Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Calcutta of the early '60s

This article in the Business Standard dated August 23rd  about the passing away of Pam Crain, who used to sing at Blue Fox, brought back memories of the Calcutta (not Kolkata at all then)I knew.  I lived in Calcutta from 1961 to 1966--five years.  The traces of the Raj were still there, though fading.  There were still a number of Britishers and I remember visiting a club--can't remember which one though--where non-whites were not yet allowed to be members.
Park Street was the place.  Blue Fox and Trincas were both there.  I knew of the live singing in both, but only have a vague memory of visiting Trincas the once.  I remember the American sailors as mentioned in the Business Standard article, swarming around on Park Street on occasion.
When I joined school in '61, we had different uniforms for winter and summer.  In winter we had a blazer as formal wear, which was made by a bespoke suit-maker, naturally, at the corner of Park Street and Middleton Row and in summer, all white cotton skirts and blouses.  But by the time I left in '66, the uniform was changed and there were no longer the separate uniforms for winter and summer.
I remember a darzi in Camac Street, who made really good Western wear.  There were always expats at his shop, waiting to get clothes done.
That was the time when the song 'Ladies of Calcutta' came out, as I remember.
I returned to Calcutta many years later, when we took my son there for treatment and were then frequent visitors there for a few years, usually staying at the YWCA on Middleton Row (no longer a YWCA now, I believe).  At that time Park Street and the streets around it had not changed all that much and I could still take my children around by myself, without getting lost.  I wonder now how it all looks and would love to go back just once to know what it looks like now.

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