The Last Cake By Chand Ali

“If prepared correctly, a fruitcake can have a shelf life of more than twenty-five years,” chuckled the toothless betel leaf chomping Chand Ali as he mixed perfectly calculated portions of assorted nuts and dried fruits into a massive copper plate. Twelve-year-old Rani and her five-year-old brother Riju peered over the master baker’s shoulders to ask questions…

Playing Brass

Strolling down the Mahatma Gandhi Road from the College Street end towards Howrah Tram Depot in the vibrance of the Kolkata metropolis, one can spot a unique world of orchestral cacophony. Little shops from the colonial days of the British showcase a wide array of musical instruments and jazzy uniforms of starking colours with gilded…

The Red Bus Robbery

In their quest for colonisation, the British faced many tenacious races all over the so-called third world colonies; men and women of varied colour, creed, ethnicity, and metal. Stories of whose bravery and strength are etched in the annals of human history. Of all the people they dealt with, perhaps they found the Bengalis to…

The Last Click

At 141 Surendranath Banerjee Road in the New Market area of Dharamtala, in the post-colonial city of Kolkata, stands a dilapidated building named Photographe. Established in 1840 by famous Calcutta lensman William Howard from Britain, the studio was taken over by the British photographer and traveller duo – Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd and renamed…

The Gatekeeper

Neither very far from the hustle-bustle of the Kolkata city nor very deep in the lap of the South 24 Parganas rural landscape stood an ageing gated community, the Adidham Housing Complex. It was developed in the year 1937, a decade prior to Indian independence. At the time of its inception, the project was a…

The Dom And The Goddess

In the year 1690 on the banks of the river Bhāgirathi-Hooghly locally known as the Kali-Ganga or Ganges in the ancient village of Sutanuti or India’s present-day Kolkata city stood a mesmerising idol of the Hindu Goddess Kali under the shade of a bowing colossal Neem tree. The appearance of the idol was simply bone-chilling. Her…

Chidam

In the heart of the traditional northern localities of India’s Kolkata city, right opposite to the Mukul Bithi Children’s School on the Abhedananda Road previously known as the Beadon Street; survives a hundred-year-old barbershop under the main staircase of an equally antique mansion in a room measuring ten feet by four feet. Rain, hail, or…

Brihospoti’s Clock

In the year 1582 AD the Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, and polymath, from Pisa, Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei discovered that time could be calculated using a pendulum. He inked the blueprint of a wound-up device, which could measure time and changed the history of Christendom. Using his designs, seventy-four years later in 1656,…

Masala Tea

As the clock struck four in the twilight hours every morning, as the slumbering postcolonial Indian city of Kolkata slowly woke up to face another day, Shibnath Sammadar or SS would get busy opening his 150-year-old tea-shanty. Located diagonally opposite the main gate of Scottish Church College, on the north-eastern wall corner of the Hedua…

Maratha Ditch

Savitri hummed the ancient Bengali lullaby – “Khoka ghumalo, para juralo, Bargi elo deshe. Bulbulite dhan kheyechhe, khazna debo kishe? (My boy has fallen asleep, silence has set in the locality, the Bargis have come to our state. Passerine songbirds have eaten the rice grains, how shall I pay my taxes?) She was trying to make…