Strangers in search of Old Calcutta, rarely get beyond the monumental British town, with its abundant Victoriana, or the temples and tiny alley ways of ancient Kali Ghat or where Mother Teresa ministered the poor. This limitation is not the visitor's fault for he/she hasn't yet discovered that the best way to discover old Calcutta is over breakfast. Breakfast at the Tolly to be more exact.
[How can someone visit and not take a picture of the Howrah Bridge.]
The Tollygunge club is pretty much an establishment in Calcutta and is over a century old. Members tell me it has stayed pretty much the same except for the fact that the Calcutta Metro ate up some of its land. Tollygunge Club was a place where British planters and merchant princes once relaxed.talking about the price of indigo or Miss Wrangham's engagement or the shocking case of William Hunter and the three mutilated maidensn, among other things. The British planters and merchant princes have long gone leaving behind mostly rich Indians who can be found loitering around the grounds in their polo t-shirts playing golf. The club-house is a former indigo plantation house whose plush refurbishment owes more to globalized corporations than the Raj. The fact that club stands pretty much unchanged since the end of the 19th century is thanks to one eccentric Englishman by the name of Robert Hamilton Wright who managed the club since the 1950s. The Club is a glorious oasis of golf runs and bridal paths, away from the chattering masses of Kolkata.
To be honest with you it is the tales of the breakfast menu that brings me to the Tolly this clear morning in July, the colonial remnants I described earlier act merely as a setting for what should be a most satisfying breakfast. A crisp copy of The Statesmen arrives along with a pot of Darjeeling. I pour myself a cup as a pair of Japanese golfers tee-off "fore" and the ball is hit some distance away. They walk forward enthusiastically as the caddy waddles behind with a smile hunched under the weight of a large load of golf equipment. Everybody knows about the Bengalis love for talk especially about exalted topics. It usually a careless chatter about anything from Dosteovsky to the vagaries of Indian cricket selectors. It usually involves some amount of talk about cricket, football, Calcutta, food and always a footnote about the songs of Tagore. Conversation permeates over the breakfast table, somethingabout how the Jews of Calcutta were the first to introduce rickshaws from the far east to Calcutta and hence India. Interesting but since I have nothing to add I nod enthusiastically as I steal a spoon of cornflakes into my mouth. The crowning moment of morning has arrived on a porcelain plate - scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, fried tomatoes- and my knife and fork are put to work. Conversation is replaced by the clatter of cutlery as toasts are devoured whole. That is what you call a breakfast - an English breakfast for sure - but breakfast at Tolly is somewhat special it is a Calcuttan breakfast if there was such a thing. Not to mention all that cost me a meer Rs 55.
P.S Thank you for your well wishes - I'm feeling much better now thank you