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Chowringhee

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3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,071 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Set in 1950s Calcutta, this is a saga of the intimate lives of managers, employees and guests at one of Calcutta's largest hotels, the Shahjahan.
Paperback, 403 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Penguin Global (first published 1962)
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Petra X
It's hardly a comedy, the main character is a tragic figure indeed, but that's what it purports to be. It's sad and sweet and a gentle look at life for those who live right on the edge of extreme poverty one minute and doing pretty ok working in a fancy hotel the next.

Quite good, especially from the point of view of looking at another culture vastly different from my own experiences. I always enjoy Indian writing. Something about their use of English is both charming and erudite.

Three and a ha
...more
Dyuti
Jun 06, 2013 Dyuti rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who want to know about the charming forgotten tales about Calcutta
Recommended to Dyuti by: Soorma Das
Has it ever happened to you that you, that you've got so used to something in your life that you wrongly assumed that you knew all its secrets, and there was nothing further to be explained? And then, one day found yourself face to face with an event which showed you how foolish you were to believe so? An event, which showed you that familiarity with an object or person does not necessarily mean the end of things to be discovered about each other, or new qualities to fall in love with again...

We
...more
Guchu Nathani
Oct 09, 2011 Guchu Nathani rated it liked it
A nice read, a light book which one can read at his own pace. It is interesting but then it does not bind you so that you have to finish it in 2 sittings(as it happens to me sometimes). The stories which constitute the book are independent and yet bound together by a few central characters like Shankar(the narrator), Sata Bose(Receptionist), Marco Polo(Manager) and of course Byron(detective)who comes in for small parts but bents the story every time he appears. It is a kind of book which one sho ...more
Nusrat
Mar 15, 2015 Nusrat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-favorite, 2015
বইটা যেন ফুসফুসে এক ঝলক টাটকা বাতাসের সবাদ দিল। এপার বাংলা-ওপার বাংলার লেখা আলাদাভাবে চিহনিত করা সমরথ করিনা তারপরও সবীকার করে নিতে হয় ওদিকের লেখকদের একটা নিজসবতা রয়েছে আমাদের মতোই। শংকর সাহেবের লেখার ধরনটি সেই গতানুগতিক ধারার বেশ বাইরে বলেমনে হচছিলো পরায়ই। আর হোটেল এর গলপ কেন জানি বরাবরই আমাকে বেশ টানে।আর পূরবপুরুষের শহর কলকাতাকে একটা বিশেষ সময়ে চিনতে পারা, সেই সময়ের মানুষজনদের জানতে পারাটা তো সবসময়ই মনকে আননদ দেয়। বইয়ের সমসতটুকু জুড়ে হোটেল শাহজাহান থাকলেও চৌরঙগী থেকে গলপ শুরু হয়ে আবার সেই চৌরঙগ ...more
Sneha
Sep 10, 2014 Sneha rated it really liked it
In a word, this book is lovely. The style is eerily reminiscent of Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy (since no two Seth books read the same). Like Suitable Boy, it is also based in post-war, post-independence India, at a time when Calcutta was plagued by poverty, Zamindari affluence as well as the incumbent Marwari businessmen. It is the story of barmen, cabaret dancers, struggling private detectives, filmstars, industrialists, hostesses, struggling musicians, laundry men and anyone, who in any capacit ...more
Erica Mukherjee
Jun 07, 2015 Erica Mukherjee rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Chowringhee, by Sankar, is a story about life in a hotel. While reading the book the reader will quickly learn that this book is about life in a hotel and that books about life in a hotel are very interesting. He will then be reminded of this fact throughout the rest of the book.

Beside this one annoyance, Chowringhee is a very enjoyable book. A colourful cast of characters moves in and out of the story just as guests move in and out of a hotel’s revolving door. While it is a novel with a few mai
...more
Laurent
Fairly good

Chowringhee tells the tale of Shankar and his adventures in Calcutta's greatest hotel, the Shahjahan. It's a colourful tale of intertwined lives of the hotel employees and their guests. Through the eyes of the naive Shankar, we learn the love, losses and adventures of many of these people, as well as the hidden world of beauty but also griminess that exists in an exquisite hotel.

My overall feeling of this book is that it is fairly good, it kept me entertained mostly. However, it is a
...more
Swati Garg
Sep 23, 2014 Swati Garg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My best read of 2014. The only reason i picked it up at the bookstore because after looking at the books for an hour i didn't want to return empty handed and avoid the salesman's accusatory glances.

Set in Shahjahan Hotel in Calcutta, it is about human emotions and the world through a receptionist's eyes. And the beauty of the book lies in the fact that the narrator makes you fall in love with characters irrespective of his hate or love for them. Set in 1962, most of the observations the author
...more
Garry
Dec 10, 2011 Garry rated it liked it
Chowringhee is set in Calcutta's Shahjahan Hotel. Seen from the eyes of a young receptionist, we explore a myriad of stories about those living and working there. From the Italian manager to the Scottish dancer, the band master from Goa who burns for the works of European classical composers, to the beautiful hostess who dares to fall in love with one of her clients... there is a rich vein of stories to tell.

