In My Hands Today…

Gazing at Neighbours: Travels Along the Line That Partitioned India – Bishwanath Ghosh

In July 1947, British barrister Cyril Radcliffe was summoned to New Delhi and given five weeks to draw, on the map of the subcontinent, two zigzagged lines that would decide the future of one-fifth of the human race.

One line, 553 kilometres long, created the province of West Punjab; the other, adding up to 4,096 kilometres, carved out a province called East Bengal. Both territories joined the new-born nation of Pakistan—an event called the Partition of India, which saw one million people being butchered and another fifteen million uprooted from their homes.

Enough and more has been written about the horrors of Partition, but what of the people who actually inhabit the land through which these lines run?

Curiosity leads Bishwanath Ghosh into journeying along the Radcliffe Line—through the vibrant greenery of Punjab as well as the more melancholic landscape of the states surrounding Bangladesh—and examining, first hand, life on the border. Recording his encounters and experiences in luminous prose, Gazing at Neighbours is a narrative of historical stock-taking as much as of travel.

In My Hands Today…

Aimless in Banaras: Wanderings in India’s Holiest City – Bishwanath Ghosh

While cremating his mother at the famed Manikarnika Ghat, Bishwanath Ghosh pretended he was a writer collecting material for a future book rather than a grieving son—his way of dealing with the last rites. A few years later, he returns to Banaras to write that book.

Plunging into its timeless aura, he roams its ghats and galis, sails through the cool breeze of the Ganga, walks through the heat of funeral pyres. One moment he is observing a sadhu show off his penile strength, in the next he is on a boat with a young woman who has been prophesied to marry seven times; one moment he is in conversation with the celebrated writer Kashinath Singh, who is an atheist, and in the next he is having tea with a globe- trotting priest and a god-fearing doctor … Ghosh finds a story in every bend as he engages with quintessential Banarasis—their paan-stuffed mouths spouting expletives and wisdom with equal flair—and discovers why they are among the happiest people on earth.

Then one evening at Manikarnika, as he emerges from a temple, wearing ash from the cremation ground on his forehead, he finds a bit of Banaras in himself.

Aimless in Banaras is not only a sensuous portrait of India’s holiest city but also a meditation on life—and death.

In My Hands Today…

Chai, Chai: 1 – Bishwanath Ghosh

Biswanath Ghosh paints an amazing and mystical picture in this book, where he starts his journey from the Itarsi Station, Madhya Pradesh.

Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop But Never Get Off allows the reader to join the author-narrator while he experiences new places and faces. The beautiful sun, the rich cultural history and the people are all rendered with humor and love. One can almost feel the narrator going through the little lanes in Kanpur and then end up in Madras.

Whether one is drinking tea at a local café or sitting with numerous people in a local train, Ghosh breathes life into every moment. While speculating on life’s little moments, the author also realizes the amount of hours spent in waiting at railway junctions. The destinations are not just stations and stops for trains to drop commuters off. They represent a different life and a new adventure everyday.

There are little towns that people have never heard of which Ghosh talks extensively about such as Shoranpur, Arakkonam, Itarsi, Jhansi and Mughal Sarai. What makes this work unique is that these places are described in terms of the people encountered. Trains play an important role in bringing people from all parts of the country and all walks of life together. This is where the true story lies.

Ghosh enriches this story with various descriptions and personal insights. The book is witty, humorous and helps rediscover those areas of India which most have forgotten about due to commercial tourism. No matter how obscure a town maybe, it still holds a rich cultural history which Ghosh describes with avid details.

In My Hands Today…

Longing, Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta – Bishwanath Ghosh

‘Calcutta was no longer an old piece of furniture in the attic. It was an antique whose value I had realised.’ With these words Bishwanath Ghosh embarks on an exploration of a city that, as a probashi – non-resident Bengali, he has only recently fallen in love with. He probes the lives of its inhabitants – some famous and others faceless – and at the same time strolls along the Hooghly, wanders in and out of Park Street, College Street, Kalighat, Kumartuli, Sonagachhi, even ending up in a dance bar in Salt Lake.With his adventurous spirit and undeniable wit intact, Bishwanath Ghosh pieces together his own unique idea of a unique city.