The Calcutta Chromosome: Amitav Ghosh


This book has lain with me for ages before I picked it up a couple of months ago. It’s a short, quick read, but very un-Amitav Ghosh, at least un whatever other Amitav Ghosh I’ve read.

The story follows quite a few different threads. Antar, who finds a card belonging to an old acquaintance, L. Murugan. Murugan, who is a big fan of Ronald Ross, the guy who discovered that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. Urmila and Sonali, journalists with a Kolkata magazine. All of them tied together by the mysterious Calcutta Chromosome.

The story skips back and forth, which is meant to spin a web and confuse the reader, but I got the sense that Ghosh got a little confused himself. The science is a lot of gobbledegook, and I confess, I’ve forgotten what exactly the Calcutta Chromosome is. I get the core – it’s an interesting fusion of Eastern philosophy and Western medicine – but too esoteric for my taste.  And add to that ghostly trains and reincarnation and all that, it becomes too much. What is interesting about the book is the history. Ghosh’s research is impeccable, and I learned a lot about Ronald Ross, malaria, colonial India etc. Had he just written a history of malaria, I would have read it.

The Colour of Magic: Terry Pratchett


Twoflower is Discworld’s first tourist. Discworld you know, the world shaped like a disc carried by four elephants on the back of the celestial tortoise A’Tuin lumbering through the universe. Rincewind, a failed wizard from the Unseen University, is his reluctant companion. For company, on adventures of the like the world has never seen before, is Twoflower’s Luggage, an irascible trunk with hundreds of legs and a penchant for eating people it doesn’t like.

The only reason for walking into the jaws of Death is so that you can steal his golden teeth.

Pratchett is the master of the ludicrous, and the book is a series of gag situations, puns and comedy of errors. Having read a surfeit of fantasy books that are oh-so-serious types, it is great fun to read a book which takes classic fantasy tropes and turns them on its head. And the quotable quotes, man! The book is filled with punchlines, some laugh-out-loud types and others that have you marvel at the wittiness of the writer . While Rincewind is endearing as the cowardly wizard who prefers  sixty degrees of separation between himself and adventure, my favourite scenes were those involving the Luggage. It has no dialogue whatsoever, but the absolutely madcap situations it gets embroiled in are hilarious.

I’ve read a few of the Discworld novels here and there, but now I will attempt to make a more formal effort and read all of them. Hope to have at least one review every fortnight or so, so watch out!