Swiss Whispers and The Origins of Trincas
Updated: Feb 19
I step into the long verandah-room of my apartment on Park Street. It’s 5 AM on a morning in June 2020. If you’re from Kolkata, you’ll know that dawn comes early here, especially in summer.
I walk the length of the verandah, carefully lifting the long flat iron bolts off the six folding french windows. Outside, the old compound is devoid of most of my favourite trees thanks to cyclone Amphan, but a soothing breeze now blows from the south and through the high-ceilinged confines of the airy building.
A perfect morning sky is soft-lit by the rising sun and has faint scratchings of cloud - like mere wisps of stories told. I’m sure they will rebuild and travel, like stories do. This is Bengal after all and clouds are the romance-within for us all.
Pardon the melodrama. In this new Covid-hit world, we’re all poets and dreamers. Everyone seems to be re-appreciating simple comforts: sunshine and birdcalls at dawn, blue skies, fluttering green leaves and balmy breezes. I would have to say that I am craving one more comfort this morning though - a good story to spark the imagination and float a few day-dreams, another simple pleasure to distract from the crazy world outside.
I woke up thinking about something I’d been meaning to write, and a peaceful start like this one seemed the right time to put it all down.
The beginning of the Trincas Timeline Project and a chance encounter late in 2019 led to my receiving some old pictures of a famous establishment on Park Street. I am presuming these are from the 1930s if not the 1920s. They came to me from a family photo album in Switzerland (!) When you see the pictures you may think you recognise the establishment. Look carefully. This is not the place you think it is.
It has another name attached.
It is perhaps known to many (and mostly in forgotten mentions) that Trinca and Flury were once a partnership. That partnership lasted from 1926 or 1927 to approximately 1939. Even those mentions are fading fast.
It is also unverified why the partnership broke up. At the newly-made museum at Metcalfe Hall on Strand Road, there is a (rather inaccurate) plaque that calls the current Trincas Restaurant a “pub” and says that Trinca and Flury “were best friends before one ran away with the other’s wife”. This seems unlikely as Cinzio and Lilly Trinca were married in 1934 (according to Lilly’s family) and left Calcutta in 1960 to return to Switzerland together and start another tearoom.
In 1939 Quinto Cinzio Trinca established Trinca’s tearoom and bakery across the street from Josephy Flury’s confectionery. It was a huge success. Like two sisters the establishments had started off under one roof but continued down different paths - one prim, the other a bit of a rebel and a wildchild.
Trincas evolved from a classy tea room, to a restaurant and what was considered in the 1960s to be a “nightclub”, it would rise and rise and then teeter on the edge of ruin and evolve again. It is evolving still, now pulling in it’s glorious past, brushing up it’s finest (food!) points and looking forward as great stories always do…!
Epilogue A word to you, Dear Reader: This story originated as part of a Community Based Memory Project. The more this story is shared, the more people write in to Trincas, the more history gets recorded and is accessible to all Facts and stories are often misremembered and forgotten unless preserved in articles like these and from the memories of Calcuttans now spread across the world. If you have any old photographs or recollections about Trincas from any point in time, please, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to paint a picture with a magic brush to enliven the past and (hopefully) preserve it for years to come.
Feel free to click through to the other stories attached to this one. Enjoy, and please do daydream!