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21 From the Outside In: Recollections of the Jewish Community of Calcutta

Love of Gambling and the Races

As our family also loved races we would help our Jewish friends and my dad would take me along when they would go and take their bets on Friday before the lights were lit for Sabbath. Before sunset before the tirya(oil lamp stand) was lit the bets had to be written and Mrs. Abraham, for example, would always be busy lighting the oil lamps to try and get ready in time for the Sabbath. –Maureen (Anglo Indian, 1939)

Jews and Parsis loved racing…The race book known as the Blue Book was owned by Elite Press, behind the Grangers Club was owned by the Einy’s…I worked for the Blue Book for 12 years after Josh Joshua went to Australia...Haskel David was an amateur rider and trainer and then he came over to the race course.  Many of the old time riders and trainers came from Tollygunge.He trained for the Khaitan family and headed the list of trainers in many a season. There were many horse owners. Sam Luddy was the Secretary of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club. Racing is an art.  I was 19 when I went first with my dad who loved races.  His other Parsi friends too...Basil owned horses. Basil used to come every year for the winter racing season.  Basil and I would play poker. Poker, Rummy, racing and the good life.Purim day there would be the game “ head and tails.”  And there was “aandar bahar.” What large sums of money would be gambled on that game...My most vivid memory is Saturday after the races at Morris Ezekiel’s place on Park Street, and Sunday lunch to Mordy Cohen’s place to play poker.Mordy, Abraham Sales, Norman Ezekiel, Haskel David, myself about 7 of us except me. It was like family. They were like that to me.Sanoo (Parsi, 1932)

I think they were distinctive – they are meant to be tight fisted but the Jews here were extremely open handed, they paid their servants well, they blowed their money, they went to the races, dressed well and entertained lavishly.  Menasseh was at the races and they gambled big time.  They owned horses and loved the excitement of betting. –Roma (Punjabi Hindu, 1931)

The Jews loved the races. All the Gubbays would have their own boxes.  They would book stands for the season. That was how we got to know everybody.  The race course was beautiful and that is where we met many Jews.  The man would come up and take your bet. It was a great luxury in those days and very stylish. –Om (Punjabi Hindu, 1928)