The word “Detective” instantly brings the picture of Sherlock Holmes in to most peoples mind but for a Bengali like me we have quite a handful of options. We have Kaka Babu, Felu Da, Kiriti, Byomkesh etc. Most of these have been made into television serials and full length feature films, being an avid fan of these characters I hardly miss any. Off late my blogging hobby has made me think beyond the characters and go deep down to the mind of the creator of these famous detective stories.
Were they police officers, did they have and special connections by which they could create such intricate stories. In reality these were common people but in their minds they could create a web of stories which would fascinate their readers.
This blog of mine is dedicated to Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay the creator of the Byomkesh series. Much before the movies this series was made in a television serial which I am sure every one of my age must have watched since then we did not have satellite television and had to completely rely on Doordarshan. Of course there was Chiriakhana which was a Bengali movie based on Byomkesh but for most the television serial stands out.
Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay was born in the year 1899 on 30th of March in a place called Jaunpur which is in present Uttar Pradesh. He was a student at Vidyasagar College and already had his first publication of poetry in the year 1919. During his college life he used to stay in a mess at Harrison Road and here the famous character Byomkesh Bakshi was born. So literally this mess was where Byomkesh was born, in fact this mess was the setting for Byomkesh’s first residence from where it all began.
Harrison Road is long gone and now it was known as Mahatma Gandhi Road or in short MG Road. I used to study at St Pauls C M College which is quite near to this road and everyday used to get down at Harrison Road or MG Road and walk to the college.
During all my college days I was not much into reading thus never had the interest in finding these however with my growing interest in heritage blogging these search and discovery became a sort after hobby to track these famous houses.
Last year along with my friend Amitabha, I was on a mission to prepare a route map for a heritage walk that was being organised as a part of a literary festival in my organization, during one such walk in the north part of Kolkata I found a treasure trove of known and unknown houses belonging to famous authors.
Amongst all these what stood out was a simple working men’s mess. Many such existed in the early 50’s and 60’s and surprisingly some still remains functional. The idea was that many working in the city could not afford a luxurious apartment or a house. Some married men who had families in the villages or in the outskirts made these home away from home. Rooms were simple and often shared with two or three more residents. Toilets were common for each floor which was shared by 10 – 15 people staying at the mess.
These were not restricted to married men but bachelors also found refuge in them. In time the mess mates became best of friends and often this resulted in friendship for life.
I had finally found what I was looking for, I had found the Presidency Boarding House, the mess where Byomkesh was born. Tucked in a small corner of MG Road one can easily miss this landmark as being another desolate mess which any day soon will be taken over by a builder to construct a multi storied building.
It was a real different feeling when I was entering through the dark ally and finally seeing the veranda where the story takes place. It was in a complete shamble with paints coming off the wall, a distinct layer of moss and fungus covered a major portion of the walls, the railings were equally scary and of one made a mistake to rest on them could surely collapse to the ground.
Surprisingly people still live in this mess and it was as busy as it could be. When I had reached it was lunch times so most of its residents were busy in the dining hall where they were being served rice and fish.
I managed to talk to the Mess Manager and he was quite courteous and confirmed the fact that Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay indeed stayed here and it was in the first floor where he resided. Surprisingly another stalwart of Bengali literature Jibanananda Das also used to stay in this mess.
Since it was lunch time so he was extremely busy and promised to take me around the entire mess another day. I had no words to thank him as I was immersed in the fact that I was amongst the famous sleuth Byomkesh, even though he is an imaginary character but does that really matter? Are we not a fiction of our own imagination?