History or story—what should we add before the title of any write-up on College Street, the bookland or, may be, the dreamland for booklovers? Historians have the scope to debate on it, but we will go for the word ‘story’.
So many alleys, old buildings, more than one publisher sharing a partitioned office in a small room, the street food, the sharbat, the vans and the vendors, the coffee and its smell, the university, the medical college—all together constitute the big brand—COLLEGE STREET. But beyond or above all these factors there are books and books—old and new, discarded or cherished. The smell of books makes us hunt from door to door like a leopard.
As a part of the publishing course of Seagull Books, we had a walk through College Street on 17 and 18 April this year. These were the scorching days of April. But we began our hunt—hunt for knowledge with the help of the smell.
Now I am going to present a list of the publishing houses I visited on those two days: M. C. Sarkar and Sons Pvt. Ltd., Dasgupta and Co. Pvt. Ltd., Mitra and Ghosh Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Deep Prakashan, Sahityam, Lalmati Prakashan and Ananda Publishers.
M. C. Sarkar and Sons Pvt. Ltd. is over a hundred years old, said the present owner Samit Sarkar. They publish a children’s magazine which is also 93 years old. In the past, many well-established authors like Hemendrakumar Ray, Shibram Chattopadhyay, Annadasankar Ray, Buddhadeb Bose among others used to come here for ‘adda’.
One of the oldest publishers in this region, Mitra and Ghosh Publishers Pvt. Ltd, began their journey from 11, College Square. Later, they shifted to the present address. They have an enormous list of eminent authors as: Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay, Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, Ashapurna Debi, Gajendrakumar Mitra and so on. They specialize in publishing the Complete Works of authors like Ashapurna Debi, Asutosh Mukhopadhyay, Gajendrakumar Mitra, Sumathanath Ghosh, Manoj Mitra, Utpal Dutt and many more. The informal ‘adda’ of authors in this publishing house was known as the ‘House of Commons’. This publishing house also publishes a monthly magazine named ‘Kathasahitya’ under the supervision of its owner Sabitendranath Ray, popularly known as ‘Bhanubabu’. He is also the author of the book College Street–e Sottor Bachhor, a true documentation of this publishing world.
Deep Prakashan is among the leading text-book publishers of West Bengal, for classes V to XII. They are also a major publisher of both fiction and non-fiction. Deep Prakashan’s English versions of Bankim Chandra’s writings, by Sudin Chattopadhyay and a major research work on Tagore in 12 volumes by Anuttam Bhattacharya, titled Rabindrarachanabhidhan, are books to look forward to. The most striking fact is that they were the first in West Bengal to publish an e-book in Bengali—Goutam Bhattacharya’s Jayo Hey.
Last, but not the least, I have to mention the name of an upcoming publishing house, Lalmati Prakashan that began its journey in 1989 with an intensive research work on Lila Mazumdar. They have published five volumes till date. Among the other books published are: Birendrakrishna Bhadra Rachana Samagra Vol. 1, Moumachhi Rachana Samagra Vol. 1 and so on. Recently, they started research on comics among which Narayan Debnath Comics Samagra and Kafi Khan Samagra have become very popular. The person behind this house, Nimai Garai, says, ‘We have hopes. We try to give our best.’
I nourished the dream of being an editor one day from the early days of my life. This venture through the alleys of College Street and coming in contact with editors and publishers there, sowed the seeds of confidence in me once again. Now I am looking forward to fulfil my dream and to see the seeds mature into a full-grown tree.