Kooch Behar Kali Bari

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It’s not special: the compound one goes across on an almost daily basis, or has it available amongst three other choices to make from if one wants to go to school throughout the session. Can such a place be special: the place where one used to go with one’s grandparents as a little child to meet distant (in bloodline only, not in family bonding) relatives from the village, and then, on his own after he reached his seventh standard? It has the everyday life written all over it. It was familiarized to such an extent that I used to see it as a kind of extension of my house: a space to play in and relax. Not anymore.

Bablu Thakur was nearly my age, but he was one year junior to me in school (different schools). Moreover, he used to go to Ideal Home (or was it Anglo Bengali?) that was a Hindi medium school, and the proud and more privileged I, to an English medium school.

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His father or brother (or both, I am not sure who) was an employee of the Kooch Behar Estate. His whole family used to live there. They used to live in the rooms with corrugated tin sheets as roof. The rooms are faintly visible behind the screen of leaves and branches in the image above. The kaccha courtyard in front of the rooms used to serve as their drawing room where guests were entertained. There still are a couple of cots there for the same purpose. I used to sit on them and sat on one of them in my last visit to the place.

Bablu’s elder brother is the employee of the estate now and his nuclear family occupies the space that his father’s family used to occupy once. The view from the kaccha courtyard of their house is exceptional. It’s exceptional because the compound is an island of green amidst the concrete and asphalt sea of Sonarpura-Pandey Haweli around it. The green hedge near the gate hides the wall of the compound that separates this oasis from Sonarpura-Godowlia street and the houses beyond.

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The gate at a distance in the image above looks more majestic when seen zoomed in. The windows have broken tinted glasses and missing arches. Brick was used in the construction of the gate but it imitated the traditional stone architectural features e.g. waved arches over windows and both sides of the gate and the side columns supporting the central arch.

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