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The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  352 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta.

When Kushanava Choudhury arrived in New Jersey at the age of twelve, he had already migrated halfway around the world four times. After graduating from Princeton, he moved back to the region his immigrant parents had abandoned, to a city built between a river and a swamp, where the
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 23rd 2017 by Bloomsbury India (first published August 10th 2017)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Bimbabati
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's get the bad things out of the way first. This book needed some serious editing (Random repetitions of previously-mentioned incidents! Strange typos! Ugh.). Also, the number of times the words "decaying", "colonial", and "spirit" were used should have been drastically reduced.

Having said that, I'm a pathetic piece of mush as far as any literature related to Calcutta is concerned, and this book had me mushy within the first few pages. Calcutta is weird and infuriating, and so is this book.
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MRIDULA
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, non-fiction
The Epic City hits home and hits hard. It takes you into the heart of Calcutta, its core flaws and outstanding beauty. Calcutta/Kolkata is a busy city, with people running around as they attend to their daily schedule.

Even though Calcutta isnt my home town, I have lived there for two years and this book made me nostalgic. Obviously, I didnt agree with everything the author had to say, but I accepted it nonetheless because knowing a city is bigger and deeper than one persons experience.

Kushanava
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Udayan
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chaotic, visceral, depressing yet utterly familiar. Like parts of my city baked into my soul.
Paul
By the young age of twelve Kushanava Choudhury had moved back and forwards across the planet four times. A graduate of the prestigious Princeton University and with opportunities galore in his adopted country, the call of his home country and city that his parents had left was too great. So he returned home to the city built between a river and a swamp; Calcutta.

It was a city whose golden age had long passed, once the capital when the British ruled, that had moved to Delhi. Relatives called and
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Sabyasachi Dey
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There have been multiple literary works on/about/set in Calcutta so this book had a uphill task from the word go. What is particularly refreshing about this book that stands out is its brutal honesty regarding every aspect of the city. The author is evidently in a dilemma like so many youths and millennials from the city who have to take a call on whether to be in the place you belong, or the place where you work and seek greener pastures.
The more local you are, the more global you are.
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Vivek Tejuja
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always been fascinated by Calcutta right to its portrayal in movies to books to even theatre and sometimes even TV shows that are genuinely set there. Something about that city it has managed to mingle the traditional and the modern so well, that it makes me more curious about the thing they do, how they do it and why the culture of Calcutta cannot be spread across one book or one review (most certainly not), however The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury is indeed one of its kind books ...more
Vikas Singh
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-book
Just another book based on experience called Calcutta. There is no newness in the plot and at several places it is a drag. Does not give any great reading pleasure.
Aritri Chatterjee
The City of Joy, the city of dreamers and poets, the city that is known for its sweet delicacies and intellectual debates, the city that is now almost dead. All that is left of Calcutta or Kolkata is a ghost of a city that refuses to die despite regular murderous attempts by innumerable assassins.
Kolkata, then, was one of the richest and prosperous cities in India, with its monumental buildings, wide docks and ports for export and import of high-quality goods, artisans and craftsmen, the
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Souvik Jana
Kolkata is the people's city and in such a city, the lives in the streets and the culture of its different paras or localities best describe the city.

Child of a father migrated as a refugee from East Bengal and of a mother from old North Kolkata family, Kushanava Choudhury is born in the USA and brought up partly in the USA and partly in Kolkata. After failing to get over the charm of the city, as Choudhury relocates to Kolkata, his family and personal background put him in a unique position to
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Todd Tyrtle
This was a tricky read for me. Sometimes it was so negative I couldn't stand it. Other times he made Kolkata sound amazing and fascinating. As someone who has never been there and knows far too little history and culture of the area, I can't begin to comment in a decent review - so think of this less about the book and more about me. There were times I thought I would give up on it and other times I really enjoyed it.

