As the Kolkata Book Fair approaches the booklover in me rejoices at the thought of surrounded by a sea of books for hours on end. Leafing through books just out of the press, the pages still smelling of printing ink, their edges razor sharp is a heavenly feeling. The mere thought of curling up with a freshly minted copy of a book as the winter night silently ebbs away, gives one enough warmth to kill any amount of winter chill.
Last week while attending an informal gathering of booklovers, where Charles Dickens to John Grisham everything was discussed, to my great disappointment I found that many of the gentry has never read a single Bengali book all their lives. Some thought that Bengali literature lacks variety and very few of the literary output is world standard. For someone who as a kid loved the stories in Sandesh, Anandamela and the fat Deb Sahitya Kutir volumes as much as she loved her Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls, the observation seemed very unfair, to say the least. I said what I had to say, but it got me thinking. There are quite a number out there who in spite of knowing the language, do not know what they are missing.
The cup of nectar is overflowing, dear readers, don’t let it go waste. Feluda, Tenida, Ghanada and their gangs are waiting with their great adventures, dive straight into them. Why get to know Byomkesh or Kakababu through movies only! Read the original works, nothing like the original, as I always say. The creator of Byomkesh, Saradindu Bandopadhyay has written volumes of all kind of short stories and novels. His historical novels are no less of a treat. If you are looking for humour, go for the foursome of Narayan Gangopadhyay, Rajshekhar Basu (Parashuram), Sanjib Chattopadhyay, and of course Shibram Chakraborty. Their styles are very different from each other, each equally delightful in their own way.
This space is not enough to list all the great names whose work have enriched the literature of Bengal so much and have helped shape the sensibilities of the readers fortunate to have leafed through those enchanting pages. Greats like Bankim, Sarat, Rabindranath have made us the proud owners of a great literary heritage, not to mention Bibhutibhushan and Tarashankar Bandopadhyay. Sunil Gangopadhyay’s mastery over all literary genres, Ashapurna Debi’s facile pen, Samaresh Majumdar’s way of capturing the contemporary society. Bimal Kar, Bimal Mitra, Buddhadeb Guha, Samaresh Basu, down to Suchitra Bhattacharya, how varied and delectable is the spread. The list of authors and poets that are worth more than one read is endless. My mindscape is getting crowded with characters from my favourite books, calling out to all you out there. Open the doors let them in, young readers and not so youngs too, let them fascinate you and enrich your lives as they have done mine.