Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar14

There was once a very great man who was knowledge incarnate. He was a professor of English at a college and was very, very brilliant. His eyes were full of light and in almost every way he was an ideal man. But unfortunately, on the physical plane he was not so handsome. He was very short, and his head was very big in comparison with the rest of his body

One day, an Englishman of higher authority wanted to see this Bengali scholar, so he sent for him. When the Bengali scholar came to the Englishman’s office, he was shocked. The Englishman had his feet on the table and was smoking profusely, and he began talking to the scholar with an air of contempt.

The Indian, who was a principal of a particular Sanskrit college, could not believe what he saw. He said to himself, “How can Englishmen behave so badly? They have no courtesy. They have no etiquette.”

When the meeting was over, he came back home mad and furious. “I shall one day pay that Englishman back in his own coin,” he said.

A few months later this same Englishman needed a favour from the Sanskrit professor. So he personally came to the professor’s office and knocked at the door. “Can I come in?” he said. But the professor did not answer. Only he asked his servant to bring his hookah.

The servant prepared the hookah and brought it to the professor. The professor placed his feet on the table, with his sandals on (he never wore shoes) and started smoking the Indian hookah. Then he asked the servant to let the Englishman in.

When the Englishman came in, he was so mad. He said, “I am an Englishman and I hold such a high post. Yet you are showing me such disrespect! What’s wrong with you?”

The professor said, “Nothing is wrong with me. Only I happen to be a good student. I always learn everything from my teacher. The other day you taught me to act like this and I have to show you that I have learned everything you taught me. If I don’t show you that I have learned what you have taught me, then you may not like me.”

The Englishman was shocked and, at the same time, illumined by the learned man’s remarks. This learned man became the ocean of compassion, the ocean of knowledge, whom all Bengal worshipped and adored. His name was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

GIM 54. 15 January 1979