The ‘Indian Press’ home

I don’t know about you but I am quite tired of hearing young men and women in India (the city kinds)I am compelled to come into contact with addressing me as ‘ma’am’. As if that were not enough, a young tailor I am having some clothes stitched from just called me ‘mummy-ji’ ! Well, he IS young enough to be my son, but why on earth ‘mummy-ji’? What on earth happened to the ‘didi-ji’(respected elder sister), ‘bahen-ji’(respected sister) and, although I am not quite ready for it,’mata-ji’ (respected mother-reserved for the elderly)? I have been insisting that they call me ‘didi-ji’. The call centre kinds who are forever calling to update or downdate something or the other probably pass out at this un-modern suggestion !
I, and many other Bongs (Bengalis), however, still love adding the suffix ‘da’ and ‘di’ to all Bengali names. And we even add to names ‘mama’(mother’s brother),’mashi’(mother’s sister), Kaku(father’s brother),pishi(father’s sister)etc,etc.
So Kalyan Ghosh, is one such Bengali in Allahabad we siblings add the suffix ‘mama’ to. My parents knew him and his family well—actually most Bongs in Allahabad know or know of each other well enough to feel that they need to add these suffixes.

Kalyan mama is the grandson of Chintamani Ghosh, the founder and owner of the famous Indian Press of Allahabad.

Much has been written about the industrious Chintamani Ghosh who rose from being a despatch clerk at the English newspaper‘Pioneer’at the age of 12 to becoming the educated owner of a famous press. It was Indian Press (Chintamani Ghosh) that published most of Rabindranath Tagore’s books in Bengali, including the ‘Gitanjali’ for which he later won the Nobel Prize. The unique thing was that they were a press in Uttar Pradesh where Hindi is spoken and not West Bengal which is where Bengali is spoken. But their typesetting and printing were of such high quality that Tagore chose them over the many publishers in Bengal. They were reputed also to be quick, punctual and to stick to their principles.
In 1924, Chintamani Ghosh built himself a beautiful house in George Town, Allahabad- the same locality where my sister lives. Kalyan Ghosh continues to live in this house with his family as do quite a few members of his extended family. A good idea to have many people living in it- it is enormous !
I was so happy and in a strange way grateful to the owners that it is still beautifully maintained, though the gardens are now considerably reduced in size.

The spectacular house-

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The guest house adjoining the main house-a place where many writers, clients of Indian Press, editors and friends stayed and continue to stay. I loved the ‘cheek’ or traditional bamboo blinds that are hung in the verandah-perfect to keep out the sun and allow breeze in-

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The lobby at the entrance of the main house. The floor is covered with glossy black tiles-original and quite unusual for houses of that time-

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There are four aangans or courtyards, each one surrounded by verandahs that open into different rooms. We passed through many verandahs-some used often others almost never. Here is a beautiful one- the green polished concrete floors are highly glossy both with quality and regular mopping. On the floor was a ‘jhankhi’or tableaux of Krishna’s life (it was Janmashtami-a festival to celebrate the birth of the God Krishna) when I took these pictures –
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There was a beautiful puja ghar (a room in homes with a shrine where most Hindus pray, decorate their various idols and carry out rituals associated with worship)-

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I am sure we passed two courtyards and maybe three verandahs before coming to a room which usually stays locked. It was a room to store Ganga jal (water from the river Ganges-considered holy and used for many rituals of worship)-the many gharas or pots, blackened with age-
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As we proceeded, we came across an interesting contraption- a precursor to today’s gym equipment- an early exercise machine that belonged to Chintamani Ghosh-

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Off another verandah was an old kitchen, its hearth well preserved and painted in traditional fashion with liquid clay-

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Here is a courtyard with the mandatory Tulsi (Sacred Basil) in its pedestal.To those of my friends not familiar with this plant- Tulsi is worshipped in India-considered an avatar(no, not the film !) or incarnation of the God Vishnu- and is used for its many medicinal properties. Many weddings in the Ghosh family and other celebrations have taken place around it-

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Another courtyard-my favorite- with lots of potted plants and a waiting bicycle-

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A view of a staircase from this courtyard-

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Another room, also kept locked, with cupboards and trunks-all made of Burma teak-

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A bedroom, with a beautifully carved bed made of, what else, Burma teak. Most such beds in Bengali homes are placed in the centre of rooms to derive full benefit from the ceiling fan. This way the beds don’t really show to their full advantage but they serve their purpose, I suppose- a place where you sleep directly under the breeze of a fan.This bed was gorgeous but I had to ‘fill light,’in the image-too much of it- just so you could see the carved bed against the brown window clearly-

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I had wanted to go up onto the terrace of the house so I could get a view of at least two of the courtyards together but it had already become dark, tea was waiting and I had to meet Kalyan mama before he went off for the rehearsal of a play. He happens to be very active in the Bengali theatre scene in Allahabad and is an able amateur actor himself.
This is he in the entrance lobby with a bust of Chintamani Ghosh in the foreground-

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Kalyan Ghosh-
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He showed me what looked like a watercolour painting but was actually a print of a painting made in about 1926 . The printing , of course, showed the very high quality of work done at the Indian Press . Here it is-

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Beautiful-is it not ? The print and the house itself !

One more view of the house-
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Thank you, the Ghoshs, for sharing your gorgeous home, and a bit of history !

