Rogues and rebels’: Night walking, nostalgia and decadence in Postcolonial Calcutta

SARI Adda Seminar Series

Date: 7 November 
Time: 12.30pm
Venue: Institutes Boardroom, 1.12 Coombs Extension, Building 8

Registration is free and essential on Eventbrite. 

This paper looks at the practice of night walking in the modern city, and a strong nostalgia for such nocturnal perambulations that confront some of the assumptions about Calcutta nightlife, largely built upon the colonial stereotype of the ‘city of dreadful nights’, carried forward from pre-independence Calcutta with its vivid memories of riots, anti-social activities after the blackouts during the World War years, and conspiracies against government in the thickness of the night. They were grafted onto the postcolonial urban nightscape in tumultuous times of social unrest after the 1947 Partition. This presentation explores some of the unorthodox spatial practices that emerge in the decadent nostalgia for the night among the post-independence Krittibas generation of writers, often recorded and extensively revisited in poems, specially their anecdotes of adda or male sociality and endless drunken walks on the city streets at midnight. Krittibas, a little magazine published in 1953 under the joint editorship of Sunil Gangopadhyay, Ananda Bagchi and Dipak Mazumdar as a platform for young experimental poets, eventually became a trailblazer of a literary subculture in the next couple of decades following the independence. The poets of this generation were known for their strident opposition to literary establishments in their creative practices, and their transcultural friendship with the Beat poets of America, that locked them into an inexorable conflict with canonical traditions. The presentation examines how night walking among the Krittibasis remytholgized the nocturnal landscape of the city, by charting an alternative cartography which is both subversive and transformative in its potential.

Bio-note: Anuparna Mukherjee is a PhD candidate in SLLL. She represented ANU at the Cambridge AHRC conference on ‘Time and Temporality’ and recently guest-edited with Arunima Bhattacharya a special issue of Sanglap on ‘City, Space and Literature’.

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