“DON’T YOU LIVE IN GHATSILA? You were born here, weren’t you?” Sushanto Seet asked me, visibly exasperated. Seet is the organising secretary of the Bibhuti Smriti Sansad—a cultural organisation based in Ghatsila, in the Purbi Singhbhum district of Jharkhand—named after and created in memory of the Bengali author Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. Bandyopadhyay spent a part of his life in Ghatsila, which is also where he died.
The Bibhuti Smriti Sansad is housed in an old-fashioned building—haveli-like, but smaller—on College Road. Its whitewashed façade was a familiar site, more like a landmark, while I was growing up. Bandyopadhyay’s legacy looms over Ghatsila. There is a hotel named Bibhuti Vihar on the national highway, and a resort named Aranyak—named after a novel by Bandyopadhyay—is situated close to the Burudih Dam, a tourist attraction outside Ghatsila, while recently, a restaurant named Pather Panchali was opened on the main road. Bengali tourists, known colloquially as “changers,” have contributed to keeping Bandyopadhyay’s memory alive. He remains a celebrated author, and a part of Ghatsila’s charm—apart from its forests, hills, greenery, waterfalls and the banks of the river Subarnarekha—is the house where he lived and died. Bandyopadhyay named it Gourikunja—Gouri’s garden—after his first wife, Gouri Devi. It is located in Pancha Pandav, a village in Dahigora.
Dahigora is on the main road between Moubhandar and Ghatsila, and has a huge field known as Circus Maidan, which, during my childhood, was used for hosting circuses. There is a road beside it that goes southward towards villages, including Pancha Pandav, that lie by the river Subarnarekha. This road is called Apur Path—Bengali for “the road of Apu”— named after Apu, the hero of Bandyopadhyay’s Pather Panchali and Aparajito. Today the daily morning markets are held there and there are occasional fairs, but this was not the case during the 1980s and the 1990s, when I was growing up. Back then, it appeared to be a quiet, deserted space, unless there was an event taking place, and, while there were villages beyond the field, in my childhood, I had no reason to travel so far.