Book title – Kolkata Chronicles: An A To Z Guide For The Uninitiated
Publisher – Amazon Kindle Pages – 60 pages Language – English
Author – Sreeparna Sen
Price – ₹0/- on kindle unlimited
Available on – Amazon
In all my years on planet earth I have yet to come across a Bengali who does not sing paeans to Kolkata. Kolkata is their Janambhumi, their matrubhumi and their karmbhumi. It is also the one place which all Bengalis, by default, claim a part of. Every Bengali has a connection to the city even though they may belong to another part of the vast and vibrant state of West Bengal.
I have never visited Kolkata but, I have long harboured a wish to visit. In my life, I have had a fair share of beloved Bengali friends who have introduced me to Kolkata’s rich culture, food, traditions and heritage. To that list, I have recently added another name – Sreeparna Sen (Yes, I believe I will now call her a friend after reading her book because that is how well I have come to know her). Her book Kolkata Chronicles – an A to Z guide for the uninitiated, is a mesmeric account of the ‘City of Joy’. Reading the book is an immersive experience. It is like dipping oneself into tepid water and then being left awash with an infusion of warmth. As you turn the pages, you feel the warmth spread through you and coat you in this delicious feeling of sweet joy that is unmatched by even the iconic Bengali Rasogulla.
The 60-page book has 26 chapters, each starting with an alphabet of the English language. As I read, I was caught up in the depth of emotion that the author exhibited for her beloved city. She took me on a kaleidoscopic tour of her world and forced me to partake in the pride that she feels for it. But, mind you, the chapters are not fictional stories and for me therein lay the beauty of the text. The chapters are anecdotal and replete with incidents from the author’s life and the lives of those around her. There are snippets about the husband, father, mother, uncle, nani’s house, etc and a host of other such heart warming things that give you a sneak peek into the author’s life. Sreeparna lays her soul bare in this one, not asking for accolades or laudatory applause but only asking that you find the sublime joy that she so finds in her city.
And, the book does have everything that makes up the comportment of a Bengali – The junoon called cricket and football; the fitoor for sea food; the emotion Bengalis harbour for music, books and magic (yes, P C Sarkar makes an entry too); the reverential celebrations of Durga Puja; and, also the sweets that make Bengal a hub for gastronomic delight. And, how can I forget any mention of the Howrah bridge, the heritage structure that inspired songs and movies or the trams or the Victoria terminal. They are all such quintessential parts of Kolkata’s iconic status. For me, more appealing than the locations or traditions that were discussed in the book, were the teeny tales woven into the fabric of the anecdotes. They give a glimpse into the author’s life and also shed light on the history of the monuments or cultural practices that are followed in the city.
All in all, I recommend this book heartily. If you are a Bengali, you must read this even if it is to only reminisce over parts of the city that hold joy for you. But, if you are a Non-Bengali then you should definitely read it because it will be an eye-opening journey into the emotion called Kolkata.