The British Merchants came to Kolkata in the early years of the 17th century. They cut through the deranged currents of the Ocean and landed on various coastal arenas of the India sub-continent. Without taking much time to recover from any cataclysmic shock of the culture of a completely foreign land, they succeeded in bringing in the trade deals for the Indian empire. It is needless to say, the United Kingdom had to struggle a lot with their fellow or rather European competitors of imperialism through colonization, to master over the economy of India, especially in the Eastern part of the country, where the colonial French settlers already had their flag hoisted. To cater for the existing officials as well as the new company, each and every year, many people from the Great Britain came down to India and started settling in the administrative sector in different administrative posts like teachers, engineers, doctors and even soldiers. It is needless to say, that almost all of them enhanced the factors of developing a whole new establishment, which later came to be known as the popular East India Company. Initially, the survival of the British aficionados was extremely strenuous, but with the determination to capture and revamp the economy of the country to serve the needs of the economic growth of the Great Britain, the English settlers successfully combatted the hindrances, and gradually, within just a mere time period of sixty years, they built up a superior economy in India. It is needless to say, that the other colonies of the British Imperial establishment like Africa, Australia, Canada etc. could not cater Britain in the similar way that the Indian Economy could. Thus formed the Bow Barracks.
The cultural blend of Britishers of India in the form of Anglo-Indians
To spread the wings of colonialism further, many British officials got married to the native Indian women, and their offspring invariably had the mixed genes of both India and the Great Britain. Due to their distinctive nature of existence, the first generation of the mixed race were started to be referred to as Eurasians, or more specifically, the Anglo-Indians. By the middle of the 19th century, when the British females started to step onto the lands of Indian Sub-continent, the young British men took no time in deciding to discard their already existing interracial marriages to Indian women and tie the nuptial knot with the ladies hailing from their own mother country. With the advent of the rebellion of 1857, a number of Inter-marital laws were formed and implemented in the social structure of India, by the erstwhile British rulers. This ruckus, therefore, created an unwanted situation of identity crisis and also the persecution of the Anglo-Indians by both the pure Indian population as well as the British rulers. A record says that, since the time of the Independence, to the year 2014, the population count of Anglo-Indians, residing in India dropped from 800,000 to a whopping 3,20,000 due to the emigration to other countries like Australia, the United States of America, Canada, and even the United Kingdom. In India, a good amount of Anglo-Indians can be found to be living in Delhi, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal.
Photo by sayamindu
And now, for the story of Bow Barracks of Kolkata
Bow Barracks is a small area which is distinctively known to be harboring the native Anglo-Indians of Kolkata. Statistically speaking, 90% of the entire population of this particular area comprises of the Anglo-Indians. This entire locality has 6 separate blocks of three-strayed buildings which served as barracks for the soldiers who fought in the Great War. It is said that, since the soldiers detested staying over there, they were later shifted to Fort William. As a result, this area was later provided to the community of the Anglo-Indians. As an inhabitant of Kolkata and also as an active trotter, one afternoon, I went onto visit this neglected historical place in the eagerness if having a rendezvous with the existing community members of the Bow Barracks. Bow Barracks is situated in the narrow lane of Bipin Bihari Ganguly Street, just behind the bustling markets of the Central Avenue. On my arrival, I was spell bounded to witness huge red buildings that still conserved the architectural curves of the European colonial architecture with their green windows. Just a five minute walk ahead of the avenue, I came across a sub-lane which when walked down by the traveller, will lead to a Grotto, where the idols of Blessed Virgin Mother Mary and Jesus Christ can be found. This exact place is where each morning, the people her for the evening prayers.
As I continued with my stroll across the lanes, I was greeted by four young men and a middle-aged uncle who greeted me with a smile and a welcoming handshake. As the conversation rolled over various cups of tea and multiple rounds of cookies, I came to know that the community members of the Bow Barracks become extremely agitated whenever they see any outsider arriving in their ‘paara’ or locality in Bengali with writing pads, Dictaphone or DSLR cameras. The reaction is not at all abnormal for the people because of the fact that the native people of Bow Barracks have had several ill-incidents where many aspiring writer and photographers interacted with them but in the end, published baseless articles and stories about their community on the printed media. So, whenever any roamer wishes to communicate with any inhabitant of the place, he or she might have to face weird behaviors of the people residing over there. Thankfully, in my encounter with the residents of Bow Barracks, I was spared from the horror of ill-treatment. The people living in part of Kolkata have different taste of their own. They have a strong affinity towards pop music, and since they follow the sect of Christianity, therefore, you can jolly well imagine that during the time of Christmas this place is decked up as a doll and where the Santa arrives in a rickshaw.
Featured Photo by VnGrijl