The town where I have spent most of my days so far, has literary connections which are astounding to say the least. Though never thought to write about those connections, very recently, I got a copy of Tagore’s letter which he wrote on his visit to the town and the shoe factory and that someway instigated me to write a few lines on the town of Batanagar and its literary connections.
Tagore visited the factory on 10th November, 1939 and wrote a few words on his visit and his experience. He called the factory and its surrounding township as ‘ great industrial institution’ and heaped praises on its ‘founder’. He was probably refering to Jan Antonin Bata, the founder of Bata Industrial town ( the factory and the town had been set up in 1934) who actually hailed from Zlin, ( erstwhile Czechoslovakia) a small town situated by the banks of Dřevnice River. Being a resident of Batanagar for long, finding this connection with Tagore is something really a matter of pride. Talking about literary connections to Batanagar, the name of Vikram Seth should always come up. He used to stay in this town. He spent his boyhood here in the town. The reference to the town can be found in his ‘ A Suitable Boy’ , in which he referred to the town as ‘ Prahapur’ and the Bata Shoe Factory as ‘Prahapur Shoe factory’.His family lived in many cities including the Bata Shoe Company town of Batanagar. His father Prem ( nath) Seth had been an executive of Bata Shoe Company. With times, the township has changed a lot. But some basic things had remained the same( namely Tomas Bata Avenue, the river Ganges which flows by, the railway over bridge, etc;) I have always found the place very serene and poetic. Not sure if it is because I am born and brought up here. But the greenery, the breaking of Radhachura and Krishnachura trees into delicate blossoms in spring, the arrival of migratory birds at the marshy lands nearby during winter, the ponds ( where still people /anglers do fishing), the ‘love in the air’ feel, all conjure up magical moments for sure.