A Critical study: How India’s image is portrayed in G. Hajnoczy Rosza’s “Bengali Tuz”.
CHAPTER – 1
India’s always been an exotic but unfamiliar territory for the western part of the globe since the ancient time of ‘Sándor K?rösi Csoma’ to the present era of ‘Amrita Shergill’ and the Hungarians have always agreed with this perspective. “Bengali Tuz” is one of the most famous Hungarian journal which was written in the early twentieth century but was published in 1944 for the very first time. Even though the journal was read on a wide basis by women population of Hungary and got a mention in the ‘Szepesi’ newspaper, but G. Hajnoczy Rosza’s name was not listed in either the new Hungarian Biographical Lexicon or the new Hungarian Literary Lexicon of contemporary Hungarian writers for the year 1945 – 1977. The novelistic travelogue records the adventurous experiences of India which is the most colorful country in the Far East. The journal can also be described as a remarkable example of a documentary travelogue that is providentially combined with fiction. Hajnoczy Rosza, the author of Bengali Tuz spent three adventurous years with her husband in India, residing in the Shanti Niketan Ashram of Rabindranath Tagore. Her husband was a renowned orientalist, and was known as the east explorer ‘Gyula Germanus’. She recorded three years’ worth of experiences in a journal form. It is a novelistic voyage or travelogue which was based on actual first hand experiences from the tropical land of India. The journal was written in the inter war period of 1928 – 1931 as the first world war happened in 1914 – 1918, after which the journal came out in 1928 – 1931 that followed the second world war in 1929 – 1945. The time around which the journal was written was a period of disturbance in the world which also influenced the primary theme of the journal. The tale of those three years is narrated through a sequence of journal entries recorded by the story’s primary protagonist. The journal was written in an epistolary style which can make a story more realistic as it imitates the functioning of actual life. Hence the journal is able to display varying perspectives without the option of an omniscient narrator to the device. The journal is a collection of notable experiences. A journal does not records just a person’s experiences but it also contains their thoughts, feelings, and reflections which makes it a personal item that can be utilized for evaluation. It is a sequence of noteworthy experiences that displays the change in the author’s perspective about India and Life in general. It also shows us diverse colors of a foreigner’s life in a foreign country through the terms like racial discrimination, cultural shock, language barrier, etc. The author’s behavior was found to be empathetic towards India at last. She gained more tolerance in general life and never hid her disappointments.
I would like to discover The Hungarian author’s perspective about divergent multidisciplinary aspects like social, cultural aesthetics (change of food, climate, and dress), political religious, spiritual aspects of India of that particular period. There were instances which were found “magical” by the author’s foreigner perspective in the journal but were completely “normal” from the native perspective and I would like to discover those events and inspect the basis of their occurrence. I would also like to look into some of the incorrect myths of India like calling every white person as ‘Angrej’ which meant ‘britishers’ with respect for the color of their skin. The reason behind the title of the journal which is “Fire of Bengal” was never cleared up by the author, but in my opinion the time she spent in Bengal (A eastern state of India) and her three years’ worth of experiences were proved spirited for her and the elements of fire that is heat and light really shook her up and introduced her to a new stage in life. Thus she ended her journal with the quote – “There is a red glow in my eyes, the radiance of the Fire of Bengal.” Pg. – 589
CHAPTER – 2, Main Argumentation and Clarification of the Theoretical Aspect
In this chapter I would like to explain the basic fundamental points which are required to comprehend the whole panorama of Bengali Tuz which will also act as a base to understand the whole critical comparative study with respect to the quantitative approach. The sub chapters are as follows:-
2.1 – Historical Background
This chapter follows the historical background of the period when Rosza wrote the journal “Bengali Tuz”. The journal displays the image of a particular part of India around a particular time. The entire world scenario is essential to comprehend the plot of the journal. The First World War occurred in 1914 – 1918 and even around the post war period, nothing around the globe was settled. People displayed sorrow, remorse, shame, and silent hostility for the past as the wounds were not healed yet. The entire world witnessed destruction around 1914 – 1918 and according to a psychological perspective, the harm done by that mass destruction has not been healed till even today. The countries which were not involved in the First World War also started reacting and the environment of chaos still exists around the globe which resulted in the Second World War. Thus, the duration of the period in which the journal was written showed signs of agitation in various countries that also influence their respective citizens.
