Durjoy Datta is only 28 years old and is already considered one of the best-selling authors in the country. However, Datta doesn't stop at just writing books. He has also written the scripts of two television shows, Sadda Haq and Veera, which are successfully running on Indian television. Dutta, who was in Kolkata to launch his 11th novel, World's Best Boyfriend, spoke to us on his new book, his style of writing and more.

    This is your 11th novel. Why did you choose this title? 
    (Laughs). The story was about a couple, who should not be together but are together. I was constantly confused between world's worst boyfriend and world's best boyfriend because it could have been both ways. I had initially titled it World's Worst Boyfriend but someone in the editorial pointed out that it would have been too negative. So, I said let's give a title that has both the words. Later, I replaced worst with best, to make it sound more dramatic (smiles).

    You have been consistently coming up with novels since your first book. Is there a constant pressure of coming up with new ideas that will strike a chord with the readers?
    (Pauses). There's a pressure to tell a new story every time. There's no pressure as such when it comes to connecting with people. But then it's important for me to write a book that is not a reflection of my earlier books. That's something, which I had done for my first three books as I was getting into a comfort zone. My stories revolved around the lives of the same people. People still keep asking me when the next Deb and Avantika book will come out. I can write three more books about them but it's not going to be new to me. I am glad that I moved out of my comfort zone.

    What's special about your latest book?
    I have always portrayed all the characters in my earlier works as extraordinarily good looking. I wanted to move away from that. A lot of writers, including me have made this mistake of describing a person by how they look and what they are. I wanted to make that conscious change of not judging people by their looks. I have been at the receiving end and I have had some really mean nicknames as I used to be the heaviest and darkest in my class. I wanted to change that approach through this book.

    You were a good student and were studying engineering. What made you choose writing as a profession?
    (Cuts in) I started writing a blog in 2006. I used to bully a lot of people into reading my works and they eventually started liking it. Then, they started asking me to give writing books a serious thought. Initially, I never felt that my works would get published because during those days getting a publisher meant you had to be one of 'these writers' (Laughs out loud). Eventually, my book was published and I was very happy. However, I never stopped being a nerd. I was always into engineering and clearing entrance exams. I knew I had to get a job. It was only after I was sure that I didn't want to pursue a career in engineering, did I think of taking up writing as a full-time profession.

    You have been writing for about eight years now. Do you think one has to reach a certain age before being recognised as a good writer?
    Oh my god, eight years (laughs)? I don't think there is any age to be a good writer but I think my work got published way early. All the good writers get published in their thirties. In my case, I am writing as well as reading all the time, which means I do not have the requisite training to churn out books that are as good as the other 30-year-old writers, who are probably writing their first book now. So, in that sense, I am behind them. Every time I see a new writer, I check out their age first and when did they write their first book? (Breaks into a laugh)

    How do you react to criticism when it comes to your style of writing?
    I really don't count those remarks where I am portrayed as a person who writes grammatically incorrect English because I don't. The only thing that I feel writers like us lack is delivering a particular message in those many words. As a writer, I feel I lack the ability to portray an emotion in less than two sentences. So, I take a paragraph to convey it.

    Given that your books are doing well, was there a need to write for television?
    People kept telling me that I was writing my books too fast and I should slow down. (laughs out loud) Just kidding! There were a lot of people who wanted me to write for television. I could relate to the stories and thought of giving it a try.

    Any Bollywood projects up your sleeve?
    Bollywood is a very slow industry! It's not slow because the producers are slow. It's slow because of the writers.

    What next?
    My next book is again a love story (smiles). I am yet to come up with a title.

Rediscover the charm of the places that were Delhi's hotspots in the 1950s

Despite the mushrooming of modern buildings and Dubai-style satellite cities teeming with skyscrapers, Delhi continues to retain its old charm. The city of ancient civilizations and sultanates that became the seat of British rule has fascinated historians and poets for centuries. Remnants of its past grandeur and heritage continue to shine diamond-like within the squalor and chaos of the modern metropolis. From Humayun’s Tomb to Qutub Minar, to the walled city and Lutyens’ Delhi, the juxtaposition of the old and the new is what gives Delhi its unique character. KS Rajendran, professor, National School of Drama and director of plays set in the Mughal era says, “I always tell everyone that history is geography in Delhi. Every street that you walk on you will see a tomb, a relic or something that takes you back to its past. That’s the charm of exploring Delhi.”

But Delhi isn’t just about medieval mausoleums and crumbling fort walls. New cafés and malls might open every other day in the national capital, but older meeting places dating back to the Raj continue to draw a loyal clientele. On the eve of Republic Day, let’s rediscover the city as it once was.


Bioscopic Memories

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Founded in 1932, Regal cinema has preserved its charming old interiors. It boasts of a grand staircase, sepia-toned posters and box style seating for groups of six people — a feature scarcely seen in newer cinemas.

Why you must visit: The ambience may seem old fashioned to those used to multiplexes, but that’s part of the charm. Besides, no multiplex can offer a glimpse of both Mughal and Victorian architecture.

Historic anecdote: India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and British India’s last Governor General Lord Mountbatten have both visited the hall.

Pocket Pinch: Rs 50 -Rs 120 for tickets

Where: Ground Floor, Regal Building, Connaught Place


Date With The Past

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For anyone interested in the country’s historic past, the National Museum, set up in 1949, is one of the most obvious places to visit. The museum currently stocks about two lakh items. The institution was inaugurated at Rashtrapati Bhavan by the last Governor General of India, C Rajagopalachari. Nehru laid the foundation stone at its current location in 1955.

Why you must visit: The museum covers more than 5,000 years of cultural history not just of India, but of the world.

Historic anecdote: The idea to set up the museum in Delhi came from a successful exhibition of Indian artifacts at the Royal Academy in London in 1947.

Entry fee: Rs 10 for Indian citizens.

Where: National Museum, Janpath 


Food Stop

Parathey Wali Gali in old Delhi is one of the most ancient food streets of the country, with the first paratha shops being set up here as early as in 1870. Though only a handful of shops now remain, the street continues to be on the must-visit list of foreign tourists who enjoy the numerous varieties of parathas served on pattals and knock back kulhars of frothy milk.

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Why you must visit: For close to 300 years, the place has been serving delicious food. Since these excellent eating places refuse to be co-opted by the dial-a-meal culture, foodies have no option but to make the trip.

Historic anecdote: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Babu Jagjivan Ram and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit all visited the lane for parathas.

Pocket Pinch: Parathas cost between Rs 15-35

Where: Parathey Wali Gali, Chandni Chowk


Khaas Food, Aam Prices

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Karim’s dates back to the era of the last Mughal emperor, the tragic Bahadur Shah Zafar. Set up by the khaansamas to royalty, the restaurant was at its peak during the 1940s.

Why you must visit: During the presidentship of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Karim’s often delivered food to Rastrapati Bhavan

Historic anecdote: In 1911, soon after the British shifted the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, Karim’s set up shop to attract those visiting the city for King George V’s Delhi Durbar.

Pocket Pinch: Rs 800 (approx) for a meal for two

Where: Karim’s Hotel, Gali Kababiyan, Jama Masjid


Mithai Fit For The Mughals

Fascinating stories swirl around the legendary mithai shop, Ghantewala, established in 1790. Legend has it that Mughal emperor Shah Alam named the shop as it was situated near a school bell. Another story talks about how kings would stop their elephants near the shop to treat themselves to sweets.

Why you must visit: Unlike any modern confectioner, this place resolutely avoids frills and fancies.

Historic anecdote: Mughal emperors and modern political leaders like Morarji Desai have visited Ghantewala. During the Emergency, the shop was shut down as good quality besan or gram flour was unavailable.

Pocket Pinch: The famous Sohan Halwa is Rs 598/kg, most mithais Rs 498/kg

Where: 1862-A, Chandni Chowk


Vintage Coffee

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Established in 1957, Indian Coffee House isn’t quite as old as the republic of India, but it still harks back to a gentler era. A must-visit for its nostalgic air, sip on steaming beverages and nibble on toast served by turbaned waiters.

Why you must visit: It’s been included in the 25 Authentic Asian Experiences list by the Time magazine.

Historic anecdote: Freedom fighters and political leaders often gathered here to discuss important political developments.

Pocket Pinch: If nothing else, the prices on the menu card will definitely take you back in time. In the age of exorbitant macchiatos and Irish coffees, the Indian Coffee House still serves coffee for Rs 15. A cutlet will set you back by Rs 13!

Where: Mohan Singh Place, Connaught Place


Heritage Stops

Bring To Book | The oldest library in Delhi, Hardayal Municipal Library, was established in 1862, as part of an exclusive reading club for Europeans, it was later opened to Indians. With a collection of about 1.5 lakh books, it also stocks about 6,000 rare books that are at least a century old. Where: Old Delhi Railway Station, Gandhi Maidan, Chandni Chowk

Musically Yours | The music shop A Godin and Co was originally established in Quetta in 1900, the first city branch was opened at Kashmere Gate in 1940, and was later shifted to its current location. The shop sells sitars, harmoniums and tablas. It has been visited by Elton John and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Where: Regal Building, Parliament Street


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