Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay delights fans at the final panel of DLF 2018
November 2, 2018 was his 83rd birthday, yet according to the moderator novelist Imdadul Haq Milon, his age should be reversed to 38. Evergreen at heart and never hesitant, the personage in question has continued to pursue his writing career with his razor-sharp wit and impeccable vitality. At the Dhaka Lit Fest 2018, the great writer Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay graced the last panel of the evening. The crowd that spilled out of the AKSB Auditorium had been restlessly awaiting Bengal’s literary behemoth, eager for just one glimpse of him. At last when Shirshendu, true to his name, appeared in the night sky like the crescent moon, his devotees burst into tumultuous applause.
Much to the surprise of the audience, Imdadul Haq started by saying he wanted to “cut Shirshendu up into five pieces”. He quickly cleared the air by saying that one could divide Shirshendu’s body of work, not his actual body, into five distinct parts. The very first of these is his whimsical world of children’s writing, where masterpieces such as Manoj der Odbhut Bari dwell. Shirshendu, full of wit and in great humour, spoke of his initial struggles as an author. “The problem or crisis I encountered was that people didn’t quite understand what I wrote. The editors often wanted people-pleasing pieces, so I was in constant fear of rejection!”
Initially, Shirshendu had felt the most comfortable writing for adults, but thanks to the monthly Anandamela editor Nirendranath Chakraborty, his first short story for children, Chore-Dakate came into being.
The author delved into the workings of his literary mind by sharing his creative process with his fans. “Mine is probably the most unscientific approach to writing that has ever been. I can never bring myself to think of an entire story, and I move forward with no scheme. I just think of one sentence, the one line that does it for me. That’s where writing begins for me.” He then moved on to characters and dialogues, and the most important factor for any writer, in his opinion, is language. “If language is missing, there will be a story, there will be a ‘piece’ so to say, but there won’t be the appeal that the reader looks for.”
Bengali literature is indebted to Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay for a rather odd reason—he has cured the fear of ghosts for many of his juvenile fans. It is due to his creations such as Goshaibaganer Bhoot that ghosts became friends to children rather than fearsome entities. Coming to the third section of Shirshendu’s work, Imdadul Haq Milon highlighted his sports writing, which, said Shirshendu, was inherited from his father. The next literary feat of his was as a moderator, when he organized the famous battle royale between poets Sunil Gangapaddhay and Shakti Chatyapaddhay. “I did nothing, I merely provoked Shakti to act the way he does!” said the humourous author.
On the occasion of a hundred years of Sharatchandra Chatyapaddhay’s novel Devdas, Shirshendu emerged as a literary critic, speaking of the various loopholes of the masterpiece. However, he maintained that there was no explanation of the magic of its storytelling. He had also done travel writing in his book Bangaler America Dorshon.
Finally, much to the delight of the audience, the moderator steered the discussion to the lifeblood of Shirshendu’s works—his novels and short stories. After many rejections, Shirshendu’s third shorty stories was published in the newspaper Desh, and therein began his journey. His novels Durbin, Parthib, and Manabjamin among many others have created magic, tension, love, wonder and sadness in the hearts of his readers.
Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay’s enlightening session was indeed the crowning jewel of the Dhaka Lit Fest 2018, one that will remain etched in the memory of the enchanted audience.