Looking back to move forward: Trincas Timeline Project

Looking back to move forward: Trincas Timeline Project
The Park Street in Kolkata , Photo Credit: Roop_Dey / Shutterstock.com

Locked down by the COVID-19 pandemic and battered by the super cyclone Amphan, when Kolkata is looking for solace, the Trincas Timeline Project offers a ray of hope

Uttara Gangopadhyay
June 03 , 2020
09 Min Read

 “We are not looking backwards but looking back to move forward,” said Anand Puri (third-generation owner, following in the footsteps of his father Sunny Puri and grandfather Omi Puri), when I called him one rainy afternoon to find out about the timeline project they are drawing up about Trincas, a landmark Kolkata restaurant and bar situated on Park Street.

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A post shared by Trincas | Park Street Kolkata (@trincasrestaurant) on Jan 30, 2020 at 1:40am PST

Although the history of Trincas dates back to 1936 (that’s three years before World War II started) when it began its journey as a tea room and bakery, the restaurant that we know today took shape in 1959 after its Swiss owner Cinzio Trinca sold it to Om Prakash Puri and Ellis Joshua. They converted the tea room to a restaurant and added ‘floor shows’.

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Mr Cinzio Trinca (1896-1975) hailed from the Italian-speaking town of Poschiavo, Switzerland. He set up Trinca’s Tea Room & Bakery in Calcutta circa 1939. How did we find this pre World War photo and connect the dots of history after so many decades? See link in bio for amazing stories and information on the #trincastimelineproject - - - - #trincasrestaurant #trinca #swiss #switzerland🇨🇭 #kolkata #calcutta #kolkatabakery #iconiclandmark #historyofcalcutta #calcuttahistory #kolkatahistory #historyofkolkata #kolkatafacts #kolkatatrivia #calcuttaheritage #calcuttaheritagecollective #kolkataheritage #heritagekolkata #parkstreetrestaurant #parkstreetkolkata #historyofkolkata #britishraj #kolkatarestaurants #kolkatarestaurant #kolkatafoodbloggers #historyblogger #historyblog #kolkataculture #foodhistory

A post shared by Trincas | Park Street Kolkata (@trincasrestaurant) on Dec 6, 2019 at 7:46pm PST

While many of its contemporaries have succumbed to the vagaries of time, Trincas (except for dropping the apostrophe in the name) has marched ahead, sometimes setting the tone, sometimes adapting to the changing moods but always the icon. The Trincas Timeline Project is not just a collection of anecdotes but also a study of business planning and strategy, especially when faced with a difficult situation. The Story of the Black Knight Bar can well be a lesson in the current situation.  

“The goal is to collect a living history of sorts under one virtual roof and create a cultural treasure-house for present and future generations,” said Anand, “because many senior Calcuttans and even people who happened to visit the city then have memories associated with the restaurant.” The timeline, being shared as a blog, has already put up nuggets of information that would charm the reader.

One of the most interesting stories being Anand’s serendipitous moment whenwhile he was mulling over the timeline and trying to trace people who would be able to talk about the restaurant’s pasthe was contacted by Heinz and Brigitte Schwank of Thun, Switzerland who brought old photographs from a family album belonging to Marlys Studer-Volkart, the now aged niece of Lilly Trinca, wife of Cinzio Trinca. The slightly damaged black and white photograph showed an infant Marlys with the Trincas.

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Cinzio and Lilly Trinca of Switzerland with their niece Marlys sometime 80 years ago. Finding this gem of a picture of the original owners of the legendary #trincasrestaurant was priceless. Link to story in bio. Enjoy! - - - - - #kolkatadiaries #kolkatahistory #historyofcalcutta #indiastories #storiesofindia #oldcalcutta #calcutta #calcuttaheritage #beforepartition #parkstreetrestaurant #kolkatarestaurants #kolkatarestaurant

A post shared by Trincas | Park Street Kolkata (@trincasrestaurant) on Dec 10, 2019 at 8:04am PST

Going through the memories, you will come to know that in the 1970s, Trincas attracted celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Satyajit Ray, Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu, Tiger Pataudi, Sharmila Tagore, Kabir Bedi and the West Indian Cricket team.

Most of us are aware of Indian pop diva Usha Uthup’s association with Trincas but it is at the Timeline that you will find an early photograph of her emergence as a singing star draped in a Kanjeevaram sari, big bindi and flowers in her hair, a sharp contrast to the then contemporary westernised musical atmosphere of Park Street.

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Two talented superstars at @trincasrestaurant this morning - the fabulous @usuthup and @senguptajisshu recording “Little Mandolin” - - Usha Uthup performs LIVE at @trincasrestaurant on the 27th and 28th of September - - - #superstarsinger #trincasrestaurant #jisshusengupta #ushauthup #kolkatalove #kolkata #calcutta #musicvideo #filmingðŸÂÂÂÂŽ¬ #mandolin #indianfoodblogger #indiamusic #kolkatamusicscene #lightscameraaction #onstage #filmstar #musiclegend #parkstreetkolkata #kolkatarestaurants #foodzpah #kolkatafoodbloggers #kolkataphotography #kolkatadiaries

A post shared by Trincas | Park Street Kolkata (@trincasrestaurant) on Sep 18, 2019 at 1:54am PDT

It is through the timeline that I learnt about the famous Sunday Jam Sessions of the 60s and 70s, played out in the afternoon to attract a younger generation of fans and superb talent like Biddu Appaiah (who made the amazing international hit 'Kung Fu Fighting'), The Trojans, Ajit Singh, The Cavaliers, Beat Four, Flintstones, Chequered Tricycle, Great Bear, The Savages and many more.

The timeline’s appeal for memories, pictures and anecdotes about Trincas has been turning up many surprises.

“A gentleman called Rangam Mitra from England shared his memories where, among other things he mentioned how in 1965 he brought over a friend and a friend’s friend to Trincas when asked to be taken to one of the most happening place in Calcutta. The friend’s friend happened to be Rajiv Gandhi,” said Anand. “With the launch of the project, I have been coming across anecdotes which even my father was not aware of.”

As the Trincas Timeline Project, which can well be termed a conservation project about life in the city, focuses on history, culture, music and food, they would love to connect with patrons, musicians, celebrities, and historians, with Calcutta residents, fans and diaspora, who can share relevant memories, photographs and facts, said Anand Puri as he signed out of the long conversation.  

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