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Abdul's Taxi To Kalighat: Impressions of Calcutta Paperback – 25 Jan 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (25 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861972822
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861972828
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,650,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Where's Kalighat? In Calcutta, it's home to a temple for the much-worshipped Indian goddess Kali. A fearful sight, she's a "black-skinned woman with blazing eyes" and blood dripping from her protruding tongue. Devotees give offerings to encourage her to scare away demons. As a symbol, Kali is representative of the bustling city of Calcutta in all its vibrancy and extremity, a city which Joe Roberts vividly evokes in this sensitive travel book.

Joe, wife Emma and baby son Llewelyn moved to Calcutta for five months to experience its rich intensity. What they found was a city that "despite its poverty and overcrowding" is "grand, battered and soulful". Roberts's book tells the story of their stay, of the history, art and culture of the place as well as the idiosyncrasies of the various characters they meet. A post-colonialist languor tinges the world in which they move.

Roberts, who also wrote about India in Three Quarters Of A Footprint, pulls no punches, describing the upsetting poverty that exists in this melting pot--a point of view counterbalanced by Llewelyn, who doesn't view Calcutta with western eyes and values. Punctuating the book are the Roberts family's trips around the city driven by Abdul, a friendly taxi driver. He helps them distinguish his Calcutta from the one that's the target of so many western negative judgements, and after reading this perceptive work you may be able to distinguish it too. --Anna Hornsey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Roberts is a fine writer and his portrait of the city is recommended reading.." -- Time Out, March 8, 2000

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 24 Feb. 2000
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has never been there, this book conveyed to me the smells, the sounds, the sheer scale of this great city, as well as something of its social composition and history (and food too for those who are interested). The language and style is eminently readable, the pace sustained - neither hurried not languid. A good read for an armchair traveller.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant evocation of this most captivating city. It is nothing like the hell-hole many people imagine, but is vibrant, welcoming and often beautiful. Joe Roberts has an eye for the absurd and really brings the characters and locations to life as we follow him round the city with his wife and infant son in tow. I've already booked my flight for a third visit, with new places to find thanks to Roberts' telling descriptions. Don't miss his earlier book 'Three Quarters of a Footprint' about South India.
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Format: Hardcover
Abdul's Taxi To Kalighat is one of the best books I have read on this multi-dimensional and split-personalited city. Joe Roberts, through his wonderful prose where humour, empathy and perception blend to delight the reader, draws marvellous pen-pictures of his perception of a much applauded and a much-maligned reality in India made famous by the British Raj and Mother Teresa.
Roberts looks beyond the grime and poverty of Calcutta. His sharp eyes and an incisive mind explore the subtle nuances of the city, whether it is through its people or its past history. Both fascinate Roberts in large measure and he is unapologetic about the city's innate vitality and character that is often viewed by foreigners as sad and lonely.
Joe Roberts' Calcutta has many layers. Much of the city's magic enchants him through the various people he and his family meet and make friends with. He is open to experiences, not all of them positive, but he is pragmatic about his views that are candid and look at the positive side of Calcutta.
I hope this book will be read by everyone who wants to visit this city or know more about such a volatile destination. I am sure Abdul's Taxi will give him a comfortable ride - without frills, without the patronising smirk of Western travellers - but the way the city really is: full of talkative and delightful citizens, redolent with memories of the past and quite, quite beautiful beaneath its carapice of poverty and crowds and grime!
Abdul's Taxi To Kalighat is the best tribute a Westerner could have paid to Calcutta and it is certainly one of the most exciting tomes on the city I have read in the last decade.
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