Bow Barracks, a place tucked in the heart of Kolkata near Bow Bazar celebrates the spirit of Christmas with aplomb. This place is a confluence of heritage and culture. I have always maintained that Kolkata is a nurturer of cultures and traditions of various kinds. Bow Barracks is one such place where the Anglo Indians have made their home.
The Past of Bow Barracks:
The bow Barracks were originally made as barracks for the soldiers of the second World War. As India gained independence in 1947, there was a marked exodus of the Anglo Indians to the English speaking countries. But there were many who preferred to stay back and consider India as their own country. Bow Barracks was the block of flats constructed by the Calcutta Improvement Trust and was provided for them and it still houses a considerable section of the Anglo Indian community. They have made Kolkata their home. The community has become one of us.
The Bow Barracks celebrate Christmas with great festivity. To experience the Christmas at Bow Barracks, we visited there at Christmas Eve. Bow Barracks can be reached through a narrow lane between Hare Street and Bow Bazar Police Station. The moment I reached the place, I was completely swept off by the charming old buildings and colonial look of the place. The narrow lane is flanked by blocks of three storeyed red bricked buildings. The green window frames add a rustic medieval touch to the place. And don’t be surprised if you hear a Bob Dylan, John Lenon or Elves Presley at the background! The place seemed perfectly calm and at peace between mad rush of Central Avenue and Chandni just a few yards away. And we fell in love with this place!
That was before we met its residents. We roamed about the alleys of Bow Barracks trying to know the place. But the spirit of this place lies in its residents. Being Christmas eve, the place was decorated and lighted up. There was a mood of happiness and warmth in the cold winter air. The people on the road were merrily chatting with each other. They greeted us and soon after we were celebrating Christmas with them. And we fell in love with the people!
We decided to visit one of the apartments. So we just strolled in and rang the bell. A very sweet and jovial old lady opened the door for us. She ushered us in as if we were her best of friends. She even served us home baked Christmas cakes. “Nobody goes from here without having cakes and wine at Christmas”, she told us with all smiles. We were completely overwhelmed at their hospitality.
The Wine and cake of Bow Barracks:
We had heard from reliable sources that the home made wines at Bow Barracks were wonderful. We hesitantly asked our host about wine. She readily offered us a glass of home made wine. The wine was one of the best that I tasted! They also sell the wine at quite unbelievable low rates, if you want to take some for home!
After enjoying the hospitality of our host we were out at the road to celebrate the festival of joy – The Christmas. Christmas is celebrated at Bow Barracks from 23rd December to the 1st January. The buildings are decorated with lights and streamers. A canopy of lights makes the place look ethereal. And the Christmas carols are played. A large stage is erected in middle of the road for musical performances. Dance competitions are also held. Many relatives of the residents of Bow Barracks who are living outside India visit them during this period.
The festival is not confined to the people of Bow Barracks alone. Anyone who comes there during the Christmas automatically becomes a part of the festivities. We too lost ourselves in the celebration. A dance competition was about to be held at midnight and we were invited to take part. We really wanted to be a part of it but decline as we had to be back at home!
Celebrating Christmas at Bow Barracks is something we would remember always. It is not just a festival, it is the spirit of the place, its people. Bow Barracks spread love and joy through this festival. So why not spend the Christmas eve at Bow Barracks? It will be a different experience altogether!
How to reach:
Take the metro to Chandni Chowk.it is a 5 minute walk from there.
Renowned Bengali Film maker, Anjan Dutt had made a film on the life of the people at Bow Barracks named “Bow Barracks Forever”