Yet another Independence Day is upon us. Bengal, and mostly Kolkata (then Calcutta), the capital of India until 1911, was quite the hotspot for revolution and a place that saw the rise of several prominent figures who led the struggle for freedom. Ever wondered which places they used to hold their meetings in the city? Here's a food trail through Kolkata touching places that were often visited by a host of freedom fighters.
Established by Nutan Chandra Barua in 1918, this hole-in-the-wall eatery in College Street has a legacy that is over a century old. Located around two minutes (walking distance) from College Square, this place was a favourite hangout for poet and songwriter Kazi Nazrul Islam, Shibram Chakraborty and many others who would regularly drop by to sip on the tea and discuss strategies and policies. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose used to visit to listen to Nazrul’s songs and poems during his stint at Presidency University.
Indian Coffee House
Formerly built as the Albert Hall in 1876, it became the popular ICH in 1942. The Albert Hal was a famous seat of several important meetings and discussions including the swearing in ceremony of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as the Congress president in the 1920s. It was frequented by several noted leaders of the freedom struggle like Mahatma Gandhi, Shishir Bose, Aurobindo Ghose and others. Later, the coffee joint became a seat of political and cultural discussions and was visited by Satyajit Ray, Saumitra Chatterjee, Aparna Sen and others. Holding an irreplaceable place in the city as well as its people, the Indian Coffee House has become a landmark of the city.
Located at the head of Amherst Street in North Kolkata, Putiram Sweets is a more than 150-year-old sweet shop serving classic Bengali snacks, sweets and their signature radhaballavi and aloo dum. Back in the day it is said that the famous freedom fighter Chittaranjan Das used to visit the sweet shop on his way back home. Close kin to poet Atul Prasad Sen, Satish Ranjan Das and Lady Abala Bose, the sweet shop was his favourite and many freedom fighters would come here to meet Das.
Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel
Referred to as a ‘pice hotel’, this popular eating joint was established in 1927 by a Bengali family from Odisha who made their home in Kolkata. Located near the Central metro station in College Street, the place would serve authentic Bengali lunch at very afffordable prices. The pice hotel concept gained momentum during the Swaraj movement, with support from many freedom fighters and reformers The place remains a hot favourite among Kolkatans who would flock here for the ‘chorchori’ (mixed vegetable with fish head) and ‘macher jhol’ (light fish curry).
Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy
If you are a true-blue Kolkatan with a love for sweets, the name of Girish Ch Dey and Nakur Ch Nandy would be known to you. Started in 1844 by a father-in-law and son-in-law duo, the place is not known for the usual Bengali sweets like mishit doi, rosogolla, chom chom, pantua or dorbesh. They spcialise in one thing: the chhana sandesh.
‘Nakurer sandesh’, as they are popularly called, was started in their first store in Girish Park. At a time when Park Street was being made up in a typical English style, the duo started this shop to popularise Bengali culture and serve sweeets which were less messy, healthy and delectable in taste.
Paramount Cold Drinks and Sweets
The iconic juice and sherbet shop in College Street celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. Located very close to the Indian Coffee House, the shop used to house many secret underground meetings of freedom fighters namely Rashbehari Bose, Subhash Chandra Bose and many others who would come here to meet up, away from the gaze of the police. The establishment is still run by the founders’ family and is well known for the numerous varieties of juices and drinks made from seasonal fruits. If you visit the shop, don’t forget to try their Daab Sherbet (tender coconut drink).