Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2008, National Library and a Gost

It was around 2008, a sultry afternoon in the National Library, Kolkata.

Like many other people who have frequented the National Library, I had also heard stories about Warren Hasting's spirit roaming around the rather solemn building, that housed the library premises. It is rumoured that Hasting's spirit roams around the library looking for a black book that could save him from impeachment. It was a sleepy hot afternoon and I was searching for an old magazine, as a part of the research for my book on Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. The National Library being a store house of many such old magazines, I had spent a good part of the day already looking up some of the very old Bengali magazines from the 40's and 50's. there was a stealth to the air, some old fans stirred, pages creaked in some corner of vague rooms, faint footsteps in another random corner..

I was reminded of Ruskin Bond, a documenter and creator of some ghosts. Mr. Bond who has extensively written on ghosts once said that a young 10 year old reader had found his ghosts not too scary and had accordingly asked him,  ‘Can you make them frightful?’

By this time I was desperate to find a particular article about Suchitra Sen. Like anyone who has written biographies will tell you, at a particular point one starts almost reliving the life of the personality one writes on, and sometimes becomes almost a part of their spirit. There were evenings when I had walked on Ballygunge Circular Road and wondered if a particular lady with her head in a scarf was Suchitra Sen.

A copy of 'Prasad', suddenly fell down as I jerked open one of the rusting old drawers. On the open page, a stunning photograph of the lady. I could almost hear a certain Hastings chuckle.

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