For the simple reasons – that I love travelling, exploring new culture & traditions and that I am intrigued by the ‘Bengalis’, I opted to read and review this book!
Book Review: Bengal Write Ahead
The blurb gives a preview of this interesting compilation of stories:
” Bengal Write Ahead’ was a contest organized by Facebook, in partnership with Rupa Publications, Red FM and Kolkata Bloggers. It invited people from all over the world to write about Bengal and submit their articles online. It was an attempt to see how Bengal is portrayed in the minds of people of various ages and backgrounds.
In Bengal Write Ahead, the top fifty pieces, chosen by an eminent jury, are brought together. Each one of the articles evokes a unique aspect of Bengal from cinema, art, sport, literature to the beauty of its landscape, the wonder that is Kolkata and the delectable range of its cuisine. The pieces examine Bengal’s past and also look to the future, to see where the state is headed in a new world.
Humorous, nostalgic and hopeful, Bengal Write Ahead evokes the very best of the Bengali people and their culture’.
The foreword by Derek O Brien beautifully sums up the essence of this book. The book is more of an anthology of nostalgia – ‘in and out’ around Bengal. It evokes a series of memories and a sense of belonging to both its visitors and Bengalis. I for one, was able to relate to some of the stories, though I have visited Calcutta just once, decades back!
Each story of the anthology is an anecdote, celebrates everything wonderful about the city of Kolkatta and is a perfect tribute to India’s Cultural Capital. I still don’t understand the logic behind shifting our country’s Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. I have many Bengalis as friends and I have always admired their adaptability and excellence in both academics and fine arts. They are so versatile! I personally find the Bengalis proficient in all fields, very warm and friendly, very adaptable and oozing with love for their association with Bengal and taking pride in the celebrations surrounding the ‘Durga Pujo’.
Every story in the book makes a Non-Bengali reader (like me) familiar with the city and its people and makes them see a connection to their own hometowns. For example, when I was reading the chapter ‘Bengal – The Land of Culture’ by Dahlia Ghosh, I was able to relate it with the culture and people of Chennai, though I am a Tamizhian just by birth and have been completely brought up in Hyderabad. Tamizhians take immense pride in their language and are proficient in both academics and fine arts but where the Bengalis score over the Tamizhians is – I guess, in their ability to adapt.
In their love for sea-food and adaptability, Bengalis and Keralites are on par with each other! The below extract sums up the beauty of Bengal and its conscious effort to stay afloat in the mundane madness of today’s fast-paced world.
Thanks to the stories ( though sometimes becoming repetitive) I got a sneak peek into some unknown facets of Calcutta and Bengal! The next time I am there, am sure to visit the ‘College Street’- as this place, time and again gets a mention amidst the 134 pages of the book. I would rather have this compilation handy than rely on some random ‘City Guide Books’!
On the other hand, I so wished, the eight odd stories in the book, written in Bengali had been translated into English and presented alongside for Non-Bengali readers like me. Let me conclude by saying that the book is succint, well-edited and compiled, with an apt book cover that captures the essence of the City in its ‘writing quill and lines ‘ ( read ‘Strokes’)!
I love the concept behind this book and wish the same is done for other cities that have a rich historical past and cultural heritage, thus evoking a sense of belonging among the readers!
I give this book a rating of 4/ 5
Title of the book: Bengal Write Ahead
Publishers: Rupa Publishers
Genre : Non-Fiction/ Anthology
Language: English & Bengali
Total Pages: 134
You may also want to read a similar collection of stories on the city of Shillong