Cultural Confrontations
EUROPE RECONSIDERED: PERCEP¬TIONS OF THE WEST IN NINE¬TEENTH CENTURY BENGAL by Tapan Raychaudhuri Oxford University Press Delhi, 1988, 370 pp., 170
Nov-Dec 1988, volume 12, No 6

‘I’m craze for foreign. Just craze for foreign’, said a character (Mrs Mahindra) to V.S. Naipaul, which he recorded in 1964 in An Area of Darkness. This irrational admiration for anything from the West in postcolonial India is only the crudest manifest-tation of one side of a behaviour pattern that had started in different parts of this sub-continent with the onset of the British rule, and the emergence of an English educated elite. Among these elite groups, ‘the Bengali intelligentsia was the first Asian social group of any size whose mental world was transformed through interactions with the West.’ Professor Tapan Raychaudhuri quite rightly says that this phenomenon has not been sufficiently emphasized ‘in the literature on the East-West encounter in modern times’ (p. IX). In the Indian context it is of particular interest because ‘the Bengali officials, clerks, lawyers, teachers and doctors were the first group of western-educated Indians who went out to almost every part of the subcontinent to earn their livelihood.’

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