It made me also question "what is travel writing for?" Should it always be
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Stella
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is about migration and longing to return and romanticising the city you are from, and specifically about Calcutta, and the rise and fall of the city. Its a wonderful read from the authors point of view, which richly describes the city over the years - how it was shaped by the British Empire, their withdrawal, the Partition, the Communists and finally globalisation in relation to his familys experience.

The author is educated in the US, graduates from an Ivy League school and decides to
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Nikhil
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having left Calcutta soon after my cocooned school days, I have often found a strange yearning for the city of my birth and childhood. Consequently, I latch on any link (tenuous or otherwise) to this time-warped city which so many of us love to hate but cant do without.

Hence, when I heard of this book which took one through the by-lanes of Calcuttas history, geography and its politics, I couldnt miss the chance for a trip down memory lane. As they say, you can take a Calcuttan out of Calcutta
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Preyoshi
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I picked up Kushanava Choudhury's debut attempt at the airport last week, attracted by the cover art and promise of tales from my home town. What followed was a trip down memory lane accompanied by muffled guffaws which my co-passengers on the flight kindly ignored. Mr. Choudhury brought alive some of the quirks which denizens of Calcutta (including yours truly) are well-known for, and yes he does go beyond the done-to-death monkey cap references. My childhood was spent in the newer South ...more
Sayantani
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-books, 2018
As by heart KOLKATAN, I was in search of a book where I will find my city with its own beauty. Kushanava has fulfilled my dream in THE EPIC CITY; the writer neither has glorified Kolkata nor has diminished its uniqueness. This book is not about any fact or info about the city; but the authors own experience of growing up and living in this metropolitan. The author has described the city when it was still Calcutta; he has skilfully touched all the major aspects. He has taken us to the college ...more
Ashima Jain
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Calcutta is one of three places I have had a lifelong wish to visit - not as a tourist, because that wouldn't do justice to a city of so many unique flavours, but as a local where I can truly soak it in. Maybe that is why I haven't been able to make that trip yet - touristy or otherwise - for fear that unless it is done right, the experience might be ruined forever.

When I sat down to read The Epic City, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Calcutta I have longed to see. What I didn't expect
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Piyali
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 stars. Certain parts of this book truly spoke to me. It took me back to the days when I traversed the city, either with friends, or alone, for work. The experience of riding a tightly packed public bus, roaming the streets and getting lost in tiny gulleys, observing life that goes on in the remotest corners of this busy metropolis. Kolkata is not an easy city to love. I can not truly direct a tourist to this city, and the author successfully captures that exact feeling. The pull of Kolkata, ...more
Eric Sall
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian-books
I visited Calcutta last week and started this book while I was there. The author is a young Indian who spent his childhood in Calcutta and the US, was educated at Princeton and then moved back to Calcutta to work as a reporter. He interweaves his personal memories, his life as a young married man, and his family history with the history of the city. Great writing and vivid observations. I learned a lot and got a kick out of reading about places and things I had just seen myself. I definitely ...more
Anirudha Bhattacharjee
A very NRIsh style of recounting stories of a place the author tries to relate to. Or does he? Positives include a great writing style, but surely that is to be expected by someone who spent most of his formative years in NJ, US. For the content, well, just as an NRI would react to situations beyond him.
Moumita Roy
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the name has suggested , the book gives us some inside views of Calcutta . The people of Calcutta , the street foods, the culture ,everything has been written with full heart,nostalgia and empathy . The book is full with minute details about this city and the people . A reader can easily get a vision full experiences through this amazing writing of this author . The writing of this author is very lucid, which is I really admired . This book has showcased how this city is different from other ...more
Dipra Lahiri
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-autobio, history, 2017
A memoir as well as a book on a city, Choudhary captures the dreariness, squalor and decay of Kolkata in the 90's and 00's perfectly, with detours going back a few decades to the time of WW2 and Independence, recounting the horrors of Hindu-Muslim riots, the great Bengal famine and Partition, and the impact of these events on evolution of the city. In the midst of all this gloom, there are splendid uplifting moments such as when he meets groups of unknown poets, and publishers of 'little' ...more
Gina
This book was won in a Goodreads giveaway - thank you to the author and publisher!

