'Brings us a Bengal the rest of India does not see or even know of ... a richly readable as well as deeply moving book' – Ramachandra Guha
‘Moving and insightful ... Parimal Bhattacharya takes leave of the sheltered lives of the bhadralok to discover the other side of Bengal’ – Jean Drèze
‘A work of deep scholarship as well as a poignant commentary on the lives of communities missing from the usual narratives of West Bengal’ – Jairam Ramesh
'Mixes history, anecdotes, memories, social insights and political observations in prose that has a touch of magic' – Maitreesh Ghatak
'Sometimes a book startles you. By its scholarship as well as its moving insights that reveal a rare skill for storytelling. It opens up worlds you never knew existed. In this truly remarkable book, Parimal Bhattacharya introduced me to a Bengal I wish I knew better.' - Pritish Nandy
'An alternative history of modern Bengal...luminous and thought-provoking.' - Mint
'A masterful work of creative non-fiction.' - Economic and Political Weekly
'Deep empathy leavened with a luminous sensibility drawn from literary fiction, reminiscent of past masters in Bengali and English—Abdul Jabbar, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, V.S. Naipaul and Bruce Chatwin.' - India Today
'If you want to know contemporary Bengal better, don’t miss this gripping book.' - Mainstream Weekly
'This book is not about the history and geography of Bengal, but rather, capturing its real essence.' - News 9 Live
'The beauty of the book is in its vivid descriptions of place and character. The truths it conveys are complex human truths, deeper than facts and statistics and the simple binary certitudes of contemporary politics.' - Hindustan Times
'Field Notes from a Waterborne Land: Bengal Beyond the Bhadralok is an attempt to illustrate the shifting dynamics of Bengal on multiple frontiers, and to understand its imprint in socio-cultural, economic and political spheres of everyday life. The book is neither written as a travelogue nor does it adhere to any strict format of an ethnographic monograph. Yet, it opens up several contours.' - The Book Review
In the late 2000s, when the three-decade-long Left Front rule in West Bengal was crumbling, Parimal Bhattacharya began to travel outside the well-trodden urban centres to different parts of the region – from the Sundarbans to tribal Jangalmahal, from the outskirts of Kolkata to villages on the Bangladesh border, from the floodplains of the Hooghly to the forests of Simlipal in neighbouring Odisha.
There, he encountered: a woman who was branded a witch because she was listed in the census as literate; an island that vanished famously, only to resurface; a paralysed communist who dreams about the death of a river; a forest community who believe they are descendants of the Harappans; an old millworker and his wife who fight the ghosts of a dead industrial town with laughter; a fisherman uprooted by a river eleven times in twenty years; and many more. This book documents the missing narratives of these ‘other’ Bengalis, the largely invisible majority beyond the bhadralok that the rest of India knows.
Moving between the personal and the political, and between travelogue, journal and memoir, Field Notes from a Waterborne Land takes the reader on a journey across a fascinating land peopled with unforgettable characters.