Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Book

In a few weeks from now, when you walk into your favourite bookstore, you are most likely to spot, among the new releases, a book titled, Chai, Chai -- Travels in Places You Always Stop But Never Get Off. Priced at Rs 250 and with the number of pages adding up to only 234, it will not dig too deep either into your wallet or time. So please buy it and read it. Who knows, you just might find your story in it.

The book tells the story of places we are all familiar with, and yet we know almost nothing about them. These are the big railway junctions where millions of travellers kill billions of hours every day, either while stretching their legs and having a cup of tea or waiting for a connecting train to take them to their destination.

These places are milestones of one's journey, and over the years go on to become the milestones of one's life; and yet no one quite knows the world that lies outside the railway station in these places. The reason is simple: these places merely facilitate your journey to your destination; they are never the destination.

So I decided to make these junctions my destination: instead of merely hopping off the train and looking for the chaiwallah and killing time on the platform till the signal turned green, I got down along with my rucksack and walked out of the station in search of a hotel.

A conscientious journalist is supposed to do his homework well before embarking on a journey or an assignment. But before I began travelling for the book in mid-2007, I discovered, to my horror, that I had nothing to be guided by. Take, for example, Mughal Sarai, which figures prominently in the book. I can't imagine a Bengali family living in north India that wouldn't have heard of Mughal Sarai: for decades it has been the biggest railway junction on the way to Howrah from Delhi, and it still is. And yet I found nothing during Google search that could give me even a faint idea how the town looked like. So when I reached Mughal Sarai at 3.30 on a chilly November morning, it was as good as arriving in a small town in Africa.

Irrespective of how the book does, I am glad I got off at these junctions. For one, I would no longer be curious about what lies beyond the railway platform whenever my train halts at one of these junctions. Two, I happened to discover the India whose existence we city-dwellers either don't like to acknowledge or are not aware of. And let me tell you, that is the real India. Our India is like a pack of cards: it crumbles even if a white man in the US happens to sneeze over it. But the India I discovered is sturdy: it has withstood greater battles than 'economic slowdown' and still continues to smile.

35 comments:

Anu Russell said...

would amazon sell it?

Anonymous said...

Meet you soon with the book in hand for an autograph.:)

Paresh Palicha said...

BG, haven't read the whole post yet. Will do it asap. Congrats! The book stores here are of stone age. So, would buy the book online, read it & bring it to get autographed, when I come to Chennai next time around. Wish you the best.:-)

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Dreams also come in different shapes...here's one finally getting the shape...:-)

Sabarmati View said...

Hi BG,

Congrats!!!!! And can't wait to hold the book in my hand and of course telling to my friends with a sense of pride that "I worked with the author in Delhi."
Cheers
Deepika

Anonymous said...

Congrats for the book and for the post, that has come after a gap of almost 3 weeks.
Needless to say that I will buy it :)-

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the book. But do continue with your posts for cyber readers like me who unfortunately have time for just a few clicks of a mouse.

Soumya said...

Good luck with 'Chai chai---'. You have probably included the one 'Sunday Spin' I really liked - about the reactions of different people to the death of a 'train worker'.
For me, your book will have to wait till my next visit to 'big city'. I'm actually 350km away from a decent book shop! Not sure if should be trusting the 'onlinewallahs'.

Anonymous said...

congrats !!! will talk to the book store guys and book my copy of Chai Chai in advance...was looking forward for the release ... i know it will be a best seller and you will be busy signing the copies...wondering would it be possible to get your autograph on it when i am in Chennai next..

Anonymous said...

I wish I could do that too - just walk off the train to anywhere!!
I wish I was a man..
will undoubtedly read the book..

Ragamalika, Malik, Rags, wateva! said...

i'm sure it'll be a good read... congrats and all the best!

visithra said...

finally ;) wow congrats so happy for you - and i love the title - if i can get a copy now will get one when i get to india in oct - ;)

Arjun said...

Well Bishwanath, isn't Mughal Sarai the place where Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay was found murdered? Your book has finally arrived. You left your Sunday column in The New Sunday Express for this very book. May your book fly off the shelves and become a bestseller, a cult of our times.

love is fragile said...

Hi BG, would amazon carry the book?? Very much eager to buy it, if not amazon, will visit India soon in two months, will then get it from the bookstore. Best Wishes...

Anonymous said...

Congrats BG. I ll buy the book soon. My daughter is preparing for Civil Services Exam. This book ll help her as well as I am interested in reading it. Thank you very meuch. I was expecting something useful like this ( other than entertainment reading) only from you. Remaining comments after reading the book.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATS! :)

Maya said...

Congrats BG!!!! Keep aside 10 copies for me, please. Will be there shortly and don't want to be disappointed if they get sold out!

Are we having a launch party or are you planning that for the next print?! :)

Warmest Maya

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, free spirit. Glad you got to do it sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

Hi BG
........could you please give the details of the book release like day
date
time
place

:)

Gayathri Varma said...

Heartiest Congratulations!

Waiting to get my hands on the book...and you bet...we are definetely glad you got off at those junctions.

Ardra said...

Have always pondered about the little glimpses that these places offered, have tried to imagine the stories behind the faces, the milieus, I've thought about the purpose and reason behind seeing faces- people whose lives converge with ours at just one point, for few random moments in a lifetime...

Looking forward to getting hold of your book- Congrats and may many more follow...

padma said...

congrats B G.count on me i shall be the first, to grab one if i get it here.do let me know its availability.All the very best to u.

danielindrupati said...

Dear BG,

Nice to know your book would be out soon. But keep us entertained by your postings on the blog as well. Do take time out to write.

Samathu Iyengaar Ponnu said...

I rem u visiting Mugal Sarai ... I am so proud BG, all the best1

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Echo/Lavanya said...

BG - Good Luck! All the very best! will look out for the book.

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Krishnan said...

Congratulations. Will buy the book soon and get back to you.

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Anubhuti said...

Mr Ghosh, how I wish, I read it when I got it.
I still remember how excited Debashish was after reading it, I never paid attention,had many more things on my mind.
Then it was handed on to my dad to read, he fell in love with it and lost it.
Debashish hounded mom to look for it & eventually bought another copy a few months ago.
As luck would have it, I still didn't read it.
Finally, I read Tamarind city, fell in love with your writing and picked up Chai chai.
If only I read it earlier, things may have been different.
But may be it was for the better after all.
By the way, reading so many of your blogs have given me watery eyes, dark circles and my glasses are back to where they belong.
So much influence in such short time :)