After 23 years when he worked as a cook in a State-run school, celebrated writer Manoranjan Byapari can now work amid books.
On Tuesday, the West Bengal government accepted his petition to relieve him of his job in the school and decided to transfer him to a library at Amtala in South 24 Parganas district.
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Mr. Byapari, who has emerged as an important figure in the literary circles of Bengal, learnt writing in a correctional home in Kolkata. Popularly known as the first Dalit writer from West Bengal, his autobiographical book Interrogating my Chandal Life (Itibritte Chandal Jiban) had won the The Hindu Award for Non-Fiction in 2018 .
A chance encounter with renowned writer Mahasweta Devi while plying a rickshaw sent Mr. Byapari on a new journey as a writer. Devi, who turned out to be the writer’s mentor, published his first essay ‘ Rickshaw chalai ’ (‘I pull a rickshaw’) in her non-fiction magazine Bartika in 1981.
Late on Tuesday, the West Bengal Information and Cultural Affairs Department said that the writer had requested Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to relieve him from the arduous work that his job as a cook at the Hellen Keller Badhir Vidyalaya of the Mass Education Department entailed. “Chief Minister intervened and directed the Mass Education officials to place the writer at the Vidyanagar district public library, South 24 Parganas, as applied for by the ageing writer,” the communication said, adding that Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay had spoken to the writer and told him of the government’s decision.
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“I have taken up several jobs, but this was my first formal job with a salary of ₹2,500,” the writer told The Hindu on Wednesday. Mr. Byapari said that he had made the request long ago as, after a knee operation, he was unable to perform the heavy lifting for cooking.
“I have not been getting a salary for the past several months and the school is also closed due to the lockdown,” he said. In an interview to The Hindu , in February, Mr. Byapari said that he might have “become a regular at fashionable literary events but life will never really change for people like me. That is the impossible truth”.
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The writer said he likes the idea of working amidst books, but does not think the job involves the responsibilities of a librarian. “I don’t think my job will be that of a librarian; the government order is not clear about it. I am a Group D staff. Maybe I will be moving books from one place to another or dusting them,” he said, expressing satisfaction over the development. The library job will involve a long commute and the writer plans to rent a place not very far from work.