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Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons: Memoirs of an Indian Woman

Monica Chanda (Author) Malavika Kalrlekar (Editor)

Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons can be read as a metaphor - as an icon - of the encounter between cultures. The memoir is based on Monica Chanda’s recollections between about 1913 and 1927, of life in Calcutta, districts of undivided Bengal, holidays in Kashmir and in Europe. There is more than a whiff of a Victorian upbringing in the pages. Neither honed in one culture nor fully at home in those practices superimposed by Monica’s father’s professional life as a member of the Indian Civil Service, her dilemma comes through in these writings. While her father, Jnanendra Nath Gupta, was avowedly against formal schooling for girls, he encouraged his daughter to undertake long and at times hazardous journeys by river, rail and road to perfect her skills as a pianist. Though there was an occasional longing for a freer life like that lived by her cousins, yet, Monica also enjoyed the privileges of living in spacious bungalows with a retinue of servants, going on exclusive launch trips down the Ganges, and being invited to parties at Government House and even Buckingham Palace. While there is a tautness palpable in her narration of an encounter with a clearly racist Eurasian sergeant and almost near-encounter with a tiger, Monica’s style avoids hyperbole and dramatic sequences. She presents facts and situations as she saw them - though there are a few times when emotions of love, fear and excitement ripple through the pages of this tightly–woven memoir.

Contents: 1. A day in Noakhali. 2. A minor Disaster and a Major storm. 3. Rungpore. 4. Touring with father. 5. Life at home. 6. Shillong days. 7. Excitement at school. 8. On to Dacca. 9. Entertainment at home and on the river. 10. Chinsurah. 11. Mother Germaine – and gippy. 12. Family ties. 13. Dada’s marriage. 14. Piano lessons again. 15. The river once more. 16. Days with Dinko. 17. Calcutta years. 18. An up–country holiday. 19. A beautiful valley and a palace. 20. Reflections on a bureaucrat’s life. 21. Our European sojourn. 22. London and beyond. 23. Endnotes. 24. Family tree of Jnanendra Nath and Sarala. Appendices. Glossary. Acknowledgements. Image credits.

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About the authors

Monica Chanda

Monica Chanda (nee Gupta, 1906-1995) was the only daughtet Jnanender Nath and Sarala Gupta. Her father was a member of the Indian Civil Service and her writing provide significant insights into a privileged childhood and life and times of an Indian member of the I.C.S. Her mother Sarala's father was Romesh Chunder Dutt, well-known author and the second Indian to join the Indian Civil Service. Though her formal schooling was neglected, Monica was a trained pianist, deeply committed to the instrument. She read Longfellow and Tennyson with her father and taught herself to read and write Bengali late in life A passonate reader and collector of books on shikar and wildlife, Monica was a keen observor of the natural environment.

In 1928, she married Ashok Kumar Chanda, a member of Indian Audit and Accounts Service who retired in 1960 as Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Though their family backgrounds were very different, Jnanedra felt that Ashok was an appropriate match for his much-loved only daughter.

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Malavika Kalrlekar

Malavika Karlekar is Monica's younger daughter. She has a deep interest in Women's memoirs and family photographs and has worked extensively in these areas.

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Bibliographic information

Title Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons: Memoirs of an Indian Woman
Format Hardcover
Date published: 31.12.2018
Edition 1st. ed.
Language: English
isbn 9789383166282
length 159p., 23cm.