Title: Hasi o Khela [Laughter and Games]
Author: Compiled by Yogindranath Sarkar
Publisher: The City Book Society, 64, College Street, Kolkata.
Printer: Not mentioned
Date & edition: First published January 1891. 21st edition. nd.
Price: 1 rupee
About the book: The Newbery of Bengali children’s books, Yogindranath Sarkar was one of the pioneers in printing attractive books for children’s leisure reading. A prolific writer for children, Sarkar had been a regular contributor to juvenile magazines like Sakha, Sathi and Mukul. When Sakha was discontinued, Sarkar bought off all the blocks and set up the office of the City Book Society – his own publishing house, at the Sakha premises at 64, College Street. The City Book Society produced volumes of leisure books for children, the best of which sold in thousands and ran into several editions.
Hashi o Khela was the first of his long list of entertaining anthologies for children. Published in 1891, the title page advertised the volume as ‘the very first publication in Bengali juvenile literature’. A happy medley of rhymes, verses and short tales, the book offered a collection of the best contemporary children’s writers like Rajkrishna Ray, Upendrakishore Raychaudhuri, Yogindranath Basu, Pramadacharan Sen, Nabakrishna Bhattacharya, Rambrahma Sanyal and Yogindranath Sarkar. Apart from amusing verses it included “Ramayan-Katha” and reconstructions of traditional folk tales like “Shat Bahi Champa”, “Majantali”, “Sheyal” and “Sheyaler Dhurtami”.
In the preface Yogindrnath Sarkar voices an intention that was distinctly different from his predecessors who had largely wanted their books for children to be educational and didactic. Sarkar emphasizes the need of an entertaining literature for Bengali children and points towards the idea that reading can be made an enjoyable leisure and a pastime for them : ‘Though our boys and girls have sufficient school books, readers, primers and other books of learning, there is not a single illustrated volume suited for pleasurable reading at home …’. When reviewing the book in Sadhana, Rabindranath Tagore reiterated the importance of such entertaining books that would appeal to the little readers and initiate in them a habit of ‘voluntary reading’.
Illustrations: Illustrated with woodcuts, most of the blocks used were foreign-made. The book becomes distinctive in its happy and playful portraiture of childhood. It was one of the early publications to uphold an indulgent view of the child and to exhibit a more modern attitude towards childhood. Children are depicted as playful and innocent, and their unruliness and irrationalities are found to be charming and endearing instead of calling for punishment and discipline. Chastisements, if present, are mild and gentle. The book registers a change from the earlier disciplinarian culture and signals the emergence of a reformed idea of childhood that became increasingly manifest in the lighthearted, entertaining books for children in the new century.
Note: An endorsement appears on the title page. The Director recommends it as a prize book and as an ideal volume for the library.
Genre: Book of prose and verse. Entertaining literature.
Source: The National Library, Kolkata
Shelfmark: J/B 891.448 38193h
Pages from the book:
1. Cover page
2. Title page
3. An Illustration
References consulted for this entry
Introduction to Yogindranath Sarkar’s Shishupathya Granthabali.
Mitra, Khagendranath. Shatabdir Shishu-sahitya.