Cha Bar


One of the best and most happening bookstores of Kolkata is the Oxford book store. Situated on the iconic Park Street is has a wide collection of books on all topics catering to all ages. The ambiance is fine and hence it is the stomping ground for the city’s book aficionados. While books appeal to your intellect,  you can order tea give you a leisurely feeling.

Sitting inside a book store, surrounded by the smell of books, a cup of tea on a tranquil afternoon is simply heavenly.

Cha or Tea  is the national drink of Indians. However to make tea more playful and enjoyable, Oxford Bookstore’s Cha Bar has introduced an array of bubble teas and bubble shakes in various flavors like raspberry, passion fruit, mango, cherry and others. Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink which contain tea or milk and chewy tapioca balls known as pearls, or boba.

The approximate cost of these tea is  INR 160 to  INR 180.

You can also get a wide variety of Tea to sip or slurp while leafing through books they include an exclusive range of Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Sikkim and Oolong, complimented by the best in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Moroccan, Russian, Sri Lankan, South African and Thai Teas.

To calm your hunger you can order delectable food to accompany your tea. They include:- pizza, pasta, Mediterranean salad, chilli cheese toasties, cha piazi , cocktail sausage rolls and fish and chips, English tea sandwiches, pita wraps and rolls, muffins, freshly baked cookies and cupcakes,  cakes and pies , Falafel Hummus ,  Barbequed chicken sausages, Paneer khurca roll, Keema Samosas, , chocolate chip and cookies.



Paye Paye Park Street

Park Street Heritage Walk (Paye Paye Park Street) was arranged as part of Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob. It coincided with All Souls’ Day which is held annually on 2nd November. Incidentally, the Halloween day falls on 31st October and All Saints’ Day is on 1 November.


The original name of Park Street is Burial Ground Road. So we started our walk from The Lower Circular Road Cemetery. We laid a wreath on the grave of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Madhusudan Dutta is the father of the Bengali sonnet.

The Cemetery contains remains of memorable personalities like

  • Sri Haren Mookerjee – the first Bengali Governor of West Bengal & a Scholar and Patriot
  • The Rev. Lal Behari Shah – founder of the first Blind School in India
  • F. Andrews –  a close associate and adviser of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindra Nath Tagore
  • Drink Water Bethune – the Educationist who introduced Women Education for the first time in India

Then we visited the South Park Street Cemetry and by that time it had become dark. We were feeling eerie. The marble plaque at the gate reads “South Park Street Cemetery, Opened: 1769 Closed: 1790”. We walked around a pitch dark South Park Street Cemetery with just the distant moon showing us our way.



The question that comes to our mind is that if there is a South Park Street Cemetery, was there ever a North Park Street Cemetery? As it turns out, there was. The North Park Street Cemetery has disappeared entirely, save for one grave – the Robertson family tomb. The cemetery was cleared in 1953 and the land is currently occupied by the Assembly of God Church and the Mercy Hospital.

Among the tombs lost, were those of Richmond Thackeray, father of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, and James Achilles Kirkpatrick, Resident to the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the principal subject of William Dalrymple’s brilliant book, White Mughals.

Located on the south-western corner of the North Park Street Cemetery was the Mission Cemetery, which has also disappeared. Further north was the small French cemetery, which is now the site of the Apeejay School. Among the tombs lost when the French cemetery was razed was that of Josephine Tiretta, wife of town planner Eduardo Tiretta, after whom Tiretti Bazar is named. Her tombstone cannot be located, although several tombstones from the French cemetery are now on the walls of the South Park Street Cemetery.

The Park Street Cemetery was one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and probably the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and America in the 19th century.

At the South Park Street Cemetry, we paid homage to Henry Louis Vivian Derozio who founded the young Bengal movement.


The toms of other notable persons are:-

  • William Jones:- Archaeologist
  • Charles Hindoo Stuart: The major general of East India Company used to bathe in the Ganga regularly and perform Hindu rituals. His tomb is modelled on a Hindu temple with an ornate edifice and stone carving of deities.

