t2 checks out Calcutta’s first heritage bed & breakfast

New in town

  • Published 5.05.18
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Iftekhar Ahsan with Swarup Dutta
At the reception area one can experience the feel and flavour of the heritage structure. 

The Calcutta Bungalow

Where: 5 Radha Kanta Jew Street, Fariapukur, Shyambazar, near Deshbandhu Park

Introductory price: Rs 5,000 per room per night with breakfast for two, till September 30. GST extra

To book, email bungalow@calcuttawalks.com

An almost crumbling townhouse, a reminder of the golden era of Calcutta’s architecture, has got a new lease of life. And with it, Calcuttans have another reason to flaunt and celebrate their heritage.

Iftekhar Ahsan of Calcutta Walks and his childhood friend Chris Chen, along with Ranvir Shah, a Chennai resident who fell in love with Calcutta many moons ago as a tourist, came together to buy the 90-year-old Majumdar bari in Fariapukur, restore the property and turn it into a bed and breakfast, set to open on May 7.

With the help of conservation architect Akhil Ranjan Sarkar and scenographer Swarup Dutta, the old-world charm of the heritage structure was seamlessly blended with amenities of the modern world. The result: a pretty boutique hotel reminiscent of the architectural beauty of the colonial era in the heart of north Calcutta, once referred to as ‘black town’ by the British.

“One reason we turned this old building into a B&B is to inspire and encourage others to invest in such properties and turn them into commercially viable ventures. Only then can we save our city’s built heritage by not letting them get demolished,” said Iftekhar.

“Almost everything that was part of the old structure has either been reclaimed, recycled or upcycled,” added Swarup.

JATRAPARA

There are six rooms, named after old neighbourhoods like Sahibpara, Darzipara, Boipara, Jatrapara, Mochipara and Potuapara. “We have taken elements from those localities to build the spaces. In every room we have used madur (Bengal’s indigenous bamboo mats) instead of carpets, kanthas from Murshidabad and other local elements,” said Swarup Dutta.
We loved this collage of jatra posters with dramatic names like Desh Bechbo Dalal Chai and Mandir Pelona Protima. You will find a type-writer in each room which people can use to type their letters and send them to their near and dear ones from Calcutta Bungalow.

SAHIBPARA

Old maps, Victorian buggy lights, a portrait of queen Victoria, photographs of old Calcutta and arched windows with ornamental lunettes complete the decor of this room dedicated to the ‘white town’.
A grand brass bathtub, the sign of vintage opulence, in the Sahibpara bathroom. “It was quite a task to create bathrooms for every room as old houses like these usually have only one bathroom. So we had to improvise... like this one has been carved out of a storage loft,” said Swarup.

BOIPARA

Julius Fucik’s Phansir Mancha Theke, Sukumar Samagra, Abanindranath Tagore’s Raj Kahini... the walls and the racks of this room are filled with tomes from another time. #AptForTheBookworm 
Till a rooftop cafe opens, which is in the pipeline and is expected to open by the Pujas, guests can chill on the terrace, resting on armchairs and taking in the sights and sounds of the old Calcutta neighbourhood with a cuppa in hand. We loved the neon signage saying Baro mashe tero parbon.

MOCHIPARA

One of the most dramatic displays at Calcutta Bungalow is in the Mochipara room — a giant installation made of shoe lasts. “We have used elements from the cobbler’s repertoire to commemorate the craftsmanship,” said Swarup. We loved how the conductor bags, typical of the city’s public transport, found their place on the walls.

DARZIPARA

Dedicated to the dressmakers of yesteryear, this room has a lot of haberdashery details  woven into its decor. We loved the charkha mounted on the wall. 
An old sewing machine has been converted into a table at the Darzipara room. 
The common breakfast space has chongs or loudspeakers — a part of any old Calcutta political rally and public function — as ceiling lamps.
Even the switches remind one of the old Calcutta buildings. Iftekhar and his team got them specially made from Punjab’s Kapurthala.

Text: Sibendu Das

Pictures: Arnab Mondal

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