03 August, 2021

Elsewhere Histories

Chaudhuri's writings record subtle variations on a more settled routine. The technique works because it saves history from the banality of a slogan.

Elsewhere Histories
The opening story in this collection describes a young poet’s friendship with an older man, Mastermoshai. The first question that Mastermoshai asks the narrator, who was then still in his teens, is "Are you profoundly influenced by Eliot?"

The story is set in Calcutta. You feel that the literary passions this city with a colonial past breeds are already obsolete elsewhere. Yet, they inspire a romance which is real and productive. That is what the young poet feels too after the years have passed.

Amit Chaudhuri’s other stories in this debut collection, Real Time, also concern themselves with the conditions under which art is born or the circumstances in which artists live. The book’s closing story, for example, is about Mohanji, a gentle and gifted singer trained in classical Hindustani music. He makes a living by teaching affluent housewives in Bombay how to sing devotional bhajans and ghazals. Lately, Mohanji has been feeling ill. He believes he has an ulcer. He also suffers from tension. This tension comes "from constantly having to lie to the ladies he...

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