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This 6-room hotel in North Kolkata is a love letter to the city. Each room has been designed in a different fashion to celebrate Kolkata’s chequered and diverse history and culture. Books on the city have been placed in each room and top-quality Bengali cuisine is served in the restaurant.
The original building was designed in the classical style, despite being built in 1926 when most buildings were designed in art deco. So in this way it captures the golden era in Calcutta’s construction history.
FLASH POINT: Amid the sounds of the city, sit back on the sun terrace with a marsala chai and read about the city with a turbulent history.
Kolkata was once known as the City of Palaces. City of decrepit palace, more like, say owners Iftekhar Ahsan and Chris Chen. If we take the birth of the city from the arrival of Job Charnock of the East India Company in 1690, then Kolkata is rather a young city. It generally looks so old (and its buildings so weathered) due to lack of upkeep and economic stagnancy.
“What bothered us for the longest time was why hadn’t someone taken a beautiful old structure and fixed it for good. Why aren’t more people in the business of restoration of Calcutta’s glorious past? It is as baffling an idea as exciting. So we set our sights on correcting that anomaly.”
Ifte and designer Swarup Dutta were keen to keep the building they chose as honest to the original as possible, and to celebrate the city’s heritage by upcycling as many old and reclaimed items as possible. Almost all the wood and iron came from buildings that fell in other parts of the Kolkata. For example, they bought tons of khorkhoris or louvred windows and re-purposed them as installations in the courtyard and bedside tables. Today, guests at the Calcutta Bungalow can further immerse themselves in their surroundings by taking part in Bengali cooking classes. Food from the kitchen is sourced from the nearby local markets, and delicious, traditional Bengali dishes are served in the restaurant.
The Calcutta Bungalow is made up of just six rooms. Each have been designed in a different way by Swarup. Each is a love letter to Bengal. Jatrapara on the first floor is an ode to the Bengali folk theatre of “jatra” – bold and bright and colourful. Sahibpara is redolent of the influence of the colonialists of Kolkata, with images and motifs of Britain and the rest of Europe. Mochipara celebrates the Kolkata cobbler; Dazipara the seamstress. Small portable typewriters have been placed inside each room. They have been made functional in the hope that guests will use them for typing out letters to send back home.
The Calcutta Bungalow is situated in the heart of the Bengali part of North Kolkata that the British referred to as the Black Town. It is a great neighbourhood for guests to explore and a wonderful close-knit community to interact with. Kolkata’s largest public park is nearby which houses swimming clubs, tennis courts, cricket pitches, football grounds, children’s playgrounds and yoga clubs. There are plenty of restaurants to visit and street food to try in the evening. The adventurous may even wish to rent a bicycle and explore the alleyways on two wheels. The airport is just a 30-minute drive away and there is a metro station near to reach the centre of the city.
The Calcutta Bungalow ensures that, for however long they are staying, their guests immerse themselves in their surroundings. The building has been restored lovingly and authentically using Bengali craftmanship and designs the from the city. In each room books have been placed. Guests can leaf through Bengali Stories by Arunava Sinha or A Food History of Calcutta by Mohona Kanjilal. In the restaurant Bengali cuisine can be enjoyed and pouring over the maps of the city guests will be given factoids and snippets of history, and urged to take to the streets of Kolkata to explore the city for themselves.