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Sukumar Roy

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Sukumar Roy, one of the greatest writers and illustrators in the history of Bengali literature, was born in 1887. Like his father, Upendrakishore, and like his son, Satyajit, Sukumar, despite his sense of humor, had intense powers of concentration. He would become entirely oblivious of everything while working out a creative problem from the beginning to the end. Swift minded, he synthesized words and images.

Unfortunately, his literary style is very difficult to translate. Satyajit made an effort to put into English some verses from "The King of Bombaria" , from the book, Abol-Tabol.At eight years old this embryonic family humorist completed his first creative feat - a poem to "Nadi", the river. Upendrakishore, "with the eye, hand and soul of an artist", was only too eager to watch for what his eldest son would produce next. It took some time, but the next year Sukumar, who showed inventiveness in sport and entertaining all the younger children, produced his second poem, "Tick, Tick, Tong". It was really a translation of "Hickory, Dickory, Dock". Father, who was alreay writing for children, gave Sukumar's poem to the children's magazine "Mukul".

The King Of Bombaria
Sukumar Ray

In the land of Bombaria
The customs are peculiar.
The king, for instance, advocates
Gilded frames for chocolates.
The queen, who seldom goes to bed
Straps a pillow round her head.
The courtiers- or so I'm told-
Turn cartwheels when they have a cold:

... The King's old aunt- an autocrat-
Hits pumpkins with her cricket bat
While Uncle loves to dance Mazurkas
Wearing garlands strung with hookaha.
All of this, though mighty queer,
Is natural in Bombaria.

Translated by Satyajit Ray

At nine, Sukumar emerged an author in print. When he was a student at Presidency College, he created the home-based Nonsense Club with membership open to those with a flair for the ridiculous, practical joking and, most of all, acting. At some point before 1911, when Sukumar was sent off to England, Suprabha Das, the rather tall and beautiful teenaged grand-daughter of the visionary Kalinarayan Gupta, was introduced to Sukumar's Nonsense Club. Sukumar, no doubt, had his eye on Suprabha Das before he went to England on a scholarship of Technology to study photography and half-tone printing. On Sukumar's return from England in 1914, he married Suprabha Das and their son, Satyajit, was born on May 2nd, 1921. By this time Sukumar was attacked by the bacteria of the then fatal disease of blackwater fever. Fever penetrated deeper and deeper with the bacteria affecting one organ after another until Sukumar found himself tied to wheelchair. Yet he continued to write. His wit remained unimpaired. Persistently he continued to bring out "Sandesh", the children magazine. Sukumar Roy, who brought something new to Bengal's literature, died on September 10th, 1923

Bangladesh Table of Contents

Source: Arghya Chatterjee
Reference : Portrait of a director Satyajit Ray, by Marie Seton.

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