Friday, August 19th, 2022 01:50:36

Story Of A Hero

Updated: July 12, 2014 8:30 am

In 1930 , schoolmaster Surjya Sen, affectionately known as Master Da, leads sixty–five boys to capture the armoury of Chittagong in erstwhile East Bengal and free the town for three days. They hope to go down fighting, die a glorious death and set an example for the rest of the country. But, destiny has a different plan for them, and the raid is followed by a four year long insurgency. Surjya Sen is eventually caught and hanged—even though the British admit that they have no incriminating evidence against him. His story is well known to the people of Chittagong and Bangladesh; and also throughout erstwhile Paschimbanga and Tripura states. Master Da and his band of merry men and women—Pritilata Waddedar, Binod Bihari Chowdhury, Kalpana Dutt, Ambika Chakraborty, Tarakeshwar Dastidar, Ramkrishna Biswas, Ananda Prasad Gupta and Suresh De—have all become larger than life historical characters and folklore forming a part of common history that is shared and passionately loved throughout the Bangla-speaking world.

Chittagong: Summer of 1930, brings to life the famous Chittagong Armoury Raid, led by Bengali revolutionary Surya Sen, through the memories of his young disciples and the British officers who were his contemporaries. Manoshi Bhattacharya draws upon historical records, government documents and personal reminiscences, tracing the life of the Bengalis and the British during the period. She creates a vivid picture of the armed revolution from 1900 to 1934, and brings to light one of the lesser known yet vital episodes of India’s struggle for independence.

The different Bengali and British worlds and their perspectives and styles have been presented such that the reader moves between them smoothly and identifies with them both. While the revolutionary’s talk of Chattogram and Kolkata, the British speak of Chittagong and Calcutta. Master Da is presented as Surjya Sen, spelling which he himself used. English translations of revolutionaries’ dialogues follow the style of Bangla sentence construction. Nuances, idiosyncrasies and expressions exclusive to Bangla have been captured in the translation. Master Da started the largest organised civilian armed uprising in the struggle for the independence of British India. That a simple schoolmaster from a remote Noapara village at Raozan, Chittagong, and a group of boys and girls, some of whom were only 14 years old, could achieve an uprising on this scale that they not only took British India off the guard, but also shook the British Parliament and beyond. The meticulous planning and execution and that the operation was conducted right under their noses bewildered the Britishers. Master Da and his boys and girls never knew the impact their operation had on the British psyche. If reading a conventional history book is boring, then Chittagong: Summer of 1930 is the book to get. The characters soon come to life, and before one knows it, they become a part of you. Thrilling stuff with passions and emotions running high. Especially in the scenes when the young boys are under attack on Jalalabad hill. The descriptions are so vivid and real. The end though seems to leave one wondering as to what happened next. It seems that another book is in the offing and the waiting is priceless.

By Nilabh Krishna

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