I had my eyes on this book for a while now. The hook was obvious, it was about stories from Bengal by illustrious authors of all time and thanks to Aleph Book Company I had the book.
This book will always be a little special for me, there is a stench of nostalgia that is hard to miss. I reread stories which I had read in 10th standard in Bengali and I was reading it again after so many years. That is why I love all of Arunava Sinha’s translations. Be it Dozakhnama or this, the essense of the language is captured beautifully.
My favourite was Neela’s story in Jhor Brishti Bidyut. This short story is an amazing portrayal of our societal mindset with its biases and prejudices. Neela is iconic in more ways than one. Be it her ability to turn a personal tragedy to a more bearable situation or not hesitating to putting herself out there in a way to contribute to the family’s upbringing.
Of course a book of greatest short stories will have Tagore’s Kabuliwallah. Can’t get over the visuals that came to my mind as I read. These images were that of the protagonist’s father who is trying to put together his daughter’s wedding and then gives up his personal wish to empower another father just so that he could be home to be with his daughter after a long hiatus and much travesty.
What overwhelmed me the most about the book was the fact that I got an opportunity to read those famous short stories which I had only heard about but never had the time to pick it up and read it in Bengali. Be it Bibhutibhushan’s Einstein And Indubala, or Post-mortem by Sunil Gangopadhyay. In Post mortem, we see how the much loved Kolkata tram is a witness to a real-life incident that resulted in tragedy —an elderly gentleman boarded a ‘ladies’ special’ tram by mistake, this was when he was mocked and made fun of and he in nervous trepidation jumped off the running tram and was killed.
Pick this book up to own a piece of rich heritage what Kolkata has to offer, the very best of it. Since it is in English and with superb translation by Arunava it is a treat to read for all those who have only heard of the vast Bengali literature but haven’t had the opportunity before. But importantly pick it up because these stories will engage you, so much that it is unputdownable!
Review is forAleph Book Company but views are personal.