Ramendrasundar Trivedi (1864-1919) took to writing learned, thought-provoking essays at a time when such writing was not much in vogue in Bengali literature. A vastly learned man, Ramendrasundar wrote about diverse topics relating to philosophy, religion, history, society, literature, language, phonetics, education, morals, etc., but where he particularly excelled was science-almost all the major branches of it.
His essays taught without appearing to do so; they satisfied curiosity but at the same time gave rise to further curiosity ; they led the readers but did that in a rather companionable way. There was a firmness underneath the flow, but on the surface they were sparkling with wit and humour.
The author of this monograph, Dr Ramatosh Sarkar, is both a scientist and a science-writer. While the sub-jects of his formal study have always been science subjects only, some areas of humanities-literature, history, philosophy, etc.,-have also been his favourite pursuits. He writes for specialists as also for the general readers, in English as well as in Bengali. He is associated with the Birla Planetarium, Calcutta, as its Curator.
I got introduced to Ramendrasundar Trivedi at a very young age. At that time I was not even a teenager proper. It was through an article of his, entitled "Niyamer Rajatva". It dwelt upon the rule of law that is supposed strictly to prevail in the world of Nature. Incidentally it also dealt with some people's dogmatic and simplistic perception of Nature law, law everywhere, never a violation in sight ; if there is a seeming violation, then that also must be as per some other law. To illustrate, Ramendrasundar said in the article that if a cocoanut, getting detached from a tree, did not fall vertically downwards but rather started going up, then some would - be clever scientists, without being much bewildered, would have an answer pat : the cocoanut was no ordinary one ; rather than containing the usual tasty things, it was probably stuffed with hydrogen ; so it behaved like a gas-balloon rather than like a genuine cocoanut. The illustration amused me enormously. A quick sequence of pictures came to my mind : a body looking every bit a cocoanut, after getting separated from the tree, automatically shooting up ; the momentary puzzlement on the face of a scientist ; his smug, complacent smile at the end. It had the effect of a Chaplin film on my young mind. And apart from this particular illustration occurring there, the tone of the whole article - half-serious and half-mocking - was also very fascinating to me. Altogether the article was very different from the other pieces, written by other writers, that were them in the book - a compilation of some 20 prose-pieces and some poems. Ramendrasundar's article was a genre by itself. I did not fully understand it then - I was too young for that; but still it left an indelible imprint on my mind.
Subsequently I came to read other writings of Ramendrasundar too, and eventually I have mad all of them that are in print - without exception.
My views and feelings about Ramendrasundar I have tried to share with others in the following pages - primarily those who have not read him so far, neither in the original nor in translation, either for the barrier of the language or for some other reason.
But I have tried my best not to impose; rather I have attempted to present an objective assessment of Ramendrasundar. I have, as far as possible within the confines of a short monograph like the present one, substantiated the opinions that I have expressed, by means of quotations and examples. I have given quite a few excerpts from Ramendrasundar's writings, in faithful translation. I have also quoted some very respected and responsible people.
Before I got down to writing I read, at least once more, all the pieces of Ramendrasundar that I had mad earlier. And there of course were pieces that I had not read previously, but did so carefully for the first time, before writing.
I found the whole exercise very enjoyable and also very rewarding. My thanks to Sahitya Akademi for assigning the work to me.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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