Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri born 23 November 1897 – 1 August 1999 was an Indian writer.
In 1990, Oxford University awarded Chaudhuri, by then a long-time resident of the city of Oxford, an Honorary Degree in Letters. In 1992, he was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Chaudhuri was born in Kishoregunj, Mymensingh, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh), the second of eight children of Upendra Narayan Chaudhuri, a lawyer, and of Sushila Sundarani Chaudhurani. His parents were liberal middle-class Hindus who belonged to the Brahmo Samaj movement.
20 Lathbury Road, the former home of Nirad Chaudhuri, with its blue plaque.
The blue plaque for Nirad Chaudhuri in Lathbury Road, North Oxford.
Chaudhuri was a prolific writer even in the last years of his life, publishing his last work at the age of 99. His wife Amiya Chaudhuri died in 1994 in Oxford, England. He too died in Oxford, three months short of his 102nd birthday, in 1999. He lived at 20 Lathbury Road from 1982 until his death and a blue plaque was installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board in 2008.
Student historian Dipayan Pal wrote of Nirad C. Chaudhuri in The Statesman in 2016
Why was he always in love with England, though he had never visited the land before the age of 57? These questions perplexed me and the only answer I could decipher is that perhaps Nirad Chaudhuri was in search of a home that he could call his own.
And perhaps this street in 1980s took him closer to the novels of Hardy and Austen. Lovers of literature not only see texts through their lives but also sculpt live through the texts they read. His textual affinity was coupled with the colonial aura he grew up with- we must remember that he spent his first 50 years in an empire where the sun never set.
His England was a realisation of certain dominant sensibilities and visions he idealised but they were far from reality. Places like 20, Lathbury road makes me wonder why people choose to migrate and why certain places receive more sanctity than others. For Nirad Chaudhuri, England was sacred and for some America is. The solution to this onerous puzzle cannot be found in better living standard or socio-economic conditions of higher wages.
Furthermore, certain places celebrate certain people. Nirad Chaudhuri would have been immensely happy if he knew about the blue plaque as it would fit his sensibilities perfectly. Even Oxford County Council was happy enough to remember this “an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.
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