The St. Xavier’s College is situated at 30, Park Street. The Sans Souci Theatre occupied this location until a fire in 1843 burnt it to the ground. The site was bought by 7 Belgian Jesuits. It is here that the present day campus stands tall.

Eugène Lafont the great science educator, installed a laboratory in the college—the first such science laboratory of modern India. He made a makeshift observatory which stands till today.With the financial support of philanthropist Mahendra Lal Sircar, he founded in 1876 the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. Jagadish Chandra Bose was his student.

Park Street has many firsts to its credits. It is the birthplace of India’s first nightclubs. Mocambo was, independent India’s first nightclub, where a 17-year-old chanteuse named Pam Crain belted out numbers with a six-piece band led by Anton Menezes

Down the corner at Moulin Rouge, Carlton Kitto, one of the most popular jazz guitarists of the city, would enthral diners for hours.

Louis Banks, Usha Uthup, Skinny Alley, Marie Samson (Australia’s famous jazz vocalist) and Braz Gonsalves were regular performers at Trinca’s, Blue Fox and other restaurants on Park Street.

Magnolia had India’s first ice cream outlet and introduced the country to hamburgers.

Park Street also housed the subcontinent’s first department store, Hall & Anderson.
“A two-storey structure where everything from crockery to carpets and imported suits were available”

Flurys, the legendary tearoom was founded in the year 1927 by a Swiss expatriate couple Mr and Mrs J Flurys. It introduced the city its and its  many generations to authentic Swiss and International delicacies

The Stephen Court named after Arathoon Stephen.Born in Iran in 1861, Arathoon Stephen was a member of the Armenian community in Calcutta, which is believed to have spent a huge amount of money in shaping the growth of the city.

Stephen was a shareholder and the first managing director of Stephen Court Ltd. He founded the Grand hotel in Calcutta and the Everest hotel in Darjeeling, which also saw a devastating fire.

Peter Charles Earnest Paul was the owner of the land which Stephen Court was built.

19 Park Street is home to the Bengal Freemasons Trust Association. It is veiled in secrecy and the buildings are not visible from the street itself.


George Pomfret was authorised by the grand master, Lord Kinston, to introduce freemasonry into Bengal in Calcutta. Captain Ralph Farwinter was appointed the first provincial grand master for East India in Bengal. The first lodge established in Bengal in 1730. It met in the Old Court House in Dalhousie Square. Subsequently, meetings were held in Lal Bazar, the Town Hall, and 55 Bentinck Street, till it moved into its Park Street premises. The cornerstone of the west wing of Freemasons Hall was laid in 1911.

The walk ended with a tour of Park Mansions and tea sessions at the rooftop of the building.


Bengal and Vegetarianism


Bengalis are known to be a quintessentially fish and meat-loving state. Unlike their counterparts elsewhere, even Brahmins in Bengal are non-vegetarians. This is in sharp contrast to the orthodox upper caste Hindu’s visceral aversion to meat. The reason is that Bengal, since ancient times, has been renowned for its extraordinarily fertile agricultural land and production of paddy. Being a riverine state, it has an inexhaustible resource of different varieties of fish. That is why rice and fish have been the staple food for the Bengalis.

But what may surprise many people is that Bengal has a rich tradition of vegetarian food.

The great seer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Chaitanya has a significant influence on the cultural legacy in Bengal including on its gastronomic preferences.

The Gaudiya Vaishnavas follow a Lacto vegetarian diet. They abstain from consumption of all types of animal flesh, fish, eggs, onions and garlic.

Influenced by Chaitanya, many of the respectable Bengalis did not consume non-vegetarian food. Even the Shaktas consumed mutton and fish only on specific occasions.

The most important reason for the development of Vegetarian Bengali cuisine is the presence of widows in Bengali household. The widows wore white dress and kanti-mala. She maintained a very strict standard of cleanliness and consumed Satvik food. She would get up by Brahma-muhurta, and take bath.

