That’s the Spirit
This is the story of Khalasitola, a place which is smug with the genius it has been host to, but too grand to tell the world about it; a place of deep historic and cultural significance, dating back to the early 19th century.
Originated in around the early 1800s, the place was re-initiated by Mohito Saha (pronounced as ‘Shaw’ by the British), an engineer in the year 1918 during the colonial era. Currently in the possession of the 3rd generation of the family, which also happens to be that of practicing doctors in the city, the place was once home to countless intelligentsia from literature and politics in the city.
So, terming Khalasitola bluntly as a ‘wine shop’, which it is, simply does not do justice to the legacy which it upholds.
Hidden in the din of the heart of Kolkata’s motor parts hub, Khalasitola seems to be a place which has been tested by time and has delivered with flying colors. The atmosphere has the lingering tinge of a mixture of spirits which it has been home to for centuries.
We at Beacon Kolkata caught up with Dr. Dipankar Saha, one of the co-owners of the place to dig in on the rumors and what we got in return was a journey down memory lane by the jolly man as we were taken around the place. And quite a journey it was as we were shown where once ace filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak would sit with his favorite brand of drink pondering over a script, how Sunil Ganguly and Shakti Chottopadhyay would discuss poetry, blissfully unaware of the history their sonnets would create; over a glass of their choice of spirits; an abandoned car which was once a prop lying in the shop and inside which the regulars would often set up their adda sessions and how Bengali fiction-writer Kamal Kumar Majumdar would often find his way to the place to complete his stories drowned in the quencher of his choice.
we were shown where once ace filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak would sit with his favorite brand of drink pondering over a script, how Sunil Ganguly and Shakti Chottopadhyay would discuss poetry, blissfully unaware of the history their sonnets would create
The place with its uninviting ambience, age old squeaking furniture and caged counters would come as a shock for a first timer but once it sinks in, one will notice that the shop operates with top notch modern day workplace discipline. For instance, there are queues at the counters, neat and distinct sections for different food items and drinks and brawlers, if any, are immediately noted and disbanded from the place.
It gets its name from the “khalasi’s” or the dockyard workers who would often drop by for a drink here when their ships would port at the Hooghly way back in the early 1900s’, hence the name Khalasitola. One can find this place, hustling in it’s own charm, at the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai-S.N. Bannerjee road intersection, opposite the Lotus cinema bus stop.
This is the story of Khalasitola and the Saha family which boldly deal with the most consumed yet least spoken-about commodity in our society. A taboo from which even the bravest still shy away when asked about. This is a tribute to the place which has given birth to self-discovery for many self-realizations for others. A place secluded from the modernism of the city content with its loyal customers and deep heritage which it carries.