Sunday 26 June 2016

For whom the bells toll -
The changing story of the poor trouser.

June of 2016.
“...and therefore never send to know for whom the bells toll;
it tolls for thee."
- John Donne.

Well, you must have from the subject line (and not getting distracted by the quote) observed that this is no philosophical piece of writing, but of a completely different paradigm not even remotely connected with anything serious or anything of any value whatsoever! I own this blog and therefore I have the right to write...right or wrong.

This was intended to be an odd piece on men’s fashion...yes! but with no well-knit (pun intended) plot or theme, this may rather become a disorganised scribble...if you may.  The reader has the right to discard the writing and discontinue the reading, but if you do not...oh, thank you so much, I would rather say a few things on men’s clothing. And the bell I referred to is related to the bell bottom trousers! In the age of less (top less, bottom less ...sense less and the likes), how one may attempt a blog on trouser cut is a moot question. But now since I have had placed a caveat that I am writing just like that, hence I shall make no attempt to defend the motive or the motivation behind such indiscretion as this.

Coming back to the point, one of my friends once told me (and rightly so) that there is nothing called ‘latest fashion’ per se ...and do not care about what others are doing...just go as you like.

I read that fashion in literal sense is defined as a popular style or practice ...and popularity itself is wholly a game of average and of mass. Not necessarily of class ...and certainly less of individuality.  Then one may ask what one may dress to stand apart from the banal crowd? (Banal was the very word mentioned to me by a world famous photographer when he revisited India in the recent times after the 1970s and found that the Indian dressing has been largely replaced by common place western outfits thus making the scenario a lot less Indian in essence). And he missed the old uniqueness. The ‘latest fashion’ had spoilt the scene.

Coming back to the question of being unique and more individual what one may attempt - dress up weirdly? Wear loud colours? Less-than-conventional-combinations? Odd cuts and fits...try something akin to that clichéd ‘different’...I mean what’s the secret??  The answer is why should someone want to look different in clothing? Is that what personality, gait and confidence have stooped down to!?  I believe no. Unless of course one makes a business or career out of show business or has an obligation to impress any one or an audience by his or her outfits. Then it is a different story.

My humble take is we look best in a dress in which we love to see ourselves in front of the mirror! And of course without offending the sense and sensibilities in doing so. The definition again is largely subjective and I have no obligation to define it better as this is no dictionary page.

In all these preludes, we forgot the humble trouser to whom this blog is dedicated to. When I say trouser, it is not to be mistaken with a 'legging' and which does not serve as a pair socks on the bottom end! If you observe the latest fashion, you will appreciate why I made my point explicit.

I remember one of my friends went to a reputed tailor (of considerable pedigree) with his slippers on and they politely asked him to come back wearing a pair of formal boots /shoes so that the ‘fall’ of the trouser can be rightly calibrated. And that fall has largely vanished in the recent times in the race for slimmer cuts and skinny affairs.

(All these images depict the classic flares and bell-bottomed boot-cuts.)

When I asked the rationale of the shrinking matter to a few – one of them (an engineer) told me that the bottom end of the trouser is like the sinusoidal curve – historically it has increased and decreased in cycles and now we are at the bottom of the curve – we shall go up, soon. Another person (a business man) told me that the clothing companies actually reduce the cloth consumption in making tight, skin fit trousers, thus improving their bottom-line while affecting the poor trousers’ bottom line. And then there were practical people who worried on the difficulty of changing skinny trousers at the time of dire emergency. God save the modern men.

And what about the density of the cloth material? Off late I have also observed the chinos and shirts and other outfits have become increasingly and perceivably thinner and lighter it for the torrid, tropical weather which is to be blamed to make the differentiating line between trousers and pyjamas thinner? My business-man friend again came to my rescue and opined that it is again for the business bottom line. And advertising flimsy, thin cloth materials as ‘fine’ will woo the buyer - that was planned. It did.

