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  • Anand Puri

1962 - a Calcutta Christmas

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

What was Christmas like on Park Street in the early 1960s?

I found an old advertisement, a Christmas card, tucked into the back of my desk drawer – black and white and yellowing with age - a rare remnant of a time gone by. The wording had an old-world charm:

Front of the Trincas Christmas Card
Front of the Trincas Christmas Card

The front read “Let your Christmas Cake make Neighbourhood News” – so quaint! As though a Christmas cake was meant for display and sharing with the whole community!

We live such private, secluded lives these days, cut off from those around us. It’s so easy to forget completely to open doors and share.

Mental note made.

The last page of the pamphlet gave me a clue to the age of the card. Chris Perry, his orchestra and the enchanting Molly played at Trincas sometime between 1961 and 1965, entertaining ladies at ‘morning coffee concerts’, the suited business executives of Calcutta at lunch, teenagers at “Tea Dances” and the well-heeled glitterati of the city at dinner time.

Back of the Trincas Christmas card
Back of the Trincas Christmas card

Opening up the pamphlet, a Monsieur Heierle the “Master Swiss Confectioner” was congratulated for having outdone himself. I imagined a man in white uniform, with a tall, cloth, chef-hat, hands clasped in front of him, smiling and nodding from behind the counter at well-dressed customers who placed orders for “Holiday Fancies”. I wondered what the “Happy Surprises” might have been? Palmiere biscuits sprinkled with sugar dust? Christmas-spiced baba-cakes?

Old Calcutta was so cosmopolitan in character! A Swiss gentleman delighting Armenian, Bengali, Anglo-Indian, Sindhi, Marwari (and so many more) customers in a restaurant owned by a Jewish and Punjabi immigrant pair with a largely Muslim-majority staff.

And I thought … this is a city that leans towards inclusivity and tolerance; so perfectly, subtly put forward in a Christmas card!

Monsieur Heierle’s Magic
Monsieur Heierle’s Magic

Something to draw on
Something to draw on

The Trincas Timeline Project is an exciting community-based memory project aimed at collecting stories, photos, and anecdotes going back 80 years.

It aims to cover not just Trincas’ storied history, but also provide glimpses of ‘the Park Street Scene’ and Calcutta/Kolkata as it has evolved over the last (almost!) century.

The project focuses on history, culture, music and food by connecting with patrons, musicians, celebrities and historians.

Anecdotes, photos and interviews are converted into short blog posts documenting the personal connections that so many Calcuttans past and present have with this iconic institution.

The goal is to collect a living history of sorts under one virtual roof and create a cultural treasure-house for present and future generations.

Since this is an effort to reconstruct the past all Calcutta residents, fans and diaspora (now spread across the globe) are welcome to contribute memories, photographs and facts. We would love to hear from you!

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