The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Monday, August 13, 2018

A police library with a difference

Today being National Librarian’s Day, I wish to talk about a new library that charmed me.

I came to know of it from a Facebook post of Kolkata Police. Known as Kolkata Police Museum on Google Maps, its full name is Kolkata Police Museum, Library and Cafeteria. It’s located at 112 Ripon Street (on the left approaching Wellington).

I visited it with three friends who got interested hearing of it (two of them read the Facebook post too). The museum is small and spread over two floors. Its main attraction is arms seized by police from various periods of history dating back to pre-independence era.


Photograph by Arnab Banerjee

It shows the evolution of the police uniform since the colonial times. The winners of various awards/ honours of police are listed. It states that Natha Singh was the first Indian to win a traffic roll of honour and he won honours in two consecutive years, 1938 and 1939. A section familiarizes with various badges of the ranks of police which is an important civil information.


The history of the house is interesting too. The second prince (Mejokumar) of the erstwhile Bhawal Estate, who is popularly known as 'Sanyasi Raja' (The monk king), thanks to the popular Bengali movie of the same name made on him, fought the famous Bhawal Monk case from this house. It is regarded as one of the most extraordinary cases ever fought in Indian judicial history which took place in 1933-1936. As it happened, a monk came to the estate and claimed himself to be the Mejokumar who was known to have died eleven years back, and demanded his share of the estate.

Available documents show that it was the residence of Calcutta High Court Barrister RS Tweedle in 1874. After changing hands it landed with lawyer SN Matilal (in 1912) whose daughter Sarajubala Devi was married to the first prince of the Bhawal estate. It went to be part of the estate thereafter.

The house was decided to be demolished given its pathetic condition at a point of time. Kolkata Police took it as a challenge to restore it, and I must say they have done an exemplary job! Post the painstaking restoration, it was declared a 'Restored Heritage Building of the City' by INTACH. 

Coming to the library. It took me by surprise by the kinds of books in its collection as it completely beats the perception of a police library. I later realised it was by design, thanks to the Commissioner of Police Mr Rajiv Kumar, as it has been envisioned as a centre for police-citizen connect. The CP is so attached to it that it is said to be his second home and he is often seen there. The surprise element is that it has a wide collection of books for all the members of a family, from the junior to the seniormost. The fiction section is amazingly robust with admirable collection of classic literature, juvenile literature and classic thrillers.  The non-fiction range is pretty good too, including study books in various disciplines like finance and management. There are many Bengali titles too, both in fiction and non-fiction. Noticed the now popular book on fascinating cases of Kolkata Police written by senior police officer Supratim Sarkar, titled Goendapith Lalbazar (The English translation named ‘Murder in the City’ is available too). Before it became a book, the stories were being published in the Rohoshyo Robbar series on Kolkata Police Facebook page and they gradually whipped up a huge following.  

The library has over ten thousand books.

At the end of our tour of the library, what blew my mind was the extensive collection of comic books in English to hook the youngest readers. Imagine a police library keeping a huge collection of Tintin and Asterix, Marvel and DC!!

As Sub-Inspector S Sharma, the friendly gentleman who acquainted us through the library, told us, it is open seven days a week, 11 am to 7 pm. However, the best time is weekend as visitors are much less. They encourage one to come with the whole family and spend a good number of hours there. To help the purpose, there’s a cool cafe, interestingly named Off Duty Delights, which serves (non-alcoholic) beverages and a good range of snacks. We liked the iced tea. For the overall feel, one of the friends compared it to the British Council Library.


Iced tea

The membership fee is Rs 800 per annum plus Rs 100 as a one-time cost of membership card. You can take books or DVD or both and keep upto two books for a maximum of four weeks.


#NationalLibrariansDay #Library #Museum #Heritage #History


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