The widow also kept fast on Ekadashi. The Widows did not consume onion and garlic, meat and fish and led a pure and fugal life. These culinary limitations of widows inadvertently contributed to the development of a rich vegetarian cuisine in Bengal. Gifted cooks amongst widows contributed greatly to the range and originality of Bengali vegetarian dishes.

“Chakka, “dalna”. “ghanta”, “chhachari”, “chhechra”, “chhechki” and “labra” are some of the treasured vegetarian dishes gifted by Bengali widows. Later many of these dishes have been adapted by including non-vegetarian ingredients like shrimp or fish heads.

Upper caste Bengali widows would also cook a vegetarian spread for offering to Shaalgraam Shilaa, a small stone form of Narayana.

Since Widows lived like Vaishnava saints in midst of Bengali family, the also inculcated moral and religious values among the young people. Widowed grandmother would tell stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata to youngsters.

Since Cow was considered to be a mother curdling the milk to make cottage cheese was considered improper among Hindus.

With the advent of Portuguese, the making of cottage cheese became commonplace in Bengal. This spurred the development of sweet based on cottage cheese. Also, Channa or cottage cheese was added to vegetarian dishes to make them more palatable and wholesome. Channar dalna is one such dish.

The Portuguese also brought many novel vegetables the most important of which is potatoes.


The opium trade inadvertently gave rise to vegetarian dishes based on opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) seed, locally known as Posto.

Soon after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the British discovered the huge market for illegal opium in China. The British converted a huge tract of agricultural lands in Bengal into poppy cultivation fields and for cultivating indigo. This led to famine in Bengal.

The British left enormous amounts of dried out poppy-seed, as by product of opium cultivation.

The hungry farmer’s wife soon found that ground poppy-seeds, blended with mustard oil could be used as an accompaniment with rice. Hence was born an entire vegetarian culinary repertoire based on poppy-seeds.

Thus we see that Bengal has a huge array of delectable vegetarian food along with its famed non-vegetarian dishes.


Timeless Treasures — the Material Culture of Regal Indian Weddings

Timeless Treasures — The Material Culture of Regal Indian Weddings – a 40 Kg, coffee table book on regal Indian weddings was launched amidst great pomp and grandeur at the Oxford book store, Kolkata, by London-based publisher Rutland Hall.


The highly visual large-format publication comprises unique pictures and stories of weddings in the royal families across India from the late 19th century to the present day. It has rare or never-before-seen archival images. The book traces the evolution in wedding trends in India, from its princely past to its modern avatar

The book is authored by Andy Varma and Ungelie Patel


Andy Varma is the co-founder and chef de cuisine of Vama and Chakra restaurants in London and is a Kolkata boy.

Andy Varma, had teamed up with Ungelie Patel, a business partner, to set up Maia, a company which will plan dinners and parties for its clients.

While Andy focuses on the food, Ungelie, focuses on the creative side.

Andy Varma, Ungelie Patel and Kamaljit Singh are also the directors of Rutland Hall Publishers.

The book was part-authored by Art Consultant, Curator, and novelist Deepika Ahlawat.

Three years ago, Kamaljit, Ungelie and Andy were sitting and having a drink together when they decided it would be good to do a book on weddings.

In the days of your, Royal families of India would commission jewelers like Cartier, Mauboussin and Chaumet for bespoke jewelry.

The French Jewellery company opened its archives for researchers of this book. Cartier is well known for its jewelry and wrist watches, the diamond necklace created for Bhupinder Singh the Maharaja of Patiala and the “Santos” wristwatch of 1904

Cartier owes its rise to Indian and Indian nobility. Cartier became big actually because the Indian royalty commissioned such big pieces.

Jacques Cartier came to India, to take away magnificent jewelry of local maharajahs back to the London studio to redesign and modify for their own use. Jacques-Théodule Cartier was one of three sons of Alfred Cartier and the brother of Pierre Cartier and Louis Cartier. Pierre’s grandfather, Louis-François Cartier had taken over the jewelry workshop of his teacher, Adolphe Picard, in 1847, thereby founding the famous Cartier jewelry company.


Together, Pierre and Jacques purchased a large number of pearls and precious stones from an Indian prince. The uniqueness of the pearls and stones created a sense of each piece of jewelry being special, which helped with the success of their business.

