Janes Walk Kolkata


Janes Walk Kolkata

The day started real early, even though it was a Sunday the work at home was no less. It started with a heritage walk at around 7.30 in the morning followed by other engagements and finally it came to Jane’s Walk. By now I was really tired but I somehow convinced myself to push on for the day as I knew it would be something really different.

The walk on this evening the 8th of May 2016 was in memory of Jane Jacobs. Before we go any further it’s important to get some details about her and why was this walk dedicated to her. Jane Jacobs (1916 – 2006) was a very famous Canadian / American journalist but apart from this, she was an activist. Throughout her life, she fought for the life of a neighbourhood. She believed in the essence of every neighbourhood and its own uniqueness that it holds on its own along with its people.

  Jane Jacobs – (Photo Courtesy - New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper)
Jane Jacobs – (Photo Courtesy – New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper)

The walk started on time with a brief introduction from Iftekar Ahsan from Calcutta Walks. The crowd got to know why this walk was being done. Usually, during the walk, I stay at the back often trying to understand the pulse of the crowd and on this particular evening I could feel the excitement in each of the participants. Everyone was expecting something different. Honestly for me I have been to several walks in this part of the town and I was expecting something more than what I had already experienced.

This walk was everything to do with the city of Calcutta or Kolkata, personally, for me, I prefer to call it Calcutta as it has its own nostalgic value. Calcutta similar to its Canadian counterpart is considerably a new urban city when you compare with historic cities like Varanasi, Agra, Allahabad etc. even though its considerably new it has its own colonial past and this is unparalleled to any other city in India.

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Proposed Route Plan for the Evening

Similar to the walk were planning to take another group of walkers were scheduled to take the similar Janes Walk in Canada at Toronto. The two cities have similarities when we talk about urban lifestyle. Both Calcutta and Toronto were cities of arrival. Calcutta started getting its share of immigrants in 1800s whereas Toronto had its share in the 1900s. Both of these cities saw its own share of immigrants who slowly settled and called this place its home.

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Iftekar Briefing the Participants

Our first unscheduled stop was in front of about a century old library, even though it was small in size but its presence as a part of the heritage of the city is worth every brick that it’s made of. Unfortunately as with most of these old institutions, this place remains locked for most time of the day and very few has ever seen it operating. This calls to the question to all heritage lovers playing an active role in the restoration of these heritage sites.

Kapali Bandhob Library
Kapali Bandhob Library
Kapali Bandhob Library – Loved This Wonderful Concrete Globe Outside
Kapali Bandhob Library – Loved This Wonderful Concrete Globe Outside

Next stop we head towards Bow Barracks, but before we enter we stopped in front of the Buddha Dharmankur Sabha. Calcutta at one point in history was at the forefront of Buddhist revival in the country, this was mainly due to the fact that Calcutta was the capital city of British India and this was the most well-connected city at one point.

Moving towards the famous Anglo-Indian town of Bow Barracks. This was actually a garrison built by the British to house the allied soldiers during World War 1, later the quarters were given to the local Anglo-Indians to settle. It took me back to my childhood when I was told many stories about this place by my grandmother. My great grandfather was in the Calcutta Police and during the British Raj this place was the hot bed of activities. Now, of course, this is a different Bow Barracks but the close-knit community feeling still remains.

Children Enjoying a Game of Cricket at Bow Barracks
Children Enjoying a Game of Cricket at Bow Barracks
Life Goes On For the Anglo Indian Community at Bow Barracks
Life Goes On For the Anglo-Indian Community at Bow Barracks
Rickshaw at Bow Barracks the Picture Perfect Moment
Rickshaw at Bow Barracks the Picture Perfect Moment

Ironically this Bow Barracks is the same place where my grandmother was brought after she passed away to be embalmed at L. Madeira & Co. one of the only two private places in Kolkata where embalming are done. This time, when I walk passed the gate I could see the photograph of Mr. Madeira hung on the wall, another irony I guess.

A Grotto at Bow Barracks
A Grotto at Bow Barracks
Classic Red Brick Walls of Bow Barracks
Classic Red Brick Walls of Bow Barracks
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Anybody for a Glass of Aam Panna Sharbat?

Walking past Weston Street we stop for a cup of tea when it’s Calcutta the tea is obviously served in an earthen tea cup. These types of tea cups are exclusive to this part of the country and I have had many friends coming from other cities marvelling at the recycle properties of these cups.

All around This Part of the Neighbourhood the Walls Are Filled With These Gibberish Graffiti
All around This Part of the Neighbourhood the Walls Are Filled With These Gibberish Graffiti
A Cup of Bhaar Chai at Weston Street
A Cup of Bhaar Chai at Weston Street
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Found This for Sale at a Kabadi Wala (Junk Dealer) in Weston Street
A Buried Cannon at Metcalfe Street
A Buried Cannon at Metcalfe Street

Taking the right to Metcalfe Street we stop in front of the Zoroastrian Fire Temple better known as D B Mehta’s Zoroastrian Anjuman Atash Adaran. I feel no shame to admit that this was for the very first time that I had seen this fire temple. Decorated with fish Rangoli at the entrance which they consider as a symbol of good luck this temple was a place of peace, there was hardly anyone inside the only noise was our footsteps going around the different rooms.

