CalcuttaScape : Kulpreet Yadav

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Kulpreet Yadav is a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and Founder-Editor of Open Road Review, one of Asia’s leading literary magazines. Shortlisted in various writing contests, his short stories and essays have appeared in over 30 publications. Kulpreet is represented by Red Ink Literary Agency, and his latest novel, The Girl who loved a Pirate, is India’s first thriller based on marine piracy and hijacking. Passionate about Creative Writing, Kulpreet also mentors aspiring writers at schools and colleges and has spoken at many literary festivals in India and abroad. He lives in New Delhi.

Connect with Kulpreet at Website | Blog | Magazine | Startup

Kolkata Sets You Free

Called the ‘City of Joy’, Kolkata’s charm has had a profound impression on me. In fact, I attribute my becoming a writer on the two-year stint that I did about a decade ago in a place called Haldia, about three hours from Kolkata.

But you might ask how can one experience joy in a place that is so overcrowded and almost always on the brink of violence motivated by volatile political parties? The answer to this can only be found if you visit Kolkata.

I began to write my first novel while I waited for my train at the Howrah railway station in 2006. Until that point, I had no idea that I wanted to become a writer. I had been a regular reader, someone who enjoyed reading books for leisure. But something snapped in my head that winter morning at the Howrah railway station. I had eaten machher-jhol as a late mid-morning meal I remember and was waiting for my train which was running several hours late due to fog. As time went by, I found myself scribbling furiously in a small diary that I was carrying with me. By the time the train arrived, I had written the initial chapters of what was later published as my first novel.

hilsa

Hilsa at Gariahat Market.

I think there is good reason why Kolkata is called the City of Joy. To my mind it’s because the city motivates you to be creative which in turn makes your life joyful. I’ve a few Bengali friends and I have found them to be friendly, kind and helpful. From meeting them and eating Hilsa at their homes in Kolkata, to shopping at the New market and the Gariahat market, and eating rosogullas and phuchkas, Kolkata has the kind of energy and vibration that always fires up my creative side.

If you want to do something imaginative like paint, write, or create music, you should consider heading for Kolkata. This city will set you free. Like it did to me.

Bhalo thakben

Kulpreet

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Book Review : Made in India

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Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

He was the boy with gold in his hair.

As a child, Biddu dreamt of going west and making it big as a composer. At the age of sixteen, he formed a band and started playing in a cafe in Bangalore, his home town, At eighteen, he was part of a popular act at Trinca’s, a nightclub in Calcutta devoted to food, wine and music, At nineteen, he had college students in Bombay dancing to his music. In his early twenties, he left the country and ended up hitchhiking across the middle Fast before arriving in London with only the clothes on his back and his trusty guitar.

What followed were years of hardship and struggle but also great music and gathering fame. From the nine million selling King Fun Fighting to the iconic youth anthem of made in India and the numerous hits in between. Biddu’s music made him a household name in India and elsewhere.

In this first public account of all that came his way the people, the events,the music tours and companies Biddu writes with a very sense of humor about his remarkable journey with its fairy tale ending, Charming, witty, and entirely likable, Biddu is a man you are going to enjoy getting to know.

Review:

Made in India and Biddu are synonymous with my teens. The name still invokes a lot of nostalgia when we used to go ga-ga over Alisha Chinai’s stylish version of ‘Made in India’. It was sensual, melodious and a revolution at that time with Milind Soman in the video. That’s when I first heard of Biddu and loved his music subsequently in numerous tracks.

Since music is interesting, the autobiography of a musician must be too. That was my idea when this book came for review and Biddu didn’t disappoint his readers. The story begins where it should, from his childhood in 1940s and ’50s. What struck me the most is humour, at times it veers to satire on various subjects. India, right after independence still allures me and I wanted to read an account from someone who’s lived in a different part of the country (having heard stories from my father who lived in Calcutta during that era). There was unemployment,  a new Government ruling the country, lot of British people still serving and living in India, and Bangalore was a serene, cute little city.

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Oly Pub

What started in 1947 as Olympia Bar and Restaurant has evolved as a refute to innumerable Calcuttans and tourists alike. The Oly Pub we know changed its avatar from Olympia in 1981, shrinking its name into a cooler and international version. For my parents’ generation, it was still Olympia in their college years, for most of them, it was the ultimate inexpensive hangout. Besides the cheap liquor and food, Oly Pub’s USP was the Beef Steak at an affordable price and lip-smacking taste. Times have changed, Olympia has changed to Oly Pub, which has been renovated again post the fire last year. I haven’t been then pre-fire, hence I can’t vouch for what it used to be, but I can give you a sneak peek of what it is in circa 2015.

Image Courtesy: Kolkataonwheels dot com

Image Courtesy: Kolkataonwheels dot com

The Decor – From friends who were regulars at Oly Pub since college, I’ve heard it was never acclaimed for its decor. The ground floor was shabby and a smoking zone, which in my opinion is very suffocating, though it is ideal for smokers and dopers. Post-fire renovation, the ground floor has been turned into a non-smoking zone with centralised air conditioning. The decor is still shabby, but quite comfortable now with optimally spaced tables and waiters dribbling in the narrow slits between them. The lights are ordinary fluorescent ones, and if you’re looking for a fancy or romantic date, it’s certainly not the place. The floor above has poshier tables and dim lights, oh, and the coveted ‘Ladies Toilet’ that is absent downstairs.

