The world of Bengali letters owe a debt of gratitude to the little magazines. If some of them hit the stands never to appear in print again, the rest have lit up the scene focussing on contemporary affairs as well as matters and men of long ago.
The little magazine Korok is of the latter variety. In its pre-festival number it has paid tributes to some of the men and women whose words and deeds had once lit up the socio-political scene of Bengal. They seem to be rag dolls now, sewn with memories we might have had.
The paperback starts with the accounts of the women like Sarajubala Guha in whose house Benoy Bose took shelter before the “Verandah Battle” in Writers’ Buildings. Sabitri Chakraborty who shared the same prison with her son Ramakrishna but was not allowed to see her till he had breathed his last.
Pritilata Wadedar and Kalpana Dutta who had etched their names in stone after the Chittagong uprising. The inclusion of Soudamini Tagore, the mother of Gaganendranath, the eminent artist makes a surprise appearance given her upper class background.
People speak of the cinematic contribution of Satyajit Ray are unaware thirty years before Pather Panchali was made Prafulla Roy had shot another film entirely in an outdoor location. Not much is heard of the film makers like Birendranath Sarkar, Debaki Bose, Atarthi or Nitin Bose. It is a pity Nitin Bose has managed to gain a foothold in history for directing Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jamuna. But he seems to be luckier than Amar Choudhury who directed the first Bengali talkie Jamaisasthi.
Forgetfulness seems to be unbiased as pioneers of the publishing world like Sudhir Chandra Sarkar, Gajendra Kumar Mitra to name a few do not evoke interest or respect. Two auditoriums named after Abanindranath and Gaganendranath may be the signs of the powers that be paying their respect to the brilliant brothers who weaved magic on canvas with paint brush. But any quarries about painters like Sunil Madhab Sen, Kamal Sarkar, Prafulla Chandra Karmakar, Chitta Prasad to name a few will draw a blank.
The strident criticism of the functioning of the Raj was one of the reasons of the shifting of the Capital from what was then called Calcutta to far away Delhi. Way back in in 1872, Harinath Majumdar better known as Kangal Harinath had thundered about the lack of explanation about the rise in military expenses in Grambartaprakashika. If Majumdar&’s name evokes a faint response, Pramada Charan Sen who brought out the first children&’s magazine in Bengali, Sakha, by almost starving himself is not so lucky.
The list of personalities whom Korok has recalled is vast and varied. Indeed, scientists, scholars like Jagadananda Roy, Gyanendra Nath Mukhopadhaya, Sisir Kum ar Mitra, Jogesh Chandra Roy Vidyanidhi, Susovan Sarkar, Jad unath Sarkar have little in common with critics like Sajani Kanta Das, patriots like Brahamabandhab Upadhaya and editors like Gokul Chandra Nag, Dinesh Ranjan Das and S Wajed Ali. The inclusion of Nripendra Narayan, the king of Coochbehar is a a welcome addition as it is an exception to the practice of tarring the pre-independence princes. Kudos to Korok for paying tribute to Dukhiram Majumdar, Chhone Majumdar, Bagha Shome, Balaidas Chatterjee, Langcha Mitra, Pradyut Banerjee who have shed their blood, toil, sweat and tears to bring up a generation of sportsmen who have done their country proud though their coaches received scant recognition. Theirs is certainly not another story that cannot be retold.