Glimpses of Colonial India.2.College of Fort William, Calcutta

College of Fort William, Calcutta, which was opened in 1800, instructed the newly appointed East India Company officials in vernacular languages.The professors were all European, but their assistants, called Munshis, were native. In the College setting the master- slave relationship transcended the student- teacher relationship

In 1810, a student named Kennedy beat his teacher, Ananda Mohan Sharma, a Munshi in the Sanskrit-Bengali department.The native teacher’s crime was that the  meaning he gave for  a Bengali word did not match the meaning given in Fortster’s  Bengali dictionary. As it turned out , subsequently  Forster’s dictionary was not reprinted because it was declared to be full of errors.

In 1811, a student, Mr Collins,could not find a particular word in the dictionary.He then asked his  teacher, Munshi Ghulam Hasan ,whose  long and tedious explanation  the Sahib could not quite comprehend. Thus annoyed, the student whipped his teacher.When asked to explain his conduct, Mr Collins wrote that ” he was not aware that these people were entitled to be consideed a Gentleman”.

Reference

Das, Sisir Kumar (1978) Sahibs and Munshis: An Account of the College of Fort William ( Calcutta: Papyrus, reprint 2001), pp.123-124.

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