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The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta
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The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  420 ratings  ·  70 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 moisture-drenche
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 23rd 2017 by Bloomsbury India (first published August 10th 2017)
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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.
Mridula Gupta
‘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 isn’t my home town, I have lived there for two years and this book made me nostalgic. Obviously, I didn’t agree with everything the author had to say, but I accepted it nonetheless because knowing a city is bigger and deeper than one person’s experience.

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.
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
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.
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. Migratio
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 abundan
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
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
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 posi
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. It’s a wonderful read from the author’s 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 family’s experience.

The author is educated in the US, graduates from an Ivy League school and decides
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' magazi ...more
Kimberly Brooks
There were some great moments in this book, but for the most part, I was, honestly, bored. Which, how you make India boring, I don't exactly know. Too poetic and not enough stories for my taste. Not to mention all the typos and repeated sentences... ...more
Gayla Bassham
I do love reading about India, but this book wasn't particularly well structured and it was often repetitive. There is material of interest here, but it's harder than it should be to find it. ...more
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 can’t do without.

Hence, when I heard of this book which took one through the by-lanes of Calcutta’s history, geography and it’s politics, I couldn’t miss the chance for a trip down memory lane. As they say, you can take a Calcuttan out of Calcutt
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 Kolkat ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 author’s 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 wa
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 wou ...more
Anushka Mitra
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have lived in Calcutta, this book is a delightful immersion in nostalgia. Recommended if you have been to the city. If not, at times some experiences may elude you but an engaging read nevertheless.
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.
Bookishbong  Moumita
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
Kunal Sen
I have spent my entire childhood and most of my youth in Calcutta, and left the city a few years before the author went back there to work in a Newspaper office. Even though my connection with the city was never severed, as I was making several trips a year, I was no longer an insider. My main curiosity about this book came from the expectation of seeing the city again, beyond the time of my departure, through the eyes of an insider-outsider. The author is not a pure Calcuttan, and sees the city ...more
Love Among the Bookshelves
To describe the essence of a city and to put it to paper is a Herculean task in itself and when it comes to Calcutta , the difficulty is a notch higher. Debut writer Kushanava Choudhury does this brilliantly , leaving no stone unturned in capturing the myriad of colours that the mysterious , enigmatic and joyous city of Kolkata has to offer .

"The Epic City" is what the book is called and it is truly an apt title . Kolkata is surrounded with a rich cultural , socio - economical , political amd mo
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little too “inside baseball” (or, I suppose, “inside cricket”?) for those who don’t 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 it’s
T.P. Williams
Feb 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciated the author’s 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
Ritabrata Chatterjee
Real disappointed. Never got the objective of writing this book, at least there is nothing for who lives or lived in Kolkata for sometime. May be the author wanted other 2nd generation NRI kids to know about Kolkata thru his eyes. The lack of depth and research in most of the analysis presented in this book and taking the safe heaven of naxalism to make the text dramatic - all added to frustration of reading this one.
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. ...more
Varun Mittal
Nov 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Lousy raised to the nth level! I did not even complete this book.
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