The burgeoning wealth and importance of Calcutta during the nineteenth century meant that gradually it began to move beyond its colonial roots for the first time, and started to become a city that blended the influences of both East and West. The Bengal Renaissance, as it is known, is central to the pride Bengalis feel about their city, and a litany of names, most unfamiliar in the West, are known to everyone in Calcutta. Social reformers, educationalists, poets and nationalists became, and remain, household names in Calcutta, in a manner unknown in most other major cities of the world, but which seems entirely natural in Calcutta, high-minded as it is.
One of the drivers of the new attention to matters social and spiritual was the growth of printing. Bengalis have long been addicted to the adda, a group gossip and discussion session that can last for hours, and the printing press and periodicals allowed more Bengalis to participate in virtual addas. Around the bookshops that sprang around Dwarkanath Tagore’sÂ Hindu College a culture began to grow that, not content with having addas, began to talk to greater numbers of people, through pamphlets and periodicals. All of the great names of the Bengal Renaissance used periodicals for both polemical and creative writing. Between 1818 and 1867 there were some 220 different periodicals published in Calcutta, mainly in Bengali, freely discussing politics, culture and spirituality.
Markets. Conversations. Interest in education and social matters. Using technology to scale up into virtual conversations. In and around bookshops. Based on journalism and pamplets. You can see why I got interested in blogs.
Blogs are addas. On a digital scale. Without the caffeine and nicotine.