Soul Of A Gorkha

The ten-year-old Tau sat in front of a glowing charcoal hearth under the cold moonlit night sky in a small and obscure village in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas in the ancient land of Nepal. His father pulled out a glowing piece of steel from the burning embers and hammered it on an old…

Pied Piper Of Pojhi

Tracts of fertile agricultural land stretched as far as the eyes could see. With the changing seasons, the colours of the harvest varied from shades of green to brown to golden to fluorescent yellow, yielding bounties of rice, maize, potatoes, mustard, red gram, and rapeseed. A mix of some thatched huts and other unplastered brick…

The Human Bullock

On a blistering day in June, under the scorching midday sun, when the surrounding air danced in a haze of heat and rose towards the glaring sky, a giant of a man standing eight feet tall and weighing nearly a quarter of a ton tugged on his shoulders a massive wood and iron plough. Scarring…

Tears On The Sand

Under the fading silver veil of a moonlit night, in the last hour before the dawn of morning light, on the glittery shores of a once turbulent river, an eighteen-year-old low-caste boy tirelessly shovelled grains of rock and coral into a banged-up truck’s weathered wooden cradle. The driver handed over five shiny ten-rupee coins to…

Citadel In The Wilderness

South of the outer foothills of the Himalayan Mountain Range and north of the Brahmaputra River Basin stretches the alluvial floodplains of Dooars in the northeastern realm of the Indian subcontinent. With eighteen historic passages between the lush green plains and the imposing stone and ice mountains, it is the gateway to the kingdom of…

A Pair Of Shoes

Thirteen-year-old Monikanchon dashed into the sea of clueless strollers, joyous visitors, and perplexed shoppers. The enthusiastic teenager head-butted and elbow-jabbed to reach some of his favourite stalls at the annual street fair on the occasion of Charak Puja on Beadon Street of Calcutta of 1920. It was the last day of the festival, and waves…

Goddess Of Mud And Flesh

It was a cold and shivering night on the last day of December in Anno Domini 1980. A young and frail woman in tattered clothes stood at the edge of the water of the Kumortuli Bathing Ghat on the banks of the River Hooghly in India’s Calcutta city. Close to her tormented bosom, she held…

Keeper Of The Family Tree

As the tower clock on top of Maniktala Bazar chimed three at the nocturnal hour before dawn every morning, an ancient and wrinkled mysterious man was up and ready to perform his most unusual antic. Centenarian Jotayu Pakrashi was the last leaf in the Pakrashi family tree of the corner house at the intersection of…

The Last Cake By Chand Ali

“If prepared correctly, a fruitcake can have a shelf life of more than twenty-five years,” chuckled the toothless betel leaf chomping Chand Ali as he mixed perfectly calculated portions of assorted nuts and dried fruits into a massive copper plate. Twelve-year-old Rani and her five-year-old brother Riju peered over the master baker’s shoulders to ask questions…

Playing Brass

Strolling down the Mahatma Gandhi Road from the College Street end towards Howrah Tram Depot in the vibrance of the Kolkata metropolis, one can spot a unique world of orchestral cacophony. Little shops from the colonial days of the British showcase a wide array of musical instruments and jazzy uniforms of starking colours with gilded…