Saturday, July 27, 2013

Read Along: Left From Dhakeshwari by Kunal Sen - Week 1 Discussion Post

Hey guys! Ours is the first stop in the Left From Dhakeshwari Read Along. You can find out all the details of the kick off post and our fellow hosts by going to the link below.

First, a little about the book. Left From Dhakeshwari is actually a collection of nine short stories which are all inter connected with each other. These nine short stories are described as nine tragedies and from what I can tell, each story focuses on a particular theme like urban loneliness, lust, death, sadism, obsession, memories, madness etc. Yeah, tough stuff but that is what makes it so intriguing.


 'Left from Dhakeshwari' is a collection of nine interconnected stories dealing with lust and loneliness, death and obsession, memories and madness.

In the first story, 'We Were Writers', we meet a Bengali film actress, who after her brother’s suicide, returns to her small hometown and reflects upon the life she left behind; in ‘Bomb Church’, Aniruddha tries to piece together his mother’s identity after her mysterious departure; the only clues available in the existential whodunit being: a soap-box, a brown shoe and the statements of five witnesses; while the heartrending 'Salt Lake' recounts an unusual affair between a disfigured girl and a mime-artist with scars of his own. 

The other characters in this collection include a runaway teenage-girl, an agoraphobic writer, a masochistic cosmetic surgeon, a ghostess, identical twins and a manic-depressive housewife. And they are all in search, of a time and place they can call their own. That is perhaps why the title itself, denotes both a time and a place: a point of departure and the forbearer of journeys. 

In his first solo book, Kunal Sen infuses his women with souls of poetesses and a seductive melancholy and arms his men with child-like, romantic sadism. 'Left from Dhakeshwari' is written in a style that straddles between the tragic-dramatic and mildly surrealistic, but remains in the end a book about some remarkably original people and their depths and failings.

This is the first week in the read along so, Sarika and I will be talking a little about the first two short stories in the book.

We Were Writers
This short story seems to be dealing with death of a loved one. A quote by Charles de Lint from Into the Green sums it up perfectly- "Death is a tragedy...but only for the living. We who have died go on to other things." Gublu and Riju in this story are dealing with the death of Babla who was Gublu's brother and Riju's best friend. This story seems to have a mix of emotions. There are a ton of unsaid things between Gublu and Riju. There is anger but also acceptance.

Bomb Church
This story seems to deal with obsession from what I can make out. Aniruddha is determined to find out every single detail from every person imaginable connected to his mother. His mother has been missing since his child hood and all he has are a few glimpses of memories with her. Aniruddha's need to find out more about his mother has taken him to great lengths and I think his obsession will lead to his destruction. There is no contentment in his character even by the end of the story.

In General
The stories were okay, but a little hard for me to get into. It took me time and a few minutes to figure out the Tree of Characters before I actually got what I was reading. Though the themes behind each story came through clearly. The writing was really good. I'm quite intrigued to see how all the stories will intertwine. if they do. Or if they just are.

The cover for Left From Dhakeshwari is really different and unique. It depicts a mime artist and I am most looking forward to the story "Salt Lake" which shows an unusual affair between the mime-artist and a girl with a three inch scar on her cheek. I'm all in for a forbidden romance but yeah seeing that these stories are tragedies I have no hope for a happy ending.

Lastly, I don't read many short stories. I have always preferred reading full length novels. Novella's rarely satisfy me and keep me wanting more. But I can see how short stories have a charm of their own. Still, I am firmly for full length novels.

What did you think of the themes in the book?
How did you find Kunal Sen's writing style?
Do you like the cover?
Do you prefer short stories or full length novels?

Let us know in the comments below :)
And don't forget to stop by the other hosts' posts in the weeks to come.
Happy reading!


  1. YES! I love the cover as well! I dont know why, and this is so random, but it reminds me of the Phantom of The Opera. So does the mime-artist story. I'm weird.

    I know what you mean about novellas. That's definitely the norm, which is why I usually stay away from them, but I read one the other day, by one of my favourite authors, and it rocked! So there are exceptions :)

    I've lost hope for a happy ending too, and I'm a sucker for happy endings :(. This is definitely some heavy reading (emotionally), but its still okay. I guess I cant have happy ending all the time.

