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Memories of an Era Gone By

Debasish Chakrabarty

By Paritosh Sen
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2004, pp. xii 183, Rs. 375.00


It was a large golden-brown coloured facsimile of a portfolio that had some really wonderful sketches and a narrative written in fine cursive hand. This was my first glimpse of Paritosh Sen’s A Tree in My Village, at the National Institute of Design. I was struck by the way his words and sketches flowed into each other. So, one can gauge my pleasant surprise when I was presented with an opportunity to review a known voice.   Paritosh Sen belongs to that league of extraordinary gentlemen who claim competence in more than one grammar of communication. He seems to be equally comfortable in the world of pigments as in the world of letters. In Fire and Other Images, Sen affects a wonderful crossover from the canvas to the page. One is struck by his painterly attention to detail. It is quite interesting to note the sonnet-like arrangement of the contents of this book. The first six compositions (‘Looking back’, ‘Hafiz Mian, Tailor Par Excellence’, ‘Scene Painter Jiten Goswami’, ‘Prasanna-kumar’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Arjuna—A Tree in My Village’) are about the author’s childhood in Dhaka. The next six vignettes (‘Helen of Lancashire’, ‘Face to face with Picasso’, ‘In the studio of Brancusi’, ‘A Trip to Abu Simbel’, ‘In the Role of a Prince’, and ‘In Search of Arcadia’) are about the artist and the man with a vast reservoir of experiences. The series ends with two pen-pictures (‘Union and Separation’ and ‘The Bull and the Devotee’) marking the return of the prodigal son. Though there is no strict adherence to chronology, the content table is a wonderful structural assortment of compo-sitions about individuals and experiences of events or places.   In each of the two major sections—Dhaka and abroad—this assortment is restricted to sets of three each. While the character sketches of Hafiz Mian, Jiten Goswami and Prasanna-kumar populate his Dhaka years, Helen, Picasso and Brancusi form the foci of Sen’s years abroad. This is certainly not to say that in the other stories the characters are unremarkable. Even a cameo like the Serang in ‘A Trip to Abu Simbel’ remains etched in the memory of the reader because Sen in his characteristic way gives him a distinctive hue when he remarks casually, “I was glad to find he had a poetic soul”.   In the Dhaka section, the universe of Sen’s childhood is recreated. In a powerful ...

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