The book was very well written and kept my interest. I learned some things I would never have known about Calcutta, the people, and their traditions.

Kushanava Choudhury writes about his time, both as a youngster and as an adult, living between two very distinct and different worlds: India and the United States. His parents were world travelers, and by the age of 12, he had traveled much more than most of us would
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kapil
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aspiring-writers
Had author reduced the general history of Kolkata (Partition, Naxalbari, etc) and his family history irrelevant to the city of Kolkata and had actively interviewed different characters from the city I would have given 5 stars. Anyway it's a good book.
Richa Bhattarai
I visited Calcutta for the first (and only) time when I was around nine - a delayed train left us stranded in this city. Buwa took us aboard a ferry, to get closer to the Howrah bridge. Calcutta brings back blurred memories of a crowded boat ride, the bridge looming ahead, agitated waters.
Now, of course, many of us including me imagine a very different Calcutta - beautiful doe-eyed women in red-and-white sarees, intelligent Bengali scholars and poets, exuberant Durgo Pujo.
Away from all of it,
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Peter
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Writer Kushanava Choudhury who published a memoir called The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta in 2017 is about his relationship with the city of Calcutta, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Choudhury was born in New York State, but he spent his childhood bouncing between Calcutta (which was his parents hometown), New York State, and New Jersey. Choudhury had fond memories of his childhood in Calcutta, after he graduated from undergraduate he went back to Calcutta ...more
Brian
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little too inside baseball (or, I suppose, inside cricket?) for those who dont know Kolkata or Bengali, and mostly too shallow for those who do, it puzzles me whom this book was written for. Ostensibly, it was written for me, a lover of Kolkata who can never get enough of the city. How disappointing, then, to be so often bored and underwhelmed by the too short, disconnected vignettes and slapdash histories here. If epicness is on display, one would have expected a bit... more.

Maybe its an
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Valeri Drach
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kushanava Choudhury, with great love has captured his beloved childhood city of Calcutta. As his title suggests, he has shown us the inner world of the streets, the private places of the public spaces. He does so with much reverence as well as humor. His writing is rich with detail and with love of characters who in some cases are friends and relatives. His eye for detail leads us through the nooks and crannies of College Street, where describes people with little money to spare, crave crib ...more
Maggie
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part memoir, part history of a city, this book takes you on a journey through gulllys and along tramlines, into refugee camps and mansions, eating and adda-ing along the way. I enjoyed the authors journalistic style, retelling the stories of the variety of people his curiosity, vocation and connections with Calcutta give him access to. I was grateful for the careful explanations of the politics and traumas which have shaken Calcutta (but noted that he was repetitive and possibly a bit of an edit ...more
thebookbosomed
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I had been to Calcutta a couple of years ago and the experience was so much like the book. Though I didn't see all the places my experience was a lot like it! I was there for only 10 days but the essence of the city is still very energetic.

Talking about the book, it is a very well-written, finely descriptive and full of experience. Calcutta for me was always a crowded place where people worked 24/7 in those congested, tumultuous streets. But honestly the book tells you it is a lot more than
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Dr G
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book frustrating. I now just think that it was written for an audience which does not include me.
What audience? Well, primarily of people who had done much as the author had done, moving between India and the USA for somewhat impetuous reasons. Outside that limited group, the satellite audience would be of people with a good familiarity with Calcutta. It is interesting that a lot of the positive reviews seem to be from Calcuttans or Americans with Calcuttan connections.
For me, the
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T.P. Williams
Feb 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciated the authors very thoughtful and undoubtedly heartfelt ruminations on cultural and racial deracination and the difficulty of living in two worlds. However the constant references to his Princeton education, as in I went to Princeton, did I tell you I went to Princeton was annoying. Unattractive and self-pitying tone to his bewailing his lost youth- I would guess the author to be barely out of his twenties. He arrogantly shows off his Great Books reading with too frequent references ...more
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