Kalkatta Chronicles: Supriya Newar releases new book of short stories on Calcutta
Kalkatta Chronicles has chapters documenting characters from everyday life in Calcutta during the 60s and 70s
Communications consultant Supriya Newar recently launched her first commercial book, Kalkatta Chronicles in the city, from which it has been inspired. But unlike various other works, both fiction and non-fiction, Newar’s book doesn’t dwell on the cultural history of the city. Instead, it deals with the personal nostalgia of the Calcutta girl, growing up in the 60s and the 70s of Calcutta, which she documents in the form of characters, both animate and inanimate, that became a part of the living experience in Calcutta then. Newar presents with a fresh perspective, the extraordinariness of the ordinary day-to-day life in the city, for her readers, who may or may not have been her peers. Indulge caught up with her over a recent telephonic conversation, when she shared her thoughts and the inspiration that went into creating the book. Excerpts…
“My family has spent four generations in this city and I find Calcutta to be a very complex and layered city. You can actually observe the difference, in the short distance from Quest Mall to Gurusaday Road and while the Bengali idiom is the cultural bed-rock here, there have been plenty others, such as the British, the Jews, the Armenians, the Marwaris and people from UP and Bihar, among many others, who have contributed in making it a very interesting cultural tapestry for an observer,” shares Supriya.
Although a Marwari herself, her keen observation and understanding of the Bengali culture, brings her to the conclusion that there are no substitutes of the word Nyaka and Kyablamo. “I feel Calcutta is also a city that celebrates its quirks, instead of hiding it. If everything is very proper and refined, where will you find the angularities or the niches? It’s the cracks that make up a story, not perfection,” she asserts.
But this is not the first time that Newar has tried her hand at writing, though it marks her entry into commercial publishing as a celebrated author. She has compiled, edited and published a couple of coffee table books, such as Pranam Appa on the life of Girija Devi, and translated a biography from Hindi to English last year. “I have been writing for a very long time and my background as a communications professional has only helped me use language very effectively,” says Supriya.
She is also an avid reader of English, Hindi and Urdu poetry and used to have lines from Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Madhushala by heart. “Poetry has also been an influence right from childhood. I used to read a lot of works by Sahir Ludhianvi, Mirza Ghalib, Momin Khan, Nida Fazli and Faiz Ahmed Faiz,” she adds.
Kalkatta Chronicles started with a chapter, which she had written three years ago. “I had written and forgotten about it and it was lying in my computer for a very long time, before I shared it with my friends one day, out of the blue. They enjoyed reading it and encouraged me to develop it further,” shares Supriya Newar with a smile.
“I had been wracking my brains for the past one and half years, on how to develop it. But later, when I approached my publisher, Readomania, he gave me a timeframe of six months and I respected the deadline. I submitted the manuscript in December and the accompanying sketches by Sayon were ready by January. But since the book centres on Kolkata, we decided to launch it around Poila Boishak,” Supriya tells us.
The book, we are told has been very well received by the readers, which brought us to the next question- about her future projects. “I would definitely like to publish a book of poems. But that will also be connected to Calcutta in some way. I owe a lot to the city,” says Supriya signing off.
Supriya Newar will be in conversation with poet Sunil Bhandari at Alka Jalan Foundation, the coming Sunday. The evening will also see some live musical performances by two singers, Anurag Poddar, and Priscilla Corner.
Alka Jalan Foundation invites you to an evening of adda and conversations at Daga Nikunj to celebrate Supriya Newar's Kalkatta Chronicles on May 12, at 5:30 pm.