Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How many great directors does it take to change a lightbulb?

An amusing excerpt from Manik & I, a new English translation of the memoirs of Satyajit Ray's wife Bijoya:
I can’t begin to explain how blissfully unaware Manik was about the domestic details of everyday life [...] Once, he was lying in bed, reading. Suddenly the bulb’s fuse went off. He remarked, ‘The bulb’s gone. What will we do now?’ By then I’d already taken out another bulb from the cupboard and when I went to the table he asked ‘What will you do?’

‘I’ll fix a new bulb.’

He said anxiously, ‘No no, don’t do it yourself. Ask them to do it.’

‘Them’ clearly referred to one or the other of our domestic help.

I turned the switch off, put in the new bulb and switched the light back on. Turning to him, I said, ‘Is that all right?’ Amazed, he asked, ‘Where did you learn to do this?’

‘There is nothing to learn, all you have to do is insert the bulb in the groove, and twist it!’

He never once touched the air conditioner in our room. If he entered the room for a rest and couldn’t see me anywhere, he’d shout out, ‘Where are you? Please switch the AC on for me.’ Such was my husband.

[More on the book in a future post]


  1. Learn Bangla. Please. A lot of the essence gets lost in translation. Not this excerpt, but I'm talking about a lot of your posts. :(

  2. :-) Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ha! What is it about geniuses and everyday life.I always imagined that a good portion of the scientific bright ligts would be techno savvy but actually being among them right now, lo and behold! A good number of them insist on printed drafts, correct in red ink and insist we scan and fax the results to the original writer. Yet another group are baffled by smart phones and tablets. I am sure there is some underlying genetic element that wires them that way. :)

  4. Sudipta Bhattacharjee8:00 AM, September 06, 2012

    Have read this in Bengali - there is a popular literary magazine in Bangla called "Desh", where this was released as a series. Interestingly, Bijoya Ray had also acted in a movie or 2 in Bombay in the 1940s and was quite the independent, modern woman of those times. Its interesting to read her memoirs and speculate as to how somet aspects of their shared lives might have affected Ray's work. It's kinda tragic to read the portion where she talks about her reaction to the much talked about (in hushed tones) affair that Ray had with Madhabi Mukherjee (his 'Charulata' heroine). While overall it was an interesting read, I felt it was far too hagiographic - would love to hear your thoughts on this

  5. the above anecdote shows that geniuses are so much lost in their own world that everyday reality and it's concerns take a backstage.
    and they suffer from this naivete deeply and also those who r related to them are made to suffer from their childishness.
    i have a feeling that out of 100 geniuses only one becomes successful and famous....the rest live a life of incompetence,frustration and escapism because they lack in adapting to the ways of the world.
    i don't really find this is very tragic and not tragic in a heroic way...but tragic in an ugly way. Ray became famous.... so this anecdote looks kinda cute....but if ray was a common man outside with a burning genius inside....his wife would have treated him with broomstick if he had behaved in the way he did.

  6. Sudipta, I also had very mixed feelings reading this originally serialized in Desh & later on when published as a book in Bengali. Every other line is about Sandip Ray, the supremely untalented son, & how great he is. And my other complain is that there is Ray doing awesome things & visiting awesome places, & Mrs. R writes about so & so unknown person (unknown to 99% of the readers) inviting them for meals & meeting some other similarly unknown person. Mundane & banal. By the time she got to l'affaire Madhabi my sympathies were completely with Ray Sr. Mrs. R goes all gharwali-baharwali on her at that point, calling her names etc. The original was very badly edited, hopefully they have done some work in it now.

  7. Sudipta Bhattacharjee2:12 PM, September 08, 2012

    Tipu: Now that you mention it, its all coming back :-) yes, the constant spotlight on Ray Junior pissed me off too. I remember,my mother and I were reading this simultaneously in Delhi and Kolkata, and constantly crib about it during our conversations on phone :-) Sandip Ray is like the Rohan Gavaskar to Ray Sr.'s Sunil Gavaskar. His increasingly amateurish, yet commercially successful, takes on 'Feluda' (with a pot-bellied, albeit competent, Sabyasachi playing Feluda) has desecrated the memories of 'Shonar Kella' and other Feluda movies by his father. I so wish that Srijit Mukherjee (director of 'Autograph' and Baishe Shravon') gets to direct a Feluda movie - would love to see his take.

    Jai - sorry for taking up so much space on a discussion (which I assume would be of limited interest to most of your readers).On a separate note: Don't know if you have seen these movies; if not, may I heavily recommend 'Autograph' and 'Baishe Shravon' (literally means 22nd Shravan, the date of Tagore's demise as per Bangla calender) to you? The dvds with (competent sub-titling)are available in all dvd shops in CR Park - if you are interested :-)

  8. Sudipta: no problem with taking up space - it's always nice to have intensive discusions on limited-interest posts. (My favourite recent comments thread has been on the Canterbury Tale piece, which is probably among the least read of my posts.) And it's not like I'm paying rent anyway!

  9. Sudipta, I was similarly exchanging notes on the book with my parents in Cal while I was in another Cal (ifornia). Also agree on Autograph. It is imho one of the best Bengali movies of this century, part Ray's Nayak part All About Eve. I may have mentioned it in another comment on this blog or offline to Jai. I got Baishey Shravon back with me from my last trip to Cal but haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet.