While strolling down the streets of Kolkata, don’t get surprised if you come across a shabbily-attired 60-plus man, with unshaven face, a worn-out bag slung over his shoulder and a torn chappal.
Yes, he’s Bimal Deb, a poet utterly different from our usual concept of a poet.
Bimal’s unironed apparel and his Spartan life style stand as a sharp contrast to today’s poets. Today poets look like company ‘executives’. They also drive cars and love to stay connected to Facebook all the time. They worship social media.
Bimal has no permanent place to stay. His well-wishers offer him place to stay. A few well-wishers keep Bimal alive and want him to pursue his passion.
Bimal considers Ardhendyu Chakrabarty as his father. Ardhendyu-babu used to phone Bimal every day wanting to know about his well-being. He stood by Bimal during his crisis. Bimal learned Russian literature from him. Ardhendyu-babu made serious efforts to publish Bimal’s poems in many magazines.
Ardhendyubabu is no more today.
Nabarun Bhattacharyya, an extraordinarily talented poet/writer and a great humanist, was Bimal’s friend in need. Nabarun was his teacher and mentor. He used to teach Bimal and enlighten him about many subjects. Bimal wrote in Nabarun’s Bhashabondhon with religious regularity. Nabarun considers Bimal as his brother.
Bimal lost his ‘guardian’ when Nabarun Bhattacharya left this world on 31 July, 2014. Bimal penned down an incredible and deeply emotional piece on Nabarun Bhattacharya in Ei Somoy.
Debesh Chakrabarty, a man of exceptional calibre who trains budding actors at his Epic Actors’ Workshop near Rabindra Sarovar Lake, phones Bimal every day. Debesh-babu taught Bimal how to pronounce words correctly. He goes to this octogenarian bachelor’s training centre at Rabindra Sarobar Lake frequently to acquire knowledge and find peace and solace.
Bimal says he had the blessings of Asim Roy, a celebrated journalist who was assistant editor with The Statesman. Bimal used to go to Roy’s residence near Lake Market. “Tumi Begom Bahar phul niye ashbey. Begom Bahar phul onek bhashay kotha boley,” (Bring Begum Bahar flower for me. It speaks in many languages), Bimal recalls Roy as saying to him. Roy told Bimal to read The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher.
Roy wrote the obituary on Dipanjan Dutta, the editor of Aborto, a leading quarterly magazine in the Seventies.
Dutta died when he was only 35. Bimal pays tribute to this young literary giant in glowing terms. “Dutta opened my window to the world of literature,” says Bimal. It was at Aborto Bimal entered the literary world as a proof-reader. Bimal cherishes the memories of Dipanjan even today as he ambles along the bylanes of Naktala in south Kolkata.
Bimal pursued the literary icon, Kamal Kumar Mazumdar doggedly and even went to Khalashitola to collect the manuscripts of the short story Onityer Daibhag which was published in Aborto in 1974.
Singer Kabir Suman wrote a eulogy on ‘paagla‘ Bimal in a magazine.
Bimal knows Kolkata especially north Kolkata like the back of his hand. He takes pleasure in strolling down the lanes/by-lanes of North Kolkata. He loves to smell the history of old Calcutta; he wants to unravel the mystery of ‘City of Joy’. There is the imprint of Bengal’s cultural grandeur at every nook and corner of north Kolkata, says Bimal. Even now in all their crumbling glory, you can get a peek into the grandeur of these old buildings in north Kolkata, he adds with gusto.
Bimal, who enjoyed the blessings of legendary singers Debabrata Biswas and Hemanga Biswas, is sunk in bitter, unrelenting poverty today. He used to visit Debarata Biswas’ Lake Road residence. The singer loved him so much. “Loiya jaa ei paachsho taka Maar jonney” (Take this Rs 500 for your mother), Bimal recalls the singer as saying. Speak to Bimal and he’ll keep unfolding numerous interesting anecdotes about Debabrata Biswas.
Bimal manages to eke out his living, courtesy a few friends like Shuvo Lahiri, Kamal Sengupta, Susan Mitra, Arunavo Lahiri, Kamal Poddar, Somnath Guha, Debdas Banerjee, Pavel and Upasana Bhattacharyya, Bhanu De and Ratan Samaddar. They always inspire Bimal. Their words keep Bimal moving.
Bimal has written four books. His last work Dubojahaje Carnival (now out of print) was published by Nabarun Bhattacharyya. He was awarded ‘Bijan Bhattacharyya Smriti Somman Puroskar’. Bongiyo Sahitya Porishad honoured Bimal.
Albeit a poet, his writings were published in Ei Somoy and Dainik Statesman in Puja supplement this year.
When invited to a Kobi Sommelan, Bimal reads out his popular poem Shedin V Balsara.
Even though he was born in Chhapra, Bihar, Bimal’s parents and brothers and sisters were born in Barishal, Bangladesh.
Bimal is a misfit in today’s Kolkata. He belongs to the poets of the 1970s. He was a witness to many key incidents of the 70s. He has a passion for reading books on anthropology, politics, great men’s autobiography and spirituality.
Bimal loves visiting ashramas; never hesitates to join michchils for a cause.
Highly sensitive, Bimal is a vagabond, one may say. Without a family and losing his well-wishers, a pensive Bimal is dead tired today. Uncertainty of living without any steady income makes him more drained-out.
You can catch up with Bimal at Kolkata Book Fair, Bangla Acedemy, Jadavpur Coffee House and at wayside tea shops at Garia. Bimal is now leading a lonesome life. Even though sunk in poverty, he continues to write…
If you happen to meet Bimal on the streets of Kolkata at any twilight hours, don’t ask him: “Bhalo achchen to?”?
Say “Bechey thakun, Bimalda”.