Two neighbours meet as little children in Patuakhali town, deep in the delta where the mammoth Meghna breaks up into a myriad branches to meet the sea, in East Bengal. The year is 1922; the boy, Shishu, is eight, and the girl, Noni, eleven. Swiftly, a special bond forms between the two, strengthened by a shared love of books and poetry. However, in 1927, their paths diverge—Shishu, a member of the revolutionary outfit Tarun Sangha, stabs a police inspector to death and has to spend seventeen years in jail; his Noni-di is married off at the age of sixteen. Yet, they continue to exchange letters, and Shishu keeps a notebook, a diary of sorts, in which he writes poems meant for his friend and first love through the years, about his life, his feelings, and his struggles. He is released in 1945, but the Partition tsunami rips the two friends apart. They lose all contact, and the connection that held them together over all these years is broken. In 1991, they miraculously reconnect. Noni and her refugee family from East Bengal have survived and she has gone on to have a large family, with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Shishu, on the other hand, has remained single. He gives her his notebook in which he had continued to write all these years, an offering to his friend and lifelong muse.
This story is based on the life of Rimli Sengupta’s Dida, her paternal grandmother. The notebook—scuffed and old, its pages curled by time and water damage, yet surprisingly intact—remained a prized possession of her grandmother’s till the time of her passing and, with it, Sengupta pieces together the story of Shishu and Noni. In A Lost People’s Archive, she masterfully fuses her imagination with history, both personal and national, to narrate a story of two friends, and their passage through pre- Independence India, the Partition, a refugee exodus, communism, and through the political and social landscape of Bengal. And, at the root of it all, this story is about Bangals, the displaced East Bengalis, and the narrative of their fractured land and lives.
|Title:||A Lost People’S Archive|
|Publisher:||Aleph Book Company|
|Number Of Pages:||232|
|Country Of Origin:||India|
|Release date:||5 June 2023|