The erstwhile royal families also opened their private collection for the researchers. This was because of trust established by Deepika Ahlawat, who is already doing projects with the Maharaja of Kapurthala, with the Scindia and Gwalior families, the Nawabs, The Nizams including Middle Eastern royalty.

The second part of the book features an exclusive selection of modern-day luxury brands that represent the ethos of the regal Indian wedding, including couture houses, jewelers, and iconic wedding destinations.

The Book has been priced Rs10, 000 for the Indian market.


The Launch was accompanied by a lavish drink party by Chef Andy. It included Red and White Chilean wine which was accompanied by Kolkata cuisine and sweet dishes with a twist. Oxford was also transformed into a ramp for models to showcase wedding couture by Shantanu Goenka.

Plug-in- a tribute to an American Baul


Plug-in is a free three-day music festival curated by Oxford Bookstores for the eighth edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.

Plug-in is a tribute to Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.

Bob Dylan has an intimate relation with Bengal.

Bob Dylan would often visit a studio at Woodstock, New York, where the Baul musicians Purna Das, his brother Luxman and their entourage would hang out in 1967-68.

Dylan would also fiddle on the Baul instruments ektara and khamak.

Dylan told Purna Das that:-“Purna Das is a Bengali Baul and he is an American Baul. We both sing music of the roots. Our objectives, he told me, were the same: To sing for people, tell their tales and spread love through music.”

The world’s most legendary song smith flew down to the city to attend a marriage of Purna Das Baul’s son in the winter of January 1990.

Moheener Ghoraguli was India’s first rock band. It was established in 1975 in Kolkata. They were influenced by Bob Dylan.

Hence it was indeed great that Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival introduced the Plug-in to play tribute to Bob-Dylan.

The plug-in brought together the brightest young musicians of West Bengal to perform in the heart of the city at St Paul’s Cathedral Grounds for a free music concert.

Those who performed are:-

No Strings Attached -known for their repertoire of music that combines elements of American folk, jazz, country and blues and Ritornellos known for their rousing music and easy tunes.

Underground Authority – countrywide, a rap-rock outfit.The band set the fire on stage with numbers of playlist ranging topics from violence to love, from diversity and inclusiveness to revolution and passion.

Paloma & Adil, famous for their feel-good mix of electro pop songs with smooth vocals and soulful melodies, experimental, soothing electronic soundscapes.

The Plug-in closed with a solo performance from Sambit loved for his mesmerizing and fantastic solo act of rhythm and music.

On Greek and Indian Mythologies



Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned mythologist and author whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology. He has written a number of books related to Hindu mythology.

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik discussed about his latest book with Arshia Sattar at the Tollygunge Club.

In his book “Olympus” he has attempted to find similarity and differences between Greek and Indian mythologies.

Talking about similarities he says that just like Amravati of the Hindu devas, Olympus is the home of the Greek gods

Zeus the leader of Olympians, wields a thunderbolt like Indra and rides an eagle like Vishnu.

Also, the deeds of the Greek hero Heracles, known to Romans as Hercules, reminded many of Krishna, as did his name, ‘Hari-kula-esha’ or lord of the Hari clan.

Prometheus embodies fore-thought and his brother Epimetheus, after-thought; in Hindu mythology, Bhrigu is an intuitive and Brihaspati a rational adviser.

The Greek epic of a husband sailing across the sea with a thousand ships to bring his wife, Helen, back from Troy seems strikingly similar to the story of Ram rescuing Sita from Lanka.

In Indian mythology, we worship beings that are a combination of multiple animals like Narasimha (half-lion, half-bull) and Yali (part lion and elephant) and the Nagas.

They are similar to Greek monsters like Minotaur (half-bull and half-man), Medusa (woman with snakes for hair), Chimera (part lion, goat and snake).

The question then is there a connection between Greek and Hindu mythology then? Does it have something to do with a common Indo-European root? Or maybe an exchange of ideas in the centuries that followed the arrival of Alexander the Great?

