GB visits a century-old restored South Kolkata bungalow
If you happen to walk down the quaint Dover Lane of South Kolkata, you might encounter on a blind alley, an almost century old white bungalow that looks brand new with its ornate windows and polished wooden doors. Well, this is a house built in 1930/1932. Walk into it, and you get to meet a tall and handsome man, who for the love of Kolkata, left a plush job and also restored this old building to turn it into a sustainable model.
Getting into the Art Gallery
Treasure trove of handlooms
Quaint Grandfather Clock
Yes, all old buildings of Kolkata need not be pulled down, they can be self-supporting revenue earning models too. What one needs is a vision like Rajesh Sen, who runs The Zs’ Precinct --- that includes Zarah’s Art Gallery and Zoyah’s Treasury. Well, treasures indeed, and that too acquired from across the globe, including the best of Bengal’s handlooms and art work sourced from the weavers of Nadia, Birbhum and Murshidabad.
Exquisite Kantha Hanging
Cement handled staircase
Oldest Banarasi Silk
But maintaining an old house is indeed a tough job. Sen did a complete waterproofing of the building, scraping down of internal and external surfaces including woodwork and removing recent ‘additions’ retaining the ‘old world’ charm. In his words: “I enjoy old things, believe in maintaining them well and to leave it for the next generations to enjoy and more importantly have a sense of history that tells them where they came from, so they may carry these values on ahead. What helped me actualize this were my two landladies, the owners of the house, who did not want to do away with their childhood home.” That apart, Sen is a great believer in tourism income. “On my travels outside India I’ve seen old buildings restored and fitted for reuse, be they now popular shopping areas, high end residences or even iconic hotels and offices. The theatres in the West End of London particularly impressed me hugely for their upkeep.”
Book lovers' corner
Indeed, if a building can pay for itself, that’s half the battle won. When it serves a purpose that can be meaningfully enjoyed by all, like The Zs’ Precinct invites people to do, that is the rich cream floating on the full fat milk. The house opens up like a social museum that lets visitors and customers see an old home the way it used to be, an art gallery and a museum shop of curated limited-edition merchandise.So, the building is essentially a restored precinct. The Zs’ is because its named after Sen’s twin daughters - Zoyah and Zarah - representing the museum shop and gallery respectively. The curio shop is a window to the world and is indeed a treasure trove with artefacts collected from across the globe --- be they hand woven laced table clothes of Nadia, exquisite Kantha stoles and sarees of Birbhum, dolls of Indonesia, oldest Benarasi saree, Mughal pendants, name any stand-alone antique item and you are right there in the midst of them all!
Fresh from Santiniketan
Running an old house is not too difficult as per Sen. “If you use an old house regularly like a home, like we do, the repairs get taken care of on our stride. We started off after a major overhaul, so that made our job easier.” True, if you have a wish, you can do it even with an old house. Rajesh Sen wishes in future to help owners of other old houses to restore them with a satisfying alternative to breaking them down.
Exquisite lacework of Nadia