Recently I read the same book in English, My Kind of Girl, translated into English by Arunava Sinha. I picked it up from where I had left it at 19. Now I discovered the picture painted in those pages, the poetry hidden in the prose. Buddhadeb Bose’s “moner moto meye” (loosely meaning a girl to my heart) remained “moner moto” – a beautiful picture, most often out of reach, a memory of youth, a memory of the brush with love for the first time, rekindled in the minds of four Benagali babus spending a wintry night together in a railway waiting room, suddenly stirred out of the abyss of their middle aged mind by a newly wed couple who “stood there for just a few moments, said something softly before they turned and left”. And “that seemed to blow a breath of warm air through the wintry waiting room” and they embarked on a journey of sharing their stories. The stories shared over steaming cups of coffee revolved around each of their “Kind of Girl” and why they all “wanted to see her for one time as a real person”.
The language was simple, only at rare occasions with a small twist or a quick turn of phrase which made the experience real, the image real, making the book un-putdownable. I could almost read the Bengali phrase hidden in the English words. I visited Paltan in 1927, I sat and watched Makhanlal’s father clean out a big platter of food accompanied by several bowls of delicacies and then “embracing … bolsters in readiness for … sleep” – images that are typically Bengali but sincerely rendered in English.
“Is the memory of happiness that has passed, happy or sad?”
It spoke to me, I felt the thrill of love, and I felt the pain, the hopeless hope, the fear to accept love and then regretting it, rejection in love and the bravado in the face of it. It was alive with images of middle class Bengali life in the middle of the 20th century, the restrictive norms of rights and wrongs passed on to the younger generations so that they too stuck to their middle ground and chose the easy over the right.
The book also had it’s light, breezy moments when the fickle female heart found respite in the obvious, the regular, the ordinary – or whimsically soared, being the object of affection of three not so urban males only to be swept off her feet by someone “Fair of skin, dressed in a dhoti and kurta made with a fine material, he turned your heart into a flying bird with a subtle fragrance if you went near him.”
I do not regret not reading the book back then, when I was 19. It may not have spoken to me the way it did now and I may not have listened to it with rapt attention as I did now.