Monday, 27 May 2019

The Mosque that Was: Siraj-ud-Daula's Alinagar Masjid

With a population of a million Muslims, Calcutta or Kolkata has well over 500 mosques. While most of these mosques are from the 19th century, there are a few which are older. But what could have been one of the grandest and most historic mosques of the city, does not exist anymore. The mosque, established by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, would have existed in Dalhousie Square, the city’s central business district, and would have been a marker of the biggest armed conflict in the history of the city – the 1756 Siege of Calcutta.

Alinagar Masjid as imagined by Rounak Patra

Friday, 3 May 2019

The Hunt for Evergreen Lodge

A French filmmaker in Kolkata a few years ago, approached me about a documentary on the works of noted Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray. He wanted to highlight a side of Ray that remained unknown to French audiences. “We know Ray because of his films like The Goddess (Devi, 1960). But most French people do not know that he also made popular cinema, that he made films for children, and that he was a popular author”. To Bengalis such as me, Ray is of course as much an author as filmmaker. He is the creator of the detective character Pradosh Chandra Mitra aka Feluda, of the science fiction stories featuring Professor Shonku, and of numerous short stories. These short stories more often than not, feature single, unattached men, who live alone and are involved in bizarre, spooky or horrifying incidents. The short stories have been published in collections of 12, with witty names playing on the Bengali for “dozen”. I had finished reading almost all of them by the time I was in my mid-teens. One of the most fascinating stories is one called “Brown Saheb-er Bari”, Brown Sahib’s House.