Book review: `Calcutta` - Amit Chaudhuri`s canvas of warring colours

Last Updated: Jan 06, 2013, 11:41 AM IST

In 1999, when Amit Chaudhuri returned with his family to Calcutta, he did so tentatively.

Calcutta was where his parents had moved after retirement; it was the city he had loved in his youth and in whose lanes he had spent tranquil childhood holidays; one he had made his name writing about.

But that Calcutta had receded and another had taken its place. Calcutta is Chaudhuri`s account of two years (2009-11) in the great metropolis.

Using the idea of return and the historical elections of 2011 as his fulcrum, he travels between the 19th century, when the city burst with a new vitality, to the twenty-first century, when, utterly changed, it seems to be on the verge of another turn.

Along the way Chaudhuri evokes all that is most particular and extraordinary about the city, He paints, too, an acute, often ironic, and occasionally terribly funny picture of life in the city today - of its malls and restaurants, its fitful attempts to embrace globalisation, its middle class who leave and then return reluctantly, its bygone aristocracy, and its homeless.

Calcutta opens on his canvas in all its warring colours.