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Words of wisdom from Alapan Bandyopadhyay and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

A matter of life and death marked the launch of two books at Nandan-III

Sangbida Lahiri | Published 01.03.22, 02:24 PM
(L-R) Anil Acharya, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Samik Bandyopadhyay at the event in Nandan-III

(L-R) Anil Acharya, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Samik Bandyopadhyay at the event in Nandan-III

Amit Datta

Remember the most striking scene of The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman? The protagonist Antonio Block plays chess with Death. The tricky match actually defers the death of Block, a pious knight-general, who is returning from the Crusade. He meets many people on his way and performs his duties. But when Block reaches his home, he meets his wife, arranges breakfast for all his guests, then Death arrives.

On February 24, death and life were the focal points of discussion as Nandan-III witnessed the launch of two books in Bengali – Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s Achhe Dukkho Achhe Mrityu: Tabu Ananta Jage and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s essay collection, Apar: Lekha O Kathar Sankalan. Both the books were published by Anustup.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘Apar: Lekha O Kathar Sankalan’ and Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Achhe Dukkho Achhe Mrityu: Tabu Ananta Jage’

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘Apar: Lekha O Kathar Sankalan’ and Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Achhe Dukkho Achhe Mrityu: Tabu Ananta Jage’

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Bandyopadhyay is currently chief advisor to the chief minister of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, apart from being a writer of repute. And Apar… is the first book in Bengali by Spivak, University Professor at Columbia University, a prolific writer and translator.

The programme was inaugurated by veteran novelist Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, who released Achhe Dukkho Achhe Mrityu…. Samik Bandyopadhyay released the book by Spivak. Both gave thoughtful lectures on time and memories. Apart from them, Arindam Chakrabarti, Shuvaprasanna and Partha Chattopadhyay had sent in pre-recorded virtual lectures as they were unable to attend.

Dealing with death

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, while unveiling the book, said that he had lost his wife last year and spoke about the philosophy of death. Death invites two kinds of mourning, one private and the other collective, he said. Alapan, he added, is still in mourning as his beloved younger brother, Anjan, died untimely. The death of Anjan was followed by their mother’s demise. And then Covid-19 also claimed Alapan’s nephew at a very early age.

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, while unveiling Bandyopadhyay’s book, spoke about the philosophy of death

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, while unveiling Bandyopadhyay’s book, spoke about the philosophy of death

Amit Datta

Referring to The Outsider by Albert Camus in this connection, the veteran writer said, “The fear of death was so pervasive, that everyone tried to forget it. To defer it. I also try… with my pen… because I know nothing except writing.”

Alapan Bandyopadhyay said that the programme was nothing but a gift to his brother Anjan, a successful journalist who succumbed to Covid. “We, the mufassil brothers, usually had a secret pact among us. When we were leaving a mufassil town one by one for higher studies in Calcutta, the remaining brothers in the locality were tasked with saying some good things about the ones departing. Today I am just doing my duty. Anjan left and I am saying a few good things about him. He broke our pact.”

Alapan Bandyopadhyay speaks at the launch

Alapan Bandyopadhyay speaks at the launch

Amit Datta

Memories and moments

In the second half of the programme, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak appeared virtually in a rather unusual avatar. It was a celebration on the eve of her 80th birthday and she was in the mood for a good ol’ Bangali adda. From sharing photographs of her childhood and youth to her home at Ballygunge, and family and friends, to revealing her expertise in Shyama Sangeet, and discussing her experiences while travelling in Bangladesh.

Samik Bandyopadhyay released Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s essay collection, ‘Apar: Lekha O Kathar Sankalan’. Spivak was present virtually at the launch

Samik Bandyopadhyay released Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s essay collection, ‘Apar: Lekha O Kathar Sankalan’. Spivak was present virtually at the launch

Amit Datta

She recounted that in 1942 her father, a doctor, was able to cure the queen of Nepal and so the Maharana of Nepal gave him a bag full of gold coins in gratitude. This enabled him to build a house in Ballygunge, then a remote suburb of Calcutta where the howling of jackals was a regular affair at night. When all their neighbours and relatives were fleeing to Madhupur in the face of the Japanese attack, her mother and grandmother decided not to budge. In that year of turbulence, Gayatri was born in that Ballygunge home.

The editor of Anustup, Anil Acharya, shared nuggets from his friendship with “Gayatridi” and mentioned the Bengali translation of ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ as one of the major attractions of Apar.

Last updated on 01.03.22, 02:24 PM
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