If you know me, you know that my parents are Bengali but you have seldom heard me talking in Bengali at length. It is Hindi that I prefer at all times. In fact, I have coined a term for me and my brother, “Hindi Speaking Maharashtrians born to Bengali Parents”.
But today, I am going to talk about how I learnt to read Bengali.
I was a mischievous child, to put it mildly. ‘Rowdy’ would be a better word. At the age of 3 or so, my mother decided that she would read from the book, ‘Hansi Khushi (হাঁসি খুশি)’ by Jogindranath Sarkar (যোগীন্দ্রনাথ সরকার). The book had lot of rhymes and I memorised each one of them. I had no idea about the alphabet and couldn’t read anything. Over the period of time, I learnt the alphabet and could read the book on my own. I also read the ‘Dharapaat ধারাপাত’. I used to read Bengali books of Ananda Marga Schools, where my uncle was a teacher. I had problem reading the conjunctives (যুক্তাক্ষর) and I still face the problem.
In the summer of 1995, my aunt was to be married. I went with my uncle to his house one month prior to the marriage. I was alone, away from my parents, and at my mischievous best. My uncle decided to buy me a Bengali book, ‘Sukumar Rachanasamagra (সুকুমার রচনাসমগ্র)’, a collection of works by Sukumar Ray (সুকুমার রায়). He was correct. I got completely engrossed in that book and my mischievousness decreased.
I welcomed myself into the world of children rhymes like Aabol Tabol (আবোল তাবোল), Gonf Churi (গোঁফ চুরি), Kumdopatash (কুমড়োপটাশ), Ramgaruder Chhana (রামগরুড়ের ছানা) and others. I read the stories of Paagla Dashu (পাগলা দাশু), Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La (হ জ ব র ল) and dramas, Abak Jalpaan (অবাক জলপান) and Lakshmaner Shaktishel (লক্ষণের শক্তিশেল). The book also had lot of articles on history, science and adventure that had appeared in the magazine, Sandesh. It took me about a year to finish the book. But at the end of it, I learnt how to read Bengali.
In the ensuing years, I read a lot of magazines, newspapers and story books whenever I was in Ketugram, my uncle’s home.
After my Masters, I went to Calcutta and bought Feluda Rachanasamgra – I and II (ফেলুদা রচনাসমগ্র ১ ও ২) by Satyajit Ray (সত্যজিৎ রায়), Byomkesh Rachanasamagra (ব্যোমকেশ রচনাসমগ্র) by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (শরদিন্দু বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়) and Galpa-101 (গল্প–১০১), a collection of stories by Satyajit Ray. These books improved my Bengali reading and increased my appetite as well.
After I got the job in 2010, my early spending was on books like Shanku Samagra (শঙ্কু সমগ্র) by Satyajit Ray (সত্যজিৎ রায়), Kakababu Samagra (1-6) (কাকাবাবু সমগ্র (১–৬)) by Sunil Gangopadhyay (সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায়), Tenida Samagra (টেনিদা সমগ্র) by Narayan Gangopadhyay (নারায়ণ গঙ্গোপাধ্যায়) and Ghanada Samagra (1-3) (ঘনাদা সমগ্র (১–৩)) by Premendra Mitra (প্রেমেন্দ্র মিত্র). In those days, I used Flipkart and Infibeam to the fullest. I would come back from college, eat and start reading these books.
My Bengali Books collection has swelled over the years but I mostly have the books in the Fiction genre. My aim is now to collect and read books in the Non-Fiction genre. I also have the aim to read and understand Geetanjali (গীতাঞ্জলি) by Rabindranath Thakur (রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর). If you have any suggestions about the books I should read, feel free to message me.
In the next blog, I would write about how I learnt Marathi.