In the late 2000s, when the three-decade-long Left Front rule in West Bengal was crumbling, Parimal Bhattacharya began to travel outside the well-trodden urban centres to different parts of the region - from the Sundarbans to tribal Jangalmahal, from the outskirts of Kolkata to villages on the Bangladesh border, from the floodplains of the Hooghly to the forests of Simlipal in neighbouring Odisha. There, he encountered: a woman who was branded a witch because she was listed in the census as literate; an island that vanished famously, only to resurface; a paralysed communist who dreams about the death of a river; a forest community who believe they are descendants of the Harappans; an old millworker and his wife who fight the ghosts of a dead industrial town with laughter; a fisherman uprooted by a river eleven times in twenty years; and many more. This book documents the missing narratives of these 'other' Bengalis, the largely invisible majority beyond the bhadralok that the rest of India knows. Moving between the personal and the political, and between travelogue, journal and memoir, Field Notes from a Waterborne Land takes the reader on a journey across a fascinating land peopled with unforgettable characters
Parimal Bhattacharya, a bilingual writer and translator, teaches in the department of English, Maulana Azad College, Kolkata. He is the author of No Path in Darjeeling Is Straight and Bells of Shangri-La. Nahumer Gram O Onyanyo Museum, published in 2021, is his most recent work in Bangla.