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Spot the ugliest
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Chatterjee International on Jawaharlal Nehru Road. A Telegraph picture

The Institute of Indian Interior Designers ended its annual general meeting at Bengal Club last Tuesday with an interactive session on urban aesthetics in Calcutta. Among the participants were adman Ram Ray and Basudeb Chatterjee, a professor of history at Calcutta University who heads the state archives.

Ray stressed the lack of aesthetic sense among Bengalis and cited a survey he has conducted in an apartment block, where most of the residents who hung their washing on their verandahs happened to be Bengalis. This evidence is damning enough and proved that Bengalis did not know what to do with their dirty linen. Okay, even if it is washed linen.

He, however, expressed the hope that now that there are few Bengalis left in Calcutta proper, perhaps the non-Bengalis will make Calcutta a better place to live in.

Chatterjee became nostalgic about the Calcutta of the past and rightly pointed out that hardly anything of the original Maidan exists today.

The discussion ended with the decision to identify some of the ugliest buildings in the city — Rabindra Sadan, Chatterjee International and No. 4 Camac Street being some of them. It would be a very tough competition.

Another suggestion was to invite the public to identify the best buildings in the city, which would later be given awards. That would be far easier.

‘Failed poet’

He says he likes to think of himself as a “failed poet”. “I have always been interested more in the language, scenes and images than in a structured narrative. And though I’ve been fascinated by the works of Joyce, whose Ulysses took me a year to finish, I ended up writing a book, which my friends took two days to read,” says Saikat Majumdar, assistant professor of English literature at Stanford University, whose first novel, Silverfish, was launched on Thursday evening at Crossword Bookstore.

Silverfish dwells on the story of Milan, a retired school teacher in contemporary Calcutta and the widow Kamalini, who “leads a life of stark suffering in a wealthy feudal household in 19th Century, at a time when widow-burning has gone out of practice but widow marriage is far from coming into vogue”.

Also present was writer Amit Chaudhuri, who said very nice things about the author.

But if failed poets take to the novel, what should failed novelists do?

(Contributed by Soumitra Das and Malini Banerjee)

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