I never remember seeing him as he had passed away during my childhood but he always remains an enigma for me till today. Prabhat Kiron Bose was a great writer, a well known figure in Bengali literature of the fifties. His mansion at No. 7 Rajabagan Lane, Hatibagan (Elephant’s Garden), Kolkata was frequented by writers, poets and freedom fighters. My father and his brothers who were great admirers grew up reading his stories and poems. He was one of the very few writers of that period who took up writing as a full time profession.
The mansion at Rajabagan Lane, a majestic building is a place where we sometimes use to spend my summer holidays away from the severe heat of Gwalior. The three storeys high building stands on a busy thoroughfare in Central Kolkata, surrounded by shops of all kind selling wares ranging from exotic birds, fish, jewellery, books and clothes. There are street hawkers peddling eitr (perfumes), clothes for gods and goddesses, tickets of a hit movie and astrologers willing to tell you your grim future, all for a small fee. I remain entranced with this enchanted world, its distinct aroma still lives enraptured in my senses. They all knew Prabhat da’s house and were proud to be doing business in its vicinity. My father use to tell me that if you ever get lost in Central Kolkata just ask for Kobi (Poet) Prabhat Kirons house. The winding gothic staircase would take me to the top floor where Pishima and my cousin Probal da stayed. The halls on this floor were packed with books and journals of all kind, musty with age.
I slept on a beautiful four poster bed, reading his books looking out at the twinkling lights of Kolkata and dreaming of the angel that took off from the top of Victoria Memorial and perched somewhere near this mansion.
Prabhat Kiron Basu was a great story teller and loved writing for children. He pioneered in providing Bengali children’s literature during nineteen forty and fifty with the famous writer / poet Sukumar Ray. Many of his stories were published in the children’s magazine “Sandesh” brought out by Sukumar Ray and later by his son, Filmmaker Satyajit Ray. His stories catered to an age group of twelve and above. To be honest, I don’t have access to all his literary pursuits as most of them seem to be destroyed with age.
The most enjoyable figure in a series of comic short stories for children was Jogapishe. Jogapishe was an obese balding man of around fifty from the middle class who had four children and was always henpecked by his wife, an equally obese woman. The rollicking misadventures of Jogapishe and his family within a Bengali milieu would leave children and adult readers crying with laughter. It is either Jogapishe catching the wrong train leaving his wife and children in another train going to an opposite direction or Jogapishe reaching a marriage invitation party only to find later that this was not the marriage he was supposed to attend. There is always the wife to be blamed for his perennial faults and the children loving Jogapishe in spite of chronic hiccups in their daily lives. Such are the stories of Jogapishe which took the Fifties Children Literature by a storm.
Pishomohai continued to write till his last. Pishima always happy with his literary pursuits did grumble at times but never stopped him from writing. She was always the first listener or reader of his creativity. I remember reading his books in my childhood and always wondered about the fantasy lore he wove for millions of children. As the dusk descended and my mother would go off with my aunties to a theatre performance at Star Theatre or a Bengali movie nearby, I would enter into a world where Pishomoshai, holding my hand, would show me rushing out over the streets of Calcutta, history and tales woven in valor, laughter emanating from a street corner only to be disturbed now and then by my Pishima’s voice, “Amitabh are you really sleeping?”