Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wren of W&M

I was going through a book by Pandita Vidhushekhara Shastri called "A Sanskrit reader, specially written for young boys" (which in today's age would have meant that Pt. Shastri would have been fried in the coals for sexism). So Pt. Shastri was keen to make this book a textbook and he writes this letter:

In terms of bureaucracy, it seems that things were much better since Pt. Shastri actually got a reply - a positive one at that!

I have no idea what the"I have etc., " before the signature means. I searched for the usage on the Internet but drew a blank. What intrigued me was the signature by a "P.Wren". And then wait, is it the Wren of the infamous "Wren and Martin"?
This is the dreaded book first written in 1935 which haunted me through high school. Copies were hard to get - but then everything was hard to get in socialist India at that time. Of course, our great educationists revised this edition and included the usual Gandhi family stuff (see here and see page 501 of the pdf):
Could this be the same Wren who also authorized the above Sanskrit book? Turns out, yes! Percival Christopher Wren was posted in India in the education service and resigned in 1917, focusing on his writing career that saw him produce 33 novels and short-story collections. Apparently, "High School English Grammar and Composition" (what W&M was called officially) was written mainly for children of British civil servants posted in India. I was in high school forty years after Indian independence (in 1947). Apparently, in all those decades we were busy promoting socialism, isolation from the rest of the world and garibi hatao, and could not find a single person to write a book teaching Indian kids modern English

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