Monday, August 02, 2010

Progress, Raduga and the Rest

Should you be ashamed of your beliefs? I asked myself that this evening after a sudden bout of happiness, about which I shall tell you in a moment. So, if you believe in something, should you be ashamed to air it before an audience, however unreceptive, skeptic or discouraging they may be? I do know wars have been fought on beliefs and notions of what the other man’s beliefs should be. But I have always believed that, as far as possible, without intentional hurt, you should not be afraid or ashamed of something that you might believe in. (Why am I rambling on exactly?)

The point is, my grandpa believed in Communism. Deeply. To the point that he would not let my granny keep gold at home and she had to sell it off at an undervalued price. His belief was his; I refuse to let anyone judge him for it. There are many stories there, for another day. His belief in the philosophy, I believe, is what leads to most of my family’s wavering views on religion and God. I can speak for myself and dad. We believe in God, I think. But would rather not be visiting temples and praying every day. Again, that is a story for another day. My thoughts several strange reactions, mostly shocked and scandalized. But I honestly don’t understand why I have to believe in something just because I have to.

I finally get to the point. My grandpa being a Communist and an avid reader, our house was full of Russian literature and magazines. The first book that I ever picked up when I was just a few months old was a book on Soviet Union with lots of pictures. I still have it. The first books that I read were Misha magazine and Tolstoy. I even had two Russian pen pals who, I remember, were great fans of Mithun Chakraborty and Rekha.
The Russian literature continued all through my growing years. Back then, Navakarnataka Publications used to have exhibitions in Madikeri from where I have picked up absolute gems like Tolstoy’s Childhood, Adolescence and Youth, Pushkin’s poetry, Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Dead House (a favourite) and several others, all hard bound, for as little as Rs 25. (I forget, we have a new Rupee symbol, must download). Several years on, I managed to add a commendable collection to what my grandpa had left me.

Today, on a whim, I entered a small Navakarnataka exhibition near home and nearly yelped in joy when I saw some books from the 1980s. These books are impossible to get elsewhere, at least now in the hard bound. Maxim Gorky’s entire collection of work, at just Rs 25 each! I picked up several more, some in Kannada, some political and social books on the people’s power and the state. A book from which I remember learning the Kannada alphabets; I picked up two copies of those. Raduga Publishers and Progress and Malysh Publishers and the rest made me happy happy happy!
These books are what I grew up with, learnt my alphabets from, read several fairy and folk tales, even started reading serious literature. As far as I know, all the publishers have long closed down, at least they no longer supply books to India. Navakarnataka is the only place that still sells a few of them. If you know of any branches that stock Russian literature, please please let me know.

The total bill for some 20 books did not cross Rs 250! Memories of childhood, slices of the past, that little happiness, those come nearly free of cost. At most unexpected times; actually, they come just when you have the most need for them.
Happiness today! :)

Edit: Google throws up this post when someone searches for these above mentioned publishers and several readers have been writing to me asking if I will sell my collection of these books. These books are not for sale. I also don't know where you can find them in bookstores. If you are in Kolkata, you might want to go to College Street and hunt in book stores there, some keep a few titles. That apart, I don't know where else you can buy them anymore.

1 comment:

kid nikkie said...

i am on a soviet literature hunt. specially children's lit.i would like to buy many of the books you say you have from these publishers(Raduga, Mir, Progress, Malysh). do let me know.

P.S. I really need Winged Tales by Vladislav Krapivin and Folk Tales from Soviet Union.

If you know any place around Delhi where I can get them, please let me know. Thanks