On January 8th 2013, a prestigious honor was bestowed on the Anglo-Indian community. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, Professor Dr. Suranjan Das, inaugurated "The Derozio Anglo-Indian Research Collection" by dedicating a section of the University's Central Library to house Anglo-Indian literature, dissertations and ephemera. In attendance were a distinguished gathering, including the university librarian Dr. Soumitra Sarkar, Dr. Dolores Chew an Anglo-Indian professor from Montreal, Professor Robyn Andrews from New Zealand, Professor Mritiunjoy Mohanty of IIM Kolkata, Professor Selvyn Justy of UC and Professor Blair Williams of New York University.
The collection of materials on Anglo-Indians is aptly named after the brilliant nineteenth century Anglo-Indian Kolkatan Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, who was a poet, nationalist and the Vice Principal of Hindu college (now Presidency university) before his twentieth birthday. Kolkatans honor him as one their intellectual icons.
The idea for the special collection was germinated by Blair Williams of NJ, USA, who feared that, with the passing of the present 60+ years generation, irreplaceable books, documents and other Anglo-Indian memorabilia would be 'binned' (discarded) and lost to posterity. Dolores Chew, herself a doctoral graduate from the University, followed through, made the necessary contacts and moved the plan to execution. The project had the good fortune of having in Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das and Chief Librarian Soumitra Sarkar, men of foresight, who not only recognized the value of the project, but used their influence and resources to bring the project to fruition.
The nucleus of the collection is the entire personal of collection of books, articles and newsletters of Blair Williams, which has almost every publication on and by Anglo-Indians, including every doctoral thesis written on the community. Blair expressed his sense of loss at having parted with his beloved child, and was reassured by Suranjan Das that this child will be protected and cared for. This reassurance was reiterated by University Registrar Prof Basab Chaudhuri. A few books were also donated by Jean Andersen and Peter Moore of Australia. With this collection, future generations and research scholars will now have a source of permanent Anglo-Indian information.
Vinisha Nero an executive with a Bangalore international company commented that in the week of the International Anglo-Indian, this was her "Wow" moment and Catherina Moss a PhD student (researching Anglo-Indians) visited the collection the next day to browse the literature available and felt it was "awesome". Robyn Andrews had this to say "It was a great event to be a part of. I did feel they honored us ( the Anglo-Indian community)". Other comments and reactions from the audience were similarly positive.
This is only the start! We again appeal to Anglo-Indians everywhere to consider sending their old AI books to Derozio Anglo-Indian Research Collection, Central Library, University of Calcutta (attn. Dr. Tanmay Sircar), 87/1, College Street, Kolkata 700073, India. All donations will have the donor’s name recorded on the book. The website is at www.caluniv.ac.in where existing collection may be viewed.
As I have mentioned in an earlier article, this is our (Anglo-Indians) second chance to preserve the history of our community (the first being when we emigrated and had to leave our books behind). If we pass on without securing our heritage physically in terms of books and other ephemera (which in time will be digitalized), our grandchildren and researchers will not have a balanced view of who we were. We have established the Derozio collection with vision, dedication and the good fortune of having university doyens support and provide a dedicated space in a prestigious university. Let us not fail to take advantage of this singular honor
Blair Williams has spent his ten years of retirement, first establishing CTR, an NGO helping Anglo-Indians in India, and then publishing "The Anglo-Indian Heritage series" -seven books on the culture and way of life of the Anglo-Indian community. The establishment of the Derozio collection is the final realization of his effort to ensure that posterity has an authentic record of the Anglo-Indian community.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website http://www.blairrw.org/ctr