Drawn towards the great wide open

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By: Bitan Sikdar

The invasion of gadgets into the children’s world has killed the storyteller. But the extent of the damage remains uncharted, especially when the storyteller happens to be Tarini Charan Banerjee, or Tarinikhuro.

In September 1985, when Ananda Publishers came out with Satyajit Ray’s Tarinikhuror Kirtikolap, it opened up a delightful world to readers, especially children.

Here’s a brief sketch of Khuro. He has held 56 jobs – both service and business – in 33 cities all over India in the course of a professional life that spanned 44 years. The sexagenarian Khuro is settled in a flat in Beniatola Lane and often visits Paltu at the latter’s Ballygunge residence, delighting him and his young friends with tales of his adventures in the course of a long career.

The focus of the books is not always on content – Khuro’s quick wit, the presence of supernatural elements or the authenticity of his accounts. There is something else.

Imparting knowledge through storytelling is an art that Khuro excelled in. His listeners – and readers – thus learnt the correct pronunciation of champagne, or the history of the evolution of duelling in Europe. It is debatable whether Ghona da is a match for Khuro when it comes to the knowledge of history. The skill of weaving facts into fiction ended when Tarinikhuro was silenced with Ray’s demise.

Then, there are the ghosts. Bengali literature has a long and cherished tradition of ghost stories, illogical or fantastic as they may be. Strikingly, Khuro’s narration of his encounter with the spirit of Mandaur’s late king is not quite black and white. He firmly asserts that he believes in ” dotyi-dano” as well as “Einstein-Feinstein”. It is an honest admission that bears evidence of Khuro’s open mind.

And yes, Tarinikhuro used to be the refuge of those who had been denied the pleasure of listening to stories told by aged relatives. Storytelling, which helps young minds spread wings into the world of fantasy, is pretty much a lost art in this day and age.

But it is Khuro’s wanderlust that brings out the best in him. Tarinikhuro is representative of a soul that soaks in such pleasures as travelling, experiencing new places, meeting new people – living life to the fullest in the process. Ray’s immortal creation is the personification of the ideal traveller. He is forever ready to set out – a trait that we all aspire to.

Ray might have written only 15 of Khuro’s adventures but these works have proved to be remarkably enduring. Khuro will remain the patron deity of those who are willing to break the shackles and venture out to explore the unknown.


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