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FR. CAMILLE BULCKE, S.J. (1909 – 1982)

Posted on: 17 Jan, 2024 | Modified on: 28 Apr, 2024

Camille Bulcke was born at Ramskapelle in Belgium on September 04, 1909. Entered the Society of Jesus on September 23, 1930. Arrived in India in 1935 and was ordained a priest on November 21, 1941. Took his last vows on February 02, 1948. Died in Delhi on August 17, 1982.

Born in Ramskapelle, a small village of West Flanders (Belgium), the eldest of four children, he came to India at the end of 1935. There have been two important turning points in his life: his Jesuit vocation and what we might call his `Hindi' vocation, and both were not adventitious. After his examination in B.Sc., in civil engineering at the university of Louvain, he joined the Jesuit order in 1930 with the intention of working as a missionary in India. Within the first five years of his religious formation he spent in Belgium and Holland (for Philosophy), he learned Latin, Greek and German, the last to perfection.

On arrival in India, after a short stay in Darjeeling, he was posted to teach in Gumla, where he immediately set himself to the study of Hindi, the second turning-point in his life. His resolve to master Hindi was therefore in character, but it ran counter to the then prevailing ambiance. He quietly pursued his goal with his characteristic will-power and thoroughness.

He spent the year 1938 in the study of Hindi in Sitagarha under the guidance of Shri Bhadri Dutt, Sanskrit Gold Medalist of Benaras University, who also taught him the elements of Sanskrit. Then he began his theological studies in Kurseong in 1939, during which he compiled THE SAVIOUR. He was ordained in 1941. for his M.A. in theology he wrote a long dissertation on the THEISM OF NYAYA-VAISHESHIKA which was published in 1947. Two years after his ordination he went to Allahabad university for his M.A. in Hindi and Ph.D. with his thesis written in Hindi entitled RAM KATHA KA VIKAS.

He returned to Ranchi in 1950 and was appointed the head of the Hindi and Sanskrit Department of St. Xavier's College. He taught and wrote concurrently, but read also for some time a Hindi novel a week with a view to improve his feelings for the language. It is said by his Guru, Shri Bhadri Dutt that Fr. Bulcke was a walking dictionary.

Eight years later, he gave up regular teaching owing to his increasing deafness and devoted himself to writing. Two years before, in 1955 he had published a TECHNICAL ENGLISH-HINDI GLOSSARY OF GENERAL CULTURE which ran in two editions and whose success emboldened him to make a complete English-Hindi dictionary - ANGREZI-HINDI KOSH. In 1977, dissatisfied with the current Hindi translation of the Bible, he made his own and published NAYA VIDHAN, the complete New Testament, in a language that was simple yet chaste, a translation that is not felt to be a translation. At the request of the Bishops of North India, he then undertook the awesome task of translating the whole Bible, and had still 150 pages to do before he died.

Naturally enough his vast scholarship and love of Hindi brought him into contact with all the literary men and women of North India. He was asked to join numerous language and literary associations and committees of State or university level. He was founder-member of the Bihar Rashtrabhasha Parishad (1950), member of the kendriya Hindi Samity (1973-77), of the Hindi Pragati Samity, the Vishwa Hindi Sammelan. In 1973 he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan for services rendered to the cause of Hindi, a distinction that overjoyed him, as it was the most official recognition of his life-long ambition; Hindi had become his second tongue and the mother was India.

He suffered much of gangrene and was taken to Delhi for treatment where he died on August 17, 1982.