Ashtami and the different child


As the capital of the British Raj shifts 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.

Ashtami is the wide-angle story of the life and times of a couple migrating to Delhi from Calcutta.

Ashtami is part of the ‘Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’, now available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.

www.shaktighosal.com

Video trailer of the story Ashtami may be seen here.

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How does a sunset cruise surround the tale of a fabled curse necklace?


Samir, trying to cope with two life changing tragedies, takes a sunset cruise on the Hooghly to ‘get away from it all’. He is intrigued by an enigmatic figure who introduces himself as the Chronicler and asks, “Would you like to hear a tale about all that we are witness to today?”

As the boat journeys up the Hooghly, the chronicler takes Samir on a journey spanning more than two and a half centuries of events witnessed by the river.

Available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.

http://www.shaktighosal.com

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An Acknowledgement that I treasure


I feel elated to share this kind and generous acknowledgment given by Mr. Vaikunth, Ex Managing Director, Saud Bahwan Group, Oman & UAE, with whom I have had the privilege of working for more than two decades.

“It has been an honour to have known and worked with you, Sir. I have learned so much from you!”

Mr. Vaikunth writes as follows:

I know Shakti Ghosal for many years as we worked together for the same company in Muscat. SG is known for his great knowledge on the business he handled and had the character to speak out his mind. I never knew that he had this other side of a soft story teller. I just finished reading the “Ashtami” the first story in his book “The Chronicle of the Hooghly”. As he has nicely combined the pre and post independence era in this story it looked like a real life story of some one he knew. His style of writing is unique, clean and simple. That’s what I liked about. Congratulations to SG. I will soon read the rest of the book.

http://www.shaktighosal.com

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Would heaven be something like this?


Anjan and Jaya were sitting on one of the lovely grassy visitor areas on the Muscat beachside. A gentle soothing breeze was blowing. Two boys were jumping with joy as the Chinese lantern released by them floated higher. Few families were huddled around portable barbeque stands and the occasional aroma of the grilled meat was overpowering. Ayan was running around with a frisbee. All three of them in fact had just played an invigorating game of frisbee. Now out of breath Anjan and Jaya had begged Ayan for half an hour’s relief to which he had reluctantly agreed.

“Would heaven be something like this Anjan?” mused Jaya. “If only we could be sitting here for ever and ever”.

“Hmm, yes enjoy it while it lasts”, replied Anjan gazing up at the star filled sky. He lowered his eyes towards the darkness of the sea in front. “Look at those bluish phosphorescent patches on the waves breaking on the shore. Did you know that these patches are created by millions of tiny marine creatures?”

Anjan had almost failed to notice a small huddled figure slowly come out of the foaming waves. The figure seemed to be beckoning to him.

Snippet : The public beach close to Al Khuwair and Qurum is beautifully sandy, clean and a beach goer’s paradise. There is a raised continuous walkway parallel to the sea face. One may sit on wooden bemches or plonk down on the grassy atolls wirh a coffee and snacks and watch a beautiful sunset. It remains a preferred place for Barbeque get togethers with family and friends.

The bluish Bioluminescence in the Arabian sea waters is a fairly recent phenomenon and some attribute it to climate change . This is attributed to a plankton like species nicknamed ‘sea sparkle’.

Muscat beach features in the story, ‘Fault Lines’, part of my forthcoming book ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’ which is scheduled to release in February ‘21. For updates, do visit

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Jagjit Singh Live


It has been ten years since Jagjit Singh, arguably the most successful ghazal singer and composer of our times, passed away.

The other day a two decades old memory of my brief association with Ghazal King Jagjit Singh got jogged.

This came from a Facebook post by Jaya Kumar in which she eulogised Jagjit Singh and mentioned her being there for the Jagjit Singh Live Show at the Qurum Amphitheater Muscat in April 1999. We were still in the last century, how time flies!

It had been a privilege for me to be associated with the organising and compering of that memorable night. As maestro Jagjit Singh gave voice to some of his mellifluous offerings, the over fifty thousand strong audiences comprising of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Muscat listened mesmerised.

