Late Pratima Dhar was a homemaker who travelled widely with her husband. She began to pen down her observations which later formed the basis of her book Nabajatok published in Bengali. In this interview, her son talks about why he decided to get his mother's books translated and published anew.
Bambino is the translated version of the Bengali book Nabajatok. When was the original Bengali version of this book published?
The original Bengali version was published in April 1997
What were the reviews and reader feedback of the original Bengali version like?
Thanks to all my mother’s readers, she received very good feedback on various aspects of her work.
She was grateful to them, her publishers and God that her creation could see the light of the day.
The feedback that touched her heart probably the most came from one of the elderly ladies, who had trouble walking, came to our home once just to talk about the book.
Her thoughts verbatim “Pratima, your stories seem to be woven around my own personal daily life, characters I know myself, and those were all so touching that I cannot articulate.”
Bambino was written by Pratima Dhar. What is your relationship with the author? Tell us something about the author.
Late Pratima Dhar was my mother, born in Jamshedpur in a family of five sisters and one brother. She completed her MA in Bengali literature after getting married to Hara Narayan Dhar.
They travelled throughout their lives and she kept a journal of each and every life event, people and places that left an impression in her mind and heart.
After my father retired, she started publishing her books in the form of short stories, poetry and novels.
She passed away on July 8, 2013.
What encouraged you to get the work translated? Who translated it?
As societally we started getting distanced, in terms of physical distance, language, priorities etc., I saw that her work was not reaching out to many of her intended audience.
Many of the younger generation cannot read or write in Bengali, being brought up either outside Bengal or even outside India.
My wife comes from Punjabi/Gujarati background and she could not appreciate my Mom’s work.
Hence the initiative to get my parent’s books translated in English, to make it available to the wider audience.
The task of getting their work translated in English and getting those published was very difficult for me, till the time fate made me reach out to Pinaki in Power Publishers and since then, I have found my rhythm.
The translation in English and publishing of the English version is being taken care of by Power Publishers to whom I am much obliged.
Bambino is a short story collection – what do you think is the significance of the stories today? Are they still relevant? Do you think the readers of today can relate themselves to these short stories?
Bambino, or the original Bengali version Nabajatak, was the first book she ever published.
Throughout her life, she had been traveling all over the country with her husband Late Hara Narayan Dhar and son Anirban.
She kept jotting down daily her experiences, encounters and thoughts in big black and brown diaries.
It ranged from experiences with near family members, to strangers to nature to politics and last but not least, to every form of literature.
The stories she chose from her vast collection to form the book “Nabajatak” (literal meaning new born) were not selected chronologically.
She wanted to select some that could bring life to her “newly born” and these stories apparently jumped out to her.
She had always been fascinated and engrossed in writing short stories and her experiences were mainly around human nature which typically tends to stand the test of time, in its best and worst form.
Her readers ranged from high school students to 80 year olds and her work should remain relevant to all in time to come.
Are any of the short stories in Bambino taken from or inspired by real life incidents? Any you know of?
Almost all the stories of Bambino came from her personal experience. Progeny, Transcendent, What the heart wants, Adulteress and Like a son are stories that I personally relate to as her son, having been woven around characters from real life that I know of.
Are there other books by the same author? Please name a few.
She published a total of nine books in Bengali - six on short stories, one was a novel and two on poetries.
Her first Bengali poem book was “Na bola kotha”, which has already been translated to English (Words Not Spoken) and her novel “Uttarsuri” is getting translated as we speak.
A few of her other short story books were “Abartan”, Protibimbo”, “Ramdhanu”, “Sukher Laagiya” and “Ajana Mon” which shall get translated in English in the near future.
Was writing a full-time profession of the author? Why did the author take to writing books?
Writing was not her profession by any means.
She was a full time house-wife, initially part of a joint family and then managing on her own.
Her husband was in government service with all its challenges and intricacies, including moving to a new city every three years.
Instead of getting bogged down with that schedule, she made it her strength and started jotting down her thoughts on places and people she went and met.
Her biggest inspirations were Rabindranath, Sarat Chandra, Ashapurna Devi, Dickens and Jane Austen, who she adored, loved their creations and somewhere as she grew up, got the inspiration to have her own literary creations based on her own life experiences.
She never thought of commercializing her work but jot it down in a medium that can be passed along from generation to generation