In search of my Husband’s Bengali Roots

In search of Bishwanath Ghosh’s roots – ancestral home, my marital home: 200 year old house in Murshidabad.
Let me start my telling you that this hunt was conducted only by knowing the village’s name – Panchtupi, and the name of the current living member – his cousin who is 75 years and in the photos here with his wife in a mauve sari, whom we luckily discovered. We had no address or phone number, or any description of what to expect.

Bishwanath has always claimed to be a Kanpur born and raised probashi Bangali, and all his narratives make that abundantly clear. But to my utter surprise this house in Bengal is 200 years old and was built by his great grandfather, or perhaps his father. All his uncles(jethas) and aunt(pishi) built their own much larger and lavish houses in New Alipore(2 uncles), Lake Gardens(pishi) in Calcutta and even Chandannagar – and they or their children never looked back to see where they came from.
“No one visits here or even calls to find out if it still stands – for decades”, the elderly cousin lamented.
My father in law who built his own home in Kanpur did visit this house with his wife once – when his mother passed away decades ago.
So anyway, that we were coming to Murshidabad – Bishwanath decided to go hunt for the place – as now it’s a ‘Story’🤓
And who knows he might shortly make the place famous in a fresh narrative. As once upon a time it was a place inhabited by Rajas, as locals told me. And the many large sprawling houses I saw in the vicinity of this house with several ponds and plenty of land owned by the family that is now rented out to collaborators for orchards and fishing.
BG is still trying to come to terms with his very authentic Bengali roots, even as he tries to learn Bangla – but skips every class since we returned, as if in sheer rebellion.
🤓His folks are – as we discovered, more Bengali in their dressing and ways including being impeccable hosts and serving us a plate of 6 large mishti each – than most Bengalis I know! 😄

So how did we find the house: Our penchant for photography led us to it.
We arrived in two cars at this Netaji statue with 5 army guys. I was impressed with the patriotism of this small town. And while we were busy doing this photo shoot here, as BG recognised the signboard belonging to the place his father had just mentioned over the telephone, the mishti shop owner in red t shirt and another gentleman watched us in much curiosity. The gentleman was curious as he’s the local photographer and might have been shaken out of his complacency – as to who might have come to usurp his position here!
Anyway, he was narrated the purpose of our photo shoot. He then led us to this exact house in the pictures with lovely flowering trees in front, which is actually quite imposing in real as compared to the photos.
The cousin on the behest of two army men came out groggy eyed and merely nodded at hearing his name but did not admit it was him. With five army personnel and two officially decorated cars and one assertive journalist (BG) questioning him, at 3.30pm, waking him up from sleep – what was he going to assume, but that they might handcuff him soon.
But I recognised his remote resemblance to people in BGs paternal family even though everyone else including my father in law has heads full of hair.
So I blurted, “aren’t you …”
He promptly nodded and allowed destiny take its course on what would happen to him thereon. So then, while his very warm, friendly and lovable but shy wife peeked out of the inner door – BG introduced us. His wife was thrilled to see us and kept calling us inside without herself stepping out.
Shortly a huge number of people collected to watch the show it was, to a quite village. The several portions of land and three pond’s collaborators who all turned out to be muslim, came and verbally embraced us for making the effort to visit this place that no one ever does. In fact they waited long for us to come out just to meet us. Murshibadad has an over 80pct muslim population but are so in tune with the minority – as it’s Bangla that matters here, not religion.
Though the cousin’s wife offered our band of soldiers plates of sweets too, I turned it down, as I didn’t want to burden the elderly couple whose son and his wife and son were out of town. And as a true blue Bengali myself – made it a point to stop again at the initial mishti shop, chat up the family that owned it in their home premises and pack a box full of mishti each for the 5 men in uniform and a larger one for our commander friend, who had sent them all on this expedition with us so that we would be safe.
The previous post was on the return drive.
This write up is an impromptu rough draft after I uploaded these photos – but with the perfect nuances will have to make it to my sequel to “Across Borders” 🤓😁

Bishwanath Ghosh’s Bio:


The rest of the photos of this visit are here:

On the drive back to the military station in Nabagram where we were staying:

murshidabad #nabagram #militarystation #indianarmybase #indianarmy #insearchofroots #culture #heritage #bengali #bengaliculture #bengalitraditions #westbengal #authorlife #travelwriter #literaryfiction #novelist #indianwriters #bangla #bengali


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