CalcuttaScape : Laxmi Hariharan

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The third article in this column is from Laxmi Haraharan, a Kindle bestselling author and blogger for Huffington Post.

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The Calcutta Comeuppance 

Image Courtesy: Author

Image Source: ehttp://wordhavering.wordpress.com

Over the years my father has let small clues spill about his past. He lived in Calcutta when he was starting out on his career as a trainee bank officer. I pieced together a picture of the girl he had met here. One who loved to dance the twist and drink lots of cha. She was a widow, someone who flaunted societal rules to enjoy life. He had been enamoured with her but chose

to move on, knowing he wasn’t strong enough to face up to his family and society to marry her. At least that’s what he told me. When he speaks of her, I see the look of a man frozen at the crossroads of life from which he has never really moved and yet lived a lie. But leave he did. Then it was my turn to meet the city.

Calcutta had always seemed to be in a dimension apart. As if it were this planet existed on one plane and that exalted epitome of imagination on the other. Did I have enough soul to be accepted into its fold, I wondered as I walked through Park Street hand in hand with a man who was born in a street not too far away. He, whose parents met in this city fifty years earlier; they had been together since.

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The Serpentine Kiss

Circa 1975, Bombay…

James had invited me to a party at his place. He said it was a debut party for someone. Since I was not alone in Bombay anymore, I decided to take my new friend Marie to his party as a plus one. We reached his place at Parel on the particular evening. Marie was more excited than me as she was about to meet James for the first time. A man servant ushered us inside the huge duplex apartment. I had come here twice before, though I doubt if he had recognized me. He led us directly to the floor above where I had never been in my earlier visits. As we entered the hall through an unusually bolted door, it felt as if we had stepped into a different world altogether. It was an extremely strange and eerie hall for a debut party. The entire room was lined with cages as far as I could see. They had live snakes. And frogs. And baby alligators. The hall was dark except for soothing matted lights above each cage. I wasn’t absolutely dumbstruck, knowing James, but I surely had forgotten about Marie. As soon as I spotted James under the light of a cobra cage, I turned to Marie for an introduction. But she had vanished into thin air.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

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I was confused as to what astonished me more: The weird debut party by James? Or the disappearance of Marie? It was dark, but I could gauge at least thirty more people in the hall. Marie could have sneaked into the other side, though it was more likely for her to have fainted by this time. I had not revealed to her till now that James was a reptile supplier for the Hindi movies. She was crazy about movies and the tall heroes prancing around trees. I had just mentioned to her that James worked in those movies and she was ready to come to the party with me. Marie was actually a distant cousin of mine. I had stayed with her and Aunt Lily for a month in their tiny flat in Colaba when I arrived from Calcutta six months ago. As of now, six months later, Marie was my only friend in Bombay though I had known James since childhood.

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Book Review : The Redeemers

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

One bizarre vacation marked a turning point in the lives of four teenage friends. It dawned upon them that corruption and malpractices had become rampant and deeply ingrained in our culture. They felt anguished and shocked at the shameful state of affairs. They pledged to redeem and change the destiny of the country. They had only two weeks of vacation left to take some big initiatives. The pressure on them was immense. Status quo or failure was not an option for them. Read the inspirational story of a unique movement masterminded by youngsters through innovative ideas and creative thinking. Not a single family could escape from its unrelenting onslaught. It was a rewarding outcome for their persistence and hard work, as they nostalgically recall in 2030.

Review:

A fiction on social reforms, that’s what the blurb suggested. It is a genre not much to my liking, but I read it with a free mind devoid of any bias. Since books on social reforms tend to be tedious and preachy, they need to maintain a racy plot and interesting story line throughout. This one lacked it, and yet its only the plot which scores.

The first few pages give the reader an inkling of what’s in store – yet another book with pedestrian English and complete Hindi sentences. The form is quite inferior than the content. There is a story, albeit loosely bound with a lot of loopholes, but the writing is below par.

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