When Ray made two consecutive contributions of short stories in English to the Amrita Bazar Patrika, little did he know what the future held for him. “I had no literary bent at all, and never thought I might one day write stories,” he said. “A poet friend of mine and I hit upon the idea of reviving Sandesh", the Ray family magazine for children.
As an editor, Ray felt that the onus for the contribution was on him. The first edition of Sandesh contained a translated version of Edward Lear's The Jumblies, while the second issue had his first short storyBanku Babur Bandhu accompanied by his own illustrations. From 1961 to 1992, spanning almost three decades of his iconic presence, Ray wrote over 75 stories, in addition to 35 pieces of detective fiction featuring Feluda and another 40 tales of the eccentric scientist Professor Shonku. Ray’s stories have been widely translated into all the major Indian languages and several international languages, and this inevitably bears testimony to the widespread popularity of Ray fiction.
When in school, and later as an young adult, Ray voraciously read the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which showed that he had a particular liking for science and crime fiction, the fantastic and the supernatural. Later, as an author, Ray wrote mostly on these themes, which indicated the influence that these writers had had on him. “I enjoy writing stories for its own sake and derive a pleasure from it which is quite distinct from the pleasure of the vastly more intricate business of making a film,” wrote Ray. “I have written stories both during the making of a film and in the free period, usually lasting about six months, between films."
Shonku’s mild eccentricity endears, his ingenuity never ceases to astonish the readers. The absent-minded scientist who was Ray’s creation made his first appearance in the Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh with the story Byomjatrir Diary (An Astronaut’s Diary), a long story Ray wrote for Sandesh magazine in 1965. He wrote a total of 38 Shonku stories of which the last one, Intelectron, was left unfinished, where the Bengali inventor lands in dangerous situations in places nearly all over the world, and comes out of them mostly by virtue of his extraordinary intelligence and sometimes with the help of the faultless weapon Annihilin which he had himself made for use in self defence.
Satyajit Ray agreed that he had based Professor Shonku on Professor Challenger, an immortal character created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Shonku is conceived as an eccentric genius who is also a polyglot, capable of speaking 69 languages. Shonku’s scientific fervour is larger than life. His discoveries speak volumes about the sheer genius of this scientist as well as Ray’s own brilliance.
Shonku is an acronym for Trilokeshwar Shonku. He lives in Giridih beside the river Usri. He has a male servant named Prohllad and a cat named Newton. According to Ray, Professor Shonku passed the matriculation examination of the University of Calcutta at the age of 15, received a BSc degree with honours in two subjects, Physics and Chemistry, at the age of 16, indeed an astonishing feat to accomplish. At the age of 20, he joined the Scottish Church College in Calcutta as a professor of Physics.
Shonku’s scientific discoveries are almost miraculous, be it Annihillin, a pistol capable of causing immediate disappearance of the target, or Miracurall, a drug capsule that cures any ailment except common cold, or be it the Ornithon, a device to educate birds, or Evolutin, a drug that causes humans to evolve ten thousand years in five minutes, or Remembrane, a device that makes people recall forgotten things, or the effective Somnolin, a sleeping pill which works in any condition.
Other adventures of Professor Shonku include:
Professor Shonku o Har
Professor Shonku o Macaw
Professor Shonku o Egyptio Aatonko
Professor Shonku o Ashcharya Putul
Professor Shonku o Golok
Professor Shonku o Chi Ching
Professor Shonku o Khoka
Professor Shonku o Bhoot
Professor Shonkur Kandokarkhana (Professor Shonku's Deeds) Contains:
Professor Shonku o Robo
Professor Shonku o Kochabambar Guha
Professor Shonku o Raktamatsya Rahashya
Professor Shanku o Gorilla
Professor Shonku o Baghdad-er Baksa
Shabas Professor Shonku (Bravo Professor Shonku) Contains:
Dr. Sering er Smaransakti
Mahasankate Shonku (Shonku in Deep Peril) Contains:
Shonku'r Shanir Dasha
Sayang Professor Shonku (None other than Professor Shonku) Contains:
Monro Dweeper Rahasya
Ek Shringa Abhijan
Shonku Ekai Aksho (Shonku, Worth a Hundred of Them by Himself) Contains:
Shonku'r Congo Abhijan.
Nakurbabu o El Dorado
Professor Shonku o UFO
Punashcha Shonku (Shonku once again) Contains:
Shonku o Adim Manush
Shonkur Paralok Charcha
Professor Rondy'r Time Machine
Selam Professor Shonku (Hats off, Professor Shonku) Contains:
Nefrudet er Samadhi
Dr. Danieli'r Abishkar
Shonku o Frankenstein
Intelectron (Dreksel Island er Ghatana)
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