‘The fire of communal violence was spreading. There existed enough baggage of distrust and enmity between two of the major communities in the country to fan it.
News trickled in about the incendiary speech made by the Bengal Chief Minister Shaheed Suhrawardy and the ensuing cycle of violence which would later come to be known as the Great Calcutta Killings. Since both their larger families were in Bengal, Sujit and Bina were concerned and sent postcards enquiring about the safety and health of everyone. They even offered family members to leave Calcutta for some time and come and stay with them in New Delhi. Mercifully, they got back replies by post that there was nothing to worry about at the moment and all were safe.
But the Calcutta killings and the subsequent incidents of communal violence that followed in several parts of North India were but a trailer of what was to come…………..’
The above is an excerpt from the story Ashtami, part of the Chronicler of the Hooghly.
Book of the Month, Nazm -e- Hayat literary award winner. Available worldwide on Amazon.
Crossings is a Journal of English Studies and is a crossover vehicle into the realms of contemporary English Literature.
I was delighted to see Mr. Rakesh Chandra’s review of the Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories published in the journal of literary studies ‘Crossings’ of the University of Liberal Arts ( ULAB) Bangla Desh.
I am posting below the very detailed review of the book that has been published.
Collaboration between two authors can be a virtuous cycle of learning for both.
In her review of ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories, author Manali Desai writes:
All the stories compare a time in India (especially Kolkata) from pre-independence vs now, making us ponder whether things have really changed and also highlighting the fact that ‘the past repeats itself’ and some actions/decisions have their impacts resonated through ages.
The writing style doesn’t always paint a pretty or desolate picture, but in fact, manages to preserve the beauty of simple simplicity by interlinking the heritage of Kolkata with commonality. Though the colours are a bit subdued and faded, but they carry lineage and ancestry.
The most striking feature of the book is how the author has let his creativity rewrite history. It comes out especially well in “The Chronicler of the Hooghly” where the paths have been intertwined with well-known historical figures of Bengal.
The writing is simple and yet holds the capacity to make a reader fall in love with old Calcutta making them curious about the city’s past.
The stories are thought-provoking and represent various human nature/emotions like greed, sadness, anger but the most applaud-worthy part about the actions in each story is how they bring home the message of karmic ends.
In my review of Manali’s book, I had said :
“I was coaxed to read the book by a Facebook friend. I had downloaded it in Kindle a while back but could complete the reading only today.
Author Manali Desai took me on a journey. A journey inhabited by three millennials Ayesha Banerjee, Viren Joshi and Abhi Agrawal. A journey which spanned Mumbai, Kolkata and Chandigarh. A journey into the mind and the world of the Millennial. And I have come out enriched!
The prologue containing Ayesha’s poetry recital is at once heart wrenching, as it punches the reader in the guts. Showcase as it does one of the evils of our societal mindset.
Adopting an easy and racy writing style, Manali’s narrative does manage to operate at two levels. At one level, the tale is one of the proverbial romance triangle and what that shows up as in social interactions and conversations – during morning walks, in the college canteen and situations. At another level exists the unsureness and the confusion about making a choice. For me the end was somewhat abrupt. Apart from this a nice read.
I would urge Manali Desai to keep on writing.”
In our author collaborative session, we had an interesting discussion on the above aspects.
“Dipen crossed the road to move towards his home in the Bhukailash estate. The narrow winding lane had a few single storied houses on the right. As he moved past the third house, his head turned as if on its own volition to the small verandah on the ground floor. His heart skipped a beat. There she was, the young woman in her twenties. Today in the failing light of dusk she stood, her head bent slightly to one side as she appeared to be combing her long lustrous black hair. Their eyes locked for a moment and then Dipen looked away quickly as he hastened his faltering steps. This had been happening almost every day over the last few months.”
The above is an excerpt from the story Pandemic, part of ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories.
Adjudged ‘Book of the Month’ for March 2021 by Booknerds, Professor Gracy Samjetsabam column author in Sunday Guardian Live and copy editor, in her review in Borderless Journal (May 14, 2021), writes:
“….. 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.”
‘Came the partition of the country and the independence speech of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in which he proclaimed, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”.
What followed was something quite the contrary.
Rather than awakening to life, people were awakening to bloodshed, killings, rape and pillage. Rather than awakening to freedom to live where they chose to, people were being forced to leave behind everything they possessed and cross a newly created artificial border, homeless and penniless.‘
The above is an excerpt from Ashtami, one of the stories in ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’ which recently received the Nazm-e-Sahitya award for 2021.
