Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Greatest Bengali Stories – Translated by Arunava Sinha

 I had been planning to purchase this book.  But one day I located the Book in my office library.  I had imagined it to be a big volume running into 400 to five hundred pages.  But it turned out to be a book of nearly 300 pages with only 21 stories.  

I was a very good collection of Bengali stories.  The translator, I understand, has published many translations from Bengali to English.  It appears that he has done only translations..  A rare species. 

            Stories of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Sarat Chandra, Sunil Gangopadhay are all included.  But there were others whose stories I have not read earlier.  BIbhutibhushan was one of them.  I knew him to be the author of the story of Ray’s film, Pather Panchali. 
            As usual ‘Kabuliwala was included.  A touching story about fatherly affection a peanut seller from Kabul has for a little girl in a rich household.  The kabuliwala, could remember his family only through this little girl.  He has a little girl in his country which he could not visit often.  At the end of the story, he greets the little girl, who has now grown up, on her marriage day, dreaming about his own daughter and his duty.  

Bhibhutibhushan’s story was humourous.  I did not expect this. I had the impression that he was a serious writer on the basis of ‘Pather Panchali’.  His story ‘Einstien and Indubala’ was wonderfully comic.  One day Einstien is invited by a Bengali professor of mathematics for a public lecture. Einstien’s lecture is scheduled to be held on the same day on which another function is to be held in the venue just opposite to the auditorium where Einstien is supposed to speak.  In the final scene, no one, including the wife of the professor, turns out for the function to felicitate Einstein and everyone goes for the function held in honour of Film Actress Indubala.   And Einstien waits for his audience at the venue.  He notices that the auditorium opposite to his lecture hall is crowded and he goes there to find out whether the crowd had come to hear him.   To his and professor’s surprise, next day’s newspapers announce that Einstein attended the function arranged for Actress Indubala. 

This story reminded me of Tamil Nadu where this could have happened any day.  More and more people talk about films stars in Tamil Nadu than about anything on earth. This story should be a fitting tribute to Tamil Nadu and its culture.  It should be translated into Tamil.

             The Story ‘How are you” seemed to portray a upper middle class man who manages everything very ably, i.e. he is succeeding everything he does.  However, the question that arises at the end is whether ‘he lives’ or whether he believes anything.  In the eyes of the world, he is very successful.  The author drives home the point whether there is any meaning in his life.  

            Sarat Chandra’s ‘Mahesh’ is about a cow called by that name.  The farmer who keeps it cannot feed it because of poverty.  Nobody comes forward either to help him feed the cow or to help his life.  But when it dies in hunger and he sells it, the pundit of the village curses him for committing the sin of not looking after the cow. Such is the care we give for the ‘Sacred Cow’.
Ritwik Ghatak’s story ‘Raja’ explored the existential crisis of a creative person.  After reading I felt that this may be his own story.

One of the excellent collection of stories.

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