Sukumar Ray (1887 - 1923)

Sukumar Ray was born on October 30, 1887 in the illustrious Raychaudhuri family of Calcutta. His father Upendrakisor was an author of children's literature, a musician, artist, and a pioneer of printing technology, the founder of the U.Ray and Sons, a printing press. Sukumar grew in the enlightened environment of the Brahma Samaj and the questioning spirit of the family among whose friends were Rabindranath Tagore, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, and Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose.

Sukumar graduated with double honours in Physics and Chemistry from the Presidency College in 1906. In many ways his interests followed his father's. In 1911 he went to England to study printing technology. He did technical work of exceptional quality first in London and later in Manchester, publishing many papers in reputed journals. (Upendrakisor had published from Calcutta some technical articles in some of the same journals.) Sukumar also developed an active and serious interest in photograpghy. He was awarded a merit prize when he was in his teens-- and in 1922 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, only the second Indian at that time to become a Fellow. He published several articles on photography as well. In 1912 he was in London when Rabindranath made the historic visit-- they came back together in 1913. In the same year Upendrakisor started Sandesh, a children's magazine, which proved to be seminal in the development of children's literature in Bengal.

After Upendrakisor's death in 1915 Sukumar took over as Editor of Sandesh. (Much later, in the 1960s, Sukumar's son, Satyajit Ray, the famous filmmaker, would revive the same Sandesh, and in the process, will turn out to be another enormously popular author of children's literature-- the third in the three generations!

If Sukumar Ray had not written anything other than the 45 rhymes of Abol Tabol, he would still be as popular an author as any in the history of Bengali literature. Even some eighty years after the first publication of Abol Tabol, it will be rare to find a literate Bengali who did not start his or her life by reciting these poems. Besides Abol Tabol, his other popular works are Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La, Pagla Dashu, Jhalapala, Lakshamaner Shaktishel, etc.

Published March 15, 2003

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