Thursday, December 09, 2010

My Oldest Book

BlogAdda has this wonderful contest going - about the book that has been on your bookshelf for the longest time - which I just got to know from this characteristically wry post on Ganga Mail
This is a contest from and of course, the last date is long gone. But I just couldn't let go of the topic. 

When I talk about my oldest book, I have to name two - one that I recall to be my first book and one that I don't.

On my eighth birthday, my aunt (Pishi) gifted me a slim hardcover book - the cover of which was dominated by the ruins of a golden fortress, framed against a blue sky. On the bottom left corner, you had a man with a revolver in his hand. The book was Shonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), my first Feluda book and one I still have (though in a different form).
I read this book so many times that the whole thing came apart and for some time, I had to keep the pages and cover together with a rubber-band around it. When I realised that was the same for all my Feluda novels, I had them bound together in sets of five or six. That's how the books exist on my Calcutta shelves.
When I moved out of the city - and I missed Feluda terribly, especially before the Sunday afternoon naps - I started buying the omnibus collections brought out by Ananda Publishers and I built back my (duplicate) Feluda collection.  So, today Shonar Kella occupies its rightful place on my shelf sandwiched between Badshahi Angti and Koilashey Kelenkari in the volume Feluda-r Shopto Kando (The Seven Feats of Feluda).
It is quite apt that Shonar Kella is the oldest book I have. It is the story of a little boy who remembers his previous births and the treasures thereof. When I read about Mukul, Mandar Bose and the amazing author of Honduras-ey Hahakar even now, it unearths a wonderful treasure trove from - what seems like - my previous birth.  

Probably the first book that I was exposed to is one I share with millions of Bengali children. Written by Satyajit Ray's father, Abol Tabol is one of the most brilliant, creative and anarchic works for children. In the world. Ever.
My parents read the rhymes out to me. My grandparents read them out to me. My aunt (aforementioned) read them out to me. Half the neighbourhood read them out to me. Till I remembered all of them by heart, could recite them in my sleep and laugh instinctively whenever I remembered - which was quite often!

There was Hnuko Mukho Hyangla (can be translated as the hookah-faced glutton), who had two tails but did not know how to swat flies who sat on his back. There was Kumro Potash, around whom there were strange protocols - when they laughed, cried, danced etc. There was Gangaraam, who failed his Matriculation exams 19 times but wanted to get married nevertheless. There were the Ahladis who just laughed and laughed.
And there was my favourite - Tnash Goru - who was not actually a goru (cow) but a pakhi (bird).
I still remember most of the poems. I even had a PDF version of the book. So, I wondered why I bought a fresh copy of the book about four years back. Now, as I see the four-year old in my house hogging the iPad and zipping through apps, I think somebody will have to bring out an Abol Tabol app sometime soon.
And the book will travel one more generation.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dipta,

I am a longtime reader from US, have commeted a few times earlier.

My husband is on a short trip to India and I sked him to get your book for me but he couldn't find it. So I was just wondering if the book is even out?

Shekhar said...

That's a brilliant idea.. an app for vernacular books. Is someone listening?

Diptakirti Chaudhuri said...

@Anon - Unfortunately, the book is expected around early-January. Really touched by your enthu, though!

Rajesh Shah said...

The oldest book I have is HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean. Its an gujarati translation. I buyed it from a raddi wala not knowing its famous really cheap like 10-15 rs. And now I treasure it.

Ankana Dey Choudhury said...

This was the first Feluda book, or for that matter, the first book ever that I had inherited (not stolen—as may be claimed) from my brother's immense collection of books. The book had the exact same photograph on the cover, and since my brother believed in making loochi bhaja out of every book he read, it was tattered and battered to the core. It even had holes made by silverfish all over it. I still have the book—restored and laminated—for the next generation of the Dey Choudhurys to read it. I did end up buying the Feluda Shomogro last year, but I want my brother's and my kids to inherit this invaluable copy of Shonaa'r Kella. Too many childhood summer-vacation memories are attached with the copy. And yes, I just bought a copy of your book and gifted it to Dada. He is reading it as I write this very comment.