Bathed in dull red under a storm-tossed sky, the weather–worn house is pretty if you take the time to look at her up close. All of three storeys with blue wooden window shutters, she is tucked inside a bafflement of north Calcutta alleyways in Hatibagan, untouched by the gogo-growth around town. The main door leads to a spacious, high-ceilinged and neat living room that doubles up as office/guest accommodation with a couple of chairs and a bed. Portraits of Marx, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Sibdas Ghosh, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) founder, and their Indian comrades watch over one and all from the walls.
This home defies easy explanations and inside her lives a parallel society filled with meaning. This is a commune—called a ‘centre’ by the comrades, a ‘mess’ by its neighbours, and founded on the communist-socialist ideology that swept through West Bengal and shaped its history for decades. This home in Hatibagan uses history as a mirror to show how things were then. This is also a vanishing vestige of collective living that dotted a leftist Bengal—until Mamata Banerjee, supermarkets and IT parks happened.