Rajshekhar Basu


Rajshekhar Basu

Rajshekhar Basu (Bangla: রাজশেখর বসু), better known by the pen name Parashuram (পরশুরাম) (March 16, 1880 - April 27, 1960) was a Bengali writer, chemist and lexicographer. He was chiefly known for his comic and satirical short stories, and is considered the greatest Bangla humorist of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956.

Early life

Basu was born at his maternal uncle's home in Bardhaman district of West Bengal, India. He was the second son (and sixth child) of Chandrasekhar and Laxmimani Devi. Rajshekhar spent his childhood in Darbhanga, in the state of Bihar, and learned to speak Hindi as a first language, rather than Bangla. He was an inquisitive child and manifested a knack for science early in life. Shashisekhar, his elder brother, later wrote that the young Rajshekhar put together a laboratory at home equipped with two cupboards of various chemicals; he would forecast the weather by looking at a barometer that he had hung on the wall, would write prescriptions of cough-mixtures for his family members, and later, would even go to the Temple Medical School to dissect corpses.

Basu was introduced to Bengali literature when he went to Patna to study for the F.A. degree, where he interacted with a number of Bengali speakers. After school, he moved to Calcutta and joined Presidency College, where he completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees in chemistry. After graduating in, he completed a degree in law as well, but only attended court for three days, after which he quit the legal profession for good, and decided to pursue a career in science.

Around this time, he met Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, who had recently started a company - Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals. In 1903, Basu joined the company as a chemist. He was very quickly promoted to the high-ranking position of manager, and began a long association with the company, which continued even after his retirement.

Writing

Basu began his writing career in the 1920s. He adopted the pen name of Parashuram while writing humorous pieces for a monthly magazine. The name was not, apparently, an homage to the Parashurama of mythology. In fact, Basu simply borrowed the surname of someone at hand, the family goldsmith, Tarachand Parashuram. His first book of stories, "Gaddalika", was published in 1924 and drew praise from such personalities as Rabindranath Tagore.

In 1931, when he published "Chalantika", a Bengali dictionary, Rabindranath wrote:

"At long last, we have a dictionary for Bengali. The concise grammar for Bengali that you have included in the appendix is also wonderful."

"Chalantika" also included Basu's first efforts to reform and rationalize Bengali orthography. A few years after the its publication, Calcutta University formed a committee, chaired by him, to formulate a set of guidelines governing the spelling of Bengali words. The recommendations of this committee were broadly accepted, and "Chalantika" is still in use today..

Writing Style

Basu writing style was comic and satirical. He was a minute observer of life and society, and his penetrating satires have touched upon various aspects of human behaviour. These were principally (though not exclusively) directed at the members of the "bhadralok" class (Bengali middle-class). He used a great deal of verbal play, recording the diverse ways in which Bengali is spoken by the various communities and types settled in Calcutta. As a result, he is one of the more difficult Bengali authors to translate.

Amit Chaudhuri says, of Basu's satire:

"...from the beginning, his interest lay in the hidden potential for idiosyncrasy in local and ordinary actors, and also in comically conflating, as the modernists did, the banal with the mythic."

Basu's deep involvement with science was reflected in his literary work. He ushered in a scientific approach to creative writing in Bangla, which won him a great deal of admiration from his peers.

Other achievements

Basu was a man of diverse achievements. He was an active member of the National Council of Education; he served on the "Bangiya Sahitya Parishad"; he even provided covert assistance to the revolutionaries of the Indian Independence Movement in the form of money and chemicals, and also provided his expertise in making bombs.

Basu also played a major role in the history of printing in Bengal. He was principal assistant to Sureshchandra Majumdar, credited with creating the first linotype in the Bengali script. The second edition of Parashuram's "Hanumaaner Swapna ityadi golpo" was the first book to be completely printed in Bengali linotype.

Awards

Basu received a good deal of recognition for his writing. Calcutta University awarded him the "Jagattarini" and "Sarojini" medals in 1940 and 1945, respectively. In 1957, the University awarded him D.Litt.. Jadavpur University followed suit the next year. "Krishnakali ityadi golpo" won the "Rabindra Puraskar" in 1955, and in 1956, he was awarded the "Padma Bhushan". In 1958, he was awarded the "Akademi Puraskar" for "Anandibai ityadi golpo".

