Prem Chandra of the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers (Jamalpur cadre) is a senior professional ( retired) who has seen the world.
This is what he writes about his engagement with the Chronicler.
” After a long time, I read a full book, breaking my big inertia. I found your book very enjoyable, at the same time, I travelled in a time capsule few centuries back, living in those times, and had some foreign visits too, of US and Gulf.
Sorrow of Shanti in Ashtami, was very touching. In our society, we need to evolve much more to take proper care of handicapped people. Come to think of it, each one of us, have few major physical and/or mental handicaps, which we are able to hide somehow, or we are not even aware of them.
Pandemic has shown us good mirror. Glimpse of the same a century back, was quite informative and brought good memories of our Calcutta days.
Fault Lines, nicely depicted the hindu karma theory, with a good pinch of mystery.
Finally, The Chronicler…, was superb climax. I learnt lot of our own history in a very interesting manner. Some characters in it like, Joba Sundari, Omichand, Satya and Rani Rashmoni, will remain in my memory for a long time. Effect of mixing supernatural in the story was too good and divine.
Congratulations Shakti, for writing this book so well in your first such attempt. It is of a high standard. Best wishes for your future such endeavours. In fact, now I look forward to your next.”
From Ashtami :
As preparations got underway to take the body for cremation, no one could miss that low pitched moan from the room of the deceased. It emanated from Shanti as he alone held onto his mother’s hand. It seemed disturbingly like a sound from the past trying to come to terms with that of an uncertain future. It ricocheted through the house and beyond, and failing to tug at the heartstrings of the folks around, carried to the heavens the sadness, tiredness and the irrelevance of it all.
Ya Devi sarva bhutesu Shanti rupena samsthita
Namestasyai Namestasyai Namestasyai Namoh Namah
Ashtami, part of the Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories, continues to make emotional waves around the world with more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon.
Dr. Viraj P. Thacker, the best-selling author of ‘The Myth of prosperity: Globalisation and the South’, has remained passionate about continuing his Late Mother’s work of a lifetime in the areas of Women & Children, the Environment, Sustainability & Social Justice. This has also led him to set up ‘Manushi for sustainable development’ of which he is the international executive director.
I am sharing a collage of the events associated with the above initiative as well as a thought-provoking article on Globalisation that he has published recently.
Environment, sustainability and Climate Change are areas I remain passionate about. My next book might just be in this area…..
The Chronicler of Hooghly and other stories by Shakti Ghosal.
This collection of stories is the first book penned by the author. But his captivating style of narrating tales bears testimony to the fact he is an accomplished writer of prose. According to the author, these four stories are inspired by his personal experiences. However, he has woven these stories into a multi-hued fabric of history, societal norms prevailing at that time and the Bengali culture linking it to modern times. The prominent aspect is that the reader gets a taste of both the ancient and modern times and the switch over is amazing. For historical perspective, the author has relied on various secondary sources of which he has produced a list of references at the end of the book.
His last story, The Chronicler of the Hooghly, has its beginning from the year 1756, one year prior to the most eventful Battle of Plassey which totally changed the political scenario of not only Bengal but of the whole India. As we know as a part of history that by winning this battle, the Britishers through East India Company successfully laid the foundation of British rule in India subjecting the people of India under the yoke of ignominious foreign rule for about two centuries. This story highlights the unfortunate actions of self-seeking power-seekers who played treacherous and deceitful games in furtherance of their own petty interests. In the process, they even compromised the independence of their kingdoms by their shameful betrayal to the British authorities. Omichand, Nabakrishna Deb and other characters are representative of such phenomenon with which the annals of Indian history is replete. Sowing the seeds of discontent through every ploy under their arms among the local chieftains, significant persons in the establishment and the menial servants and petty officials had been the main plank of the winning strategy of the British authorities in India. The author, in this story has successfully sculpted such characters with finesse and authenticity which evoke readers interest so much that it becomes almost impossible to put down the book before going to the end. Author has narrated this story through a stranger who has linked the history of Bengal, the development of modern Kolkata and the making of British rule in India via Bengal to the pious Hooghly river’s saga. This part of the story is a unique feature. Civilizations usually grow at the banks of rivers and vanish in due course of time. But the river remains there standing as the real chronicler of the events taking place in different regimes at different times. Lastly, the author has laced the narrative with the anecdote of pearl necklace touching the chord of spiritualism and moral beliefs of the people. The whole story is narrated in fluent style keeping the reader glued to pages after pages till the end.
