276 Pages
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Calcutta Mosaic


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276 Pages


Explores the history of the diverse immigrant communities of the great city of Calcutta.

A city is more than its buildings and streets. A city is the people who live, work, and play in it and make it their own. This book brings together original essays and interviews which trace the history of the peoples in the city of Calcutta. Those who came and stayed; why they did so; and how they contributed in building the city. Once celebrated as the second city of the British Empire after London and more recently derided as the dying city, Calcutta is simultaneously associated with intellectual creativity, processions and palaces and a unique way of claiming the outsider as its own. This collection brings together the stories of the Armenians, Chinese, Sikhs, ‘South Indians’, Bohra Muslims and other communities who have come and created this wondrous mosaic, the city of Calcutta.

Acknowledgements; List of Contributors; Introduction  1. Mapping the Spaces of Minorities: Calcutta through the Last Century; 2. The Armenians of Calcutta; 3. The Jews of Calcutta: An Interview of Michael Ezra; 4. The City of Colleges: The Bengali Muslim in Colonial Calcutta; 5. The Sindhis of Calcutta; 6. The Chinese Community of Calcutta: An Interview of Paul Chung; 7. The Anglo-Indians of Calcutta: An Interview of Rudolph L Rodrigues; 8. The Biharis of Calcutta: An Interview of Sachchidand and Indu Rai; 9. Agraharis of Calcutta: A Minority Group within a Larger Minority Community; 10. A Journey into My Neighbourhood: The Bohra Community of Calcutta



