Students at the Flurys cake factory during the walk on Saturday. Picture by Chanchal Ghosh
Tales of old tunes on the guitar and the aroma of freshly baked cakes - a bunch of 50 students from four city schools rediscovered a street they have often frequented through sundry stories on a lazy Saturday morning.
The students, with a few teachers in tow, from Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar, Akshar School, GD Birla Centre for Education and Mahadevi Birla World Academy walked down Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street) and Ripon Street as part of the Our Living Memory project presented by Bichitra Pathshala and supported by INTACH, iLead and Calcutta Walks.
The hour-long tour took off from Limelight Building, once the home of "Sanyasi Raja" Ramendra Narayan Roy of the Bhawal estate. The heritage building at 112 Ripon Street has long been used by the Calcutta police and was recently restored.
Guides Ritwick Ghosh and Ramanuj Ghosh of Calcutta Walks took the young explorers through a journey in time, sharing stories about every nook and corner.
Prachi Goel, a Class XII student of Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar, was hooked by the restaurant tales. "I have never been to Mocambo though I have passed by it so many times. Now I want to try its cuisine. It is after all the country's first Indian-run nightclub in the post-colonial era," she said.
Prachi and her friends discovered many such firsts all within a few kilometres, including the vintage eatery (Magnolia) that gave the country its first ice creams and hamburgers.
From the famous Omar Khayyam restaurant (now Peter Cat) being patronised by Afghans who came to the city to the erstwhile Sky Room's prawn cocktail being a favourite with Indira Gandhi, stories kept pouring in much to the delight of students and teachers alike.
Stepping inside the sprawling Park Mansion, the walkers became acquainted with the Armenian community's contributions to Calcutta. "I did not even know how Park Street got its name. I never thought about it," confessed Saloni Arora, a Class XII student of Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar, after learning that the road had got its name from a deer park built by Sir Elijah Impey, the chief justice of the Supreme Court in Calcutta in the 18th century.
"He was famous for taking bribes and turning judgments in favour of the British," Ritwick said as the team left Park Mansion.
Stories of the French, Dutch, Jews and Anglo Indians in colonial Calcutta were blended with nighclub tales. The students saw where Carlton Kitto would strum his guitar (Moulin Rouge) and Pam Crain mesmerise the audience with her golden voice (Mocambo).
Then came the cake story, in true Yuletide spirit. The students listened awestruck as they were told how Mr and Mrs J. Flury started the legendary bakery and tearoom on Park Street.
The cherry on the cake was a visit to the Flurys factory. It was a dream walk for foodie Subhangi Ray.
"I loved all the food tales, especially those associated with Flurys. And once inside the factory I jotted down every baking input and detail. An amazing experience," said the Class XI student of GD Birla Centre for Education.
As the students went around the factory donning white caps, the fresh scent of baking filled their nostrils and excited questions kept pouring in. "We are already preparing for next year's Christmas with the fruit mixing completed by November this year," shared chef Vikas Kumar much to everyone's surprise.