The third story Fault lines deal with a unique idea that may easily be counted within the realm of psychology! The story carries a loud message that despite all our conquests in the contours of day-to-day life, it is our alter ego who decides the final results. Sometimes, we weave around our thinking faculty a mesh from where we see everything done by us as rightly done! But this is not so. There is someone who reminds us or rather shows us our fault lines, at least once in our lifetimes. Alter ego does that acting as mirror to our mind’s eye! Set in the foreign land, Muscat, Oman, this is a story of two close friends who are diametrically opposite in temperament and approach towards life. As destined from above, they are in the race to woo the same girl. But this time, the slow-moving tortoise loses the race to the guile of his worldly wise and fastmoving friend. The loser quits the field. However, one day the girl, now a married woman, finds an unread envelope of the loser friend and ultimately knows the truth. Her inner self rebels and she leaves the place of her husband loaded with a heavy sense of remorse. The story has been narrated in fluent style, which is the hallmark of the author’s genius. As it comes out in all his stories, the author’s familiarity with the places and the incidents adds to the natural flow of the narrative.
Pandemic is the second story of this collection. Author has picked the threads of this story from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919, and the scenario is old Calcutta. He has taken it to its logical end by linking it to prevalent COVID-19. Interestingly, nothing has changed manifestly. In the olden times, we were as ignorant about the disease as we are today. At that time too, there were no specific medical prescriptions or safe vaccination regime. The condition is albeit same today. Though the growth of science and technology has made tremendous strides. We are running through the age of computers. But the most interesting aspect is that human nature has not changed a bit! In the times of crisis like the pandemics, the appearances of Good Samaritans do decrease! Moreover, the moneyed class remain indulgent in the pursuit of materialistic pleasures, come what may! The central character of this story, a woman of insatiable thirst for male company remains oblivious of the dreaded impact of novel corona virus of the present times, and constantly seeks the presence of her one-time beau, the hero of this story. However, everything ends so quietly and all of sudden that might be the dream end of the current pandemic also! At least, we can wish and pray for such end! It safeguards the lives of many, particularly of the hero’s family and the story comes to a sudden halt with a happy ending. Like other stories of this collection, the author has described the life and times of Calcutta of yore and the Gurugram of the present in great detail. The narration is fluent and flawless, as usual.
The first story of this collection Ashtami is simply superb. The author has cooked up his story raising a very socially relevant issue in the crucible of history which is the forte of his writing mindset. Starting from the infamous partition of Bengal of the year 1905 masterminded by the staunch imperialist Governor-General, Lord Curzon, he ends the story in the backdrop of communal frenzy in the wake of India’s freedom, 1947 to be precise. In both the settings, there were people’s protest culminating into deadly communal riots. But in between and at the troubled times, the chanting of Durga Saptashati slokas, the widely resonating sounds of dhak and the auspicious puja of Maha ashtami come live in this story. In all his stories, the author has successfully sprinkled the aroma of the culture of Bengal and the Indian ethos with credibility. The end of the story comes to us as a brainstorming session. The message is loud and clear. We still lack a general understanding and overall empathy for the special children who are still considered a burden on their families. Despite a better awareness level regarding the problem, we still treat our special children not as a gift of God but as a curse of God. The sudden downfall of Shanti, the main protagonist of the story, becomes nobody at the time of riots. The author has portrayed the nasty and heartrending picture of ensuing riots in Calcutta and New Delhi with rare sensitivity. In this backdrop, he had chosen a very much socially relevant theme, for which he deserves appreciation.
Though this is his first book of fiction, and he is not a professional writer, his acumen and flair for writing are simply commendable. This is unputdownable book, once you start reading. The narration reminds us of rivers in the hilly terrain that despite rugged interface with rocks and boulders, keep on flowing in a rhythm and reaching their destination without much ado. The readers must read this book as a visit down the memory lane in regard to forgotten annals of Indian history, particularly of Calcutta and Bengal. The most interesting aspect is that the whole narration is centred around the river Hooghly which, sometimes appears to narrate by herself its own story through the powerful quill of the author itself. Kudos to the author for his brilliant debut as an author on the Indo-English literary firmament in India.
Copyright@ Rakesh Chandra.
The Chronicler of the Hooghly continues to make emotional waves worldwide with more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.
In our lives, we at times get confronted with intense and traumatic events which force us to question who we are, what really matters to us and what we believe in. In some ways these events alter our sense of reality.
Each of the four stories in this book draw inspiration from such crucible events that I have had to face. The protagonists in that sense carry a bit of my own ‘experience and thought’ genes. As I see them now within the larger fabric of the stories, I do notice shades of myself and others who have been part of my life. Writing the stories has been a personal journey in that sense. At times the stories seemed to write themselves.
Come……….rejuvenate your emotions!
Swastika Bhattacharya has found her life’s calling in supporting children with special needs to take their rightful place in society. A beautiful and empowering profession.
My sense is that Swastika would relate wonderfully with Shanti and the other protagonists in ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’.
