Myanmar (Burma) Buddhist Temple, Kolkata (Calcutta)
A Piece of Myanmar (Burma) in the Heart of Kolkata (Calcutta)
As I climbed the dimly lit staircase of Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) only Mayanmarese (Burmese) Buddhist Temple a few lines of Amitav Ghosh’s best selling novel The Glass Palace flashed in my mind.
“Rajkumar’s favorite haunt was a small Buddhist temple in the centre of the city…. They would make their way across town on a bus and get off at the stop for the Eden Hospital. They’d climb up the grimy marble stairs and when they reached the top, they would step into a hall that seemed to be a world away from its surroundings: full of light, perfumed with scent of fresh flowers…. “
Rajkumar, literally meaning prince, the principle character of Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Glass Palace was by no means a prince. In the first chapter of Glass Palace Amitav Ghosh descrbes Rajkumar as “His name meant prince, but he was anything but princely in appearance.”
As my memory wondered through the pages of The Glass Palace I made my way to the top floor of the building housing the small and beautiful shrine. Straight in front of me was the statue of Lord Buddha dressed in golden attire with is gleaming white face.
Amitav Ghosh’s writing has always fascinated me. Although a mainly a fictional writer Ghosh has the ability of blending fictional characters in historical backdrop. For the last couple of years I have been reading his books and have read Calcutta Chromosome, Hungry Tide, Circle of Raesons, Shadow Lines, Glass Palace, Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke. I also read is non – fiction work In an Antique Land.
I have read most of Ghosh’s books from the library of International School of Business & Media (ISB&M), where I work as a visiting faculty teaching Mathematics, Statistics, Operation Research and Research Methodology for BBA students.
Recently I picked up the courage to write to Amitava Ghosh sharing a link of my blog entry on Ronald Ross Memorial, which was the centre of attraction of Ghosh’s best selling novel Calcutta Chromosome.
My Letter to Dr. Amitava Ghosh
Dear Dr Amitav Ghosh, I am one of your numerous reader and one of the numerous persons to write to you. I have read many of your books but the one that fascinated me most is “Calcutta Chromosome.” Centered round Ronald Ross’ Nobel Prize winning discovery the book has left an enormous impact on me.
My first encounter with the Roland Ross Memorial, located on the western wall of the Presidency General Hospital, happened during my days of Post Graduation in the Department of Business Management of Calcutta University’s Alipur Campus (1998 – 2000). During the two years I regularly walked past the memorial and often stopping to read the inscriptions over and over again
I read Calcutta Chromosome a couple of years back and it was enough to ignite my decade old passion on the memorial. I decided to have a small writeup (along with photos) on the Ronald Ross Memorial in my Blog.
I am sending you the link Ronald Ross Memorial.
I would be ever grateful if you come up with your comments and suggestions.
Eagerly waiting for a reply.
To my utter surprise Ghosh not only replied immediately but also posted my letter in his blog, along with a note of appreciation. In spite of his tight scheduled Ghosh also had the time to go through several other entries of by blog and have also appreciated my post on Kolkata’s Chinese Temples and Zorostrian Temple.
Dr. Amitav Ghosh’s Reply
From Kolkata Rangan Datta sends the letter below with a link to an interesting piece on the Ronald Ross memorial. There are several other interesting posts on his page, including an excellent piece on Kolkata’s Chinese temples and one on the Zoroastrian temple, which he visited when it was under renovation (the temples are otherwise closed to (non-Zoroastrians).
To see my letter and the reply visit Amitav Ghosh’s Blog.
- Akash Mondal, fellow photo enthusiast and my colleague at ISB&M, Kolkata for shooting my photo.
- Gobinda Pahari. librarian at ISB&M, Kolkata.
“It’s strange,” she said. “I’ve changed buses here hundreds of times. I can’t even begin to count how often I’ve walked past this wall. But I’ve never noticed that inscription up there.” this words are said by Urmila one of the major character of Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Calcutta Chromosome.
Urmila, who happens to be a journalist, in Ghosh’s best selling novel was not aware of the Ross Memorial. But Ghosh’s Urmila is no exception great many of the Calcuttans are not aware of the memorial dedicated to Ronald Ross, Calcutta’s first Nobel Laureate.
Located on the Northern wall of the Presidency General (PG) Hospital, lies a arch shaped memorial dedicated to Ronald Ross, Nobel Prize winner of Medicine in 1902.
Ronald Ross (1857 – 1932) studied malaria from 1881 to 1899. Finally on 20th August 1897 Ross, working at the PG hospital discovered that malaria was transmitted by female anopheles mosquito. 20th August is celebrated as the “World Mosquito Day.”
Sadly the culturally active Calcuttans have forgotten Ross and his memorial lies in utter neglect. The arch contains a central medallion of Ronald Ross which is flanked on either side by two marble inscriptions.
The inscription on the left describes the process in which malaria was transmitted. while that on the right contains a poem written by Ronald Ross himself. Only the first three paragraphs of the poem were written on the marble plaque.
The two more paragraphs of the poem read as follows:
Half stunned I looked around
And see a land of death –
Dead bones that walk the ground
And death bones underneath:.
A race of wretches caught,
Between the palms of need
And rubbed to utter nought,
The chaff of human seed.
- Words of appreciation from the best selling author Amitav Ghosh
- My blog entry on Amitav Ghosh’s words of appreciation
- Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
- Photos from my Personal Website
List of my Blog entries on Calcutta (Kolkata)