Quick quizzing:
(If some of the cuts are termed as ‘comfort fit’ ; Can we assume the slims are of ‘discomfort fit’ ?)

(The impeccable cuts and fits of yester-years) 

So in all these games the big brands play in wrapping us up, how do we choose a right material (assuming we want to remain dressed) and fit when the department stores are stacked-up with over-priced, largely unimpressive stocks of limited cuts and fits?  Well, there is no panacea or a full-proof answer. One may opt more for tailored dresses ...and for me – being a old fashioned man with an instinct of a collector and taking some pride in my ability to research – I hunted at the factory outlets and old stocks! And just akin to cutting a long cloth short - to cut a long story short without further prolong, I list here the cuts /fits of three most popular jeans brands which I found ‘classic’ and graceful as in the good, old times.  If this odd article rings a ‘bell’ in you and invoke any degree of longing for gracious trouser cuts 'falling' nicely on your boots may try these on:

Lee – Chicago.
Wrangler – Texas.
Levis – L503 (Boot-cut).

My recent correspondences and liaison with some of the popular brands evoked mixed response. Some of them said they have discontinued the straight, parallel, wide fits...some of them offered no assurance to bring the boot-cuts back ...while a brand confirmed they will revive the classic trouser cuts in a years’ time!

While some of you enjoy your skinny legging in the hallucination of a men’s trouser or fume in frustration, just carry the measuring tape with you during your next visit to the apparel store. If the bottom end of the trouser is anything less than 9 inches on one side, your are preparing for a slim and trim matter - or a conceited cut (except for slim fit suits). The fun starts from 9 and goes to anything beyond 10, 11 or more. If you ever had owned a boot-cut, flared or a bell-bottomed trouser, you will know exactly what I mean...and cheers to that golden age of the 70s and 80s.  The essence was rightly ‘tight on top and loose on bottom’ – so there were those big collars that made us look more confident, the tight shirts made us look slimmer at the right place...and the trouser was of firm grip – again at the right place, sometimes of ‘high-rise’ that added to the smartness and playability ...and which finally fell gracefully to blend with the boots!
It is that classic age of fashion which ‘flared’ with flamboyance and for whom the bells toll.

Monday 6 October 2014

Seeing the song.

By Anirban Mitra
Calcutta, 5th October 2014.


“Dear Radio, do you have to play a song I like when I arrive at my destination?” 
– A teenager post #5085.

When I finally arrived at the station with my Dad, the tail light of the last bogey blinked at the far end of the platform. I remember I missed a long distance train for the first and probably the last time in my life as I was glued on to a film’s climax on television. No, we did not have a video player at home, then, to play a movie of choice at any time.  But that was, I believe the whole fun of enjoying broadcasts. Programmes and surprises to enjoy -and all of them at real time, on air. Either you are on, or you miss it. Just as simple as that.
I think this spirit of tuning into air and enjoying the music (or any programme) was double the fun with a Radio. And its also nice in listening to something being played for us, which may not necessarily be of our preference at that time.
Technology, sadly has not been kind to the Radio - the great, poor soul. 
There was a time when huge consoles adorned the homes of the rich. They were floor standing, vertical wooden sets with huge speakers and the tuning dials. It was Radio in his most regal incarnation.
Then, of course came the majestic Radiograms (composite consoles with a radio and electric gramophone), mostly fitted with British Garrard made record changers – where one could stack as many as a dozen discs (LPs or 78 rpm records) and they would play one by one.  It was a robust, all mechanical arrangement and withstood the ravages of time, for many decades - often for more than half a century!  Quite remarkable and unthinkable in today’s production standards. A selection switch in the radiogram would provide an option to play the radio or the records. The built in gramophone (the record player) would employ the radio amplifier through the ‘pick-up’ feature and it was a harmonious and elegant sharing mechanism.  The sound was rich and mellow, especially because of the valves (tubes) and for the solid, wooden casing where the whole set up was handsomely and acoustically cased.  A medium size Radiogram needs quite some space of a living room, was (and, is) indeed a showpiece, status symbol and a musical set up, second to none. 
The tuning indicators or the ‘magic eye’ was another signature feature of the valve set radios/radiograms.
The main sets or the table top, stand alone radios were great audio systems, as well. Oh, yes. And there were so many makes and models, quite countless.

