Sankar: from the “great unknown” via “Chowringhee” to the literary colossus at 88 years old
The neglected little room, in an apartment on Bondel Road in South Kolkata, had books stacked all over the place, perhaps reflecting the restless mind of a writer. Several shelves of well-handled books spilled out onto a table littered with writing instruments and even covered a pair of comfy armchairs.
Welcome to the writer’s lair where the famous novelist Sankar (Mani Sankar Mukherjee), author of successful works such as “Kato Ajanare” (The Great Unknown), “Chowringhee”, “Seemabaddha” (Limited Company) and “Jana Aranya” (The Middleman), sits down and tells stories based on the myriad of characters he has met and the society they live in, in books. His works have attracted millions of readers and have been translated into several languages, including English, Hindi, Malayalam, Gujrati, French and Spanish.
Mukherji, who turned 88 earlier this month, reviews the freshly released advance copies of the English translation of his book “Swami Vivekananda: The Feasting, Fasting Monk”, where he dives into life. human and spiritual Hindu monks.
The book, which was written earlier in Bengali, describes not only Vivekananda’s missionary life, but also her love for tea, mutton and ‘chorchori’ (spicy vegetables), her cooking skills ‘khichdi’ (rice cooked with lentils) and ‘pulao’ (aromatic rice) as well as his love for music.
“When I first wrote about Vivekananda, some monks criticized me (for not having deified the saint); however, the late Swami Ranganathananda, head of the Ramakrishna mission, expressed my support and said that your merit lies in showing the human side of Swami, ”the author said in an interview with PTI.
While his revelations about Vivekananda’s culinary choices, and his quotes from The Swami where he talks about ancient Indian Brahmins eating beef, may not appeal to some, given the raging debate over the politics of food choices, the book himself seems to be heading for an acclaimed audience. like most of his books.
Legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray was one of his first fans and called him the day “Seemaddha”, a novel written by Mukerji, about corporate rat race, with a glimpse into elite culture ” Boxwallah “from Kolkata, was published in Anandabazar Patrika’s Puja magazine, and stated in his trademark baritone” Please do not sell the film rights to this novel to anyone before you let me know. I am interested”.
‘Seemaddha’, which is part of Ray’s much-loved Calcutta trilogy with ‘Pratidwandi’ (written by Sunil Gangopadhyay) and another Mukherji novel ‘Jana Aranya’, won the Venice Biennial Prize the year after its release . “Ray was a quick reader. He received Puja magazine with his newspapers in the morning and called me a few hours after reading it, ”said Sahitya Akademi award winner.
Another fan of his was CPI (M) leader and West Bengal’s longest-serving chief minister, Jyoti Basu, who once told him, “I keep reading you, but I read you a lot more when I read you. was in jail. Mukherji said he used to write essays and satirical interviews for Bengali newspapers Anandabazar Patrika and Jugantar, but his metamorphosis into an author was more of a tribute to his first boss. “I worked as a clerk in the 1950s with Noel Barwell, the last English lawyer practicing at the High Court in Calcutta. We had a very close relationship, Barwell would go out with me to the movies and to dinner… when he died I wanted to do something for the man who thought so good of me, ”the author recounted.
He had saved around Rs 400 and wanted to spend it on a Barwell statue or painting. Friends dissuaded him, explaining that the statues and oil paintings would cost a much larger fortune.
An attempt to get a street named after the famous lawyer also failed with a local politician he approached, criticizing him for asking independent India to name a street after an Englishman. “In the end, I decided that the best tribute would be a book about him – which led to ‘Kato Ajanare’, which was first published in Bengali magazine ‘Desh’,” Mukherji said. . He chose the pseudonym Sankar, which was also his middle name as he embarked on his journey as a writer.
The brilliant but erratic filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak is said to have tried to make a film based on the book, but the project remained unfinished for lack of funds.
However, her second novel “Chowringhee” was turned into a hit film by Uttam Kumar-Supriya Devi, and the book and film were acclaimed by audiences. “After I wrote my first novel, some people started whispering that I was the author of just one book. I used to pray that this tag wouldn’t stick on me, ”Mukherji said.
One day, in the middle of a sudden downpour, as he stood in the awning of a store, he kept staring at the neon neon signs of the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee Street, and he realized that he knew the workings and the intimate life of large hotels having interacted with virtually everyone at the Spencer Hotel in Kolkata, where Barlow used to stay.
The book ‘Chowringhee’, which predated Arthur Hailey’s ‘Hotel’ by three years, revolved around the larger-than-life manager Marco Polo, the debonair receptionist ‘Sata’ Bose and the hostess Kaberi at the fictional Shahjahan hotel. , and gave an insight into the life and business intrigues of Kolkata’s top industrial families who stayed or entertained there. It has achieved cult status and has been translated into many Indian and foreign languages. After the publication of “Chowringhee”, Sir Badridas Goenka, a famous industrialist of his time and the first Indian to be president of the Imperial Bank, called Mukherji to request a meeting. Refusing an offer to be driven in the magnate’s car to his house, the author, still not very well off, did so by bus and on foot. Sir Badridas was waiting to ask if Mukherji was sarcastic when he began the first paragraph of his book with the protagonist Sankar saluting the statue of his brother Hariram Goenka “at the feet of which were inscribed the words” Born June 3, 1862. Died 28 February 1935 ‘”. Many years later, when Dunlop, the British company he worked for, was acquired by Sir Badridas’ grandson, RP Goenka, Mukherji hesitated to stay, remembering the question of industrialist and found another job with Anandabazar Patrika.
However, Goenka told her, “Can you hang someone (or a job) without trial?” and ultimately persuaded Mukherji to stay behind. “He (Goenka) would introduce me as someone who ‘in his spare time helps me every now and then,’ the author recounted with a wink.
Mukherji, who was appointed Sheriff of Kolkata, an incumbent post two years ago, is still active as an author. Without naming his new book, he asked in a tantalizing tone, “Did you know that Ramakrishna monks who serve in the United States wear coats and pants as ordered by Swami Vivekananda? This Swami Chetanananda who is Minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis, is the oldest monk in the order?… ”PTI JRC RBT RBT
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)