Friday, August 6, 2010

The 'Old' New Market

I would like to dedicate this article to my grandfather, a man of few words and a lot of wisdom. He left us for his heavenly abode on the 26th of January 2007. He was 85. He retired as a branch manager of a nationalized bank, always use to tell us how he started his career and then at the time he married my grandmother was earning a top salary of INR 25 a month.  He worked his way up at the bank and did well for himself and his family.

Since he was posted at the New Market branch of the bank he worked for, he had good relations with most of the businessmen in the area, who had accounts at the bank. Every Thursday, it used to be my weekly holiday (other than Sunday) at the school I went to. Back in the days, Thursdays were something to look forward to. Thursdays meant trips to the New Market - a world of all things material; a world of toys, bi-cycles, tri-cycles, new clothes; apple juice (my favorite) and ice-creams.  What else does a kid need ?

Now that same kid has grown up to be a young man, ok - not so young any more, with a kid of his own. However New Market still tugs at my heart. It is facing stiff competition from it's swankier, bigger, air-conditioned cousins - 'The Malls'. However thankfully to bargain hunters, Pujo shopping, old timers, and all street food connoisseurs - New Market has survived the onslaught brought upon it by the malls. Even in this day and age Christmas shopping at New Market is a veritable feast for the eyes and the soul !

 Fire of 1985

A fire burned down large portions of the original building on December 13, 1985. It was resurrected in the early 1990's. It has since been rebuilt, and provided with a new wing. The general area of New Market has been renovated in the last few years, the facade has been restored somewhat, the clock tower has been repaired, the building got it's fresh coat of paint (in red and green). A new hi-tech automated underground parking (SIMPARK) built by Simplex in joint venture with KMDA was inaugurated on 20th April 2007. This like any other development was met with a huge uproar and stiff opposition mostly political and by some local businessmen who were wary of it's impact. Not withstanding the fact that it was delayed by at least 2 years, but what an engineering marvel this has proven to be. This project along with restoration of the New Market area has been responsible for a renewal of it's otherwise sagging fortunes. More details on it further along in the blog.

Following is an excerpt from an article in The Telegraph dated January 2010

  • New Market opened it's doors on January 1, 1875 
  • It was initially called the Municipal New Market. In 1903, the name was changed to SS Hogg Market, after Sir Stuart Hogg, who was the chairman of the Calcutta Corporation and the commissioner of police
  • The market was built at a cost of Rs 6,55,277. This was inclusive of the land. In 1909 it was expanded on the eastern side at a cost of Rs 11,53,388 
  • The original design of the market was by Richard Roskell Bayne. An Architect. An Englishman.
  • The market building, barring the clock tower, is reminiscent of the Marylebone Station in London  (see below, can you spot the similarities ?)

  • A large part of the northern section of the market was destroyed in a fire which broke out on December 11, 1985. It was later rebuilt and opened again in the early 1990s
  • A Hindi-medium school has been running on the south roof of the market since 1954 
  • The present location of New Market was once occupied by a bazaar which was known as Fenwick’s Bazaar
  • While zoning is an evolving concept in organized retail and new-age malls, New Market has always been divided into sections that house shops selling a particular category of products
  • Before Independence, New Market was mainly patronized by the British. After Independence there was a period of uncertainty about the future of the market. The traders went through a bad phase between 1948 and 1960. Many sold their shops for just Rs 7,000-8,000 at the time.

Journey to the center of the earth (read New Market)

No visit used to be complete without a journey to the center of the market, which was the resting place for the cannon under the rotunda, a meeting place for the shoppers who could easily lost in the labyrinth. The cannon is gone now. It really used to bring back old childhood memories, when I used to be awe struck by that dated piece of war equipment. To be honest, I really do not know why and when they took it away, it had such an unique appeal, well what do I know. Sadly I don't have any pictures of that either. If anyone out there is reading this, and has a picture of the cannon, please share. It must be worth it's the weight in gold; not the cannon but the picture ;-)

So what has the cannon been replaced with ? It has literally been watered down and replaced with a beverage stand selling Cold Coffee at Rs. 12 (told you so; New Market remains a bargain hunter's delight).
<<  See pic on the left >>

Following are some more sights from New Market, including the legendary jewish bakery Nahoum's.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Now, no visit to the New Market is can be sans food, that will just be an oxymoron ! So me and my partner in crime, a friend; headed straight to "Badshah" another Lindsay St. institution that has stood the test and 'taste' of time since 1968. It has witnessed many a labor movement, red flags, strikes demanding to burn the 'black' hand of the management. After years of struggle, it has remained intact and in operation this time since 2003, or was it 2001. This information was provided to us by one Mr. Ghoshal - a steward at Badshah, who in his previous life was an employee at the Great Eastern Hotel in Dalhousie Square, another Calcutta institution.

Badshah rolls are legendary, the old timers like myself will tell you that. Rolls have their own fan following quite like the SRK vs Amir Khan rivalry. There are people willing to die for Hot Kati rolls @ Park Street, then there is Nizam, Zeeshan, Shiraz - everyone gets a bite of the roll business here in Kolkata. Every neighborhood has a roll shop, that people swear by Rolls need no explanation or introduction and have been every Calcuttan's delight since time immemorial !

However what makes Badshah rolls unique to me is that they are light, flaky as compared to some of other thick chewy, doughy ones which seem to be rolls on steroids !

These rolls were piping hot, served with extra helpings of "kacha launka" and "lebu" (on request). And yes these classic rolls do not come with "tomato/chilly sauce", unlike a bastardized version sold in some "para" shops !

The more adventurous could also ask for whole green chillies and wedges of lime on the side !

And what good is a roll without Thums Up ! It's like burger without coke !

2 chicken rolls and 1 mutton roll did it for me. These rolls are in my opinion the best money could buy being an ex-Hot Kati Roll fan; don't take my word for granted. Have a rock n' roll experience yourself on your next visit to downtown Kolkata.

And before we move on, here is the Badshah menu for ya  >>

Now, I have saved the best for the last. This might seem to some as stale news, but it still is pretty amazing and something to feel proud of. Despite stiff opposition Simplex was still able to pull an engineering marvel, in the heart of Kolkata, that too without defacing the heritage New Market building. This can easily be an example how the old and the new can live in blissful harmony.

Take a look at this video and you will see it for yourself, it needs no words, and tell me if this not something COOL, I don't know what is. Give this video a miss at YOUR OWN PERIL ;-)

Also I captured some of my own images of this Kolkata gem myself. And no I have not forgotten to cover the movie theaters - New Empire, Lighthouse (erstwhile - now replaced with a discount clothing store), Globe (extinct), Roxy et. al. They require a special mention and will be covered in a separate write up !

So long friends !


  1. Hi Bhaiya, Amazing blog. This takes me back to good old days in Kolkata. I will have to make a trip to eat those yummy " Double Undaa & Double Chicken" Badshaah rolls....

  2. @Gaurav - Sure, may be on your next trip to Cal. we can do it together !

  3. Thanks for your comments Gaurav, take a look here too, if you haven't already -

  4. I looooveeeeeeee badshah rolls!!!wonderful that you love them too.Gosh sitting here in bangalore,suddenly yearning for those rolls!!

  5. @Avishar - come on down and I will treat you to some ! You just have to keep reading my blog in return ;-)


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