Annotations of a Friendship

1. Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar and his wife, Hemnalini, 1920s

2. Postcard to Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, Sylhet, October 1923

3. Dupati Flowers, 1923

From Nandalal Bose, this section will move to the figure of Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, the person to whom the main collection of postcards was sent. The focus shifts here to the address overleaf of the postcards, where Ramesh Charan is addressed variously as ‘Head Master’ and ‘Artist’, and where we see the different locations in which he lived – at Sunamganj, Sylhet (where he was teacher and later headmaster of Jubilee School), south of the “Dacceswari Temple” and Datta Bagan, Dacca (where his wife’s family lived and where the family spent long periods), and occasionally, Shillong or Allahabad (when he went to stay with his elder son, Akshayananda, who took up jobs at these places).

The postcards can be used obliquely to annotate a brief biography of Ramesh Charan through his connections with the art world of Santiniketan and his lifelong friendship with Nandalal Bose and Asit Haldar. Juxtaposed with a few of Ramesh Charan’s own sketches and paintings, which show his hand at landscapes, life studies and illustrative painting in the ‘wash’ technique, the postcards sent to him by his two artist friends tell us of his undeterred commitment to painting, to his occasional participation in exhibitions, and to an offer for taking up a short-term stipend to work at Indian Society of Oriental Art, Calcutta, that he had to refuse for financial reasons.

It seemed that he may well have travelled to Ajanta during 1910-11 when Nandalal and Asit Haldar were working there as part of the study team of Christiana Herringham. When unable any more to travel around India due to his personal constraints, from the 1920s, his own wanderlust was in a way fulfilled by his friend Nandalal’s incessant travels and the sketches that he unfailingly sent from wherever he went. There are wonderful visual nuggets too in this collection that tell us of Nandalal’s deep familial bonds with his friend, as with his own designed invitation card for the wedding of his daughter, Gouri Bhanja (15 Magh, 1333/1 February 1927), or with a Nababarsha greetings sketch from 1363 (1956), which is chronologically the last work in this collection.