Kamalkumar at the new mall

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 22.03.09

Call it an irony of fate. Kamalkumar Majumdar was a stern critic of Western notions of modernity. But a collection of essays by the late author was officially launched on Monday — where else? — at the bookstore Starmark in Calcutta’s “most modern” shopping hub, South City Mall.

A part of the store was done up with decorative emblems of Bengali life. The young compere, going with the theme, wore a dhoti.

Compilations of Kamalkumar Majumdar’s stories and novels have been brought out by Ananda Publishers so far, but a substantial number of his essays had not been published as a book. Perhaps that’s why his essays needed to be compiled into a volume. Charchapada Prakashani has filled this gap.

Explaining why the volume is being called a collection, and not Kamalkumar’s complete essays, writer and editor Raghab Bandyopadhyay, the man behind Charchapada, said: “All his life Kamalkumar wrote in little magazines. Many of these are not published any more and are difficult to find. So we cannot rule out the possibility of a full-length essay that we have not been able to locate.”

This was the first launch of a Bengali book at Starmark. Kamalkumar dealt with “pure Bengali” and “pure Bengalis” — maybe the bookstore chain can deal with a dash of Bangla in their brand.

The star of the launch was writer and economist Ashok Mitra. Poet Shankha Ghosh and other intellectuals were present.

Mitra spoke in a collage, talking about Kamalkumar’s humour, his felicity of phrasing and the wide sweep of his subjects. But he also critiqued Kamalkumar, not mincing his words on his language, adding that Antarjali Jatra should be translated into contemporary Bengali.

Former teacher of English literature Mihir Bhattacharya reminisced about his meetings with Kamalkumar.

Raghab Bandyopadhyay promised that Charchapada would keep publishing similar books. Reminding that Bengali books often suffer from bad editing, he claimed that editing is a priority with Charchapada.

The event ended on a different note — with Dohar singing the songs of Ramprasad, which Kamalkumar loved. The music group rocked the floor, but not in the way the usual Bangla bands do.

Agony and ecstasy aunt

An agony aunt has penned a self-help book. So what’s new? Nothing except that the book is written in Bengali. Jibon … tomar copyright by Suchita Ray Choudhury is the Bengali equivalent of Who moved my cheese?.

Divided into short, pithy chapters, the book attempts to provide a panacea to all crises situations in life. So if you’ve lost a parent or failed an exam, if you’ve broken up with your partner or received sleazy text messages, look up Jibon … it will help you cope with just about anything: divorce, the economic crisis or low self esteem. It’s a rather novel attempt in Bengali.

But doubts remain about the net worth of such literature. The author Suchita dons a number of hats. Among other things she’s an actress and a “serious” actress at that — having done bit roles in Ray’s, Mrinal Sen’s and Rituparna Ghosh’s films. She is the daughter of writer Jyotirmoy Ray and actress Binata Ray. An agony aunt for a TV and a radio channel, she also lectures on personality development in companies apart from writing in the print media.