Syed Mujtaba Ali: The Bengali Polyglot Who Captured South Asia With His Pen

Syed Mujtaba Ali was born on this day in 1904. He was a Bengali author, journalist, scholar, polyglot and global citizen.

He was born in Assam to a family of intellectuals. His brother Murtaza Ali also was a writer of great stature. Mujtaba Ali studied at Shantiniketan. His work in education and religious studies took him across the world.

His travel narrative Deshe Bideshe captured a snapshot of the upheavals in South Asia and it’s a good idea to read the book right now if you are interested in the goings-on in Afghanistan.

He was awarded the Narsinghadas Prize, the Ananda Puraskar and the Ekushey Padak, the second-highest civilian award in Bangladesh.

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay- the Bengali Storyteller who Inspired Satyajit Ray

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was born on this day in 1894. He grew up in a village in West Bengal. Storytelling ran through the family- his father was a storyteller and a Sanskrit scholar. He was a prized student but since his family fell in a hard way, once his studies were complete, he enrolled as a teacher in a school in Hooghly before he went on to become a writer full time.

His setting was primarily rural Bengal. The Apu trilogy based on Pather Panchali and Aparajito caught Satyajit Ray’s attention and since then Bandyopadhyay’s works have become immortal on the silver screen.

His best-known works are the autobiographical novel, Pather Panchali (The Song of the Road), Chader Pahar, and Aranyak. He’s been called “perhaps the best of all modern Indian novelists” and his legacy is substantial- over a dozen novels, hundreds of short stories, memoirs and essays. His style is rooted in an almost romantic love for his environment and a traditional mode of storytelling- yet his voice is modernist and relevant even today, especially when he speaks about the disappearance of the rural fabric in the face of capitalism.

He died in 1950.

Interview: Abhik Dutta

We spoke to Abhik Dutta, author of several books in Bengali including Kichukhkhon, Nosto Somoyer Golpo, Chandalika Ebong Onyanyo Golpo, etc.  Born in a Bengali middle-class family, Abhik has been reading books since his childhood. He is a busy Chemical Engineer but after coming back from his office, he loves to read various kinds of literature and edits a web magazine called Adorer Nouka, a web magazine. Abhik gets his inspiration from Tagore. He is also a music lover.


What challenges have you faced as a writer in Bengali? What successes have you achieved?

Presently, the number of readers is decreasing in the field of Bengali Literature and the market is getting limited day by day. I started writing on my facebook pages and got satisfactory responses. Facebook provides a liberal platform to the writers who want to publish their writings independently. But I still feel the conversion rate between reading and enjoying stories on facebook and buying the physical book from the market needs to be improved.

Tell us about the themes of your short fiction.

I write both short fictions and novels. I love writing thrillers and love stories.

What advice do you give to authors out there who wish to market their books?

I have a popular facebook page named Srichoroneshoe. It is quite popular in the Bengali Fb circuit. I write my stories there. People read these stories that I post and make queries about buying my books. It is quite effective if anyone wants to market their books.

You are a chemical engineer. How did you take the plunge into writing?

I write after I come back from work. Writing is a passion. My readers also inspire me to write. Even if I am tired after work, I don’t see that as an obstacle to my writing.

What is your next project?

In the upcoming Kolkata book fair, two of my books are getting published.

All the best with your writing in the future, Abhik!