A Taxi Tête-à-Tête with Sankar
A sweet memory of a sharing a taxi ride with Sankar, writer of the famed novels Kato Ajanare, Chowringhee, Jana Aranya, Seemabaddha and others.
Once I hailed for a Taxi at Park Street and reached the door, but from other side two other men opened the door as well claiming they called too, I just asked where they were headed, they said, “Paradise cinema’r saamne.”
I said, “Fine. I will drop you. I need to go to Dalhousie.”
As we sat in I took the front seat and let them have the rear. They started conversing, in Bengali about Ray’s Jana Aranya. After listening for a few minutes I asked them how they were so intimately connected, as I had seen the film too.
“Well,” one of the gentlemen said. “I am the writer of the film.”
I almost shouted in excitement, “Are you Sankar?” He said he was.
I told him I was his huge fan and read all his novels, though I was reading the translations in Hindi. So we started talking.
We talked about the film and his novel and I told him I had found the novel more impressive than the film. He smiled. He asked me to pick one favourite from his novels. I chose Chowringhee as the most engrossing. Again, I said the cinema did not do justice to it either. We then spoke about how close the translations were. I said I have read in Bengali as well, just that my flow was better maintained in Hindi.
He said I could meet him again at his CESC office, drop in for coffee with him. I did meet him two more times at his office. But aah… that’s another story.
Sankar (Mani Sankar Mukherjee) is one of the most celebrated novelists of Bengal. His first novel Kato Ajanare became a best seller. He followed it up with a sequel, a path-breaking novel Chowringhee (published in 1962), which is now considered the first novel in world literature that closely observes the murky world in the interiors of a luxury hotel, predating Arthur Hailey’s Hotel by three years. Chowringhee was later made into a popular movie by the same name in 1968 with a topline starcast led by Uttam Kumar. Two of his other books, Seemabaddha (Company Limited) and Jana Aranya (The Middleman) had the accolade of being filmed by the legendary Satyajit Ray. Shankar has written several best sellers and collections of short stories.
Renowned books by Sankar – The Great Unknown (Kato Ajanare), Chowringhee, Thackeray Mansion (these 3 novels form a trilogy), Jano Aranya and Seemabaddha
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