Condition of Britain – First World War weakened the Great Britain’s kingdom and the rebellious acts of violence and non – violence by the Indian freedom fighters eventually made it weaker. Condition of India – The period of the British rule on the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947 is referred to the history of the British Raj. The governance system of India was constructed around 1858 when East India Company’s rule was transferred to the crowned Queen Victoria (was proclaimed Empress of India in 1876). The political shape of India was very tough in 1929 as India had already been colonized under the British Raj for more than seven decades and the population was gasping for even the smallest hint of independence. The revolt had already started and was on its peak phase around 1929 which was also the year Rosza visited India while the population dealt with the extreme changes around that era in political as well as social terms. Condition of Hungary – Hungary was one of the primary victims of the First World War and endured many difficulties after the loss of Austrian Hungarian Empire. Hungary also suffered from the loss of a huge portion of their territory which included ‘Locse’ which was Rosza’s home town that was later on moved to Slovakia. Thus, it can be seen that Hungarians also faced a lot of complication around the period of the First World War. Hajnoczy Rosza did not only acknowledged the pain but was also very thoughtful towards human emotions which was the outcome of her witnessing the catastrophic act personally in the first place. All these factors played a part in Rosza sympathizing towards India during the Indian freedom struggle. Overall it can be seen that there was a huge amount of distress and disturbance around the globe where political environment affected the social environment. This brings us to an end of the sequence of historical facts which constructed the primary basic line of a few incidents recorded and narrated by the author.
2.2 – Hungarian Literature History
This chapter follows the Hungarian Literature History of the period when Rosza wrote the journal “Bengali Tuz”. As it has already been mentioned earlier that the book is not listed in the Lexicon list of books for 1945 – 1977 and one of the primary reasons behind this was the publication of the book in Budapest in 1944. The newspaper of the era which is ‘Szepesi’ mentioned that the next edition of the journal came out later in 1972. The English version, “FIRE OF BENGAL” was translated from the 1972 edition of “Bengali Tuz”. The Hindi version came later around that year. I will also elaborate on Introduction of the Hungarian Literature around the globe. Lorant Czigany describes the Hungarian Literature and I will elaborate on those points and try to highlight the Hungarian Literature from 1929 to 1931 and 1944 which was the time when the journal was published for the first time in Hungary.
2.3 – Role of Women Writers in Literature
Here I will mention a few names like one of the primary Hungarian author Rosza Hajnoczy, a contemporary author Margit Kafka, an English contemporary author Virginia Woolf, an Indian contemporary author and freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu, and modern Hungarian author Magda Szabo. I will elaborate on the primary similarities and differences amongst their writings being a woman author around the same era for Rosza Hajnoczy, Margit Kafka, and Magda Szabo. The alteration in the role of women authors in literature can be seen here. G. Rosza Hajnoczy was a Hungarian housewife but her circumstances made her an author. Her book acquired fame and popularity sadly after her death. Margit Kafka was one of the most important female Hungarian writers and was also a member of Nyugat Generations. Her literary career can be separated into three phases; first being the beginning of Nyugat from 1901 to 1908, second being the beginning of war in 1918, and third being the hard years after the war which ended in her death. Her first and most important novel “Szinek es Eves” (Colors and Years) which dealt with the destiny of the Gentry Class and Female Population was published in 1912. Her second most famous novel “Hangyaboly” (The Ant Heap) which was a record of her memories for the years she spent at ‘Sisters of Mercy’ was published in 1917. Kafka created a wide backdrop for the issues associated with womanhood and was able to outline her perspective on women’s position with clear symbolism. Magda Szabo was also a well – known Hungarian author of that era and wrote many popular novels like The Door where the plot is based on the relationship of two women, their friendship, and how they shared their lives together.
2.4 – Situation of the Female Characters in the journal
Rosza had a very sharp and thoughtful observation about women which can also be seen in her journal. All the female characters like Himjuri/Helena, Gertund, The Russian Lady, The Parisian Lady, and The German Lady who was married to the Delhi based Nawab, Mrs. Collins, and the girl students struggling in Shanti Niketan influenced the journal in one way or the other. The journal does not just deals with female oriented subjects but the female characters indeed play a remarkable part in the journal. Female Hungarian painters also contributed in this context. In fact, India’s first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also attended Shanti Niketan in 1935 but unfortunately never crossed paths with Rosza as she had already left from there in 1931.
2.5 – Dilemma about the main author of the book
There was a rumor that stated that Rosza’s husband Gyula Germanus wrote the journal instead of her which some people believed to be true as Germanus published his book Allah Akbar in 1935 and Rosza’s journal was published in Budapest in 1944 after her death which led people to believe that he might have edited the journal. But Rosza was still the original author of the journal in my opinion. I would like to back my theory up with the reference of Anne Frank whose dairy was edited and published by her father after her death. I would like to point out the fact that there is a very fine margin between the work of the main author and the editor which can sometimes confuse the readers and leaving them with a dilemma. Some very private narrations of Haram and Muslim Wife of Nawab dress is only possible by Rosza as Gyula never allowed entrance in Haram and they were also covered in Hijab.