Well according to the author there are fundamental differences because the Greeks believed in one life and so one chance, while Hindu mythology believed in rebirth.

Unfaithful wives are common in Greek mythology while fidelity is of paramount importance in Indian mythology.

The book is fascinating as it is an attempt by an Indian to look into Western Mythology.

Horse racing in India



The release of Lynn Deas’s “Horse racing in India – A Royal Legacy” (published by Niyogi Books) was held as part of AKLF2017 at the RCTC.

The book was released by Chief Guest Naresh Kumar, iconic sports personality. This was followed by the author in conversation with veteran sports journalist Kishore Bhimani and well-known jockey Robin Corner at RCTC.

In writing this coffee table book Lynn Deas tells us about some interesting facts:-

  1. In the early days of Indian racing it was, without a doubt, the sport of the ‘white man’, royalty and the privileged and it was not until the introduction of the tote, that the common man had easy access to placing a bet.
  2. Horse racing is concerned with both horses and gambling, for it is more than merely a lottery. The central role gambling plays in horse racing is immediately obvious. For most people who go racing the day’s enjoyment lies in making decisions, placing bets and then being proved right or wrong. The excitement of the sport lies in its immediate and competitive nature. With the introduction of gambling, the gate numbers swelled.
  3. The system of classifying horses into four divisions was introduced in Calcutta. No horse could run other than in the division in which he or she was classified. Horses were promoted or demoted as their form dictated. The system evolved over a period of time, getting more defined and eventually perfected
  4. Racing started in Madras around 1777 and by 1799 English horses began to appear on the racetrack. The Bengal Jockey Club was established in 1803 and the Calcutta race results were published in England.
  5. One of the most famous names, the world over, the Aga Khan family, first began racing on the Indian race tracks in 1846. The Aga Khan family is the only family to ever win ten Epsom Derbies. His horses raced against those of the Maharaja of Darbanga who had a trophy named The Darbanga Cup. Along with the Viceroy’s Cup and the Turf Club Cup these races formed a highly prized nucleus of races, with victory much sought after by the biggest names in racing.
  6. In 1889 there were as many as 52 racecourses in pre partition India and in 1894; the number had increased to 73.

RCTC was obviously the most suitable place to release the book as it holds pride of place in organised racing in India.

At first, racing in Kolkata were held in the suburbs at Akra in the Garden Reach area where, at that time, the king of Oudh, deposed by the British, and his descendents lived in their palatial garden houses. The Race Course at Akra was to all accounts, a rudimentary affair.

As a result of the governor, Lord Wellesleys’s narrow outlook and reformist attitude, racing in Calcutta came to an abrupt, but temporary halt in 1798 and it was only five years later that it was resumed by an organization called the Bengal Jockey Club which had been formed with the sole object of keeping the sport going on a sound basis. In 1809, the venue shifted from Akra to the Maidan area which is now virtually the centre of the city and there it remains until today.

In 1812, the new course was laid out in Calcutta roughly where it is located today and interest now moved to this major centre.

In 1847 when the Calcutta Turf Club was officially born. It’s important roles were those of regulating all matters concerning racing and protecting the interests of the turf in Calcutta.

Later the Calcutta Turf Club would be called upon to administer the sport throughout the country, other than in Western India.

Also, Calcutta was the first center in the subcontinent to stage a Derby race called the Calcutta Derby Stakes.

The session was interesting.

Love in a Time of Vitriol – Narratives of Inclusiveness

The closing ceremony of Apeejay Lit Fest 2017 took place at the iconic St. John’s Church which is situated at 2/2, Council House Street, BBD Bagh.

St. John’s Church was originally a cathedral. It was among the first public buildings erected by the East India Company after Kolkata became the effective capital of British India. St. John’s Church served as the Anglican Cathedral of Calcutta (Kolkata) till 1847 when it was transferred to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The octagonal Moorish style tomb of Job Charnock is also situated in the precincts of the church.

This Anglican Church became the venue for discussion on the topic “Love in a Time of Vitriol – Narratives of Inclusiveness.”

