Love, loss, and a little gem

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Mar 15 2009, 06:39am hrs
Its a shame, really, that non-Bengali readers have little access to the writings of Buddhadeva Bose, one of the greatest poets, essayists and writers in the post-Tagore era. Its ironic because Bose himself was a great translator, having introduced Bengalis to Baudelaire and Rilke and Kalidas. His literary journal Pragati and poetry magazine Kabita launched many young writers and poets of the time including poet-genius Jibanananda Das. He also translated some of his writings into English including the delightful essay on Bengalis passion for all things gastronomic, Bhojon Shilpi Bangali.

But barring a collection of poetry, translated by Ketaki Kushari Dyson, Boses works remain untapped. So, its wonderful that a 1951 novella Moner Moto Meye has been translated by Arunava Sinha, who won last years Crossword Prize for translating Shankars Chowringhee.

And though it comes a year after Boses centenary, its never too late to read Bose. And while it may not be one of Boses most well-known like Tithidore or Rhododendron Guchho it perhaps has the perfect pitch to lure new readers to Boses vast treasure chest of novels, stories, poems, essays.

My Kind of Girl is set in the first class waiting room of a railway station in a cold December night, where four stranded travellers, a contractor, a bureaucrat, a doctor and a writer, recount a love story each till dawn breaks and the train arrives. What prompts four middle-aged men to go down this route is the appearance of a couple, just married, probably on their honeymoon. They stood there for just a few moments, said something softly before they turned and left but even that seemed to blow a breath of warm air through the wintry waiting room. They were clearly newlyweds. The four clutch on to the memory of the couple who had left something behind, as though the bird of youth had shed a few feathers as it flew by: Some sign, some warmth, some pleasure, sorrow or tremor that refused to dissipate, something with which these four individuals would be able to survive this terrible night.

In a delightful exchange, the four, prodded by the writer, talk about memory, love and loss. I was wondering how long such days last So, the four go about searching memory for their days, like the ones that the couple has now Days of first love, and their kind of girl.

The contractor tells the sad tale of Makhanlal, an ordinary average kind of fellow, the son of a rich businessman who falls in love with his neighbour, a professors daughter. The marriage is not to be because in Calcutta of the times, an educated girl cannot be married off to someone whose only credential is his riches. The bureaucrat too lost his kind of girl to the times.

But the best is reserved for the last. The writer narrates a story of love and loss involving him and his two friends who fell in love with a girl they called Mona Lisa. The sweet, sad love story lingers. The book cover, designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, is fetching, the pages gold-edged, but its Sinhas beautifully nuanced translation that makes it unputdownable.