G. Hajnoczy Rosza’s name is not listed in either the new Hungarian Biographical Lexicon or the new Hungarian Literary Lexicon of contemporary writers for 1945 – 1977, and she is also absent from the library and the photo library. Rosza’s husband Gyula Germanus made a statement in 1979 shortly before his death saying he wrote the journal instead of Rosza and published it in her name. This was supported by some questionable statements in the journal like where she narrates Hindu cremation rituals, when it reality that should not be possible as females are not allowed to go to a cemetery in Hindu religion. This statement can be contradicted by the possibility that maybe the husband narrated the incidents to her which she ended up writing. Her life story can be told in contradiction as it can be seen that she was a strong minded lady who ended up committing suicide. In the end, maybe it is appropriate to say that the journal was a combined effort of the couple’s compositions keeping Rosza as the main author of the journal.
CHAPTER -3, Analysis
This chapter follows the basic dimension of the comparative study while the following chapters will be termed as the preface of the analytical comparative study.
3.1 – Shanti Niketan being the first center for all comparative studies in India
Shanti Niketan was the first ever hub that offered comparative and world literature except just being a simple teaching university. Population from various nationalities, religious groups, caste communities came together in order to study and pertain knowledge. The subjects taught here belonged to different religions and languages which is a very essential support in this domain for a comparative literature student.
3.2 – Rabindranath Tagore reception and relation with Hungary and Hungarian literature
Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Prize Winner) spent some time in Balaton Lake to acquire treatment for himself but his presence in Hungary opened up doors for new sides of India among Hungarian Literature. Various new Hungarian Literature surfaced along the duration of his stay in Hungary and Imre Bangha also wrote a book narrating the time Tagore spent there which was titled as ‘Reception of Rabindranath in Hungary.’ Several Hungarian authors and poets wrote texts highlighting India and many of them also tried their hand at translating Tagore’s work from English to Hungarian. Janos Hay and Attila Jozsef translated texts from Hindi, Baktay Ervin popularized India in Hungary through his literary work, and other Hungarian writers and scholars published articles about India. For instance – Since Sándor K?rösi Csoma’s time to Brunner Sisters to the present time of Amrita Shergill. Rosza narrated Tagore’s poetry in her journal to offer consolation to Himjhuri which highlights Tagore’s impact on Hungarian authors ad poets.
3.3 – Comparative literature study in Hungary
Here, I would like to elaborate on the new flow of comparative literature study stream in Hungary. The new arena of comparative literature thrived under the Comparative Literature Departments of Szeged and Budapest University in its beginning years. I would like to present the Comparative Study of E.M. Foster’s book as an example. The journal was a passage to India including comparisons and different views through a British and Hungarian perspective, views through a colonized and non – colonized perspective, and at the end some similarities which was a result of collective views through a European world and a West world perspective about the unfamiliar and peculiar Eastern World.
CHAPTER – 4, Precise Analysis
This chapter follows a further description of the different points regarding the distinguishing aspects of life in reference with ‘Bengali Tuz’. I would like to present my analytical opinion on the points which are as follows:-
4.1- Cultural Opinions and Aesthetics (Change in Food, Environment, and Clothes)
This is a very broad subject matter consisting various different aspects like Food, Clothes, Environment, Traditions and Ceremonies, Music and Arts, etc. I will be elaborating on various distinguishing purposes under this subject in reference with ‘Bengali Tuz’. For example, the description of food (pg. – 571) states – “The North Indian cuisine which is effected by the Persian, Turkish, Arabian and Indian cuisine offers an eastern touch and flavors all the while very closely resembling the Hungarian cuisine too.
4.2 Sacred and Spiritual Opinions
Rosza witnessed various religious occasions and festivals which she later showcased in her journal through many illustrations. For example, Rosza and Himjhuri interacted with Sanyasi in the first year she stayed and in Dargah Ajmer Sharif later on, or Rosza and her husband’s altercation with Fakir, and Himjhuri interacting with the guru of Kashmir in the last year displayed some new and hidden spiritual and general facts about India through the author of ‘Bengali Tuz.’ India’s religion and spirituality was showcased through many occurrences like Prof. Collins holding wisdom and knowledge about Vedas and their descriptions, or a German man named Trapp understanding Sanskrit. The author describes the immortal process of spirituality with the comparison to the Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Sky, and astrological elements like the Sun, moon, and Stars. Hinduism is described by merging it with Islamic, Turkish, and Persian culture. Pg. 501 states – the real ecstasy comes with tapasya and not hashish, while Pg. 550 states – the comparison of Hindu and Muslim religion and the actual spiritual image of India, whereas Pg. 554 portrays – a good images of Indian religion, and at last Pg. 565 states – the non – religious thinking of fundamental India.
