Categories
Not funny

On meeting Narayan Debnath

After waiting for some time, I rang the bell again.

It was a modest house in the midst of a busy lane, and the locality was bustling with activity. Back in his days, he used to sit on the front porch of this house to look at the kids play. This was where he used to derive his inspirations from.

The door opened, and there in front of our eyes, stood the sculptor of every Bengali’s childhood. “Follow me,” Narayan Debnath smiled meekly.

He led us to his room. It was a small quaint room. Inside there was a large clothed table with a canvas, and a pile of books and magazines placed next to it. Almost like trophies. On the opposite side of the room, there was his actual trophy cabinet. There were mementos from all kinds of events and occasions. In fact, there was one trophy shaped like Batul-the-great. “Batul celebrated his 50th year last year, so it was gifted to me then,” his eyes gleamed.

One thing that stuck out from his trophy cabinet was the framed certificate of his D.Lit. degree. Cool fact: He is the first and only comics-artist from India to receive this degree! (And that’s a big deal, just ask your dad)

 

Uday Deb's tribute to Debnath's achievement
Uday Deb’s tribute to Debnath’s achievement

 

Anirbanda and I sat down at the sofa as Debnath himself sat on his seat: a thickly cushioned revolving chair, covered with a towel. At 92, he is a little hard of hearing, so both of us had to speak out a little.

We began to speak with him about the book fair in general. For the next two hours, he took us down his memory lane and spoke of all things personal and professional. He spoke slowly but enunciated every word he spoke. There was no way you’d believe that you were talking to a man 92 years of age!

He spoke candidly about how he took decisions in life. Stressing about the importance of staying connected to one’s roots, he spoke of how he never left “Shuktara” – the magazine which made him popular and his comics ubiquitous – for a larger media house which approached him only in his prime. He mentioned how some of his friends had advised him to join the bigger media house. They had told him that he wouldn’t be able to make it big unless he joined them. “But I did turn out to be alright, don’t you think?” Debnath smiled. I nearly saw him winking when he said that.

 

Narayan Debnath

 

Speaking about the generations that he has seen over his life time, he thinks that children of the earlier generations were very simple. It was this simplicity that most of his comics were based upon. A class prefect, eager to impress the teacher while putting others into trouble, became Keltu-da. A boy eager to exert his authority and look cool, became Haanda. “Kids today are really precocious,” Debnath sighed. “They are not that simple anymore; they only keep worrying about their careers!”

He spoke at length about his memories about the Boimela, which you can find on this link.

When it was almost time to go, I nervously ask him, “May I request something?”

“Yes?”

“Can you… Sketch a little something for us?”

“Hmm, alright. Do you want Batul? That’s what everyone wants.”

“I prefer Nonte-Phonte though.”

“Okay.”

And then he took a minute, and with shaky hands, sketched this:

IMG_8550

 

Before leaving, Anirbanda asked Debnath Babu, “Do you have a message for the younger generation? This will go into the blog.”

Very humbly, he replied, “See, I don’t want to be pretentious; I just don’t think I am worthy enough of advising young people what to do.”

 

***

I wouldn’t say that meeting Narayan Debnath was a dream come true, for I never really dreamt of meeting him. I will rather say that meeting him was like magic, for I still cannot believe that it happened.

I am privileged to be a part of Kolkata Bloggers who have collaborated with International Kolkata Book Fair. They made it possible for this interview to happen.

Categories
Kinda funny

9 Books, Bengalis grow up with

All of us Bengalis have grown up with a certain set of books.

This is an attempt to list them down.

Read any more books that should feature here? Comment below with FB-enabled comments!

 

  1. Feluda

    Bangali’r Sherlock

Be it in the voluminous Feluda Shomogro we all have, or the Gopa Mazumder translation, or the stories included as comics in Anandamela, Feluda is one character who has touched every Bengali soul, teaching it to think rationally.

 

  1. Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen

    “Dekho re… Noyon mele”

It is also the first Bengali movie that a kid should see (Take note, parents who are fans of Dev). Follow it up with Heerok Raja’r Deshe and Gupi Bagha Phirey Elo for an afternoon of undiluted pleasure.

 

  1. Chaander Pahar

    A little Shankar in all of us

It is the first Bengali adventure novel for a lot of us. The thrills we got when Shonkor stepped out of his tent at midnight looking for Alvarez can never be replicated in any movie.

 

  1. Handa-Bhonda / Nonte-Phonte / Baatul-the-Great

    Keltu-da’r kando karkhana

You just could not let go of the books once you laid your hands on them. Be it Keltu-da’s antics, or be it their witty solutions to get out of sticky situations, or be it the feeling of enjoyment when the bad guy got what he deserved, they kept us turning the pages.

 

  1. Kakababu / Gogol / Mitin-Maashi

    Mitin Mashi

Gogol taught us that it doesn’t take an adult to become a goenda; Kakababu took us on journeys across India on his crutches, solving mysteries. Mitin-Mashi is a recent favourite of the kids who are growing up with Anandamela Pujabarshiki. Arguably the coolest female detective in Bengali literature.

 

  1. Netaji / Swamiji

    Photoshopping done right.

A Bengali recalls with pride about Netaji (the one who’s still alive) leading a movement against Prof Oaten while still a student. He recalls with pride the reaction of the Americans when Swamiji said, “Brothers and Sisters of America.” His source of all this information of course is not his history book but his grandmother’s lessons, Amar Chitra Katha texts and numerous articles from any place but the school text-book.

 

  1. Onubaad

    “Macbeth aar ghumote parbe na!”

Admit it, you have read at least one Bengali translation in your lifetime. Usually it’s Shakespeare, and sometimes it is even classics like Count of Monte Christo, Hunchback of Notre Dame and the like.

 

  1. Bornoporichoy

    Where it all started

The first book we have all been made to read. Also, remember the songs that were tuned to the verses of the Bornoporichoi? “aw-e awjogor ashche tere… Aam-ti ami khabo pere.”

 

  1. Pujabarshiki

    The first of our Pujo shopping

The book we all long for all year round. Be it the Anandamela Pujabarshiki with all its colourful glory, or the Shuktara Pujabarshiki which rather interests our grandmothers too, or the Kishor Gyan Bigyan (a personal favourite), we keep flocking to the bookshops and mag stands looking for these!

 

What books did you grow up with?