KOLKATA DREAMS by K. Gandhar Chakravarty

Kolkata Dreams is a work of travel poetry that will transport you across the sea to northeastern India. The poems explore the idealization of Mother India against the realities of its westernization from the perspective of a Canadian-born Indo-North American discovering his heritage for the first time. When reading and reciting this poetry (you may be forced to voice these poems aloud), you will find that laughter often chokes itself on tears while the book yo-yos between meditation and contemplation. The experimental use of a first-person/third-person singular-detached narrator encapsulates the feeling of disembodiment often felt by the voyager, especially in this case, as the poet simultaneously belongs to yet remains apart from the cultures he explores. In short, Kolkata Dreams is a must-read for anyone interested in the balance between tradition and modernity, particularly in the context of globalization and twenty-first century India.



There are many lines and moments in K. Gandhar Chakravarty's Kolkata Dreams that underscore the fact these poems do indeed reside in multiple landscapes, in that world between the East and West, and oftentimes simultaneously. This is a terrain where gods walk the streets and think human thoughts and do human deeds. There's something wistful in the pages, sometimes approaching at least a metaphorical diaspora of the spirit, and then suddenly there's a sharp magic that bends the light. A robust, deceptive simplicity hums at the center of this collection. Jaunty, and at times, truly witty, a single turn of phrase unearths a basic truth. Each poem does a job in Kolkata Dreams.

- Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Poetry

To make your thoughts so tangible is like writing on canvas. Kolkata Dreams is akin to such sensitivity. It’s an extraordinary excursion into the secret alleys of dreamy reminiscence. It transports you to your very own cozy nook - soothing yet strangely disconcerting, magical yet charmingly blatant... ...intoxicating.

- Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Poet and Internationally Acclaimed Filmmaker

This is a book of exotic smells, sounds, and sights. Chakravarty’s poems come alive in the reading and their languid syllables roll off the tongue. Like the land he is describing, Chakravarty’s poems invite you in as an interested traveller and then change you as you live them.

The pieces intrigue most when read aloud – they fairly cry out for this kind of participatory response. They are peopled by sages and fools, lovers and gods, but the theme behind all is an open-eyed wonder at the connection of all things earthly. At the same time, the poems are illuminated by an interest in the places – and there are many, it seems – where heaven and earth meet and mix. Chakravarty is a theologian, and his sensitivity to the primal pulse of religious feeling is evident throughout.

But most of all it is the vibrancy of the colours and sounds in these poems that will strike the reader. The author is also a musician and it is perhaps this background that brings the rhythm and assonance to the overall work.

Kolkata Dreams shows the emotion of a first work, and has the feel of a trip by train through the Indian countryside, or by foot through the city’s slums and parks. It is a traveller’s odyssey, but Chakravarty is a generous travelling companion, and the poems are his invitation to see his ancestral homeland along with him. You will enjoy these poems.

- Matthew Anderson, CBC / QWF Literary Award Winner

I have known Komal Gandhar Chakravarty for a long time. He was born and brought up in Canada in a Bengali family. Being brought up in this cultural atmosphere Komal Gandhar imbibed his heritage and also learned the culture of his adopted country. He is a remarkable student and has been successful in fusing music and poetry, and has received several awards internationally.

His collection of poems called Kolkata Dreams contains pieces of simple lyrical quality and depth in meaning: ‘I once met a whispered lover / Clambering up a path. / He sat on haunted benches / Writing in his journals.’ In the poem entitled, ‘Kalifornia to Kolkata’, the opening lines are especially thought provoking ‘Why do all American cities / Look like computer chips, / Especially at night? / Is there some master plan / Well beyond our sight? / On a night flight / From Pearson International / Bound to San Fran, / Felt like I was hovering above / Some circuit board, Man.’ As he visits the city of Kolkata, his observations are often quite different from local poets. He discovered the city in his fantasy. That’s why he writes, ‘So he discovered, / No city of joy, / But a city somewhere in its future, / The gap between poor and rich / As thick as Buddha’s belly.’

I enjoyed reading his book immensely. So I hope many other readers will.

- Sunil Gangopadhyay, President, Sahitya Academy and Bestselling Poet & Novelist.

In Kolkata Dreams, Komal Gandhar (whose name echoes a beautiful Indian Raga) journeys through the detritus and dreams of dying cities and cultures across the globe—whether spankingly neon-lit and prettily plastic like Kalifornia or claustrophobically pestilential like Kolkata. Gandhar’s ironic eye sees through both the super-developed unholy splendours of the U.S. of A and the under-developed nightmares of India to touch upon the rockbottom emptiness of our modern-day daily deaths masquerading as spasms of fitful life.

This is the poetry of a young man’s spiritual quest who travels the globe to ultimately reach the city of his parents and forefathers—Kolkata, India. Gandhar explores the central epiphanies of existence—Sex, Religion, Love, Death—as he gropes his way through the material mess and sexy spirituality of the Indian subcontinent (encapsulated and represented by the vibrant and dying city of Kolkata). His verses have a zen-like charm and a sufi throwaway flavour exuding either easy flowing rhythms or streetsmart lingo that are often pleasing, occasionally shocking, and always interesting.

Gandhar can be both telling and funny as when he exposes the Indian Government’s obtuse hypocrisy about the Father of the Nation: “The Mahatma, Gandhi, pledged poverty / And now he laughs on rupees” (referring to the ubiquitous Gandhi visage staring at us from banknotes); or when he meditates thus on the proverbial mosquito menace in Kolkata: “…even Durga’s ten arms / Could not swat you all away”; or when he niftily puns on the veneration in India showered on Shiva’s Linga: “Both sexes revere the tool / That plants the seeds of life”. At his best, Gandhar Chakravarty’s verses offer both insight and edification. Meditating on our dreams being manufactured by our media-haunted cultures he writes of our times, “when every desire becomes a need” and sees Kolkata as “a city full of scavengers” being morphed into the microcosm of our globalised world.

A book to be recommended for all those concerned about our disintegrating worlds, from Kolkata to Kalifornia via Kanada.

- Amitava Roy, Professor of English and Director,
Shakespeare Centre for Advanced Research, Rabindra Bharati
University, Kolkata; President and Co-founder, Shakespeare
Society of Eastern India; Jr. Editor, Theatre International;
President, Writers Co-operative, Kolkata