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          Potteries, Bengal Enamel Works, Bengal Steam Navigation, Bengal Paper, Ben- gal Canning and Condiment, National Tanneries, Chuckervertty, Chatterjee & Company Ltd (Publishing House) and Bharati Scales and Engineering Com- pany. Even as the owner of various indus- tries, he never took any salary.
A visionary, Ray understood the im- portance of amalgamation of ancient and modern science. His book, A History of Hindu Chemistry is a critically acclaimed treatise and strongly attracted the atten- tion of western scientists towards Indian alchemy, and led to the globalisation of fundamentals of Rasashastra.
During the peak of the Non-cooperation Movement of Mahatma Gandhi, Ray delivered the famous inspiring quote, “Science can afford to wait but Swaraj cannot...”
Although he was not in active poli- tics, Ray could not keep himself aloof from the struggle for independence sweeping through the nation at that time. He criticised the British for their failure to understand the nationalist feelings of Indians and cautioned the British on the build-up of inevitable an- ger against their administration. The political and economic mayhem cre- ated by them would cost them dearly, he prophesised.
A practising Gandhian, Ray actively participated in making arrangements for Gandhi’s first public appearance in Cal- cutta during his visit to the city in 1901. In the book My Experiments with Truth (Part 3, Chapter 17), Gandhiji wrote, ‘Of these the one who stands foremost in my memory is Dr. (now Sir) P. C. Ray. He lived practically next door and was a very frequent visitor. This is how he [Gokhale] introduced Dr. Ray: ‘This is Prof. Ray, who having a monthly salary of Rs. 800, keeps just Rs. 40 for himself and devotes the balance to public purposes. He is not, and does not want to get, married.’
When British introduced the norm of separate election of Hindus and Muslims (Indian Councils Act, 1909 or Morley- Minto Reforms) to the legislative coun- cils, Congress remained indifferent but
Sir Thomas Edward Thorpe wrote a two-page front article in Nature magazine on Acharya PC Ray, titled, “The life-work of a Hindu Chemist”
Ray opposed nationalism on the basis of religion. He criticised the opportunist policy of the then Congress leadership, which he believed could lead to commu- nal divide.
He severely criticised Gandhiji for his blunder of the Khilafat Movement of 1919 and was also vociferous in his sup- port for Subhash Chandra Bose, when the Congress was divided on the election
of Netaji to the president’s post the sec- ond time in 1938. During the World War II, when Nazi Germany attacked Russia in 1941, Ray along with prominent In- dians, issued a manifesto urging Indians to express full ‘sympathy and solidarity with the USSR...’
The government records of that time mention Ray as a ‘Revolutionary in the garb of a Scientist,’ as they believed he was sympathetic towards the revolution- aries and would make arrangements for their shelter and food at his factories. After his death, many revolutionaries and his colleagues mentioned about his indirect support in manufacturing explosives.
The great astrophysicist Meghnad Saha narrated a memorable incident about Ray, which goes like this: ‘Sir P C Ray was invited to Lahore University to deliver a course of lectures on Hindu Chemistry, after the publishing of his path breaking book, A History of Hindu Chemistry. While he was addressing, amongst the audience, a young English professor was apparently not very much impressed and could hardly suppress his sneers. Ray noticed it and was ap- parently annoyed. After the apparatus had been described, he took in his hand a lump of Makaradhwaja, (resublimed mercuric sulphide) which was used as a medicine. Sir P C Ray took the lump in his hand and said: “Look here, my friends! With such crude apparatus, the Indians, two thousand years ago used to prepare such a fine chemical and used it to alleviate human sufferings and this at a time when the ancestors of our friend over there were eating raw berries and wearing raw hides”.
The Englishman was left red-faced and rushed out of the hall. Later on, he became a great follower of P C Ray.
The views of Acharya Prafulla Chan- dra Ray continue to be relevant even to- day. He wanted Indian students to learn new skills and techniques, and try to be- come independent entrepreneurs and not just obtain degrees for a comfortable job. No words could have been truer.
*The writer is Associate Professor of Chemistry, ARSD College, University of Delhi
  AUGUST, 2021
        Image Courtesy: Rajeev Singh

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