Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay: Wanderlust of the enchanting storyteller

On 12 September 1894, in the remote village of Muratipur in Bengal’s Nadia district- a boy was born to Mahananda Bandyopadhyay and Mrinalini Devi. He was named Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay- a name that would eventually become monumental in upcoming Bengali literature, a name that no nature loving bibliophile would be able to forget.

Life was not a bed of roses for Bibhutibhushan. From childhood, he had to face numerous obstacles on his paths, and struggle with abject poverty. In a diary from the early 1940s, he reflects, “An important value of life is despair: poverty is an asset; loss, penury, failure- great valuables… A life that has not known tears is a desert. Let me be frightened of a life full of happiness, prosperity, and affluence.” As a child, he studied in a ‘pathshala’ in the Barakpur village of Jessore district. With passing days, a secret yearning grew in him- to get admitted to the nearby Bongaon High School. But his desire was overshadowed by the clouds of poverty prevailing in the family. Bibhutibhushan’s father- Mahananda Bandyopadhyay was a Sanskrit scholar and kathak (a person who recites stories for a living) by profession and did not have a steady income. After much imploring, Bibhutibhushan succeeded in getting admitted to the school, with the help of his mother’s meager savings.

Bibhutibhushan was a bright student. Withstanding every hindrance posed on him by his surroundings, he moved to Calcutta to proceed with his education in the Ripon College (now Surendranath College). However, he was not financially strong enough to enroll for the postgraduate course at the University of Calcutta, and therefore had to discontinue his studies.

In order to earn a living, Bibhtibhushan had to travel to various parts of the country, and work in various kinds of jobs. From managing estates, working as a travelling publicist to teaching- all of his jobs involved interacting with various kinds of people- something he would love doing throughout his life. Bibhutibhushan himself confessed his love for people in his book Avijatrik, “Encountering different types of people always fascinates me. Whenever I see someone new, I want to converse with him- know him. And I did really see so many kinds of people in my life…!”

Bibhutibhushan’s literary career began in 1921- when he got an opportunity to publish his first short story- Upekshita- in the Probashi magazine. Thereafter, he did not have to look back. Through thick and thin, he kept giving Bengali literature a host of short stories and novels. Many of them, like Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Aranyak, Ichhamati, Asani Sanket went on to be masterpieces of Bengali literature.

To Bibhutibhushan, movement was the very essence of life. He believed in the mantra of ‘Charaiveti’- ‘keep going’. His wanderlust is the key to understanding his life and works!

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