The book continues to make emotional waves worldwide with more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Riya with daughter Tiri decide to have a fun day with the elegant Mice couple, Mickey and Minnie. They have chosen to live by the Chronicler’s coaching philosophy of, ‘Life is….‘. As Professor Gracy Samjetsabam mentions in her review, ‘……..sprinkles of confetti of coaching in life skills.…..’
The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’ is available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.
Adjudged ‘Book of the Month’ for March 2021 by Booknerds, The book has already got more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon worldwide.
Professor Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer, authors a column in Sunday Guardian Live and a copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature.
In her review of the Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories in Borderless Journal ( May 14, 2021), she writes :
“ … stories help us make sense of our realities. Ghosal admits that intense and traumatic events in life have contributed to the creation of these stories. Part-memoir, part-historical, Ghosal paints the stories with strokes of personal experiences and from chapters of India’s long history, selecting those that converse about Kolkata. This tapestry makes the readers more aware of the nuances of history and vividly recreates these scenes in the imagined reality. Ghosal impressively weaves history and imagination to blend fiction and reality, thereby providing a voice of the unrecorded, the myths and legends around what happened on the other side of known history during the colonial period in pre-independent India or at present.
….. Ghosal sprinkles confetti of his coaching in life skills into the storytelling to create a set of modern-day tales that are easily relatable and palatable. The style and the settings are like fresh air that enlightens as it entertains. The stories are vibrant and close to current realities, making them a worthy read.”
As the capital of the British Raj shifts from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912, Junior Clerk Sujit with his wife Bina is forced to migrate from Calcutta to distant and dusty Civil Lines in Delhi. Shanti, born of a forceps delivery gone horribly wrong, comes into their lives. A tale of evolving relationships against the backdrop of momentous events in the nation’s history.
Urvashi Basu , a British national, is a lady always on the move. Owner of Realty Design, Le Cafe Seine’and design studio, Urvashi effortlessly juggles the myriad roles of an entrepreneur, interior designer, wife and mother.
Can the Chronicler fit into her scheme of things?
Author Sambit Daspatnaik, author of the The Last War and other stories, now in its second edition, has this to say about the Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories.
I love historical fantasies… and one may call it synchronicity that I had this wonderful opportunity to connect with Shri Shakti Ghosal, author of the book ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’, which is a historical fantasy. When I read his debut book, I was fascinated to see how beautifully he has narrated such wonderful tales. I would call it as one of the finest historical fantasy with a pure advantage of getting a chance to experience the historic city of Kolkata during the British times. The portrayal of complexities in human relationships in the backdrop of the British Raj is impeccable. Each of the characters are well thought of, along with a good amount of research done on history.
The portrayal of Shanti, the differently abled child in the story Ashtami is heart touching. The subtle change in the chanting syllables of Goddess from Shakti (power) to Shanti (peace) at the end is thought provoking and leaves the readers to draw their own references.
The complexities in the human relationships, the evolving social fabric and the affluence in India over the past 100 years and a critical comparison of the pandemic in the 1920’s and 2020’s makes the story Pandemic commendable.
The story Fault Lines, subtly juggles between the technical fault lines in the building construction and the fault lines that we often see in the human nature and fallacy.
Coming to the main story, The Chronicler of the Hooghly. It is in itself a masterpiece that weaves the history of Kolkata through the centuries, interwoven beautifully through the strings of the pearl necklace. Along with a historical ride, the story carries with it a sense of eeriness. Earlier, I had read the stories and works of Swami Vivekananda, about the temple of Maa Dakshinwshwari Kali and the appointment of Gadadhar as the temple priest who later came to be known as the beloved master, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. But this story references this from such a different and beautiful angle, that I had never imagined. The story reminds me of the story ‘Monihaar’ written by Thakur Rabindranath Tagore and later made into a movie by Shri Satyajit Ray.
Overall, the multiple stories remind me of Shri Satyajit Ray’s short stories and movies, while the beautiful narration in the backdrop of Indian history reminds me of E.M. Foster’s ‘A passage to India’.The language, the diction, the knowledge and the references shared through the stories reflect on the in-depth knowledge of the author, and how well read and experienced he is.I wish Shakti all the best for his future books and strongly recommend everyone not to miss this amazing book.
Do past flavours motivate folks to pick up and read a book? It appears to be the case for these two veteran Railway men.
Pradosh K. Sinha of the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, looks forward to a rendezvous with the Chronicler of the Hooghly.
Sushil Luthra is a Railways and Transportation veteran, a logistics and Cold chain expert and currently the Director at Alfresh Supply Management. Sushil wonders if the Chronicler can bring in some fresh perspective during the current times.
Book of the month, creating waves globally with more than a hundred excellent reviews and ratings on Amazon.