New Delhi: A new book by Kolkata-based writer and translator Parimal Bhattacharya documents the missing stories and narratives of a lesser-known side of West Bengal at a time when the state’s Left Front regime, which had lasted since three decades, collapsed.
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Combining history, geography, politics and myths, the book sheds light on the lives of people who lived outside the busy urban centers of West Bengal.
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The “other” Bengalis
Bhattacharya, who currently teaches in the English department at Maulana Azad College in Kolkata, has started traveling to different parts of the region – from the Sundarbans to the Jangalmahal tribes, from the outskirts of Kolkata to the villages on the border of Bangladesh, to the flood plains. from the Hooghly to the forests of Simlipal in the nearby town of Odisha – in the late 2000s.
Along the way, he met a range of people, each with distinct experiences and life stories. These included a woman who was called a “witch” because she was on the census list as literate, an island that famously disappeared only to resurface, a paralyzed communist who dreams of being literate. death of a river, a forest community who believe they are descendants of the Harappans, an old carpenter and his wife who laughingly fight the ghosts of a dead industrial town, a fisherman uprooted by a river 11 times in 20 years, and many others.
The book documents these unique accounts, the majority largely invisible beyond the “bhadralok” that the rest of India knows. âBhadralokâ is Bengali for a class of âgentlefolkâ that arose during British rule in India in the Bengal region.
Bhattacharya, also author of No way in Darjeeling is straight, Bells of Shangri-La and more recently Nahumer Gram O Onyanyo Museum, finds ways to switch between the personal and the political, and between the travelogue, the diary and the memoirs, in this new book.
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