated notion about books but actually betraying the poverty or Self-Doubt within [for example, when one says proudly, “I have read many (anek) bai-tai”]

These 4 attitudes are inseparable when one says bai-tai – though the speaker may not realize how he/she reveals his/her inner mind by such pronouncement.

4. Like when one protrudes one’s tongue (like Goddess Kali) to convey shame

5. though that Sense is certainly there because “khub” in some regional dialect is an adjective as in “khub brshti”, but not exclusively and primarily, because the verb is always implied


“M. (aside to Girindra) — He has explained God with form and God without form so well. Do the Vaishnavas believe only in God with form?
Girindra — Perhaps they do. They are one-sided.
M. — Have you been able to understand the ‘eternal form’ of God? What about the ‘crystal’? I am not able to understand it well.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Well brother, what are you talking about?
M. and Girindra smile but do not reply.
Brinde, the maidservant (to Ramlal) — I say, Ramlal, please give this man his meal. You may give me my meal later on.
Sri Ramakrishna — What! You have not given Brinde her meal?”
(KA, 2.2.6; Diary of Sunday, 11 March, 1883, the second day of Falgun)


“All women are the manifestations of the Divine Mother. So I cannot scold Brinde (the maidservant). Some people recite verse after verse from the scriptures and talk big, but they act quite the opposite. Ramprasanna is arranging for milk and opium for that Hatha Yogi. He said, ‘Manu talks of service to the sadhus.’ On the other hand, his old mother hasn’t enough to eat. She has to go to the bazaar herself. When I see this, I feel so annoyed.”
(KA, 2.13.4; Diary of Saturday, 5 April, 1884)


Ramlal (smiling): “What is the use of austerity if God is seen inside as well as out?”
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Practice this, and repeat it to me often.”
Thakur’s plate is missing from his room. Ramlal and Brinde, the maid, are asking about it, “Do you know anything about the plate?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Where? I don’t see it anywhere. It was here before. I saw it.
(KA, 4.22.1)

7. respectable job with dignity and right; a ‘public servant’ knows though he is ‘public servant’, that does not carry the stigma of chakar


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

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Views: 3462      Comments: 6

Comment @ TagoreBlog
well sir, that's a revelation - "TagoreBlog and Kumud Biswas are the same person."
thanx for solving the dilemma ...
while reading some articles on Tagore by "Kumud Biswas," I noticed "TagoreBlog" answering to the comments of readers as if the article has been written by 'him'.... now, odd though, I thought "TagoreBlog" must be very obsessive with Tagore to do that ... I searched for 'TagoreBlog's profile in 'writers' section but could not find ...
now ... well ...

25-May-2013 07:51 AM

Comment Yes of course I read your piece on Sil and I commented on it. TagoreBlog and Kumud Biswas are the same person. You may read my blogs which are primarily on Tagore.

25-May-2013 07:22 AM

Comment @ TagoreBlog
thank you for reading and commenting .. and thank you for your suggestion ...
God willing I will certainly write books ...
hope you have read Narasingha Sil's frustrated outbursts in the comment section of my previous articles ...

25-May-2013 01:39 AM

Comment Basically a pen-pusher in public offices I was forced to make a brief foray into the world of the so-called 'antels' or intellectuals and found out their real petty characters. I have been closely following you on boloji and you have impressed me greatly. I have one little suggestion - why don't you publish your articles on this crop of pseudo-intellectuals in a book?

24-May-2013 20:07 PM

Comment @ kumud biswas
regarding digestion, Ramakrishna suggested that one should eat according to one's digestive power. In one of his well-known anecdotes, the ideal mother provides different fish cuisine to different children according to their digestive power. In the next part of this article I will show that Prof. Sarkar knows little about Mahabharata (though he bases his Kaliyug theory on Mahabharata) and Indian philosophy. I am surprised, how with such little understanding and knowledge on India's past, he could venture to write on Ramakrishna. In another article I will discuss that Partha Chatterjee and Ranajit Guha are no better in this regard.

24-May-2013 14:46 PM

Comment Sumit is a great guy. As a bull eats a lot he reads a lot but lacks a bovine digestive system. Therefore what he produces is easily imaginable.

kumud biswas
24-May-2013 12:33 PM

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