Holdey shobuj orang otang
Eit patkel chit potang
Mushkil asan urey mali
Remember Sukumar Roy’s “Drighangchu”? No, it’s not Driganchu, it is Drighangchu. The rhyme that could only be said after two days of fasting and on the first sighting of a raven to behold something mysterious, something spectacular. Oh and you had to be alone when doing this, otherwise something ominous would happen and all bad would befall upon you. So, if you just read out loud the lines posted above, beware.
I still remember growing up with such fabulous stories – some imbued with moral integrity and some stupendously witty and funny that made you ponder on the many mysteries of life. These are the stories that have shaped many of our imaginations ever since our childhood. The domain of children’s short stories of Bengal are very large – by Bengal, I mean Bangladesh and West Bengal combined. Many compilations of these short stories can be found in Bengali, but finding them translated in English can be quite a feat, be it in present day India or Bangladesh.
Haroonuzzaman’s “A Treasure-trove of Children’s Stories” provides just that. Not only that but the stories translated have been carefully selected, thereby providing a good diversity from the vast available Bengali literature of children’s stories, making this a very apt introductory book for children who are more proficient in English in the recent lingo-dualistic society.
The author points out that while selecting stories, “what has been considered most are the diversity of subjects and the depth of thoughts.” Lila Majumdar, a reputed children short story writer, in her introduction to Dui Banglar Chotoder Sreshtho Golpo mentions, “It’s not very important to consider the place the writer belongs to; it is the direction of the writer’s thought that is to be noted.” Haroonuzzaman to this adds that “some rules and customs of a particular country might sound peculiar to the people of another country, but beyond the man-made rules and regulations what is important is humanity which has a universal appeal.”
The book comprises a total of 18 short stories; nine each from Bangladesh and West Bengal. The stories range from Upendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury’s “The Seven-Killer Hero,” Manik Bondhyopadhya’s “Non-Cooperation,” to Shawkat Osman’s “Prize” & Sardar Jayeuddin’s “The Sickness of an Imaginary Prince” – the collection certainly covers the diversity well.
The modern Bangla Children Literature movement actually began in connection with the 19th century renaissance of Bengal keeping in mind that if children are given good books to read, their taste for good things will automatically grow. Ishwarchandra Biddyasagar, Upendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, Joginath Sarkar and Rabindranath Thakur were amongst the pioneers of this new movement and ever since, this genre has evolved under different historical influences. These include the Bengali language movement of the 1950s, the Bengali nationalistic movement of the 1960s, the patriotism of 1971 liberation war; all imbuing a sense of importance of history even within the children’s stories.
Although Haroonuzzaman’s “A Treasure-trove of Children’s Stories” contains some errors here and there, the book does carry really well and is a gem for any collector. Published in 2009 by Adorn Publications, the book is a must read for both young and older generation interested in this genre created for the magical minds of the children.