Some months back, Sumant Chak of the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers ( Jamalpur cadre) , a transportation domain expert, was the winner of the Chronicler of the Hooghly contest.
As a winner he got a free copy of the book. After he completed reading, he sent me the following musings. I found it fascinating how some of the places and events in the book sparked off thoughts about his own experiences and perspectives. I am giving hereunder what he wrote.
I had been meaning to write to you for sometime as I finished reading your very readable stories.
I was particularly impressed by the first Ashtami and the last about the Chronicler. In Ashtami the characters were so well defined that they seemed to be people one knew. The details of the period were beautifully depicted and one felt so real like a play which was unfolding in front of one’s eyes on the stage of one’s imagination. It reflected the effort that must have gone into researching the times so as to bring it to life. Wonderful.
The piece de resistance was however the last story – The Chronicler of the Hooghly. It was the manner in which you were able to thread real life characters into the tale that showed the grip you have over your craft. It’s almost as if you were writing about the history of the region. Apart from that it struck a personal chord bringing back my own experiences of the river, the towns and also my time in Eastern Railway. In my first year at Jamalpur, I was asked by the GM’s wife to come to Calcutta and direct a play for the annual function of the Womens’ Association in Rabindra Bhawan. For some time I was bunking with a friend in Howrah Jute Mills almost just across the river from Fairlie Place and since I was seconded to the ER CME office for a month, I travelled daily to Fairlie via the ferry. Talking to people on it brought out a lot of tales regarding the various ghats and the ferry journey in the story was like reliving those days. I also used to travel by ferry whenever I came on work from Asansol to Fairlie Place when I was ADRM.
The other personal connection was mention of Chandernagore, a town I have never visited but read much about. I did my schooling till Inter in La Martiniere College, Lucknow, a school founded by Claude Martin with strong connections to the town. Claude Marting was a fascinating personality who started with the French India Company, switched sometime later to East India Company and finally befriended the Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow where he spent the rest of his life building some very important buildings including the La Martiniere College, a great piece of architecture. He apparently has some strong connection with Chandernagore to the extent that in his will he ordained that from the interest earned from his sizeable wealth, a certain amount would be given annually to pay the debts of the drunks of Chandernagore!!
Another connection was the necklace you mentioned. Apparently my paternal grandmother had a similar pearl necklace coveted by all with the hope that it would be given to one of them in her will.
It’s a wonderful book and I do hope you will pursue this interest as it is a gift not given to everybody. My best wishes are always with you and will look forward to more stories from your pen.
The book continues to make emotional waves around the world with more than a hundred and sixty excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.