The Last Peer of the City: As I Saw Him---An Obituary by Abesh Kumar Das.

   The gramophone player alone was adequate to overwhelm my attention. For the first time, obviously apart from the reel world, I came to witness its material existence. However there were only a few seconds for bemusing on the particular antique. The ambiance I had entered into was enthralling. At very first glimpse it could have envisaged as an ideal set for many of Ray’s pronounced stories to the connoisseurs. The wood cutouts on the doors, the sculpture on the wall or the bronze-made memento of centurion Bradman on the shelf together incorporated a perfect synchronization with each other’s existence and off course with the serenity of the chamber.

   It was around April, 2009. I was at" Mayurakshi"(name of the house) for collecting an article. Bamada (well known writer Bamaprasad Mukhopadhyay) gave me the connection to the landlord. Bookshelf is a common factor in any author’s house. But I had not at all been prepared for the prodigious aura I perceived that day. No sooner the handsome old man had come and taken a chair in front of my couch that I could fully comprehended his dignified peerage. The veteran was smoking in his elegant gesture. Years after once in a personal discussion Debasish Bandyopadhyay coined his cigarette as a quiet companion of solitude. Prior to my admiration of him as a maverick literary figure he was regarded as a legitimate peer of mine. The last of the peers lived at an era awfully characterized by its inherent kakistocracy.

     Alike the wide varieties of antiques Debasishda collected for last five decades, he owned the same magnum range along with an exquisite poetic sense. According to him Greenidge’s Man in the Middle was of greater literal worth than that of any Dickens’ classics. Surely such a panoramic range encouraged him not to be restricted within the comfortable peripheries of traditional literature unlike majorities of the Bengal contemporaries. Rarely a reckoned poet in Kolkata would have been interested in a research assignment concerning the bygone  architecture of the city’s early edifices (Bonedi Kolkatar Ghorbari). Engaging own merits in an unconventional orbit of rural art and rituals (Birbhumer Yamapot O Potua) was not every reputed novelist’s cup of tea. From any topic, either it could be pure anthropology or world history or national politics or western literature or Hollywood classics or Dali’s neorealism or Caribbean cricket, Debasishda could comfortably glide back to the sphere of literature at any instant of discussion. Perhaps according to him everything on this planet bore nexus to literature. If you would have been an avid listener you could easily frame up a story from his ardent words.

    That is the reason why, I think, Debasishda never ever felt scarcity of plots. Rather he always pondered which one should be dealt with instead of how to deal. ‘At any instant I can frame up a formula short story’, he stated once. He owned that rare rejective potential. May be this was because of his professional accounts. As editor of a prestigious children’s periodical he was very distinctive. But again having that equal snobbery for your own writings is certainly a rare occurrence. Today I think, Debasishda could comfortably father fifty more short stories or ten more novels, at least (and that too keeping his linen intact). It was never atypical for a figure belonging to his stature. At festive season the concurrent patrons of Bengali literature usually bring forth a couple of novels and five stories. Surviving this age he rather kept faith on western schooling. ‘Seldom does a European stalwart write more than 3 or 4 novels in his lifetime’, he used to say. He was a pure Bengali. Nevertheless he was a perfect Briton too.

    Soon after our first introduction I was acquainted to the amiable atmosphere of his household. Everybody including benignant Manisha boudi, expatriate Rajada, and the very reserved Bappada (Whatsoever would be the age difference, we are accustomed to address a senior litterateur as dada/didi often addressing both father and son as dada), even their driver Goutam da was like a family to me. I shall ever be thankful to Rajada for the Finnish cookies and goodies.

Reading Debasishda  for the first time,  you will surely take into account  that he is too simplistic, notwithstanding poignant nomenclature (story names like "Bahu Juger Bonduk", "Maa Amar Chheleke Rakho", "Tumi Ki Maar Kheyechho"," Ei Nao Ball"or novel names like "Jara Chhobi Tolate Aase", Manik Bandyopadhyayer Bondhu). Same could be said of his anecdotes as well as his protagonists. I do seriously consider Sumitda (Sada Chhaya) as Debasishda himself. Is sage like Sumitda still fighting the losing battle against the malafied intentions of literary commercialization? Akin to the old trend of blacking out the commercial catastrophe, today, is the  continuous whiting out of the likelihood of honest art. The means have been altered, not the purports. In contrary to the conventional policy , hence writer Sumitda used to in his own way yearn for a true reader. Upon Sumitda you can find an irresistible silhouette of those ancient sages and monks, who for sake of saving the scriptures of an entire civilization off the vandal invasion, went underground. From the tale of Fourth World also you can apprehend that still there are lots for literature to endow but there are a few to grasp. Often thus Debasishda was beyond any scope of the commercial nonsense.

