Wednesday 25 June 2014

Endearing duo

Quirky is the word which immediately comes to the mind when you are reading The Merry Adventures of Harshabardhan and Gobardhan, (Hachette 2014, translated by Arunava Sinha) by the Bengali humorist Shibram Chakraborty. Though intended for children, adults too will enjoy the 20 episodic stories in this collection as the stories are multilayered so while the children would enjoy the crazy misadventures the two main protagonists and the surprise endings, there is a lot which the adults can read between the lines, and obviously enjoy the play of words. The author himself said, “I never considered children as children. I considered them my equal. I treated them as adult friends”. And it reflects in his work. I assume those familiar with Bengali literature (unfortunately I am not!) must be aware of the works of Shibram Chakraborty and his tales regarding the mis-adventures of the two brothers from Assam – Harshbardhan and Gobardhan as they bumble their way through life in Calcutta. Both are simpletons. The elder brother Harshabardhon is married and we often find the two brothers at the receiving end of Harshbardhons wife’s ire. Shibram himself never married and also lived a very simple life (he lived alone in a boarding house in Calcutta most of his life) and I am sure that he built in many of his traits and experiences in the characters and stories of these two brothers. The author also makes and appearance in few of the stories as their friend who tries to get them out of sticky situations. Using pun was Shibram’s strong point (‘My writing is adulterated’) and he has himself very succinctly and aptly described his writing style in one of the stories in this collection. The elder brother, Harshabardhon admonishes his younger brother on finding that he is reading a book by Shibram Chakraborty. “You’re reading that dangerous man’s books? You’ll mix up all your words. You will look for twisted sense of everything. Words will command no respect anymore. One word will have multiple meanings, without rhyme or reason.” No one could have summed it up better. An appreciation is also due to the cover designer of the book. It captures the mood of the book and the colour combination will ensure that the book will stand out in any collection.

Another thanks to Arunava Sinha for continuing to translate classic and contemporary Bengali literature into English and giving exposure of Bengali literature to a much wider audience. He churns out translated works at a blistering pace (my estimate is that every quarter, a book by him hits the bookstores) and over the last few years he has firmly established himself as one of the leading translators, working in the English publishing industry in India. His works include a wide range- from Mani Sankar Mukherji’s Chowraninghee to Rabisankar Bal’s Dozakhnama. Since I am so amazed at his prolificacy, I couldn’t resist asking him (the only time I met him briefly during a literary festival) his secret and his brief reply was ‘It is an addiction’.

Well this is one addiction we can’t complaint about (though someday I would surely like to ask his wife’s opinion on the same!).


  1. Nice. Makes me want to read the book and more.

  2. You should definitely give it a try.The best part is that the entire family can enjoy it.