[Translator’s note: Gangaprasad Mukhopadhyay was the father of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the second Indian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta and prolific Bengali educator. Here’s an anecdote on Sir Ashutosh’s father translated from Ashutosher Chhatrajiban (Ed. Umaprasad Mukhopadhyay).]
In 1866 Gangaprasad passed his M.B. examination with distinction. It would not have been too difficult for him to get a government job, but he preferred to have an independent profession.
An incident that happened at this time bears the mark of Gangaprasad’s patriotism and self-respect. As a meritorious young man, Gangaprasad was the favourite student of the British principal and other professors at the Medical College, Calcutta. Professor Patridge, being fascinated with Gangaprasad’s perseverance, wisdom and expertise in medical science, proposed to send him to England but his plans did not see the light of day. The principal of the college, Mr. Charles, knew about the straitened circumstances Gangaprasad’s family was in and advised him to get a government job. He wrote a letter of recommendation addressed to the Military Secretary of the Viceroy; and with that letter in hand, Gangaprasad went to meet the secretary.
Although Gangaprasad was not willing to accept a job, he went to visit the official, thereby obeying the advice of one of his benevolent teachers. During this visit Gangaprasad was clad in neatly-washed, immaculate dhoti and shirt. While Gangaprasad’s credentials highly impressed the British civil servant, the Military Secretary to the Viceroy was annoyed to find the young doctor in his ‘native’ attire. He asked, “Would you wear the same kind of clothes when you’re a government doctor?” Pat came the reply. “Certainly I would. This is our national dress.” The interview came to an abrupt end there.
When Gangaprasad returned to his college, his principal asked him about the result of his interview. Gangaprasad said, “Sir, that official is not looking for a doctor. He needs a pair of English coat and trousers!”