Satyajit Ray’s Professor SHONKU – Part 1

After completing Feluda series, about which I blogged partly here, I did not read any fiction by Satyajit Ray in the past one year. However, the curiosity to read more of his stories remained. When I came to know that Ray wrote Sci-Fi with a character called Professor Shonku, I became even more curious. I was always amazed at Ray’s knowledge of Botany/Zoology when I read some of his stories. I always thought he studied science at some point of time. But, its only recently that I came to know that Ray did not study science beyond school level! Its in this context that I read two books containing the exploits of Professor Shonku. Finally found them at A.A.Hussain & Co, Abids, Hyderabad. Between the two books, they contain around 20 adventures of Professor Shonku.

A brief Intro: Professor Shonku is a character created by Satyajit Ray. He is a scientist, who majorly works alone, in his self-made laboratory. His work spans various areas and he is an extra-ordinary person with so many inventions to his credit. This is how the series began -after a meteorite fall, the narrator finds a red dairy at the spot. It happens to be Shonku’s dairy which chronicles the details of his space adventure, in the process of which he disappears mysteriously. Then, gradually, other dairies are discovered. These dairies became Shonku’s adventures 🙂

Well, detailing each and every adventure is a tedious job, which a lazy person like me cannot do. So, let me speak generally :). I am firstly amazed at Satyajit Ray’s imagination. The themes in the stories range from normal, scientific to mystic and super natural. Almost every story is narrated so brilliantly that, you can do nothing but gape in wonder at Ray’s story telling ability. Yeah, may be he wrote for teens. But, adults can enjoy them equally well. Shonku travels all over the world and encounters various kinds of people in these adventures. In most of them, Ray takes us along with Shonku. We feel as if we are like R.K.Laxman’s common man in all these adventures – we watch everything silently 🙂 We wait for the next adventure with curiosity. Shonku is actually a fantasy. He is a myth. A man of such an extra ordinary brilliance and versatility can be nothing but a myth. You will understand why I am saying this as you read through his adventures. However, despite knowing that its all unreal, we tend to take them and accept the stories whole heartedly.

I do have some complaints about Shonku. At times, he praises himself too much. I have complaints about some plots too. At a stage, most of them are oriented to the super natural powers, mystics etc. Perhaps, reading them continuously gives this effect. Reading them once in a while will not raise any complaints about the plots I guess. My complaint about Shonku still stands, though. Sometimes, it appears as if he feels he is the only one worthy of doing something in the whole world.

Whatever it is, Shonku is a thoroughly interesting character. Its interesting to notice his evolution, how he behaved in various scenarios etc. Perhaps, I should keep writing more about him frequently. He intrigues me more than Feluda, though I have read more of Feluda than Shonku. Keep visiting this blog regularly for my take on SHONKU 🙂

Details of the books:
1. The exploits of Professor Shonku: The Dairy of a space Traveller and other stories
2. The exploits of Professor Shonku: The Unicorn expedition and other stories
Bengali original: Satyajit Ray
English Translation: Gopa Majumdar & Satyajit Ray
– Puffin Books, Rs 250 each. Visit Penguin India’s website for more details

My verdict: Must reads for Ray enthusiasts and mild sci-fi lovers. Must reads for the wierd story lovers too 😉 For other readers, its definitely worth a try.

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 🙂 Hey, wanna ask you this question. Wat’s the best book to start exploring Ray.

    What I read about him in Argumentative Indian is quite catchy. Do suggest, where to begin with him, in terms of books.

  2. @Purnima:
    You can start with his short stories. If you are interested in films, start with his film essays-“making films” or “our culture, their culture”. Actually, even starting off with SHONKU stories is not a bad idea. Leave some time for Feluda, though.

  3. Nice one..I had one book on Prof.Shonku, but I could not read it completely.:-( @Purnima, I suggest the short story, “stranger” to start with, if u r a stranger to Satyajit ray…

  4. @purnima & Ravi:
    Theres a telugu translation of this story – “The stranger”

  5. Hi, I have a blog on Professor Shonku.

  6. I have a blog on Prof Shonku at:

  7. Nice write up!I consider myself one of Satyajit Ray’s biggest fans. I too agree that I have read more of Feluda than Shonku and I think the reason is that Ray has written more stories about Feluda than about Shonku.
    Everytime I read feluda I feel as though I love feluda more but when I start to read Shonku I am totally lost in the fantasy world created by Ray. Satyajit Ray was a genius no less and to write consistantly in this manner is no easy task.

  8. hi Sowmya nice blog on satyajit Ray…..what a person he has been…so many things he has acomplished in a single life!!!!
    last year i finished Feluda …now looking for something else from Ray’s

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