26 May 2013


The word 'legendary' is a great favourite in India. No-one is famous any longer, everyone is 'legendary'. A great teacher will seldom be referred to as a great teacher, he will seem to lack status unless he is referred to as a legendary teacher. Authors sometimes refer to their editors as 'legendary': to have had a legendary editor bestows status on the author. You can't nowadays be much of an author if your editor isn't legendary. So these days there is hardly an editor in publishing who, a year into his job, is not already legendary. In patriarchal India, such editors are invariably male despite the majority of editors in publishing being female. Memorable history and economics teachers, specially if they're Bong and have been at Presidency, are all legends. Is this an ungenerous view and the issue trivial? Indians can be likeably effusive. Their excessive praise may simply indicate strength of affection and regard.

Sushobhan Sarkar and Jadunath Sarkar, dead and gone many years and with their reputations still very high, might perhaps be legitimately accepted as belonging now in the legendary league. How about Sumit Sarkar? Retired for some years and having courageously seen off serious ill health, he continues to write and inspire. There is little doubt that he will in a few years join the brigade of legendaries; for now he is, at the very least, terribly famous. He happened to like a recent PB blogpost on the state of affairs at Delhi University and has just sent this message below to Permanent Black. It bestows legendary status on Permanent Black to receive a commendation from someone who is, well, if not yet legendary, undoubtedly on his way there:

"Thank you for your Blog on the deplorable conditions in Delhi University. This is nothing short of a systematic murder of a great public institution and is directed as a blow against the entire system of state run universities. You have described the vice chancellor's role with acuteness and precision." --- Sumit Sarkar, Retired Professor of History, University of Delhi

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