“The Autobiography of An Unknown Indian” is the most widely known work of famous thinker and writer Nirad C. Chaudhuri, an Indian English literary artist of the 20th century. He had written this autobiographical account when he was around 50. Although he was born in 1879 in Kishoreganj, a small town of at present Bangladesh, yet his autobiographical description relates his mental and intellectual development, his life and growth connected to Indian atmosphere exclusive Calcutta. His observation of vanishing landmark the connotation of this dual-changing Indian situation and historical forces that were making the exit of British from Indian an imminent affair.
Although, this book is by nature an account of autobiography yet it is more concerned with the story of the struggle of a civilization with a hostile environment in which the destiny of the British rule become necessarily involved. It is about the maturity of a scholar’s mind in that environment. It seeks to show how the mind and character of a typical Indian were made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule.
This Autobiography has been divided into four different books in which each book has four chapters about Nirad’s stay in Calcutta from 1910 to 1942 and the impact it had on his mind. Nirad’s school education was a total disappointment. However, he learned a lot from museums and libraries. This book also tells about his failure in the M.A. examination in History.
- Man and Life in Calcutta
- New Politics
- Vanishing Landmarks
- An Essay On the Course of Indian History.
In this book, Nirad describes in details the life in Calcutta, the different sections of society both Bengali and English, the missions of the rich and the houses of the middle class. The book also describes the advent of Gandhi on the sense and Nirad’s disillusionment with Gandhi’s passive resistance movement because it degenerated into mob-violence. Anyway, Gandhism was the victory of a new kind of nationalism and nationality. According to him, these new politics had destroyed all the other form of Indian nationalism and the moral awareness created by Brahmanism and the new Hinduism of the 19th century. It also destroyed the concept of synthesis between the values of “the East” and “the West”. In the end, only the imitation of the west emerged as the conspicuous feature of our life.
Nirad C. Chaudhuri concludes his best “Autobiography” with his views of “Indian History”. He believes that that the tropical land of India has ever been a corrupting influence on its people. The land was rejuvenated only when foreign invasions took place. He hopes that in the future the USA alone or along or along with the British Commonwealth may come to rejuvenate India again.
The Autobiography ends here; “In the words of Nirad C. Chaudhuri himself”. It is more of a national than personal history. The book also brings out Chaudhuri as a great Anglophile.
Nirad C. Chaudhuri’s “The Autobiography of An Unknown Indian” is a landmark in the development of the Autobiographical genre in Indo-Anglian literature. In fact, this literary genre in Indo-Anglian literature came to its maturity in the period of the Gandhian whirlwind (1920-1947) due to the emergence of a large number of thinkers, political leaders, whose lines interested the people and they wanted to know about them from their own method. Nirad had a balance and subtle motions for the exclusive situation with exclusive men.