Kolkata: A man's movement against the poor upkeep
of little magazines -- the independent, experimental periodicals
run without a profit motive -- in the city's hallowed National
Library has now blossomed into a flourishing collection numbering
It all began on a sunny day in 1972, when Sandip Dutta, a student
of the Scottish Church College, went to the National Library
looking for little magazines, which have been an integral part of
Bengali literature since the early 20th century, with their
magnificent oeuvre of experimental and unconventional literature
sans much commercial value.
He was shown a heap of books tied in bundles, with more dust and
worms in them than pages. That fateful day, the student vowed that
some day he will establish a library dedicated only to little
Today, after nearly four decades, the city has the 'Kolkata Little
Magazine and Research Centre' with over 60,000 collections -- many
of them rare and found only here. Dealing with varied subjects,
including politics, cinema, arts, sociology, philosophy and
religion, the library is housed in the residence of Dutta, now 60,
who is proud to have kept his vow.
"I was so shocked to see the condition of the books. In September
1972, I held an exhibition of 750 little magazines to protest
against the shocking upkeep of the books as well as to spread
awareness. Since that exhibition I have walked many a mile. So has
my library," said Dutta.
"I am proud not only for keeping my vow but also for doing my bit
to make available these books to the needy. They are 'little' only
by name. Their contribution to society has been and continues to
be immense," says Dutta, who recently retired as a teacher from
the City College School here.
Almost all the rooms of Dutta's two-storeyed house is now full of
stacks overflowing with books. A caption reading 'For me every day
is a little magazine day' adorns one of the stacks.
The library boasts of little magazines like Sabujpatra by Pramatha
Choudhuri, which started in 1914, Communist Party of India-Marxist
founder Muzaffar Ahmed's Langal (1920), Kallol (1923) that brought
together luminaries like Kazi Nazrul Islam, Achintya Kumar
Sengupta and Premendra Mitra, among many other titles.
"Once Mahasweta Di (Devi) called me up asking for help. She asked
me if I had some of her old writings as she had lost them. I
instantly told her that I had them. She was so overwhelmed to hear
that," reminisced Dutta.
Leading poet Joy Goswami too had sought similar help.
"He has rescued me several times. I found my long lost writings in
his library. Why only me, many writers like me have taken his
help. His library goes a long way in giving an identity of their
own to the little magazines," said Goswami.
The library was born on June 23, 1978, and christened 'Library and
Laboratory for Bengali Little Magazines'. It was thrown open to
the public on May 8, 1979. It has over 150 members, with at least
a dozen daily visitors.
"Dutta's contribution and dedication is indescribable. You think
of any magazine and he has it. He is not a librarian but an
encyclopaedia himself," said Sarosij Basu, a writer and a member
of the library since its inception.
The early days were financially taxing, so Dutta made a piggybank,
named it 'Three Penny Opera' and set aside a part of his earnings.
Today, his library has an annual budget of Rs.15,000.
Dutta has been regularly holding exhibitions across the country to
spread awareness about the little magazines and the need for such
He credits his family for his success. "Without the support of my
wife and son it would never have been possible. They allowed me to
pursue my passion and never complained."
With all rooms of his house crammed with books and periodicals,
Dutta is planning to shift his library to a separate building. "I
am planning to meet the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) and ask
for help. I have done my bit by bringing up this library, hope the
government ensures that it flourishes," he said.
(Anurag Dey can
be contacted at email@example.com)