On this day, as we mark the 75th year of India’s independence, the following excerpt from the section ‘Hebrews’ in the New Testament comes to mind.
“So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
We may feel alone, but we aren’t. We are surrounded by an army of witnesses. They have run the race of faith and finished well. It is now our turn.“
Let us not forget all those who have gone before. Indeed, now it is our turn.
Goura Prasad from Odisha, a student of literature, has sent me this beautiful piece and I am copying it below:
“I’m an admirer of literature. I used to write short poems, few lines about my teachers and felt happy to write about that. I ‘m enjoying The Chronicler of the Hooghly on a fine Sunday morning.
The Chronicler of the Hooghly is a good book with a unique writing style. It can be best enjoyed at the dining table, a father with a copy of the book in his hand and his children as active listeners.
Goura Prasad further provides this so very interesting discussion in the metaphysical world!
(Topic- Author Shakti Ghosal)
If Shakespeare, George Benard Shaw, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost and some other contemporary writers of their level were to talk to each other in the metaphysical world regarding Author Shakti Ghosal they may be very much thankful towards him firstly.
How Shakti is deeply rooted in the field of literature with some advanced literary ideas; claps may come voluntarily from them while talking to each other in the metaphysical world.
Shakespeare might say this to Shakti, “I’ve written so many dramas and sonnets, but the way you present the incidents with appropriate scenes Hail Thee to it.”
George Benard Shaw might suggest, ” No foreigner can speak English with hundred percent accuracy but your writing style is worth observing.”
Robert Frost may confide, ” I could not stop in the forest to enjoy the growing darkness of an advancing evening as I was assigned with so many responsibilities and I ‘ve mentioned this also in “Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening.” But from our discussion, I can assure you I’ll take leave to enjoy your The Chronicler of the Hooghly.”
And the discussion goes on……..
Thank you Goura for the above wonderful thought. You have indeed made my day!!
“Hmm. Yes there is something but I am not sure if I should be speaking about it”, Anjan said. “I have been trying to make sense of an unusual incident that happened just a while back”.
The room quietened as everyone turned towards their host expectantly. Jaya too had come in, poured herself some red wine and sat down.
“Just before all of you came in, I was looking out of these French windows when I was somewhat surprised to see an old school friend of mine Savio on the walkway outside. We had lost touch for over two decades. Suddenly I see him outside my very window”.
“And you recognized him right away?” Akshay asked.
‘Right away, as if the years slipped away and I saw him just as I had last seen him two decades back’.
But when I invited him to join us for dinner tonight, he said something strange and vanished!
As his friends looked at each other in puzzlement, suddenly Anjan could hear shouts of “Anjan! Anjan!” coming from outside, accompanied by loud knocks.
To Anjan it seemed like Savio was calling him; he started getting up to go to the door.
The above is an excerpt from the story Faultlines, part of the Chronicler of the Hooghly collection. Emotionally gripping and a psychological page-turner, the book recently received the Nazme Sahitya award for 2021. Available worldwide on Amazon ( 180 excellent ratings and reviews) , Flipkart and select book stores.
‘ Deb returned to Calcutta, but to greater worldly burdens. One day, as he sat with his friend, he confided, “Having lost my father, I sought solitude. What I have got instead are never-ending duties and worldly commitments. There is a struggle going on inside me and I do not know who would win- the World or the Spirit.”
That night, Deb saw his departed mother in his dream, “Hast thou really become the One who knows Brahma? If so, sanctified is thine family, fulfilled is thine mother’s desire.”
Deb woke up to find all his worries gone and his mind feeling like a feather.
When Carr, Tagore and Company finally declared bankruptcy and with it the closure of all the businesses, Deb said to Sarada, “All our businesses and property have gone out of my hands. What I had prayed for has been granted and realised. As the moon gets freed from Rahu, so has my soul become free from the worries of the world and now feels the heaven of Brahman.”
Thus it was that the son of Prince Dwarkanath became Rishi Debendranath. The pearl necklace and the curse that accompanied it had come a full circle. It had journeyed from adorning Lord Krishna in Chandernagore to driving the scion of a business empire based in Kolkata to renounce everything and embrace spirituality.’
The above is an excerpt from the story ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’ from the book of the same name. The book continues to make emotional waves worldwide with more than one hundred and seventy excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.