BlogChatter Book Review – Hawkers of Kolkata
In Focus: Hawkers of Kolkata by Isha Doshi
“Where does one go in a tremendous city like Calcutta to find insider information? I recalled India’s golden rule: do the opposite of what would be normal anywhere else.” – Tahir Shah
Isha followed the rule and turned to the strangers doing business on the streets of Kolkata – the hawkers. Kolkata is where I grew up, it runs in my veins and even after having settled in Bangalore for years, Kolkata is what I call home. Unfortunately, it’s in the news today for all the wrong reasons, a lot of judgment pouring in from all corners of India which in so many ways are misinformed and I must say unfair. But that’s the debate of another day. Today I am going to review this delightful book by Isha Doshi, who paid a tribute to the city in a way I haven’t seen before. Stay with me as I review “Hawkers of Kolkata”.
About the book
This book takes you through a journey in the streets of Kolkata, which is home to over 1.5 lakh street vendors – garment sellers, flower sellers, booksellers and more. They wake up early in the morning, travel long distances to set up their temporary stalls and work all day through the evening. The hawkers of Kolkata are often looked down upon as a nuisance, people encroaching into the already crowded public space. Ironically the same people would be seen blocking the sidewalks while haggling with the hawkers. In 26 chapters this book explores the other side of the world, the hawkers’ side. The author has taken the effort to go and explore the nooks and corners of Kolkata’s markets and talked to the hawkers about their daily life.
The fluid and vivid narrative successfully transports you to Kolkata and helps you connect to people from a world that is way different from yours. The influence of Tagore’ Kabuliwala and RK Narayan’s Malgudi days is evident in her work as she admits. I also see glimpses of Anjan Dutta’s songs and Ruskin Bond’s travelogues in here. The author’s love for the city is contagious, it will arouse similar affection in you too. The choice of the theme deserves an accolade and so does the brilliant execution of this project she undertook.
What I loved about the book
What I loved about the book most is the idea! She has beautifully captured the life in the city of Kolkata. If you have never been to Kolkata, this is a book that you need to read when you plan a visit. If you have been to Kolkata before or lived in the city this book will bring sweet memories. I commend the author for choosing this theme and making this honest effort to connect with the less privileged. Through the stories of these hawkers, we get to see them from a different perspective. It reminds me of some familiar faces, but more importantly the faces I don’t remember, never cared to remember till now. It reminds me of the important role each of them played in my life, and how they created memories for me to cherish forever.
What I didn’t like so much
Nothing really. I was thoroughly engaged and loved every chapter. There’s definitely an unconscious bias kicking in because I share the same affection for Kolkata as the author does. I am also ideologically bent towards understanding and connecting with those less privileged than us. As a novice reviewer, it’s hard to let go of that bias. There might be a couple of ambiguous sentences that I came across only when I read it as a reviewer. I didn’t mind it though.
I thoroughly recommend this ebook to my readers along with my comprehensive travel guide to Kolkata. I have been procrastinating it for long since there’s so much to say, but I am inspired to do so now.
You can download the book for free in the BlogChatter Library. Note, it’s a limited period offer. You can also download my book “15 days in Europe” for free from the BlogChatter Library, the travelogue section.
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