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Anni-verse-ary of nonsense

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Sukumar Ray is a special favourite with children who suffer from autism and other learning difficulties. “They find it easier to recite Ray’s nonsense rhymes (than other poems). When put to music, kids can sing and dance to these rhymes,” says Shanoli of recitation band Mahul, which will celebrate Ray’s 125th birth anniversary at Rabindra Sadan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Special and mainstream children’s recitation groups like Alokdhara, Prayash, Behala Bedhayan, Divine Smile, Ashroy, Kabyayan,Sahaj-hiya, Andul Kathashilpi, Ashokerenu and Antorik will present Ray’s poems and songs at a programme. Singers and recitation artistes, including Swagatalaxmi Dasgupta, who will present the entire Abol Tabol, Partho Ghosh, Utpal Kundu and Ridhhi Bandyopadhyay, will join in. Pranab Mukhopadhyay, the joint editor of Sandesh, and researcher Debashish Mukhopadhyay will take part in a seminar on Ray’s nonsense writing from 5pm on Wednesday.

The programme will be inaugurated at 4pm on Tuesday with Soumitra Chatterjee cutting a giant cake. The actor will also open an exhibition of Ray’s drawings and memorabilia from a private collection. On view will be the writer’s first illustration for Sandesh, the first Abol Tabol cover, Ray’s certificates and awards from the London printing school and stills from the family album. The exhibition will be on from 3pm to 8pm the next day.

Tagore tales

Tagore, or at least a handful of his poems, is reaching a pan-Indian readership, and taking one of Bengal’s most popular folk painting forms with him.

At a recent handicraft fair in Salt Lake, many visitors stopped by a counter selling scroll paintings (patachitra). What caught their eye was not so much the painted scrolls hanging on the wall but a few printed books that were on display.

The books, with illustrations in the same style as the scroll paintings, were of Tagore poems along with the corresponding translations in English side by side. “I painted the picture,” said Muslem Chitrakar, pointing to the cover of Birpurush. The painting of a bonny boy fighting a swarthy, brawny bunch reappears on an inside page. On the facing page are the lines “Eto loker songe lorai kore/ Bhabchho khoka gyaloi bujhi morey”, next to which runs the translation “Alone and fighting a mighty band/ Your little son, you think, is gone.”

The 28-year-old from Habichak village in East Midnapore belongs to a team of scroll painters who worked on a project of Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat). The third book in the series is Brishti Pore Tapur Tupur. “The books are Malinidi’s idea. She gave us the poems to draw,” Muslem said.

“Malinidi” is retired JU professor and former chairperson of the state women’s commission Malini Bhattacharya. “A lot of people have done a lot of things to celebrate Tagore’s 150th anniversary. But what is Tagore to those beyond the elite? That thought took me to the doors of these patuas. Sahamat got a grant from the ministry of culture using which we invited 11 patuas to a workshop where we discussed the poems and they drew. This is their interpretation of Tagore,” said Bhattacharya.

The few copies at the stall were soon sold out but Bhattacharya says National Book Agency in College Street is stocking the titles.

(Sebanti Sarkar and Sudeshna Banerjee)