March 15, 2014
The present paper argues for a plurality of perceptions in understanding the nineteenth-century colonial encounter in Calcutta. While the colonised perceived the coloniser and the land of the coloniser largely through the literature that was made available to them under the new educational curriculum, the coloniser’s perception was largely experiential. The sense of exile and alienation replaced the earlier perception of the highly romanticised notion of the east. In tracing the variety of voices and perceptions in nineteenth-century Calcutta, when talking about a phenomenon like the colonial encounter, one realises the inadequacy of labels like Westernisation, modernisation or indianisation. Calcutta in the nineteenth century can be best described as a city in transition; a city coming to terms with its existence as a result of cultural exchange and negotiation. Many of these transitional and ambivalent moments are voiced and can be perceived in the writings of this period.