Show Menu

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

Respect for Difference

I came from perhaps the most orthodox of families, and it was mostly because of vegetarian or non-vegetarian food habits… When I went to his (a Jewish friend’s) house he told his ma, that I was vegetarian. When I came over I found that she had bought a special saucepan in which she prepared a meal for me. I was really touched by this gesture –Kishore (Kutchi Hindu, 1944)

We had meals in their homes and they in ours regularly.  All the Jewish feasts and all the Christian feasts we shared food.  They were very fond of special preparations of Kerala Christians. For the Kosher folks, for e.g., our Chairman, my Jewish friends were afraid to give food to them.  My wife purchased new utensils to prepare the food at home and we bought the Kosher chickens.  We knew all about that and how to prepare a suitable kosher meal for them. – John (Syrian Christian, 1927)

The Bengalis did not eat beef and the Jews did not eat Pork.   Neither did they eat chicken in our homes because it was not Kosher but they ate the fish and vegetables. But if we invited them to our home, my Mother made sure to get the "Kosher" Chicken which had been slaughtered by the Mullah. We respected each other’s culinary traditions. –Iti (Bengali Hindu, 1941)

They would say to their domestic help who were all Muslim “go now, it is your prayer time”. The Muslim servants would also respect the Jewish ways and traditions of their employers. –Otto (Anglo Indian, 1951)

I met Aaron in 1982 who became a friend and husband. After that I started going abroad as I got married in 1986 and met all his family. I got to know them very well. They were very open. They were not wild, they were not violent. The people I knew, like David Cohen, were all very friendly. I was very much part of the family as I lived a kind of Jewish wife.  My life also started changing. –Valerie (Anglo Indian, 1951)