WRITING STYLE: 4/5
“Sundeep’s columns and blogs are neither laboured, nor preachy and pretentious. They are right from the heart of someone who cares, and cares deeply about the living values that make our world both inclusive and empathetic.”
-Kunal Basu on “Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter”
After a long time, I landed up with a book that is my idea of a cozy read. My fondness for travel writing is no secret, but I like it more when travel writing is combined with a flair for understanding the local culture and people. My idea of a bookish paradise has a lot to with books that take me to different places, make me meet different people, and narrate oral histories of a place and its people.
My latest read, “Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” fortunately ticked all these boxes. Read on to know more about my thoughts on the book, and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a collection of nonfiction writing on a wide variety of issues such as travel, society, culture, people, and nation. Expect a book that is both easy and interesting to read. Expect a book that comes from the personal experiences of the author. Expect a book that will tell you about Kolkata, as much as it would about the world that we live in. Expect a book that is a collection of columns written by the author over multiple years, and published by the Hindustan Times under its weekly column Cityscape.
Who can read?
“Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” is in a simple and straightforward language that can be enjoyed by every type of reader, especially beginners.
What is the book all about?
“Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” is a collection of short writings not just about Calcutta, its people, its living and oral history, but also about the author’s personal experiences while living, breathing, and loving Calcutta.
In addition to that, the book is also a fascinating assortment of articles in which the author shares his experiences about globetrotting and rendezvousing with the rich and mighty of the world. Many of the articles offer social commentaries about the world of the rich and famous, and about everyday issues such as customer services, email frauds, the discipline of queues, littering, etc.
What did I like?
Reading about famous people is one thing, but reading about somebody’s interactions with the rich and famous is another ball game altogether. The author shares his encounters with not just industrialists, but also film celebrities, politicians, bureaucrats, and global leaders. For me, this was a bonus – something that I definitely wouldn’t have come across anywhere else.
A focus on literature and arts
Certain parts of the book would especially appeal to book lovers and literature enthusiasts like me, as the author recounts book fairs, book exhibitions, literature festivals, book launches, and his interactions with various authors in vivid details.
I have huge gratitude to the author for introducing me to the world of the literary genius Vijaydan Detha who writes in Rajasthani and has won several prestigious awards like the Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award, and many others, for his unparalleled contribution to Rajasthani literature.
This is my favorite thing about books – how knowledge connects knowledge and then promotes and spreads more knowledge.
What could have been better?
When it comes to nonfiction writing specifically in the travel space, I enjoy looking at pictures and seeing a place and its people, not just through the author’s words, but also his lenses. Including some travel pictures would have upped the overall appeal and experience of the book.
What did I not like?
While the title and cover of the book make you assume that the book is mostly about Calcutta, it is when you get to the blurb that you realize otherwise. Even though I enjoyed reading every bit of the book, I would have loved it if “Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” had more of Calcutta in it.
Is the book interesting to read?
The author combines his love of travel with simple writing. His zest for learning about different cultures and its people is also quite evident in his work. His social commentaries are reflective of his keen eye and a passion for human welfare. The ruminations and musings that are born out of these interests are, therefore, quite interesting to read.
When nostalgia hits you
Many a time, readers love to read about times we were not born into, but how often do we contemplate the decade that has gone? How often do we look back and marvel at the world that has grown at a tremendous pace?
Reading this book hits you like nostalgia. Since many of the articles and writings talk about the last decade, one is often reminded of things that only recently became history like the Blackberry Thumb, missed call phenomenon, chain messaging, email lotteries, etc.
Speaks to the common man and teases the rich
I love the way the book relates to the common man in more ways than one – from the struggles of a poor child actor who was made to stay in a 5-star hotel and then asked to pay up, to the lives of common Indians who spend a large amount of their time waiting in queues. From the unreliable services of Indian banks to livelihoods lost by fatal fires, the author always manages to lend an empathetic pen to the struggles of a common Indian.
At the same time, he also takes a dig at the hypocrisy and entitled attitude of the rich. From the littering of streets by luxury car owners to disrespecting the host by refusing to eat at dinners, from the race to become honorary counsels for a mere status symbol, to refusing to allow Indian wear at posh clubs, the author never fails to raise his voice against what he thinks is morally and ethically wrong.
My many takeaways
I also became a fan of some interesting information that I learned in this book. There is this chapter that talks about looney laws – laws that seem ancient, absurd, and useless in more ways than one. From a Canadian law that doesn’t allow you to carry apples to a Switzerland law that makes it illegal to flush a toilet in an apartment building after 10 pm, from a law that prohibits to drink water at a beer pub in Saskatchewan, Canada, to a recently repealed 200-year-old French law that forbade woman from wearing trousers in Paris – you learn the most eccentric and unimaginable things about the world that we live in.
In the end
In the end, “Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” is a book for those who enjoy simple nonfiction writing about everything under the sun – from travel to business to customer service to award functions and literature, from stories of the common man to stories of the rich, famous and powerful leaders of the world.
The final verdict
Go for it!
Pick the book if
- You like nonfiction writing.
- You love nonfiction books that are effortless to read.
- You love writing that comes as a result of keen observation and attention to detail.
- You love a collection of articles and essays on topics like society, politics, culture, arts, literature, and travel.
Skip the book if
- You don’t enjoy nonfiction.
- You are looking for something similar but more contemporary.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of “Calcuttascape: Musings of a Globetrotter” using the link below.