Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Books - A Variety of Fare

Over the last 17 years or so a number of books of mine have seen the light of day - firstly by chance, and more recently, with  thought,planning and plain hard work. A few excerpts from the books, articles and notes,  as seen by the eyes of others, are given below -

On Foot -- If you don't mind breaking a sweat and rubbing shoulders with the aam janta (common man), Kolkata is quite a walkable city, at least in parts, with its pavements lined end to end with makeshift shacks selling practically anything that is sellable! Early morning is the best time to get out and stroll through the streets; it's still relatively quiet, and the air is cooler and less choked by pollution. Pick up a cup of tea from the chai-wallas who serve their sweet brew in tiny unfired clay cups -- India's answer to the polystyrene cup, these are simply discarded after use. A great way to get acquainted with Kolkata is to pick up a copy of Ten Walks in Calcutta by Prosenjit Das Gupta (Hermes Inc.) from a bookstore.

Read more: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/kolkata/274375#ixzz4Hvr5ZZld

“There! To the northward, in one heaven line
The Writers Buildings stand - nineteen in number
Where young Civilians prosper or decline”
(from “Tom Raw, the Griffin”)
After two unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable anchorage that would be at arms length from the long arm of the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb and his subahdar (then at Dacca) and at the same time provide ease of navigation (Adi Saptagram further up the river Hooghly had already got silted up), Job Charnock, then senior agent of the East India Company, landed one rainy and overcast day on 24th August 1690 at the village of Sutanutee, practically where Hatkhola-Jorabagan stands today.
The next three years flew by with Charnock trying to set up the trading post, build warehouses and dwelling houses for the staff of the East India Company (usually of mud-and-bamboo walls with a thatched roof), establish contact with local traders, and send the business reports to the East India Company. It was a hum-drum life.
On the demise of Charnock in 1693, John Goldsborough, who then assumed charge as the Chief of the Calcutta post, took a more pro-active role and proceeded to set up the Old Fort William by the side of the river (completed by 169812, where now stand the GPO and the Eastern Railways central office). In that same year, the East India Company was able, with the blessings of Nawab Azim-us-Shan, the Moghul subahdar at Dacca, to take on rent the three villages of Sutanutee (the Hatkhola-Jorabagan area), Dihi Kolkata (the GPO area) and Govindpur (where now stands the new Fort William) from a local zamindar. The St Anne’s Church (that once stood almost where the Rotunda is in Writers Buildings today) came up shortly thereafter, then more warehouses and dwelling houses for the Company servants and so on. It was inside the Old Fort that in 1706 the old factory was pulled down and a single-storied house was built to house the “writers”1. This was followed over the next few years by a row of buildings that came up as dwelling accommodation for the company “writers”, that is, those who wrote out the accounts, prepared stock and sales reports, and handled the correspondence with the East India Company Head Office on Leadenhall Street in London and sister-offices in Madras and Bombay. This set of “writers” dwellings came to be known as the “Long Row” by 1715.
(Abstract of a note by Prosenjit Das Gupta)

Comment by Prosenjit Das Gupta on Thu, 02/26/2015 - 20:53
The issue of "rent" realisation by government functionaries is a historical fact in India. "Nazrana" is hallowed by practice. This is a perennial source of corruption. This "rent" as is well-known arises out of wide-ranging discretionary powers conferred by law and by rules and regulations on relatively lower functionaries of government who often lack the ethical foundations not to take advantage of real or presumed powers. The basic thrust to tackle corruption seems to lie in dismantling much of the redundant rules, regulations and procedures and greater transparency in administration through e-enabled functioning of government offices.

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