I moved back to Kolkata after spending 16 years in Mumbai (with a small stint in Gurgaon) and realised I hardly know my city! I always argued with people claiming that my city is beautiful and is rich in heritage; but in order to justify that I needed to know the history of Kolkata, needed to walk and roam in the lanes and discover the unknown, see how its history is waiting to be told to people. I started my walks with Manjit Singh Hoonjan and he took me to Bow Barracks, showed me Kumartuli and got me elated on my visits to Mullick Bazar flower market and the fish market near Sealdah. That was the beginning. Then I started my Heritage walks with Tathagata Neogi and Anthony Khatchaturian getting to know about the history of Kolkata.
I saw the mess (boarding house) where Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay resided and where the first story of Byomkesh was conceived… remember the mess where Byomkesh sought refuge to catch a drug peddler? The mess is in shambles now, but it’s still there, and I was thrilled. The entire story came alive in front of my eyes!
I had read about the cemeteries in “Gorosthane Sabdhan”; how Feluda (our all-time favourite detective) solves a mystery which revolved around the South Park street cemetery, and a visit was a must. The cemetery turned out to be a huge source of information for me, especially when you see a tomb which clearly has a Hindu influence and get to know about Colonel Charles “Hindu” Stuart who was considered eccentric since he constructed a temple after acquiring a Hindu wife.
I was fascinated to learn about the first Italian restaurant opened in Dalhousie area by Chevalier Federico Peliti (who was an Italian Chef serving the Viceroy Lord Mayo), of which only an engraving on the wall remains. And guess what? I was shown this in the middle of the night during my heritage walk.
I saw the Black pagoda in Kolkata, Madanmohantala in Baghbazar which has the original deity of Madanmohan, and for the first time came to know that St Johns Church has a painting called The Last Supper by Johann Zoffany. After seeing the painting, I realised that it is not an exact replica of da Vinci’s Last Supper and has an Indian touch – with a styled sword, water jugs and water bags made of goatskin. My love for Kolkata just compounded and I have started documenting this journey on my Facebook page called “Kolkatar Katha”.
I am an ardent Ray fan and Aparajito is an all-time favourite! Who can forget Apu’s journey to realise his dreams and his struggle in an unfamiliar city? Yet, he doesn’t give up, he dares to dream big, fantasize, wants to carve a niche for himself. Above all, he doesn’t give up… I think there is a trace of Apu in all of us, and films like this somewhere become synonymous with our lives. Haven’t we left our comfort zone and ventured out to give reality to our dreams? Sarbajaya’s (mother of Apu) wait for her son to come and visit her is now a regular story in most of the households in Kolkata ….
I tried to locate the place where the movie was shot in Kolkata. It shows the location as Patuatola Lane which derives its name from being the quarter of painters or Patuas. It connects Surya Sen Street with MG Road. The area was between College street and Sealdah station, and had a large number of boarding houses catering to the outstation students. Writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay resided in one of the boarding houses when he was a teacher at Khelat Ghosh’s school in Esplanade. Apu too, stayed in one of the boarding houses here, when he came to Kolkata to pursue higher studies. Here are some of the gems I collected during the quest.
Turni Dhar is the National Sales Manager for an imported wine company. After getting her education in Kolkata, she spent 16 years in Mumbai and a year and a half in Gurgaon, before moving back to Kolkata again. Turni is a true Bengali at heart and idolizes Satyajit Ray, loves Uttam Kumar and Kishore Kumar. Her favourite author is Ashapurna Debi but she also loves reading Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sanjib Chattopadhyay and Suchitra Bhattacharya. She loves to sketch, has a penchant for travelling and is passionate about photography. Turni is currently in love with Kolkata’s history.
Pic Courtesy: Turni Dhar
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