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The Child Prodigy:
The Stories She Once Wrote for Bhutiya
|by Prof. Kamal Sarkar|
Like Anne Frank's Diary , the imaginative stories in Rituparna Bhattacharjee’s Bhutiya also reveal the feelings of a child prodigy. They chronicle the thoughts and feelings of a young sensitive mind which bleeds under the pressure of dismal surrroundings. While Anne described in her tortured sensitivity as a child, Rituparna also in her stories of Bhutiya betray a down–to–earth reality through snapshots of poverty, criminality, and selfishness.
The first of the stories 'Mrityunjoy' (Conquest of Death) which got second prize in the Suktara Short story contest deals with the invention of medicine for curing Cancer. Dr. Sen in this story experimented the medicine on a dog which was saved from certain death. But Dr. Sen himself died because of too much strain taken for the invention and research for a prolonged period of ten years. This is a story of commitment and devotion. Many critics and reviewers have thought that Rituparna has mused too much on death and foreboding. But this story is a positive one. It shows a journey from darkness of despair to light. It is hard to imagine that Rituparna wrote the story only at the age of 11.
The second story 'Tin Macher Galpo' ( A story of three fish) , dealt with the selfishness and cruelty of the two red and blue fishes with the dark fish.The child prodigy Rituparna in this story in very simple terms analysed the pain and repentance in the mind of the offenders. The third story of the book is quite fanciful 'Putulra jadi baro hoto' (Had the Dolls been Growing Up!) and Rituparna imagines that one of the toy dolls named Rambo ,chased a thief and in course of its action was killed by criminals.
Another story 'Babar Upahar'( Gift of a Father) tells us how a teenager girl experienced the tragedy of her father accident and death during her end exam of school board. She stood first which the father dreamt of so much but could not live to see. The other story 'Shei Cheleta' ( That Very Boy) is a sad picture of a poor boy who was not allowed to participate in the Tagore Birthday celebration. Love for animals is one of the central motif in Rituparna's stories. One such story. 'Abyakto jantrona' in which Rituparana described the poignant sufferings of cat from illness. Its death is graphically described in the story.
Narrative art of Rituparna reaches a height of maturity in the story ‘Trijama’ in which the baby girl Tiku (nickname of Trijama) who loved her auntie Jhim grew up with a tragic experience of her elderly friend Akash dying of brain cancer and later when she herself sacrificed her kidney for Jhim did not herself get any support for her ailment from that ingrateful aunt Jhim. She died a tragic death .The next story 'Thakuma’ (Grandmother) was a tragic story of an old grandmother’s suffering and sacrifice who gave her kidney for her daughter in law who always devised ways of torturing her. The old woman died and not a single tear was dropped for her.In ‘Shyamar Itikatha’ (The Age Old Story of Shyama) Rituparna tells the story of a parrot Shyama who was unfortunate enough to prove her better talents to the king because of the neglect and carelessness of the owner.
Rituparna in her story ‘Smriti’ tells about a pigeon which developed an intimacy with a tourist( the first person narrator ) at Ghatshila . She nursed the wounded pigeon there in the house where she had lodged and at the time of departure , the pigeon brought a grape probably out of love and gratefulness for the narrator. Silent gestures of animals and birds always become great themes to make Rituparna’s story ever touching.
In the story ‘ Shei Hanshta’ (The Duck) the focus is on the mingling of the festivity of birthday party and the sadness associated with the death of a beloved duck. Thus Rituparna always smiled in her story with tears trickling down her cheeks. ‘Kriti’ is also the ever tragic story of a girl who could feel for everyone’s sufferings . Her artistic soul strongly reacted to the darkness all around. ‘Bhalobasar Tori’ (The Boat of Love) is a story of sibling jealousy about which Rituparna has written several times in Unish Kuri, an ABP publication . ‘Abhiman’ ( Wounded Sentiment) is the sweet story of Srutika – where Rituparna reveals the values of friendship and its renewal . Questions of promise-keeping loom large in ‘Protignya Baro Na Kartobyo?’ (Promise versus Duty) . A poor man can give his life for keeping promise. In ‘Sarthok Shilpi’ (The Successful Artist) we hear the story of a girl gradually growing up and gaining name and fame as artist by overcoming the lashes of poverty. The last but not the least is ‘Bhutia’ the title story of the book is a marvellous narrative dealing with the psychological and moral conflicts in the mind of the narrator regarding the hanging of the outlawed person Bhutia who had once been a faithful and ever loyal servant of their house. He later turned a criminal and the narrator was to dispense justice overcoming all her softness and affection. Duty is above everything even above sentiments or personal feelings.
All these stories show an abundance of grief. But still the easy grace of narration and choices diction of Rituparna make us forget the sadness associated with the tragic stories. A child suffering torments of life or watching cruelties , selfishness, sickness all around her gradually grows up in this storybook. Rituparna’s stories do not show fairy or angels of the ethereal world. They betray a down –to –earth reality through snapshots of poverty, criminality, and selfishness. This maturity is rare for grown up ones , but Rituparna shows her awareness of this tragedy of life at the age of 11. This is really astonishing and something more than expected even of a child prodigy. Her book should be translated in English for the wider range of teenagers all over the world by the renowned publishing houses. Like Anne Frank’s Diary , BHUTIYA in some ways may also be called the ‘Diary of a Young Girl’.
At present she is a celebrity in Chemistry research with her Science Poster being selected in the University of California and Colorado and paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. But still the authoress of Bhutiya is a wonderful freelancer for the magazines like Unish Kuri of Ananda Bazar Group of publications or a brilliant writer of Advertorials for Sananda, Desh and the Ananda Bazar Patrika itself. Many child prodigies could not maintain their writing flair when they grow up. But Rituparna continues. A researcher in science with global recognition is also a committed soul to fiction writing- this is a great fact to be considered by our generation of young readers.
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