Indus Source Books to Publish The Microphone Men: How the Orators created a Modern India By Priyadarshi Dutta

On December 15, 1829 Raja Ram Mohun Roy, the architect of modern India and his friend Dwarkanath Tagore, the grandfather of poet Rabindranath Tagore, addressed an audience at Town Hall of Calcutta on the effect of indigo farming in Bengal by British planters/estate owners. Their pro-planter views were scandalous and betrayed a lack of foresight. Coercive indigo plantation became the bane of Bengal, which led to massive outcry in the 1850s. But the real message of Roy & Tagore was in the choice of their medium – Public Speaking. Theirs were the first documented speeches in the history of India. Public speaking was about to become the most popular tool of mass communication.

Picture Credit: Indus Source Books
Picture Credit: Indus Source Books

This book narrates the genesis and growth of public speaking/speechmaking/oratory in India in order to trace her emergence as modern nation. It is difficult to imagine of modern India without public speaking like ancient and medieval India without wars of annexation. Almost all our national leaders employed this method of outreach. But speechmaking did not develop in a vacuum. It developed within a framework of new ideas, laws, institutions, priorities and concerns. Thus speechmaking can be perceived as historical phenomenon more than mere method of communication.

But till date none made it a matter of study. The only available books connected to the subject are collections and anthologies of speeches. Their contents (i.e. texts of the speeches) no doubt have value for historians, biographers and students alike. But these books do not answer why and how speechmaking itself became important. It was intimately connected with growth of civilian politics. Public speaking brought speaker and audience face-to-face creating a unity of purpose. The leadership-follower principle emerged from the platform not the press. That is why public speaking is more intimately connected with mass politics.

Speechmaking had its critics even then- for instance the Chapekar brothers. Those who preached the gospel of armed revolution accused speechmaking of hollowness. But such views could not dampen the craze for oratory or undermine its utility. Oratory continued to grow in India. Its great centres were Calcutta, Bombay and Poona (now Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune).

The present work is first of its kind. It spans roughly a period of 130 years – from the foundation of India’s first Town Hall in Calcutta to Subhas Bose’s radio addresses from Germany & Japan during WW II and Muslim League’s high decibel campaign for Pakistan. Speechmaking reveals the transformation of Indian mind. In its background lay a web of legislative, literary, judicial, architectural, communicational, academic and literary advancements that sustained this mode of mass communication. While the book focuses of ‘episodes’ and ‘processes’ of speech making, the aim is to throw the political transformation of India in sharp relief.

Author’s Bio: PRIYADARSHI DUTTA describes himself as an independent researcher and columnist. He has a deep interest in the history of Indian Renaissance of nineteenth century and the freedom movement. He has written more than 400 articles on national and international themes in the national daily viz. The Pioneer since 2001. His articles have also appeared in the Governance Now magazine and Press Information Bureau website (under Features column). Specimen of his creative writings and poems can be accessed on Sulekha.com and boloji.com. He also developed the content for Unfolding Indian Elections: Journey of the Living Democracy (2017), a highly researched coffee table book published by the Election Commission of India. He has another creative side – writing poems and songs in Hindi on Facebook. He also writes short stories in Bengali, not necessarily with the intention of publishing them. He coined the two taglines for International Yoga Day campaign viz. Yoga: Live Life to its Full Potential and Yog: Sambhavnayon ko Sambhav Banayen.

PRIYADARSHI DUTTA is a graduate in English Honours from ARSD College, Delhi University. He has worked at various places including Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Embassy of Egypt and Government of Delhi. He lives in New Delhi along with his mother.

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