As I listen to the words today, I am left wondering at the prescient hold they continue to exercise on me.

In Remembrance……

#Jagjitsingh, #jagjitsinghghazals,#shaktighosal,#muscatoman,#muscatlife

The Chronicler tales…..


Coming you way. Are you ready?

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.

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The Company Puja


‘On the appointed day of the Pujo, Robert Clive drove in his carriage to Nabakrishna Deb’s residence in Shova Bazaar and participated in what was to become the biggest festival in the Bengali calendar. He was accompanied by a number of Englishmen. The pomp and grandeur of the pujo were such that it became a talking point and something to aspire for by the upcoming rich merchant class. The Company Pujo, as it became known as, was not the usual conservative ritual based Hindu puja. Instead, it became known for its dance parties, elaborate menu of meats from the Wilson Hotel and unlimited drinks!

It is also said that Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s guests were regaled with the performances of the best nautch girls of Calcutta, one of them being the sensational new courtesan Rajni Bai who also responded to the name Joba……..’

Shova Bazaar Rajbari and its Durga Puja features in the story ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’, part of my forthcoming book of the same name. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com.

Ghantewala @ Chandni Chowk, Delhi


Once when the emperor was going through Chandni Chowk, my predecessor offered sweets to the royal entourage as well as to the Emperor’s elephant”, said the shop keeper.

“And what did the elephant do?”, asked the children in unison.

 “Oh! It was a very intelligent elephant and he liked our sweets very much. So after that day, every time the royal procession would come this way, the elephant would stop in front of our shop, shake its head and refuse to move on till it was offered sweets. The bells hanging from its neck would keep on ringing till it finished the sweets. This is how we got our name”.

Did you know that the Ghantewala Halwai, iconic sweet shop in Chandni Chowk, Delhi: Set up in 1790 AD, it is arguably the oldest running sweet shop in Inda. It has catered to Mughal Emperors, Presidents and Prime Ministers….

Ghantewala Halwai features in the story, ‘Ashtami’ , part of my forthcoming book  ‘ The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com

The Dynamics of Arrogance


Dear Reader,

I wish you an empowering and purposeful New Year.

As we get set to usher in a brand new 2019, I would like you to reflect on the following.

What could we do in a fast changing and complex world that would satisfy issues faced by our team?  How could we develop our relational intelligence to gain traction with stakeholders?  How could we construct a dynamic game plan to get our organisation shift from the present to the created future?

What if I told you that the key to each of the above questions lies in one specific aspect of our own personality? 

To understand this some more, let me tell you my own story.

As the business head, I was the top dog in the organisational hierarchy. I felt cocooned by the warm comfort of managers, supervisors and executives being there to do my bidding. Somewhere along the way, this ‘being there’ feeling changed into a ‘better than’ mindset. And this is when my leadership problems started.

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The being there mindset

I began to think of myself as superior. I thought that as a Leader I had to be! And this led to my being arrogant. Over time this became my garb. ‘I had to use every opportunity to make all these little people understand that I was simply better than they were!’ I could just not afford not to know everything there was to know. So the arrogance led to my being inauthentic. Worse, the decision making increasingly started bordering on ‘my way or highway’. For accepting an outside possibility would undermine me would it not! This of course led to my becoming isolated.

Dynamics of Arrogance

My inauthenticity and isolation started eating into the organisation’s openness and team work. And when this impacted overall performance, the blame game hit the roof. With me of course doing most of the blaming!

The turning point came with the plummeting organisational performance. It took the shape of the following.

  • The advent of Self Awareness in me that “I need to curb this feeling of superiority that rears its head every time I interact”.
  • Getting my hands dirty by adopting a ‘walking and talking’ leadership style and thereby becoming curious about people, not results.
  • Practicing the Attitude of Gratitude, realizing how fortunate I have been in receiving support of others inspite of my shortcomings.
  • Leading with Generosity by jettisoning the fear of being taken advantage of. Realizing that even though I would be taken advantage of,  that would be better than being closed to openness and possibilities.

So in the New Year, what could each one of us do as leaders to jettison our superiority mindset and arrogance?

In Learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

The Chronicler of Hoogly


We booked the sunset cruise on the Hoogly recently. With winter on its way, the sun was setting early leaving behind a long balmy evening. Good time to observe the river and the city as it transitioned from day into the night.

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Boarding the boat from the Millennium Park jetty, we soon chugged out in the company of other sight-seekers like us. The itinerary was to cruise up the Hoogly to Belur Math, the much revered global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda. We were scheduled to reach in time for the evening Aarati before we returned. Travelling with us was a Study tour group from Germany.

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As I sat on the deck, I was engulfed by a kaleidoscope of sights………….

 Of the looming floating bridge of Howrah, still considered a cantilever feat of engineering seventy-five years after it was built. Of decrepit ghats and jetties. Of derelict and abandoned warehouses, shanties and slums. Of colonial architectures separated by grimy and slushy by lanes. Of how Man’s creativity and resolve has sunk under the grime of his daily struggle and existence………….

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Of temples and riverside religious rituals coexisting with stinking garbage and defecation grounds. Of the riverside walled up   along long stretches as if to hide its shame from the very people who have sullied it thus. Of how Spirituality jostles with poverty…….

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My thoughts and emotions get stopped by a flurry of activity on the deck. Probably sensing the approaching sunset, the service staff had got busy offering beverages and ‘muri and aloor chop’ snacks while the German tourists were busy with their telephoto lenses and cameras. I look at the setting sun, the morphing shades of the flowing waters and could not but marvel at how nature yet manages to shine its beauty on an environment gone increasingly awry…………

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With the falling dusk, I notice a lone figure sitting at the rear side of the deck. Somewhat taken aback for not having noticed this person earlier, I walk across and introduce myself. “You may call me the Chronicler”, he tells me. Intrigued I plonk into a deck chair beside him. “Would you like to hear a tale about all that we are witness to today?”, comes the soft voice. Even before I can respond, the voice continues.

“Great metropolises, they say, grow out of a river. London…. Paris….. Rome…… Moscow…….. Cairo….. Istanbul. In each of these cases, the mighty rivers that flowed, the Thames, the Siene, the Tiber, the Moskva, the Nile and the Bosphorus, provided sustenance and remain the heart and soul of the cities….”

“And so was the symbiotic relationship between Hoogly and what we know as Kolkata. While today we are wont to see the river as some kind of an appendage to the city, what if I told you that it is really the other way around? That Kolkata is really an offshoot of all that the Hoogly has been witness to over the centuries.”

“When we started our cruise, we saw Fairlie Place and its jetty to the right with the Strand running beside it. So what would you say are its important landmarks?”, the Chronicler asks.

“Well I suppose it is the Customs House and the Eastern Railway headquarters. Apart from a few more important office blocks”, I respond.

“But what if I told you that about three hundred years back most of that place including what we know as Dalhousie Square was a large water body called Lal Dighi ? This was the time when the British East India Company was busy consolidating its position and Fort William stood on the banks of Hoogly. That is when the attack happened”

“Attack!”, I exclaim, “By whom and why?”

“The then Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah attacked, captured Fort William and incarcerated British prisoners in a dungeon which came to be known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. An incident which directly led to the battle of Plassey and the subsequent two hundred years British Rule of the subcontinent.”

“Hang on!”, I interject. “Is not Fort William more in the hinterland, near the Maidan?”

“Indeed”, the Chronicler continues, “but what is less known is that there were two Fort Williams. The present one near Maidan was built by Robert Clive after the attack on the first one.”

“The battle of Plassey, which was to change the history and the shape of things to come for ever for the subcontinent, was also fought on the banks of Hoogly but to the north of where we are. But that is another story.”

“The Fairlie Ghat holds another interesting tale”, the Chronicler continues.” In the mid nineteenth century, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, while travelling on a train in England, got the brain wave of setting up a rail link to carry coal from his Raniganj colliery to the Calcutta port at Fairlie. On return he invested into setting up the ‘The Great Western Bengal Railway Company’. Unfortunately, his proposal got turned down by the British East India Company bosses on the grounds that ‘it would not be possible to allow a company using such strategic technology under native management….’ His efforts and thoughts however did push the British to set up rail services though the East India Railway Company with its Headquarters at Fairlie Place.”

