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An interview with Samaresh Majumdar

Feb 2016

An interview with Samaresh Majumdar

Day 3 S2 c

Meeting a writer whose stories one grew up with is nothing less than a dream come true. Meeting the wry, humorous and forthright Mr Samaresh Majumdar was even better! Here’s what Mr Majumdar and I talked about after his session at boimela:

  • Is the struggle between the mother tongue and the imposed tongue of English more prevalent today?

It was always there. It’s just that earlier, it happened in sophisticated circles. Chibiye chibye bolto kothagulo. Ekhon bhetor thekey boley! (They would hesitate to say this earlier. They do it from the heart now.)

  • Do you think this is a troublesome development?

I don’t think so. I think people should speak in whichever language they’re most comfortable in. It happens within languages too. For example, in my youth, I never used the word ‘bindas’. But it is very common for young boys nowadays to respond with ‘bindas’ if someone asks them how they’re doing. Is that a Bengali word? That is what they feel comfortable saying. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  • What was your favourite book when you were younger?

I protest strongly. Tibro protibad korchhi. I’m still as young as you! But to answer your question, I read this book Papillon when I was young. It is about the escape of a man in lifetime imprisonment on a place called “Devil’s Island”, surrounded by nearly 2000 km of water (sic). He escaped on his eleventh attempt. The novel is about that escape.

  • What kind of books did you like to read at that age?

I never liked ghost stories. I liked detective stories. You’ll laugh now, but I really liked Harold Robbins! I liked his romance. I also loved the book “The World in My Pocket” by James Hadley Chase. I wanted to meet James Hadley Chase after I read that book, only to discover that there is no one called James Hadley Chase- it’s just a group of ghostwriters using that name! I wanted to meet Harold Robbins too. But I was told that he was in France in his villa, so that did not happen either.

  • Which contemporary children’s fiction writer’s work do you like?

In Bengali, people don’t really write for children anymore, because children are no longer children. They have grown up now.

  • Do you have a favourite memory of the boimela?

About two years ago, a girl had come for a signing with three copies of the same book. One was new, one looked slightly worn out, and the third was in a cover. I asked her, “Why did you buy three books?”  She showed me the new book and said, “I’ve bought this one for me.” “So then what about this one?” I pointed to the dog-eared book. “That’s my mother’s, she bought it when she was in college and she wanted it signed. She doesn’t let me read it, so I bought another copy,” the girl said. “What about this one then?” I asked, pointing to the last. “Oh, that one’s my grandmother’s,” said the girl. “She bought it when you first wrote it. She’s a huge fan!” It amazed me, that encounter- three generations reading my book. What greater honour can there be?

(N.B. This interview was conducted in Bengali, for the most part. The translation has been done by me and any errors are also mine.)


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