Ramram Basu

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Ramram Basu (c 1757-1813) munshi and one of the first Bangla prose writers, was born at Chunchura in Hughli. He learnt Bangla and Persian for his livelihood. Later when he came in contact with several Englishmen for whom he worked as either Bangla or Persian munshi he also learnt spoken English.

On the recommendation of William Chambers, Ramram was appointed as Bangla munshi by John Thomas, a Baptist preacher, on 8 March 1787. Until he returned to England in February 1791, Thomas engaged Ramram as his munshi. When he came back to Bengal along with william carey and his family in November 1793, it was on his recommendation that the latter appointed Ramram as his Bangla munshi in November 1793. This was the beginning of a long love and hate relationship between Carey and him. Carey learnt Bangla from Ramram and translated the bible with his help. Ramram worked in this capacity until 1796, when he was dismissed allegedly because of his illicit relationship with a widow. However, when Carey established serampore mission and its press with the help of William Ward and Joshua Marshman (in January 1800), Ramram was called back to start writing and translating Christian literature.

In May 1801, fort william college established the Department of Bangla under the leadership of Carey, and Ramram was appointed as one of its munshis, a post which he held until his death.

Within a couple of months after his appointment, he wrote, for the use of the students of the College, the first original book in Bangla prose, called Raja Pratapaditya Charitra, one of the twelve independent zamnidars of Bengal, better known as b'a'ro bhuiy'a'ns. Printed at serampore mission press, the book came out in July 1801. The first work of its kind, the College Council rewarded Ramram for this textbook. In 1802, he published another textbook, Lipim'a'l'a, which was a collection of model letters on different topics. Apart from these two textbooks, he wrote a number of booklets, in both prose and verse, which can be termed as Christian literature.

While Basu';s other Bengali colleagues were sanskrit scholars and wrote in a Sanskritised style, his prose reflected his inclination to Persian. By publishing the first ever original book in Bangla prose, he has left an ever lasting name for himself in the history of Bangla literature Ramram Basu died on 7 August 1813. [Ghulam Murshid] [Murshid, Ghulam Cosultant, Bangla Dictionary, Bangla Academy, Dhaka]