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-
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-
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-
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 –
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)-
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-
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-
Off another verandah was an old kitchen, its hearth well preserved and painted in traditional fashion with liquid clay-
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-
Another courtyard-my favorite- with lots of potted plants and a waiting bicycle-
A view of a staircase from this courtyard-
Another room, also kept locked, with cupboards and trunks-all made of Burma teak-
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-
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-
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-
Beautiful-is it not ? The print and the house itself !
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!
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