The Rusted Trunk
Year of Publication: 2011
Price: Rs 200
About the Author:
Ashna Sen was born and raised in Calcutta. She double majored in Physics and Mathematics from Mount Holyoke College, obtained a Master’s degree from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Manchester, U.K. She has also studied and done research for brief periods at Princeton University, Oxford University and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Sen has taught Mathematics in St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, and at Brockwood Park in the United Kingdom. She currently lives in Calcutta with her family.
The Rusted Trunk is a historical memoir about ICS officers in the British Raj, covering a time period from 1895 to the first few years after India’s independence. The following is an extract from Sen’s Prologue to the book.
“It was a most curious find. I was seated cross-legged before a rusty trunk, fettered with a bulky worn out chain that was wrapped around it loosely. It was a quiet day, except for the staccato chirping of a strange bird that was new to our surroundings and the general sound of my mother pottering about in the kitchen. The trunk had been lying in one of the alcoves of our house, unnoticed perhaps for years. I jolted it open to see the contents.
In one corner lay a dark grey coat rolled and covered in brown grainy powder, time-worn rust-residues of the edges of the trunk; a stack of old letters, some dated 1911, and an assortment of photographs yellowed with age. And the withered pages of a diary with a broken clasp, perhaps part of a memoir.
Two small envelopes had been placed within the folds of the coat. I brought out the sepia tinted letters from within the envelopes and tried to decipher the signature from the first. ‘Sir Stafford Cripps’. The handwriting had an extreme slant to the right. The letter dated April 2nd 1942 was addressed to my grandmother. I switched to the second letter which was speckled with tiny burrows. I watched a silver ant wriggle through the envelope. I opened the second letter. The signature was distinctive and in black ink and unmistakable — it said ‘Rabindranath Tagore'”
You can read more about the book here.