Lengthy earlier than the present wave of decolonization reached universities, an Indian poet envisaged a spot of studying far faraway from the colonial training system imposed on his nation. In his father’s rural retreat in Bengal – named Santiniketan, or the abode of peace – Rabindranath Tagore established a small faculty with 5 college students. This was in 1901; he went on to turn out to be a literary movie star in England and, in 1913, the primary individual of color to obtain the Nobel prize in literature. The college grew and got here finally to be known as Patha Bhavan.
In Our Santiniketan, the novelist Mahasweta Devi (1926–2016) recollects the time she spent as a toddler at that faculty within the Nineteen Thirties. Santiniketan distributed with chairs, tables, corporal punishment and the British curriculum. Lessons had been held underneath bushes or on a mat on the ground. The artistic arts had been emphasised and there have been frequent stage performances of Tagore’s newly composed performs and dance dramas, in addition to festivals of tree-planting, the spring and the winter truthful (Poush Mela).
Fragmentary, elliptical and luminous, Devi’s memoir – expertly translated by Radha Chakravarty – affords helpful insights into an academic experiment that bore wealthy fruit. The college pioneered many types of Indian artwork and artwork historical past, a brand new type of fashionable Bengali dance, design parts that permeated the fashionable Nehruvian aesthetic of unbiased India, even the Indian model of greeting – the namaste. Devi went on to publish a collection of literary works that received her the nation’s highest awards and honours. Her books had been primarily written in Bengali, however have been translated extensively for his or her deal with ladies, in addition to on the Adivasi, the Dalit and different marginalized communities of India. But she was solely one in all many luminaries influenced by Santiniketan, which in 1921 opened Visva Bharati, a university for adults. School included the missionary and activist C. F. Andrews, the agronomist Leonard Elmhirst (who established Dartington Corridor in Devon on ideas much like Santiniketan’s), the artists Abanindranath Tagore and Benode Behari Mukherjee, and the orientalist Sylvain Lévi, whereas alumni have included Indira Gandhi, the third prime minister of India, and the movie director Satyajit Ray.
Movingly, Devi dedicates the e book to her estranged son, the maverick Bengali author Nabarun Bhattacharya; “Let my childhood stay with you”. That childhood involves us as flashing pictures. Devi arrived on the faculty in 1936, “indignant and upset”, uncertain why she had been despatched away from house. She grew to become conscious solely a lot later of her father’s transferable job and his need to present her a “correct” training. That the chapter entitled “Our Research” ought to start with the road “Fact be instructed, I can’t keep in mind the books prescribed for examine in every class” appears completely in step with the ethos of the place Tagore constructed – an ethos of simplicity, creativity and true studying, not tied to certificates or levels.
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