No Title
Humra Quraishi
THE BURMESE BOX: TWO NOVELLAS by Lila Majumdar Puffin Classics, 2011, 148 pp., 199
November 2011, volume 35, No 11

At the very start, in her introduction, Subhadra Sen Gupta puts you in the mood to read. There is that rather obvious positivity in the opening/introductory lines that pulls along even adults like me. Who would not like to escape from the chaos spread around, towards those long stretches of exciting distractions holding sway. As Subhadra rather candidly says-‘This was a writer called Lila Majumdar, and I absolutely and utterly adored her books. I fell in love with them when I was eleven and a half, and I still adore them. They are the most battered books in my bookcase and you can still discover ancient bits of potato chips in-between the pages. As a kid I loved her books because Lila Majumdar could enter my head, and sort of peer around and say, ‘Hmmm…hate maths, do ya? Flunked in Hindi again? And your angelic kid sister has cute dimples and can sing Rabindra Sangeet and you hate her?’ I was convinced she could read my mind.

And with that sort of take-off, who would not like to read Lila Majumdar’s these two novellas-‘The Burmese Box and Goopy’s Secret Diary, tucked in this slim book. And, hang on, the excitement could get compounded when you discover that these novellas have been trans-lated from the Bengali by Lila’s grand-daughter-Srilata Banerjee. A treat! Oh yes, because Srilata seems not just emotionally close to her grand-mom whom she refers to as ‘Didibhai’ but is also able to answer some of those whys. For instance, why are Lila’s protagonists invariably boys and not girls? And here comes Srilata’s simple little rationale-‘the reason for that is, as a tomboyish young girl, she envied the freedom a boy had over the greater restric-tions imposed on girls at that time. That is why she rarely used girls to embody her vision of the magical world in which all of us live. It was only towards the end of her life, interacting with her great grand-daughters and the girls of the twenty-first century that she began to change her mind about girls in general.’

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