A rare man of books, words

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 10.05.13

With the death of Indranath Majumdar (80) on Thursday afternoon after a prolonged illness, Calcutta has lost a bonhomous bibliographer, bibliophile and publisher, the likes of whom College Street is unlikely to make anymore. His office on Mahatma Gandhi Road and his landmark bookshop in Santiniketan, which opened in 1984, were reputed for their addas that once drew the best minds in literary and artistic circles.

Scholars and writers would seek him out when they were desperately looking for a rare book or were in need of help even of the monetary kind, and he would be the happiest to come to their aid.

Always dressed in a crumpled dhoti, he never turned away strangers seeking an introduction with his eminent friends and acquaintances.

Majumdar was born in Khulna, now in Bangladesh, in 1933, and he moved to Calcutta in the early 1950s.

In the early 1960s he became superintendent of the students’ hostel, Bidhan Chhatrabas in Paikpara, when he forged a bond of friendship with the likes of former Naxalite leader Asim Chatterjee.

He had developed an interest in books, and was deeply involved in the publication of the famous journal Ekshan which was the brainchild of Nirmalya Acharya, litterateur Kamalkumar Mazumdar and actor Soumitra Chatterjee.

After Majumdar opened the office of his publishing house Subarnarekha in 1962, Ekshan began to be published from there. Subarnarekha had initially published most of Kamalkumar’s books, including Antarjali Jatra, Suhasinir Pometom and a limited edition of a book of rhymes titled Pankoudi, which had original prints of woodcuts made by the author.

Economist Amlan Datta had helped Majumdar open shop in Santiniketan before his retirement as vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati. The bookshop became the haunt of Somenath Hore, Professor Ashok Rudra and Shantideb Ghosh.

Majumdar was known for his closeness to authors and poets like Sunil Gangopadhyay and Shakti Chattopadhyay from their youth, and he was invaluable to research scholars of Indology, as he himself was a storehouse of information on old books. He always took the road less travelled, and was the only one willing to publish books on out-of-way subjects as recondite as the Mohenjodaro script as he understood the value of such scholarship.

As a publisher he had brought out valuable books like Bangalir Rashtra Chinta, Binodini Dasi, edited by Nirmalya Acharya and Soumitra Chatterjee, and Radharaman Mitra’s two-volume Kalikata Darpan, which had won the Sahitya Akademi award, and the first edition of Arun Nag’s Satik Hutom Penchar Naksha.