I have been asked by Jyothi Menon to list my 10 favourite books which have shaped me as a human being. So here goes:
- Mahabharat – Upendrakishore Roychowdhury
Kheerer Putul – Abanindranath Tagore
Aranyak/Chander Pahar – Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Debi Chowdhurani – Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Kaalbela – Samaresh Majumder
Sesher Kobita/Ghare Baire – Rabindranath Tagore
Prothom Protisruti/Subarnalata/Bokul Kotha – Ashapurna Debi
Aparajito – Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Srikanto – Saratchandra Chattopadhyay
First Person – Rituparno Ghosh
And no… I will NOT stop here… I have many more books to mention…
- Feluda Series – Satyajit Ray
Sukumar Somogro – Sukumar Roy
Puraner Golpo – Leela Majumder
Fera – Taslima Nasreeen
The Hungry Tide – Amitav Ghosh
It is futile to even try to list names of your favourite books. You mention one and you are reminded of another. However I tried to limit myself to 15 books. I have not mentioned several other writers like Narayan Sanyal, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Tilottama Majumder and so many other stalwarts of Bengali literature. I have not even dared to mention books in languages other than Bangla…
My earliest memory of a book is actually listening to one. After school every day, when I came back home, book-reading for one hour before the afternoon siesta was a norm. Gradually, I was made to read books myself and now a major portion of my day is devoted to the company of books and writing.
One of the first books that any child born into a Bengali household reads is undoubtedly Thakumar Jhuli. These fantasy tales – the tuntunir golpo or the kaan kata raja and the ukuni buri or the byangoma byangomi – give wings to your imagination. The stories of the hidden treasures, princesses waiting to be rescued by princes, suorani and duorani never fail to amaze any kid. And I daresay, if you ever lay your hand on one of these books even in adulthood, you will be teleported to your childhood.
Childhood book memories definitely include Kheerer Putul. Rituparno Ghosh had once said that if Satyajit Ray inspired him to become a filmmaker, for the skill of writing, Abanindranath Tagore was his idol. One of the finest works of Abani Thakur, Kheerer Putul is a lot more than just a fantasy story of Suorani-Duorani and the wish for a son! It points the mirror at bigoted attitude of the society. And truly, Abani Thakur is a wizard of words.
And lastly, Sukumar Samagra (collection of Sukumar Roy’s works) is one book that will always remain close to the heart. One of the most underrated writers in the history of Bangla literature, his creations – from Pagla Dashu to Kumropotash or the Pishima who plays football and the Kakkeshwar kuchkuche – definitely prove that when it comes to giving life to wild imagination through words, Sukumar Roy is unparalleled.
Bengali literature is richly endowed with child fantasies. It is sad that the present generation hardly knows about the variety of work produced by literary giants of yesteryears. It is up to us to leave the legacy behind, and to see to it that the generations to come discover the greatness in our literature and derive the same pleasure they do from the works of JK Rowling and others.