I fondly recollect the couple of Philips radios we had at our home when I was a kid. One of them was a valve set. White and light grey, Bakelite built and the other one, a circa 1970s transistorised set, high-end table top in ebony and ivory with piano switches on the lower front panel to change the wave bands – for Medium Wave (MW) and various Short Wave (SW) selections.  On the left hand was the on-off switch cum volume control knob. The right hand tuning knob was equipped with a bass and treble control arrangement through a concentric, small knob – a smart arrangement. There was a rectangular push button on the front panel to illuminate the dial in dark. The sound quality was lively and lovely …and till date (after more than 30 years) I am able to clearly visualize my Dad strolling with his post-prandial cigarette as the old melodies on the radio played to enthrall us. The Radio served as Mom’s afternoon companion as well and it was then, when I could have chance to fiddle with it, though with care. Invariably Dad used to find that out quite easily and enquire, without fail – ‘Did any one change the tonal settings of the sound?’. Of course he knew who did it!  The valve set radio fell from the rack and still survived. These radios were built to last generations.

 The famous Philetta model of Philips with fabulous illuminated dial.

Our simple HMV Calypso turntable (in deep navy blue) was connected to the radio to play the records. Hindi composer Madan Mohan’s film Mausam was the first Long Playing (LP) record my Dad gifted to Mom on their first anniversary and I took great pleasure in playing the same record on my first Garrard Changer I bought 25 years later. I have now switched on to the legendary Garrard 301 turntable, but the same LP plays just like the old days and sounds even more appealing – being sugar coated with fond nostalgia. 

I think the portable transistor sets came in India in the 70s, along with the ultra portable, palm sized radios, which were great devices for following the cricket or football match commentary. My aunt was given such a portable set while in her studying days in hostel and I remember using it, myself – more as a toy. Pity.

In my childhood and teenage days in the 80s, the Japanese two-in-ones were a rage. They were mostly smuggled in through the docks. Mainly Panasonic, Sharp and the Sanyos, and occasionally the German Grundig or the Holland Philips models. With deep red, shining black or steel cabinets, these boom boxes were really a thing! I think till date, these vintage sets command great respect and enthusiasm with audiophiles. 
(Did you notice Aamir Khan’s boom box in PK?).
Its a National Panasonic RQ-565D.
And of course there were those heavy tuners of the 70s-80s of the component audio set-up – where the radio, cassette decks, spool (reel-to-reel) players, equalizers and later, CD players - were all connected to a common amplifier with a couple of speakers or four. The feeling of the manual tuning knobs and the bold dials glowing in dark greatly accentuated the pleasure of radio listening coupled with the heavy sound with rich mid tones.

When was the car radio introduced in India? I am not sure, but I remember seeing one of them in the 80s, in an Ambassador car of one of my relatives (who were quite affluent in those days). The radio was fitted on to the custom made, wooden dashboard and looked awesome.

Till the 60s, my Dad says – a Radio was a luxury in India. On special days of important events - people in a locality used to queue up in the house which had a radio and everyone followed the broadcast, together. Of course, prior to the great Durga Puja Festival, there was the ‘Mahalaya’ aired at dawn and it was a ritual never to miss.

