Kolkata, Jan 22 (PTI) As India was celebrating its first Independence Day, it was the joy of new beginnings for some and the fear of losing their home and hearth for others that took up the mind-space of some of Kolkata’s best known living authors.
Rumours swirled in the city – some curious, some downright impossible such as abolition of police stations! Buses and cinema halls did not charge a paisa in Kolkata, while in newly created East Pakistan, a number of people who later trudged their way to India, hoisted the green crescent and star to avoid suspicion.
Those anecdotes of the country’s “tryst with destiny” moment were shared by octogenarian Bengali authors Manisankar Mukhopadhyay, better known by his pen-name ‘Sankar’, and Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here Sunday.
Besides the two Sahitya Akademi award-winning writers, journalist Semanti Ghosh, who was born many years after India’s Independence, but has a book on the partition to her credit, also told the audience how her father, the late celebrated poet Sankha Ghosh, had seen the day when India became independent.
Revisiting the first moments of freedom at the session, ’47-er Sei August’ (That August of 1947) on Saturday, Sankar, who was a 14-year-old boy then, said, “A lot of rumours were spread on that day. One of those was police stations would cease to exist. All police stations would become schools.” The ‘news’ came as a blow to the son of a police sub-inspector, a friend of Sankar, who was left wondering what will happen to them if there are no police stations, though he was happy as, he also heard, that the newly independent country will abolish the examination system.
Sankar, a resident of Howrah town then, said the other rumours included free circulation of two major dailies – one English and the other Bengali, and free food to be served in a couple of popular eateries on August 15.
However, like many other dreams, those were also shattered in no time, said Sankar.
That sorrow was short-lived as, soon after, he enjoyed a free ride in a bus that he took to visit a cinema theatre which did not charge anything for the shows that day. He also visited an overcrowded Governor’s House and Gandhi Ashram in Beleghata area of Kolkata, where ‘Bapu’ was present.
The day was completely different for Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, then a resident of Mymensing in present-day Bangladesh.
“As you see me now sitting here, a refugee, an unhappy and hurt man whose land of birth was snatched away from him. That memory still haunts me. It’s a feeling no one else can understand who has not gone through that tragic experience,” said Mukhopadhyay who was 12 in 1947.
“The thought that came to me was who were these people who have decided the fate of so many others. Its true that the country gained independence, but crores lost their homes, lost their motherland,” he said.
Reminiscing the sylvan surrounding of his home, the 87-year-old said he is still longing for the small tin-roofed house, the nearby ‘Kadam’ tree and the vast Brahmaputra river.
He had to hoist the green flag of Pakistan on the advice of a well-wisher when most of his family members had gone to India where he too would go after a few months.
Besides the two elderly authors, journalist Ghosh and moderator of the session, writer-academician Aparajita Dasgupta said that despite the stream of people moving in opposite directions to an uncertain future, a large section of people believed this displacement was a temporary phase.
“People go abroad in search of greener pastures. I would say – love your country, do something for it. I hope the love for the country increases,” Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay said signing off. PTI NN BDC JRC JRC