Reader Interview of Apurba (The Regular) @ BYOB Party in August 2019

We got to speak to Apurba yet again. And this time she told us quite a bit about her book journey.

How did your love affair with books begin?

My parents read a lot and it must have rubbed off. They also used to read to me, both of them. My mom would read to me in the afternoons and my dad would read me a bedtime story every day. For the first twelve years of my life, I read only Bengali literature and Bengali children’s books and magazines like Sandesh that the entire Ray family wrote for are quite amazing.

Favorite children’s book author?

Satyajit Ray. Everyone knows him as a filmmaker but he wrote amazing stories.  Even the story of ET started with Ray’s screenplay called The Alien. [Check out this link to know more]. Ray also did his own illustrations. Reading this multi-talented author was my first brush with sci-fi. I particularly loved one of his characters -Professor Shonku, a mad scientist who lived in Giridi, Jharkhand. In his story Ek Shringo Abhijan,  the professor goes to Tibet to find out about a Unicorn. In the process he discovers Utopia.  [Check out The Incredible Adventures of Professor Shonku, the English version.]

Reading Ray built my interest in geography and history. Another detective series for adolescents was the Feluda series. Being a  Probashi Bengali, Ray’s work was an eye-opener for me and an introduction to Bengali culture and food. I learned so much about Calcutta as he weaves in so much background into the stories he writes.

[Watch this interview with Satyajit Ray]

What about Tagore?

More difficult.

English fiction?

I started late, so I’ve hardly read any of the popular children’s books like Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. Harry Potter is what got me started. My school had a good library and as was typical of schools, the library was the last place that the other students chose to visit., so the library became my private paradise. I read Indian authors who wrote in English as it was easier for me to identify with them and my interest in places made me consciously try to read a lot more historical fiction.

Favorite Indian writer?

Amitav Ghosh. He writes in all genres: historical fiction, fiction, magical realism….

And Shadow Lines…have you read that?

No, it was one of those books that I started and left midway. It’s happened to me with many books and I think it just means that it is not the right time to read that book. Ghosh has also written a sci-fi book called The Calcutta Chromosome but I like other books by him- especially the Ibis trilogy. I lived in Kolkata for a while and I liked to visit all the places that Ghosh talked about in his books.  His books throw light on the opium trade (even the Tagores invested in the opium trade) and the indentured laborers who traveled to Mauritius and Fiji.

Any other authors you love?

Most of the authors I love are from Asia. So I really love Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Tahmima Anam….A lot of writers from South Asia talk about partition and how it has shaped our psyche. I also love authors who have shaped my understanding of history like Gary J. Bass who wrote The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide and everything by William Dalrymple.  I also enjoy reading Manu Pillai’s writing.

History has to be presented in a way that can be digested as it is in William Dalrymple’s books. When I moved to Delhi, the first thing I did was pick up City of Djinns. Even when my dad got transferred to Dehradun, I read up my Ruskin Bond. It was so realistic- the hills he described resembled the hills behind my own home.

In fact, this was a tradition I stuck to. Whenever I moved, I would read up and soak myself in the history of that place. I’ve read books about Delhi, Ahmedabad and so many cities as the history of cities interests me.

Any book about Bengaluru that you enjoyed?

Aditi De’s book on Bangalore called Multiple City.

Print books, eBooks or audiobooks?

I don’t have a Kindle and I do find it difficult to manage books as I move around a lot. I’ve started exchanging books instead of buying them.  I’m a little wary of going digital with my reading habit. Anyway, I spend way too much on twitter anyway.

Thanks for talking to us Apurba! Was a pleasure talking to you as usual:)

Peace and Post Offices @ BYOB Party in July 2017 (Part 6)

Apurba indulged in poetry with the book The Country without a Post Office by Agha Shahid Ali. This Kashmiri American poet was the recipient of the Guggenheim and Ingram-Merrill fellowships and a Pushcart Prize, and his collection Rooms Are Never Finished was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001. His poetry collection is a haunting inditement of the plight of what he remembers as home, a desolation called peace. Apurba also cited an essay by Amitav Ghosh, a touching tribute to the poet, something you must bookmark and take the time to read for the sheer beauty of the person the words pay tribute to and the words themselves.

                                            They make a desolation and call it peace.

when you left even the stones were buried:

the defenceless would have no weapons.


When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks,

who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes?

O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished,

who weighs the hairs on the jeweller’s balance?

They make a desolation and call it peace.

Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?


My memory is again in the way of your history.

Army convoys all night like desert caravans:

In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved- all

winter- its crushed fennel.

We can’t ask them: Are you done with the world?

Other books that deal with conflict that were mentioned were Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer, Our Moon has Blood Clots and Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita, Samanth Subramanian’s This Divided Island and Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Gorazde.

Conflict zones tell the same story world over.

Short Book Review: The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh

 Circle Of ReasonSBR: I picked up The Circle of Reason without knowing that I was getting into magical realism. Magical realism, for the uninitiated in simple words, is a genre that combines fantastic and real worlds and goes on as if it is all normal. There won’t be an explanation of the “magical” parts.
In the book the real part is realistic enough. The friendship of college days that lasts even through the subsequent divergence in personalities, views and lifestyle decisions, the phrenology obsessed middle-aged teacher in a quaint Bengal village constituting mostly of refugees from East Bengal, the tragic culmination of paranoid politics and individual madness and a bird-watcher police officer thrown in the chase owing to some complicated turn of office politics make for a strong story. Then the magical elements become more prominent and although I follow the rest of the story, I don’t quite get the point. Since I haven’t read the seminal works of magical realism like One Hundred Years of Solitude by  Gabriel García Márquez or those by Salman Rushdie, I am not sure what to compare it with. Perhaps I will return to this book after I have read some of those.
To read or not to read: If, like me, you are not into the magical realism genre yet, you probably don’t want to start with this book and instead pick up something more widely talked about. If you have read some of those, it might be worthwhile giving this book a try. If you just want to read Amitav Ghosh as an author, I would suggest The Shadow Lines. I am not too fond of his Ibis trilogy, but that has a fan following. So that can also be a good starting point.