“Hmm! That name Dwarkanath Tagore sounds familiar. Was he in some way related to Rabindranath Tagore?” I muse.

“Indeed he was!”, the Chronicler quips back, “He was in fact the grandfather of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, that venerable Bard of Bengal and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature more than a century back”.

“The Hoogly ghats then were a far cry from the crumbling cesspools that we are seeing today. With magnificent facades and European classical architectures, the ghats were witness to impressive steam ships and tall masted  boats sailing out to faraway places in England, Australia and New Zealand as also upstream to ports on the Ganga.”, the Chronicler continues.

“Did you know that there were thriving French, Dutch and Armenian settlements on the Hoogly in the early years of colonisation?” I am asked.

Well I had read about the French settlement and I say so.

“Fascinating is it not that events and rivalries five thousand miles away in Europe would show up in the waxing and waning of the Hoogly ghats! And so it was that as the British colonialism went into ascendancy after winning the Napoleonic Wars in early nineteenth century, the settlements of other nationalities on the Hoogly faded into oblivion.”

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“Which brings us to the Shova bazaar Ghat and its fascinating history. The Ghat and the Shova Bazaar Rajbari ( Palace), was built with great pomp and grandeur by Raja ( King) Nabakrishna Deb.The latter famed for organizing the Shovabazaar Rajbari Durga Pujo about two hundred and  fifty years ago ( which continues till today!). What is seldom spoken of is that all of the Raja’s wealth came from the huge bribe money of Rupees eighty million paid to him, Mir Jaffar and a couple of others by the British administration for betraying Nawab Siraj–ud-Daulah on the battlefield of Plassey. A betrayal which led to a small British force of 3000 soldiers winning a decisive victory over a twenty times larger opponent. A betrayal which led to the British becoming the dominant colonial power in the subcontinent for over two centuries. Is it not ironic that one of the greatest betrayals in Indian history is so inexorably linked to one of the biggest religious festivals in the country?”

So engrossed had I become in listening to the Chronicler’s tales that I had scarcely noticed the darkness enveloping the Hoogly and the boat engine slowing down.

My companion on the deck points to a brightly lit temple and ghat complex to the right. “That is the Dhakshineswar Kali temple built in the mid nineteenth century by Rani (Queen) Rashmoni based on a dream in which Goddess Kali exhorted her, ‘There is no need to go to Banaras. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the banks of the Ganges river and arrange for my worship there. Then I shall manifest myself in the image and accept worship at that place.’ The temple attained fame because of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the famous mystic and the spiritual guru of Swami Vivekanand.”

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The boat docks on the Belur Math Ghat. I notice the Chronicler making no attempt to get up even as other guests disembark and start walking up the Ghat steps. The tour supervisor advises us on the way to reach the temple premises for the evening Aarati. As we hurry, some of the German tourists stop to look at souvenirs in the roadside shops.The Belur Math design incorporates the different Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance as well as Hindu and Islamic styles that Swami Vivekanand had observed during his travels in India and abroad.

I return back to our moored boat with the intoxicating chants of the Aarati still resonating in my ears. As the boat starts on its return journey downstream, I look around for the Chronicler but he is nowhere to be seen. Dinner is announced and we go down to the dining room in the lower deck. The fascinating vision of the Hoogly  created by the Chronicler’s tales in sharp contrast to the hugely run-down and depressing sights I had been witness to, continues to wrestle in my mind.

What is it that has made the Hoogly hold onto its rusting warehouses, its hideous shanties and walls which no longer serve any purpose? What is it that has made Kolkata turn its back on the river that brought it into existence? What is that which leads us to abuse and neglect that very water that we consider holy and religious? What is that in our societal psyche that fuels such dichotomy?

As we reach back and walk off our cruise, these questions continue to haunt…..

 

……… In Learning.

Shakti Ghosal