Thursday, March 10, 2016

Memoirs of Homeland: Refugees of 1947 Bengal Partition in India Release in Kolkata, India

Memoirs of Homeland:
Refugees of 1947 Bengal Partition in India
By Dr. Sachi Ghosh Dastidar & Dr. Shefali Sengupta Dastidar
Kolkata, India, Book Release, February 20, 2016
Shefali S. Dastidar

On February 20, 2016 the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc. (ISPaD) New York organized a book release and book reading at the former home, now a museum, of the famous 19th -20th  Century Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's at Ballyganj, south Kolkata (Calcutta.) "Memoirs of Homeland: Refugees of 1947 Bengal Partition in India", authored by Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar and this writer is published by Firma KLM of Kolkata. It is a 320-page softcover book. This book was released before the February 2016 Kolkata Book Fair. Proceeds from the sale of the book in the U.S. goes to the Partition Documentation Project of New York. 

Book Availability & Price: $10 at Partition Center Office in NY ( or 917-524-0035; or at FIRMA KLM office, Kolkata; or (33) 2221-7294)

At the Podium, from left, Mrs. Ruchira Chakrabarty, Mrs. Pratima RoyChoudhury, Mr. Tapan Das and Mr. Swarup Mitra

Here is a bit of explanation from the book, "Between 1982 and 1986...we decided to interview (in the U.S.) some of the refugees- Hindu and Muslim - as many of their stories were riveting to us, and now socializing with individuals from the "other" groups from whom they fled earlier....How do they feel about their homeland? Not so surprisingly, all the refugees remembers in minute detail how and when their families fled, or what made them to choose a different nationality leaving their home of their ancestors, especially for Hindus for whom the village water and soil, flower and fish, are sacred and needed for religious services. Majority of refugees were Hindus who fled from East Pakistan/East Bengal to India......Altogether there are 22 stories; 16 men and 6 women; Hindu 18 and Muslim 4." (p 14)

Rohit Shome introducing the book

Guests started gathering for the book release in that Saturday morning. There were over thirty attendees of very mixed group, mostly from academia and professionals. Mr Rohit Shome, a young college graduate welcomes the guests and acted as the MC. He introduced this writer to speak about the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc. (ISPaD) organization (New York, USA), activities which include monthly events in New York, yearly conference, a journal publication, publishing a newsletter, archiving partition-related materials, saving oral records of refugees, protectors and survivors of Indian partition, providing expert witness, and more.

Mrs. Ruchira (IraDi) Speaking

Rohit introduced the guests. He welcomed the Chief Guest Mrs. Ruchira Chakravarty, a poet and older daughter of the late poet Bishnu De and wife of Dr. Satyesh Chandra Chakravarty who was Dr. Dastidar's professor and mentor while I was studying at Presidency College, Kolkata. Dr. and Mrs. Chakravarty are now family friends for decades. Mrs. Chakravarty was a teacher of the South Point School for many dedades. Mrs. Chakaravarty known as IraDi, Older Sister Ira, was invited to open the book. IraDi opened the book with great cheer and enthusiasm from the audience. Then I presented a signed copy of the book to IraDi. 

Introduction of the Book

Rohit then introduced Mr. Tapan Das, a retired planner for the West Bengal Government, Mr. Das worked with my coauthor Dr. Sachi Dastidar at Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMPO) in the 1970s. This book has been dedicated to Mr. Tapan Das. We believe that without dedicated assistance from Das it would have been impossible for Dastidars to publish this book, and they are truly grateful to him. Das talked about his good time, frustration, and communication with Mr. Swarup Mitra, a top administrator of the Firma KLM. On behalf of the authors a signed copy of the book with a token gift and a "Thank You" card was presented to Mr. Das.

Mr. Tapan Das speaking

Rohit introduced Mr. Swarup Mitra from Firma KLM Publishers. Mr. Mitra talked about the authors, and other books of these authors published by them. He talked on behalf of Mrs. Swati Mukherjee, the owner of the publishing company who could not attend since she was out of town. Mitra said that they are very happy to publish Dastidar books. Mitra was presented a token gift and a "Thank you" card from Dastidars.

Mr. Swarup Mitra of Firma KLM speaking

A number of individuals spoke afterwards. Dr. R. N. Chattopadhay of Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, and founder of Prembazar Institute, an organization of past and present faculty and staff of IIT-Kharagpur that helps education at number of schools in nearby villages. Following Chatterjee Mrs. Pratima RoyChoudhury, a Special Guest, spoke and reminisced about her memoirs back home in LakshmanKathi village East Bengal, now Bangladesh. 

Speakers during Q&A

Then I read a bit from the last story in the book of Mrs. Ghosh, her plight as a refugee. Growing up in Madaripur, now Bangladesh, married at LakshmanKathi village, then moving to Dhaka for schooling, and then finally to Kolkata, India as a refugee. 

Speakers during Q&A

Rohit requested all attendees to introduce themselves, and then open the forum for question and answer. Most of the attendees expressed their experiences in their own words, some experience of close relatives. 
In typical Indian-American style the event was closed with a vote of thanks followed by networking with tea and snacks.

Speakers during Q&A

Speakers during Q&A

Speakers during Q&A

A Section of Audience

Post-release Networking

Post-release Aaddaa (Chat Session)

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