To see other bungalows of Allahabad, click here.

Today is Muharram. It is a government holiday in Lucknow and India. I went out this morning to the nearby market of Narahi and passed various processions brought out by Muslims marking the 10th day of mourning(mourning of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad). There were drums being beaten and sheermal (a sweetened bread)sweets and water were being distributed. The air was electric- I am happy I could experience it. I also had a piece of sheermal-it was delicious!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Do share it with your friends and family if you have liked it. And please ‘like on facebook’ and ‘subscribe by email’(both boxes on the upper right of this page)
And, of course, leave a comment AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON OLD HOUSES! It has been a long time since we communicated !

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About Adity

Hello ! You are either already a friend or will become one--through this medium! I am an artist and jewellery maker, a wife and mother to two lovely children. Beautiful homes, food, nature and wonderful things happening around me make me ecstatic. That is why I started to write this blog-- to share with you all of these things. After all what good is any experience if not shared !
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22 Responses to The ‘Indian Press’ home

  1. RK Dhanvada says:

    I have passed by that house so many a time in the last 40 years and today sitting in Hyderabad, I get the peep into the house .. Never knew the Gitanjali part of the news.. Perhaps many in Allahabad would not know ..Great writing for NRI- non resident illahabadi who live in nostalgia and proxy pride ..

  2. Hirak Ghosh says:

    Excellent series…Do keep it up. Hirak DA.

  3. Uttora Ratna says:

    Very good piece. Wish an aerial view of the house was possible to know its basic structure- courtyards and all. Kalyanmama was a friend of Bablu, our Shejomama who was awarded the Vir Chakra post the 1971 war.Good job!

  4. Vandana andLadlie Tandon says:

    .Very few such homes are left in Allahabad.Very nice piece.

  5. Poppy says:

    Being grown up in Allahabad and being a Prabasi Bengali, we prabasi Bengalis have been proud of this Indian Press. Now being in Pardesh (out of Bharat), this detailed information has made me to live in nostalgia. On my next visit to Allahabad, I will try to see this house through the eyes of this blog of yours. Thanks a lot, Adity!

  6. Asoka says:

    I remember this house on Malviya Road’ Allahabad since early 1930s because I visited it with my father who was a great friend of the elder two Ghosh brothers, viz. Patal babu and Dhuni babu. That there were 3 other brothers that he knew is just a part of the story. Thanks for unfolding the treasures of Allahabad…

  7. I loved the piece so well written about my old home! The link was forwarded by my nephew, & features my brother in it! Yes we are all very proud of the Tagore connection! Allahabad was a beautiful University town , with bungalows & gardens, the High Court ,impressive architectural structures like the University , The Nehru homes etc.. As you rightly state, most Bengalis knew each other there. Bindu Da’s family , the Wheeler Banerjees, all of us were close to each other. Meera & Probhasda were in Bombay for so long, I met them some years ago in their beautiful bungalow , where they have now settled. So many memories about that gracious Allahabad of yore, There is a total disconnect with today’s city. I last went in October 2013, & that probably is my last trip. Your blog revived the best memories of the past.!

  8. Suparna Dutt says:

    The photos brought my most treasured memories of my childhood and my maternal grandmother. I remember Kalyan mama ‘s active involvement during Durga Puja plays. Twenty years have passed since I visited Malviya Road. Thank you so much for the photos.

  9. hi, your blog and posts and really eye catching and lovely designs… http://www.gruhkhoj.com/propertyin-Kolhapur

  10. Nandina says:

    Hi !
    Here is another member of the Ghosh clan checking in…my mother was born in this house and I visited when I was 5 years or so and I remember the lovely heritage treasures, the unusual trees in the gardens and an old almanac & calculator…truly wondrous.These are echoes of bygone eras. Legend has it that my Great Grand father Chintamoni Ghosh was a great ‘swadeshi’ too…printing swadeshi literature as part of the Indian resistance….!
    Thanks for this amazing piece.

    • Delighted you visited my blog and read the post–thank you ! Chintamani Ghosh was indeed a swadeshi–you have much to be proud about !
      Where do you live now ? Would it not be lovely to have a place like this run as a hotel so all of us can enjoy it ?

      • Nandina says:

        Hi Adity nice to hear from you.I live in Mumbai and will certainly share the thought with all my Ghosh cousins spread all over the world !! Though I suspect Chintamoni Ghosh would have a lot to say about that….
        Keep up the great work.I shared your blog with loads of friends & cousins including my mother…Thank you from all of us.

      • You know ,Nandina, this is the sort of house that needs to be preserved. It was built by a legend. THanks to you for appreciating. Do read on and stay in touch !

  11. sudipta ghosh says:

    Hi Adity, I was delighted to read your blog, many thanks for posting it; it brought back a lot of childhood memories for me, as i have frequented this house as a child visiting the Ghosh family (our distant relatives and very close family friends) and have lovely memories of running around the long corridors and verandahs and spending hours chatting with friends….thanks for stirring some very fond memories.

  12. shubhra ghosh says:

    Thanks Aditi di for this wonderful write up and amazing pictures.

  13. Ujjal Sen says:

    Happy to see your blog and delighted to know about this grand old family. Incidentally we are now associated with this family as Shubhra’s Kaka. Great description.

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