16003151_1199746623454441_5794533418278059030_nPicture:- Sukanta Paul

Along with other speakers, Hazi Syed Salman Chishty of Ajmer Sharif gave a brilliant talk on inclusiveness. Hazi Syed Salman Chishty comes from the dargah of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti which contains the domed tomb of the saint.

He belongs to the Chishtī Order, which is a Sunni Sufi order. The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on love, tolerance, and openness. Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti is also known as Gharib Nawaz (Benefactor of the Poor). He served the poor of all sects.

“Prince Dara Shikoh (or Shukuh), the Sufi son of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan, was able to affirm that Sufism and Advaita Vendantism (Hinduism) are essentially the same, with a surface difference in terminology.”

One of the cardinal belief of Sufis is divine love.

“The heart of a mystics is a blazing furnace of love which burns and destroys everything that comes into it because no fire is stronger than the fire of love”, says Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty.


Hazi Syed Salman Chishty  said that “A person who loves God, unconditionally loves his creation.”

At Ajmer Sharif “Logo ka Kheyalo ka bhi kheyal rakha jata hai”. i.e care is taken to respect the feelings of people also. That is why people of all sects are served vegetarian food at community langar instead of Beef or meat dishes traditionally eaten by Muslims.

Inside Dargah Shariff two big Deghs (pots) are installed for cooking Niaz (purely vegetarian food; cooked with rice, ghee, nuts, safron & sugar).

He also said that Sufis believed in the path of moderation.

He said that Sufi tenants remain within the hearts and minds of ordinary Indian populace, which makes India an inclusive society.

Though there was no visible direct evidence of positive impact of Islam on Indian culture, interactions between common Hindus and Muslims, Sufi and Bhakti saints created an environment for the emergence of a Hindustani culture, wherein we can witness the mutual borrowings from both cultures and development of an inclusive society.


The Festival closed with a mass candle-light vigil, poetry and music in solidarity with the ideal of an inclusive society. It included Bob Dylan’s song ” Blowing in the Wind “

British Rule in India – an era of darkness



The great argument in favor of British Raj by Anglophiles and pro-British Raj group is that the British gave political unity to the country, democracy, a free press, a parliamentary system, and the rule of law.

They introduced the railways, tea, telegraph, and the English language. Most British historians of the empire have a benign view of British imperialism. While they will often accept that there were some abuses, even occasional crimes, they feel that overall the empire was a force for good.

Indeed The British Imperialism did more harm to India than good. For example, the Bengal Famine seriously dents benign picture. Consequently, the famine has been airbrushed from the picture.

Sashi Tharoor has shown great courage in rebutting the so-called positive contributions of British Raj in his newly written book. It was a pleasure interacting with him during the Apeejay Lit Fest 2017.

The railways were built more for the British exploitation of Indian resources rather than for Indians. But it was constructed on Indian money. Tea, telegraph, and the English language were an integral part of British exploitation.

Lord Macaulay’s education system destroyed the traditional education systems keeping millions of Indians illiterate.

The unity which they gave us is the biggest myth. They thrived on the policy of divide and rule.

In 1750, India and China were contributing 75% of the world GDP. In 1600, Britain was producing 1.8% of the world GDP. When Britain left India in 1947 after 200 years of rule, Britain was contributing 10% 0f the world GDP and India was reduced to a pathetic 1.8%. India’s rich maritime trade and highly developed banking system was brought to a grinding halt under the brutal colonial rule

India was held in English thraldom by an Indian army maintained at the cost of India.

75,000 Indian soldiers were killed during World War I and an equal number were wounded in a fight involving the European powers. Their stories have been largely omitted from British histories.

2,065,554 Indian soldiers were raised for the Second World War, and around 149,225 soldiers died between 1939 and1945.



In just 10 years 1891-1900, 19 million people died in India due to famines alone. The famines were the biggest colonial holocausts, and is right at the top of some of the most brutal inhumanities in modern times’

– Winston Churchill

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44.

The first of these famines was in 1770 and it killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one-third the population of Bengal. The British increased agricultural taxes from10-15 per cent during Mughal rule to 50 percent.