It wasn't until after I'd started Chowringhee that I discovered that it'd been written i
...more
Parikhit
For a week I lived in the 'Shahjahan' Hotel; I dwelt in the 60's Calcutta-chic, suave, vivid, a confluence of culture, people and traditions; I met people, was privy to the deep dark secrets of the influential, submerged myself into the gaiety and fervour the City of Joy had in store. I do feel strangely misplaced back in 2013!

'Chowringhee' (immensely hard to pronounce) is a delightfully interesting book and is best described as a collection of individual stories sewn together. As a receptionis
...more
Darryl
Apr 05, 2010 Darryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was originally written in 1962, and is one of the most popular novels of 20th century Bengali literature. A movie of the same title was equally popular and well received. Chowringhee was not published in English until 2007, and the translation won two major awards. This edition was published earlier this year in the UK by Atlantic Books.

The setting of this novel is Chowringhee, a neighborhood in Calcutta, in the mid-1950s. The narrator, Shankar, is an ambitious young man who finds him
...more
Riju Ganguly
এই বইটি ছিলো আমার পড়া পরথম 'বড়দের' উপনযাস| তাই বইটির কথা বলতে গেলে শুধু সাহিতয-গুণ (বা নিরগুণ) নিয়ে কথা বলা যায় না, বরং আমার জীবনের সেই গোলমেলে সময়টার কথাই মাথায় আসে যখন শৈশব নিরুদদেশ, অথচ +-এর দাপুটে সবাধীনতা ধারেকাছে নেই| তবু লিখি, বইটি আমার পড়তে বেশ ভালোই লেগেছিলো| শংকরের লেখার টানে মনে হয়েছিলো যেন চরিতরগুলোকে আমি বুঝতে পারছি, ছুঁতে পারছি| হোটেল শাজাহান আর তার আলো-অনধকার আমার চোখের সামনে বাসতবের থেকেও বেশি বাসতব হয়ে উঠেছিলো| কিনতু এতো কিছুর পরেও বইটা পড়ে মন ভার হয়ে গেছিলো, কারণ বইটির শেষে, যে ...more
Da-ri-ko
Feb 18, 2015 Da-ri-ko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would name this book "Hotel Shahjahan" if i were Sankar.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'As I was saying, when i got the job, the advertisement they had put in the papers implied that they wanted someone who knew English like Shakespeare, Bengali like Tagore, and Hindi like Tulsidas - salary:seventy-five rupees. And in response they got me. I had all the qualifications, but a little mixed up-English like Tulsidas's, Bengali like Shakespeare's and Hindi like Tagore's. But does that mean t
...more
Abhinav
If one were to ask what the Great Calcutta Novel would be like, Sankar's classic "Chowringhee" would definitely come to mind. An ode to the City of Joy & the people who live in it, this book is symbolic of a time seemingly long lost, but Sankar's acute observations on human nature stand true even fifty years since it was first published.

Recommended.
Kim
Aug 22, 2011 Kim rated it it was ok
hmmm....romantic premise. Poor young man in calcutta lands a job in an upscale hotel. Nice story about friendships, life with lots of interesting characters but I found it a little flat.
Hasibul Haque Sakib
Nov 02, 2014 Hasibul Haque Sakib rated it really liked it
By taking an ill-fated boy from his highs of life to low and then suddenly showing the light of hope, the writer takes us into a different world. A world where we have occasionally just stepped in, passed a few moments but never given a thought of how complex and diverse this world is, how this world consumes another world - peoples' lives into it; its called hotel. An amazing portrayal of the faces of people, seen and unseen; incidents that will make you wonder of authenticity and trust sometim ...more
Syl  ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ
Aug 22, 2012 Syl ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Syl ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ by: Indian Readers group reads
It was a satisfying read. I had my doubts in the initial few pages, but then got involved in the lives of the people working at 'Hotel Shah Jahan', probably a five star hotel in Calcutta. It was an intriguing view of the functioning of a large hotel and the lot of the employees working in such a huge establishment. The descriptions and events were too real to consider the novel as a piece of fiction. The protagonist and his friends were a simple group of people who cared for each other as well a ...more
Debolina Mukherjee
May 25, 2015 Debolina Mukherjee rated it liked it
A light read but a heavy perspective into the life of a hotel. The language and diction is very simple, not sure if the fact that it's translated had anything to do with it. All in all a good read but not one that will keep you in its arms for days after.
Ruth
Jan 22, 2012 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I'm always a bit hesitant to read translated novels because I worry about missing nuances that just can't be translated into English. However, it became clear very early on that it wasn't going to be a problem with this one. The writing was beautifully done and had me entranced from the beginning (that probably says something about the translator as much as the author). I just wish I could have stayed as entranced in reading further on. The ending also left me unsatisfied. But I did like the col ...more
Mary Graves
Mar 18, 2014 Mary Graves rated it really liked it
This is the scenario written on Amazon: Welcome to the Shahjahan, one of Calcutta's oldest and most venerable hotels. In "Chowringhee", the Shahjahan's new receptionist regales his audience with stories of the people who spend their days and nights within the Shahjahan's grand facade. Like Bengal itself, this is a place where greed, seduction and death live alongside love, luxury and pride. With wit, warmth, and ferocious energy, "Chowringhee" reveals to us an entire universe. One of the great n ...more
Sabbir Ahmed
Jul 16, 2015 Sabbir Ahmed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tragedy, read-2015
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glenna Barlow
Jan 07, 2012 Glenna Barlow rated it liked it
a nice insight into life during what i suspect was the golden age of calcutta. at least for this particular hotel. the stories were interesting but the narrator seemed unrealistically naive and tended to harp too much on nostalgia, almost bordering on the repetitive. a nice read, but some of it could have been cut down.
Tanish Jena
I used to think life in a grand hotel like Shahjahan must be very fancy, this book showed me it sure is fancy but it comes with such melancholy and wistfulness I had no idea.

