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Calcutta: Two Years in the City

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Calcutta: Two Years in the City

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    Available in PDF Format | Calcutta: Two Years in the City.pdf | English
    Amit Chaudhuri(Author)

In 1999, Amit Chaudhuri moved back to Calcutta, the city in which he was born. It was a place he had loved in his youth and the place he had made his name writing about. But upon his return he discovered that the Calcutta of his imagination had receded and another had taken its place.

Lyrical, observant and profound, Calcutta is a personal account of two years (2009–2011) spent in one of the least known – yet greatest – cities of our time by one of our leading novelists. Using the historic elections of 2011 as a fulcrum, Chaudhuri looks back to the nineteenth century, when the city burst with a new vitality, and towards the twenty-first, when – utterly changed – it seems to be on the verge of another turn.

Along the way he evokes all that is most particular and extraordinary. From the homeless and the working class to the old, declining haute bourgeois; from the new malls and hotels to old houses being destroyed by developers; from politicians on their way out to the city’s fitful attempts to embrace globalisation, Calcutta brings a multifarious universe to life.

3.3 (10771)
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Book details

  • PDF | 320 pages
  • Amit Chaudhuri(Author)
  • Union Books; PB Reissue edition (4 July 2013)
  • English
  • 10
  • Biography
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Review Text

  • By Ajit Mitra on 10 August 2013

    You need a Dictionery to understand this Book , I am an Indian , Bengali by birth , I wanted to know about the City I was born !. I live and made my career in England ,I have a special interest in the Economics of the city but I found everything is very biased . I would like to meet the Writer in Europe if possible ?

  • By Anurag Srivastava on 16 February 2013

    I found this recently released book at a shop in Fulham, London. As I read the first chapters, I found myself on a nostalgic trip to Calcultta - a city that was British Empire's capital until 1911 - the metropolis now dilapidated that once shaped India's modern national identity. Without its artists, philosophers, scientists and social-reformers the modern India as we know today would have never existed.This period of Renaissance however was neither complete nor strong enough to survive in modern India. The vast swathes of uncivilized Orient - the rural India that "Renaissance" thinkers represented have been excluded from "new" India and are reduced to extreme poverty, humiliated because of their funny tongues while Indian nationalists hypocritically embrace a history belonging to this wretched hinterland. Reading the book, it is unfortunate to see, as I had in my own trip to Calcutta, that the city which we know of in the books had somehow vanished. The dilapidation of its colonial buildings is not the kind you see in Italy or South America, probably a deeper decay and withdrawal from these colonial artifacts had taken place.Mr Chaudhari's accounts are beautiful not for the social commentary, nor for the fluid economic history he tells us but for the character sketches of derelict Calcutta - its people (esp the Ingabanga community) and its colonial buildings. He talks repeatedly of the connection of a city with its rural outskirts that its life rested upon. However imperfectly, the paraphernalia of British Empire - its clerks, officials and colonial buildings - communicated with the world around Calcutta. This is the relationship celebrated in the best of Bengali literature and was crucial in the making of Bengal's aristocracy - an elite that after much turmoil chose the communist ideals over the rest and was then crushed mercilessly by India's central government. Bengalis had no history, Mr Chaudhari quotes, they had built it all during the relationship with the British in the empire. With the departure of British and that of the industries they had built, all sorts of connections with the world around the city were severed.However, politics is hardly the subject that the book concerns itself with. Mr Chaudhuri talks only of the aftermath of politics in Calcutta's culture, commenting on the heavy costs that Calcutta has paid in its battle to preserve the connection with its outer world - a battle which it has finally lost. The modern poverty of Calcutta is indeed the unfortunate unwinding of this disconnection. In a somewhat magical fashion he reminds us that none of us are living in a world too different from Calcutta. We've all witnessed a sort of aftermath of globalization - towns of great histories reduces to obsoletion, and merged into of a world flattened by supermarkets and chains connected only through highways and internet.Chaudhari finds that a sort of disconnection is what globalization is selling to all of us. He talks at length with Italian chefs - about Italy and failure of Italian food in Calcutta. Urban Indians don't appreciate fresh olives and tomatoes, a restaurant owner points out to him, because they want to spend on something further away from them. Would the property boom in Calcutta preserve the sense of colonial architecture? Would India's consumerism savor a local cheese? Is there a more serious aftermath of such a disconnection still waiting to occur? I was left with many such questions after reading the book.The book is going to be divisive but it is the kind of book that modern India desperately needs. I myself found the book a bit devastating but was relieved to observe that Mr Chaudhuri's writings don't package the mysticism and Bollywood pomp that most Indian writing survives upon. For those reasons this may not be the ideal travel book on Calcutta but the poignant realism of Chaudhari's writings seems a far better technique to understand India than what books on India generally seem to employ.

  • By Guest on 22 August 2013

    This is quite a 'gentle' book, well written and the author observes the people and places in well crafted sentences. However, it lost a star as it was, overall, a bit unsatisfying in conjuring up an in-depth picture of Calcutta itself.

  • By Dr Mrinmay Gupta on 13 March 2013

    Rather disappointing reading, because theme is the same old perception of a Bengali living in the west, particularly in England, who is so eager to convince bengalis living in calcutta,suffering hardship everyday economically and socio-politically, that he ie writer understands there problems thoroughly and shows empathy, sometime admits remorse and own guilty feeling. I for one haven't gained anything at all by reading his latest book as I lived in South City, Calcutta from 2010 till 2012 and am a Bengali. I hope Mr Choudhury, comes up with some new ideas next time he writes about Indians in general. Nevertheless, I do like his style of writing, therefore buy books written by him.

  • By Uqbar on 14 August 2013

    I enjoyed this, because my husband's half Bengali, so it's kind of nice to read about the city from the local's pov, but overall, it doesn't really stick in the mind.

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