I am Jagdish Chandra Basu, I want to tell you the story of 'The Lady with the Lamp'
Today, November 30 marks the 160th birth anniversary of Jagdish Chandra Basu, and on this day he 'tells' the story of Sister Nivedita who influenced and inspired the great Indian scientist
Hello friends, I am Jagdish Chandra Basu, as you all know me. Today is my 160th birthday, and on this day I want to have words with you.
I want to tell you the story of: “The Lady with the lamp”.
I founded Bose Institute, (Basu Vigyan Temple) and dedicated the Institute to the service of the nation on my sixtieth birthday (November 30'th, 1917).
At the entrance to the building, there is a marble relief of Sister Nivedita by the renowned sculptor, Padmasri Vinayak Pandurang Karmakar. This was done on the lines of Nandalal Bose’s famous painting of Nivedita, named “The lady with the lamp.”
I know you all read about me in Wikipedia, but unfortunately, you will never find the Name of Nivedita.
I am sad that why she is not there. So, I myself will tell you the story of Sister Nivedita.
I was born in colonial India which was under the rule of British. Those days were so difficult for an Indian to prove his capability. I was leaned towards physics and science, graduated from Calcutta. I went to the University of London to study medicine, but could not pursue studies in medicine because of health problems. Instead, I conducted my research with the Nobel Laureate Lord Rayleigh at Cambridge and returned to India in 1885. Later I joined the Presidency College of the University of Calcutta as a professor of physics.
I faced a lot of racial discrimination there. I was paid a lesser salary than other professors. There was a peculiar practice in the college at that time. The Indian teachers in the college were paid one-third of what the British teachers were paid! So I refused my salary but worked for three years. The fourth year I was paid in full!
During this time I have started my own Science work. Those days were very difficult for me as I was not the citizen of free country, so for each and every opportunity I need to do a lot of struggle.
At that time one day an Irish lady visited my house, she came to visit my wife Abala to discuss about girls education. Women education was not too much popular at that time in our country. My father had established one Kanya Shala, and my sister and my wife were working for it. That lady came to discuss about girls education with Abala and my sister. She was a pupil of Swami Vivekananda. When she knew about my work, she took deep interest, and we had a long talk over my work. She was basically graduate in Physics. She came to India to serve Bharat as Daughter of Bharat. I was really deeply touched. After that, we became very good friends. I started visiting her place, "House of the Sisters” where she lived with German American disciple of Swami Vivekanand, Sister Christine.
Through most of 1904 and 1905, we worked together almost every day on the books. My wife Abala, as well as my sister Labanyaprabha volunteered to teach in Nivedita’s girls’ school, conducted then in the house itself.
Once Nivedita asked me whether it was possible to prove scientifically that all things in this world, living or non-living share the same consciousness. She took up the cause of science to establish the merit of Indian scientists. She beautifully wrote the review of my paper “The Response of Matter”, and it is interesting to note that how sister was introduced to the readers by the editor, W.Testead: "The following discovery of Professor Bose written by a competent hand," Competent she was. She was in a position to compare my work with those of the German Scientist Herge, English Physicists Sir Oliver Lodge and Maxwell and French Scientists Bravely. She knew about the work of German and English competitors working in the same field. She took the pain to raise funds for my research work; she tried her best to influence the British Government to allow Indian Scientists to join Conferences abroad and referred my name.
Wittily she used to refer all this as “Bose War”.
When I attended the Paris Conference in 1899, Swami ji and Nivedita both were there with me. Swami ji was very much happy to see my impression in the international scientific fraternity with my findings.
I stayed at Nivedita’s home in Wimbledon in 1900. Where her mother Mary hosted us, I then severely ill, spent a month in recuperation in the care of Nivedita’s family.
Nivedita actively helped me to write four of my books – Living and Non-Living, Plant Response, Comparative Electro-Physiology and Irritability of Plants. She edited the books – indeed the language eminently bears Nivedita’s mark, while not taking any credit for her efforts. She also revised my papers published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. She continuously wrote about me in newspapers and journals to attract wider attention to my achievement. She helped me and appreciated me when no one was there to stand for me. Ever since then, till her death (at the age of 43) in 1911, Nivedita organised the resources I required for my research and laboratory, chiefly through gifts from Sara Chapman Bull (wife of the Norwegian violin maestro Ole Bull and a devoted disciple of Vivekananda, whom the latter addressed as Mother or ‘Dhiramata’).
Although Nivedita was nine years older than me but she was so kind with me that I felt motherly protection from her, she often referred to me as ‘bairn’ (child).
We used to take Nivedita during the puja holidays to Darjeeling and sometimes to Mayavati in Uttarakhand, where we stayed at the Advaita Ashram of the Ramakrishna Mission.
As fate would have it, she spent her last days and breathed her last in Darjeeling. We were together. We were there at Darjeeling, during the puja break of 1911. We stayed at Roy Villa.
I remember, she told me in 1904, she would probably die in 1912.
I remember on her last night, she said to me, “The boat is sinking but I shall yet see the sunrise.” It was just after dawn that she uttered the famous verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – ‘Asato ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrityorma amritam gamaya’ – and passed away.
With the blessings of Sister Nivedita, founded the Basu Vigyan Mandir, On that day of Inauguration, I said, “In all my struggling efforts, I have not been altogether solitary. While the world doubted, there have been a few, now in the city of silence, who never wavered in their trust.”
In one of my letters I wrote, “Sister Nivedita was also greatly interested in the revival of all intellectual advances made by India, and it was her strong belief in the advance of Modern Science accomplished by Indian Men of Science that led me to found my Research Institute.”
I wrote to Nivedita’s younger sister Mrs Wilson, I said, “She had not body, it was all mind. My friends, I want you to visit that place where Nivedita took her last breath, Do Namaskar to this daughter of Bharat Mata.
(References: Book of Rangahari ji, Wikipedia, The Wire, Prema)