MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE in Teteliguri—a village about 50 kilometres east of Guwahati, northeast India’s largest city—was a chaotic place, home, when I was growing up, to more than 20 relatives. It was there that I spent most of my school vacations, there, in that L-shaped house—where at least three women were required to lift the huge cauldron of rice off the hearth—that I began to read.
One of the rooms had a large wooden almirah, almost touching the roof and crammed with all kinds of books in Assamese, Bengali and English—popular, unpopular, pulpy, erotic, fantastic, romantic and literary. It was in that almirah that I discovered a few novels in Bengali by the Bangladeshi writer Humayun Ahmed. These were from his Misir Ali detective series; I remember devouring these gripping stories like I did no other. Later, I would forget about Ahmed and discover other authors to fall in love with, learn from, analyse in order to write assignments for grades. Even later, I would miss the innocence with which I used to approach books in high school without knowing anything about their authors.
And then a year ago in Minnesota, one of my Bangladeshi friends, Shahed, started raving about the popularity and greatness of a particular Bangladeshi author.