Book Review : Jao Pakhi

jao pakhiIf you have read any of my reviews on Bangla books, you might be aware that Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is one of my favourite authors. My admiration and awe for his writing cannot be described by just ‘favourite’. The author’s USP is his characterisation – you’d be amazed to get into their psyche peeling off layers from apparently mundane characters. They are people around us, but each with a different story to convey through their eyes or words. Have you ever read an entire novel on dialogues, without a single paragraph of narration? I’ve been learning not only the nuances of fine writing, but more about life in general from this octogenarian author’s works. There’s rarely been a story where he has failed to impress me as a reader.

Jao Pakhi (Fly away, Birdie) is one of the more tender stories with lesser shock value from its characters. It’s the story of a young man named Somen. He’s a rookie just out of college with his dreams still shaping up. His father, a man ruled by his ideals, lives in a village building his own hut and growing his own crops. His mother, however, didn’t leave the city as she raised her two sons and a daughter, married them off and still lives with her family. She wants Somen to begin working and establishing himself in the world like his elder brother Ranen. She wants their father to hand them his money from a policy that is going to mature soon.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Review : Kachher Manush

51EJsNCuFkL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not everyday that I sit down to write about a Bangla book. There are a few that not only tug a few strings at the heart, but pull them hard enough to inflict pain. Kachher Manush (The Close One) by Suchitra Bhattacharya is an epic work in contemporary Bangla Literature. SB was an immensely popular writer over decades until she passed away untimely last year. Her stories have always been as close to our middle class reality as they could. She wrote almost solely about the average Bengali family, one you’d spot around you daily with all its problems, undercurrents of tension and occasional bursts of joy. Kachher Manush was written in the eighties, quite early in SB’s career and yet it portrays the mastery that she had in her craft. The writing waned later though, stories became repetitive, plots became a little mundane, but she produced occasional masterpieces like Kancher Dewal, Neel Ghurni, Dahan and Parobash. Among the good, bad and ugly ones, Kachher Manush is the one I love the most.

The opening pages are laced with hope and anticipation. Titir, a teenager in full bloom in the eighties Calcutta has just appeared for her Secondary examinations in school. She awaits her alcoholic father Aditya’s homecoming from a hospital. SB does a wonderful, rather wistful job in narrating the ambience around Titir as she waits for her mother Indrani to fetch Aditya home. She lives in a huge house, in a ‘joint family’ that we were so familiar to in the previous century. Titir’s family comprises of little islands, bound loosely together by her ailing grandfather. Her paternal uncle Sudip and his wife Runa have aptly named their son Atom, probably in apprehension that they would live as a nuclear family sometime in future. Aditya’s youngest brother Kandarpa is a wannabe actor who lives in horns of dilemma, tethering between right and wrong. SB describes these islands through the eyes of Titir’s elder brother Bappa, who admits being the smallest isthmus, waiting to sever his ties with the dysfunctional family soon by applying for a sailor’s job.

Continue reading

Mainland China

Mainland China came into existence in 1994, the first outlet being in erstwhile Bombay. It’s not surprising that this piece of news didn’t reach the majority of middle class people residing in Bengal. Why would they have bothered with accounts of some expensive Chinese restaurant opening in Bombay? I, as a child, was quite happy with our occasional Peping and Chung Wah stints while visits to Calcutta and the ketchup slathered ‘chowmein’ at street stalls. Eating out hadn’t gained popularity, nor had Chinese restaurants popped up like mushrooms all over the city. The China Town or Tangra area in Calcutta still ruled when it came to amazing food and liquor at modest rates. Years passed, Anjan Chatterjee made his mark with Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta, and finally inaugurated the first outlet in Calcutta in the last decade. It was still inaccessible to a student like me with its posh location and exorbitant prices. It was only when I left home ten years ago, the Western concept of eating out slowly imbibed into my being. Mainland China was still beyond my reach with its à-la-carte prices that could slash my wallet brutally. I’m not sure about the year of inception of a buffet or ‘set meal’ (as referred in the China buffets all around US & UK) in Mainland China, but I was over the moon that the bill could fit in my wallet in lieu of some great food. Summing up my experiences of over five years at Mainland China outlets in three Indian cities hitherto.

The Decor

One of the most attractive features of Mainland China (MC) is the decor. I’ve been to four different MC outlets and the decor is always soothing, oriental, calm and soft to the eyes. The entrance of every outlet has been a mishmash of designer wooden panels as dividers that impart a feeling of passing into a private space. The lights are dim and tables are very strategically placed, so that you don’t overhear conversations, get irritated by inane people nearby or stumble into someone else while filling your plate from the buffet counters. Seats are quite comfortable and tables are adequately spaced to fit in your satchel or purse. The decor at each outlet I’ve visited fetched a big thumbs up, and here’s a glimpse of my favourite piece at any eatery, the ceiling lamp.

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

Continue reading

Fish and Bliss

There is a lesson that the age old Bangla cuisine teaches us – prudence. One might not easily believe it, given the history and evolution of the elaborate Daab Chingri and the uber rich Sorshe Ilish. But it is not every day that you sacrifice puddles of oil to cook Golda Chingri or grind mounds of mustard seeds on your sheel nora (oh, forget that already, there’s the ubiquitous pungent branded mustard powder). It is the daily fare – the humble Rui and Katla that we so lovingly call Kata Pona, omnipresent in the Bangali kitchen in its various avatars. Shove aside the runny machher jhol with potol or a subtle garlic tomato machher torkari that finds its way in the morning platter of rice before heading for school/college or offices. If you live outside Bengal and crave for something fishy and spicy apart from the jhol or jhaal, you’re in for a treat with just three pieces of fish. If you have a kid at home, or an overgrown one like my better half, this will bring lakes of smile on their faces.

fish chop

#BanglaKhabar

Since my father lived away from home and Bengal for a considerable period, the cooking bug in him became fairly active. I’ve heard stories of him quizzing the cook in his college hostel kitchen for quaint Bangla vegetarian recipes. He reproduced them later, and more importantly, taught my mother most of it after marriage. Stationed in Kanpur for twenty years, baba would crave for the crispy hot aromatic Fish Chop (croquette) among other telebhaja that rule our province. Fish or mutton chops weren’t frequent in every telebhaja shop in Calcutta as the non-vegetarianism in them would make the harmless Aloo or Mochar Chop untouchable to a lot of people.

Continue reading

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

—————–

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.

Continue reading

Open Tee Canvas

Last Diwali, our cousin came down from a distant city where she is in college. We chalked out a schedule for roaming around the city; if you know our city, Calcutta, it’s a beautiful one with some modernity strewn amongst a lot of heritage. So we went to the New Market, which isn’t that new any more, and shopped, which we normally do together. We looked for junk jewellery and cheap t-shirts. Since we live in such a hot and humid country, soft cotton t-shirts are always a priority.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

We look for them hither and thither, in malls and in quaint shops across the street corners.If you are a tee lover, you might prefer either plain monochrome ones, or the printed ones, or the rest with graphics, sketches and slogans written all around. I normally look for light printed t-shirts in sober colours and plain borders. On the other hand, M prefers ones with graphics and interesting captions written on them. He’s finally found one, which has “NEVER DRINK AND DERIVE” with equations all over. Sis-in-law searched for some exotic ones with floral prints for summer and bright ones for fall. Paired with a classic pair of jeans, these tees are quintessential for young ones.

Continue reading