It’s a different story after Independence. Derozio has not only been rediscovered, he has been deified as one of India’s early rationalists and appropriated by the Communists. Derozio’s rehabilitation flows from his inspirational role in the Young Bengal Movement: a self-indulgent outpouring of iconoclasm and irreverence among well-heeled young Bengalis, many of whom were his students at Hindu College. In his lifetime, Derozio made himself a social nuisance and was sacked from his job for allegedly promoting atheism. The charge against him was led by Bengali notables, agitated by their sons’ penchant for "beef and Burgundy".
Yet, there was more to Derozio than being a subversive bon vivant—a sort of Oscar Wilde-on-Hooghly. He was an accomplished poet, perhaps the first modern Indo-Anglian poet, and a champion of the rights of East Indians. Rosinka Chaudhuri’s diligent collation of Derozio’s prose, verse and journalism is an exploration of the versatility of a free-thinking oddball who rescued 19th-century Calcutta from its drudgery.