Technology and social media have opened new horizons in literature: Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

For around six decades he has been mesmerising both adults and teenagers with his vivid and varied characterisation, gripping plots, and impeccable story telling. A deep love of humanity and humane values, wit and humour are the hallmarks of his short stories and novels, where those in teens love to get lost in a world of fantasy and funny ghosts and the equally lovable good and bad people.

Meet Sahitya Akademi awardee Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, rated as one of the finest and popular writers of modern Bengali literature. As he stepped into his 84th year on Friday, Mukhopadhyay is least bothered about his advancing age, and has adapted magnificently to a new world of laptops and tabs.

“I am not at all concerned about my age, or that I am growing old. I consider myself young. I still play pranks on my grandchildren.

“I face no issues with the change in technology as I am in favour of the change. I myself use new gadgets and devices and practise writing on them. I have been using laptops for a long time. Currently I am writing stories on my new tab,” Mukhopadhyay told IANS in an interview.

Mukhopadhyay, who has penned nearly 100 books of short stories and novels for the adult readers, and 34 for teenagers – most of them best sellers – does not believe that emergence of e-books would put writers in trouble.

“I believe e-books are the future. We can get almost 40 to 50 novels within one small portable device and read them any time we want. It is of great convenience to the readers.” said the author, who won the Sahitya Akademi in 1989 for his novel Manabjamin.

He himself uses various social media platforms.

“Social media allows free interaction between the author and readers. It has opened up new horizon for the writers as they can reach out to more people easily and also use the platform to advertise their books if needed. I have accounts on various social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp but I do not use them a lot as I don’t get time but the impact of social media on writers have been positive,” he said.

Mukhopadhyay, who was massively influenced by the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, rued that great translations comissioned by the Sahitya Akademi remain unsold as people do not know about them. He suggested Sahitya Akademi set up its own retail shops to get more visibility among the literature enthusiasts.

Born in Mymensingh (now in Bangladesh) in 1935, his family migrated to Kokata during the partition. However, Mukhopadhyay spent his formative years shuttling between various places as his father had a transferable job.

“I came across a great variety of people, This obviously helped me in portraying a wide array of characters. The experience of staying in different mofussil and rural areas greatly shaped backdrop of my novels and stories,” said Mukhopadhyay, whose first published story was “Jol Torongo” in 1959. The first novel “Ghunpoka” came out in the mid-sixties.

A deep undertone of spirituality runs through his works. They add to the depth, but never hinder the flow.

Mukhopadhyay credits this to the influence of his guru (spiritual guide) Thakur Anukulchandra.

“I believe, to portray some idealism in one’s writing, it is important to first assimilate the ideals. Otherwise it would sound like an advertisement. I could do it successfully. The reference to Thakur in my writings comes from my belief in his philosophy,” he said.

Mukhopadhyay’s magnificent ouvre of adult fiction includes such evergreen books like “Kagojer Bou”, “Durbin”, “Ujaan”, “Akranta” and “Parthibo”. He has also come out with thrillers like “Kalo Beral” and “Shada Beral” and even started a series with detective Shabor Dasgupta as the protagonist.

Many of his works have been translated into various languages.

Mukhopadhyay delved into the world of children’s literature much later, in the mid- 1970s, and got instant success with the novel “Manojder Adbhut Bari”.

“I don’t face issues in writing for the children and the grown ups simultaneously. I have been doing it for many years. But the truth is there is no secret formula behind this. I won’t be able to explain how I do it. May be, it is something within me.”

His treasure trove of children’s literature is enriched with elements like thrill, suspense, humour, colloquialism and often the not-at-all-scary supernatural entities. His “Goshaibaganer Bhoot”, “Goynar Baksho” and “Chhayamoy”, all of which were turned into movies, have the presence of ghosts.

“I believe in ghosts. But what’s more significant, I feel the ghosts too believe in me. They come to grace my writings whenever I need them. I have a mutual relationship with them,” Shirshendu said in his trademark humorous style.

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