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

Memorable Anecdotes

My dad, Khwaja Abdul Razeq and Uncle David used to go to a gun shop together, and keep rifles ,and they have bought and sold guns together. My father hunted a rogue elephant and a man-eater tigress. They used to go to hunting camps together, with another friend who was the Raja of Talcher in Orissa. They used to go to his place too and go to the forests in Orissa for shoots. My father did research on the Saoras of Orissa (tribe) so they knew Orissa well and he spoke Oriya and knew the ways to go into the forest. They were always talking about building machans on tree tops and tying bait for tigers. It was so exciting to hear them talk about all these hunts and shoots when I was a little girl. Uncle David had a lot of hunting books too and they fascinated me. -Abeda (Muslim, 1976)

Toy Mirza’s mother, Maggie Myers’ sister, married the Nawab of Murshidabad. I knew her in her last relationship with a Mr. Bhattacharya when they lived in Short Street. By the time I knew her she was old and ill. I think she converted to Islam and after he died she married a Hindu or lived with him.  When she died there was a fight over her body. Bhattacharjee was trying to cremate her and the Nawab family to bury her and the Jews came by the back staircase and took her away.  They were very speedy and efficient. –Anuradha (Brahmo, 1954)

They contributed to the cosmopolitan nature and the life of the City. I used to think Gubbay was a biological name for a monkey (the Name of the baboon house in the zoo donated by the Gubbay family). I was aware of Gubbay house but did not know it was a family who was Jewish and contributed. Nor did I think that Ezra Street was a Jewish name and I never thought of Nahoum’s as a Jewish bakery. –Dolores (Anglo Indian, 1955)

When I was small I remember going to Mary Abraham’s home and going before the Sabbath she was always in a hurry to get the Sabbath lights lit.Those oil lamps and then see that they were hung up. Her husband was Elias and I have pictures of them sitting in the maidan in the license Measurers grounds during Christmas time. I remember the apples floating in sugar water in Jewish homes that would intrigue me when I was a child.  I used to wonder how they would prepare them. –Maureen (Anglo Indian, 1939)

Rachel was a tenant in my home. I remember that I had my first menstruation/menarchy when I was there and she made a big celebration of it and went to Nahoum’s and brought cheese samboosas and cakes to celebrate the occasion. My family was very strict and we did not even speak of menstruation. Dad was notat home that day. She was good fun. I was so scared but she gave me the facts of life. –Rati (Punjabi Hindu, 1954)

Friday night, the Curlenders of 10 Theater Road, had this famous lawn where you could not find a weed. The wager was (you find) a weed for 10 rupees, which is equal to 5000 today. –Roma (Punjabi Hindu, 1931)