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Picture of A Bengali Lady in England by Krishnabhabini Das (1885)

A Bengali Lady in England by Krishnabhabini Das (1885)

Editor(s): Somdatta Mandal
Subject: Gender Studies

Book Description

This is a translation from Bengali to English of the first ever woman’s travel narrative written in the late nineteenth century when India was still under British imperial rule with Bengal as its capital. Krishnabhabini Das (1864–1919) was a middle-class Bengali lady who accompanied her husband on his second visit to England in 1882, where they lived for eight years. Krishnabhabini wrote her narrative in Bengali and the account was published in Calcutta in 1885 as England-e Bongomohila [A Bengali Lady in England]. This anonymous publication had the author’s name written simply as “A Bengali Lady”. It is not a travel narrative per se as Das was also trying to educate fellow Indians about different aspects of British life, such as the English race and their nature, the English lady, English marriage and domestic life, religion and celebration, British labour, and trade. Though Hindu women did not observe the purdah as Muslim women did, they had, until then, remained largely invisible, confined within their homes and away from the public gaze. Their rightful place was within the domestic sphere and it was quite uncommon for a middle-class Indian woman to expose herself to the outside world or participate in activities and debates in the public domain. This self-ordained mission of educating people back home with the ground realities in England is what makes Krishnabhabini’s narrative unique. The narrative offers a brilliant picture of the colonial interface between England and India and shows how women travellers from India to Europe worked to shape feminized personae characterized by conventionality, conservatism and domesticity, even as they imitated a male-dominated tradition of travel and travel writing.

Hardback

ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-7701-5
ISBN-10: 1-4438-7701-8
Date of Publication: 01/07/2015
Pages / Size: 195 / A5
Price: £41.99
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Biography

Somdatta Mandal is Professor of English and former Chairperson of the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, India. Her areas of interest are contemporary fiction, film and culture studies, diaspora studies and translation. A recipient of several prestigious awards and fellowships, she has been published widely both nationally and internationally. She has also received a Sahitya Akademi award for translating short fiction. She has written two academic books and edited and co-edited twenty books and journals, including two anthologies, Indian Travel Narratives (2010), Journeys: Indian Travel Writing (2013) and two translations, The Westward Traveller by Durgabati Ghose (2010), with a foreword by Ashis Nandy, and Wanderlust: Travels of the Tagore Family (2014). Another narrative, Bangamohilar Japan Jatra and Other Essays [A Bengali Lady’s Trip to Japan and Other Essays] by Hariprabha Takeda, with a foreword by Michael H. Fisher will be published in 2015. At present, she is translating some travel narratives by Rabindranath Tagore (Pather Sanchoy and Pathe O Pather Prante).