Good Bye, England – A Farewell Letter to England

Good Bye, England! – A Wordsmith‘s Valediction

[The valediction in the form of an e-mail has been written by wordsmith while waiting at Heathrow Hilton having off-loaded from direct flight to Calcutta. His wife and one year old son had reached Calcutta a few days back. In the grand leisure of eight hours inside the broadband comfort of the hotel, it was a perfect opportunity to say good bye to the land where his one year tenure as a Master‘s student had some to a successful conclusion. The email is addressed to Mr. Norman Gillfan, a teacher of English in University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and a visiting Fellow in King‘s College, Oxford. The author found the teacher to be a truly gifted one with the power to inspire his students and remembered his teacher of English in High School, another teacher of exceptional abilities. – Resident Editor, http://web.archive.org/web/20061011205738/http://www.syhlleti.org/ ]

 

Pritam Bhattacharjee <pritam.bhattacharjee@strath.ac.uk> wrote:

16th January‘2006

Dear Bill,



Greetings from Pritam. I leave English soil tomorrow morning, sail-by-air towards East and reach Calcutta to unpack my bags as well as my mind where there has been a compressed and convoluted set of thoughts, images, ideas, problems, singularities, hope as well as despair precipitated for last one year in this land.



Hope you remember our discussion on the convocation day under a bright Glasgow sky. Here, sitting in a bleak house in London, not very far from Mr. Pip's lodging at Hammersmith as Dickens has told us, I have had a feeling of great expectations. I thought of writing a valediction to this land which has provided me and my family with care, security and peace for a year, binding the Bhattacharyya family in an everlasting tie of gratitude.



But then whom to address this valediction? Among my all friends and acquaintance, whom to burden with this nomination of representing the British Civilization and then I thought that you, a Briton, a teacher of the most lasting contribution of the British Civilization - the English language and a honoured friend is in the best position and so I have taken the liberty.



A wordsmith's Valediction



1. To my delight, I was introduced to British Civilization by her greatest literary artists and this has shaped my idea about the land, its people. Coming of age, the Victorian relics of Calcutta, my city by adoption gave tangible evidence of what I read. It was the same time, I discovered Mr. Gibbon (Decline and Fall of Roman Empire) in one of his folio volumes and that has been a source of sweet delight ever since. From pure personal observation, which is limited, anecdotal and fallible, I could sense that there has been an overall decline in the keen sense of history which distinguished the land. There is dilution of the spirit and even though there is plenty of intelligence, prudence and practical thoughts, culturally speaking, the cold austere beauty is replaced by a warmer, open and gregarious consumerism. I say this not as a judge but as an observer, perhaps with a unique or not so unique perspective.



2. To my eternal delight, the sense of fair-play and respect for individual liberty were routinely confirmed. My stay also coincided with one of the politically turmoil periods of the history of the land and in one afternoon in July as a meeting of unusual nature was convened in Trafalgar Square to celebrate and mourn and I happened to be present in the audience. The speakers spoke elegantly, objectively and in that sun drenched afternoon, I became a Londoner. The land has still retained the faith that elegance of manner can never be genuine without elegance of character. I bow to this faith, this faith in the aristocratic habit of mind, not by birth or descent but by practice and without which there is no aristocracy and no nation. I don’t know, in that afternoon, I remembered one Englishman most - Mr. Burke. May be, I remain, still in the ghostly days of nineteenth century!



3. Being acutely aware of the pervasive presence of new Rome, i.e. the Pax Americana, I am also witness to its interaction with other cultures having much ancient credentials. During my stay in this land, I sensed a defensive apology as well as comic diffidence in absorbing the interaction. Apart from the political debate that rages in connection with the nature of interaction, I am afraid that these significant problems are tried to be solved without taking it account the highly complex historical earnings of the past. This omission or method of convenience undermines some of the greatest heroes of this land who have served the Raj, the Empire, and the Civilization whatever you may call, depending on perspective.



4. I believe that in future world dynamics where trajectories of China and India are too prominent, British Civilization has a grand historical role as well as a duty. This role transcends the imperatives of political and economic exigencies of contemporary time. However, to comprehend this role, other than operational abilities, a grander and inspired sense of mission or manifest destiny is required. This can only come from a co-operative study of the past and this joint reading includes India and China as well. I hope, there will emerge gigantic personalities in this land who would undertake this task. I can never believe that the core of British Civilization would ever subscribe to the novel but dangerous doctrine that we are living in a time where history has ended and there is no wisdom in it.



5. As a part of pilgrimage, I went to two ancient shrines of learning - Oxford and Cambridge and paid my tribute there where men and women of this land as well as of other land have learnt through centuries. I was relieved when I found that consumerism is handled with delicacy, past has been treated with honour in terms of preserving the tangible architecture and I thank this civilization for this. I would look forward to the day when my son might have a visit there perhaps a decade or two after and me, an old man would see the same through his eyes.



After this, I would like to thank you for your patience and having given this eccentric Calcutta citizen a satisfaction for a strange request perhaps. I have tried to tell the connection between Calcutta and London in the background of history and people in the following essay http://personal.vsnl.com/calcutta/bengal10.htm



Thanks to you, the land, and the people and whenever you make a visit to India, please remember that there is a student of yours, who will be always willing to welcome you.



Best regards,



//pritam



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