Apeejay Kolkata Lit Fest 2015

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

To be frank, I hadn’t attended any Literary Festival until the Apeejay Kolkata Lit Fest 2015. It’s a shame, yes. But most of the earlier editions in various cities were either on days I was busy/away or priced hefty for each day/session. Not getting into the issue of priced sessions versus sponsored ones, I found the Kolkata Lit Fest mostly free, which encourages bloggers and aspiring writers like me to indulge only in time for a possible interaction with interesting authors.

Since it began on a Wednesday, the 14th of January, it wasn’t possible for me to attend each day or event. I studied the schedule carefully and chose my favourites. Day 2 – 15th of January seemed the best bet. There were two book launches slated for the afternoon by two very important authors in Indian English Literature – Shashi Tharoor and Upamanyu Chatterjee. There was a bonus privilege of watching Jeet Thayil converse with his exact contemporary Chatterjee. Who would miss the chance of meeting three of the quirkiest, wittiest and most interesting authors of our era? We jumped on the bandwagon and reached the venue – Indian Council for Cultural Relations at Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta.

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CalcuttaScape : Simi K. Rao

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 fourth article in this column is from Simi K. Rao, the author of ‘An Incurable Insanity.’

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Calcutta For The Soul

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

It’s said that memories fade with time which is probably a good thing or some of us would find it impossible to go on. But there are certain reminisces that cannot afford to be forgotten. They are like precious keepsakes that need to be extracted from the dusty realms of time. They have to be caressed and fondled with affection; reinforced and perhaps refurbished before being tucked away securely again.

One such precious memory that I’ve guarded fiercely is that of my trip to Calcutta. Over the years it has been revisited a million times; edited and imbued with subtle nuances so to add color and character.

I was perhaps ten, twelve or thereabouts (my mother stresses on the later and she is probably right because I’m pathetically poor with specifics.) The trip would never have come about hadn’t it been for my father, who after one of his numerous travels brought back an exquisite Bengali handloom cotton striped sari of olive green and cream. It became my favorite. My mother looked lovely in it. He also spoke of a land rich in culture that had produced the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray and of course the indomitable Kishore Da. Therefore armed with miniscule amount of education and barely suppressed curiosity, I embarked on my sole journey to the east, with my tiny family in tow.

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Book Review : The Storm in my Mind…

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

“When Aryan Roy stepped into college life to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a successful engineer, little did he know that he was in for a journey of a lifetime, Anushka and Kaira turn his sojourn into a memorable one – in both good and not-so-good senses.”

The Storm in my Mind… is a collective narrative of events, habits, stereotypes and idiosyncrasies revolving around the contemporary society of Kolkata. It is a story of love as much as it is of hatred, passion, friendship, trust, misunderstandings, nostalgia and love for his city. It is the story of Aryan, his Kolkata and his mellowing heart that makes confessions of the times he has seen.

Review:

The cover. Oh, yes. It instills nostalgia into misty-eyed Calcuttans. I had, like a seasoned Bengali reader, expected helluva book from a fellow Calcuttan (or Kolkatan as they call themselves these days). But, I’m royally disappointed yet again.

Ayaan Basu had promised in the book promotions that it is going to be a great one involving the city. The first doubt which crept into me was the volume of the book. It appeared quite lean to be classified into an engaging read. But who knows, the times they-are-a-changin’ and it could well have been interesting. I braced myself up for a journey with Aryan Roy, the  protagonist, through a phase in his life. It became stressful after a few pages as the writing is quite incoherent. The sweet bonding between consecutive sentences and paragraphs is missing. It seems as if Aryan was captivated and asked to blurt out few details about his high school and college days.

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Book Review : The Vague Woman’s Handbook

Blurb View: 

Image Source: Self

Image Source: Self

At twenty-two, Sharmila Chatterjee has just married her sweetheart of a few years, Abhimanyu Mishra, a somewhat eccentric if handsome, twenty-three-and-a-half-year-old with obscure academic interests and a small fellowship that never arrives in time. They start a household in a tiny rented flat, fending for themselves in the big, bad and very snooty world of south Delhi, with penny-pinching landlords, some romance, and a lot of anxiety.

At fifty-two, Indira Sen is not sure just how she meandered to where she finds herself now. A senior government officer and single mother, she lives with her daughter and three opinionated old people in a rambling house, drives a battered car, and has a history of credit-card-induced-shopaholism. 

The Vague Woman’s Handbook is a story told with equal parts of humour, hysteria ad tenderness, about the sparkling friendship between two women as they hurtle through life and its mini-crises while trading secrets in the art of survival.

Review:

There are a few books which attract you in the first few pages, the words take you under their wings, make a comfortable nest for you to snuggle in and read away. I wasn’t sure if this book was a chick-lit by the cover and blurb, something told me it will be better than that. It did make my journey much better, though. I was transported into a world of vague women whom we encounter closely in our daily lives.

Who are vague women and why did the author write a handbook about them? These women often reside inside us, for a brief period or for a lifetime. They are absent-minded, geographically and directionally challenged, emotional and stubborn people. Now that pretty much sums up nearly most of us. Being somewhat vague myself, I started enjoying the author’s perspectives on the protagonists. The book is about two women, Mil and Indira, as briefed in the blurb. They are like chalk and cheese in their appearances and lifestyles, and yet they share a lot of similar traits which allow them to bond with each other.

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Book Review : The Secret Proposal

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

Eight years ago, she was the teenager he would use to get out of boring parties. But now, he is stunned to see her grown up.

He decides to delay his marriage by getting into a false engagement with her. Then he falls in love with someone else and she forces him to move on. He comes back to her, but she’s determined not to take him back. Will she ever get over her unrequited love for him?

Would a grand gesture from him make her believe otherwise?

And how do you know that your knight in shining armour has been standing right next to you?

Join Tanveer ‘Veer’ Bhattacharya and Larissa ‘Jasmine’ Chakraborty as they embark on a journey which questions relationships, friendships and makes one wonder… how long would it take for love to eventually find a way?

Review:

To be very honest, what attracted me to this novel is definitely not the cover, which seemed pretty teenage at first look. Ah well, its a fairy tale, which then justifies the dreamy cover. What lured me was the unusual fusion of the protagonist names. Surely, very few people in my generation are called Tanveer Bhattacharya or Larissa Chakraborty. A quick look at the author bio revealed her student status and I was interested to know about the Veers and Jasmines of the second decade into this millennium.

The story begins interestingly as the blurb promises. Tanveer and Larissa meet after eight years and rediscover their so-called acquaintance. It is a complex story, then. Both the protagonists fall in and out of love with each other. The characterization is easy, though the situation might seem complex to some of the readers.

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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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