We have made a literary find today, October 6 2008, of a notebook of Manindranath Roy’s that he had titled Mandakini. It contains some 51 poems and poetic songs composed between 1914 and 1936, from when he was aged about 23 to when he was 45. He has been dead fifty years now and no one knew of the existence of these poems until today. Nor had he told anyone of the work (perhaps because some of the poems are especially candid, and erotic too). Between about 1933 and 1943 Manindranath had found himself facing trials and tribulations of such gravity and magnitude (caused in part by his own foolish squandering of his inheritance from his father) that he may have wished to forget, ignore or even regret his creative period.
Many of the poems are recorded as having been published in literary journals of the time, like Bharatbarsha and Bichitra, and some are recorded as having been sung or performed on the new radio service of the time, especially around 1931.
Here is poem number 48 titled “Saratchandra” in honour of his friend, the novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya. Manindranath as a poet would have been certainly inspired in his modernity by his association with Sarat — while Sarat benefitted economically by the association and also may have found characters and plots for his novels (he apparently dedicated one at least to Manindranath’s wife, my grandmother).
When all of Mandakini is published in due course, it is not impossible Manindranath will come to be recognised as among the finest modern poets of his era in Bengal.
Subroto Roy, October 6 2008
The Bangla date translates as 16 September 1915 – ১ আশ্বিন ১৩২২ (1 Ashwin 1322) Thursday – বৃহস্পতিবার (thanks to http://www.pallab.com)
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