Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland: The lowdown on Bengal

I just finished reading The Lowland in Kolkata, where I visited some of the places mentioned by the author, Jhumpa Lahiri. Recently I attended two weddings at the Tolly Club, which is described in the novel. Kolkata, formerly called Calcutta, features prominently in some recent novels such as Paul Theroux’s A Dead Hand and Jeffrey […]

Kipling, Calcutta and The City of Dreadful Night

Today is the birthday of Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865- 18 January 1936). Born in Bombay, now called Mumbai, he died in London. Calcutta, now called Kolkata, has come to be called the “city of the dreadful night”. Even newspapers in Calcutta use that phrase as a synonym for the city. However, Kipling’s short story, […]

Indira Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew

  Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is compared to Indira Gandhi by the Indian journalist, Sunanda Datta-Ray, who once worked for The Straits Times. In his book, Looking East to Look West, exploring India-Singapore relations, based on his interviews with MM Lee, he writes: Lee and Indira Gandhi shared a brutal commitment to power, […]

Paul Theroux on Kali and Calcutta

In A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta, Paul Theroux describes an animal sacrifice at the Kali temple in Kalighat. A goat, garlanded with flowers, is led bleating into a walled enclosure to the beat of drums. Once inside, the terrified creature is thrust between two upright stakes and caressed by a barefoot priest, who […]

Calcutta hosts world’s biggest book fair

I am surprised the BBC didn’t mention the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith is in Calcutta (Kolkata) for the Kolkata Book Fair. Maybe the BBC presenter and the Indian correspondent Subir Bhowmik ran out of time discussing the size and scale and the city’s passion for books that has made it the world’s largest retail […]

Amit Chaudhuri on Calcutta

Real Time by Amit Chaudhuri What a surprise! Dakkhinee, the bookstall I used to visit in my younger days in Calcutta (Kolkata), is mentioned by the Indian writer, Amit Chaudhuri, in his Real Time collection of short stories. “The Dakkhinee Bookshop, at the turning crossing of Lansdowne Road and Rashbehari Avenue – it was really […]

A New World by Amit Chaudhuri

A New World by Amit Chaudhuri Amit Chaudhuri is one of the finest but possibly less known Indian authors writing in English. His language can verge on poetry and be as vivid as a movie. But nothing much happens in his stories. That didn’t matter very much in his early novels, A Strange and Sublime […]

Sublime writing — like a movie

Amit Chaudhuri is one of the best Indian writers in English today. Salman Rushdie may be more flamboyant, but when it comes to describing a scene, Chaudhuri is second to none. He can be as vivid as a photograph or a video. The only reason he is not better known is his short stories and […]