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A Trip to Culinary Heaven

Calcutta is arguably the culinary heaven of India, with Delhi and Hyderabad as close contenders. The mention of culinary heaven must take you to an olfactory, ocular and gustatory paradigm of experience. It should leave you with a phenomenon, not  just an eating experience. Calcutta is pretty much capable of guiding you through an unforgettable culinary tour comprising of unimaginably varied food. You will find almost everything under the sun, especially with nuovo restaurants offering both world and local cuisine. But it is the heritage that still reigns the city’s food map. Allow me to introduce you to, and enlighten about five unique dishes quintessential to what we call ‘Calcutta cuisine.’ While you can still make/cook all of these at home, they are best tasted and tried at restaurants/street corners.

Kabiraji Cutlet – Most of us have been induced to believe that the wonderful, our own Kabiraji Cutlet has been derived from something called the British ‘Coverage Cutlet’. I’ve believed this blindly since time, but as I delved deep into the beloved Kabiraji Cutlet roots, it seemed Coverage Cutlet didn’t exist at all. To know more, read this wonderful article at Presented by P. I’d keep the discussion about the origin and etymology of Kabiraji Cutlet for later, and concentrate on the making and availability.

Chicken Kabiraji Cutlet at Mitra Cafe, Golpark

Chicken Kabiraji Cutlet at Mitra Cafe, Golpark

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Book Review : The Guitar Girl

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The Guitar Girl_Cover_Kindle

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

Sixteen year old Rhea Shah never thought that she would find herself falling for her brother’s best friend, Joy Fernandez, when they come home from college. Because she never thought that the dork who used to go to school with them would suddenly reinvent himself in college.

The only people she’s able to talk to about her absurd crush, are her best friends, Sophie and Arjav. Both of whom at first encourage, and then almost blackmail, Rhea to confess her feelings, which leaves the poor girl more muddled than ever!

Plagued with upcoming Board Examinations along with her friends’ suggestions, Rhea finds it difficult to concentrate, because she’s fallen for Joy, hook, line and sinker. In an attempt to vent to her feelings, she begins a blog, where she publishes all her songs and poems, dedicated to Joy, keeping her identity a secret.

But things do not go quite how she planned when a certain blogger named J. Fern begins to read her blog, and wishes to work with her…

Will Rhea ever confess her feelings to Joy? And will Joy find out the real identity of The Guitar Girl?

Review:

How many times have you revisited childhood reading a book and felt familiar? Aniesha takes us to that precious time of our lives where each one of us has had crushes and infatuations, knowingly or otherwise, for people they know or just random strangers, at school or in their neighbourhood. We’ve all tried to ignore them, or fallen hopelessly in love, discussed them with our best friends or siblings, and hoped for more, some day.

The Guitar Girl is Rhea Shah, who has a pesky elder brother and his handsome college friend Joy Fernandez who she falls for when she’s sixteen. Yes, such things happen mostly at sixteen. Joy was a dorky senior in school who turned hot in college and stunned his best friend’s little sister. We also meet Rhea’s best friends – Sophie and Arjav – who turn a couple later.  There are ample teen elements in the story, love, maths, economics, homework, study sessions and love again. Young love is tender and Aniesha explores it quite deftly.

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Love Thy Neighbour!

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

True. Having been taught the gospels of Saint Augustine in a school named after him, this is one of his teachings I believe in. You cannot discover more than half of yourself unless you have travelled. Each new sight and sound, flora and fauna unravels a part of you hidden hitherto from your own soul.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

I have travelled in India, yes. As a family, we’ve done the usual ‘South India’ tours, the ‘Bombay-Goa’, ‘Rajasthan’, and the shorter ‘Puri’, ‘Darjeeling’ ones. There’s one more tour that people from Calcutta usually cover early in their life – Nepal, our beautiful neighbouring country. My parents had missed it, somehow. My in-laws have visited there recently. It seems we’re one of the few couples in our family not having been there. I’ve always longed to visit Nepal as I primarily adore mountains. The alluring chill of the hills, the tranquility that is hard to find in the plains, and the familiarity of the people in language and habits are reason enough for a visit or two. So I had planned a Nepal trip long ago including places to visit, food to eat, adventure, religious shrines, national parks and lakes. The itinerary got easier with Skyscanner providing a credit of 1 lakh rupees to accommodate all my plans. Here’s the plan all chalked out for any one to have a great trip in Nepal. I have pointed the key places I’d like to visit in the map here – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan (5 km from Kathmandu), Royal Chitwan National Park, Pokhara and Lumbini. Each has it’s own significance in my trip, read further to know how they fit.

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CalcuttaScape : Krishna Udayasankar

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 fifth article in this column is from Krishna Udayasankar, author of Govinda & Kaurava in The Aryavarta Chronicles series.

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Calcutta

Calcutta – I knew it before it became Kolkata, as temporary resident, then as frequent visitor and now as permanent admirer. ‘Cal’ does that to more than one person, I know. It’s a city that’s easy to fall in love with, a place that makes one feel at home. Perhaps that is why I remember the city as a sum of sensations and stimuli, sights and sounds that not only stir fond memories, but also come together in the present as a story that must be told, full of emotions, drama, intrigue, suspense and love.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Say “Calcutta” and I think of samosas emerging from the depths of a lightless, soot-stained shop in Kidderpore, to be eaten while walking over cobbled streets, sighted feet avoiding open man-holes and the washed remains of yesterday’s downpour. I also think of rasgullas (and its pronounced roshogolla, not roshogullo, as I’ve been oft reminded) from that piece of paradise on earth – KC Das on Esplanade. The informed visitor consumes the delicacy while showering many blessings on the father-son inventor duo of Nobin Chandra and Krishna Chandra Das. The less historically-inclined show as much relish, but affirm that both rasgullas and rasmalai from the decades old main store taste much better than what comes out a high-tech vacuum-sealed tin. Alternatively, one could indulge in street-fare phuchkas and jhal-muri, followed by dessert that would literally seem a world apart: melt-in-your mouth pastries at that unforgettable Calcutta institution –Kookie Jar.

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