The Epic City: The World On the Streets of Calcutta is Kushanava Choudhury’s first book. Choudhury, the books editor at The Caravan, was raised in Kolkata—though he chooses to refer to it as Calcutta—and New Jersey. After graduating from Princeton, he decided—to the surprise of his parents and extended family—to move back to Kolkata. Choudhury spent the next few years between India and the United States: he worked at The Statesman in Kolkata, then moved to New Haven for graduate school, and came back to Kolkata after getting married.
In Epic City, which is part memoir and part reported non-fiction, he recounts various episodes from life in the city, both his own and of those who surrounded him. These include remembrances of a childhood spent in a crumbling Kolkata house; of being one half of a young unmarried couple in the city, and then, a young married one; and on reconciling with Kolkata’s seeming refusal to let go of its moneyed past. In the following extract from the book, Choudhury recounts what it was like to work at the fabled Statesman—and in particular, how his experience differed from that of his colleague, Imran.
TheStatesman employed an army of men to serve tea at regular intervals. There were the liveried waiters in all-white uniforms, like Moulvi and Ashraf, who served tea in cups and saucers to the editorial department—the newspaper’s bourgeoisie—at our desks four times a day.