Representing Kolkata : A Study of 'Gaze' Construction in Amit Chaudhuri's Calcutta: Two Years in the City and Bishwanath Ghosh's Longing Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta
Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities
Indian travel writings in English exclusively on Kolkata have been rare even though tourist guidebooks such as the Lonely Planet have dedicated sections on the city. In such a scenario, Amit Chaudhuri's Calcutta: Two Years in the City (2016) and Bishwanath Ghosh's Longing Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta (2014) stand out as exceptions. Both these narratives, written by probashi (expatriate) Bengalis, represent Kolkata though a bifocal lens. On the one hand, their travels are a journey
... avels are a journey towards rediscovering their Bengali roots and on the other, their representation/construction of the city of Kolkata is as hard-boiled as any seasoned traveller. The contention of this paper is that both Chaudhuri and Ghosh foreground certain selected/predetermined signifiers that are common to Kolkata for the purpose of their representation which are instrumental in constructing the 'gaze' of their readers towards the city. This process of 'gaze' construction is studied by applying John Urry and Jonas Larsen's conceptualization of the 'tourist gaze'. Borrowing the Foucauldian concept of 'gaze', Urry and Larsen state that 'gazing' is a discursive practice that is both constituted by the filters of the gazer's cultural moorings as well as the institutionalized mechanisms of the travel/tourism industry which rely significantly on the deployment of signs and signifiers to construct the 'gaze' of the travellers and the tourists towards a tourist destination. The present paper seeks to analyze how both Chaudhuri and Ghosh use 'selective' signifiers of the city of Kolkata to construct the 'gaze' of their readers towards the city in their representation.