Calcutta, Dec. 28: When Trailokyanath Guha Ray started jotting down his daily expenses in 1957, little did he know that the dog-eared, almost sepia-tinted volume would end up on the research table of the state’s ruling party after 45 years.
But Trailokyanath’s diary, true chronicle of many movements — from the arson against the one-paisa hike in tram fares in 1959 to the entry of gastro-enteritis into the average Bengali household, from the entry of the now-ubiquitous telephone to that of the refrigerator — has found a place in the CPM’s literature and become a reference point for discussions on the state’s economic past, present and future.
“The changes within the Bengali household indicate how things changed outside,” state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said. “The diary is an important document as it provides a unique insight into past economic phenomena which have, ultimately, led to the present situation,” he added.
“I wanted to show how things became more and more difficult for the average Bengali household,” the researcher into Trailokyanath’s world, Ashok Mukhopadhyay, said.
Having penned a discourse for the Ganashakti, Mukhopadhyay is convinced the insight the “average, middle-class diary” gives into the past can show how things can be tackled better in the future.
The diary was an effort by an average middle-class head of family to put his expenditure in perspective, Trailokyanath’s wife, Bani, told The Telegraph.
November 1, 1957 (Trailokyanath had just shifted to a rented accommodation in Sinthee), is the first entry, much before the naya paisa came into his life. The first entry shows which goddess (Lakshmi or Kali) was more important in the Bengali household: a “photo” of Lakshmi cost the then Standard Chartered employee “six annas” but Kali’s came at “five annas two paise”. The total monthly expense for the first month came to “313 taka, 12 anna, 2 paisa”.
Incidentally, the monthly rental was Rs 50 and the electricity bill (over which a Bangla bandh has been called) stood at Re 1.
Similarly followed 1958, with only the puja month (September) recording a 300-plus expense. It was still possible for a middle-class household to tide over a month for less than Rs 200 (the family spent Rs 190 in February) and the monthly newspaper bill came to “10 anna 1 paisa”.
1959 — and the entry of the naya paisa — changed Trailokyanath’s life forever; a less-than-Rs-200 month became impossible.
A private tutor — over which a lot of words have been exchanged recently — and “amasha (gastro-enteritis)” and, consequently, enteroquinol (the first purchase cost 32 paise) entered the household in 1962. The India-China war and the new expenses made life a lot more difficult.
All months were Rs 300-plus affairs and the last three months cost more than Rs 500 each. Tram fares were hiked by a paisa, leading to several of them being burnt.
The hike was recorded in the diary; a daily spending of 10 paise for the two-way journey daily began costing Trailokyanath 12 paise.
The first Rs 1000-plus months came in 1968 and the first Rs 2000-plus month came in December 1972.
1977 was the last time Trailokyanath took up the diary. Two significant changes were reserved for that year: the application for a telephone cost Rs 10 and a refrigerator Rs 4721.