Tales from the Past 1-Exploring Kolkata

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Princep Ghat

History is fascinating, history is yet unknown and we are still trying to mix and match the jigsaw puzzles of time and events. I have always loved discovering a city on foot, provided its winter and the sun is spreading just the right kind of warmth.

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Great Eastern Bakery.

It was that time of the year when we needed to reconnect to our roots. 31st December and my friends wanted to go for the walk around Kolkata, a city which is full of history and the buildings and streets are all reminiscent of an eventful past. The streets are strewn with stories which had seldom found any mention in the pages of our school history books.

 

The Walk...

The walk took almost three hours, and what an experience it was with friends and a keen historian to regale us with interesting pieces of tit bits of life in the city in 18th & 19th century.We began from Great Eastern Bakery and ended at St. John’s Church.

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Peliti’s restaurant. Chevalier Federico Peliti was a Manufacturing Confectioner, a purveyor of cakes, chocolates etc by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Empress. 2016 (Dec)

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Peliti’s in 1870- Then and now. He started his restaurant and confectionery business in 1870 at 11 Government Place in the Dalhousie Square area of Calcutta.

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Peliti’s Signature Plaque still exists

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Job Charnock’s Mausoleum

 

 

 

 

The stories which enthralled us, revolves around centuries. British advent to Kolkata, the city and its’ inception and the Kolkata then and now. The first ship of ‘The Great Eastern Shipping Company’ and how it landed in Kolkata. The hotel and its name, the beautiful bakery and one Mr. Wilson who introduced the goodies from the west to the aristocrats in Kolkata. How India wove them into its magic of a very divergent culture. A Colony and yet visited by Jules Verne and Mark Twain and then the American connection during WW1.

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This is plate 19 from James Baillie Fraser’s ‘Views of Calcutta and its Environs’. Fraser (1783-1856) arrived in Calcutta in 1814 and in six years produced these animated sketches of the busy city of Calcutta, published later as a collection of 24 superbly aquatinted plates.  A ramp had been built by the side of the Cathedral to allow easy access for palanquins. To the right of the cathedral is the monument to the Rohilla campaign of 1794. Source: British Library (bl.uk)

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St John’s cathedral, built in 1787, was designed by Lieutenant James Agg of the Bengal Engineers and based on the design of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Italian restaurant in Kolkata and the relation with Mr.‘Firpo’. The walk takes you back to decades when evenings would be of  white men and women involved in merrymaking and their club activities. The beautifully curved ornate staircases where the tails of the gowns would sweep the floor, as the ladies proceeded to the dining area. And an eerie feeling as we stare at the trees in the ‘Fancy Street’ where the dacoits and the thagis would be hanged till death (Fnasi-later pronounced as ‘Fancy’ ). The times when Kolkata was ‘Kolikata’ and the river was it’s lifeline.

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Thugees of India, the word ‘Thugs’ probably came from this. They were basically band of robbers who specialized in attacking unsuspecting victims and loot them and kill them, if they resisted.

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A gnarled house in Fancy Street. This street was famous as Thugees were put to death here by the authorities. Once they were caught, they were hanged. The street itself has an eerie feeling and is a favorite place for ghost walkers of Kolkata.

 

Then we walked to the oldest of the sweet shops, and their best palates were tasted. There were many threads and questions linked to history of Kolkata, which was answered in the walk. The storytelling  added more value to the charm of the walk. The stories held us spellbound, as we were left to imagine many a tale where two cultures had come together to give birth to a third kind, where, the one from the foreign land would take 300 years and generations to understand our land and our people.

So, Travellingwings now will travel to other cities and bring in more walks for the future. The marks of history strewn across the cobbled paths and the footsteps we followed on our walk had been there for centuries. We walk to connect these tales from the past and quench the thirst of the minds which enjoy the stories of another era.

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Pic & write up: Mohua Roy.

Historical input : Patha Sarathi Mukherjee.

 

 

 

 

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