Things We Forgot To Remember - The Bengal famine of 1943
One day in front of the Municipal Office I saw a little girl trying to drink her mother’s milk. But the girl did not realise that the mother was dead.
I still remember as a young boy seeing those starving men and women and children in the streets. They lay there and they died. As easy and simple and weird as that. They died.
It’s a catastrophe that in Britain at least is not so much misremembered as completely forgotten. It claimed the lives of millions. The Bengal famine of 1943 occurred when provincial government was largely in the hands of Indians but Britain remained the colonial power. Both the Indians and the British have good reason to forget for it makes uncomfortable listening even today.
And I was quite appalled at the end of Satyajit Ray’s film as we see a backdrop of famine victims slowly moving across the landscape he says that the manmade famine in Bengal in 1943-44, killed five million people. I’d never heard of this. And I went to my history books in my big personal library. It was not there. I immediately went to a local, very large academic library and there the primary documents from Bengali sociologists and academics from American writers and indeed some British writers, it was there in the Achaean academic literature.