BY T. RAMAKRISHNA, B.A.
With an Introduction by the Right Hon. Sir M.E. GRANT DUFF, G.C.S.I.
(London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891.)
* * * * *
The Occidentals led by Macaulay had too complete a victory for the good
of India. Much that they said and did was wise, but their system has
failed in many ways, and was, indeed, never intended to breed up men
interested in the past of their own land. Nearly all that has been
learned about it has been learned by the labour of Europeans, and yet
natives trained to European methods of research have facilities of kinds
for prosecuting research which we have not.... I had a great deal to say
on that subject, and on many other cognate ones in an address which I
delivered in my capacity of Chancellor of the University of Madras,
shortly before I left the country, but I do not know that it has had
much effect since, though an excellent little book by Mr. Ramakrishna on
the village life of South India is a step in the right direction. We
want, however, quite a small library of works of that kind before the
harvest that is ready for the sickle of intelligent native observers is
gathered in. - The Right Hon. Sir M.E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I., in the
The subject is interesting, and I do not doubt from the specimen which I
saw that you would treat it in a fresh and agreeable way. What we need
in Europe is to have the reality, the actual working of these Indian
institutions which we have so often mentioned brought home to us, and
probably such a writer as yourself may do this better than a European
could do. - The Right Hon. James Bryce, D.C.L.
Ramakrishna, - a literary gentleman belonging to Madras, who has written
a charming book called "Life in an Indian Village." - Professor Eric
Robertson in Macmillan's series of Orient Readers.
I can name more than a dozen Indian authors whose works can fairly rank
with some of the best productions of Englishmen. The well-known author
of "Maxima and Minima," viz., the late Professor Ramachundra, was
considered by no other than De Morgan, the famous mathematician, as an
original genius of a remarkable order. A celebrated Cambridge
Mathematician once told me that he set a problem for the Mathematical
Tripos, basing it upon Ramachundra's "Maxima and Minima," and with the
exception of a few that headed the list, none were able to solve the
problem. In the late Toru Dutt, a young Bengali native Christian lady,
some of the leading literary men of England found a poet of no mean
powers. Mr. Edmund Gosse writes as follows in the preface to her poems
that have been published by an English firm: "It is difficult to
estimate what we have lost in the premature death of Toru Dutt.
Literature has no honours which need have been beyond the grasp of a
girl who, at the age of twenty-one, and in languages separated from her
own by so deep a chasm, had produced so much of lasting worth.... When
the history of the literature of our country comes to be written, there
is sure to be a page in it dedicated to this fragile exotic blossom of
song." Dr. Bandarkar of Bombay is considered to be one of the best
Orientalists of the day. A number of Bengali gentlemen have earned a
lasting fame by literary productions in English, among whom I may
mention the Rev. Lal Behari Day, late Professor in the Hooghly College,
and Mr. Dutt of the Bengal Civil Service. In our own Presidency Mr.
Ramakrishna Pillai has produced a work in English - "Village Life in
India" - that has won the praise of Sir Grant Duff. - Professor
Satthianadhan's Lecture on Intellectual Results in India.
Mr. Ramakrishna takes a typical village in the Madras Presidency, "the
most Indian part of India," and shows us in half a dozen lucid chapters
that the wants of the villagers are all material - wells, roads, better
breeds of cattle, and so on - and that they do not, and will not for a
long time, care one cash for anything which happens, or which might be
made to happen, in the great outer world beyond their palm-groves and
rice-fields. There is nothing political in this pleasant little book, we
are pleased to say, although we have drawn this political moral from it.
It is a truthfully written account of native life in one of those 55,000
villages which dot the great district - a tract much larger than the
British Isles - the daily existence of whose peaceful, and not altogether
unhappy, population it is intended to illustrate; and it can be dipped
into, or read through, with equal satisfaction and advantage, - Daily
"Life in an Indian Village" is an amusing and clear portrayal of the
manners and customs of the inhabitants of a village in the Madras
Presidency. The author first depicts his little community, and then
proceeds to describe the avocations of all the leading personages. As
Kelambakam may be taken as a type of thousands of such villages, the
book will be found particularly interesting to those who are likely to
be brought into contact with the natives of India. Sir M.E. Grant Duff
has written an Introduction, in which he suggests how the simple
villagers can be benefited by their European neighbours. - Morning Post
The book itself is excellent, and gives a sketch of Indian village
society from inside. It is possible, however, that the ordinary English
reader will prefer to take his view of "the black men" from Mr. Kipling
rather than from a representative of the natives themselves. If he
wishes to have a native view of native life he will find it in this
work. - Athenaeum (London).
India is always fertile in surprises for English readers. We know
something of those among its peoples which have given us trouble; but
here is a "dim population" of which many Englishmen will scarcely have
heard the name - the Dravidians of the Madras Presidency, and we learn
with something like astonishment that they number more than the
inhabitants of England. The village which Mr. Ramakrishna describes for
us is one of more than fifty thousand, averaging about five hundred
inhabitants apiece. The first thing that strikes us in his account is
its highly organised condition. It is a self-sufficing little
commonwealth, in which a quite surprising variety of professions or
occupations are represented. - Pall Mall Gazette (London).
