‘Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta’s passing leaves a huge void in the food world’

A school friend recounts life and times with the pioneering restaurateur and Bengali food connoisseur

Oindrilla Dutt Published 24.12.23, 07:17 PM
Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta

Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta

We met when Rakhi was four and I was three.

Our families knew each other and the school years went by in a delightful mix of giggles, pranks, phuchkas, shared laughter and secrets, orange ice lollies, and unabashed naughtiness — the stuff precious, what unforgettable memories are made of.


No one associated Rakhi with food expertise in those days. In fact, she used to be peeved about the fact that the entire family of gourmets and gourmands constantly talked about food, around her, but no one discussed food with her. It was only when she was in London — for film and television studies, and her parents were there, that her initiation into food and cooking commenced.

The author with Dasgupta

The author with Dasgupta

In Delhi, Rakhi ran a weekend business of Thai food (another area of expertise for her) called Gourmet Club and the idea of setting up a place for Bangla khabar took shape in Rakhi's mind.

In the face of opposition from Mithu mama (her father), Rakhi’s fierce tenacity won the day and they started with just four tables, in the garage, at 2, Elgin Lane.

I was caught up in the whirl of launching Kewpie’s — organising a lunch at Calcutta Club, a discussion and tea at Oxford Bookstore and a dinner for close friends and family at Elgin Lane. Rakhi’s energy was boundless and infectious.

The excitement was palpable. Kewpie’s revolutionised the eating out habits of Bengalis, becoming the first standalone Bengali-cuisine eatery of its kind. It sparked the mushrooming of many others of the same genre, but, to most, Rakhi’s eatery will always remain the pioneer and her faith in her idea was vindicated.

Dasgupta with chef Vikas Khanna at Kewpie’s

Dasgupta with chef Vikas Khanna at Kewpie’s TT Archives

One by one, the members of this very talented family departed — Kewpie maima (Minakshie Das Gupta of ‘Bangla Ranna’ fame), Chandradeep, Mithu mama, Pia Promina and, now, Rakhi Purnima — leaving a huge void in the food world.

Serious health issues slowed Rakhi down considerably, but couldn’t douse her indomitable spirit. At a Crafts Council of West Bengal event, with Usha Uthup, at ITC Sonar, in September, my friend was her old feisty self ­— dancing, feasting, laughing her troubles away. This was to be the last time we could spend some carefree time together.

A sense of disquiet made me push for the Loreto House Alumnae on-line session with Lovey Kapur and Rakhi, on November 18. It was as if I knew time was running out.

She was really excited about the launch of her book, Eating Calcutta, early next year, and asked me to arrange a suitable launch. When it had to be sent back for certain corrections, she said despondently, “It will come out only after I die”.

Sadly prophetic words. I can only pray that it is a huge success just as her mother's books were.

The family is surely united in food heaven and may they have a splendid, never-ending feast together.

Will miss you, Rakhi. Wish I could hug you one last time.

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