  2. I'm not actually into short stories and things as I always need more, or more of the story and deeper background. I think that writers who can create an interesting and full story with little words have true talent. I hope you'll like the rest :)

  3. First of all a very good and thorough post Sarika and Jhanvi. Well I am someone who loves stories happy or sad. I donot get attracted to happy endings as life can take any turn. As the person above me Tanja-Tanychy correctly pointed about the art of telling a story in short really requires a lot of talent. In this novel you will find a few stories which could easily be a full length novel, but they are open ended, such writings are truly a feast for the readers imagination. Now coming to your questions...
    1. The themes in the book are varied but still have a common point "loss" though of different things. The writing also has something in common, its openended, mostly left to ones imagination.

    2. I agree that in the first story it was difficult for you to find out, who was who but once you get a hang of the authors writing it is not too difficult later on. What I loved the most is the snapshot of the current scene on screen followed by a zoom into the story style, I have never read this style before and I truly enjoyed it. the language is good. I have no doubts Kunal Sen is capable of achieving the highest accolades in writing.

    3. The coverpage is indeed brilliant, that too like most of the stories in the book makes you keep guessing.

    4.I love both short stories and long novels. Every story should be told in manner that keeps the reader interested. However Kunal has the talent of converting what could be a full length novel into a story of a few pages, and done it well which is remarkable.

    Looking forward to so much more from the read along and stay tuned for the next post, discussing the next three stories on my blog

  4. Hello S&J,

    I have to say this.. You have conducted it very beautifully, When I saw the 'Tree of characters' I was taken back by so many characters but after looking at it twice or so, I kinda liked it also the idea of it.
    About story 'We Were Writers'-- the unsaid words between Gublu and Riju reminded me of that song 'What hurts the most' by Rascal Flatts. I agree that there is anger, it was vibrating through pages but yes there was acceptance.
    About story - 'Bomb Church' .. well this story was very difficult for me to read because it was too emotional. I liked it though.

    Coming to your discussion:
    1) As you all have pointed out, it's common theme is lost and no matter how much I try to stay away from such books, I always get pulled towards it. They have it's charm.. Losing is part of life and that's what makes a story real so in a way the theme of this book is also 'REAL'. And I am certainly intrigued by it.

    2) Short story have a lot different writing style then a novel, one has to be sure about what to elaborate and what not to. And Kunal Sen, the Author seems to be very well aware of that, His writing is different, precise. As for the first story, it took me time to understand but then I got it nd it was good indeed.

    3) I like the cover for many reasons, it is soothing, it speaks volumes because a mime featured has his eyes closed, as they say one can read you via. eyes so it's hard to read what's going in his mind and he is expressionless, almost stoic. I do wonder will the ending lead to that.

    4)I have read any short story before I started writing one and that all started because of Blogadda's weekend writing contest. Now I do like story stories and I do believe long story or short, it must have good plot, sub-plot etc. The characters should be lively enough. So I am cool with either.

    --> I am a sucker of Happy endings but when I write short stories, I have noticed that my sorties are always broken, there is contentment by the end but the story is tragic in itself so I guess It's like running away from something at the same time trying to hold it. That's how I feel about tragedies. and the stories revolving around it.

    --> I thank you guys for putting up such wonderful questions. I really enjoyed it. Cheers :) :) <3

    Ankita Singhal

  5. Ankita loved your perspective about the cover and the short stories with happy endings......since you write stories your self its amazing how practically you pointed out these facts.

    Great to have you as a co-reader :)

  6. Janhvi and Sarika, thank you to both of you: for your patience with and insight into the book.

    Indeed the stories are all about obsession- in one way or the other- but this obsession manifests itself most unequivocally in ‘Bomb Church’. It was one of the earliest stories I had written for the book and helped set the tone for the rest of it.

    If one is reading chronologically, ‘We Were Writers’ is perhaps, an impervious little story to get first-up, especially since it is steeped more largely in the Bengali milieu than the others, and often runs away with colloquial sentence-constructions and I think you alluded to that somewhere and it’s a point well-made; one could theoretically have started with a more accessible story, like the titular one.

    I understand that you prefer novels also because they quench more. I can see where you’re coming from. From a writer’s perspective, I like short stories for they don’t have to say what they don’t want to say. You can omit a lot, digress and be freer. I find that my stories are getting longer and darker but they remain in the realms of the short story and novelette formats.

    Once again, on behalf of the book, I thank you for the time you gave it. I will try to respond to the others shortly as they make some interesting points too.


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