Pathway to Knowledge
Meena Bhargava
THE DELHI COLLEGE: TRADITIONAL ELITES, THE COLONIAL STATE, AND EDUCATION BEFORE 1857 by Margrit Pernau Oxford University Press, 2007, 340 pp., 625
March 2007, volume 31, No 3

Margrit Pernau in her Preface hints that The Delhi College is a dedication volume for Dr. Yunus Jaffery, his vast knowledge, humility and hospitality, and I, would not hesitate to agree with her even for a moment. The sessions and interactions that I have had with Dr. Jaffery in the old Delhi College building at Ajmeri Gate were like being in the midst of history or more appropriately living history. This volume brings forth the history of Delhi College by reconstructing cogently the lives of the patrons, teachers and pupils of the college. Though written in a descriptive and narrative style, the facts in each of the chapters are absorbing and valuable and interesting historically. Not even for a moment do they distract the mind or deter the reader. The book emphasizes the harmony between cultures, the colonial construction of knowledge and the interrelationship between knowledge and power. It suggests the medium of translation as a tool to understand and explore the ‘the in-between of cultures’ (p. 3).

Translation, Pernau argues, marked the foci of the efforts of Delhi College. From the Principal to the students, all were actively involved in the Vernacular Translation Society and participated in the translation of textbooks. The attempt was to translate British culture and scholarship for the Indian audience. But these ‘translators’ were not mere tools in the hands of the British. They reinterpreted the British texts and imported them into Urdu language to fulfil their agenda for change, which they hoped to achieve through translation.

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