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Century-old Barrister Babur Bari being guarded by 4 women from landsharks - GetBengal story

18 August, 2023 10:35:57
Century-old Barrister Babur Bari being guarded by 4 women from landsharks - GetBengal story

The beautiful buildings of Kolkata have always been a sight of sheer architectural brilliance. The variety of designs and the intricate handworks of the buildings have remained everyone’s favourite for a long time. But it seems people have forgotten about such beautiful mansions and moved on towards the high-rise apartments and buildings these days, pulling down many such mansions to dust.

Barrister Babur Bari, 92 Kabi Sukanta Sarani

There is a difference between old mansions- Kolkata’s so-called “Shabeki” or “Bonedi” bari and the high-rise apartments. The mansions were more welcoming, they had an appeal with an outer elevated space, often called “Rowak”, that gave birth to the famous ‘Bangalir Adda’ concept. Men or women, with a few friends along with a cup of tea, could talk for hours while sitting in the open air. Old houses also had “dalans”, an open space in the middle of the house, where kids could play, elders passed time drawing, knitting and such activities. They often served as Thakur dalans. Centuries-old mansions have been the pride of Kolkata, with time these buildings are aging, cracks surround, renovating cost takes a toll on the owners, which eventually leads to their takeover by promoters and landsharks. 

To cherish such architectures, a tour is conducted by Monish Golder, co-founder of Calcutta Houses, an Instagram page depicting the best of Calcutta’s cityscape. The tour goes around the city to highlight such houses and appreciate their beauty. The essence of such buildings and their importance to the city is upheld in the tour. The houses are really mesmerizing and give a feeling of openness, which is often not found in todays’ apartments. There is also a documentary by Monish Golder and three other Calcuttans on heritage homes and Kolkata’s changing cityscapes. 

The red-oxide staircase of the Thakur Dalan


A building included in the tour is “Barrister Babur Bari,” situated in Beliaghata on 92, Kavi Sukanata Sarani boasting of European architectural influences. A few steps from the entrance of this grand old house, there is a pillar with Greek architecture on the left which represents Acanthus leaves, a common feature in Corinthian columns. The house is now owned by Krishnakali Mitra. This building is being safeguarded by four women—Nandita Basu, 79, her only daughter Krishnakali, the young caretaker Moitrei Das, and the cook Jhorna Das. They aim to save the way of life of old Kolkata by keeping the house intact. This quirky house was known for organising one of Kolkata’s most famous Durga Puja in the late 1800s. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was a regular visitor here according to the owner, Nandita. The speciality of the Basu family puja was that it was organised by the womenfolk of the family.

A hanging balcony, again inspired by European households, with wrought iron balustrade and wood carvings on awnings, make for an elongated walkway running parallel to the length of the rooms that one needed to cross by to enter the balcony. The red-oxide staircase leads to the entrance of the marble-floored room with windows as big as the doors, the 100-year-old teak wood chairs and tables. A striking feature found in this massive room is the two full-length mirrors imported from Belgium and placed close to the main entrance. Right opposite to the room with the hanging balcony, lies another teaser to an old-school affluent Bengali house with suitcases called portmanteau kept at one corner of the room. While the room gives movie-set vibes, it's interesting to find out that actually several film shoots have been done in the very same room, such as “Indubala Bhaater hotel”, the recent movie “Fatafati” starring Ritabhari Chakraborty and many more. There are few such well-maintained old houses on Raja Basanta Roy Road too, priceless treasures of the city that adorn the road and represent the aesthetics of old school vibes. Behind Lake Market, this 100-year-old architecturally sound residence, displays smaller versions of a hanging balcony. It gives the vibe of folk stories.

The address, 11A Kavi Bharat Sarani, stands testimonial to the change in Kolkata's cityscape. This is exactly where an old mansion once stood, now transformed into a modern-day building. Hope Barrister Babu r Bari will not meet the same fate.

The hanging balcony, modeled after European households


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