The Daily Chronicles of early Europeans in Kolkata

The Europeans in Kolkata in earlier days of English settlements was not a quite normal one. It was an age when communication with their motherland was not so brisk and the Europeans were placed in a country where they were practically isolated from the people and had to communicate with them only in matters of business.
Among the early English Settlers in Kolkata, early rising was a “rule” and a morning ride was frequently indulged in. According to a contemporary writer ” at four o’ clock in the morning, while it is yet utterly dark, there is a universal stir throughout the house, much talk of horses, hats whips, and coffee, and a voice at the door enquiring whether a drive or a ride would be preferable.

Life in a Metro

Work hours were scattered between two shifts, the hours at public offices being from 9 o’ clock to 1 in the morning and 7 o’ clock till 9 in the evening. The custom of reposing if not sleeping in the afternoon was so general that the streets of Kolkata were as empty of Europeans as if it were midnight.

European family at dinner
European family at dinner – Getty Images

Journal Entries

There were very few journals which did portray a perfect picture of the evening life of early Europeans in Kolkata. One such journal says ” Next come the evening airings of course, where everyone goes out, though sure of being half suffocated with dust. On returning thence, tea is served and universally drunk here even during the extreme heats. After tea, either cards or loo fill up space till 10 when supper is usually announced.”
Kolkata society in those days was full of gaiety and there was no dearth of amusements. Billiard was then as now a favorite game. In private families, the billiard was a kind of stateroom.
Boating in long handsome boats (snake boats) was much practised particularly in the evening. Gentlemen kept their pleasure yachts and went occasionally in them with their friends to chandennagore or chinsurah on pleasure trips.
The high officials in those days used to live in greater luxury than was possible later. An immense no of servants was kept in addition to slaves. Macrabie, a state Secretary wrote, ” One Hundred and Ten servants to wait upon a family of Four people.”

European Ladies Club
European Ladies Club during 19th Century

It has been stated by more than one traveller that Europeans in Kolkata of those days were hospitable. The guests used to be treated sumptuously as is proved in the following account: Breakfast is described as the only degage meal everyone ordering what is most agreeable to their choice, whilst on the contrary dinner tea and supper are kind of state levees. At 12 repast is introduced, consisting of cold ham, chicken, and cold shrub. Supper was light at 10 o’ clock a glass or two of light wine with crust and cheese followed by hookah and bed by eleven.

Kolkata, the City of Joy has been enchanting me, since childhood, of her glorified past and also the time at present.This blog is made with the intention to give you a brief and photographic detail of the famous spots of Kolkata with a pinch of little-known history behind it.