When I was staying outside Calcutta for work and visited home on the weekends – in the early 2000, my sister told me, once, I remember – ‘Do you know, something called FM has been introduced. The channels are great and they play crystal clear music and mostly without advertisement breaks!’. Subsequently I purchased stacks of blank cassettes (Desi Meltrack and imported TDK, Sony HF 90) to record the late night FM broadcasts of rare interviews and Western Classical Music. I would patiently wait for the announcement to know what is being played so that I could catalogue my custom made cassettes. One day I could not follow the pronunciation and the following day called up the AIR (All India Radio) office to enquire. Mr. Ranjan Mitra, the famous compère was on the other end of the line and I asked – ‘Sir, could you kindly let me know what was played yester-night? ‘Archduke Trio’ – he smilingly said and also asked me what else do I listen to and like in music? J
A very rare interview of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was recorded from the radio in the same way on one of my blank cassettes and so were a couple of interviews of the Great Satyajit Ray :
The Music I Live by’ & ‘Mozart and I’.
It was all fun, great fun and adventure. Innocent, simple, but engrossing and fulfilling. There was a strong feeling of attachment and less of gadgetry.

Founder Max Grundig with model 5088.
Must be a special one as he chose to pose with it.
Fortunately this radio I have in my collection :-)

And there’s a story behind each radio. The circa 1943, British Mullard, 12 band set I have with me was bought by a gentleman who wanted to have a radio which was made during the years when he was born /was very young! That was his unique fascination and later he gave it to me almost for free. He wanted to ensure the radio gets a good home. The 1947, Made in England Bush radio I accidentally spotted and casually picked up from a dealer and it plays wonderfully well.  One of my best buys. I always feel someone might have tuned-in to it to hear the transfer of power in August 1947.  Also, putting the wrong polarity in an AC/DC set taught me a lesson about these sets – a mild shock and a smile from the aged technician to tell me to reverse the plug.
Having followed the Radio through my great interest, with some adventures around it and a very modest collection, I feel heart-broken to see its fate. From the majestic consoles to radiograms to great table top sets…to even the portables, the radio has now been relegated largely to menu items of mobile phones or just an option in a multi-functional home theatre set-up. The radio broadcasts might have survived (though with over-commercialized FM services (in India)), but not the Radio in its original form and appeal.  Only the ghost of the radio lives with a few enthusiasts searching and caring for its embodiments and personas.
With most of the old audio shops and establishments closing by in Calcutta and the expert technicians leaving us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain vintage sets, especially the valve radios. That challenge, however also gives a stronger ‘kick’ to try a new restoration project and succeed in that J
It needs great patience, time, effort and money to simulate the past and enjoy it alongside the live present.
I know people whose ancestral, 1939 Marconiphone (HMV England) radio set plays like new …and even others who have travelled to distant cities just to pick up a particular vintage model they fancied. And making those radios running again would be the second phase of adventure. Unlike vintage and classic cars…or like they do in the West, we do not have organized forums for vintage audio enthusiasts, but I do guess that a large number of people in India and especially at Calcutta own a large number of lovely radios – many of which still play music and symbolize ‘the form’ and identity to the contents we are losing in the excuse of technology and convenience. Faugh!!

There is sense and sensibility, though. Philips has come up with a modern digital radio with a retro look and they call it the ‘original radio’. This is a refreshing blend and a welcoming continuity of the past in the present. And there are some other brands as well who makes the Radio in the traditional way and top them up with all the modern, cutting edge features. Now that’s the spirit! And unbelievable as it may sound – the Tesslor R601 is a modern, brand new valve radio that is being manufactured!! Wow.
 Philips 'original radio' which has a retro look but equipped with the latest features.
The internet is a wonderful place to find a LOT OF GREAT information and insight which are of immense help.
Thanks to the collectors, enthusiasts and various forums around the world. I have received a lot of support and information from the web and from kind souls around the globe who love to ensure those radios play again!
And it is also fascinating to see WANTED advertisements for old radios. So eccentricity indeed has company.
That day I was reading the user’s manual of a circa 1976, Birmingham made, Eddystone AM/FM marine receiver providing in great details on how to build various options of aerials and antennas so as to receive the different wave bands and frequencies. Paragraphs and pages have been dedicated to describe the possibilities of great, wireless reception.
Isn’t our human form and being a super Radio and that we are equipped to receive great many signals and frequencies from the vast multiverse, much beyond we largely comprehend that we can?  How many of us are bothered about tuning ourselves for those receptions??  Well that’s an altogether different story of another frequency.
In short, there is and there will not be another thing like the Radio.
(In memory of Late Sir Jagadish Bose & Guglielmo Marconi).