Personal life

Basu was married and had one daughter. He suffered a great deal of tragedy in his personal life. His son-in-law, died of a terminal illness at a very young age, and his heartbroken daughter died the same day. In 1942, he lost his wife as well. He lived for almost 18 years after his wife's demise and wrote a great deal during this time, but he did not allow his personal tragedies to colour his writing. Even after a debilitating stroke in 1959, he continued writing. On 27 April, 1960, he suffered a second stroke while he was resting and died in his sleep.

Rajshekhar's younger brother, Girindrashekhar Bose (1887-1953), was the first Freudian psychoanalyst of the non-Western world, and also wrote books for children.

List of Works

Fiction

hort Story collections

* (1922) "Shri Shri Siddheshvari Limited" (শ্রী শ্রী সিদ্ধেশ্বরী লিমিটেড্)
* (1924) "Gaddalika" (গড্ডালিকা (Flock of Sheep))
* (1927) "Kajjali" (কজ্জলি (Ink))
* (1937) "Hanumaner Swapna ityadi Galpa" (হনুমানের স্বপ্ন ইত্যাদি গল্প (Hanuman's dream and other stories))
* (1950) "Galpakalpa" (গল্পকল্প (Stories and the like))
* (1953) "Krishnakali ityadi Galpa" (কৃষ্ণকলি ইত্যাদি গল্প (Krishnakali and other stories))
* (1957) "Anandibai ityadi Galpa" (আনন্দিবাই ইত্যাদি গল্প (Anandibai and other stories))

Collections of English translations of his stories

* (1992) Anandibai and Other Stories (translated by Swapna Dutta)
* (2000) Not All In Fun (translated by J. M. Joardar)
* (2006) Selected Stories (translated by Sukanta Chaudhuri and Palash B. Pal). The short story, "The scripture read backwards", from this collection, was also included in Anchor Books' "Words Without Borders" (2007), recommended by Amit Chaudhuri.

Poetry

* "Parashuram-er Kabita" (পরশুরামের কবিতা (Parashuram's poems)). Published posthumously.

Translations from Sanskrit to Bangla (as Rajshekhar Basu)

* (1943) "Kalidas-er Meghdut" (কালিদাসের মেঘদূত (Meghaduta by Kalidasa))
* (1946) "Valmiki Ramayan" (বাল্মীকি রামায়ণ (Valmiki's Ramayana))
* (1949) "Krishnadwaipayan Vyas krita Mahabharat" (কৃষ্ণদ্বৈপায়ন ব্যাস কৃত মহাভারত (Mahabharata by Krishna Dvaipayan Vyasa))
* (1950) "Hitopadesh-er Galpa" (হিতোপদেশের গল্প (Stories of the Hitopadesha))

Non-fiction (as Rajsekhar Basu)

Dictionary

* (1937) "Chalantika" (চলন্তিকা)

Essays

* (1939) "Laghuguru" (লঘুগুরু (Inferior/superior))
* (1943) "Bharater Khanij" (ভারতের খনিজ (Indian minerals))
* (1943) "Kutirshilpa" (কুটীরশিল্প (House-builder))
* (1955) "Bichinta" (বিচিন্তা (Thoughtfulness))

Note: Basu had 28 more essays published in various magazines, which were not collected in his lifetime. In the recently published "Prabandhabali" (প্রবন্ধাবলী (Collected Essays); Mitra & Ghosh, Kolkata, 2001), these essays have been presented under two sections titled "Uttar chalachchinta" (উত্তর চলচ্চিন্তা (further thoughts)) and "Bibidha" (বিবিধ (various)) respectively.

creen adaptations

Two Bangla movies, both directed by Satyajit Ray, were based on short stories by Parashuram. These were "Parash Pathar" (পরশ পাথর (The philosopher's stone)), based on the story of the same name; and "Mahapurush" (মহাপুরুষ (The holy man)), based on the short story "Birinchibaba" (বিরিঞ্চি বাবা).

References

* Various (Ed. Samantha Schnee, et al) (2007). "Words Without Borders", ISBN 978-1-4000-7975-9, p.64-81

External links

* [http://www.parabaas.com/translation/database/authors/texts/parashuram.html Rajsekhar Bose Section in Parabaas]


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