D B Mehta's Zoroastrian Anjuman Atash Adaran – Zoroastrian Fire Temple
D B Mehta’s Zoroastrian Anjuman Atash Adaran – Zoroastrian Fire Temple
Fish Rangoli Outside Zoroastrian Fire Temple
Fish Rangoli Outside Zoroastrian Fire Temple
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The Zoroastrian Fire Symbol at the Temple Gates
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A Room inside the Zoroastrian Fire Temple

I was even lucky to see a Parsi gentleman performing “Padyab-kusti” which is the ritual ablution followed by the ritual untying and retying of the Kusti (Sacred cord worn around the waist by Zoroastrians).

Parsi Gentleman Performing "Padyab-kusti”
Parsi Gentleman Performing “Padyab-kusti”

Just bang opposite to the Parsi Fire Temple is the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana. I was aware of the huge philanthropic work done by Aga Khan Foundation but never knew they had a heritage assembly point in this city. While entry is restricted we were lucky to find Mr. and Mrs. Sherif who are followers of the Aga Khan doctrine and were very kind enough to give us in impromptu brief about the work of the foundation and the basic concept of the sect.

Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana
Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana
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Mrs. Sherif Explain the Philosophies of Aga Khan
Some Members of Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana
Some Members of Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana

Now we were taking the lanes and by lanes towards Tiretti Bazar the old Chinatown of the city. If you happen to be here in the morning hours you will be up for a treat with some authentic Chinese Breakfast. Unfortunately, it was late evening and we had other plans for the day.

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Some More of the Gibberish Graffiti
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Priceless isn’t it?

There are quite a few Chinese Temples around this vicinity and the one nearest is Sea Ip Church. This is the place where for the first time I saw Chinese Newspaper which has been printed in my city of Calcutta. Yes, you have heard it right, Calcutta is perhaps the only city in this country with a Chinese Language newspaper. On the first floor, the century old temple has some fine example of Chinese porcelain works and of course the intricate wood carvings.

An Elderly Chinese Gentleman Reading a Chinese Newspaper Inside Sea Ip Church
An Elderly Chinese Gentleman Reading a Chinese Newspaper Inside Sea Ip Church
Porcelain Buddha in the Second Floor of Sea Ip Church
Porcelain Buddha in the Second Floor of Sea Ip Church
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Offerings to the Deity at Se Ip Church
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The Deity at Se Ip Church

I knew that the board game Mahjong was very popular amongst the Chinese but never knew that there was a club in my city where players from the Chinese community come and play them in the evening. And since it was Sunday we could hear the clattering of Mahjong tiles. Without wasting any time I head straight to the first floor. It was a small room with around four Mahjong tables, however, there were only four players thus only one Mahjong table was used. The patrons of the club were quite helpful and let me photograph them playing the game and even paused their game for us to look around.

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Mahjong Players Busy In Their Game
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Mahjong Tiles

By now the whole group had walked a lot and it was time for us to connect to our Canadian counterpart via video chat. What a better place to do this than the Sabirs Hotel at Chandni Chowk. As we enjoyed the famous Chicken Rizalla we got connected to our Canadian counterpart at Toronto going through a similar Janes Walk through the neighbourhood discovering its own unique heritage.

Bisti – Goat Skin Water Supplier at Tiretti Bazar
Bisti – Goat Skin Water Supplier at Tiretti Bazar
Street Vendors at Tiretti Bazar
Street Vendors at Tiretti Bazar
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The Canadian Jane’s Walk Team via Video Conference

The day ended but the memories will I guess linger forever, I would like to thank Iftekar Ahsan for leading the group to a fantastic evening and to Preeti Roychoudhury for inviting me to this walk.

Janes Walk Featured on The Telegraph – 5th June 2016
Janes Walk Featured on The Telegraph – 5th June 2016

 

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Janes Walk Featured on The Telegraph – 5th June 2016

http://epaper.telegraphindia.com/paper/20-24-05@06@2016-1001.html

 

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23 thoughts on “Janes Walk Kolkata

  1. Really enjoyed reading this post 🙂 You’ve captured some interesting aspects of Kolkata through your experience, especially the part about Chinese breakfast and newspapers. I’m travelling to Kolkata in June, do you think it’s a good idea to try the Chinese breakfast when I’m there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks….yeah surely Chinese Breakfast is a must. Apart from this you can do the 1) European Heritage 2) Chinatown 3) Park Street 4) Heritage Cemeteries 5) Heritage Churches etc… When you come to Kolkata just connect with me will guide you all the places where you can go 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely walk…I knew Kolkatta has lot of history to talk about & discover. But never ever read about any heritage walk. Will undertake one during my next visit to Kolkatta!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much, that’s very kind of you.. subhadip. I have been to Kolkatta twice, but to attend social functions. My first impression was that it has lot of character. incidentally, I do have connection with Kolkatta via my ancestry -work!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pretty interesting read. I guess I need to make a trip to Kolkatta and explore all those addresses mentioned in books of my ancestors dating back to 1850-1875 AD. Will eb interesting

        Liked by 1 person

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