Every brick in this hotel has a novel in it.

I read this book very leisurely, immersing in Calcutta of the 1950's, enjoying it's flamboyance, it's charm. The author weaves the tragic tales in a slow and consuming pattern which worked for me.

One can't really serve another in the hotel of the world. We can at best hold out
...more
Leggere A Colori
Tutto il libro "Hotel Calcutta" è stato come osservare lo scorrere della vita di molte persone, rimanendo però seduta in un angolo della magnifica hall dell’hotel, con i piedi posati su tappeti persiani e con un the fumante sul tavolino. Non c’è nessuna trama precisa, come d’altronde è la vita: s’incontrano persone, si salutano con educazione, per quanto ci è possibile le si aiuta, oppure ci si fa aiutare. È un libro meditativo, che mostra quanto può succedere nella vita di una persona senza che ...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
May 17, 2014 Nitya Sivasubramanian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5star
Its not often that one gets to peek behind the curtain at the workings of a fancy hotel. And when that hotel is situated in 1950s Calcutta, it adds just the dash of historic romanticism that I needed to suck me in completely.

Honestly, the success of this book lies in how honest it seems to be. The humans who populate its pages are exactly that, human. They are tired, angry, in love, in lust and greedy for profit in the same way that every human you meet on the street is at some point or the othe
...more
Mira
Oct 14, 2015 Mira rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic read: the story of a former secretary to an English barrister who ends up at the Shahjahan, Calcutta's largest hotel. As he gets acquainted with the other staff and customers of the hotel, their various stories begin to emerge, weaving a tale that is both tragic and heartwarming. The stories give you the flavour of 1950s Calcutta, and keep you engaged through the various story lines along the course of the novel. It is a relatively light read, but the language (in translatio ...more
Shalini M
Apr 16, 2015 Shalini M rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Chowringhee was a very interesting read, and quite a different fare from what I usually go for.

It captures the romance of a bygone era, when grand hotels and travel was the privilege of select few. It gives a glimpse of what Calcutta would have been like at that time, though it could have taken place anywhere else. It is as much about the life and workings of a large, popular hotel, as it is about the human nature in general. On one hand is the picture of sophistication and the luxury that the w
...more
Jyoti Narang
Jun 25, 2013 Jyoti Narang rated it liked it
I was always amused by the hospitality staff. They are always appear so happy. Quite unnatural for a human being to be always happy. I felt they were prisoners. Chowringhee tells the tale of one such Prison - Shahjahan Hotel. A hotel that is majestic, regal and opulent in every description…Shahjahan as it is aptly named is like an unattainable luxury. Tale by tale, Chowringhee builds up into a panoramic and utterly captivating picture of a workplace, a city and an era.
Each guest in the hotel bri
...more
Girish
Jul 15, 2012 Girish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you were ever into software development and know what a nested function or nested loop is, this book is like that.

Chowringhee is more a collection of stories - some Indian, many interesting and human - whose characters are the soul of Hotel Shahjahan in Calcutta's 1960s. It talks of the society then, the vestige of the west and Bengal and Calcutta in all it's glory. The narrator speaks to you about his book, gives out teasers of stories he will narrate later and narrates stories within stori
...more
Stephen Ross
Jul 03, 2013 Stephen Ross rated it liked it
The story of a young man in Calcutta who finds himself working in the famous Shahjahan hotel, this novel wanders a bit. Perhaps because of the conceit of the hotel setting, it reads sometimes more like a collection of connected stories than a novel per se. The main character does not really grow or change much, and in the end is very much the same naif who comes to the hotel in the first place. The ending provides a couple of real hammer blows after making light of much of life for most of the r ...more
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Shankar's real name is Mani Shankar Mukherjee. Sankar is a very popular writer in the Bengali language. He grew up in Howrah district of West Bengal, India.
Shankar's father died while Shankar was still a teenager, as a result of which Shankar became a clerk to the last British barrister of the Calcutta High Court, Noel Frederick Barwell. The experience of working under Mr. Barwell provided the mat
...more
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