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Akhila Seshadri Every month (my ATM card comfortably full in my wallet) I usually drop by into Odyssey book

store. Sometimes, I hit gold there actually is a book I would like to buy and sometimes not. (Then, I indulge and buy either some pen I always need these or a good movie). On one of these mine digging expeditions, I struck gold. A thin book emerged from the shelf; a promising and interesting one. The one whose cover is given right here. I believe that when the Committee was planning to nominate Tagore for the Nobel Prize, at least one person of the Committee was so enthusiastic about Tagores works that he wanted everyone to learn Bengali in order to read and appreciate Tagore. Finally, he was persuaded that it was easier to translate and to read the translation! But, whenever I have read any of the books by Tagore or Satyajit Ray or any other Bengali author, I have felt a similar urge an urge to quickly learn to read and understand Bengali. But, till then, thank God for translations. Most of us know Ray as a film maker beyond compare - our own Jean Renoir. Incidentally, it was a meeting with Renoir that convinced Ray to become an independent film maker. I have watched a few of his films, thanks to Doordarshans policy of featuring regional films every Saturday. But, it has been his books that have found resonance in my heart. Now, a lot of reading folk know of Feluda and his mysteries, some may even be familiar with Professor Shonku and his amazing adventures. Yet, I chose today an obscure book to bring to your notice through this column. Satyajit Ray, in his memoir, My Childhood Days talks about his fascination for magic and street artistes like jugglers. This fascination and respect comes through in this poignant narrative called Phatik Chand. It has been translated by Lila Ray. The Story A boy wakes up in the early hours before dawn in a strange place, all alone but for a road, trees, and a car that gives him the creeps. He has lost his memory. All he knows is that he must go away from there. Through the disconnected thoughts of the boy, Ray gives us a sense of what might have happened. A kidnapping, an accident in the middle of the forest From then on the boy wanders on and on intuitively avoiding the police. He jumps on to a train and is befriended by Haroon Al Rashid, King of Jugglers. When asked his name, the boy remembers a sign board and takes on the name: Phatik Chandra Pal. Although, Haroon does not believe him, but feels he is a boy from an affluent family, he accepts him as his friend. The boy suddenly feels he can trust Haroon and narrates what he can recollect. Haroon decides to care for him in his own way and takes him along to Kolkata. So, it is that he becomes the jugglers assistant in the Maidan. By day, he works as a serving boy in a roadside restaurant. His benefactor takes care of him in the best way he could and saves him from danger. Danger appears in the form of the kidnappers who notice the boy serving tea. Haroon helps Phatik escape his would-be captors and while they escape in a taxi, he remembers his name, his father and his life

The Reading Column

The father had in the meantime, announced a cash reward. When Haroon brings his son back, the father accuses him of being mainly interested in the reward. Haroon, in his dignified way, denies any knowledge of the reward, tells him that his son is hurt and then leaves. Later, the father is remorseful and sends his son, Bablu with the money. Haroon is leaving by train for Chennai to join a circus there. And he refuses the money. In stead, he presents Bablu with his juggling balls and asks him to watch out for the circus. The story focuses on the moving relationship between the boy and the juggler and demonstrates again and again the soul of relationships, which is basic and simple mutual trust. The authors son, Sandip Ray had made this into a film that is as beautiful to watch as the book. The Author: Does any one really need an introduction to Satyajit Ray? Born in 1921, he belonged to a family of musicians, artists and wri ters. Rays grandfather was Upendrakishore Ray. He was a writer, illustrator, astronomer, publisher, philosopher, and leader of the Brahmo Samaj. His father was Sukumur Ray, who was pioneering Bengali writer of childrens literature and humorous verse. His father died when Ray was barely three and the family had to go through tough times in his early years. Manik as he was called by family and friends grew up with interesting set of uncles and relatives, all of which he has recorded in My Childhood Days. Sandesh is an aspect of his life that cant be left out. Sandesh is based on a play of words which means: a message and also is a loved Bengali sweet. It was the name given to a childrens magazine begun by his grandfather, which closed down when he was a child. He later revived it and many of his famous Feluda stories and Prof. Shonkus adventures appeared in it in a serialized form. He also wrote many short stories as well. He brought out his fathers book of verse: Nonsense Rhymes. Some of Rays books that will appeal to people of all ages: Complete Adventures of Feluda ( in two Volumes) Bravo Professor Shonku Indigo and other short Stories Twenty Stories. Unicorn Expedition and other Fantastic Tales of India Postscript: One of the things a teacher also becomes is an amateur playwright, director and so on. Looking out for some good stories to use as plays, I came across an immensely lovely, delightful story about a tone deaf singer, Gopi and a poor percussionist, Bagha, who have been asked to leave their respective villages. Their adventures form the rest of the tale. It was this story that introduced me to Ray as writer of delightful stories for children. I think that the original story was probably written by his father, though. If you get to see the film or the book, grab it. Thats my advise.

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