Chai Chai Bishwanath Ghosh

Book Review of Chai, Chai

The book ‘Chai, Chai’ was published back in 2009, but we didn’t know about the book or the author till 2020. Parna was the one who came to know about the book and the author from a Facebook Book Club she follows. In this article, she has attempted a very humble review of this out-of-box travelogue by Bishwanath Ghosh.

We usually don’t read a lot of travelogues – but this book is outstanding – it neither has any boring information nor narcissistically boasts of the author’s traveling feats. It’s a travel tale by an author who would influence his readers to join him, albeit virtually on his train journeys through India’s different parts. 

Summary of the book ‘Chai, Chai’

If you are a regular passenger on Indian trains, the call, “Chai, Chai” will be quite familiar to you. This is how the tea hawkers go on calling for their prospective customers on trains. This is one call that unites all the Indian railway stations, the railway tracks, the railway compartments and all the things that is associated with the Indian Railways or as put by the author himself, “…. fiercely independent states within cities and towns, insulated from the local flavour, as if there are territories of a common colonial master sitting in Delhi, which they are anyway”.

Cover Image of the book 'Chai, chai'
Cover Image of the book ‘Chai, Chai

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In this journey across India, Bishwanath Ghosh has stopped in the important junctions and halted a day or two in those places to explore them. The very junctions where the passengers stop but never get off. As owned up by himself, he wanted to discover the real social and physical texture of the junctions which lay beyond being just important Indian railway junctions.

A train on the railway track as described in the book 'Chai, chai'.
A train on the railway track as described in the book ‘Chai, chai’.

We can see that the junctions he went to – Mughal Sarai, Jhansi, Itarsi, Guntakal, Arakkonam, Jolarpettai, and Shoranur; showcased varied characteristics of the locals who live there. The descriptions of each place were in detail, so much so that you would feel that you are with the author in that place at that moment.

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Personal takeaways from the book ‘Chai, Chai’

  • Bishwanath Ghosh has used witty sentences and optimal humour blend with sarcasm in the travelogue.
  • The language is simple. The flow is dynamic. There’s no place in the book where you would feel bored and would want to stop reading altogether.
  • The stark cultural differences between Northern India and South India were not pointed out, but they were evident in how he flowed with his narrative.
  • Parna especially liked how he had described the hotel rooms, bar environments and eateries he had visited during the journey. To quote the author, “Random hotels do give a weird sense of thrill’. She would continue to relate the author’s trysts with the random hotels’ checking-in in the times to come.
  • The expressions of the true fragrance of India mesmerized Parna throughout the book as she turned the pages.
  • It is a highly recommended book for the readers searching for good English non-fiction and travelogues written by Indian authors.

One thing which we would have liked in ‘Chai, Chai’:

  • If the author could make a stop in any junction in the east as well as west India, maybe Howrah and Bharuch, and included the experience in the book.

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