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Nabarunda, that I know

His deep faith in Buddhism was intriguing, an anarchic finding solace in spiritual matters.

Parthapratim Mandal
Sun, Aug 10 2014

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About Parthapratim

As a teacher and freelance journalist, I write articles on socio-cultural and literary issues. Recently my book “কথার ফোটোগ্রাফি” (An introduction to Jacques Prévert and translation of his poems from French to Bengali) was published.

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An Enigmatic Beauty


বরিশালের বাঙাল

My many Kolkata

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man”, says Heraclitus. Every moment we are born, every moment we decay and die. And as for a writer, who doesn’t agree that he is always born again after his death?

After the death of Nabarun Bhattacharya, the most anarchic writer of our time, a lot is being written and discussed in the media and elsewhere. While all of them are wholly or partially true, they all portray him as a writer who is committed to a radical aesthetics, who is famous for his Bulgakovian style of writing and who is the creator of the Fyatarus, the flying men of the underclass who carry out devastating plans to destabilise all forms of institution.

My meeting with Nabarunda took place sometime in 2009 --- a time when West Bengal was going through a lot of political tension, writers and artists, theatre workers, people from different walks of life, in short, the entire civil society bringing out rallies and holding meetings everywhere --- a change in the political scenario had become more than likely. Our personal relationship began with my becoming a member of ‘Bhashabandhan’, the literary journal he edited. Though I had been a fan of Nabarunda’s writings ever since my university days in the 90s I ever came in personal contact with him before.

The meeting was a turning point in my life. What happened since then cannot be summed up within this short space and I feel a little guilty in trying to do that. It would be better for me then to confine myself to the few things that are uppermost in my mind. Nabarunda was a voracious reader and was always very eager to share his readings with others. Whenever we would meet after a while the first thing he would ask: ‘ki porchis?’ (What are you reading now?). It was he who introduced me to Mikhail Bulgakov. In fact, it was he who guided me through the vastness and richness of Russian fiction. As for Bulgakov, I believe, he himself was greatly influenced by his form and style. ‘Kangal Malsaat’, his mostl-liked work bears the famous quote from Bulgakov’s Master And Margarita: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn’. This is not the right place to make a comparative study of their works but if one is to make a proper evaluation of Nabarunda’s work he cannot do it without taking into account Bulgakov’s influence on him.

Another aspect of Nabarunda’s character that became a source of inspiration for me was his ardent faith in Buddhism --- an aspect least highlighted in the current series of writings and discussions on him. This is very interesting. The same person who wrote ‘Ei Mrityu Uptyaka Amaar Desh Na’ (This Valley of Death is not my land) was also finding solace in deep spiritual matters. This may cause consternation among many of his so called leftist followers, but I do not find any contradiction in it. I saw him even going beyond fundamental Buddhist philosophy and finding a lot of interest in Tantric traditions, in the words of Padmasambhaba, in esoteric practices.

There are many, I know, to whom he was a thoroughly confused man. But if you recall Ritwik Ghatak’ss film ‘Jukti Takko Gappo’ (Reason, Debate and a Story) you would understand the inevitability of such confusion and the superficiality of so called ‘political correctness’---- a term he was so much fond of jeering at.

This was Nabarunda --- engrossed in Vasily Grossman to Tsongkapa to the very last days of his life, asking me to translate from both Louis Aragon and Nagarjuna’s Tree of Wisdom. Those who stayed close to him in his last days know how valiantly he was waiting for the last moment to come, how brilliantly witty and zany in humour he remained even in the face of death.

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