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The event was the Eisteddfod, a festival of Welsh literature and culture, at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth in February A year-old Indian student caused a Mature sxx wales when she was awarded the top prize, the bardic chair.

All the entries in the contest — on the prescribed topic of Owain Lawgoch, a 14th-century Welsh patriot — were submitted under pseudonyms. There were, at this time, several hundred Indians from wealthy families studying at British Universities — almost all were men, and the greater were enrolled at London, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge.

Throughout her life, she was something of a rebel. Dorothy Noel Bonarjee was born in Bareilly in Her grandfather, Shib Chunder Bonarjee, had been converted to Christianity in Calcutta — though most of his children and grandchildren regarded themselves as Hindus.

She was also related to Womesh Chunder Bonnarjee, who had presided over the Mature sxx wales session of the Indian National Congress in Bombay in While her family were Bengali Brahmins by background, their landholdings were in North India. Dorothy known within the family as Dorf spent her early years in what was then the princely state of Rampur, close to the border with Nepal.

She and her two brothers came to England for their schooling, living in Dulwich — at times with their parents but for several years apart from them. Her younger brother, Noel, served in the ICS and was chief secretary of the United Provinces just prior to independence and then became chief commissioner of Bhopal; in his memoir Under Two Masters he reflected on serving both India and the imperial power. This was something of a shock for her older brother, Bertie, who — charged with keeping a watchful eye on his sister — was obliged to forsake his own Oxbridge ambitions and enrol at the University College of Wales.

Brother and sister arrived in Aberystwyth in the autumn of Dorothy studied French. They both graduated in with nothing more distinguished than pass degrees. She threw herself into the Literary and Debating Society and became one of a small group responsible for the college journal The Dragon.

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This was where a dozen or more of her poems were published. She contributed another ten or so poems to the newly-established Welsh Outlookwhich has been seen as both a harbinger and reflection of increased national self-confidence. The ode that triumphed at the college Eisteddfod was just the start of what became an extensive corpus of published poetry. Dorothy Bonarjee enjoyed the rare privilege for such a young poet of a critical article about her work — written by a fellow Indian.

She writes as a looker-on, and though her attitude is detached, she shows an insight that is rarely attained by those who are, perhaps, too near to the reality to see it clearly. Dorothy Bonarjee with her son Denis, Some verses have classical allusions, others reflect a sense of place — both in London and in Wales.

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Among her verses judged to be particularly successful is a short poem, Immortality :. If life on this life follows may I be In countless pulsing atoms widely blown About the old wise cities of this world Warm passionate dust like rich potpourri thrown In ancient august bowls of mystery. So might I in that pregnant fragrance hurled Live most intensely on.

For lying so Upon the border of remembered years This proud immortal dust will ever know Old happy human laughter, human tears. In the silent woodland Where the slow leaves fall and the light Is grey and weary with the shadow of the night In the sleeping woodland Where vague dreams moan In a hopeless undertone, Where Dawn is cold and white With the sorrow it has known; In the haunted gloomfilled woodland Lies a small grave all alone, — In the shadowy dim woodland Lies my childhood — all alone.

She seems to have written very little verse after leaving Wales. She took a law degree at University College, London — becoming in the first woman internal student to do so, a landmark achievement honoured by UCL last year. When her family suggested that it was time for her to return to India, she refused, instead eloping with a French artist, Paul Surtel, who went on to achieve a considerable reputation. Dorf with her daughter Claire Aruna Surtel. From then on, her home was in southern France.

She had two children — a son, Denis, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Claire Aruna. She painted a little — but with nothing like the accomplishment of her husband. By the mids, the marriage was over. During the Second World War, while charming occupying German soldiers by describing herself as a fellow Aryan, she was reputed to have sheltered two Jewish children. Dorothy died inMature sxx wales long short of her 90th birthday. She kept in touch with some of her friends from Aberystwyth through her life — and even in old Mature sxx wales made a personal pilgrimage, accompanied by Sheela, back to the college.

This is a revised version of an article first published in Planet: the Welsh Internationalista quarterly journal published in Aberystwyth. About Us. External Affairs. Become A Supporter. Hindi Marathi Urdu. Terms Privacy About Us. Dorothy Bonarjee in a group photograph taken at Aberystwyth. Andrew Whitehead. Dorf Bonarjee by Paul Surtel.

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