Partial failure of a crop was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the taxes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. In past, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation to provide relief to the farmers stricken with drought.

After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders to cultivate indigo, poppy. Hence there was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine.




Between one and three million died of hunger in 1943. Winston Churchill stopped emergency food aid for millions in Bengal left to starve as their rice paddies were turned over to jute for sandbag production and supplies of rice from Burma stopped after the Japanese occupation.

Churchill hated the Indians and thought that they bred like animals. He said:-

“I hate Indians,” he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for “breeding like rabbits.”

Churchill the situation in Bengal by ordering the diversion of food away from Indians and toward British troops around the world.

Hence we can conclude that British rule in India was a reign of Darkness

A Literature Fest and a river cruise down the Ganges

The eighth edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) started with a river cruise on board the cruiser vessel M.V. Paramhamsa, which is a four-decked vessel. There is no heritage site more intrinsic to Kolkata than the river whose banks it stands on, perhaps the very reason for Kolkata’s existence . Hence the cruise down the Ganges was chosen for inauguration of AKLF 2017.


AKLF is India’s only literary festival created by a Bookstore and Kolkata’s first literary festival.

The theme of this year’s Literary Fest is “Inclusive society”.


The inauguration too place on the Sun Deck. This is the top deck of the ship. This part has been exclusively created for Nature viewing, sun lounging, Entertainment, Star gazing through Telescopes, night vision Binoculars etc. It can also accommodate open-air conferences with all facilities.

Specification of M.V Paramhamsa:

  1. Length 55 mtrs
  2. Breadth 12 mtrs
  3. Draft 1.5 mtrs
  4. Speed 12 Knots
  5. Classed under Indian Registry of Shipping


  1. All Rooms are River Facing
  2. Air conditioned with individual controller
  3. Attached Bath with Hot & Cold Water
  4. Intercom facility
  5. Personal Coffee/Tea Maker
  6. Locker on request
  7. The suites have extra bed provision

Bar and Restaurant:

  1. Capacity 80 Pax
  2. Terrace restaurant
  3. Cuisines from all over the world
  4. Live Kitchen to try out local recipes

Activity Rooms:

  1. Gym
  2. Massage Rooms
  3. Steam cum Sauna
  4. Juice counter
  5. Library and TV
  6. Loungers
  7. Gift Shop

24hours wireless internet facility

Paramhamsa Deck Plans:


There are 54 ghats (quayside) along the Ganges and all have great history and heritage. Some of them are Bathing ghats, Ceremonial ghats where rituals are performed and then the Ferry ghat which connects the two banks at various places. Many monuments, memorials and markets are there by the river side, to be explored & experienced.

The cruise started from, Vivida jetty, Millennium Park to Botanical Garden and back. It was followed by Lunch on board the vessel.


As we cruised on the banks of Ganga Shri Ashok Saha of Bhromora sang and performed traditional river songs of Bengal and heritage expert G.M. Kapur spoke about Kolkata’s historical spirit of inclusiveness in creativity and culture.

The main venue of AKLF will be St. Paul’s Cathedral grounds – chosen for its welcoming, accessible and inclusive nature. The festival’s closing event will be hosted at St John’s Church, built in 1787. The festival which started today on the banks of the Ganga, will culminate at St. John’s Church with a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the ideal of an inclusive society.

The Festival conversations will also be hosted at Royal Calcutta Turf Club, Tollygunge Club, the campus of iLead & Presidency University, Daga Nikunj and Harrington Street Arts Centre.

AKLF 2017 will introduce for the first time, Plug in, as a tribute to Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, showcasing the best young musicians in Kolkata across genres. Held in the heart of the city at St Paul’s Cathedral Grounds, the music festival will kick off in the evening after 7.30 pm on 15, 16, 17th Jan. The musicians and bands that will grace Plug in will be an eclectic mix of rock, rap, electronic, rhythm, instrumentals and harmony.

Like in past, we hope that it will be an unique festival involving all Kolkatans and a very inclusive one.