Horn radio from the 1920s.
The ultra luxurious Siemens Schatulle.
Marine receiver for passenger use.

Telefunken 'Concertino.
A perfect example of the radio personified.

Saturday 23 August 2014

An affair to no END.

Anirban Mitra.
Calcutta, Sunday 24th of August.

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it” – Leonardo Da Vinci.
A fine, mechanical wrist watch is probably one of the most beloved possessions of man – something very ‘human’…as it runs when you wind it or by the movement of your wrist. It is so very personal and attached to us…just like a pet. It is not independent like a battery driven machine…and hence we tend to develop a special bond with it. We know it is dependant on us J
Imagine, a small, coiled spring which could unwind itself in few seconds does so in 36 hours by the aid of complex engineering! In the history of time keeping - from sundials to tourbillon, so many illustrious brands have graced this supreme and timeless invention of mankind – our time keepers: The clocks and watches.
For me, and I am sure for many, one particular brand remains very special in that journey.
WEST END WATCH CO. Swiss made. Since 1886.
With India, the bond is historic. From Her Majesty’s troups to civilians, it graced generations...
In the recent times, remember Kareena Kapoor’s old wristwatch in the film '3 idiots'?
It was a West End Watch: a true classic and one of the best of Swiss horology.
I am sure, for many of us, there's a West End we possess or at least we know of there is. Don’t we?
I fondly recollect the joy of getting to see for the first time - my Grandfather's gold cased, full hunting, West End ‘Competition’ pocket watch. It was a high-end model of that era. The watch was taken out of the bank locker nearly half a century after his demise. The bold, Roman letters on the superb, enamelled, sub second dial looked riveting and the watch – regal. In the red velvet case, it seemed to be a pearl in the shell.
The expert technician delved into the watch with his eye glass. It was a 23rd January – Indian National Holiday on account of Netaji’s Birthday. The service centre was opened, by appointment, exclusively to attend my Grandfather’s watch so that the work could be done uninterrupted, in quietness and peace. I sat anxiously as the adventure unfolded…
“This watch was last serviced in 1954, right?”  I was taken aback by the unexpected deduction.
“Yes, probably, it was the last time before my Grandfather died in 1958.
I heard my father told me the watch used to be maintained by the famed Abrecht & Co. of British India, but how did you infer?”
What Holmes would have termed ‘elementary’, came from the technician as:
“Hmm. In almost microscopic size font, they have inscribed the date on the case inside back.”
The comprehensive servicing was completed at 9:30 p.m in a neat 4 hours job.
I remained a patient and amazed spectator waiting to see the long awaited continuity of the past in the present.
And finally that wonderful rhythm started to play: tick tock, tick tock… The old, gold watch looked and worked like a showroom piece.
Handsome beyond compare, pristine, spotless and with an attached gold chain, it came as a gift for the bridegroom from my Grand Mom’s home! 
The recollection makes me excited, whenever I think of the episode -the unmatched joy of seeing the watch ticking (after 50 years of rest). It was a moment of truth and a sense of great contentment for me to place the newly serviced watch before my father. It was a rejuvenation of fond memories of profound association.
It is about such joy of restoring and preserving these treasured heirlooms. Of hunting and procuring NOS (new old stock) models which erratically (and rarely) pop up from old shop attics ; and then getting the right wrist straps befitting these old world models!
One day, one of my friend (a fellow watch aficionado) told me:
Anirban, great news, that shop, I found has got a stock of vintage, but unused West End Watches! 1950s Sowar Prima. Daisy fresh. I got one for myself …people are picking in 2s and 3s…rush, rush !”
Oh, what a discovery!!
And there are so many other lovely memories and trivia - that’s the essence of the relationship with this great brand.  Each West End Watch that I had inherited or have bought has some special story and adventure around it. No wonder, cause the brand epitomises strength and adventure!
Great watches, great moments, great memories…
The love affair with West End has no end!!

