ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Indranath Majumder

In the early 1980s, I found an early Routledge edition of Maurice Dobb’s Russian Economic Development since the Revolution in a rare book stall at the Calcutta Book Fair. The owner knew my face. He wanted Rs 20 for the book. Unemployed, I was not in a position to pay that amount. After knowing that, the owner told me to pay whatever I could; I bought the book for Rs 10. After a few days, I visited the same stall. The owner requested me to exchange the book for an Indian reprint so that he could sell the foreign edition to a wealthy customer for the higher price. I disagreed and he laughed. He was Indranath Majumder.

Majumder was born in the Khulna district of Bangladesh in 1933. He came to West Bengal in the early 1950s.

Majumder had the experience of participating in the library movement in West Bengal as an ordinary member and he visited villages in the 1950s. On the advice of some well-wishers, he started a small book-selling and publishing concern, Subarnarekha, in the 1960s. Initially, he specialised in old and rare books on Indology. He had a gut knowledge of both books and buyers. He often collected specific books for specific buyers; Indian and foreign scholars visited his dingy office in central Calcutta to find books they needed.

Subarnarekha published some quality books, both in Bengali and English. These include facsimile editions of ­Upendrakishore and Sukumar Roy’s classic books, Somnath Hore’s Tebhager Diary, Radharaman Mitra’s Kalikata Darpan, the autobiography of the great theatre personality Binodini, Amar Katha, and Arun Nag’s edited 19th century text, Sateek Hutom Pyanchar Naksha. Sumanta Banerjee’s book, In the Wake of Naxalbari, and essays in honour of Samar Sen bearing the title, The Truth Unites, were also published by Subarnarekha.

Indranath Majumder led a bohemian life. In his younger days, he used to visit Khalasitola, a famous pub in Calcutta, for consuming indigenous liquor. He came to know literary giants in Bengal in the addas at Khalasitola. His list of friends included Kamalkumar Majumder, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Shakti Chattopadhyay. Majumder’s bohemianism was not a mismatch with his passion for books and his trade. He often gifted rare books to his book-lover friends.

Later in his life, Majumder opened a branch of Subarnarekha at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan. The bookshop is adjacent to the Visva Bharati University campus. Indranath Majumder died this year on the birth anniversary of Tagore. Immediately after his death, Visva Bharati University has served legal notice on Subarnarekha to vacate this place. This symbolises death of a rare tradition.

Arup Kumar Sen


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