Samaresh Majumdar: Chronicler of Bengal’s turbulent 'Spring Thunder'
Samaresh Majumdar had spent much of his childhood in the tea gardens of North Bengal and this experience left an indelible mark in his writings
Sahitya Akademi Award winning Bengali litterateur Samaresh Majumdar, known for portraying the tumultuous Naxalite period of the 1970s, died at a private hospital in Kolkata.
Majumdar, 79, breathed his last on Monday evening.
"He had been suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for more than 12 years. His health deteriorated recently and was put on ventilator. He died around 5.45 PM," a hospital official told PTI.
He was one of the Titans of post-modernist Bengali literature, who had spent much of his childhood in the tea gardens of North Bengal and this experience left an indelible mark in his writings.
Majumdar was best known for his quartet of 'Uttoradhikar' (heritage), 'Kalbela' (Moment of time), 'Kalpurush' (Man of the times) which recorded the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s when Naxalite movement’s "spring thunder" which started in the tea gardens, swept Bengal’s mind space. .
His days in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Dooars district and his early friendship with tribal and migrant tea garden communities was reflected in many of his writings which were marked by a gentle understanding of human nature and society and their interplay.
"You cannot take the hills of north Bengal out of me ... What I have become is because of north Bengal, what the place has given to me," he had once told PTI at a literary meet.
Majumdar was also deeply influenced by his student days at Kolkata’s famous Scottish Church College.
"Without a first-hand knowledge of the turbulent student politics of the late 1960s and 1970s, I could not have fleshed out the character of Animesh and his friends (who figure in his award-winning quartet)," said the Sahitya Akademi Award winner in 2017.
Majumdar, who started his literary career in the 1960s, went on to write more than 200 novels and short stories, in different genres including novels, fiction, thrillers, children’s literature, travelogues and short stories. He is however best remembered for his vivid description of Bengal’s society and politics in the mid-Twentieth century.
His other popular novels include ‘Bandinibash’ (prison), ‘Daybadhha’ (Responsibility), and ‘Saatkahon’ (Tall tales).
His Kalbela, the second novel in the quartet written by him won him the Sahitya Akademi Award, 1984. His first story appeared in the literary magazine ‘Desh’ in 1967 and his first novel was ‘Dour’ (Race).
Kalbela and another book written by him – ‘Buno Hansh’ (wild swan)- on the international smuggling racket, were adapted into films.
Apart from Sahitya Akademi, He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bankim Puraskar, the Ananda Puraskar, and the Banga Bibhushan Samman conferred by West Bengal government in 2018.
His detective series for children with the hero – Arjun – remains an evergreen favourite with teenagers who continue to flock the city’s bookstores in search for Bengali novels in that series.
A grief-stricken Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, another leading literary figure in Bengal, said "Samaresh was younger than me. He is gone but his work will live on. He will be remembered by Bengali-speaking audiences around the world." .
Noted film director Goutam Ghosh said Majumdar was the one who brought forth the turbulent phase of the 1970s in north Bengal.
“The period from 1960s to 1980s in north Bengal, the social and economic situation, the dreams and frustrations of the people in the Dooars area became alive in the works of Samaresh Majumder. I regret not having met him in recent times despite hearing that he was not keeping well,” Ghosh said.