Some of the past /present models of West End Watch Co. are listed, below.
(You can check their lovely website and Facebook page.)

Queen Anne, Sowar / Sowar Prima, Secundus, Keepsake, Sillidar, Philos, Bijou, Competition, Matchless.

And the relatively lesser known:

Imperator, Aftab, Dost, Index, Themis, Mohka Prima, Genteel, Campaign.

The name of “Queen Anne” was given to this wristwatch in homage to the last queen of England and Ireland of the Stuart dynasty, whose reign, from1702 to 1714, was marked by the ascendancy of the British navy over the oceans of the world and by the birth of the United Kingdom through the union of Scotland with England and Ireland.
This watch proved itself worthy of its name, so dear to the British, by its exceptional qualities of reliability and resistance to all the trials of everyday life - like Queen Anne herself.

Queen Anne vintage Trench Watch.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a model was launched, called the Sowar — the cavalryman —
a tough watch that could be kept in the pocket or worn on the wrist.

It soon came to the attention of the military, and in World War I, tens of thousands of Indian soldiers bought Sowar watches before leaving on campaign.

By 1934 the Sowar was a modern wristwatch, the first with the Incabloc™ anti-shock system.
Today, after more than a century, the model follows the same concept — robust, clear and functional —
with a trustworthy feel and look.


Silver Trench Watch with enamelled dial, circa 1930.

In India, West End watches proved their excellence in their use from the end of the 19th century by all the staff of the main railway companies, the post and telegraph offices, the police, the ports and the Indian and British government administrative services.


The West End Watch Co. in Dalhousie Square, Calcutta.
From a postcard published by Thacker, Spink & Co.
Photograph by Johnston and Hoffmann, circa 1908.


Thursday 21 August 2014

The Great Eastern Waterloo

Anirban Mitra.
Calcutta, Friday 22nd of August.


“To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to forever remain a child” – Cicero.

Not only did Napoleon Bonaparte defeated in the battle of Waterloo, but the name of Waterloo was as well. Well, the latter not in the United Kingdom of Netherlands, but nearer to our place, nearer to our times - off Old Court House Street at Calcutta.

Whenever I visit this part of the city, the footage of nostalgia tends to engulf me and I am almost, always taken into a time journey of sights and sounds of history playing like in a movie theatre. I do not recollect my past lives, no I do not, but with the memories of those wonderful, life-like photographs by Bourne & Shepherd, Johnston & Hoffmann and other studios of British Calcutta and complimented with a flight of imagination and observation, it is not too difficult to visualise the charming Old Calcutta in the decaying new.

In the silence of the taxi strike and calmness of the evening largely devoid of traffic sound and of humidity (result of the recent downpours) -walking back from Dalhousie Square to Esplanade was my preferred mode of transit. Well, almost. Tired, quite, and with my too formal, pointed boots (which could compete with Mr. Hercule Poirot’s) not particularly suitable for long walks, I still chose to walk. The trams had retired for the day a while back and I could not catch the last one near the bend at the St. Andrew’s Kirk. I had just deposited one of my West End Watch wrist watches at The Anglo Swiss Shop. The Calcutta establishment of West End Watch Company was here somewhere near by Stephen House, as also their illustrious contemporary – James Murray Clocks. The forward view with the majestic, Central Telegraph Office at North East past ‘Laldighi’ and the regal Currency Office porch on left - this is one of THE few walks Calcutta could still offer to reveal its English past. And how could I resist?

Good Lord! What an area it was and partly still is!! A lovely water body of Laldighi in center and grand edifices all round with gracious roads in between ; Government House, Writer’s Building, Church, Offices, Shops and Establishments, Hotel, Park of Lord Curzon…  Superb town planning and the quintessence of Imperial Calcutta personified.