Till his last breath Debasishda was thus a nonconformist. I have heard a story relating his early days’ activities in the editorial duties. The periodical he worked had used modern illustrations of Sherlock Holmes to make his appeal ‘smarter’. When  Debasishda took charge  he urged for the original illustrations by Sidney Paget and others to keep the quintessence intact. He was by nature stylish, not fashionable at all. He was not very fond of Ganguly’s batting, but that of the richness of his commentary. James Joyce was his all time favorite.

Rarely did Debasishda compromise with perfection. For such an inclination many of the ‘wise’ literary figures still consider him too imprudent. Thenceforth of our first introduction, often I used to listen to his soliloquy: ‘It’s a good time for the bad people and a bad time for the good people.’ Reminiscing with his own old book he became astounded once to recall the name of the particular person whom he had dedicated it to, twenty years earlier. Considering the lack of pragmatism he was imprudent. Unfortunately the Almighty usually destines the good souls in this particular algorithm. His full legacy was inherited to his sons’ genes. He could have easily been regarded as Lala Amarnath of Bengali literature.

    I think he was an agnostic. He was certainly spiritual but to no extent religious. He or his sons never bore any sacred thread alike the usual Brahmins. However in response to my particular query he stated, ‘It’s rejoicing to rely upon the existence of life beyond death. When Bimalda [Bimal Kar] had been alive a circle of newcomers was formed around him. Can we ever be reunited?’ Beyond the scope of all argumentativeness certainly this is the ultimate solace to entire mankind.

    Who knows there would be few, a few, too few around him soon? After that specific Darjeeling episode of festive days of 2015 he was worried about his elder son’s health. I had the news of Bappada’s hospitalization. But it was too tough to imagine the foredooming consequences. On the night of sinistrous 7th November I could not but remind myself of the words spoken by the emperor Yudhisthira in the verse of the Mahabharata: ‘The heaviest is the son’s mortal remaining above on the father’s shoulder.’

   Both Bappada and Rajada were fortunate, to have a great father. And that was enough for almost all of us to evade asking whereabouts of Debashishda even by way of phone calls as we were bereft of words of consolation. Everyone around him knew Debasishda as an affectionate father. Even on a telephonic conversation with people he was close to he spent time in praise of  Bappada’s works. Rarely did I see such an intense bonding even between a mother and her son.

   I was at Debashisda's home "Mayurakshi" twice after this. Though I was always in close contact with Rajada for most part he lived outside of India. Many a times Rajada asked me to visit their home. But due to either my own business or Debasishda’s repeated hospitalization the particular occurrence could never be materialized before June, 2016. That was the last time I had a conversation with Debasishda. He was almost bed-ridden. In spite of that he asked me whether I had a cigarette or not. Rajada did more than a lot for his father in the meantime. It was due to Rajada’s countless efforts that " Birbhumer Yamapot O Potua "was reprinted and was duly dedicated to Bappada. I could barely  recognize boudi on my first glace. She was deteriorated physically. Their pet dog had also breathed its last soon after the tragedy of last November. Rajada and I were undergoing a conversation about the possibilities of Debasishda’s omnibus. All of a sudden he drew our attention to the old garland of Bappada’s photograph and requested Rajada to replace it. It was an unbearable tragedy that I could not face and kept myself away from their home named "Mayurakshi" till October 24, 2016.  

   The ambiance was quite quiet when I reached. He was covered with all garlands.. All of a sudden my mind started to be resonated plaintively with the notes of ‘Phoolero Jolsay Nirob Keno Kobi’. Is there really a life after death? Years back Debasishda only expressed his amazementsconsidering the possibilities of reunion with his old friends. Did he never yearn for the same with his beloved elder son meanwhile? In response to Bamada’s condolences after Bappada’s demise he concluded, ‘Perhaps the God also necessitates some good persons around him.’ Did he turn to a complete theist in the last year of his life? Might be. Perhaps that’s why I find no sign of pain on his peaceful face that day.