Pan Macmillan India
|Number of Pages
Bawdy and brilliant, Kalkatta is a compelling story of outsiders looking in - Mohammed Hanif
A riveting novel, timely, thought-provoking, insightful - Sharmila Tagore
Jami is the Gigolo King of Kalkatta. Smuggled into India from Bangladesh and given refuge by his uncle, a leader of the ruling Communist Party, he grows up in Zakaria Street - a Little Baghdad of the old-dreaming of becoming a pukka Kalkatta-wallah. When friendship with a local gang disqualifies him from school, he ends up as assistant to a passport forger, and then a masseur. Soon enough,innocent massage leads to 'plus plus treatments', and Kalkatta opens its doors, drawing Jami into the world of the rich and famous, housewives, tourists and travelling executives, and occasionally to high-paying and dangerous 'parties'. Danger looms, too, from rivals and the police, and the ever-present risk of losing his cover. Jami's shadowy double life takes a turn for the unexpected when he meets Pablo, a young boy who suffers from leukemia, and his single mother Mandira. Made to oscillate between his refugee family, the neighbourhood gang, his massage-parlour clients, even the cultured world of Bengali intellectuals inhabited by Mandira, he succeeds in becoming a true Kalkatta-wallah, but a stranger to himself. Until his love for Pablo threatens to destroy everything, and drive him away even from his beloved Kalkatta.
Kunal Basu was born in Kolkata and educated in India and the United States. He is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, and 'The Japanese Wife' from his collection of stories by the same name has been made into an award-winning film. He lives in Oxford and Kolkata.