Did you know Sukumar Ray was a print technologist?
We are all familiar with Sukumar Ray, the nonsensical poet of Bengal and India, who was often compared to none other than Lewis Carroll. Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol, is a path-breaking collection of nonsense poems that have a deep-seated meaning, hidden behind the fun of words and the funnier illustrations. However, many of us are not aware that Sukumar Ray under the wish of his father Upendrakishore Roychowdhury studied science and was a leading technologist of British India. Upendrakishore himself was an author of children’s books and his creations Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen was later made into a cult movie by his grandson Satyajit Ray. He studied the technology of blockmaking and conducted experiments at his home. He then set up a business of making quality blocks and the firm was named as M/s U. Ray & Sons. Sukumar Ray and his younger brother Subinay worked here and started a revolution in the art of block printing technology.
In 1906, Sukumar Ray graduated with Hons. in Physics and Chemistry from Presidency College, Kolkata. He was trained in photography and print technology in England and was a pioneer of photography and lithography in India. While in England, he also delivered lectures about the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. Meanwhile, Sukumar had also drawn acclaim as an illustrator. As a technologist, he developed new methods of halftone blockmaking, and technical articles about this were published in journals in England.
While Sukumar Ray was in England learning print technology, Upendrakishore purchased land, constructed a building, and set up a printing press with facilities for high-quality halftone colour blockmaking and printing. He also launched the children's magazine, Sandesh from this house. Very soon after Sukumar’s return from England, Upendrakishore died and Sukumar ran the printing and publishing businesses and the Sandesh magazine for about eight years.