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Locating Postcolonial Hero In Bangla Speculative Fiction (Part III)— Debraj Moulick

Sep 11, 2023 | Non Fiction | 0 comments

Locating Postcolonial Hero In Bangla Speculative Fiction (Part III) Debraj Moulick

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Professor Shonku designed an indigenous robot that he affectionately called Robu in the science fiction entitled “Professor Shonku and Robu ”. Shonku’s Robu is capable of solving complex mathematical problems within ten seconds and can answer a variety of questions. The functionality aspect of the robot was top notch. Shonku didn’t pay much attention towards the appearance of the robot and thus it appeared to be a plain looking robot. Shonku was always concerned with what lays inside rather than what glitters on the exterior. Thus, Robu looked like an amateur tin man and it was made with a meager budget of three hundred and thirty-five rupees only. Shonku received a letter from Heidelberg of Germany in order to showcase it to a famous scientist named Rudolph Paumer. Shonku grabbed the invitation of the German scientist out of his zeal to achieve glory not for himself but for his country at large. Shonku expressed his views in his diary regarding the honor India might achieve owing to his latest invention Robu. But for that matter, it was necessary to showcase Robu across the European scientific community. The entry in Shonku’s diary from the science fiction “Professor Shonku and Robu” throws enough light on the streak of patriotism deeply embedded inside Trilokeshwar Shonku:

Robu may not be perfect, but I don’t think any other robot in the world can do as much as he can. But there is no point in keeping him in a small place like Giridih. Shouldn’t the world learn how much a scientist in India has been able to accomplish, working with limited resources, and on a very small budget? If the word spreads, it will mean more glory for my country than for me. At any rate, that is what I am aiming for.( The Diary of a Space Travellers and Other Stories, 137 )


Paumer examined Shonku’s Robu and he was very much impressed with it. Shonku’s Robu was unmatchable and by far the best Robot in the world. Borgelt (another scientist dealing with Robots ) visited Palmer’s house in order to examine Robu. Borgelt was jealous of Shonku’s achievement regarding the creation of a perfect robot and he offered to buy Shonku’s creation. Shonku being an ascetic refused Borgelt’s offer and thus he was made captive at Borgelt’s house. The narrative took a violent turn when Robu suddenly embraced Borgelt from the rear side and pulled his head from the body. Later on in the story, it was revealed that the man who visited Palmer’s house was not the scientist itself but an android robot who looked exactly like the scientist himself.  The evil robot made his creator his own captive and wanted to buy Robu for his own selfish benefit.  Paumer established a telepathic connection between Shonku and Robu. Thus, Robu sensed life threat on Shonku and destroyed the malevolent android robot. Shonku once again outwitted a European antagonist on the basis of scientific caliber and established the supremacy of a scientist of a Postcolonial nation.

Europe has seen the rise of world class educational institutes like Cambridge University, Oxford University, Frankfurt University, Berlin University etc. All the major scientific discoveries and inventions have taken place in Europe, leading to the prosperity of the European nations and they have dominated the world with its military strength and cultural influence. The European nations like Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Germany had several colonies across the World and it had led to the development of Eurocentric literature which showcased the superiority of their race over that of Africans, Asians etc. The reaction to the Eurocentric thought was the development of a Postcolonial theory which challenged or rather criticized the thinking that Europe is at the center and all the colonies exist at the periphery leading to the labeling of the population of colonies as the Other.

The reaction against colonialism has given to famous books which are considered as the gem of Postcolonial literature Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things(1997). Such Postcolonial texts have discarded the narratives where the colonised cultural ethos and characters have been vanquished by the Eurocentric narrative. In return, they have composed narratives where the colonised characters have overshadowed the European characters or have fought their way from the periphery to the center and thus the colonial cultures have taken its rightful place on the global cultural canvas.

Many of his incredible exploits of Shonku are set on the European soil and also in Egypt, Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia like Japan, Tibet etc. It has been noticed that Shonku has got friends and acquaintance from all over the world be it Jeremy Saunders of England, William Crole of Germany, John Summerville of  Cambridge, the Japanese Scientist Hidechi Suma and much more. He has been a part of perilous trails across the unknown terrains of Africa such as in “Professor Shonku and the Gorillas”, “Shonku’s Expedition to the Congo”. Shonku has been part of the thrilling mission in Nazi Occupied Germany in the science fiction “Swarnopornee” , later on he was a part of the modern day Germany when he visited Augsburg to deal with the formula of Frankenstein in “Shonku and Frankenstein” and lastly he took his robot to Heidelberg of Germany in the science fiction “Professor Shonku and Robu”. His route map was not only limited to Germany in Europe, he travelled across England in “Swarnopornee” and experienced the warmth of friendship of a British citizen. The setting was that of England fighting the Second World War, while India was fighting for its independence. Racism , British imperialism and colonialism was at full throttle during that era. Shonku developed a great rapport with a British personality and their relationship was not at all affected by the socio-cultural gap between the coloniser and the colonised which was very much visible between Dr Aziz and Mr Cyeril Fielding in E.M Forster’s A Passage to India (1924). Many white characters have appeared in the short stories of Professor Shonku which is very rare for the context of Indian Literature. However, in the case of Shonku, it has been innumerable and every time Shonku has been leading the team to the peak of success.

 Shonku belonged to a colonised country which automatically put him into the category of OTHER. However, he was not discriminated for his skin colour but achieved a position of reverence due to scientific knowledge, leadership qualities and above all a humanitarian approach towards his associates and humanity at large.

Shonku was at the focal point of the Colonial world and the colonized world. He conveyed with himself the tag of Bengali Bhadralok who had the refined taste of a British Gentleman. In any case, he never looked downward on the underprivileged area like the British organization used to do. His love for oriental culture reflected upon his character and also the influx of European culture. Satyajit Ray ventured over the western world and guzzled the socio-cultural ethos in his life, so did Shonku in his fictional world. Notwithstanding control by the European provincial power over the world and particularly in writing, Satyajit Ray gave us a Hero who transcended the frontier servitude, colonialism, annihilation and mastery.

Satyajit Ray shattered the myth of the Western People regarding the people of the oriental nations. He also proved his mettle as an author of speculative fiction and provided the world with a Post Colonial hero like Professor Shonku.

Also, read Locating Postcolonial Hero In Bangla Speculative Fiction (Part I) by Debraj Moulick, published in The Antonym

Locating Postcolonial Hero In Bangla Speculative Fiction (Part I)— Debraj Moulick

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Debraj Moulick

Debraj Moulick

Debraj Moulick is a Lecturer (English) in K.J Somaiya Polytechnic, Mumbai, India. He is also a bilingual poet, short story writer, official book reviewer, blogger and a researcher in science fiction literature. Debraj also enjoys conducting workshops on creative writing, poetry and business communication. His writings have been published in various webzines, magazines and anthologies.

Moulick did his M.Phil dissertation in Indian Science Fiction from Department of English, University of Mumbai. He is a lifelong member of Indian Association of Science Fiction Studies (IASFS), Bangalore. India. Moulick has worked as an organising committee member as well as Editor of an International Science Fiction Conferences in India. Debraj has provided expert lectures on various topics like Science Fiction in Bengal, Thought Experimentation in Bangla Science Fiction, The Need to Popularize Indian Vernacular Science Fiction among others. His articles and official book reviews on speculative fiction have been published in Science India Magazine and Kalpabiswa.


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