The Little Big Alternative
Here is tracing the literary movements in modern Bangla, and the emergence of Kaurab, the alternative literary magazine.
The 1960s marked an era of literary movements in Bengal – namely Shruti (poetry-centric), Shastravirodhi (focussed more on new modernist fiction), Dhbangsakalin (magazine KhuddhArta), Nimsahitya etc. Poetry magazines became increasingly commonplace. Pabitra Mukhopadhyay’s Kabipatra is one of the longest living poetry magazine from the 60s. Poetry was published in dedicated poetry monthlies (MAsik KabitA), weeklies and dailies. Celebrated poet Shakti Chattopadhyay brought out SAptAhik KabitA [Poetry Weekly] while Bimal Roy Choudhury edited Dainik KabitA [Daily Poetry]. Together, these literary developments created a vitriolic yet rich, fertile and liberating ground for future generations.
The spirit of anarchism continued into the following decade, the 1970s – perhaps the most volatile period in the history of independent India beginning with the Bangladesh war of 1971, the Naxalite movement, widespread food shortage, far-flung unemployment, a streak of natural calamities, mine collapses leading right upto the Emergency when the world’s largest democracy was brought to “a grinding halt”. Jyotirmoy Datta and other writers were thrown into prison. An amazingly fresh generation of avant-garde literary magazines arrived on stage – KolkAtA, Giraffe, Korak, AtmaprakAsh, Shatabdee (from Shillong, Ed. Shankar Chakrabarty), Barruchi (Ed. Shymalkanti Das) Chaturanga, Ebang (Ed. Dhurjati Chanda) and Kaurab (Ed. Kamal Chakrabarty).
My personal association with Kaurab began in the early 1990s in the steel city of Jamshedpur. The core members of Kaurab group were poets and writers (mainly the fervid foresome – editor Kamal Chakrabarty, Swadesh Sen, Barin Ghosal and Shankar Lahiri) who attempted to accentuate a fresh and marginal voice that broke away from existing tropes and values of parallel Bengali literature. Being a Bangla literary magazine published from outside of Bengal Kaurab had an outside-in identity. Their urbanity was intricately layered retaining strong creative links with its literary production and the robust energies of adivasi languages and cultures.
Their use of language gave currency to an ubiquitous urban Bangla tongue of everyday, while it resonated deeply with the accent of the inner diaspora and the changing local languages. Kaurab also pioneered new methodologies of dissemination and poetry appreciation in the form of Poetry Camps or nature-workshops that found many followers in the later years. As I assumed the role of the next-gen editor of the magazine in 2005 (both print and electronic media), these key values inculcated in myself, my co-editors and other younger writers and we continue to invest in experimental and innovative literature.
Cover Photo Credits: Debarshi Sarkar