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Published 10 July 2009
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EAN13 9781843318057
Language English
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CALCUTTA MOSAIC Essays and Interviews on the Minority Communities of Calcutta
Himadri Banerjee Nilanjana Gupta Sipra Mukherjee
ANTHEM PRESS An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
is edition first published in India 2009 by ANTHEM PRESS C-49 Kalkaji, New Delhi 110019, India 75-76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK 244 Madison Avenue #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
© 2009 Himadri Banerjee, Nilanjana Gupta and Sipra Mukherjee editorial matter and selection; individual chapters © individual contributors.
e moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
ISBN-13: 978 81 905835 5 8
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Dedicated to all Calcuttans who have defended the values that make the city such a unique place to live ...sometimes with their lives.
List of Contributors Acknowledgements Introduction
Mapping the Spaces of Minorities: Calcutta through the Last Ce ntury KeyaDasgupta The A rme nians of Calcutta SusmitaBhattacharya e Jews of Calcutta: An Interview with Michael Ezra SipraMukherjee e Sindhis of Calcutta SajniKripalaniMukherjee e City of Colleges: e Bengali-Muslim in Colonial Calcutta SipraMukherjee e Chinese Community of Calcutta: An Interview with Paul Chung Sipra Mukherjee and Sarvani Gooptu
e Anglo–Indians of Calcutta: An Interview with Rudolph L Rodrigue s NandiniBhattacharya e Biharis of Calcutta: An Interview with Sachchidand and Indu R ai SipraMukherjee Agraharis of Calcutta: A Minority Group within the Larger Sikh Community HimadriBanerjee
A Journey into My Neighbourhood: e Bohra Community of Calcutta Sarvani Gooptu
ix xi 1
v iii
Calcutta Mosaic
e ‘South Indians’ of Calcutta: Experiences in Cultural Processes NandiniBhattacharya ‘Non-Bengali’ Icons of Malevolence: Middle Class Representation of an ‘Other’ in Interwar Calcutta SudeshnaBanerjee Selfing the City: Single Women Outsiders in Calcutta, Gender and the Proce sse s of Ev e ry day Urban Life IpshitaChanda
Himadri Banerjee is Professor of History and holds the Guru Nanak Professorship, Jadavpur University. His area of interest is Sikhism and its long term ties with the rest of India. His research originally began with the economic history of Punjab, but has since widened to include the entirety of Sikh Studies in South Asia. He has published widely on his research area and his major publications include:Agraian Society of Punjab(1982),The Sikhs and the Khalsa, ed., 2002,The Other Sikhs, Vol.I (2003).
Ipshita Chandais Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University. Her books includePackaging Freedom: Feminism and Popular Culture(Stree, 2003) andLights! Camera…Taarportranslations include2008). Her  (Ababhash, Mahasweta Devi’sBitter Soil(Seagull, 1997) andSri Sri Ganesh Mahima(Seagull, 2002), and Sukumar Ray’sChalachitta Chanchari andLakshmaner Shaktishel (Sahitya Akademi, 2004). Her forthcoming works are a translation ofDhorai Charit Manas(Sahitya Akademi) and the bookSelfing the City: Single Women, Urban Space and the Culture of Everyday Life(Stree).
Keya Dasguptais Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Her research interests include the cartographic history of Calcutta; Contemporary Calcutta: Planning, Development and Displacement; Tea Plantations in the Brahmaputra Valley under Colonialism. She has published widely on the research areas.
Nandini Bhattacharya is Associate Professor of History at Calcutta Girls’ College, Kolkata. Her area of research is ‘Central Asia and Soviet studies’. She has authored the book titled,Dueling Isms: Soviet and Regional Identity in Central Asia. Her publications on Soviet Central Asia have appeared in a number of reputed journals and she has also contributed book chapters to several edited volumes.
Nilanjana Guptais Professor of English and Director at the School of Media Communication and Culture, Jadavpur University. Her research interests include media studies and popular culture on which she has published widely. Her publications include Switching Channels: Ideologies of Television in India (OUP, 1998), English for All (Macmillan India, 2000), The Weretiger  Tales of the Supernatural (Coeditor, Penguin, 2002), Reading With Allah: A Study of Madrassahs in West Bengal (Routledge, forthcoming), Dance Matters: A Reader on dance in South Adia (Coeditor, Routledge, forthcoming) and Communicate with Confidence (Anthem Press, 2007).
Calcutta Mosaic
Sajni Mukherjiretired recently from Professorship at the Department of English, Jadavpur University where she also looked after a cell for the support of disabled persons in the University community. Her professional interests are in Medieval and Victorian literature, in fiction, and in translation. She is a Sindhi who has lived all her life in Calcutta and claims involvement with and distance from both Sindhis and Bengalis.
Sarvani Gooptu (Datta) is Associate Professor of History at the Calcutta Girls’ College and also takes post graduate classes for the special paper on ‘Gender’ at the Department of South and South East Asian Studies, University of Calcutta. Her area of interest is Cultural Studies, Nationalism and Bengali public theatre. She is associated with the Women’s Studies Research Centre, University of Calcutta, the Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta and the Indian Association of Asian and Pacific Studies.
Sipra Mukherjeeis Reader of English at West Bengal State University, Kolkata. Her research and publications include exploration of religion and identity, language and conflict, religious conversion in Bengal, and work of the missionaries in Eastern India. She has coeditedTime Chart of Events and Publications of the 20th CenturyUniversity, 1999) and cotranslated( Jadavpur Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’sThe Final Question(Permanent Black, 2001).
Sudeshna Banerjeeis Associate Professor in History, Jadavpur University. A PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, she has published articles in several learned journals  national and international  and in several edited volumes. She critically engages with gender studies, urban studies, environmental studies, studies in science and society, notions of nationhood, cultural politics of globalization, cultural politics of sports and urban conjunctures  all at the interface of social history and cultural studies.
Susmita Bhattacharyawas a Research Assistant at the Asiatic Society, Calcutta before joining as a Research Fellow at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta. Her research centres on ‘Russian Language and Translation’. Her interests, on which she has published widely, include studies on Russia, Central Asia and Armenia. She has translated Valentina Chernovskaya’sIndian Entrepreneurship: Its Past and Present.