I had just finished a bottle of refreshing Ice Cream Soda and was brimming with new energy to begin a new walk. The bottle proclaimed ‘Cotton’s, 1906’.  They seem to be preparing the drink since Curzon’s days!

After the traffic crossing while I took the left footpath, the last few customers were having roadside tea and biscuits as the magazine vendors and other hawkers started to fold their establishments – well, only for the day. Many of them had crossed the borders from further East and found a safe home in this city and convenient ground for retail business on the footpath. The benevolent government found new supporters in them, so every wrong was all right. Not so many years earlier, there would be those series of renowned English establishments along this road – F.W Baker, Hamilton & Co, Harry Clark, Ranken & Co and of course W. Newman and J. Boseck on the ground floor of the great Great Eastern Hotel.

Tea was not served on the footpath, then, cheap Chinese toys not sold, but Opium was exported to them and they sold us Tea – which we had in a more elegant and elaborate way than on the footpath.

Even till a few years back (seems to me like only yesterday), I used to see Newman’s selling odd books and stationeries. And the old world, embossed signboard of J. Boseck reminding of the glory gone by – of Swiss Watches. Rolex, Omega, Tudor, Tissot and the likes.

In front of the huge mahogany doors would be the guard of Great Eastern Hotel in full regalia ...with a world of pristine charm and grandeur welcoming you inside. Of much more than 5-Star luxury. Even a fortunate glimpse-in would be a refreshing view for me as a young boy. The view opposite, now occupied by a electronic retail shop who borrowed its name from the Hotel reminds of the erstwhile building of Cooke & Kelvey – Silversmith, Jeweller and Watch makers of unparallel repute in the undivided East. Their chain-fusee wall clock, circa 1890 shows me time in my room and reminds me of another era.

It is the narrow lane adjacent to Great Eastern Hotel that was once called the Waterloo Street.

I remember the bakery counter of Great Eastern on this street where the finest of patty, bun and other delicacies could be had, and there would be a long queue during Christmas.

A letter to the editor of the Government Gazette, dated January 17, 1828, states : “The Road recently constructed through Dacre’s Lane, called Waterloo Street, has greatly added both to the beauty of the Government House, by opening its prospect, and to the convenience of the community, by affording a direct and speedy communication to the Cossitolla Street (the modern Bentinck Street)…”

And who knew that a few decades from then, the street will be stripped of its name and history, to be renamed as ‘Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah Sarani’? And what for?? I feel sorry for the defeated Nawab, but it will not entirely be devil’s advocacy in saying that the treachery of Mir Jafar, his minister led to the birth of once lovely and great city of Calcutta from a group of few swampy, mosquito laden villages along side the river. So much so, that it was termed as the ‘Second city of the Empire’, second only to London. The City of Palaces. Mr. Charnock did us a great favour. May his soul rest in peace.

The historic receptivity and artistic sensitivity of the civic authorities are so commendable that they have chosen to reinstate the older past, even in a street name, but allowed the demolition of the GREAT, heritage hotel just adjacent to it. The façade of Great Eastern Hotel had partly been retained like a cardboard contraption and is a cruel joke. The entire building has almost completely been demolished and a new, arrogant block of concrete gleams in mockery as one walks by Waterloo Street…sorry, Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah Sarani. At the other end of the road, you will still get the Nawab’s Biryani, but not those cakes and patty you left past, and whose fragrance brings sweet and melancholy reminiscence to many nostalgic minds.

In the present times, the stretch of walk in front of the Hotel is barred for the public ; the front view is shocking like an aftermath of devastation. Ahoy, work in progress! - the renovation of the new façade has not been completed unlike the speedy commissioning of the business of business on its modern backyard.


A vintage label of the hotel in all her glory.

 Photograph circa late 1940s.

 A view from, probably, atop the Great Eastern Hotel

Photograph by Bourne & Shepherd, circa 1870s