Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And the biggest hazard is ...

Sunil Ganguly is one of India's most famous writers and president of the autonomous but federal government-funded Sahitya Academy, the country's highest literary council. He is a household name in the Bengali-speaking world and his stories and novels have been turned into films by eminent directors like Satyajit Ray and Goutam Ghosh. S. N. M. Abdi, a Contributing Editor in India, spoke to Ganguly on the significance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh and the state of Dhaka-Delhi relations. Excerpts:

What are the images Bangladesh conjures up for you? 
I was born there! So I have plenty of vivid memories. I was born in 1934 in a village called Pub Maijpara near Madaripur. My father was a school teacher in Calcutta. But we regularly visited our ancestral home in Pub Maijpara during summer and winter holidays. However in 1942 when the Japanese were bombing Calcutta, my father despatched us to Maijpara for an entire year. I was even admitted to a school in Maijpara as schools and colleges in Calcutta were shut down because of the war.

As the Japanese were rice-eaters, the British government seized rice stocks fearing a land invasion by the Japanese army. We had to subsist on potatoes. Potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We carried fried potatoes to school in our pockets. During the lunch break, the school staff provided salt! And there were potato 'wars' in the classroom - children hurling potatoes at one another like grenades!

In 1943 we returned to Calcutta. It was the year of the Great Bengal Famine. But those who had money could buy food - including rice. I have been a frequent visitor to Bangladesh over the years. But I never went back to Maijpara until 2008. But that, as they say, is another story.

Full report here BDNews24

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