I am writing this review with the express motive of highlighting a relative unknown facet of the versatile genius, Satyajit Ray. Well known as a brilliant movie maker, he was honoured by an Oscar for lifetime achievement and a Bharat Ratna in 1992. But apart from this, he was a brilliant writer who excelled in writing for children. His stories (written originally in Bangla), though primarily written for children, have a huge following in adults, who discovered subtle shades and hidden messages in them. In addition to many short stories about super sleuth Feluda (thirty five) and super scientist Professor Shonku (forty), he wrote some seventy five short stories, mostly about the super-natural and the unexpected.
And this book contains twenty one of those, some translated from original Bangla by the master himself and the rest by Gopa Majumdar. The short stories are a rare blend of humour, intrigue, supernatural, science fiction and the unexpected. In fact, when I hark back to my childhood, when I grew up reading these stories in Bangla, I realize that it was my first taste of the exotic. And some thirty years later, when I read the translated version, I found that their charm has only increased over time. The stories will take you to a world that has an undying appeal and the twists in each and every story will leave you breathless. Ray’s world has ghosts (both friendly and malignant), aliens in unexpected shapes, carnivorous plants and extinct animals making an appearance in everyday life. There are brilliant descriptions, vivid passages blending with a rare economy of words. The first twenty stories are those which are popularly classified as Ray’s children stories and the last one Pikoo’s Diary was specifically written by Ray for adults. It is perhaps a very fitting end to this extraordinary book. (Incidentally, it was made into a tele-film by Ray in 1981)
The book has been published by Penguin and I will recommend it to each and every booklover.