Vibgyor Streets: The enduring charms of Black Town

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National Geographic Traveller, April 2014 Print Edition

In June 1757, the Battle of Plassey was raging on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. Siraj-ud-Daula, soon to be the last independent Nawab of Bengal, was a tired man. His uncle Mir Jafar was behaving suspiciously and the forces of the British East India Company, led by Robert Clive, were nipping at his heels. Who could blame the Nawab for agreeing when a beguiling snake whispered to him, “Saab, their ammunition is wet, they will not fight tonight. Let the men rest…” By dawn, he had lost Bengal and the usurping of Hindustan had begun.

It is widely believed the snake was sent by Nabkissen, later known as Raja Nabakrishna Deb. He was the Persian tutor of the young Warren Hastings (who’d served as a volunteer in Clive’s army earlier that year) and owner of the house in Kolkata’s Black Town that I am standing outside. I’m a little shamefaced as I listen to my guide Ritwick because I don’t know anything about this man who changed our nation’s history.

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By: Reshma Krishnan Barshikar | Photographs by: Manjit Singh Hoonjan

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