We welcome this little book as a much truer picture of Indian life than
many more ambitious works. - St. James's Gazette (London).
The work is written in admirable English - even the blank verse is
perfect. The story of Harichendra alone is worth the cost of the
volume. - Literary World (London).
We have read with great pleasure the book, "Life in an Indian Village,"
as it deals with an interesting and not at all unimportant subject in a
plain and unpretending way. Simplicity has a powerful charm of its own;
and we recommend the book to all whose heart can still be touched by
inartificial descriptions of idyllic, gently flowing, country life. He
who does not assume the tone of "India, what can it teach us?" but cares
to profit by teaching, will learn a great deal even from these simple
village tales. - Asiatic Quarterly Review (London).
What more England can do for India is admirably and tersely set forth in
the Introduction, which, with Mr. Ramakrishna's pleasant description of
Indian village life, deserves to be widely read. - Mr. J.B. Knight,
C.I.E., in the Indian Magazine (London).
Books about India by intelligent travellers have their uses, and books
by Europeans who have lived for years in the country and studied the
people are still more valuable, but it is only a native of India who can
really show us Indian life as it is. There are already several books in
English, by educated Indians, which give us valuable insight into what
was once the unknown of Indian domestic and social life. Mr. T.
Ramakrishna, whose "Life in an Indian Village" is introduced to the
notice of the British public by Sir M.E. Grant Duff, has produced a
series of very interesting sketches of the more important features of
village life in the South of India. They will be found to be very
readable, sometimes amusing, always interesting and instructive. Any
one who reads this book with intelligence and care will be able to form
for himself a very accurate picture of a Madras village, and to
understand the composition of the village community, which is the basis
of the whole framework of Indian social life. - Scotsman (Edinburgh).
Mr. Ramakrishna's book is picturesque and sympathetic. - Manchester
A well-written book, and one which gives a realistic description of a
condition of life which is the outcome of centuries of
isolation, - Leeds Mercury.
It is not an easy thing to acquire a clear conception of a life and a
civilisation other in every respect to our own, and it may be reasonably
questioned if one Englishman in a thousand has more than a very vague
idea of what life in an Indian village is like. Here is a pleasant and
graphic little volume. He may acquire that knowledge from the sketches
of an Indian gentleman who knows the subject through and through, and
has, moreover, so much of European culture that he is able to present
the facts in a form that will not seem strange or
incredible. - Birmingham Post.
A volume issued by Mr. T. Fisher Unwin, "Life in an Indian Village," is
a sample of the kind of book relating to our Eastern Empire that we
should like to see multiplied. It is the production of a scholarly
native, T. Ramakrishna, B.A., who writes excellent idiomatic English
without the slightest tendency to Johnsonian eloquence. - Christian
The manners and customs of the people are vividly reflected in these
pages, and a picturesque account is given of a number of notabilities,
such as the physician, &c. - Speaker (London).
The book cannot fail to fulfil the author's desire in exciting a deeper
interest in the people whom he so sympathetically introduces to the
British public. - Independent (London).
Written with much naïveté. - British Weekly (London).
The author of this book deserves our thanks and congratulations. Himself
a highly educated native of the Madras Presidency, he has drawn a series
of pictures of the village life of Southern India.... The occupations,
the recreations, the religion, the distribution of labour, the
recurrence of feast and festival, with much more, are all told in
amusing style and with such graphic power as to leave a vivid impression
upon the reader's mind. - Bookseller (London).
Madras should indulge some measure of pride in having turned out a
University graduate who can write the English language better than most
Englishmen. Ramakrishna's "Life in an Indian Village" is a charming
account of Dravidian homes and customs. It is the work of a young man
who has profited by Western enlightenment, and yet feels a kindly glow
in his heart for all that belongs to the humblest folk in his native
land. His sympathy is beautiful, because it is devoid of any pretence or
forced pathos. His language is choice, yet simply constructed. There is
real literary flavour about this work, which has just been published by
Fisher Unwin. When will the Punjab give us a young man who can feel and
think and write like this? - Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore).
Mr. T. Ramakrishna, a graduate of the Madras University, may be
congratulated on the success which seems likely to attend the
publication of his well-written little book on "Indian Village Life."
Judging by the comments that have appeared in the English papers, it is
just the kind of book the public at home wants, not too statistical to
be readable, and not too ambitious in design to be trustworthy, but just
a simple, picturesque account of the particular part of India which the
author really knows. - London Correspondent of the Englishman
The great virtue of Mr. Ramakrishna's writing is the absence of pretence
and fustian. Space is not wasted on ambitious and worthless descriptions
of scenery, or on vague disquisitions of a sentimental character.
Everywhere he is simple, straightforward, and effective.... Writing in
excellent English, and in unexceptionable style, he tells plainly and
simply what he has to say, and is the more successful because he is less
ambitious.... It is to be hoped that Mr. Ramakrishna's interesting
sketches of Southern Indian village life will obtain a wide circulation
in England. He is to be congratulated on having produced a work of no
little merit and originality. - Madras Mail.
To doubters of the good results of Western education in this Presidency,
better proof could hardly be given than is provided.