4.3 – Political perspective
India was struggling with the fight against Independence under British rule during Rosza’s stay here and she always had a contradictory attitude towards India’s struggle as she empathized because she had also dealt with a similar situation back home but she also ignored these issues as she thought the best option was to not to present her opinion because she was an outsider here and may end up harming herself only. Even after having all these emotions inside, she described the struggling phase of India in a very graceful and neutral manner without even a hint of bias being present.
4.4 – Social Opinion
Some narrated facts associated with the issue of social illness were believed to be a bit exaggerated like Child Marriage, Widow Marriage, Caste Discrimination, Pariah Population suffering through Untouchability as it could be said that some of these were not comprehendible for her like Pariah population turned Muslim due to the issue of Untouchability.
4.5 – Linguistic Opinion
A communication barrier is one of the most difficult hurdles for a writer. India had 25 different languages and people from diverse nationalities were also present at Shanti Niketan which always made it tough for Rosza to communicate weather she was in Bengal or in Kashmir. She tried learning new words and phrases to master the diversity of India but interacting with Indian staff and co – workers was always a hard task for her. For example, Pg. 390 shows – “Everyone wanted to speak in their respective mother tongue including Hindi, Gujrati, Urdu, Oriya, Telegu, Kannada, etc. in the meeting but they all agreed to communicate through English at last.”
4.6 –Racial discriminations and other Perspective of the Journal–
Indians were also suffering from color discrimination while fighting for Independence and even Rosza ended up taking a part in the discrimination on a couple of occasions. For example, Pg. 402 shows Rosza describing a Indian groom as a ‘Circus Clown’ after attending an Indian wedding but she forgot to take the fact into account that the Indian culture is a lot more vibrant and colourful compared to the Western culture which means that it was wrong of her to call the groom with insulting names; Pg. 410 quoted – “One more dear heart sadly missed, one less white face to greet in the ashram” which indicated that she felt more comfortable within the company of White people as compared to Indians. Even though these kind of incidents were not present on a large bases but still presented a clear picture of discrimination around the world. The scene that showed a man getting dragged out of a train while she travelled to Darjeeling resembles the hard times Gandhi Ji faced in South Africa. In her initial months of stay, Rosza treated the servants with prejudice, made fun of Hindu God and Goddess like Shiva and Vishnu, and also behaved badly and sarcastically with poor people. Usually a journal is record of an author’s experiences but Rosza also described the conversation between two persons like Atanu’s and Himjhuri’s personal conversation from dialogue by dialogue which was really remarkable considering the fact that she wasn’t even present during this conversation. The main question was that how could she describe Atanu’s and Himjhuri’s and Atanu’s and Gertund’s conversations when she wasn’t even there?
4.7 – Short note on present India and changes happened since then till now
Hungarians came to know about India’s past from 1928 to 1931 from Rosza’s Hungarian journal ‘Bengali Tuz.’ The times and situations have changed a lot since then and it is an honor being an Indian woman myself getting to work on a Hungarian journal written by a woman too on India. It will prove to be beneficial for these two countries and will better their conditions along the entire world.
Kanpur, Delhi is spelled incorrect in some places.
It’s a travelogue written before Independence that also talks about some cities of Pakistan which was a new experience for me too.
NOTE – (India wrote 13 long letter of traceability explaining the facts and fiction from the writer’s perspective. Unfortunately those pages have not been found yet but the search is still on and will be included here after discovery.)
Change in the Writer’s Opinion:
A Hungarian homemaker was transformed into a renowned author at the end of the Journal after she suffered from a cultural shock and gained knowledge about the Far East country of the world which is India. It wasn’t just her attitude that changed but there was also a change in Hungarian population’s minds which proved to be beneficial for them. She felt home sick all the while she stayed here but she did started missing India by the end of the journal. Rosza title Life as a Journey while gaining tolerance and turning into an admirer of India in the end keeping all the difficulties aside. Pg. 561 shows her sympathizing towards India and beginning to criticize the British and describing Life, Pg. 654 shows her mature behavior. She wasn’t bothered about materialistic things anymore and turned more mature which ended up enhancing her own country’s readers.
There are a few points on which I agree with the author and then there are some points which I oppose and I would like to present the reason behind those here. I got aware of many hidden and undiscovered elements of India after comprehending the author’s perspective but there are also some aspects which I think I would be able to present better being a native of India as she interpreted everything around here with a foreigner’s perspective after all. The foreigner’s called it a land of Miracles as some of the things they see happening around here are not what they have ever encountered in their country and vice – versa.
The book resembles actual life which is a mix of all aspects in life but it still paints a perfect picture of life in respect with all the elements of life. It is connected to a human being’s life making it possible for every nationality to feel a connection with and I also saw my country’s through a foreigner’s perspective which opened up new ideas in my mind. It amuses and entertains me by looking at things about my own country from a foreigner’s perspective in a way that I would never d on my own which made me feel connected to the book all the bit more.