Many years ago, I was travelling to Kolkata. For that time, I was too young to feel that the city was something beyond description. My aunt’s house is there and all I knew about city Kolkata that time was, it’s a big, very big city, unlike our hometown. As far as I can remember, I was merely twelve years old then, we were going to my Pisir Bari (Paternal aunt’s house). When our Yellow Taxi boarded on the famous Howrah Bridge, I saw the river banks and the vastness of the river, and then, my eyes shifted to that iconic bridge. Grasped in an awe, I whispered, “Beautifully you, Kolkata!”
Such is the city of joy. When you come to this city, Kolkata welcomes you with all its love. While trolling in the streets, you have to wonder about the soul connection with this city, whether you live here or you are an outsider like me. Whoever you are, I can assure you, once in a lifetime while exploring the shabby alleys or sitting at the banks of the river Ganga, you have to confess that, somewhere, Kolkata is your home.
To cherish that faded memories once again, I picked Sreeparna Sen’s Kolkata Chronicles – An A to Z Guide for the Uninitiated. Let’s have a trip on the roads of this old city of Mach, Mishti and More!
Kolkata Chronicles – An A to Z Guide for the Uninitiated is a book that allows you to acquaint yourself with the heart and soul of a rather unusual Indian city with loads of quirks. Kolkata, The City of Joy, with its rich history and vibrant culture, home to world renowned scientists, artists, writers and philosophers, is a city with a beating heart, whose frequency resonates with the passion and intense emotions of its people.
Structure of the book:
The book is centered to the culture, history, food, architecture and some other traits of Bengal. Let’s have a look:
Culture: Inside this book, you will have a glimpse about Adda (a gathering for gossip with like minded friends and fellows), Durga Puja (One of the most famous occasions of Bengal), Bengali’s love for music, the Para culture (the united participations of a certain area), and yes last but not the least, you will not miss the charm of the sports too. There is a chapter dedicated to Bengali’s love for Football.
History: Inside this book you will have a glimpse of some traditions that bear the essence of Bengal. Natok (Drama or Play in Bengali), Sandesh (the famous Bengali magazine by Satyajit Ray), Writers Building and the Three Martyrs (Benoy, Badal and Dinesh), and some more.
Food: when you are talking about Kolkata, how can you forget to mention food? Inside this book you will have a glimpse of some ethnic foods of Bengal, like Ilish, street foods like Kathi Roll, Phuchka, and some more.
Architecture: Inside this book you will have a glimpse of some famous places and architectures of Kolkata that bear the heritage of this old city. They are Eden Gardens, Jaadu Ghar, Howrah Bridge, Maidan, Victoria Memorial, Zoo, and some more.
The book is written in subtle way and lucid style. While reading the book you will have a flavor of having a trip on the streets of Kolkata and exploring the city with the author’s eyes.
A glimpse of the book:
The book is a treat to everyone who is interested in arts and culture. It gives you a glimpse of the city Kolkata,the culture and tradition of Bengal. But among all, there are some personal favorite chapters of mine.
As a book lover, Boi, Boimela and Boipara is a personal favorite of mine. The chapter Durga Puja tells you how beautifully we Bengalis celebrate this grand occasion here in Bengal. Although, it’s undeniably true that Kolkata has another level of sensation for this yearly occasion. Wherever you may live, must visit Kolkata during the Pujo festival. The grandeur of the Pujo special madness of Kolkata can’t be expressed in words, literally.
Another favourite one is the chapter of Howrah Bridge, as in this chapter the author has described her personal experience and I really enjoyed reading it. If you want to know about some food culture of Bengal, you should read the chapter Ilish and Kathi Roll, Puhchka and Many More. These two chapters tell you about our love for the fish Ilish and how we get crazy over some awesome street foods like Kathi Roll, Phuchka and some others.
There is another chapter I would like to recommend you to read if you really want to know Kolkata and Bengali culture. It’s Gaaner Opare(Beyond the horizon of music). Bengalis are deeply inclined to music, and Rabindrasangeet and Nazrulgeeti are two prominent genres of bengali music. In this chapter the author has told you about our love for music.
And now, here comes my most favourite chapter of the book. Yellow Taxi. It’s a chapter where you would feel a personal connection with this city. Here the author has written about a personal experience of her, how she came to know that this city develops deep love to everyone. It’s a story of an aged Sikh taxi driver who is an ardent follower of Rabindranath Tagore.
A Quote to Remember:
“He had the complete collection of books by Rabindranath Tagore with him. I was snapped out of my reverie. Indeed, it was no ordinary taxi. The ardent Tagore bhakt had decorated his taxi to pay homage to the maestro. He told us how he learnt Bengali to read and understand Tagore better. “I went back to Punjab once you know, but, did not like it there. We have agriculture there, but I am more used to the culture here,” he mused. Those words, and that experience have been etched into my memory.
It wasn’t just a taxi ride, but a heart-warming unforgettable experience. He even gifted me a poem, written by him! And that is the real Kolkata for you. It has a way of cheering you up in the most unexpected ways on your worst days, and it grows into you. Whichever part of the country you hail from, once you start soaking in the warmth and tradition of the city, it devours you and makes you its own.”
So, this is Kolkata. This city knows well how to make you fall in love with its age old tradition, and offers you a scope to be lost amidst the crowd, and then, to find yourself in an absolutely bohemian way.
I would like to recommend to you if you really want to have a flavour of Kolkata and the Bengali culture and tradition, you can pick this book. After ending the book, you will get to know us a little bit closer. I promise.
Maybe, you will have a secret wish to visit the city of Joy, very soon.
The book is now available for free download. You can download the book from here.
Sreeparna Sen, a Banker by profession, finds her solace in writing. She has authored the book Tales of Wizardencil and co-authored few anthologies like Hawk’s Nest, Sweek Flash fiction Book Part 2 and 4 and Sharing Lipstick. Her blogs have been featured in pages like Momspresso, Women’s Web and Bonobology. Sreeparna frequently writes in her blog Wizardencil By Sreeparna Sen in WordPress and manages a Facebook page with the same name, where you can find stories written both in English and Bengali. You can follow on Follow her website at wizardencil.com.